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Pelosi Keeps it Real with HU Students

THE AFRO — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi frankly spoke to Howard University students on an array of subjects relating to their lives and futures.

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By Micha Green

Donning an all orange suit with shoes to match, in honor of ending gun violence- a hot button issue that was set to hit Wednesday’s House floor for the first time in eight years- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi frankly spoke to Howard University students on an array of subjects relating to their lives and futures.

The event, held on Feb. 27, was part of the “Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy Lecture Series.” This year’s endowed chair is former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair, political strategist and author Donna Brazile.

Brazile, who has brought political heavy hitters from both sides of the aisle, including former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, told the AFRO why she felt it was important to bring Pelosi from the House to Howard.

“I wanted to bring [Pelosi], because she’s the Speaker of the House.  She’s the one who controls the legislation. She’ll be very much engaged in the budget discussions and she’s the one who helps us with the policy in the House of Representatives.  And I think having her on an HBCU  (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) campus, Howard University in particular, is a great way to remind her that this university, like all other universities, deserve her time and attention.  And she readily accepted the invitation.” Brazile told the AFRO.

Brazile posed a question on student loan debt, which has increased 102 percent since 2009 according to Bloomberg.

“The debt is bigger than credit card debt.  So when they want to give a tax break of over a trillion dollars to the richest people in America, why don’t we just eliminate the debt for higher education, instead of giving a tax cut to the top one percent in our country?” Pelosi said to the audience. “That would be something constructive to do that everybody would share in.  And by the way, nothing brings more money to the treasury to further reduce the debt, than investments in education.”

On the topic D.C. statehood, Pelosi was very supportive of the idea, yet skeptical that the bill, H.R. 51, would pass this year.

“I’m supportive of the idea of statehood for the District of Columbia.  I’m all for it.  It’ll probably happen, or have a better chance of happening… under a Democratic president.  But it’s something that we have to build a crescendo for. So unfair,” she said.  “When we took office just a month and a half, we gave Eleanor Holmes Norton a right to vote on the floor, not on all measures, because that would mean a Constitutional change, but on many measures in the House.”

In less than hour students were able to listen to the moderated discussion between Pelosi and Brazile and then ask questions to the Speaker herself.

One student asked about reparations, the unrealized promise of valued land and goods to Blacks post the Emancipation Proclamation, and how to serve African Americans who still struggle today as a result of slavery.  The Speaker admitted that reparations is a challenging issue that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) has tackled with legislation to study the topic of giving African Americans their promised goods- further than 40 acres and a mule.  With the difficulty of reparations, Pelosi touched on the troubling issues of poverty and disparity, which disproportionately affects African Americans.

“When you want to be involved in public service, know your why.  What attracts you to this? I went from the kitchen to Congress, housewife to House Speaker, and my why is the one in five children in America living in poverty,” she explained. “We have to reduce the disparity in income in our country.  We have to reduce the disparity in education….  We have to reduce the health disparities in our country… So while we’re studying how we deal with the reparations issue, there’s plenty we can do to improve the quality of life of many people in our country.”

Melyvonn Leon, a second year MBA student and graduate assistant at the School of Business, said he felt it was important to have Pelosi present at a place like Howard.

“This was an awesome experience.  To get that up, close and personal experience with such a prominent member of society- such a large name in the leadership of this country right now.  To have that easy access at Howard, and specifically within the School of Business, is unbelievable.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Activism

HNU Says (Secret) Deadline Has Passed to File Proposals to Save Campus

Despite opposition of the trustees, many community leaders and city officials are moving forward for an educational future for the campus. In a statement released this week, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan reiterated city leaders’ commitment to maintaining the HNU campus, including as a Historically Black College or University (HBCU): “The Holy Names University site can, and should, have an educational future to provide jobs, opportunity, train teachers and others for vital community needs, and preserve the intended purpose of the land, and the funding they have received.

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Holy Names University Campus. File photo.
Holy Names University Campus. File photo.

