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Oakland A’s Shortstop Marcus Semien Reflects on MLK Day

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On Nov. 2, 1983 former President Ronald Regan signed a bill making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday effective 1986.  Twenty-five years later from that date, Dr. King’s legacy lives on during a time the country is desperate for peace and freedom of speech.

King’s famous speech “I Have A Dream” was the most compelling of our lifetime.  Due to his efforts as a Civil Rights leader, we as American people, understand the power of nonviolence and our right to vote.  Oakland A’s shortstop, Marcus Semien reflects on this special day.

“MKL Day is important to the African American community, and for all American people,” said Semien.  “He was somebody who stepped up, at a time where nobody expected an African American to do so.  In our sports community, he reminds me of Jackie Robinson.  In tough times, not everybody wants to do it, and he was that man for us, even today in 2020 his name will always be somebody special, especial to African American people.”

Major League baseball honors April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day.  This day Robinson made his major league debut as the first African American player, who broke the sports color barrier after decades of segregation.  All 30 wear the number 42 on their uniform.  Hall of Famer and former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear #42 after he retired in 2013.

“It’s one thing to be the first African American Major League baseball player but to be an MVP and play at the level he played, speaks volumes to how much adversity he went through and how present his performance was through all of that.  I can’t even imagine what he went through and to play that well under that type of discrimination is just amazing.”

The A’s have done a phenomenal job of becoming more involved in the community and honoring all cultures during the season.  Various celebrations, events, special guests and good food.  There’s not one person and/or fan who will attend an Oakland A’s game and feel unwelcomed.

“A great job by the by the front office,” Semien continued.  “Once Dave Kaval came in, you started to see more focus in the community.  When new players come to Oakland from other cities, they immediately notice how diverse it is here.  It’s a strong culture, and it feels great to be part of this organization.”

Semien can’t thank his parents enough, for the sacrifices they made in allowing him to play baseball despite the cost for equipment and fees.  Baseball is a sport that requires patience and focus.

“You need somebody to throw to you, you need somebody to hit you ground balls,” said Semien.  “It takes a lot more than just yourself to get better and for that reason the community aspect is most important.”

Semien wants to do more than reach out to kids and tell them, ‘why don’t you try this, you have a lot of potential, pick up a bat and let’s see what you can do’.  There needs to be more done in the community to show African American kids, baseball is a fun sport.  While he participates in giving back through the A’s.  Semien wants to focus more on giving back where he grew up.

“I want to do more.  I want to organize a free camp because its expensive to play baseball and that’s going to take sacrifice for everyone involved. I want to give back to my high School [St. Mary’s College High School] and where I played baseball.”

We observe this holiday and reflect on the work that still needs to be done for racial equality.  Martin Luther King never stopped spreading his message of non-violent protest against racial injustice.  King’s selfless devotion and personal sacrifice changed the course of American history.  His achievements and influence as an American civil rights leader will always be remembered on the third Monday of January.

The “I Have A Dream” speech impacted us all because as individuals we want to create a better path for those who come behind us just like Martin Luther King did.

Bay Area

Pastors of Oakland, Oakland Police Expanding Community Chaplaincy Program

The program is seeking clergy with cultural competency to meet the needs of Oakland citizens who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist – especially in Asian, Latino and African American communities.

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Pastor Phyllis Scott is president of Pastors of Oakland. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Scott. By Post Staff

In preparation for building up the Community Chaplaincy Program with the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Pastors of Oakland (POC) is looking for potential chaplains to serve  citizens in the worst of times.

According to Phyllis Scott, pastor of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries and current president of Pastors of Oakland, OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong is looking for at least 30 men and women to accompany officers to help victims of crime and their families who are in crisis.

The crises can range from homicide to sexual assault, to domestic violence, to car accidents and more.

Community Chaplains must have the ability to serve believers and non-believers alike and “must advocate for healing regardless of faith,” Scott said.

The program is seeking clergy with cultural competency to meet the needs of Oakland citizens who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist – especially in Asian, Latino and African American communities.

Not all Community Chaplains must have a religious affiliation. Professionals like teachers, caregivers and healers who have several years working in community may also serve.

Though Scott feels that some cultural values can be taught in the training, it’s not so easy to teach a language, and so bilingual chaplains will also be in demand.

“We are looking for people who have heart for Oakland,” she said.

Lt. Aaron Smith, who is assisting Chief Armstrong in expanding the program, agrees. Currently, there are 15-25 chaplains on call but “not all are willing to go where emotions are running high,” he said.

