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Renee Sharpe Follows in Elders’ Footsteps as a Longshorewoman

ILWU Profile: Renee Sharp, Local 10  

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Renee Sharpe

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“I grew up in Southern California, then moved to Sacramento as a sophomore in high school. I’m proud to share that I’m a longshore worker and my registration number is 101650, Local 10.

“Prior to working on the waterfront, I was a sign language interpreter for 15 years. I was married to a Sacramento longshore worker, Local 18 and he heard that San Francisco Local 10 was hiring, which had a more expedited hiring process.

“He said ‘Let’s go to San Francisco and apply for this position.’ It was 1999 and I stood in line with hundreds of people, applied and then heard nothing for years and years. Later, when I moved, I made sure to keep up my change of address with Pacific Maritime Association because I didn’t want to miss the job opportunity.

“In 2007, I got a letter to start the interview process, which included strength and agility testing and I waited for training. Then in 2008, the economy crashed, and the hiring process was frozen. In 2012, I got another letter which said they were hiring, and I started training and became a Longshore Worker Casual.

“Initially, I worked with no benefits and at the lowest pay, lashing container ships, doing highly physical jobs and/or signaling. Working on the ship is good exercise; it’s hard work, like cross-fit training. Cross-fit training was the mindset I had to have to physically get through my shift.

“I joined the ILWU Drill Team and did color guard drills for prominent civil rights leaders that passed away. We lead civil rights marches for Juneteenth and other special celebrations. At a Juneteenth celebration in 2020, we escorted Angela Davis to the stage to receive her recognition as an Honorary Longshoreman. In history, she’s the 2nd honorary longshoreman with Martin Luther King, Jr. as the first. It was the biggest honor of my life to escort her and to be a part of that ceremony.

“Currently, I have two step-ons along with other relatives at the Sacramento port. I go to the hall in San Francisco as much as I can and hope to get work, which took three years before my first promotion to getting a B-book which I had for five years.

“I was trained to drive yard semi-trucks to carry containers to/from the ship. Other jobs I’ve had were to drive new cars off ships – export Tesla, Toyota – working the docks, driving trackers – you don’t do just one job. In 2020, I finally received my A-Book and received top-pick operator training where I will stack containers to/from the ship when I pick up that job.

“I believe that ILWU was the best union job that I could attain because of the equality. I can have a job and get paid the same as a man, have top notch benefits and job flexibility and I’m set up for good retirement – even starting as an older person.

“I chose to do this type of work because I was influenced by a good number of people. In 1976, in Sacramento, I had a father figure who was a longshoreman. Oftentimes, I went to the hall with him and watched the process of getting jobs.

“At that time, as a female, I wasn’t allowed to become a longshore worker.  My father-in-law was a walking boss. My maternal grandmother was a “Rosie the Riveter,” where she built airplanes for 25 years. Her work for our country and how she stepped up and did a man’s work motivated me on the waterfront when the work was hard and physical. Because she did it, I know I can do it.

“The Oakland Port will be negatively impacted should the A’s come to Howard Terminal. With truckers and trains coming and going, bringing in cargo — which is a 24/7 operation — is noisy and not conducive for people to live on the working waterfront. The pollution and noise will generate complaints from residents and occupants of the high-rise luxury condos and offices.

“Locals will not be able to afford to live down there and gentrification will continue. I feel, slowly but surely, it will phase out the longshore work and displace our good union jobs. The A’s should give a face-lift to or rebuild the structure where they currently play at the Coliseum. There they have the infrastructure, parking, and a transportation hub; it couldn’t be more convenient.

“Rebuild it and they will come.”

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Activism

City Receives $3 Million Grant to Advance Violence Prevention Among School-Age Youth

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

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Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.
Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.

By Post Staff

The City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) has received a $3 million, three-year grant to support its violence interruption efforts.

In partnership with the Oakland Public Fund for Innovation, the Gilead Foundation awarded the grant to invest in health equity strategy, including a focus on prevention and intervention services to school-age youth, disrupting the pattern of violence.

“The Gilead Foundation is proud to support the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation and the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention,” said Kate Wilson, executive director of Gilead Foundation.

Chief of Violence Prevention with the City of Oakland Guillermo Cespedes said the grant will allow “DVP to strengthen families and protect its members from becoming involved in lifestyles associated with violence, while increasing educational outcomes and lifelong learning skills.”

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

Students who are routinely exposed to violence at home or in the community often experience toxic stress that leads to cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, and attention deficits that make it challenging to succeed in the classroom.

Exposure to violence also contributes to lower school attendance and a higher likelihood of suspension, which further promotes disengagement from school.