By Ken Epstein

The Board of Trustees of Holy Names University (HNU), which has shown little interest in working with educational institutions or city leaders to maintain the campus as a site for higher education, is now telling potential partners that a previously unmentioned deadline for submitting proposals has already passed, as of last Friday.

The trustees had hired a real estate firm to sell the nearly 60-acre property in the Oakland Hills for top dollar to a developer of high-end housing.

But the City of Oakland staff recently told HNU that such a development would violate the city’s general zoning regulations and is not permitted.

Despite opposition of the trustees, many community leaders and city officials are moving forward for an educational future for the campus.

In a statement released this week, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan reiterated city leaders’ commitment to maintaining the HNU campus, including as a Historically Black College or University (HBCU):

“The Holy Names University site can, and should, have an educational future to provide jobs, opportunity, train teachers and others for vital community needs, and preserve the intended purpose of the land, and the funding they have received.

“I am honored to join together with community members, including alumni, students, and faculty of HNU, and many neighbors and others who are worried about the loss of vital educational programs. I am pleased that we have been able to identify the removal of all of the barriers to continued educational use, including verifying that neither the Attorney General, nor the lender, are requiring HNU to select a for-profit buyer, and there are educational users interested in acquiring the property,” she said.

“In addition, given the Oakland general plan (zoning) designation of the site, and the intentions of the donors to Holy Names, it is appropriate to pursue an educational future for the site,” Kaplan said.

In an interview, Oakland Post publisher Paul Cobb said, “I have spoken to prospective developers and buyers of the Holy Names Campus. I have noticed that some white developers have been given true financial information while some Black applicants have not.”

“Since HNU leaders have misrepresented the role and advice of the California Attorney General Bonta’s office with the disposition of the property and its potential future, I will ask Bonta, the Alameda County District Attorney, and the Oakland City Attorney to jointly investigate the inaccurate marketing of this vital educational institution,” he said.

“Since HNU graduates many of our teachers and health professionals, we must make sure that there is full transparency,” he continued.

“I also recently informed Cardinal Turkson from the Vatican that we plan to save HNU and add a Black College to help serve the area’s needs.”

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Bay Area

Remembering Kenneth Brown, Educator, Engineer, and El Camino College Trustee

The El Camino Community College District, California State University Dominguez Hills, and the aerospace industry have lost a great leader and advocate with the passing of Kenneth Brown on March 23, 2023. Brown was a pioneer in his fields, and his work as an educator, scientist, engineer, and trustee impacted countless lives.

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Educator Kenneth Brown. Photo courtesy California Black Media.
Educator Kenneth Brown. Photo courtesy California Black Media.

By Joe W. Bowers Jr.
California Black Media

The El Camino Community College District, California State University Dominguez Hills, and the aerospace industry have lost a great leader and advocate with the passing of Kenneth Brown on March 23, 2023.

Brown was a pioneer in his fields, and his work as an educator, scientist, engineer, and trustee impacted countless lives.

Born and raised in Carson, CA, Brown attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he earned a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.S. in Physics. He later went on to earn his M.S. in Applied Physics from Clark Atlanta University.

“As a Morehouse alum, Ken upheld the tradition of striving to make a positive difference in the world, especially for the Black community. He had a keen analytical mind and he eagerly engaged in discussions in a variety of subjects, including politics and social issues that challenged you to think critically,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rupert Byrdsong, a friend and college classmate.

Brown’s career in aerospace spanned over three decades. He worked for over 20 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where, as a System Engineering Analyst for the Mars Science Laboratory, he worked on some of the most groundbreaking missions in the history of space exploration.

He was last employed as Operations Manager for Northrop Grumman Missions Systems Engineering & Sciences (E&S) Maritime Land Sensors and Systems/Field Engineering, at Space Park, Redondo Beach. There he was the lead for a major new enhancement to the program, driving technical integration to meet performance and functional requirements.