Once the details are hammered out, dates will be set for training, Scott said, who was herself certified to do this work in 2009. The training, six weekly sessions, will include instruction by specialists familiar with the emotional states of people who are in shock because of a homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking “without interfering with law enforcement,” Scott said.

Typical needs are help with planning a vigil, getting the body of a victim out of the morgue, finding a church or a place to hold a funeral that isn’t too expensive. Once those issues are dealt with, the family can freely grieve, and then they can begin to heal.

Scott cited an instance where a boy was shot to death, and the family and community, fearing reprisal, were essentially afraid to grieve openly. That’s where the chaplaincy came in, joining forces with OPD so the young man was funeralized safely, Scott said.

OPD and Pastors of Oakland want chaplains who are located in all parts of the city, roughly East Oakland, West Oakland and North Oakland. Once contacted by OPD, a ‘beat’ captain will call on the chaplain or chaplains in that area who have agreed to be available day or night.

Besides the city streets, Scott would like to see Community Chaplains at Highland Hospital, which is where many trauma victims are treated and where further violence against victims can be perpetrated as when gang members try to kill someone who survived an attack.

Scott said she is bracing for an escalation in violence, not just because it’s almost summer, the most dangerous season of the year, but because homicides were already alarmingly high so far this year, despite the pandemic.

Last month, there were four homicides in one week: two 17-year-old boys were shot to death, and the next day two teenaged girls died when a party bus was shot up by more than one assailant as it traveled from the freeway and ended up at 73rd and MacArthur –  just a few blocks from Scott’s home. She wished she could haven there.

For those interested in learning more about the Community Chaplains, please call Pastors of Oakland at 510-688-7437.

 

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Bay Area

Bay Area’s Black Fraternities and Sororities Award $180,000 in Scholarships

Graduating seniors from all over the Bay Area as well as continuing college students were recognized for their academic achievements by the member organizations.

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Photo courtesy of NPHC facebook

On June 6, the San Francisco Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council held its annual scholarship reception virtually where over 100 students were awarded a total of $180,000 in scholarships.

Chaired by Dr. Joseph Marshall, the SF Bay NPHC is comprised of 25 chapters of the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.

Graduating seniors from all over the Bay Area as well as continuing college students were recognized for their academic achievements by the member organizations.

Recipients will be attending a wide variety of schools including HBCUs, prestigious colleges and local institutions like Howard University, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and Cal State East Bay.

In addition to the scholarships awarded by the individual chapters, the council awarded the Mrs. Bethola Harper Scholarships and the two SF Bay NPHC book scholarships.

Brigitte Cook is the vice president of the NPHC.

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Art

Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Manager Wins $25,000 Berresford Prize

United States Artists, the funding organization, named Bedoya a winner this year because of his significant contributions to the care and advancement of artists.

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Roberto Bedoya, who won the 2021 Berresford Prize for contributing to the well-being, advancement, and care of artists. Bedoya, in this undated photo, is the city of Oakland’s cultural affairs manager. (Bryan Mitchell/Courtesy of Grantmakers in the Arts).

Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Manager Roberto Bedoya has won the Berresford Prize, given each year to people who contribute to the well-being of artists, a national arts funding group said.
United States Artists, the funding organization, named Bedoya a winner this year because of his significant contributions to the care and advancement of artists.
Bedoya was one of two recipients this year. The other was Portland-based Native-Hawaiian arts leader Lulani Arquette.
“They are ideal recipients of the Berresford Prize, as they represent a deep commitment to artists, placing them at the heart of their life’s work,” said United States Artists Program Director Lynnette Miranda, in a statement.
Bedoya said in an interview on June 11 that he has been involved in the arts ever since high school.
He grew up in a now-annexed Latino enclave of Union City called Decoto and earlier in his life created an oral history of the area.
Later he worked for Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco followed by arts work in Wash., D.C. and Tucson, Arizona. He moved back to the Bay Area to be closer to family, he said.
“It’s a really sweet and wonderful award,” Bedoya said.
It came as a surprise and is an affirmation of his career, he said.
The prize was created by several fellows of United States Artists because people who dedicate their careers to helping artists have received little recognition. The inaugural prize was given in 2019.
Berresford Prize winners receive $25,000, which Bedoya said he is not sure what he is going to do with it.
    One of Bedoya’s recent accomplishments, which United Starts Artists noticed, was his unveiling of Oakland’s first cultural plan in three decades.
    The Berresford Prize is named after Susan Berresford, past president of the Ford Foundation, and co-founder United States Artists.

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