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Rep. Maxine Waters’ Delegation Visits Haiti to Investigate Reports of Terrorism

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Amid news of continuing atrocities against the civilian population, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and a delegation of activists – including actor and producer Danny Glover and Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley – visited Haiti last week on a mission to investigate conditions on the ground in the country and report back to the American public about a Human Rights emergency that remains underreported in the mainstream media.

According to a report in the Miami Herald, “In recent months, gangs have been terrorizing the population, accused of massacring and raping poor Haitians and turning parts of the country (including the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince into no-go zones.”

As late as last week, there were reports that terrorist groups in La Saline set fire to homes. Hundreds of people have been killed recently in targeted killings.

“When we learned about houses being burned down, and the killings that took place, we were appalled and shocked. We listened directly to some of the relatives of victims and victims tell us about that,” said Waters during a press conference at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport prior to leaving Haiti last Wednesday evening, the Miami Herald reported.

Besides Rep. Waters (CA-43), Glover and attorney Riley, the delegation included social Justice activist Pierre Labossiere, human rights lawyer Brian Concannon and radio journalist Margaret Prescod. Prescod filed filmed reports from the “no go zones”.

Following a massacre in La Saline last November, a group of 104 members of the House of Representatives called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month to conduct an independent investigation of the extrajudicial killings allegations of human-rights violations by the Haitian National Police Force; U.S. taxpayers dollars should not go to human rights violators.

“We have eyewitness reports and other evidence that these are not gangs, a name that implies that they are independent of the government. These terrorists, in fact, are part of militias that have been hired to terrorize people and are associated with the Haitian Police Department,” said Riley. “It is a policy of the Haitian government and backed by the U.S. government,”  he said.

“The attacks on people in La Saline started as retaliation to demonstrations calling for Pres. Jovenel Moïse to resign over stolen billions of Petro Caribe money from Venezuela and systemic corruption in failed governance,” he said. “We have testimony of witnesses in the area and from human rights organizations about the brutality, the crimes against humanity.”

Among the atrocities, rape, people have been burned alive, dismembered and fed to pigs, said Riley.

Protesters across Haiti vowed to continue their fight for government accountability even in the face of the brutality, he said. “They have a proud sense of their history.”

Activism

Oakland A’s Star Tony Kemp Tells Us Why He’s Planting Trees, Messaging with Fans

For the 2021 baseball season, Kemp teamed up with a national organization and pledged to plant 100 trees in urban communities for every stolen base and extra-base hit he recorded.

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Oakland Athletics outfielder Tony Kemp in an undated photo. Kemp partnered with Breaking T to produce his +1 Effect merchandise. A portion of the sale proceeds go to the Players Alliance, a national organization committed to creating an inclusive culture within baseball. Photo courtesy of Tony Kemp.
Oakland Athletics outfielder Tony Kemp in an undated photo. Kemp partnered with Breaking T to produce his +1 Effect merchandise. A portion of the sale proceeds go to the Players Alliance, a national organization committed to creating an inclusive culture within baseball. Photo courtesy of Tony Kemp.

By Nick Marnell, Bay City News Foundation

Oakland A’s infielder Tony Kemp picked a great year to pledge a charitable contribution based upon his on-field performance.

For the 2021 baseball season, Kemp teamed up with a national organization and pledged to plant 100 trees in urban communities for every stolen base and extra-base hit he recorded.

Fortunately for the environment, Kemp, 30, produced the best season of his six-year major league career, compiling 27 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases to go along with a strong .382 on-base percentage. He was also one of only two hitters in the American League (with at least two plate appearances per every regular season game) to walk more often than he struck out.

“I’m glad I got the chance to play and show what I can do,” Kemp said.

The 3,500 trees Kemp donated were just the catalyst as PG&E, one of the team’s corporate sponsors, doubled down on the pledge “to further its support of environment and sustainability awareness,” company representative Lynsey Paulo said. “With PG&E’s donation, there will be 7,000 trees planted as part of this program.”

On Dec. 10, volunteers from the A’s, PG&E, the City of Oakland and various charitable organizations met at Sobrante Park in Oakland and planted 15 trees. Kemp said he will plant trees this spring in his hometown near Nashville.

