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OP-ED: Locked in Solitary Confinement, Prisoners Lead Fight for Racial Unity

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By Troy Williams

 

I am not sure if the public-at-large knows this, but California prisons are places where you can be attacked simply based on the color of your skin.

 

When a riot erupts on a prison yard, you don’t get to say I’m not involved. Just pray you’re in the right area when it happens, put your back to a wall and swing your fists as though your life depended on it.

 

sitawa

Sitawa Nantambu Jam

Given this fact, the headlines on every newsstand proclaim: Breaking news!

 

Men who have been validated as prison gang members and associates by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and are currently serving prison time in the Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU) have signed an “Agreement to End Hostilities” among racial groups inside the prison system.

 

“We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups…All hostilities between our racial groups…in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population and County Jails will officially cease,” according to the document signed by “Short Corridor” hunger strike representatives who have been locked in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.

 

The Agreement to End Hostilities was approved by all races in all of California’s Security Housing Units (solitary conferment) and comes alongside a settlement in a class action lawsuit that, in part, prohibits the indefinite retention of inmates in solitary confinement based on gang affiliation alone.

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Todd Ashker

 

The settlement also addresses the conditions of confinement in the Security Housing Units.

 

Anne Weills, attorney for the group who filed the class action lawsuit, expressed her respect for the participants, whose hunger strike in 2011 acted as a catalyst for this current Settlement.

 

“These men are leaders,” Weills said.

 

Some of the men involved in the Agreement to End Hostilities have spent over 30 years in solitary confinement under conditions that many compare to torture chambers.

 

They were placed in lockup for affiliations with the Aryan Brotherhood, Mexican Mafia, Black Gorilla Family and Nuestra Familia.

 

But men like Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Antonio Guillen should be rewarded for what they are doing now – uniting for a greater cause.

 

These men have not only become the face of a movement to end the practice of indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons, but they are also stepping forward to build better relations among races inside the prison walls.

 

I am not sure if readers can fully appreciate the level of coordination, compromise, dedication and courage that it took for these men to unite in prison, especially while living in a place like solitary confinement.

 

Having experienced prison as well as solitary confinement, my fear for them is that some corrections officers, as well as some inmates resistant to change, will try to thwart peace efforts by any means they can.

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Arturo Castellanos

 

Therefore I am asking the community to support these men in any way possible. I can’t express enough how the future of race relations on the streets is dependent on the success of the Agreement to End Hostilities.

 

The minds of our youth are hardwired on what’s happening in penitentiaries across California.

 

On another note, imagine not being able to touch or hug your loved ones for 25 years, the only contact you have with family being through a one-and-half-inch thick plate of glass.

 

I’m sure these courageous men need a hug. If you have any ideas about what could be done to support them on this level, please write in.

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Continuing the Healing Journey: 30th Anniversary Celebration for Charlotte Maxwell Clinic

Charlotte Maxwell Clinic Marks 30th Anniversary
In Virtual Event, Thursday, October 28th, 5:30 – 7:00 pm

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Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Celebrates Local Entrepreneurs, Vows to Continue Fighting for Recovery during National Small Business Week

In addition, Congresswoman Lee is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3807, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, which will provide an additional $60 billion to support restaurants and other food and beverage businesses.

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small business open sign photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released the following statement on September 23 celebrating East Bay entrepreneurs during National Small Business Week, and vowing to continue fighting for resources to help local businesses to recover from the COVID-19 economic crisis.

“During this year’s Small Business Week, we celebrate the local business owners, entrepreneurs, and workers who drive our economy and give the East Bay so much of its diverse, resilient, and unique character,” Lee said. “Our small businesses have struggled to survive during the pandemic, and many have closed their doors permanently. Our work to get help for small businesses through the American Rescue Plan and other measures resulted in major investment in this community and allowed many businesses to weather the storm. But the pandemic is not over yet, and we still have more work to do in this recovery.”

