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OP-ED: What “Black Lives Matter” Means in Oakland

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Yahya Munsar

Yahya Munsar

By Yahya Munsar, winner of the John George Award

“Black Lives Matter” – we’ve heard it many times, but what does it actually mean?

In my opinion, “Black Lives Matter” is a phrase that many people use to express their perspective on how people should be treated. Not only is it a slogan, but it has a deeper meaning to it for all of us, including Oakland.

Black Lives Matter is a movement that is already taking place. Look at Baltimore, for example, the countless nights the people protested, the way their voices were almost gone, but they still kept chanting. Another example of a passionate crowd is the protesters in Oakland.

The reason why I call the Oakland crowd passionate is because they have strong beliefs on what they want, which is to be equal. They were a very intense crowd, which gave them a serious reputation. This reputation gave them a lot of attention from everywhere, which in my opinion is a good thing because Oakland can use it to its advantage in terms of getting what they want – justice and equality for everyone.

Oakland is one of the many cities that took part in protests after the death of Trayvon Martin. When I would look outside my window, I would hear them chanting with passion and a little bit of anger, “Black Lives Matter.” Right then and there I know something big was upon us. It was as if I was there during the Martin Luther King Jr. protests back then.

After a few more nights of hearing the protesters, another African American man was killed. The crowd grew more furious than ever. Even thought the violent approach was not appropriate, I knew we were getting the attention of many civil rights leaders. These civil rights leaders play a big role in the way things should be done. This can come to our advantage by letting them speak to government leaders.

Oakland doesn’t get much attention from anywhere; it’s almost as if we are living under the shadow of San Francisco. So in my opinion, what we have to do is not only take advantage of the attention we are receiving now but combine with other political and civil rights leaders and speak out to the government.

We need to gain their attention so they know what the people want and expect from the government. However, if that does not work what the people should do is start a petition to investigate every death of every person in police custody. This means that regardless of the person’s race or who they are, if they died of police brutality, or if the police abuses their power to the point where they are hurting another person, they have to be investigated.

If this were to happen, I think things would be a lot safer in terms of people being equal.

Yahya Munsar is a sixth grader at West Oakland Middle School. He is the winning middle school student of this year’s John George Award, which asked students to submit their view on the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means for Oakland.

Commentary

Gov. Newsom Proposes $2.7 Billion for COVID Response; Activates National Guard

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Governor Newsom said. “Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

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California state Capitol. File photo.
California state Capitol. File photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

On January 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is proposing a $2.7 billion investment to boost the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The request is included in the state budget Gov. Newsom is sending to the State Legislature this week. He is asking lawmakers to take action on it immediately.

The emergency response package includes money for more testing, more vaccinations, including boosters, and support for health care professionals.

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Newsom said.

“Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said the new influx of cash comes at a “pivotal time” when the state and country are confronting a new surge in Omicron variant cases.

Currently, California has a positivity rate of 21.7%, according to the California Department of Public Health. Omicron variant infections account for 80% of those cases. And over the last seven days, there has been an average of 124.5 cases per 100,000 people.

“We commend the governor for taking these decisive actions to help protect the health and well-being of local communities through the expansion of vaccines, testing, and booster shots and efforts to combat misinformation that has caused unnecessary deaths and illness,” Gibbons said. “These actions will ultimately help save lives, which remains a top priority for local public health.

Last weekend, Gov. Newsom also deployed 200 California National Guardsman at testing sites to assist with the state’s response.

“California is deploying the National Guard to testing sites to help expand capacity. If you’re feeling sick, don’t hesitate to get tested,” Newsom tweeted.

On Jan. 3, the FDA approved booster eligibility for children ages 12 to 15.

Newsom expressed support for this expansion on Twitter.

“Great news — more protection for more people. Boosters are our best defense against Omicron. If you’re eligible, get yours today,” Newsom tweeted.

As people experience COVID-19 home test kit shortages across California, the state has announced plans to remedy the situation.

