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A’s Stay Hot, Beat Red Sox For Win

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Oakland, CA – The Boston Red Sox came into tonight’s game knowing the A’s have been playing exceptional baseball. That’s a pretty good compliment from a team that still holds the crown as the world champs. Red Sox manager John Farrell praised Oakland’s pitching staff for bringing in such young talent.

 

“We know we’re up against a team that’s leading the American League,” said Farrell before the game. “This is a good test for us, they play with a lot of confidence and have a great pitching staff.”

Scott Kazmir is a product of the A’s superb pitching and led the way for Oakland’s 4-2 win over Boston to start the four-game series. He retired the first nine batters he faced, allowing two hits before Brock Holt knocked a single to left field in the sixth.

Kazmir struck out the next batter before Dustin Pedroia blasted a two-run homer over the left field wall. Yoenis Cespedes almost stole that home run from Pedroia as he leaped over the wall coming within inches of catching the ball but it grazed his glove before falling back into left field.

The Red Sox trimmed the lead making it a 3-2 game but the A’s offense added on another run to seal their victory in the seventh. John Jaso’s RBI single added some breathing room while the bullpen came in and pitched two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to back another outstanding performance from Kazmir.

“No new answers… same game,” said Oakland’s manager Bob Melvin. “Really one changeup that was up, got a little too close to Pedroia. Other than that, the mix of pitches, the plus and minus on the fastball, in and out, it’s been terrific. It’s a broken record talking about him because we’re seeing basically the same game out of him.”

“Kazmir’s got a heck of a year started halfway through,” Farrell said. “You see what he’s put up, not just against us tonight but throughout the course of the season so far, and once again we’re scrambling to try to create some opportunities.”

Josh Donaldson leadoff the second with a single and Derek Norris followed hitting into a fielder’s choice scoring Donaldson in on third baseman’s Xander Bogaerts throwing error to first baseman Mike Napoli making it a 1-0 game.

Cespedes went yard with solo blast to center field extending Oakland’s lead 2-0, and Stephen Vogt added another RBI in the forth with a soft single over shortstop Stephen Drew’s head landing in center field. The A’s remain the best in the Majors thanks to great pitching and good defense.

“We faced a good pitcher,” said Pedroia. “To be host with you, I think our at-bats weren’t that bad. We had some guys hit some balls at people. We just didn’t score more than them. We’ve got to try to find a way to have a big inning and get some momentum.”

Activism

IN MEMORIAM: Robert Farris Thompson, Renowned Professor of African American Studies

Prolific Professor Robert Farris Thompson truly embodied the term ‘Maestro de Maestros.’ He was an absolute giant in the field of Afro-Atlantic history and art, respected by his peers for his groundbreaking work and multiple major articles and publications, particularly the seminal “Flash of the Spirit” (1984) and “Faces of the Gods” (1993).

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Robert Farris Thompson. Yale University photo.
Robert Farris Thompson. Yale University photo.

TRIBUTE

By John Santos

We’ve lost a Rosetta Stone.

Prolific Professor Robert Farris Thompson passed in his sleep Monday morning due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease and having been weakened by a bout with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year. He would’ve completed his 89th year on December 30.

Born on Dec. 30, 1932, Thompson was a White Texan who spectacularly disproved the fallacy of White supremacy through his pioneering and tireless elevation and clarification of African art, philosophy and culture. He removed the blinders and changed the way that generations of international students see African art.

A U.S. Army veteran, he went to Yale on a football scholarship and earned a B.A. in 1955. He joined the faculty in 1964 and earned his Ph.D. in 1965. He remained on the faculty until 2015.

‘Master T,’ as his students and friends often referred to him, was the Col. John Trumbull professor of the History of Art and professor of African American Studies at Yale University.

Thompson was also an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He curated game-changing national exhibitions such as “African Art in Motion,” “The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds,” and “Faces of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas.” The latter had a run at U.C. Berkeley in 1995 when local practitioners of African spirituality and musicians — including myself – demonstrated the powerful knowledge of tradition.