East Bay small businesses have received significant help from funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the $1.7 trillion recovery bill passed by Congressional Democrats and signed by President Biden in March. The bill included a Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Shuttered Venue Operating Grants administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

A total of 668 East Bay restaurants, other food and beverage businesses, and venues received close to $300 million through these two programs. A city-by-city breakdown showing the number of businesses helped and the amounts of money awarded is below. More information about the individual businesses that received assistance can be found here.

Lee and House Democrats are now working to pass President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which includes a “generational” investment in American small businesses. The bill will help small businesses get through the ongoing pandemic and thrive by increasing access to capital, funding entrepreneurial development programs, supporting underserved businesses, and driving innovation.

In addition, Congresswoman Lee is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3807, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, which will provide an additional $60 billion to support restaurants and other food and beverage businesses.

For more information about help available to small businesses, please see this comprehensive guide to SBA resources.

Recovery Funds Awarded to Small Businesses in California’s 13th Congressional District

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Total Awardees: 590

Total Amount: $212,676,228.49

By City:

  • Oakland

Total awardees: 297

Total amount: $99,965,410.64

  • San Leandro

Total awardees: 44

Total amount: $12,909,939.13

  • Berkeley

Total awardees: 146

Total amount: $63,817,616.60

  • Alameda

Total awardees: 61

Total amount: $20,031,428.71

  • Albany

Total awardees: 12

Total amount: $2,686,934.95

  • Emeryville

Total awardees: 29

Total amount: $13,163,744.46

  • Piedmont

Total awardees: 1

Total amount: $101,154

Shuttered Venues Operating Grants (As of September 13, 2021)

Total Awardees: 78

Total Amount: $87,142,607

By City:

  • Oakland

Total awardees: 36

Total amount: $19,917,509

  • San Leandro

Total awardees: 3

Total amount: $234,970

  • Berkeley

Total awardees: 29

Total amount: $59,197,077

  • Alameda

Total awardees: 7

Total amount: $5,098,536

  • Albany

Total awardees: 1

Total amount: $311,674

  • Emeryville

Total awardees: 2

Total amount: $2,382,841

  • Piedmont: None

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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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Lee Applauds Rep. Cori Bush’s Bold Action to Halt Evictions

“This is only a temporary solution while Congress works to pass Congresswoman Maxine Waters bill, but in the meantime, states and local governments must distribute the relief funds allocated to them through the COVID relief packages passed in Congress.

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Congressmember Cori Bush, once unhoused herself, camped out on the steps of the Capitol in protest.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) issued a statement this week cheering the actions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to extend a federal eviction moratorium.

“With the COVID-19 delta variant on the rise across the country, this decision by the CDC will help protect the millions of renters at risk of being evicted from their homes and protect our communities from this pandemic,” said Lee.

“This is only a temporary solution while Congress works to pass Congresswoman Maxine Waters bill, but in the meantime, states and local governments must distribute the relief funds allocated to them through the COVID relief packages passed in Congress.

Congresswoman Lee praised the bold leadership of Rep. Cori Bush to fight for an eviction moratorium.

“This victory, of course, would not have been possible without the fearless advocacy of Congresswoman Cori Bush, who shared her own experience of being unhoused and turned passion into action to get this done.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and members of “The Squad” celebrated this week after the CDC announced the 60-day extension of the eviction moratorium that had expired over the weekend, crediting Bush’s protests for winning the extension.

Bush (D-Mo.) had been camping on the Capitol steps  for several days to protest the expiration of the ban and  pressed the Biden administration to extend it.

“On Friday night (July 30), I came to the Capitol with my chair. I refused to accept that Congress could leave for vacation while 11 million people faced eviction. For five days, we’ve been out here, demanding that our government acts to save lives,” Bush wrote on Twitter on August 3.

“The House is at recess. People are on vacation. How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?” Bush said on July 31.

“There are people already receiving and have received ‘pay or vacate’ notices that will have them out on tomorrow. People are already in a position where they need help, our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need.”

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