“California is expanding access to testing for students by providing 1–2 rapid tests for each K–12 public school student to keep our schools safe and open,” tweeted Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California.

Harris emphasized that, “Testing is a critical part of California’s pandemic response and a key reason our cumulative COVID-19 death rate is the lowest of the large states.”

Newsom’s office said the tests are already on their way.

“More tests are en route for California’s students! These at-home test kits arrived last night at our warehouse and will immediately be sent to counties for distribution through county offices of education,” Newsom’s office tweeted.

The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) responded to this claim with anticipation.

“Great news! Our county offices are ready to have the torch passed so we can get these important test kits out to our students,” the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) tweeted. “We pledged to help keep schools open and having these kits distributed quickly is another way our county office teams are stepping up to make this happen.”

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Activism

Higher Ground NDC to Sponsor MLK Jr. Day of Service in East Oakland’s Sobrante Park and Brookfield Neighborhoods

Higher Ground has partnered with community-based programs that will be on hand to provide valuable resources including a food giveaway, the City’s Stop Waste Program, designed to help people with gardening and growing their own food, and the Sobrante Park Leadership Council who assist residents in organizing and protecting their streets. COVID testing will also be available during the event.

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More than 170 volunteers will come together to provide service to various projects within the Sobrante Park and Brookfield neighborhoods in East Oakland.
More than 170 volunteers will come together to provide service to various projects within the Sobrante Park and Brookfield neighborhoods in East Oakland.

By Clifford L. Williams

Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) will once again participate in its 15th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at 10495 Edes Avenue in Oakland.

More than 170 volunteers will come together to provide service to various projects within the Sobrante Park and Brookfield neighborhoods in East Oakland.

Higher Ground has partnered with community-based programs that will be on hand to provide valuable resources including a food giveaway, the City’s Stop Waste Program, designed to help people with gardening and growing their own food, and the Sobrante Park Leadership Council who assist residents in organizing and protecting their streets. COVID testing will also be available during the event.

Event organizers will spend the morning planting trees, community cleanup and beautification, and mural painting. There will also be resource tables, a food giveaway, Warriors’ giveaways, food trucks, and entertainment.

“This event started as a community garden with the after-school program at Madison Park Academy,” said Khariyyah Shabazz, event organizer and deputy executive director of Higher Ground. “We are now coordinating 10+ on-going projects year-round, working with 15+ community partners to make these types of programs a success.”

“Each year, our goal is to build awareness of the issues within deep East Oakland. These service days are one of many direct responses from community engagement circles and focus groups to find a solution to long-standing environmental issues and struggles that plague East Oakland, which include clean air, debris removal and illegal dumping. These solutions, coming directly from community members, are coming to surface which allows us to plant more trees and clean up our neighborhoods.”

“This news comes in the wake of recent accomplishments lead by our nonprofit group made up of small businesswomen, comprised of young, gifted, and Black, Oakland natives.”

Recent accomplishments of Higher Ground are:

  • Opening an Adult Wellness Center in West Oakland.
  • Serving as a distance learning HUB for OUSD during the pandemic.
  • Becoming a key partner implementing the bike enrichment program for Brookfield and Sobrante Park youth as a member of TCC, a multimillion-dollar project funded by the City of Oakland geared toward increasing health and wellness among young Black and Brown children in the City of Oakland.
  • Continuing to partner with neighboring organizations to lead service projects throughout the city even through the pandemic of 2020.
  • Celebrating a 10-year anniversary of providing paid internships for middle and high school youth through our workforce development program.

Higher Ground is proud to host this year’s MLK Day of Service in partnership with Roots Health Clinic, African American Sports and Entertainment Group (which was recently tapped by the Oakland City Council to purchase the Oakland Coliseum), Planting Justice, Scraper Bike team, Athenian High, District 7 City Councilmember Treva Reid, Madison Park Academy, Brookfield Elementary, Service for Peace, Golden State Warriors, City of Oakland, Alpha Phi Alpha, Bay Area Air Quality Management, and Sobrante Park Leadership Council, as well as its Resident Action Council.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, contact Ms. Shabazz at 510-415-9271 or visit www.highergroundndc.com.