One of Kemp’s partners in the tree planting venture is Players for the Planet, a national organization founded by former major leaguer Chris Dickerson. Players for the Planet asserts a goal of uniting professional athletes to create positive change for the environment. “Our programs are designed by the players so they can contribute wherever they see a need or opportunity,” Dickerson said.

“I always wanted to do a reforestation project,” Kemp said. Possibly as a giveback for the amount of lumber used in his profession? Kemp chuckled, but said his goal was much greater than replacing a handful of broken bats. “I’ve always cared about the planet. I’ve been an advocate for a recycling project for a long time. This one was a no-brainer.”

Dickerson agreed that Kemp is a committed activist. “Tony has been a tremendous advocate for giving back to the community,” he said.

Addressing systemic racism

Even though he is not a fan of confrontation, in summer 2020 Kemp became one of the most active ballplayers speaking out against racial injustice. Haunted by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and the unfolding civil unrest, Kemp logged onto Twitter on June 5, 2020, and posted to his followers, then numbering more than 40,000: “Let’s be honest. It’s been a tough week. If any of you want to talk or want to be more informed don’t hesitate to ask me.”

That tweet prompted a series of one-on-one direct message conversations with friends, teammates and fans about systemic racism and his own life experiences as a Black man. Kemp then formalized these conversations into a campaign called the +1 Effect.

Explaining the name of his campaign, Kemp said he wanted his perspective to achieve a domino effect, of one positive conversation leading to another, and then another, through honest and respectful dialogue.

“I ask questions. Simple questions, and there is no yelling,” said Kemp, in keeping with his distaste of confrontation. “Those who yell the loudest, what are they trying to accomplish?”

Kemp shared portions of a +1 Effect conversation he had with a suburban white woman in Texas who wanted to do a better job of combating racism but feared that she had no platform.

“Of course, you have a platform and voice,” Kemp told her. “You can always be an influence and inspiration to those around you.” He went on to explain that undoing systemic racism “starts with calling out people for their offhand comments that they may not even realize are racially biased.

“Make it known that you will not tolerate racism or prejudice in any way,” he advised her, and recommended media for her to check out, including “The 13th,” Ava DuVernay’s documentary about racism in the criminal justice system; Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “1619” podcast on how slavery shapes American culture to this day; and Ibram X. Kendi’s history-driven guide “How to Be Anti-Racist.”

Supporting Black kids

Kemp also gives back through the Players Alliance, an organization of major league ballplayers who work to create an inclusive culture within baseball in order to promote racial equality and provide greater opportunities for the Black community. According to Society for American Baseball Research, since Jackie Robinson broke the color line starting with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the percentage of Black players in the MLB peaked at 18.7% in 1981 and declined to less than 10% by the mid-2000s. In 2016, only 6.7% of major leaguers were Black.

“We’re trying to get Black players to mentor kids who can’t afford equipment to play baseball,” Kemp said. “Black kids look up to us, and we’re trying to help these kids understand that they can succeed in Major League Baseball.”

Kemp, though, is realistic about the slim chances for kids to make it to the big leagues, as Kemp himself fought through early life and career struggles. His parents divorced when he was 12. He was repeatedly optioned to the minor leagues while with the Houston Astros.

Kemp drew on his inner strength and closeness to his family — especially his older brother Corey — to help get him through the rough patches.

Corey told his brother that it was never going to be easy for him to succeed in athletics because Kemp was the little guy.

“They’re always going to be looking at the big guy,” Corey Kemp said. “You’ve got to keep a chip on your shoulder, get back out there and continue to perform.”

The advice worked. “I realized there will always be guys physically stronger than me,” said Kemp, who is 5-feet-6-inches tall and 160 pounds. “But they will never be stronger mentally.”

Understanding that the baseball hopefuls he mentors will need a fallback position should their baseball dreams flame out, Kemp imparted reality to the young athletes when he demonstrated the importance of a strong educational foundation at an Alliance event in Oakland.

“I got out a book and a baseball. I asked the kids to stand on each one and see which one provided more stability,” he said. “They got the message. I told them that getting a degree is always the end goal.”

