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Open Letter: Black Oakland Demands in Light of COVID-19 and Rates of Black Death

Black People are being infected and dying at disproportionate rates from COVID-19.

This past Saturday, Community Ready Corps (CRC) and The Anti Police-Terror Project  (APTP) virtually convened a range of Black leaders in Oakland to develop a set of demands around how we expect Oakland to respond to this crisis.

Despite the mainstream media narrative that Black people are “unhealthy” or live “risky lifestyles,” the reality is that for 400 years Black people in this country have been pushed down to the bottom of every indicator that would lead to a healthy and thriving quality of life.

This is true in Oakland. Black people make up the majority of the unhoused and displaced, live in the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of air pollution and have the least access to healthcare and healthy food.  As a result, Black bodies are more susceptible to the ravages of COVID-19.

Oakland should have moved preemptively to stop the spread of this virus in Black neighborhoods and ensured Black residents had accurate information, cloth masks, hand sanitizers; but this work was instead left up to grassroots organizations like Community Ready Corps.

In San Francisco, new data revealed that Blacks and Latinos make up the majority of the 1,126 cases in the city.  We can be sure that this will hold true in Oakland as well. The City of Oakland needs to release similar data immediately and work with trusted Black community leaders and organizations to respond.

The coalition’s demands are both short and long-term in a wide range of areas from housing to education to testing and healthcare.  Some of these include:  Free, full, accessible testing and retesting sites, both walk-up and drive-through, in East and West Oakland and at encampments, No criminalization of youth-related to COVID 19 precautions such as wearing a mask, etc., Immediate paid sick days for all essential service workers, Rent abatement for the duration of the administrative closure followed by percentage rent through 2020 for tenants coupled with mortgage forgiveness for landlords.

Access the full document at www.antipoliceterrorproject.org

Activism

Sen. Steven Bradford Brings Strength and Reason to Police Reform Fight

SB 2 would strengthen the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. Enacted in 1987, that legislation prevents law enforcement abuses and other civil rights violations.

California State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), admits that he will meet challenges along the way as he fights for police reform in California. 

     Last week, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing he defended a bill he introduced in the Legislature that, if passed, would decertify cops for inappropriate behavior. During that appearance, Bradford made a persuasive case for police reform that was, at turns, forceful and thoughtful, bringing a cool head but passionate voice to a topic that has created a bitter divide in the California electorate, pitting advocates of police reform violently against people who support law enforcement. 

      “This is a tough issue but it’s a righteous issue,” Bradford told his colleagues. 

      “And we want to be intentional about what we are doing here in California when it comes to police reform,” he continued during his passionate closing argument for police reform on April 27. “That’s what this bill does. It’s intentional in what we are trying to achieve. This is a fair measure and far better than any that exist today.”

     Co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Senate Bill (SB) 2 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 7-2 vote that same day. Also known as the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021, the legislation aims to increase accountability for law enforcement officers that commit serious misconduct and illegally violate a person’s civil rights.

     SB 2 will create a statewide process to revoke the certification of a peace officer following the conviction of serious crimes or termination from employment due to misconduct.

      Bradford praised the judiciary committee’s majority vote, describing it as progress that would put California on the “right side of history.”

     Atkins agrees. 

     “The passage of SB 2 (April 27) is another step toward the goal of achieving much-needed accountability in policing, and I thank Senator Bradford for his steadfast commitment to achieving critical and necessary reforms,” said Atkins. “As with anything this big, there is a lot of work ahead, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to get this bill in the position to cross the finish line.”

     The California Peace Officer Association (CPOA) believes that Bradford’s bill would turn the California Committee on Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) into an investigative agency. A sticking point for the group is that the people who would be given the authority to probe police misconduct would primarily be non-peace officers. 

     “We, of course, know that not all reform is a good reform, and CPOA among others is open to ‘reimagining public safety in California,” Shaun Rundle, CPOA’s deputy director said in a written statement about several police reform and public safety bills scheduled for hearings. “What we didn’t imagine, however, was the continued attacks against a noble profession who have proven to improve and drive down crime in this state year after year.”

     With the passage of SB 2 out of committee, the legislation will move on to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. If it advances out of that committee, SB 2 could head to a Senate floor vote. 

    During the Judiciary Committee hearing, which lasted for nearly three hours, a few senators expressed their support but asked Bradford to modify language pertaining to the Bane Act. 

     SB 2 would strengthen the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. Enacted in 1987, that legislation prevents law enforcement abuses and other civil rights violations. Authored by California State Assemblymember Tom Bane, the legislation was created to allow victims to seek compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties.

    Supporters of police reform in California say the Bane Act has been undercut by bad court decisions over the years. They argue that it was once an effective law intended to protect the civil rights of people in the state but has since been weakened as an effective check against police excessive use of force. 

     The California State Sheriffs’ Association views SB 2 as problematic, in terms of hiring, recruiting, and maintaining employees. 

    “We are concerned that the language removing employee immunity from state civil liability will result in individual peace officers hesitating or failing to act out of fear that actions they believe to be lawful may result in litigation and damages. In so doing, SB 2 will very likely jeopardize public safety and diminish our ability to recruit, hire, and retain qualified individuals,” the California State Sheriffs’ Association said in a written statement.