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Activism

Beautiful Bus Tour of Atlanta Neighborhoods Ends at National Center for Civil and Human Rights

I got to experience what it would have been like sitting at a lunch counter as a Black person and enduring racial slurs just because I asked to be served a cup of coffee. Even though I knew what to expect by sitting at this faux diner counter with headphones on, it was dehumanizing and frightening, to say the least.

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Mural inside the entrance to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Photo by Navdeep K. Jassal.
Mural inside the entrance to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Photo by Navdeep K. Jassal.

By Navdeep K. Jassal, Post News Group Ambassador

In my first week in Atlanta, I took a city bus tour to get better acquainted with the city.

I really noticed how green it is with large trees growing abundantly everywhere.

Besides ‘Sweet Auburn’ Avenue, tour highlights included riding through the Buckhead neighborhood and to see Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s mansion. As many know, Kemp is a Republican who opposes mask mandates and getting vaccinated.

The beauty of this was seeing another mansion across the street with a gigantic mask in the yard, encouraging responsible mask-wearing to protect oneself and their fellow Americans noting it’s patriotic. It was a glorious sight for my eyes and gave me a good chuckle, too!

We drove around Centennial Olympic Park, a 22-acre greenspace that serves as Georgia’s legacy of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Next to the park is the incredible National Center for Civil and Human Rights which is a museum and cultural institution that connects the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to human rights challenges today.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.

There, I got to experience what it would have been like sitting at a lunch counter as a Black person and enduring racial slurs just because I asked to be served a cup of coffee. Even though I knew what to expect by sitting at this faux diner counter with headphones on, it was dehumanizing and frightening, to say the least.

My co-volunteer at the Food Ministry at First Presbyterian of Oakland and co-Publisher of the Oakland Post, Mrs. Gay Plair Cobb, had shared stories with me about travelling to Atlanta during that era in the 1960s and sitting at these counters, trying to get served and being completely ignored.

In one of the magnificent displays, I read personal stories from some of the original Freedom Riders. I imagined the bravery and courage these college-aged African Americans had to challenge segregation on bus terminals and buses that travelled interstate. This was such a powerful moment in history, that there were buses being set on fire to stop integration from happening!

I perused the personal papers and items of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This collection represents much of Morehouse alumnus Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work spanning from 1944 to 1968. There was a remarkable multi-media display on his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech made during a rally for Memphis sanitation workers who were striking for better pay. It was one of his most powerful speeches and alluded to the numerous threats on his life and eerily forecasting his death, which occurred the next day.

Prior to visiting Atlanta, I spoke with Mr. Paul Cobb, co-Publisher of the Oakland Post, and he told me about how close he had come to getting a ride from Mrs. Viola Liuzzo one night to get a hot shower and food.

Liuzzo, a white housewife and mother of five from Detroit, felt compelled to take action during these demonstrations and drove down to help in Selma. A few nights later, as she was driving with Leroy Moton, a Black teenager, she was murdered by members of the KKK. Astonishingly, Moton survived because he pretended to be dead when the Klansmen looked into the vehicle. There was a posterboard dedicated to her courage on the walls of the museum.

There was an outstanding temporary exhibit on the Rosenwald schools. Mr. Julius Rosenwald and Mr. Booker T. Washington forged one of the earliest collaborations between Jews and African Americans to create schools throughout the nation for Black children who had no access to publicly funded education.

From 1912 to 1937, the Rosenwald schools program built 4,978 schools for African American children across 15 Southern and border states. Hundreds of thousands of students walked through these doorways. I am one of the many interfaith lay people who believe in the inherent worth and dignity for all. This exhibit made my eyes well up with how great humanity that collaborates for what is right can look.

The museum also covers contemporary issues such as white supremacy, international human trafficking, and LGBTQI policies.

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