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School District Settles Case of Police Brutality Against Parents and Teachers

The case settles claims of police brutality at a board meeting in October 2019, when parents and teachers protested the closure of Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary School at 25 S. Hill Court.

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The $337,500 settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by a parent group after six parents and teachers were arrested in a protest at an Oakland school board meeting on Oct. 23, 2019. At least one parent was severely hurt.

Parents and teachers in the Oakland Unified School District will donate $100,000 toward keeping their schools public following a settlement with the district in a case of alleged police brutality, organizers with a coalition to preserve public education in the city said on September 23.

The case settles claims of police brutality at a board meeting in October 2019, when parents and teachers protested the closure of Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary School at 25 S. Hill Court.

The district closed the school despite the continued protests of supporters of the coalition Oakland Not For Sale and others. School officials decided it will reopen next year as a preschool.

The amount of the settlement is $337,500 in damages, with $100,000 going toward supporting school board candidates who want to keep schools public instead of converting them into charter schools, for example. Three of the seven school board members are up for election next year.

“We’re thrilled to be announcing not only a settlement with the district, but our ability to now give a six-figure donation to our fight to stop public school closures and support candidates who will fight the privatization of the Oakland Unified School District,” said Saru Jayaraman, plaintiff in the litigation Jayaraman v. OUSD, in a statement.

“We’re also thrilled that in the same moment, we can declare victory in that Kaiser Elementary, which we fought to keep public, will indeed remain a public facility – and we will build on these victories with resources to continue to fight all future public-school closures,” Jayaraman said.

“While it isn’t exactly what we would have hoped, we’re happy Kaiser is being used as a public facility for students and that we were able to resolve the litigation,” said Amy Haruyama, a OUSD teacher who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit and former Kaiser Elementary teacher who now works at Sankofa United Elementary School.

Organizers with Oakland Not For Sale said OUSD officials have closed 17 public schools and almost all of them have been replaced with charter schools. Most of the closures involved schools serving mostly Black and Hispanic students, the organizers said.

Kaiser, when it was closed, was one of the district’s highest achieving elementary schools as well as one of the most racially and ethnically diverse.

California, which has trusteeship over Oakland public schools, and wealthy charter school advocates are behind the drive to replace public schools with charter schools, ONFS organizers said.

The new state budget trailer, approved in July, requires the district to continue to close and sell or lease public school properties.

Families, teachers, and community groups formed Oakland Not For Sale following the decision by Oakland school officials to close Kaiser Elementary School.

“It was a wonderful diverse space,” Melissa Korber, treasurer for Oakland Not For Sale, and the mother of a student who once attended the school.

Korber believed Kaiser Elementary was a successful school, with a diverse student population that was wrongly portrayed as a school that was not diverse.

School district officials declined to comment on the settlement.

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Activism

Oakland Promise and Kaiser Support Promising Student

Kaiser Permanente gave a significant grant to Oakland Promise, helping it reach a $50 million goal for its Generation Fund, which will offer college savings accounts and scholarships to all low-income Oakland public school students while they’re pursuing college degrees or trade certificates.

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Kaiser Permanente partners with Oakland Promise to cultivate mentor program, scholarships, academic guidance. Pictured, Kaiser Permanente mentor Ingrid Chen, MD, at right, with Sandy La, who begins her second year of college this fall.
Kaiser Permanente partners with Oakland Promise to cultivate mentor program, scholarships, academic guidance. Pictured, Kaiser Permanente mentor Ingrid Chen, MD, at right, with Sandy La, who begins her second year of college this fall.

By Carla Thomas

When Sandy La applied to two programs while a senior at Oakland High, she had no idea the Oakland Promise program would truly reward her for being a promising student on the rise. Now a successful student at UC San Diego majoring in Public Health, La has spent over 12 months mentored by Kaiser Permanente Oakland psychiatry resident Ingrid Chen. For Chen, mentoring a student and just being there for her was key.

Kaiser Permanente gave a significant grant to Oakland Promise, helping it reach a $50 million goal for its Generation Fund, which will offer college savings accounts and scholarships to all low-income Oakland public school students while they’re pursuing college degrees or trade certificates.

