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Oakland Group Seeks to Aid Pregnant Residents After Encampment Closure

According to residents and advocates present during the closure of the encampment on April 7, city public works staff and Oakland Police Department officers arrived around 9 a.m., asked residents to leave, and did not offer alternative shelter options. OPD confirmed one officer and two public service technicians were present. In the days before the closure, about 20 residents had lived in the area, mostly in RVs and trailers. The city posted pink signs informing residents of the closure several days before it occurred. While most residents left the encampment, a few remained. 

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Teela Hardy's RV sitting near 106 Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland on April 7, the morning she had to have it towed due to an encampment clearance. Photo by Zack Haber.
Teela Hardy's RV sitting near 106 Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland on April 7, the morning she had to have it towed due to an encampment clearance. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

A recent closure of a homeless encampment near the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and 106th Avenue has prompted Homies Empowerment, an East Oakland-based grassroots organization, to call attention to and organize for improving the living conditions of two displaced pregnant women that lived in the encampment.

“We’re looking for a house to rent for them now,” said Rev. Harry Louis Williams II, an activist, author, and hip-hop artist who works as a Care Manager with Homies Empowerment. “Our long-term goal for these women is to get them into an affordable place to live. We don’t want their children to be like baby Jesus in the manger.”

After the closure, Homies Empowerment put the two women up in a hotel room. They want help from the community to house them and are encouraging those who have the means to offer aid to contact the organization.

“Sometimes people say things are bad, and they wish they could do something,” said Williams. “Well, this is a way to do something. This is urgent and we’re not sitting around and waiting for a grant.”

According to residents and advocates present during the closure of the encampment on April 7, city public works staff and Oakland Police Department officers arrived around 9 a.m., asked residents to leave, and did not offer alternative shelter options. OPD confirmed one officer and two public service technicians were present. In the days before the closure, about 20 residents had lived in the area, mostly in RVs and trailers. The city posted pink signs informing residents of the closure several days before it occurred. While most residents left the encampment, a few remained.

Two of those who remained were Teela Hardy and Tanya Andrade. Hardy had been working as a receptionist for a law firm but became homeless after she was laid off. Andrade said she was let go from her service industry job soon after she became pregnant. While she says she technically has access to her former home, it’s uninhabitable.

“I can’t stand my house because it’s full of mold,” said Andrade. “Living there is unsafe because I’m pregnant, and I have asthma.”

Both Hardy and Andrade are about seven months pregnant and had lived in RVs that no longer run but still provided them with shelter. In the days leading up to the closure, it was difficult to move their inoperable RVs and they did not expect the city to follow through with the eviction.

“They gave us a warning,” said Hardy. “But they’ve given us warnings before and not gone through with their word.”

According to Hardy, the City of Oakland had posted signs three separate times this year telling residents they planned to close the encampment on specific dates, but those dates came and passed without any closure enforcement. The Oakland Post emailed Oakland’s director of communications multiple times over three days seeking comments on this story. But the city ultimately did not provide comments before this story’s deadline.

Hardy and Andrade were able to keep their RVs after friends helped tow them to another location, but the women said they lost other possessions during the closure. For Hardy, the most important thing she lost was her car she had been using to do odd jobs and run errands, including getting to doctor’s appointments. According to Hardy, it was impounded because, although she had been trying to get it registered, she hadn’t yet been able to do so.

“It’s just hard,” Hardy said. “They didn’t give me a bus pass or anything, and I know I’m not going to be able to do the things I need to do in the amount of time I need to do them now that I don’t have a car.”

According to Williams of Homies Empowerment, the organization became aware of the closure because they have recently started renting land from the city that sits at 10451 MacArthur Blvd., which is next to where the encampment had been. Hardy said the organization had allowed her to use the land for her dogs to play and that she and Andrade, in turn, had helped to clean up the parcel. Homies Empowerment plans to use the land to set up a small community farm.

A statement on Homies Empowerment’s website says the organization “works alongside our community towards a world absent of whiteness, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy.” The organization started about 12 years ago to help quell gang violence and also address the city’s gang injunctions, which Homies Empowerment saw as harmful. They started a program called Loaves and Fishes during the pandemic, which is still in operation, that feeds East Oakland residents in need of food, including people experiencing homelessness. Williams says the organization offers “solidarity not charity.”

