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State of Black Oakland (SOBO) Holds First Community Assembly

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Hundreds of Black activists, educators, entrepreneurs, healers and artists convened last weekend for “a People’s Assembly” to discuss and strategize solutions to improve life for Black Oakland.

The enthusiastic daylong “State of Black Oakland” (SOBO) gathering was held Saturday, March 28 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland.

The assembly was a “listening space” where a coalition of Black-led organizations called on attendees to discuss what must be done to improve the lives of Black people in the city.

Over a quarter of Oakland’s Black population left the city since 2000. Organizers wanted to bring Black people together to build on Oakland’s unique contributions to the Black Power Movement.

“It’s really important to remember that Oakland was the epicenter of the Black Power Movement on the West Coast,” said Liz Derias, co-convener of SOBO and an organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

The legacy of the Black Panther Party and other Black “do-for-self” organizations was evoked throughout the day.

“We say Black Lives Matter, but we have to have some Black Power to enforce it,” said Community Ready Corps (CRC) Founder Tur-Ha Ak. The assembly focused on CRC’s Nine Areas of Self-Determination: economics, politics, education, health, family, media, art, traditions and ways, and self-defense.

The common thread between all of the areas was Black self-determination.

During three facilitated sessions, attendees joined smaller discussion-circles to talk about solutions in the nine areas. Within the circles, participants discussed their experience within that area and explained what “self-determination” looked like within that context, and shared potential solutions.

In the area of economics, attendees talked about past and possible solutions, such as a Black business listing, food and housing cooperatives, changes in Black consumer spending and workforce training for the tech economy.

The media session, facilitated by Cat Brooks, co-chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee, discussed the need to challenge negative images of Black people in media and the need for Black ownership of media outlets and cultural spaces.

Tur-Ha Ak speaks at the State of Black Oakland on March 28.

Tur-Ha Ak speaks at the State of Black Oakland on March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

The self-defense session focused on broadening the notion of what self-defense means. “Self-defense is not only individual or physical, but it is collective and connects to all the other areas”, Ak said.

Participants discussed the need for Black people to protect themselves from what CRC defines as “primary predators” – white supremacy – and “secondary perpetrators” – so-called ‘Black-on-Black crime’.

Organizers noted that this first “State of Black Oakland” builds on a history of collective convening of Black people in the Bay Area to assess the status of Black folk.

During the 1970s, annual “State of the Race” conferences regularly convened in the Bay Area following the 1974 Pan-African Congress in Tanzania.

Reflecting on SOBO, Oba T’Shaka, professor emeritus of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, said, “It’s very positive. It builds on the Black Lives Matters Movement and is pulling in people from different walks of life.” He added, “The democratic way has been consistent with our culture.”

Organizers see this assembly as part of a process to develop a Black “People’s Agenda.” Event organizers did street outreach in the weeks ahead of the event to get input from Oakland residents. The plan is to host two more assemblies this summer, in West Oakland and East Oakland, analyze the information within the nine areas, and develop an agenda.

SOBO was organized by a coalition of organizations, including Eastside Arts Alliance, Black Organizing Project, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, African American Studies at Merritt College, Onyx Organizing Committee, the Community Ready Corps, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Race for the Times.

For more information about SOBO, visit Facebook.com/sobo2015 or email stateofblackoakland@yahoo.com.

Community

Oakland Officer, Suspect Wounded in Shootout

A suspect was shot by an Oakland police officer early Wednesday and a police officer was also wounded before the suspect discarded his gun, barricaded himself inside a building and eventually surrendered, according to officials.

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Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong

A suspect was shot by an Oakland police officer early Wednesday and a police officer was also wounded before the suspect discarded his gun, barricaded himself inside a building and eventually surrendered, according to officials.

Police had received a report of a man armed and brandishing a firearm, who was determined to be on the 2200 block of Telegraph Avenue.

During a Wednesday morning news conference, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said that another officer returned fire after the male suspect opened fire on arriving officers.  

“The suspect immediately began to fire shots at the officer,” said Armstrong. “The officer was struck with that gunfire and through our investigation, we know now that our officer, (an) additional officer, did fire back – so we do have an officer-involved shooting that we’re also investigating, striking the suspect with non-life-threatening injuries.”

The suspect, who had a knife, barricaded himself inside the lobby of a multi-residential building. Patrol officers established a safety perimeter and advised residents to shelter in place.

OPD patrol officers, negotiators and the Mental Health Crisis Team established communication with the suspect, who was still armed with the knife and had begun stabbing and cutting himself.

Police said the suspect is 50 years old but did not identify him immediately. They also did not disclose what type of gun he had.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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First in a Series on Jobs in Oakland. City Government; Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

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High Quality stock aerial photos of downtown Oakland with Lake Merritt in the foreground.

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.

The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.

Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”

Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.

And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.

And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.

As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.

Oakland, we can do  better than this.

We must.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

 

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Bay Area

Rosie the Riveter Trust to Celebrate History, ‘We Can Do It!’ Spirit

Tribute to storyteller and park ranger Betty Reid Soskin marking her 100th birthday

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Betty Reid Soskin/Wikimedia Commons

The Rosie the Riveter Trust is celebrating the history of the World War II home front at a September 26 gala, Making History Together. The fundraiser will highlight programs supported by the trust in collaboration with Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park: Every Kid Outdoors, Rosie’s Service Corps, and a documentary about the park’s Rosie Ambassadors, currently in production.

“We have a gem of a national park located right here in Richmond, California, where visitors can come learn about the home front and hear stories told in first person. This includes women and men who worked in the Kaiser shipyards, as well as those who spent years in the internment camps during the war,” said Sarah Pritchard, executive director of Rosie the Riveter Trust. “The history of the home front and societal changes that transpired during World War II are important lessons to preserve and share.”

The gala will also include a special tribute to Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 in September. Soskin helped establish the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, later joining the National Park Service and becoming the oldest ranger in the national park system at 85. 

Soskin’s programs at the park’s visitor center have captivated audiences since the center opened in May 2012. During her presentations, she shares her own experiences as a young woman of color during a time when segregation and discrimination were common, adding dimension to the stories of the home front too often left out of the history books. “What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering,” says Soskin in her 2019 film, “No Time to Waste.”

The gala will be held at the historic Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbour Way South (next to the park’s visitor center on the Richmond waterfront). The Craneway, which boasts a fabulous view of San Francisco, is the former Ford Assembly Plant where some 49,000 tanks and jeeps were assembled during the home front era. 

While individual tickets to the in-person event sold out on August 1, tickets to view the live-streamed event are still available. The event begins at 5:00 p.m., followed by a tribute to Soskin, highlights of the trust’s programs, a live auction, a Zoom afterparty, and entertainment.

Major event sponsors include the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Kaiser Permanente, The Marguerite Fund, Chevron Richmond Refinery, Accenture, Bank of Labor, California State Pipe Trades Council, Microsoft Corp., The Honorable Barry Goode, Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW Local 302, IBEW Local Union 595, and Marathon Petroleum. Event sponsorships are available beginning at $1,000.

Rosie the Riveter Trust is the official partner of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, founded in 2000 in Richmond, California. The Park chronicles the explosive growth of wartime industry, the innovations fostered by visionaries like Henry J. Kaiser, and the extraordinary history of people who were challenged as never before and came together to overcome wartime odds with the “We Can Do It!” spirit.

Event proceeds support expansion of educational programs for all ages and preservation of historical resources for the Bay Area and the nation.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the trust’s web site at www.rosietheriveter.org. For sponsorships, contact Executive Director Sarah Pritchard, at 510-507-2276, or by email at sarah@rosietheriveter.org.

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