Thompson truly embodied the term ‘Maestro de Maestros.’ He was an absolute giant in the field of Afro-Atlantic history and art, respected by his peers for his groundbreaking work and multiple major articles and publications, particularly the seminal “Flash of the Spirit” (1984) and “Faces of the Gods” (1993). If he did not coin, he certainly standardized the term ‘Black Atlantic.’ He was a brilliant presenter, writer and teacher. But unlike many if not most academicians, he was also loved, revered and respected by the musicians, artists and communities about whom he wrote.

Initiated in Africa to Erinle, the deity of deep, still water, Thompson was hip, quirky and totally immersed in African and African-based music, dance, language, art and history. His lifetime of research, immersion and visionary work formed a bridge between Black America and her African roots.

Countless trips to Africa, the Southern U.S., the Caribbean and Central and South America informed his passionate work. He wrote about sculpture, painting, architecture, dance, music, language, poetry, food, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, African history, stolen antiquities, African spirituality, African retention, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Black Argentina, New York, México, mambo, tango, jazz, spirit possession and so much more. He recorded African drumming. He befriended giants of African diaspora music such as Julito Collazo, Babatunde Olatunji and Mongo Santamaría.

I first saw his writing around 1970 on the back of the classic red vinyl 1961 Mongo Santamaria LP, Arriba! La Pachanga (Fantasy 3324). They are inarguably among the deepest liner notes ever written.

He told me that he used our 1984 recording, Bárbara Milagrosa, by the Orquesta Batachanga, to demonstrate danzón-mambo to his students. I nearly burst into tears when he invited me and Omar Sosa to address and perform for his students at Yale, his alma mater, where he was a rock star. It was an unforgettable occasion for me.

He wrote wonderful liner notes on our 2002 Grammy-nominated production SF Bay, by the Machete Ensemble. He went out of his way to support and encourage countless students and followers like me. I was highly honored to count him as a friend as well as mentor.

He will be missed.

John Santos is a seven-time Grammy-nominated percussionist and former director of Orquesta Batachanga and Machete Ensemble and current director of the John Santos Sextet.

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Activism

School District Faces Hostile Takeover by State Overseers

The Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) told Oakland Unified School District officials that they must cut the budget by $90 million and threatened – if the district does not take sufficient steps by the end of January – to withhold the salaries of the school board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and place the district under direct control of the state’s Bakersfield-based nonprofit agency, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), according to a November 8 letter to the district from ACOE Supt. L. Karen Monroe.

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The danger of direct state control — now operating through FCMAT and ACOE — serving as the agents of the state, rather than through the dictatorial power of a state receiver — seems like a modified replay of the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, nearly 19 years ago.
The danger of direct state control — now operating through FCMAT and ACOE — serving as the agents of the state, rather than through the dictatorial power of a state receiver — seems like a modified replay of the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, nearly 19 years ago.

Takeover threat immediately follows district’s decision to halt school closings

By Ken Epstein

Oakland Unified School District officials were caught by surprise recently when they heard from the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), which previously was working closely with OUSD, that the county had taken a dramatic step seemingly out of the blue, invoking an official “Lack of going concern” ruing on the district.

The ACOE told OUSD that they must cut the budget by $90 million and threatened – if the district does not take sufficient steps by the end of January – to withhold the salaries of the school board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and place the district under direct control of the state’s Bakersfield-based nonprofit agency, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), according to a November 8 letter to the district from ACOE Supt. L. Karen Monroe.

Some school board members and school advocates see this threat of takeover by ACOE and FCMAT as retaliation and possibly an attempt to reverse a recent action by the board and Trammell-Johnson passing a resolution with wide community support to reject state pressure to close neighborhood schools.

With only five days to challenge the county’s ruling, school board members – with the backing of the superintendent and top administrators – voted unanimously at a special meeting on Saturday, November 13 to appeal the ‘lack of going concern’ determination to State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who this week announced he has sided with the county.