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Activism

Oakland Black Contractors Demand Access to Contracts, Jobs for Oakland Residents 

The press conference was led by the NAACP Oakland Chapter, representatives from the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Minority Contractors Northern California, BuildOUT California, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce, Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, Bay Area Contract Compliance Officer’s Association, Asian, Inc. They were joined by Councilmembers Loren Taylor (District 6) and Treva Reid (District 7), (Sheng Thao, District 4,) who each addressed the importance of honoring the City’s commitment to distribute contracts in an equitable manner.

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First Row left to right: John Baptiste, Black Contractor, Antoinette Clark, NAACP, Bendu Griffin, Professional Services Consultants, Cathy Adams, OAACC, Stanley Cooper, Chair of Labor and Industry , NAACP Oakland Branch & Cooper Construction and Engineering, Councilmember Loren Taylor, District 6; Second Row left to right: Mario Wagner, NAACP Oakland Branch, George Holland, Sr., President NAACP, Oakland Branch, Jumoke Hinton, NAACP, Oakland Branch; Upper row: Nick Colina Anco Iron & Construction, Inc. & NAMC , co-founder Build Out California, Joe Patida, President of the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Derrick Johnson, representing the LGBTQ Community Center, Baasim Khufu, NAMC, Black Contractor, Jonathan “Fitness” Jones, (Post Newspaper Group) and Clifton Cooper, Vice President, NAACP Oakland. Photo by Auintard Henderson.
First Row left to right: John Baptiste, Black Contractor, Antoinette Clark, NAACP, Bendu Griffin, Professional Services Consultants, Cathy Adams, OAACC, Stanley Cooper, Chair of Labor and Industry , NAACP Oakland Branch & Cooper Construction and Engineering, Councilmember Loren Taylor, District 6; Second Row left to right: Mario Wagner, NAACP Oakland Branch, George Holland, Sr., President NAACP, Oakland Branch, Jumoke Hinton, NAACP, Oakland Branch; Upper row: Nick Colina Anco Iron & Construction, Inc. & NAMC , co-founder Build Out California, Joe Patida, President of the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Derrick Johnson, representing the LGBTQ Community Center, Baasim Khufu, NAMC, Black Contractor, Jonathan “Fitness” Jones, (Post Newspaper Group) and Clifton Cooper, Vice President, NAACP Oakland. Photo by Auintard Henderson.

By Post Staff

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, a coalition of community and business leaders held a press conference to call out the request by the City of Oakland’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to waive requirements that would ensure that small, local businesses get opportunities to bid for paving contracts worth up to $60 million.

The formal language to ‘Waive Further Advertising, Competitive Bidding, and The City’s Small-Very Small Local Business Enterprise Participation Requirement,’ essentially locks out minority contractors as well.

In blatant disregard for the City’s policy, the DOT requested that five contracts be awarded to Gallagher & Burk, McGuire & Hester and O.C. Jones & Sons, three non-minority contractors headquartered outside the City of Oakland.

The press conference was led by the NAACP Oakland Chapter, representatives from the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Minority Contractors Northern California, BuildOUT California, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce, Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, Bay Area Contract Compliance Officer’s Association, Asian, Inc. They were joined by Councilmembers Loren Taylor (District 6) and Treva Reid (District 7), (Sheng Thao, District 4,) who each addressed the importance of honoring the City’s commitment to distribute contracts in an equitable manner.

Oakland NAACP Chapter President George Holland noted that this item was ironically scheduled a day after MLK Day. “It is a shame that we are still fighting for the same things that Dr. King fought for nearly five decades ago. We will not concede the progress we have made and understand we have a long way to go.”

Councilmember Taylor’s office released a statement. “If we were to approve this waiver without pushing for higher levels of participation from our local, small, and diverse contractors, it would undermine the work that we have been doing over the past year. That is why I proudly stand with the community members calling for us to have a more concerted effort to seek out diverse contractors and will not support the requested waivers.”

Although unable to attend the press conference, Ed Dillard of the NAACP LIC stated, “Black contractors are taxpayers in Oakland and deserve work on City of Oakland funded projects. These Black contractors provide jobs for Oakland Black residents.”

