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OUSD Board Delays Vote on Reparations Resolution for Black Students

​“There is not one Black family in OUSD that hasn’t experienced the pain of anti-Black racism in our schools,” reads a statement on reparationsforblackstudents.org, a website run by the Justice 4 Oakland Students Coalition in support of the bill. “Now is the time to look at the solutions from the Black community and invest in the remaining Black students.”

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Former site of Lakeview Elementary School, a majority Black school which OUSD closed in 2012. Lakeview Elementary was a majority Black public school. Currently American Indian Charter School, a majority none Black school, has taken over its campus. The Reparations for Black Students Resolution would protect schools like Lakeview, who have at least 30% Black students, from facing closure. Photo by Zack Haber on March 9.

During a Oakland School Board meeting last month, the Board decided to delay a vote to approve The Reparations for Black Students Resolution until March 24, preventing the resolution from being approved during Black History Month and frustrating many who had organized and advocated for the bill’s passing.

“There is not one Black family in OUSD that hasn’t experienced the pain of anti-Black racism in our schools,” reads a statement on reparationsforblackstudents.org, a website run by the Justice 4 Oakland Students Coalition in support of the bill. “Now is the time to look at the solutions from the Black community and invest in the remaining Black students.”

The Justice for Oakland Students Coalition includes:Oakland Education Association, The Black Organizing Project, Teachers for Social Justice, Parents United for Public Schools, and other local community organizations. The coalition inspired and informed the resolution after two years of listening sessions with Black students, parents, educators and District staff.

The resolution seeks to address the harm Black students, families and teachers have faced in OUSD including: the closure of 16 schools with a significant population of Black students in the last 15 years, a disproportionately low graduation rate and disproportionately high suspension rate among Black students, and a loss of about 67% percent of OUSD’s Black student population since 2000.

The board slowly came to their decisions to delay during two hours of tense discussion, brief public comments, and votes from about 11:00 p.m. February 24 to 1:00 a.m. on Feb 25. Board Director Clifford Thompson prompted the process by proposing amendments to erase much of the resolution. 

“I back the resolution 100%, but I’m just taking out a few things,” said Thompson while proposing the cuts.

Clifford proposed cutting all of the following from the resolution: protections to stop schools with 30% or more Black students from facing closure; requirements for the superintendent to implement a retention plan for Black teachers;creation of an emergency fund to help Black families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to pay rent, protections for Black students with disabilities on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and all references to charter schools.

The resolution contains about 1,650 words that, if passed, would require action from the Oakland Unified School District. Thompson proposed cutting about 1,300 of these words, or about 80% of the actionable language. Director Aimee Engproposed adding about 90 words to the resolution that direct the Board and superintendent to “seek public, private and philanthropic partnerships” that would “resource targeted investments to accelerate the academic outcomes and support the social emotional wellbeing of Black students.”

Neither Thompson nor Eng made their proposed amendments visible to the public or other Board members before the meeting. General Counsel Joshua Daniels made Thompson’s amendments visible during the Zoom meeting for less than five minutes. Eng showed those attending and participating in the meeting her amendments by sharing her screen for less than three minutes. 

Board members VanCedric Williams and Mike Hutchinson, who wrote the current version of the resolution, expressed deep frustration at the proposed cuts and changes to the bill. 

“Let’s not try to cut this down into a meaningless resolution and then walk away feeling good,” said Williams about Thompson’s proposed cuts. “We cannot play these games anymore. We really have to stand up to what our values are.”

After about 30 minutes of discussion from Board members and Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Hutchinson called for the discussion of cuts to the bill to be ended and for the Board to vote on whether or not to implement it. All Board members except Hutchinson, Williams and student Board Director Jessica, Ramos voted to continue to discuss the changes.

“Not only do I find this extremely offensive,” said Hutchinson upon hearing that the Board wanted to continue discussing changes to the bill, “but it sure feels anti-Black to me.”

During the meeting Ramos claimed hundreds of students were texting her to express disappointment in the proposed changes to the bill.

“This is very sad,” Ramos said. “You know when someone chews your food and then spits it back out? That’s how this feels.”

Board member Sam Davis, however, claimed compromise and accepting less than what the community initially asked for was essential.

​​“You can’t take something exactly as written because you have to accommodate the reality you’re working in,” Davis said. “To me, something is better than nothing and this addresses some of the demands the community had brought forth.”

Board President Shanthi Gonzalez pushed for a slower process that would allow more time to craft a bill that was “more acceptable and that everyone could live with.”

“I think it’s just happening too fast,” said Gonzalez. “It would make sense to slow down. Everything our Board does is a product of negotiation.”

Williams and Hutchinson both claimed they had reached out to other Board members for their input on the bill and questioned why the changes were being presented during the meeting instead of beforehand.

“You said you thought this was moving too fast, now you’re trying to re-write it on the spot,” said Hutchinson. “You didn’t try to do this last week when it was originally written.”

Before voting on the proposed amendments, the Board heard public comments. All 15 people who were allowed to speak opposed the amendments and called for the Board to approve the original resolution. Dozens of other Oakland community members asked to speak, including District 3 Council-member Carroll Fife, but were not allowed to. 

