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Richmond Nonprofit Helps Ex-Felons Get Back on Their Feet

For 20 years now, at a small center in North Richmond, Men and Women of Valor (MVOV) has been helping to rehabilitate ex-felons, giving them a second chance at life. Pam Saucer, the founder and CEO of MWOV, has long been a leader in the community, advocating for — and educating — at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated men and women.

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Volunteers at the Men and Women of Valor center in Richmond. Photo by Magaly Muñoz
Volunteers at the Men and Women of Valor center in Richmond. Photo by Magaly Muñoz

By Magaly Muñoz

For 20 years now, at a small center in North Richmond, Men and Women of Valor (MVOV) has been helping to rehabilitate ex-felons, giving them a second chance at life.

Pam Saucer, the founder and CEO of MWOV, has long been a leader in the community, advocating for — and educating — at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated men and women.

The center offers these newly released ex-felons opportunities to get their GED, participate in community service projects, and obtain transitional housing while they get back on their feet.

“We’re giving back to the community and have had a positive impact. We go as far as cleaning up the area because you have to have a clean heart and a clean mind to want to do something productive,” Saucer said.

Take the case of Kiaira Fluker, 35, who had a probation violation in 2019 that caused her to spend 105 days in jail. After that experience, Fluker swore she’d do everything she could to never go back.

Fluker shared that she was referred to MWOV and, soon after, she learned about the rehabilitation program Saucer ran.

Fluker said the program provided her with job opportunities and life skills that have allowed her to stabilize herself and her three kids, who often visit the center as well. Being around the team at the center created a positive atmosphere for Fluker and made her realize that the people she was surrounding herself with in her past was not what she needed in her life anymore.

“I was blessed. If I hadn’t found Ms. Pamela, I would’ve lost everything from my housing and probably custody of my children,” Fluker said.

Although the center has been operating since 2005, Saucer’s work with disadvantaged youth and the formerly incarcerated has gone beyond the Richmond center. Many of the volunteers working there had known her for years before she took on the challenge of running her own organization.

Antayon Alexander, one of MWOV’s volunteers, shared that he has worked with Saucer since the ’90s and that she helped him develop the skills to run a transitional housing unit in Sonoma for two years.

Alexander had served three years in prison on a narcotics charge and has been on parole for over 30 years. He wasn’t proud of where he wound up at such a young age and did the work “day-in-and-day out” to not end up back in prison.

Alexander stressed to the men in the housing that this was their opportunity for a second chance at life and to better themselves, similar to his own experience after meeting Saucer. Alexander could relate to them on a level of understanding that transitioning out of incarceration was never easy work, but it was up to them to maintain clean and healthy paths in order to not recommit their crimes.

“We were all cut from the same cloth,” he said.

Alexander had spent a few years with Richmond Unified School District working with kids in group homes and running a special education school. He wants to work towards starting his own nonprofit, similar to MWOV, to continue giving back to the community in the way he knows best.

To ease the growing costs of gas and in some cases, not being able to obtain a drivers’ license because of prior convictions, MWOV is partnering with the city of Richmond to potentially build an e-bike rack outside of the center to make it more accessible for those in the area to get to doctors, appointments, job interviews, work or school. The program is called “Ride Today” and will feature five access points around Central Richmond with over 70 bikes.

Saucer says the e-bikes will be available at a low-cost or with a free membership for those involved with MWOV.

The center shows no signs of slowing down soon as they take on new projects regularly, including inviting aspiring musicians to use their onsite music studio, partnering with community members to provide vocational truck driving lessons, and hosting a celebrity fundraising competition with well-known Bay Area rapper, E-40, in March.

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

More Segregated Than Deep South: ACLU Releases Report on Calif. Public Schools

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.  Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

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Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). 

It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.

Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

“For every state in the Deep South, California (schools) are more segregated,” Whittaker said. “People often think that California is not segregated or unequal as Deep South states and others. The inequalities here (in California) are actually wider.”

New York and Illinois are ahead of California regarding the racial diversity of their student bodies. According to a report May 2022 report by Stanford Graduate School of Education, the Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City school districts are in the top 10 most racially segregated districts for White-Black, White-Hispanic, and White-Asian segregation based on the average levels from 1991-2020.

In bigger school districts, segregation between low-income (students who are eligible for free lunch) and non-low-income students increased by 47% since 1991, according to the Stanford Graduate School’s report.

“That’s why it’s important to look at this data,” Whitaker said. “When you have millions of people living in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, the urban areas are a lot more segregated than the south. That’s a big part of it.

A number of factors contribute to the segregation of schools in California such as parents sending their children to private schools, others optioning for homeschooling, and other reasons, Whitaker said.

The Brown v. Board of Education case declared that separating children in public schools based on race was unconstitutional. However, Whitaker pointed to cases after the landmark decision that circumvented that federal law.

According to a 2014 report by the Civil Rights Project, in the 1990s, decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court decision ended federal desegregation orders in San Francisco and San Jose. In addition, court decisions in the state that ordered desegregation in the 1970s were overturned by the 1990s. Legally, California has no school integration policy to adhere to.

“This is why we did this report. There needs to be a report just on this issue (of school segregation),” Whitaker told California Black Media. “Right now, there’s no task force or anything addressing it. I have never seen the California Department of Education talk about it. This is a pandemic (and) a crisis.”

ACLU Northern California hosted an overview of the report and panel discussion at the State Capitol on May 29. California Black Legislative Caucus member Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) and Sen. Steven Bradford were the guest speakers. Parents, students, educators, and Black education advocates from all over the state attended the 90-minute presentation at the State Capitol.

School segregation is the No. 1 issue listed in among the report’s “24 areas of documented inequality,along with problematic trends of racial harassment, a continuous decline of Black student enrollment, school closures, connection with school staff, chronic absenteeism, low Black teacher representation, and parent participation.

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Art

Mayor Breed, Actor Morris Chestnut Attend S.F.’s Indie Night Film Festival

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry. The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

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(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell
(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell

By Y’Anad Burrell

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco.

San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry.  The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

A weekly celebration of cinematic artistry designed to elevate emerging talent while providing a platform for networking and collaboration, entrepreneur Dave Brown created Indie Night to bridge gaps within the filmmaking community by fostering connections between like-minded individuals worldwide. The Indie Film Festival currently has over 450 film submissions worldwide, and its cinematic vault only continues to grow.

The festival showcased over 10 short films and trailers, and featured Faces of the “City: Fighting for the Soul of America,” produced by veteran actor Tisha Campbell.  This film is about the vibrancy and legacy of San Francisco. The festival also previewed “When It Reigns,” a trailer by Oakland’s burgeoning filmmaker Jamaica René.

Indie films have not just challenged traditional cinematic norms; they’ve shattered them. These films offer unique storytelling perspectives and push creative boundaries in truly inspiring ways. With their smaller budgets and independent spirit, they often tackle unconventional subjects and portray diverse characters, providing a refreshing alternative to mainstream cinema. As a result, indie films have resonated with audiences seeking an escape from formulaic blockbusters and are increasingly celebrated for their authenticity and originality.

Organizers say the mission of Indie Night is to elevate the craft of independent artists and creators. It also provides a venue for them to showcase their work, network, and exchange information with new and established creatives. It creates a community that values and supports independent art.

For more about the Indie Night Film Festival, visit www.indienightfilmfestival.com.

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