When reflecting on her work to address the City’s contracting issues, Cathy Adams, president of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce notes, “We are committed to ensuring Black businesses receive their fair share of City contracts.

“We were successful in our fight for the Disparity Study to be released. We were successful in establishing a better L/SLBE policy. We will be successful in our fight to eliminate current contracting disparities,” Adams said (L/SLBE refers to Oakland’s Local and Small Local Business Enterprise program).

Reid stated “It is an honor to stand with you all today and agree that we have to unite our power to deliver votes that delivers for us, our communities and our City to ensure we have an equitable outcome for all.” She also indicated that she would vote against the waiver.

Each organization echoed the sentiments expressed that the proposed waiver means a loss of opportunity, a loss of local businesses and a loss of jobs for Oaklanders.

District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife motioned that the awards be rejected and sent back out to bid. Councilmember Taylor seconded the motion with an amendment that the bidders be given until Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, to comply with the City’s L/SLBE requirements.

Council directed staff to work with the bidders to ensure that they comply with the City’s L/SLBE requirements in a unanimous vote with the motion as amended.

As Bendu Griffin from the Bay Area Contractor Compliance Officer’s Association stated, “it’s not a Black thing, it’s the right thing!”

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Activism

Citing COVID Safety Needs, Oakland High Teachers Limit Encounters with Students

According to Le’Lani Walker, a senior at OHS, teachers explained the work to rule action to students shortly before it began. Although she felt it was “kind of frustrating” when she needed a little extra help with chemistry, she “sees the bigger picture” and feels that the action will help students in the long run.

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Many teachers at Oakland High School have decided to refuse to do any work not stipulated in their contract in a labor action aimed at securing better COVID safety measures from the Oakland Unified School District. Photo of Oakland High School by Zack Haber on September 13, 2021.
Many teachers at Oakland High School have decided to refuse to do any work not stipulated in their contract in a labor action aimed at securing better COVID safety measures from the Oakland Unified School District. Photo of Oakland High School by Zack Haber on September 13, 2021.

By Zack Haber

Due to concerns about COVID safety issues, many teachers at Oakland High School have been engaging in ‘work to rule,’ a labor action tactic where workers only do the tasks specified in their contract, since January 6.

“It means is we don’t do anything extra,” said Cole Margen who teaches history at the school.

Teachers at Oakland High have been keeping their doors closed to students before and after school, as well as during lunch and their lesson planning periods.

According to David Byrd, a music teacher and union site representative at Oakland High, over 40 teachers out of 89 in the school have come to meetings related to the action and have committed to ‘work to rule,’ but he suspects more teachers are involved. Throughout the school, teachers have hung flyers on their doors indicating their support that say “To encourage greater COVID safety on our site this teacher is working to rule!”

Typically, most teachers at Oakland High School (OHS) would welcome students into their classroom for extra academic help and/or to socialize during non-classroom hours, even though their contract doesn’t require them to do so. English Immersion teacher Miles Murray thinks this extra work’s absence immediately becomes noticeable.

“There are extra hours we’re expected to work, and must work, in order to keep the school functioning,” said Murray. “We need to remind the public of that.”

While teachers interviewed for this article mentioned a variety of improved COVID safety measures they’d like to see OUSD implementing at OHS, they all stressed their demand for a safer environment for students to eat lunch, including more tables for the large cafeteria and more outdoor dining facilities. They report that the lack of spaces to eat safely and comfortably has forced students to eat in unsafe places, like the hallways.

“When I do work to rule and hold the line by saying ‘you can’t lunch in my classroom,’” said English teacher Marika Iyer, “I hope to make it clear to the admin, district and the community that these are not safe conditions.”

Oakland students also want safer options for eating lunch.

“I’m not sure where to go and I don’t feel like there’s anywhere safe to eat,” said Trey Shanklin, an OHS senior. “If OUSD provided more outside eating options I would definitely be eating outside more than inside.”

In an e-mail to The Oakland Post, OUSD director of communications John Sasaki stated that the district had built “covered outdoor structures at numerous schools since the fall,” and that they plan to continue to do so, but supply chain issues have slowed the process at some schools.