“The program is very well organized, and very accessible for busy working people,” said Dr. Chen. Kaiser Permanente is partnered with Oakland Promise to cultivate mentor programs, scholarships and academic guidance.

La was one of the lucky few of 300 to 400 Oakland high school students who received college scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $16,000 each year from Oakland Promise, and Dr. Chen is one of the 34 mentors from Kaiser Permanente who help keep them in college, often forming long lasting friendships.

“When I first moved to Oakland in 2020 to start my residency, the social justice movements spotlighting racial inequality in our society inspired me to help the community,” said Dr. Chen. “My parents are first generation Taiwanese immigrants, so I have a heart for immigrant families and other groups that are often marginalized in society.”

Dr. Chen makes herself available to La and one other student to talk about anything and help them identify opportunities in college and beyond.

“It’s been great to have someone to talk to and support me,” said La, who says the extra support really matters.

Dr. Chen says it has been great getting to know La and supporting her. La says the support has been a great confidence booster and she now pays it forward while counseling incoming freshmen. “I’m majoring in public health because I want to make a difference in health care and solve some of the disparities in the field,” said La.

Kaiser Permanente is also a founding sponsor of Oakland Promise, said Yvette Radford, Kaiser Permanente Northern California vice president of External and Community Affairs. “Oakland Promise is creating brighter futures for children and families by supporting children at every stage in their lives, from the day they’re born to the day they graduate from college,” said Radford. “This innovative public-private partnership is helping Oakland’s children become more successful in school and in life.”

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Activism

Meet the Woman Who Spearheaded Equity, Inclusion in the Business World

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses. “We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” said Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

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Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)
Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)

By Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, has been creating change for Black people and other minorities long before she started consulting.

In an interview last Wednesday at her office in downtown Oakland, Ramsey said she first worked on easing racial conflict by serving on the student relations council in high school. The goal was to integrate the lunchroom in a school that consisted of 80% white students and 20% Black students.

Ramsey went on to get a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and has been operating Mason Tillman Associates since starting it in 1978. Her firm’s name is a combination of Ramsey’s maiden name, Mason, and Tillman, a last name by which her husband was known.

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses.

“We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” Ramsey said, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

Mason Tillman Associates’ statistical research has revealed institutional practices systemically limiting minority businesses’ access to public contracts.

The company’s disparity study research and policy recommendations have helped identify and modify governments’ practices. Consequently, billions of dollars have been distributed more fairly in over 150 cities, counties, and states since 1978, she said. For example, New York State’s current minority business law is predicated on a Mason Tillman disparity study.

Oakland officials were at first reluctant to release a disparity study for their city, causing an outcry from the Black community. The study — kicked off by Ramsey’s firm — was eventually released in November 2020. Mason Tillman Associates plans to update it following a year of talks.

The company is also credited with preparing the nation’s first competitive disparity study, which was done for Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1990.

Disparity studies aren’t just the right thing to do, they’re the law. Following a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, disparity studies must be prepared to document the need for awarding contracts to minorities. Lawmakers can no longer give preference to minorities without evidence from a study.

Ramsey suspects 300 to 400 studies have been conducted since the SCOTUS decision.

She has also been at the forefront of breaking through ceilings for businesswomen.

“The notion of the glass ceiling was very real,” she said, adding that for Black women, the ceiling was made of “concrete.”

Starting Mason Tillman Associates gave her an occupation when doors were closed for Black women following her attempt to become a university professor, she said.

“You walked a fine line,” said Ramsey.

Women could not come off as too intelligent without offending men. She refined the art of levity to make people feel comfortable.

Before Mason Tillman Associates, Ramsey worked as a flight attendant for the now-defunct yet iconic Pan American Airways. She was the second Black female flight attendant to be hired by Pan Am, which was the only international carrier in the U.S. in the 1960s. Pan Am was known for its stewardesses — now called flight attendants, another positive change for women in the workforce.

Ramsey managed to earn her doctorate in 1977 while raising six children. Then she applied for jobs as a professor and neither UC Berkeley nor the University of Colorado Boulder would hire her. Society wasn’t ready for a Black female professor, she said.