The danger of direct state control — now operating through FCMAT and ACOE — serving as the agents of the state, rather than through the dictatorial power of a state receiver — seems like a modified replay of the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, nearly 19 years ago.

At that time, the state placed a receiver and FCMAT in charge of OUSD and forced the district to accept a $100 million loan it did not need, and proceeded to unilaterally spend the windfall on their pet projects. OUSD is still paying off that loan. Also, the superintendent was fired, and the authority of the school board suspended.

Under state guidance, the district has closed about 20 schools, mostly in Black and Latinx flatland schools, with the direct encouragement of FCMAT, even though FCMAT has recognized that closing schools does not save money.

Under the leadership of FCMAT and the county since 2003, the district has faced almost continual budget cuts, has stayed in debt and has relied on a revolving door of privatizing administrators and consultants, many who appear to pass through Oakland as a career steppingstone.

According to Monroe’s letter, which has been challenged by the district, OUSD was doing fine this year, and its budget for 2021-2022 was approved. “However, due to the significant level of budgetary reliance on one-time revenue sources and the lack of adequate assurances that fiscal solvency is certain in future years, it has been determined that the district is a Lack of Going Concern with its budget approval.”

Monroe’s letter said the district must “implement $90 million in required reductions within a timely manner.” She also said the county will “withhold compensation of the members of the governing of the school district and the school district superintendent for failure to provide requested financial information,” though the district says it has worked closely with the county and has withheld no information.

Following FCMAT’s “recommendations” would not be optional. “The school district shall follow the recommendations of the (FCMAT) team, unless the school district shows good cause for failure to do so,” the letter said.

The district’s relationship with its overlords at the ACOE and FCMAT seemed to have gone south soon after the school board and administration decided on October 27 that it would no longer give in to state pressure to close more schools in coming years. Before the decision, the state trustee threatened to reverse the board decision if it passed but did nothing when they passed it anyway.

“Karen Monroe for five years has had oversight over every budget, and she approved the budgets,” Boardmember Mike Hutchinson told the Oakland Post. “She is the one who has had oversight. Whose responsibility is this?” He asked.

The district has been working closely with the county and is in better fiscal shape than it has been in years, said Hutchinson “What is new, besides the district’s decision not to close more schools?”

President of the Oakland teachers’ union Keith Brown told the Oakland Post, “We’re opposed to (Supt.) Monroe’s actions. We feel that imposing FCMAT on Oakland would be damaging to our community and our schools.”

While many school advocates strongly criticize the district for its bureaucratic, top-down management and lack of accountability in making budget decisions, they oppose this threatened takeover for a variety of reasons:

  • The imposition of FCMAT on OUSD constitutes the suspension of voters’ right to choose their representatives and is a violation of Oakland residents’ democratic rights of self-government.
  • The county is demanding $90 million in budget reductions. How did this happen under the county’s watch? How can $90 million be cut and still have a school district that exists in any recognizable form?
  • The county says school enrollment has declined but failed to acknowledge the pandemic has anything to do with it. The county complains the district has relied on one-time spending, but isn’t that what federal pandemic funds were for?
  • FCMAT and the county have been working closely with OUSD for years, but now they say they failed. Why is the solution to turn total control over to them?
  • There is at least the appearance that the threat to withhold leaders’ salaries and impose FCMAT is in part retaliation for the district decision to stop closing more schools, which is the democratic right of local representatives.

Responding to Oakland Post questions, Monroe said, “Decision-making in Oakland Unified lies with the members of the Board of Education that have been elected by the Oakland community, so I am perplexed by any reference to a violation of the democratic rights of Oakland voters.

“The work to be done by FCMAT does not constitute any replacement of OUSD’s governance structure and is spelled out clearly in Education Code. It is limited in scope and does not usurp or compromise the Board’s local control,” she said. More of her responses will be printed in the next Oakland Post edition.

