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Oakland City Council Votes to Save Head Start Centers On the Verge of Closure

Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao, and Councilmember Carroll Fife coordinated with community members who called in to support the funding of the Head Start centers.

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Early Head Start Banners; Photo Courtesy of Early Head Start Website

The Oakland City Council passed a budget amendment to equitably reopen Head Start childcare centers in Oakland’s most underserved communities at a special meeting on September 1.

The amendment was prompted by grass roots organizations that last month put out an urgent statement demanding the protection of vitally needed services provided by the Head Start Centers.

Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao, and Councilmember Carroll Fife coordinated with community members who called in to support the funding of the Head Start centers.

The Council members immediately went into action releasing an action plan to stop the planned closures of the Head Start programs, which if allowed to close, will disproportionately impact some of the most under-resourced communities in Oakland.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, working mothers have been the most impacted by cuts to the workforce resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closures of schools and childcare centers created a scarcity in childcare providers causing childcare costs to reach an all-time high in 2020.  As California is reopening, mothers are finding it harder to rejoin the workforce due to the lack of affordable childcare.

The City Administration planned to close the Arroyo Viejo, Franklin, and Tassafaronga centers, all located in Oakland’s most underserved communities, which would have disproportionately aimed cuts at Black people, and worsen suffering in Oakland’s hardest-hit communities, low-income families, and people of color.

The planned cuts also involve inequitable layoffs of the workers and undermine the community’s economic recovery at a precarious time.

The councilmembers’ proposal will allocate funding from an excess fund to prevent the complete closure of the three Head Start Centers.

Rev. Phyllis Scott, the first female president of the Pastors of Oakland, said her organization will work with the councilmembers who want to find the funds to restore all Head Start centers to full strength.

She said, “our underserved mothers and children, which includes my granddaughter — who was born at less than two pounds — were helped by the Head Start program. Many other families need this program that our doctors also prescribe as being supportive of early childhood development.”

Vice Mayor and Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan stated, “We must prioritize equity in our city’s COVID-19 recovery plan, and allowing our most impacted communities to have vitally needed services is a high priority.

“Head Start is an important program which helps children, with lifelong positive impacts on their future, and ensures access to economic recovery for struggling working parents. The Administration’s plan to close these needed centers and lay off these essential workers, while hiding the information from the Council and the public for months, is inappropriate.”

Nikki Fortunato Bas, Council President and District 2 Representative said that most vulnerable children and families in Oakland must be supported. The Franklin Head Start Center serves a diverse community in District 2, from the Chinatown to Eastlake to San Antonio neighborhoods, and I am fighting to protect the services for these families and the jobs for the workers caring for our children.”

“Robust investment in Head Start is investment in our future; it is long-term public safety planning; it is the right thing to do,” said District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife. “Our local government cannot allow Head Start to fail. To do so would be to continue the practice of State-sanctioned discrimination that creates new racialized disparities and perpetuates existing ones… I am disheartened to find out that this urgent matter has been brewing for months and has only now come to the attention of the city’s elected leaders as a crisis to fix. As a working-class Black woman, like many of our Head Start providers, I have lived experience in needing access to affordable childcare. And as an elected official, I am committed to doing what it takes to keep our centers open, funded and accessible to the families who need them most.”

Sheng Thao, Council President Pro Tempore and District 4 Representative said that every parent knows the first five years of a child’s development have an enormous impact on the adult they will become.  “Head Start is a vital resource to the children and parents that need support.  One of my top priorities is making sure every child in Oakland has a chance to succeed.  I will continue to fight to make sure Oakland Head Start is fully funded, and Oakland children are not forgotten.”

Kimberly Jones, chief of staff for Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, provided this report.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

Activism

East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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