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Opinion: Make Routes to Oakland Schools Safe and Clean



By James Harris

Over the last few years, the illegal dumping problem in Oakland has become a city-wide crisis. There has not been one single day when I drive through District 7 and see absolutely pristine streets- not one day since I joined the school board in 2013.

I have seen construction debris, landscaping debris, junked cars and trailers, old tires, clothing, purses, household garbage, blood, urine, feces, even an abandoned boat. And this was all before the homeless encampments became a major part of the crisis in 2016.

Not that we in District 7 have an embargo on illegal dumping. I have seen incredible dump sites in and around the Fruitvale District, the railroad tracks in District 6, just west of the Oakland Coliseum and wild amounts of garbage in West Oakland’s “lower bottoms” and sometimes in plain view on 14th Street.  So, I know it’s happening all over the city, but we have lived with the crisis for so long, that we have been conditioned to expect that garbage will be on our streets. We have to change that expectation.  Our community certainly deserves better!

As we start the school year, it is the impact illegal dumping is having on the students and families of Oakland that I worry most about.  Just down from Encompass and Koramatsu Elementary schools are two of the largest and most frequently used dump sites in District 7.

Near OUSD’s kindergarten to 12th grade continuum at Madison Park is yet another illegal dumping site. Blocks away from Rise and New Highland Elementary schools, right outside Allen Temple Church on E.14th is a nomadic homeless encampment along with more frequent illegal dumping.

Our students and families have to walk through garbage and growing homeless encampments- sometimes alone, sometime with their friends- to get to school and to get home.

What would you think the city thought of you if you were seven years old and this was your daily experience?  It happens all over Oakland, but I’ve never seen illegal dumping just once in Piedmont or even in Montclair or up Snake Road, or in Trestle Glen or in the shops around Park Boulevard.

Why does it seem that illegal dumping is preserved for the flatlands of Oakland?  Why does it never seem to be a problem in the more affluent areas of the city?

Our educators are working hard to encourage our students to be good stewards of their communities and their neighborhoods, but in many cases, when students leave school, they receive a more powerful message from the garbage and waste that is filling our streets. How can we expect our students to grow to love and protect our city when we don’t set that example for them?

Last year, Burkhalter Elementary school- in District 6- had to delay the start of their school day one February morning the driver of an 18-wheeled garbage and debris truck decided it was appropriate to unload a block load of garbage from curb to curb on Sunnymere Avenue, so much garbage that parents could not drive down the street to get to the drop-off line. (

Our city leadership has been vocal about the issue, but nothing has changed.  It has only gotten worse.  The Illegal Dumping hotline takes thousands of calls each week, but cannot keep up with the volume of trash produced by illegal dumping.

Please help us keep the streets clean for our students and families. Call (510) 615-5566 or visit www.oaklandpw.comwhen you see illegal dumping in your neighborhood. Please call and appeal to your council members to find a solution to the problem. We can and we will do better.

James Harris is president, Oakland Unified School District Board of Education, representing District 7.

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More Black Californians Taking COVID Shot as U.S. Reviews Vaccines for Younger Kids

Even as vaccination booster shots are becoming more readily available around the country, the COVID-19 Delta variant remains a significant threat in the U.S. and around the world. So, public health leaders are focused on expanding efforts get as many people as possible access to vaccinations and booster shots.



Stock image of a doctor placing a bandaid on a young black female patient after a vaccination sitting on her mother's lap

Black Californians have joined Black Americans around the country in closing the COVID-19 vaccine equity gap.

As of October 11, Black Californians were 4.2% of Californians who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, up from 2.7% in February, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).  About 5.7% of the state’s population of nearly 40 million people are Black.

“Through our investments in targeted outreach and robust community-based partnerships, our work continues to reach the hardest-hit communities. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom last week.  “I encourage all eligible Californians to visit to schedule an appointment for their first dose or find a booster shot to keep themselves and their community healthy.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine equity gap is narrowing across the United States as about 11% of the people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine are Black Americans, a group that makes up 12.4% of the U.S. population.