In recognition of his contributions, Brown received the Black Engineer of the Year Modern Day Technology Leader Award in 2019.

Brown’s passion for teaching led him to serve as an adjunct professor of Physics at Cal State University Dominguez Hills. For more than 20 years he taught undergraduate physics, physical science, and math courses. Because of his exceptional ability to connect with his students, his dedication to teaching, and his caring nature, he had a reputation for being a devoted and well-admired instructor.

For the California Department of Education, Brown served as a Content Review Panel expert and helped author “Next Generation Science Standards,” which is being used in K-12 classrooms in over 40 states.

In addition to his work in aerospace and as an education practitioner, Brown was president of the Governing Board of Trustees at El Camino Community College in Torrance. He had been a Board member since 2010

“He never stopped advocating for students’ needs to ensure they found success in higher education, their chosen career fields, and in their personal lives.  He inspired us to become extraordinary,” said Brenda Thames, Ph.D., El Camino College superintendent/president in reflecting on her connection with Brown. “He led as an unapologetic advocate for equity and the expansion of educational opportunities for all students.  The legacy of his work will impact millions of students for decades to come.”

Vice President of the Board of Trustees Trisha Murakawa told The Union, El Camino College’s student paper, that she and Brown “‘were making good trouble, to truly help’ with education and equity at the statewide level and at El Camino.”

“Brown was a champion for students in everything he did …. and his legacy and commitment will empower generations of leaders to come,” Daisy Gonzales, the interim chancellor of California’s community college system, said in a statement.

Brown was elected to the California Community College Trustees Board in 2016, and in 2020 was elected to serve as president of the CCCT Board where he led the CCCT Board Financial Aid Implementation Committee as well as the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative Change Leadership Committee.

“I don’t think he had “no” in his vocabulary,” said Pam Haynes, President Emerita, CCCT Board and Los Rios Community College District Trustee. “He was unwavering in his steadfast advocacy for students of color, especially Black and Brown students within our community college system.

On a national level, Brown served on the Association of Community College Trustees Public Policy and Advocacy Committee.

Brown also served on the Da Vinci Schools Board of Trustees from 2019-20 in the Wiseburn Unified School District in El Segundo and on the Da Vinci Schools Fund Board.

A true renaissance man, Brown’s accomplishments extended beyond his professional life. He was an accomplished athlete, twice named All-American in Track & Field at Morehouse College and he played in the NCAA Div. II Basketball Final Four. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and Pan AM Games in the high jump.

Brown, 54, lived in Inglewood with his wife of 25 years, Dr. Karla Harness Brown, a teacher, counselor, and child welfare and attendance advisor for 30 years at the Inglewood Unified School District.

He is survived by two sons, Kenneth II, a Morehouse graduate who is now attending UCLA and Kaleb, a freshman at Howard University. He is also survived by his mother, Dr. Martha Brown, a retired professor of music and his mother-in-law, Gloria Armstrong, a retired Inglewood city employee. His father Keith Brown (deceased) was a probation officer.

From the outpouring of condolence messages and personalized tributes Brown’s family is receiving from the Inglewood community and beyond, it is certain that he will be deeply missed by his family, colleagues, and the countless students whose lives he touched through his work in education.

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Bay Area

Attorney General’s Office Denies Helping Holy Names University Sell Campus, Contrary to HNU’s Claims

In a recent letter to City of Oakland officials, Jeanine Hawk, HNU’s vice president for finance and administration, claimed that the university has been working closely with Bonta’s office and that the university’s decision to sell the property to the highest bidder is based on and guided by discussions with the Attorney General’s Office.

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“Our office has not provided HNU with direction, approval or guidance,” said AG’s office”

By Ken Epstein

Holy Names University in Oakland continues to be not transparent or truthful with the public and Oakland officials in its claims that HNU is acting with the approval and guidance of the office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta to sell the 60-acre campus in the Oakland hills for high-end residential development when the campus permanently closes, currently scheduled for the end of the current semester in May.