After hearing public comment, the Board voted on whether to accept Thompson and Eng’s amendments. Ramos abstained from voting. Williams and Hutchinson voted “no.” All other Board members voted to accept the changes, and the amendments passed.

Then Williams made a motion to ask the Board to vote on whether or not to change the name of the resolution, as it stood in its current form, to The White Supremacy Resolution,claiming that it now did the opposite of what it had originally set out to do.

“That wasn’t hyperbole and he wasn’t joking,” said Hutchinson after seconding Williams motion. “You turn Black reparations into another exercise in white supremacy.”

Ramos, Williams and Hutchinson voted to approve the motion to change name of The Reparations For Black Students Resolution to The White Supremacy Resolution, while all other Board members voted against the name change.

After more discussion of the bill, Gonzalez suggested taking more time to compromise on a version of the resolutionthe Board could agree on and admitted that the current version was “substantially different” from the original one. Williams agreed as long as discussions about changing the bill could start from its original form.

“Please stop messing with this,” he said. “Put it back to the original and we’ll debate it.” 

All Board members voted to restore the resolution back to its original form, except for Thompson and Board Director Gary Yee, who voted to keep the amendments. 

Then the Board voted to delay the vote to approve the Reparations for Black Students Resolution until March 24. On that vote, Ramos abstained from voting. Hutchinson voted “no.” All other Board members voted to accept the delay.

Since the vote to delay, community members have been vocal about rejecting any changes to the bill and urging board members to vote yes at the March 24 meeting. On February 26, dozens of Oakland students and community members rallied outside of Board member Sam Davis’ home.

“You can make the discussion to support it now or we can have civil disobedience later,” said a student through a megaphone at the rally. “We believe it is vital to support The Reparations for Black Students Resolution as written by the community.” 

Davis thanked the students for coming by and told them he would vote “yes” on the resolution and reject amendments on March 24. 

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Bay Area

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors. In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

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More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.
More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

This past weekend in the Inland Empire, a San Bernardino couple welcomed hundreds of African American high school graduates from the region for a joyous multi high school, Black-themed graduation celebration.

“Sometimes we have students doing magnificent things and nobody sees them,” said Keynasia Buffong, co-founder of Buffong Consultation Solutions, the company that organized the celebration honoring graduates from various high schools in the area.

Keynasia Buffong co-owns the firm with her husband Jonathan Buffong. The couple wants to expand the mass graduation event to all regions in the state.

“When you come into your community, we see you. We recognize you,” Kaynasia Buffong continued.

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors.

In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

Black Greek organizations attended the weekend-long event as well as the first Black valedictorian of Beaumont High School where African American students make up a little under 7% of the student population.

“We got a chance to give away $27,000 in scholarships,” said Keynasia.

Both Buffongs are educators and student advocates in California. They have been hosting the graduation event appreciating Black students for over 11 years.

But the Buffongs say celebrating success always comes with a reminder of the challenges Black students face.

According to the California Department of Education, at 72.5%, Black students had the lowest high school graduation rate among all other racial or ethnic groups at the end of the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Jonathan said one of their goals is to help graduates transition into the next stage of their academic life, whether that be a four-year university, community college, trade school, or employment.

“Sometimes they don’t know where to go or what to do,” said Keynasia. “There’s mentorship and sponsorship and we aim to have both.”

For the scholarship awards, the Buffongs are not just looking at grades but the full context of the graduates’ lives.

“Whether it’s COVID, deaths, family or health issues, disabilities, we’re looking for things to support them on so we can get them to the next level,” said Jonathan.

Outside of academic and career success, the Buffongs spoke about the importance of Black cultural exposure through education and traditional practices such as the Black national anthem and a libation ceremony.

The libation ceremony is performed by an elder in the community as a way to honor one’s ancestors. It is significant in various African cultures as well as other cultures around the globe.

The Buffongs say their next step is to look into more internship opportunities and figure out how to help curb the high numbers of Black high school graduates who leave the state to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

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Amtrak to Run Special Trains to Allensworth Historic Park Juneteenth Festival, June 11

Visitors attending the Juneteenth Festival will be able to take Amtrak San Joaquins trains to the Allensworth station. From there, riders will be met by a free shuttle for the short ride to the main property. The Allensworth station is normally a whistle stop on the San Joaquins available to be booked by groups desiring to visit the park.

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Allensworth State Park entry. Photo courtesy of CalParks.org. Trains will bring visitors to celebrate Juneteenth at site unique to California’s African American history
Allensworth State Park entry. Photo courtesy of CalParks.org. Trains will bring visitors to celebrate Juneteenth at site unique to California’s African American history

By David Lapari

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is holding a celebratory Juneteenth event on Saturday, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In partnership, Amtrak San Joaquins has scheduled special trains, bookable at a 50% discount rate to bring travelers to a place of historical significance to Blacks in California.

The town of Allensworth was established in 1908 by Colonel Allen Allensworth and at one point was home to more than 300 families. The park is a California state treasure because it was the first town in California to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park became a historical landmark in 1974.