“We shared with the people in the encampment,” Williams said. “They became family. They were welcomed to eat with us.” The encampment closure “shocked and dismayed” members of Homies Empowerment and left them “disheartened.”

Hardy and Andrade said they suspected the city enforced the closure due to the encampment becoming messy. They also said the city provided no toilets, rarely offered trash pickup services, and that sometimes housed private citizens and businesses would dump trash in their encampment instead of disposing of their trash properly.

Williams feels the city is doing “all kinds of things to displace people,” while “people just want to live.” While the city slowed down closures of homeless encampments immediately following the initial COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, by 2021 encampment closures returned with over four occurring per month between January and August of that year. In 2022, several closures have been occurring per week.

Recently, Council Member Noel Gallo proposed an ordinance to the city’s public works committee that would explicitly ban RVs and trailers from streets that are 40 feet wide or narrower. The committee is scheduled to consider the ordinance on May 24. If the ordinance is put to vote and approved by the City Council as it is currently written, it would ban people from living in RVs on about 79% of Oakland’s streets.

“I love Oakland,” said Williams. “But I think Oakland could do more to show loving care to people who are experiencing these problems. If the leadership of the city could come work with us, we could avoid homelessness.”

Homies Empowerment currently sees Oakland’s community as the best avenue to help Hardy and Andrade.

“I am hopeful,” said Williams. “There’s a lot of fire in Oakland’s belly from just regular working people who are saying we want to feed and house people. I think enough people just need to come together and change will come.”

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Activism

Juneteenth Father’s Day for the Formerly Incarcerated

The giveaway was a testament of the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to the community in the best way they could. Participants received an array of gifts including clothing, work pants, jeans, socks, toiletries and gift cards. The event gave them a place to identify with other men who have overcome many hardships and now live independently of the direct supervision of the criminal justice system.

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From left to right: Dora Parlor, Richard Johnson and Ayanna Weathers. Photo by Jonathan ‘fitness’ Jones.
From left to right: Dora Parlor, Richard Johnson and Ayanna Weathers. Photo by Jonathan ‘fitness’ Jones.

By Richard Johnson

The founders of The Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back organization sponsored a Father’s Day celebration event that highlighted a “just serve spirit” which recognized dads who want to “give and serve” their families and communities, that reached over 150 men in deep East Oakland. Fathers from all walks of life, languages and nationalities were in attendance.

The giveaway was a testament of the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to the community in the best way they could. Participants received an array of gifts including clothing, work pants, jeans, socks, toiletries and gift cards. The event gave them a place to identify with other men who have overcome many hardships and now live independently of the direct supervision of the criminal justice system.

The celebration was co-sponsored by several organizations, including the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, (AASEG) headed by Ray Bobbitt, B.O.S.S. Reentry program, and the Reentry, The Post News Group and Violence Prevention programs directed by John Jones III.

The participating fathers were offered counseling and services to cover back rent, rental deposit, utility bills, credit repair and much more.

As fate would have it, one of the Founders of Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back, Mr. Paul Redd, was called home by the Lord. His passing came on Father’s Day. We could never question God’s work when He calls His flock home. Paul will be greatly missed by many who loved, appreciated and respected him greatly. We, the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back, gave back in our experience our profound condolences to the family. We will certainly continue the work that he helped to establish. Rest in Peace my brother.

To utilize the services of BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency), please contact John Jones at 510-459-9014. For more information on this activity and future activities, please contact Richard Johnson at fatijohns28@gmail.com.

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Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties Partner to Create Cleaner Coast

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone.

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“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”
“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”

The Goal: Teach leave no trace practices to growing number of coastal visitors

Courtesy of Marin County

Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties are launching a coordinated campaign to provide visitor education and outreach to reduce the amount of litter and waste in coastal regions and watersheds through a three-County memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the non-profit organization Leave No Trace. The ongoing partnership includes coordination with federal and state agencies, tribal partners, local jurisdictions and land managers, Sonoma County Tourism, and other community-based groups across all three counties.