“Whenever [the materials] come in, our staff quickly gets them installed,” he wrote. “That will happen soon at Oakland High School.”

But until the facilities are installed at their school, OHS teachers say they plan to continue to work to rule.

In the meantime, the Omicron surge has affected OHS and other district schools. Murray, who was quarantining when he did his interview for this article due to becoming sick with the virus, said that in the days before his isolation period started, about a third of his students were out for reasons related to COVID-19.

A “no-go” list sent from OHS administrators to staff shows that between January 3 and 12, over 325 of the school’s approximately 1,550 students were absent at some point, usually multiple days, due to testing positive for COVID or COVID related quarantining.

OUSD’s data shows that, across the district, about 1,550 combined students and staff tested positive for COVID during the first two weeks back from school after winter break out of a total population of about 39,000.

As COVID cases have surged since coming back from break, students and staff at various OUSD schools have engaged in a variety of actions that they’ve labeled sickouts, strikes, and/or boycotts, that have involved them not coming to school out of protest.

These actions have been neither sanctioned nor denounced by Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union for OUSD. A teacher-led sickout action for better COVID safety measures announced on January 6 and executed on January 7 caused a dozen schools to effectively close for a day.

According to music teacher David Byrd, OHS teachers were inspired when they heard about the January 6 sickout but since their school has many newly hired teachers, they felt an action involving teachers calling in sick en masse could be too risky for those who weren’t tenured to want to engage in.

“We said we’re acting in solidarity, and we support these other sites,” said Byrd. “But how can we expect these new teachers to put so much on the line so quickly?”

OHS teachers were successful in getting both long-term and new teachers on board for the action. One non-tenured OHS teacher who asked not to be named due to fearing that speaking to media might make it less likely they get rehired next year, said they were participating because it showed the unpaid work teachers do and the unsafe conditions students and staff eat lunch in.

“I feel safe participating in the action because of the solidarity shared by my fellow staff,” they said. “Almost all doors now have the work-to-rule sign posted on them, so I am much less likely of being singled out.”

Byrd described work to rule as an easy action to start with and that he hoped it could unify the staff for more actions down the line. Murray feels work to rule has been effective and is putting the staff in a good position to consider more radical actions.

“Now everyone is activated on our campus and looking for the next action,” he said.

According to Le’Lani Walker, a senior at OHS, teachers explained the work to rule action to students shortly before it began. Although she felt it was “kind of frustrating” when she needed a little extra help with chemistry, she “sees the bigger picture” and feels that the action will help students in the long run.

“I strongly support it,” Walker said. “The fact that they’re doing everything within their power to get the attention of the district to address COVID safety issues is comforting.”

OHS students like Shanklin and Walker have been organizing their own actions and have been in communication with teachers about them. When the students did a sickout action on January 13 to demand better COVID safety measures such as more outdoor spaces to eat and twice weekly PCR and rapid tests, they asked OHS staff to join them.

“If you are able to participate,” students wrote in their letter. “Please call in sick, stay home, and send a message updating families about our demands and current events.”

The day before the sickout, Oakland High’s administration sent a message to parents asking them to keep their children at home during the sickout day, and that students wouldn’t be “adversely affected for not attending school” that day. Byrd and history teacher Cole Margen, who were on campus that day said the vast majority of students weren’t present. Substitute teacher request logs show 52 teachers were absent from school that day.

On Tuesday, January 18, OHS students again engaged in a boycott for the same demands as their January 13 sickout. This time students across the district also did not attend school.

The petition for the January 18 boycott that has over 1200 student signatures from over 20 schools, states “If these demands are not met, we will be striking by not attending school. We will be striking until we get what we need to be safe.”

While The Oakland Post was unable to get official numbers for absent students across the district during the boycott, six different OHS teachers estimated that between a third and just over half of the students at their site were absent on January 18 and 19.

To support the student boycott, teachers at three OUSD schools — Bridges Academy, Acorn Woodland Elementary School and United for Success Academy — all engaged in a sickout action that shut down their campuses on January 18. Murray thinks students and staff are increasingly coming together to demand better COVID safety measures from OUSD.

“It feels like there’s momentum across the whole district,” he said.

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