The Juneteenth Festival is one of four major annual events hosted by Friends of Allensworth (FOA), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to support, promote, and advance the educational and interpretive activities at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

According to FOA, “Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. It was on June 19th, that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were now free.”

Event activities will include square dancing, self-guided tours of historic buildings, historic games with prizes, storytelling, and arts and crafts. Food and refreshment vendors will also be present. Travelers can also bring their bikes and chairs aboard Amtrak trains and Thruway buses.

“Amtrak San Joaquins has been a long-time partner to the FOA in connecting the people of California with the historic town of Allensworth” said FOA President Sasha Biscoe. “We encourage any individual that is interested in immersing themselves in the rich, ethnically diverse history of our state to consider taking advantage of the affordable, convenient, and fun transportation option provided by Amtrak San Joaquins and join us on June 11th to celebrate Juneteenth.”

The southbound trains that will be running for the event include trains 702, 710, 712, 714. Northbound trains include trains 713, 715, 717 and 719. When purchasing train tickets, a 50% discount will automatically be applied to the ticket purchase and on up to five companion tickets. Additional discount programs regularly available to riders include:

  • Infants under 2 years of age ride for free
  • Children 2-12 years old ride half-price every day
  • Seniors (62+ years of age) receive 15% off
  • Veterans & active military members receive 15% off
  • Disabled riders save 10% off

Visitors attending the Juneteenth Festival will be able to take Amtrak San Joaquins trains to the Allensworth station. From there, riders will be met by a free shuttle for the short ride to the main property. The Allensworth station is normally a whistle stop on the San Joaquins available to be booked by groups desiring to visit the park.

Train tickets to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park can be booked online at amtraksanjoaquins.com. For more information on how to book a group trip to Allensworth, please contact Carmen Setness, community outreach coordinator for San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC), at Carmen@sjjpa.com.

David Lapari works for the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, which is responsible for the management and administration of Amtrak San Joaquins.

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Dream Fund: Entrepreneurs Can Apply for $10,000 Grants Through $35M State Program

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

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Everett Sands, CEO Lendistry. Lendistry photo. 
Everett Sands, CEO Lendistry. Lendistry photo. 

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

Since 2017, there has been a 9.8% increase of new small businesses — firms with less than 500 employees — in the United States. Over the past two years alone, over 10 million applications were submitted to start new small businesses across the country, according to the Small Business Administration.

That growth trend is true for California, too, where there are about 4.1 million small businesses, the most in the country. Those companies make up 99.8% of all business in California and employ about 7.2 million people.

But for Black-owned and other minority owned small businesses across the country, there was a steep decline in numbers, almost 41%, due to the pandemic, a Census Population Survey found in 2020. During that same time, nearly 44% of minority-owned small businesses were at risk of shutting down, a Small Business Majority report found.

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

Recognizing the outsized contribution small businesses make to the health of the California economy and the hit many of the smallest of small business have taken during the pandemic, the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) has been making grants of up to $25,000 to small business in the state.

In its latest round of funding called the Dream Fund, which is now accepting applications on a rolling basis, CalOSBA has partnered with Lendistry, a Los Angeles-based, minority-led small business and commercial real estate lender to administer the $35 million grant portion of its program. The fund provides $10,000 to each small business that qualifies.

To become eligible, California-based small business owners will have to complete training at one of the centers run by the state’s Technical Assistance Expansion Program (TAEP) and receive a certificate.

“For the millions of Californians that have dreams of owning their own business, this grant coupled with one-on-one counseling and business expertise from hundreds of counselors at our eighty-seven Technical Assistance Centers, has the power to jumpstart their dreams,” says Tara Lynn Gray, director of CalOSBA.

Jay King, president and CEO of the Sacramento-based California Black Chamber of Commerce, says he applauds Gov. Gavin Newsom for understanding the historic systemic challenges minority businesses face and for “doing something about it.”

But giving Black businesses grants are not a “cure-all,” he says.

“It is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound if we don’t do more to really fix the problems small businesses face,” King explains. “Ninety-six percent of Black businesses are mini- or micro- that means they make less than $100,000 or less than $35,000 a year, respectively,” King continued. “Only 4% of our businesses earn more than $100,000 annually. We have to put more resources and technical support around these businesses.”

King says informing Black business owners about opportunities like the Dream Fund and making sure they know how to apply for or access the funding is critical to making sure the people who need the help gets it.

“You have to get down into our communities,” he said. “You have to reach people through groups that are plugged into our communities to get the word out. We do not hear about these kinds of programs enough. We definitely don’t benefit from them enough.”

Everett K. Sands, the CEO of Lendistry, says he is excited to help California’s new businesses access the capital they need to “begin on their journeys.

“Over the past two years, almost 10 million new businesses have been created in the U.S.,” he says. “With record numbers of new small businesses entering the marketplace, many of which are owned by women and minorities, programs like California Dream Fund pave the way for a more robust and equitable economy as these new businesses make the leap from employing just their founders to employing their communities.”

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