L. Karen Monroe’s letter to OUSD is available at:

https://ousd.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9962661&GUID=ADEF97D5-0DD4-44CF-99E2-C31AF83C734E

OUSD’ appeal letter to Tony Thurmond is available at

https://ousd.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9963018&GUID=7E877777-AF0C-4211-ABE3-D38E9F2FB20E

Boardmember Hutchinson urged people to call Tony Thurmond and Supt. Monroe and to sign a petition available online at https://bit.ly/3xJRc6K

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Bay Area

Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao Introduces Immediate Police Hiring Plan to Address OPD Vacancies, Crime Surge, 911 Response Time 

“Being a city leader means breaking through the discourse and finding solutions that are effective and holistic,” said Thao. “While important violence prevention programs like Ceasefire and Town Nights continue to focus on the important community-building that is necessary, it is important that the city improve its 911 response times and ensure nobody is waiting hours for help. Equally, it is important that OPD is supported and staffed at the levels that the Council has already authorized and funded.”

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Sheng Thao. Twitter photo.
Sheng Thao. Twitter photo.

By Council Press Office

Calling Oakland’s efforts to fill its 60 vacant police officers’ positions, “an unacceptable failure,” City Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao introduced on Wednesday a new hiring incentive program for the Oakland Police Department (OPD) that will focus on immediately filling officer vacancies.

The program will provide significant cash incentives for experienced police officers and Oakland residents to join OPD. This will improve OPD’s 911 response time, provide the ability to increase the numbers of visible patrol officers, and allow for the expansion of the Ceasefire program. (Ceasefire is a data-driven violence-reduction strategy coordinating law enforcement, social services, and the community, according to the City of Oakland web site.)

Thao’s legislation calls for partnership with an outside hiring agency to conduct a nationwide search for “strongly qualified and experienced lateral police officers,” who are officers that have already gone through police training and are currently serving their respective police departments.

“No one is coming to save us; we’re going to have to save ourselves. That means being aggressive, creative, and disruptive as we look to do things differently at City Hall, because the results are in and what we are doing isn’t working.

“I am introducing a plan to help the City Administration speed up recruitment as well as help save the city dollars and time when filling key vacancies,” explained Thao, “My plan will make Oakland more competitive in its work to hire seasoned, quality officers from across the nation.” This legislation is supported by a broad community coalition from Oakland.

This effort, in combination with Thao’s work in September to secure additional police training academies and provide the overtime OPD is using for walking beats in business corridors during the holidays, reaffirms her commitment to ensuring business corridors are safe, that small businesses can thrive in Oakland and that residents can be assured that crimes will be investigated and police more visible.

Additionally, Thao’s proposal will not take away any of the historical investments Thao and five other councilmembers approved for violence prevention programs.

“Being a city leader means breaking through the discourse and finding solutions that are effective and holistic,” said Thao. “While important violence prevention programs like Ceasefire and Town Nights continue to focus on the important community-building that is necessary, it is important that the city improve its 911 response times and ensure nobody is waiting hours for help. Equally, it is important that OPD is supported and staffed at the levels that the Council has already authorized and funded.”

Daniel Swafford, executive director of the Laurel Business Association and Montclair Business Improvement District said, “I want to thank Councilmember Sheng Thao for her work prioritizing small businesses, our neighborhood commercial districts, and the public safety and health of our communities. Councilmember Thao has brought real, tangible resources to small businesses and their neighborhoods and this legislation is another example of her ability to listen to concerns and provide solutions. I hope the rest of the City Council will vote for this resolution and that the City Administration will push implementation forward.”

The City Council passed a budget in June and the Administration, which reports to the mayor, is responsible to implement it. Currently, the city has hired and deployed fewer officers than the 737 approved by the City Council in June. Thao’s plan to rapidly fill the vacancies will help ensure the public is provided with the resources that have been approved and funded.

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