Beginning later this month, the bilingual campaign will include a broad scope of messaging that will be used by all three counties to educate and influence visitors prior to and during the summer season. Agencies and organizations partnering with the campaign will be able to share the Leave No Trace-based messaging resources in English and Spanish and take advantage of a new stewardship education series, both of which specifically address visitation impact issues taking place along the California coastline.

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone.

“COVID-19 pushed more residents outdoors and drew them to the coast as they looked for safe ways to recreate,” said Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who initiated the three-County collaboration in 2020. “This stressed our limited visitor-serving infrastructure, creating an overflow of trash and waste like I have never seen before.”

Sonoma County Tourism, the county’s destination stewardship organization, was instrumental in bringing the Leave No Trace organization into the partnership conversation with the three counties. Sonoma County Tourism has worked with Leave No Trace since April 2021 on the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Initiative.

Through its Seven Principles, Leave No Trace provides a framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. New education messaging focusing on trash and litter in coastal watersheds is highly relevant due to a surge in visitation to all three counties’ coastlines and adjacent communities. The new education messaging serves to complement existing Leave No Trace and other trash reduction efforts promoted by state, county and local parks officials in all three counties, as well as the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Initiative.

“We had a bit of a head start with the successful launch of our Leave No Trace campaign last year, and we are happy to leverage and coordinate our efforts with our neighbors from the north and south,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “Visitors don’t stop at county lines, nor does the flow of trash.”

Trash causes major impacts on our enjoyment of creeks, bays and the ocean, and creates significant impacts on aquatic life and habitat in those waters; trash eventually enters the global ocean ecosystem, where plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years – if not forever.

“We don’t have the resources to launch this effort on our own,” Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams noted, “But with the support from our southern neighbors and non-profit partnerships with groups like MendoParks, we are excited to launch this campaign.” Fellow Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde added, “The key to moving this effort forward was the unanimous decision for all three counties to use a shared MOU and contract with Leave No Trace. We look forward to working together for years to come.”

“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”

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Juneteenth ’22: California Legislature Recognizes Reparations Task Force

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

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While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media

Several members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received a standing ovation from constituents of the State Legislature last week for their work over the last 12 months.

During the opening of legislative sessions at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 16, members of the Senate and Assembly participated in the gesture that coincided with the kickoff of the state’s official Juneteenth 2022 commemorations.

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

Bradford, who was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, made his remarks on the Senate floor after fellow task force panelist Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) delivered similar comments in the Assembly chambers.

Seven of the nine task force members and staff from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) were recognized at the event.

Task force members attending the ceremony were Chairperson Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; Vice Chairman Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Dr. Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States and the only non-Black member of the panel, was also in attendance.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon met briefly with the panel.

Task force members Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego Councilmember and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, could not make the trip due to prior commitments.

Several members of the CLBC attended the function, which coincided with the passage of resolution in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday in the Assembly.

Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Akila Weber (D-La Mesa), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and CLBC vice-chair Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) showed up to support the task force members’ efforts.

The Task Force first convened on June 1, 2021, to conduct an examination of the lasting consequences of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants.

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is currently Secretary of State of California, the nine-member panel is charged with making recommendations for how the state can compensate Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.

On June 1, the task force released its first interim report, a 483-page document compiled by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

“The information in the interim report reveals uncovered facts about incidents that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Californians in California for 170-plus years and the country for the last 400 years,” Grills said.

“Until we have a reckoning with the truth, we cannot understand who we are as a nation. When we then begin to have that kind of reckoning, I think the specific manifestation of the harm will be easier to deal with and we will actually have an opportunity for transformative change,” Grills continued.

Over the next 12 months, Moore told California Black Media (CBM) that the task force will focus on bringing increased awareness for the interim report, community engagement, and formulating a framework of how California should compensate around 2 to 2.6 million Black Californians.

“It’s important that the California Legislature understand how important this effort is,” Moore told CBM. “This past year we’ve been working incredibly hard. The next (12 months) I categorized it as the development stage where the nine-member task force has substantive and intentional conversations about what reparations should look like.”

Video link of Sen. Steven Bradford and Dr. Cheryl Grills at the state capitol in Sacramento:  .California Task Force For Reparations at State Capitol 6.16.2022

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