U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, spoke with California Black Media last week about the importance of equity in the nation’s pandemic response.

“The way we define success with the vaccination effort isn’t just how many people got vaccinated, but how equitably and fairly we get the vaccine to people across our country,” Murthy said.

“We know that there are communities in our country that have been long underserved by the healthcare system and the victims of structural inequities and structural racism that have prevented them from getting the care that they need,” he continued.

Murthy spoke about some of the equity challenges leaders faced at the beginning of the pandemic. The approach the feds took to address some of those difficulties was similar to California’s strategy.

“Early on in the vaccination effort, we saw those disparities developing in the adult population with Black communities and Latino communities having lower vaccination rates than White communities,” Murthy said.

“But the good news is there has been a lot of effort over the last many months, which included a lot of outreach and partnerships with communities of color, with leaders and organizations in those communities, working hard to make sure we had mobile units out getting to communities to bring vaccines to where people are and getting vaccines directly to community health centers where we know a lot of folks get their care. All of these efforts together, along with making sure the vaccines are free and making sure as many doctors as possible have the vaccine in their offices, has helped us close a lot of that equity gap,” Murthy continued.

Even as vaccination booster shots are becoming more readily available around the country, the COVID-19 Delta variant remains a significant threat in the U.S. and around the world. So, public health leaders are focused on expanding efforts get as many people as possible access to vaccinations and booster shots.

“California is leading the nation in vaccinations, with 52 million administered and 86% of the eligible population having received at least one dose – today’s Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommendation on booster shots will help keep the momentum going as we enter the winter months,” Newsom said last week.

California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington state came together last year and created the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The group, made up of scientists, medical professionals and public health experts, is charged with reviewing COVID-19 vaccine safety.

Last week, the workgroup recommended booster shots for vulnerable people and those who live or work in high-risk settings – if they have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine prior.

“Recipients of the Moderna vaccine may receive a booster shot six months after completing their primary vaccination series, and recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may receive a booster shot two months after receiving their first dose,” the governor’s office said in a statement last week.

The workgroup also recommended a “mix-and-match” method, which means people who have received a Moderna vaccine can get a Johnson & Johnson booster shot and vice-versa.

Earlier this month, Newsom announced that California will be the first state in the nation to require children in middle school and high school to be vaccinated once COVID-19 vaccines for children are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA and the CDC will review data from Pfizer during the next two weeks to decide if COVID-19 vaccines are safe for even younger children, ages 5 through 11.

“Right now, what is happening is that the FDA is examining the data from Pfizer about clinical trials that concern kids 5-11 and they’re looking for two things: first is to understand if these vaccines work to protect our children from COVID and second, are they safe,” Murthy explained.

“Until they complete their review and make a decision on whether or not to offer the vaccine, we certainly won’t recommend them to the public or make a move to roll out vaccines. It’s all contingent upon the FDA’s review and the CDC’s recommendation,” according to Murthy.

Murthy also addressed the myth that young children are somehow immune to the effects of COVID-19.

“Even though kids do better than adults when it comes to COVID-19, it is not benign in children. We want to protect our children from the virus, and we also know that COVID has disrupted our kids’ lives in terms of making school difficult, interrupting youth sports, and making it hard to see friends and family members. So, getting our kids vaccinated is a big step towards not only protecting their health but helping them get their lives back,” Murthy said.

Murthy stressed the importance of equity and said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will continue to employ the same methods for children as they did for adults if the FDA and CDC approve vaccines for children in the 5-11 age range.

“We will bring the same commitment to vaccinating kids under 12. We are building on the great partnerships we have with community-based organizations and trusted leaders across the country. We are building on the access points that we’ve set up in the past and increasing those even further so there will be tens of thousands of places where people can get a vaccine for their children,” Murthy said.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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African American News & Issues

Reparations: How ‘Intentional’ Government Policy Denied Blacks Access to Wealth

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.



