Derreck Johnson is a self-described serial entrepreneur. He is the owner of the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland. 70% of his employees are formerly incarcerated folk and he wants to put hope back into the citizens of Oakland.
He notes that 47% of Black businesses in Oakland are failing as compared to 17% of white-owned businesses and he wants to help other business owners.
Pre-pandemic this year he decided to become a first-time candidate and run for the Oakland City Council at-large position against incumbent Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Sidebotham.
Johnson, Black, single, and openly gay, is a third-generation Oaklander, born in 1964 at Kaiser Oakland. He attended an HBCU, Fisk University, and is a proud member of one of the Divine Nine, Kappa Alpha Psi.
His campaign slogan is “made for this moment” and his mission is to connect City Hall to the community.
His campaign website, JohnsonForOakland.com, lists Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator, and Democratic V.P. Nominee, 2020; Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland; Betty Yee, California State Controller; Lateefah Simon, BART Board President; Malia Cohen, State Board of Equalization Chair; Don Perata, State Senate President Pro Tem (Retired); Ignacio De La Fuente, Council President (Retired); and many others as supporters.
As an entrepreneur and Oakland resident Johnson vows to put “Oakland First” with equity and justice. He wants to educate citizens about how their tax dollars are being used.
He is concerned about the homeless situation which he finds “deplorable and heartbreaking” especially because 80% of that population is Black and a large number are members of the LBGTQ community.
His business was forced to close on March 17, and he laid off employees reducing his staff from 42 to 9 as sales dropped and they were forced to convert to take out only.
Deeply spiritual, Johnson had faith and worked with his landlord to reduce the rent of the unused dining space. He is also thankful for World Central Kitchen supported by Steph and Ayesha Curry, which has given him the ability to hire back 60% of his staff.
He is concerned about the issues of affordability and folks being able to live in Oakland. He states he will bring his business and real-life experience to Oakland city politics.
He thinks the notion of defunding the police is tantamount to dismantling the police and is the wrong message.
Instead, he emphasizes the three R’s: 1. Reconstruct 2. Reform/Repurpose, and 3. Reimagine/Recruit Black and Brown officers.
Johnson adds that the police should “serve and protect, not brutally victimize” and calls for immediate accountability and safety.
He would like to see Midnight Basketball and other ways of engaging the community with the police.
He embraces former President Obama’s 8cantwait.org noting that Oakland needs to implement “banning chokeholds and strangleholds, requiring a warning before shooting, and restricting shooting at moving vehicles.”
On a personal note, Johnson has learned much from the discrimination faced by his best friend who is transgender. He uses those lessons to help guide him towards equity for all.
Oakland Program Distributes $500 to Families of Color
The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months. Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please. “We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.
In the middle of a worldwide awakening to the centuries-old racism and oppression suffered by Black people, some African Americans finally see tangible assistance – even if the help isn’t characterized as reparations.
Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city would begin a guaranteed income project that would provide $500 per month to Black and Indigenous families.
The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months.
Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please.
“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.
The station reported that, for the project, the Oakland Resilient Families program has so far raised $6.75 million from private donors, including Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group.
The programs require residents have at least one child under 18 and income at or below 50 percent of the area median income – about $59,000 per year for a family of three.
Half the spots are reserved for people who earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $30,000 per year for a family of three, ABC reported. Participants are randomly selected from a pool of applicants who meet the eligibility requirements.
The report noted that Oakland’s project is significant because it is one of the most outstanding efforts in the U.S. so far, targeting up to 600 families. And it is the first program to limit participation strictly to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities.
Oakland, where 24 percent of the residents are Black, is among a growing list of municipalities providing financial payments to people of color – or reparations.
Evanston, Illinois, a city where 18 percent of its more than 74,500 residents are Black, approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which provides up to $25,000 for housing down payments or home repairs to African Americans.
In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law historic legislation that paves the way for African Americans and descendants of slaves in the Golden State to receive reparations for slavery.
The bill, authored by California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, establishes a nine-person task force that will study the impact of the slave trade on Black people.
It does not commit to any specific payment, but the task force will make recommendations to legislators about what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it, and what form it would take.
“After watching [the presidential] debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” Newsom declared during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who championed the bill.
“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” the governor stated.
Last summer, Asheville, a North Carolina city where Black people make up just 11 percent of the more than 92,000 residents, formally apologized for its role in slavery. The City Council voted unanimously to provide reparations to African American residents and their descendants.
“Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African American members of the City Council that voted 7-0 in favor of reparations.
“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with systemic issues,” Young declared.
Asheville’s resolution doesn’t include monetary payments to African Americans but promises investments in areas where Black people face disparities.
Earlier this year, Congress debated H.R. 40, a bill that doesn’t place a specific monetary value on reparations but focuses on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.
The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including the Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.
“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee pronounced.
The project in Oakland targets groups with the city’s most significant wealth disparities.
According to CNN and per the Oakland Equality Index, the median income for White households in Oakland to be nearly three times that of Black homes.
“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure. It is a systems failure,” Schaaf remarked. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.”
Two years ago, 100 residents in Stockton, California, began receiving unconditional $500 payments, CNN reported. Other initiatives in Newark, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia, were launched as recently as 2020.