Her experience has taken her on some interesting journeys. While living in Boulder, she secured a contract with the National Park Service to investigate whether Wilberforce, Ohio, was once part of the underground railroad. That, she said, was the start of her consulting business.

Since starting Mason Tillman Associates 44 years ago, Ramsey has trained many professionals in the company’s Oakland headquarters. The firm continues to help redefine managers’ views of Black businesses in agencies nationwide.

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Activism

New Lifelong Medical Center Holds Dedication Ceremonies in Richmond

In a pre-dedication ceremony, Dr. Brazell H. Carter, president of the Robinson Weeks Robinson (RWR) scholarship program and a physician at LifeLong, officially welcomed early attendees in the RWR Conference Room, announcing that the WJHC has been in full operation since the facility opened in February 2020. The dedication was postponed in March 2020 because of the pandemic

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Lifelong Medical Center
Lifelong Medical Center

By Clifford L. Williams

A cascade of blue and white balloons, amazing colorful artwork, and nearly 300 excited patrons, were all part of the grand dedication last week for the LifeLong William Jenkins Health Center (WJHC), located at 150 Harbour Way in Richmond, CA.

In a pre-dedication ceremony, Dr. Brazell H. Carter, president of the Robinson Weeks Robinson (RWR) scholarship program and a physician at LifeLong, officially welcomed early attendees in the RWR Conference Room, announcing that the WJHC has been in full operation since the facility opened in February 2020. The dedication was postponed in March 2020 because of the pandemic

Dr. Nathan Stern, Associate Medical Director of the LifeLong William Jenkins Health Center, discussed some of the services available at the huge, 33,000 sq. ft., three-story complex. “We are the only LifeLong facility in Richmond, with services for newborns to older adults.”

“We have the only urgent care services in Richmond which are currently open five days a week, in addition to a behavioral health department that includes mental health therapy for adults. Since its opening, the center has served over 80,000 patients.”

“We also have a very active prenatal program. Many pregnancies have come through the facility. We have an 18-resident Family Medicine residency program which started over two years ago, with our first class scheduled to graduate next summer. The faculty will bring with them a lot of specialty services including podiatry, acupuncture, procedure clinics, women’s health procedures, and radiology.”

“In addition, we have a large dental clinic that includes services from extractions to implants, as well as COVID-19 labs where staff can provide COVID testing and vaccinations. The LifeLong faculty also has a wellness center which focuses on healthy eating, and exercise classes which have been conducted via hybrid classes and Zoom because of the pandemic.”

The WJHC accepts MediCal and Medicare patients, as well as people who do not have any insurance at all. “As a federally-qualified health center, we do not deny medical services to anyone, even if they don’t have the ability to pay,” said Dr. Stern.

“Our main population of patients, nearly 70%, have MediCal, and since May of this year, that number has increased significantly. Other patients, about 15%, are uninsured. Some patients may pay on a sliding scale from $45 to $115, based on their income.”

As one of the leading Scholarship Funds in West Contra Costa County, the RWR scholarship has been at the forefront of making a difference in the community since 1989. The program supports students with ambitions in medicine and S.T.E.M. programs, looking to create a lasting change. Dr. Carter, who oversees its operation, has been providing medical services for over 40 years.

Dr. Carter is a Bay Area community leader in health medicine. He practiced at his facility on McDonald Avenue in Richmond for the last 40 years until he joined LifeLong as a practicing physician. He also is a director of four nursing facilities in the area.

Dr. Stern noted that there’s a big difference in how well the County takes care of undocumented residents. “There are fewer services out here for those patients,” said Stern. “When it comes to the health care the County provides, it’s on a different level.

“I’m amazed what a great health center this is in Contra Costa County. Having this health center with all these outstanding services and community resources is why I came to work here. The only other medical facility is the nearby Kaiser Hospital.”

LifeLong has another large clinic in San Pablo, however, the facility does not have a residency program. LifeLong also operates a smaller site in Pinole, as well as a satellite site in Rodeo.

For more information on how to obtain care at LifeLong Medical Care or to make a donation, call 510.981.4100 or visit www.lifelongmedical.org. For more information on the Robinson Weeks Robinson scholarship program and to make scholarship donations, contact them at 510.426.6044 or RobinsonWeeksRobinsonScholarships.org.

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