Stock photo of a vault with access denied written across it

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the Black community owned less than 1% of the United States’ total wealth, the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans was told during its fourth meeting.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California Irvine, School of Law, shared the statistics during the “Racism in Banking, Tax, and Labor” portion of the two-day meeting on October 13.

From her perspective, the power of wealth and personal income is still unequally distributed. And that inequality, in her view, has always been allowed, preserved and compounded by laws and government policy.

“More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged,” Baradaran told the Task Force, tracing the wealth gap from the period after the Civil War when President Lincoln granted formerly enslaved Blacks their freedom to the present day.

“The gap between average white wealth and Black wealth has actually increased over the last decades. Today, across every social-economic level, Black families have a fraction of the wealth that white families have,” she said.

Baradaran has written a range of entries and books about banking law, financial inclusion, inequality, and the racial wealth gap. Her scholarship includes the books “How the Other Half Banks” and “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” both published by the Harvard University Press.

Baradaran has also published several articles on race and economics, including “Jim Crow Credit” in the Irvine Law Review, “Regulation by Hypothetical” in the Vanderbilt Law Review, and “How the Poor Got Cut Out of Banking” in the Emory Law Journal.

Baradaran, a 43-year-old immigrant born in Iran, testified that her work on the wealth gap in America was conducted from a “research angle” and she respectfully “submitted” her testimony “in that light,” she said.

In her research, Baradaran explained that she discovered an intentional system of financial oppression.

“This wealth chasm doesn’t abate with income or with education. In other words, this is a wealth gap that is pretty much tied to a history of exclusion and exploitation and not to be remedied by higher education and higher income,” Baradaran said.

According to a January 2020 report, the Public Policy Institute of California said African American and Latino families make up 12% of those with incomes above the 90th percentile in the state, despite comprising 43% of all families in California.

In addition, PPIC reported that such disparities mirror the fact that African American and Latino adults are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and have higher unemployment rates, and African American adults are less likely to be in the labor force.

Many issues support these activities that range from disparities around education, local job opportunities, and incarceration to discrimination in the labor market, according to PPIC.

“While California’s economy outperforms the nation’s, its level of income inequality exceeds that of all but five states,” the report stated.

“Without target policies, it will continue to grow,” Baradaran said of the wealth gap. “And I want to be clear of how this wealth gap will continue to grow. It was created, maintained, and perpetuated through public policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

“Black men and women have been shut out of most avenues of middle-class creations. Black homes, farms, and savings were not given the full protection of the law. Especially as these properties were subjected to racial terrorism. The American middle-class was not created that way (to support Black communities),” Baradaran said.

A June 2018 working paper from the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute written by economists familiar with moderate-to-weak Black wealth backs up Baradaran’s assessment.

Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the authors of the report wrote that strategies to deny Blacks access to wealth started at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, picked up around the civil rights movement, and resurfaced around the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

Authored by Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, and Ulrike I. Steins, the “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016” explains a close analysis of racial inequality, pre-and post-civil rights eras.

The economists wrote that the median Black household has less than 11% of the wealth of the median white household, which is about $15,000 versus $140,000 in 2016 prices.

“The overall summary is bleak,” the report states. “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years.”

Baradaran recently participated in the virtual symposium, “Racism and the Economy: Focus on the Wealth Divide” hosted by 12 District Banks of the Federal Reserve System, which includes the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

There are some positives that are not typically included in discussions about the challenges Blacks have experienced historically in efforts to obtain wealth, Baradaran said. Many African Americans, specifically in California, were able to subvert the systems that discriminated against them.

“Black institutions have been creative and innovative serving their communities in a hostile climate,” Baradaran said. “I’ve written a book about the long history of entrepreneurship, self-help, and mutual uplift. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have provided stellar education and Black banks have supported Black businesses, churches, and families.”

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate inequity in education, labor, wealth, housing, tax, and environmental justice.

All of these areas were covered with expert testimony during the two-day meeting held on October 12 and October 13. The task force is charged with exploring California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the historic denial of Black citizens’ constitutional rights.