Former Stockton Mayor, Michael Tubbs, is the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of advocating mayors founded in 2020.
Oakland Mayor Schaaf is also a founding member of the network.
“One of my hopes in testing out a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I’m thrilled that Oakland is among the first,” Tubbs told CNN.
“By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families program will provide critical financial support to those hardest hit by systemic inequities, including the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.”
Chauvin Is Guilty. Our Work Is Cut Out for Us.
Our gratitude for this measure of accountability is soul-deep. And now we ask ourselves, will things really be different this time? The answer is that they can be, if we seize this moment.
Democrats in Sacramento Take Steps to Make Voting Easier
Recently, in some states, most notoriously Georgia and Florida, lawmakers have taken steps to restrict voting access and rights for many Americans. But in California, policymakers and legislators are doing the opposite, making proposals to simplify the voting process and expand access to the polls.
The electoral process is foundational to the durability of America’s democratic structure.
And as the battle for fairer voting laws rages on, politicians and activists on the political Right claim they are responding to allegations of widespread voter and election fraud. Those on the Left say they are rallying to fight a coordinated political offensive to restrict access to the polls and increasing reports of voter suppression.
Recently, in some states, most notoriously Georgia and Florida, lawmakers have taken steps to restrict voting access and rights for many Americans.
But in California, policymakers and legislators are doing the opposite, making proposals to simplify the voting process and expand access to the polls.
Invoking the violent history of voter suppression in the South that her parents endured, which sometimes involved murders — California Secretary of State Shirley Weber says it is a priority of hers to “ensure the right to vote.”
“I tell people all the time that no number is good unless it’s 100% in terms of voter participation,” Weber told the Public Policy Institute of California. “Why didn’t 5 million go to the polls? We need to figure out where they are and what stopped them from going.”
In the California Legislature, an amendment to Senate Bill (SB) 29, which passed earlier this year, was one bill in a broader legislative effort to secure the right to vote in vulnerable communities.
Before that amendment passed, California law dictated that a ballot would be mailed to all eligible voters for the November 3 statewide general election in 2020 as well as use a Secretary of State vote-by-mail tracking system to ensure votes are counted.
SB 29, which the governor signed into law in February, extended those requirements to any election “proclaimed or conducted” prior to Jan. 1, 2022.
A record number of voters participated in California elections in 2020. Some political observers attribute that spike to the vote-by-mail system instituted last year.
“To maintain a healthy democracy in California, it is important to encourage eligible voters to vote and to ensure that residents of the state have the tools needed to participate in every election,” the bill reads.
Senate Bill (SB) 583, introduced by California State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), would require the Secretary of State to register or preregister eligible citizens to vote upon retrieving the necessary paperwork from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Citizens who do not wish to be registered can opt-out of the process altogether.
Newman stressed the importance of access and simplifying the voter registration process.
“In our state there are an estimated 4.6 million U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote who have not yet registered,” Newman said. “Our obligation as the people’s elected representatives is to make the process simpler and more accessible for them.”
On April 27, the Senate Transportation Committee passed SB 583 with a 13 to 3 vote. The Appropriations Committee has set a hearing for May 10.
Senate Bill (SB) 503, introduced by Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), proposes that if a signature shares enough characteristics with a previous signature from the same voter, then it would be recognized as official on voting paperwork.
Current law dictates that a signature has to match exactly for it to be considered valid.
Disability Rights California (DRC), a non-profit advocacy organization that advances and protects the rights of Californians living with disabilities, has come out in support of SB 503.
“Studies have shown that signature matches disproportionately impact voters with disabilities,” Eric Harris, director of public policy for the DRC wrote in a letter.
“Voters with disabilities, including seniors, are more likely to vote by mail and would have to sign their name on their ballots,” Harris argued. “A voter’s signature changes over time and for people with disabilities, a signature can change nearly every other time one is written. Some people with disabilities might have conditions that make it difficult to sign your name the same way multiple times.”
For now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has tabled SB 503, placing the bill in what the Legislature calls a “suspense file,” where it awaits further action by lawmakers.
At the federal level, lawmakers have introduced two bills in the U.S. Congress to expand voting rights, the For The People Act of 2021 and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The For The People Act, or H.R.1, proposes a three-pronged approach to expanding election access: Voting, campaign finance, and ethics.
Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for Advocacy and Policy, compared the current voting rights battle to that of the Civil Rights Movement in a press conference about H.R.1 and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
“If you look at some of those 1960s shots of the C.T. Vivians of the world, of the Joe Lowerys and so many others that helped lead Americans to those registration sites, you’ll see them actually literally being beaten to the ground,” Shelton said, referring to well-known Civil Rights Movement activists.
The John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, or S.4263, would amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to restore the powers it lost after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws requiring states and local communities to first clear any changes to voting their local laws with the feds, was unlawful.
“Well, we’ve become more sophisticated in our disenfranchisement,” Shelton continued. “We want to make sure that we stop that disenfranchisement all along the way and that’s why we’re convinced that a bill named for John Lewis and a bill that speaks for the people are bills that need to pass.”
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