 

    But Bradford says his bill essentially addresses rogue policing and hinders the ability of fired officers to find employment at other agencies even when they have a record of misconduct that got them terminated. 

    Among states that do not have a process to decertify cops for criminal behavior are Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California. 

    “We lead in technology, we lead in the environment, we lead in all those things that are important except for criminal justice reform,” Bradford said, referring to California’s reputation as a political trailblazer on several fronts. 

     People of color live in the communities where the majority of police misconduct incidents take place, Bradford said, adding that SB 2 will save Black and Brown lives. 

     “How many more people, regardless of color need to lose their lives because of the callous acts of law enforcement?” Bradford asked his colleagues. “There are two systems of justice in this country. But you’ll never know, and really understand. Its far different than anything any of you guys have encountered or will encounter.”

 

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Activism

The Story of The Mural Honoring the Women of the Black Panther Party

Vest says this project is also created in conjunction with the #SayHerName movement, and in response to the continued violence and systematic oppression of BIWOC, and as a result of the chronic blindness towards and seeming invisibility of Black women.

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Born and raised in Chicago, Jilchristina Vest moved to the Bay Area in 1986 when she was 19 years old. In 1995, after earning degrees in Black Studies, Women’s Studies, and Multicultural Education from San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco, she had a job working for OCCUR. 

There she learned about the rich history of African American success and activism in West Oakland and its connection to The Black Panther Party. And because of that history, Vest began her search for a home in West Oakland.  

After two years of searching and with the help of her friends and community, Vest bought a beautiful home. And about two-and-a-half years later, again with the help of her friends and community, the house was restored to its former glory.

Some 20 years later, Vest found a way to say thank you to Oakland, her friends, community and The Black Panther Party – all the reasons she is here. She has done it by assembling a team to install a 2,000-square-foot mural on the wall of her house to honor the unknown and unseen heroes of The Black Panther Party.

Located at the corner of Center Street and Dr. Huey P. Newton Way, work on the mural began in January of 2021.

Vest says this project is also created in conjunction with the #SayHerName movement, and in response to the continued violence and systematic oppression of BIWOC, and as a result of the chronic blindness towards and seeming invisibility of Black women.

The source of this story is the Women of the Black Panther Party Mural web site, https://www.wbppmural.com/

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Activism

D.C. Statehood is a Voting Rights Issue… and Racial Justice Issue

The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue.

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Washington, D.C. has a higher percentage of Black residents than any state in the country, and they have no voting representation in Congress. This is systemic racism in action. It is long past time to give Washington’s 712,000 residents the representation they deserve by making D.C. our 51st state.
It is shameful that people who live in the nation’s capital have no say in Congress. And it is unacceptable that local laws and budgets passed by D.C. elected officials can be overturned by members of Congress who decide to meddle in local decision-making. That explains why Washington, D.C.’s license plates include the slogan, “End taxation without representation,” a rallying cry by American colonists against the tyranny of British rule.
The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue. There are bogus reasons to oppose statehood, and some Republicans in Congress have been trotting them out now that legislation to admit Washington, D.C. as a statehood bill is moving forward in Congress.
Some claim that Washington, D.C. is too small to be a state. But D.C. has more residents than either Vermont or Wyoming. There are currently six states whose population is less than a million. D.C. pays more federal taxes than 21 states—and more federal taxes per person than any state.
Some make the false claim that it would require a constitutional amendment to make Washington, D.C. a state. Not true. The Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to admit new states.
That’s how every one of the 37 states that were not initially part of the U.S. have joined the country. The original District of Columbia was created out of land from Maryland and Virginia. In 1846, a good chunk of D.C. was returned to Virginia. No constitutional amendment was required then, and none is required now to admit Washington, D.C. as a new state. Some objections are so idiotic, frankly, that they must be a cover for pure partisanship or worse.
In March, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow testifying before Congress said that D.C. residents shouldn’t get representation in Congress because they can already influence congressional debates by placing yard signs where members of Congress might see them on their way to work. One Republican congressman said (wrongly) that D.C. would be the only state without a car dealership. Another said that D.C. doesn’t have enough mining, agriculture, or manufacturing. Mitch McConnell said the plan to make D.C. a state was evidence of “full bore socialism on the march.”
At least some Republicans are honest about their real reason for opposing statehood:  they just don’t want to let D.C. voters elect Democratic officials who will support progressive policies supported by the majority of the American people.
But that is not a principled position. None of the objections to D.C. statehood hold water, especially when weighed against the basic injustice of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
Washingtonians have fought in every U.S. war. About 30,000 D.C. residents are veterans. But D.C.’s mayor does not even have the ability that governors have to mobilize its own National Guard—a fact that proved to be deadly during the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection.
The bottom line in this: how can we hold ourselves out as a model of democracy when we are the only democratic country in the world that denies representation and self-governance to the people who live in its capital? We can’t.
As the Biden administration recognized in announcing its support for D.C. statehood, it is long past time to correct this injustice. The House of Representatives voted on April 22, to admit Washington, D.C. as a state. Senate leaders must not allow filibuster rules or Republican resistance to prevent Congress from righting this wrong.

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