Jeanine Hawk, HNU’s vice president for finance.

Jeanine Hawk, HNU’s vice president for finance.

In a recent letter to City of Oakland officials, Jeanine Hawk, HNU’s vice president for finance and administration, claimed that the university has been working closely with Bonta’s office and that the university’s decision to sell the property to the highest bidder is based on and guided by discussions with the Attorney General’s Office.

“HNU has been in constant communication with the California Attorney General’s office regarding the manner of ensuring that any transfer of its property satisfies the requirements of California law,” Hawk said.

Further, she alleged that “discussions with the Attorney General’s office have resulted in an effort to market the property both through a real estate broker (Mike Taquino at CBRE) and through our continued communications with potential successor universities.”

Hawk also dismissed the City of Oakland’s offer to help maintain HNU as a center of higher education. “At this point it is unclear to HNU how the City of Oakland can assist with the process of achieving the objectives of obtaining the highest and best use of the HNU property for public good, particularly when HNU’s efforts to date have been in cooperation with the AG’s office,” she said.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Venus D. Johnson

Chief Deputy Attorney General Venus D. Johnson

However, in a strongly worded denial, Venus D. Johnson, Chief Deputy Attorney General in AG Bonta’s office, wrote in a March 17 letter to Oakland officials, “While HNU has kept the Attorney General’s Office apprised as to its efforts to secure a successor educational institution, our office has not provided HNU with direction, approval or guidance with regard to these efforts.”

“Any assertion to the contrary is inaccurate,” Johnson wrote.

“Specifically, although HNU has reported to you that this office has told HNU that it must sell to the highest bidder and that we have provided HNU with direction related to its marketing efforts, the Attorney General’s Office has done neither of these things,” according to Johnson’s letter.

Johnson emphasized that under the law the decision whether to sell the property is up to the HNU Board of Trustees. “A nonprofit corporation only needs approval from its board of directors to sell or transfer all or substantially all of its assets under terms the board deems is in the best interests of the corporation,” she said.

Johnson added that there are no legal reasons why HNU cannot work with a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or other educational institution to maintain the campus as a center for higher education.

She wrote: “Let me be clear: HNU absolutely may consider entering into an agreement with a successor educational institution and continue to operate with an educational purpose and mission. While my office cannot require HNU to do this, neither can we prevent them from doing so: The decision is HNU’s and HNU’s alone.”

Several HNU students and an Oakland City Councilmember spoke this week about the potential for maintaining HNU as an institution of higher education on the “Education Today” program aired on radio station KPFA FM94.1.”

“There are a lot of unanswered questions: how did we get to this place?” Asked Aniya Bankston, chair of the HNU Black Student Union (BSU) and a pre-nursing student.

“There’s a very confusing time on campus, (and) anxiety is super high” among the students, she said.

Kiara Evans, a member of HNU student government and the also a BSU member, said she and other student leaders met with the HNU Board of Trustees, which she was disappointed to see was all white.

“They were very nonchalant,” said Evans. “Whatever we said, they just brushed us off. They didn’t really want to hear from us, and it’s pretty sad and disappointing that these people are in charge of our education. They’ve never even gotten to know us.”

Oakland District 4 Councilwoman Janani Ramachandran

Oakland District 4 Councilwoman Janani Ramachandran

City Councilmember Janani Ramashandran, who represents the area that includes the HNU campus, said she is working with other city leaders “to see this site used for higher education … not to follow the path of building luxury housing.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” she said. “It comes down to the will of the Holy Names board (to negotiate)” and some of the proposals for educational uses for the property.

In response to questions from the Oakland Post, HNU Vice President Hawk wrote:

“The AG wanted to emphasize that it does not direct organizations in these matters. The letter confirmed that HNU has been apprising the AG’s office of the current situation to share HNU’s proposed path forward and to make sure that HNU’s interpretation of applicable laws regarding the sale or transfer of property of a non-profit corporation will properly inform decision making by our Board of Trustees.”

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