Using a public health approach, the DVP will strengthen family, school, and community contexts for OUSD school students living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, to reduce their exposure to violence and increase their chances of succeeding academically.

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Bay Area

Comcast RISE Seeks Applicants from Small Businesses Owned by Women, People of Color for $10,000 Grant

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

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Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.
Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.

By Adriana Arvizo

Women, regardless of their race and ethnicity, and Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland will have the opportunity to apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue grants totaling $1 million.

Eligible businesses can apply online at www.ComcastRISE.com from Oct. 3 through Oct.16, 2022, for one of the 100 $10,000 grants.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

  • Have established business operations for three or more years
  • Have one to 25 employees
  • Be based within Oakland, California city limits

The Investment Fund is coming to Oakland for the second year in a row and is an extension of Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment), the multi-year, multi-faceted initiative launched in 2020 to provide small businesses owned by people of color the opportunity to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable.

If a business is not eligible for the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, applications are also open for marketing and technology services. In fact, 160 businesses in Oakland have already been selected as Comcast RISE recipients.

“The advertising campaign and technology services have allowed me to reach and service new audiences,” said Oakland resident Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness. She has benefited from the program three times, with the production and placement of a TV commercial, a technology makeover and a $10,000 grant. “The application process was easy, and I encourage my fellow eligible business owners to apply for the grant or the other benefits.”

“When we launched Comcast RISE, we knew a profound need existed in many of the communities we serve,” said John Gauder, regional senior vice president of Comcast California. “We have now seen firsthand how the program’s marketing and technology resources benefit small business owners who continue to work hard and rise above 2020’s impact.

“Today, with Oakland receiving additional funding as a Comcast RISE Investment Fund grant city, we are excited to see how this infusion of funding will continue to propel businesses to thrive,” Gauder said. “We know the impacts will be fruitful and far reaching, especially with this year’s program expansion for women-owned businesses.”

To help drive outreach and awareness about Comcast RISE and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded $50,000 to six chambers of commerce in the Oakland area. The organizations are:

  • The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce
  • The Latino Chamber of Commerce
  • The Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
  • The Unity Council

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

Grant recipients will also receive a complimentary 12-month membership to the coaching program from Ureeka, an online platform for entrepreneurs, to help them build skills, gain more customers and become financially stable.

More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

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Activism

OPINION: Oakland Could Take More Innovative Steps to Help Solve Homelessness 

We must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

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Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 
Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 

By Janani Ramachandran

First, we must conduct a comprehensive audit of where our homelessness dollars are being spent. The recent City Auditor’s report revealed $69 million was spent on homelessness services for 8,600 people over the past three years – yet at least half the participants are believed to have returned to homelessness. We must conduct a deep dive into the third-party entities receiving homelessness contracts and to what extent they use evidence-based models of homelessness reduction.

Second, we must establish a regional board across all neighboring East Bay towns because homelessness certainly crosses borders, and the financial costs of assisting our unhoused while building affordable housing should not exclusively fall on Oakland. We must develop a plan to build on land owned by cities, CalTrans, BART, EBMUD, and other public agencies. A regional strategy must also include better partnership with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which is primarily responsible for providing meaningful mental health and addiction services. Oakland must ensure that our residents in need are able to access the County’s supportive services, regardless of language or technological barriers, and not waste funds duplicating efforts.

Third, we must ensure that we prioritize homelessness prevention, whether tenants or homeowners, from losing their homes. The city should re-allocate some of its homelessness dollars to provide emergency vouchers to at-risk individuals, prioritizing households with children and elders.

Finally, we must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

There’s little doubt as to why – it’s expensive. Each unit of permanent housing may cost up to $500,000 to build. The elimination of redevelopment agencies under Governor Jerry Brown was a severe blow to Oakland’s ability to build affordable housing, and we must compensate for that by ensuring developers pay their fair share.

This involves drafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance (moving away from the current tiered “in-lieu fee” system) to ensure that developers either include a percentage of affordable units in new buildings, or pay an impact fee, up front and at the start of construction, that directly funds other affordable housing projects.

But the private sector should not shoulder this burden alone – we must be more proactive in applying for competitive state and federal funds. This will require our city to streamline internal processes to help nonprofit or private developers secure local funding (which is generally the first step in applying for state and federal grants) with predictable deadlines.

Underlying all of these priorities, our policymakers must shift their perspective and recognize that those who are housing-insecure or unhoused are not a monolith. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but my stated priorities will hopefully begin to move us forward in the right direction.

Janani Ramachandran is a public interest attorney and former Oakland Public Ethics Commissioner running for Oakland City Council District 4.  For more informationJananiForOakland.com

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