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

“Banks and corporations have engaged in lending and hiring practices that helped to solidify patterns of racial inequality,” Jacqueline Jones, a history professor from the University of Texas told the Task Force.

The Racism in Banking, Tax and Labor segment also featured testimonies by Williams Spriggs (former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. Spriggs now serves as chief economist to the AFL-CIO), Thomas Craemer (public policy professor at the University of Connecticut), and Lawrence Lucas (U.S. Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Employees).

The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans will conduct its fifth and final meeting of 2021 on December 6 and December 7.

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School Advocate Finds Oakland Schools Lost Money by Closing Roots, Kaiser and Other Schools

OUSD claims but shows no proof that closing more schools would save $2 million.



Students, teachers and parents at Roots Academy protest at School Board meetings in January 2019, opposing district decision to close their school. Photo courtesy of Oakland North.

A community education advocate has written a public letter using district data to show that the Oakland school district did not save money but instead lost over $700,000 when it closed two well-loved elementary schools.

Carol Delton, a community education advocate who has dedicated a lot of her time to keeping track of Oakland school district’s finances, has raised disturbing questions about the lack of transparency, accountability and seemingly inaccurate budget numbers that the district and its hands-on overseers at the Alameda County Office of Education, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) and the State Department of Finance are using to force the district to close schools and gut school site educational programs.

Delton, a retired school-based speech pathologist and Oakland resident, wrote an open letter October 17 to the OUSD school board and superintendent, questioning a proposal to cut $2 million from next year’s school budget to make up for savings that would be supposedly lost if the district does not go ahead with a plan to close more schools in 2022-2023.

Countering that proposal, Delton found that the district’s own documents show that the district has lost money when it closes schools. One document, released last May, showed that changes in facilities when (Cohort 1 and Cohort 2) schools were closed, the net costs to the district, including facilities costs, were $700,896.33.

In addition, the district lost state revenue when students left the school district amid the closures and mergers. According to one report, the closures meant that the district lost 9% or 14 students from Roots Academy, 17% or 37 students from Kaiser Elementary and 15% or 14 students from Oakland SOL.

“Without counting the loss of siblings to OUSD enrollment and without counting other students whose loss from the district may not have been presented, students leaving the district from just those three schools approaches a million-dollar loss … funding that has not been factored in,” wrote Delton in her open letter.

“As a result, it is difficult for me to believe that any plan of closures and mergers could result in a $2 million savings,” Delton wrote.

Looking at the pattern of nearly 20 years of school closings forced on the district by its overseers, Delton wrote, “It was clear that in years when OUSD closed schools, the district lost enrollment and in years when OUSD did not close schools, enrollment was up.”

Further, she said she saw that the district presented rosy projections that were not realized when it decided to close these schools. For example, looking at the projection prior to the Kaiser closure, “you will … see under-projections of enrollment loss.”

“Please consider that the enrollment loss pattern for this year that seems to be emerging would be 400% worse if it followed the percentages of district enrollment loss occasioned by recent closure/mergers.”

Delton also looked at the lack of transparency of these financial decisions, which makes it difficult for her and other members of the public to look at what the district is doing with public money.

“I am deeply concerned about the proposal to cut $2 million from the 2022-23 budget … has had ZERO public exposure and ZERO committee discussion before it comes to the board for a vote,” she wrote.

“While it was announced as Item G-1 of the 10/14/2021 Budget and Finance Committee Meeting, no documents were ever posted and, at the meeting, the Committee Chair announced the discussion would not take place and that she was receiving messages about running over time.” Delton wrote.

The Post requested the district respond to the issues raised by Delton in her letter. Here is the response the Post received on Wednesday, October 20:

“Rather than consolidating schools, the Board of Education has elected to cut $2 million in ongoing expenditures from the 2022-23 budget. On Oct. 27, the Board will decide how to make those reductions,” the district wrote.

“The Board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and her team have been transparent about the financial issues that face the district. We appreciate input from all stakeholders including students, staff, families, and members of the community.”

Community members who would like to follow the OUSD Board discussion can attend the meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in person or on Zoom. Delton’s letter is available online at

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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