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Summit on Creating Opportunities for Blacks in Tech

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By Rasheed Shabazz

 

The message was blunt: if Black people in Oakland do not harness opportunities in the tech field, they will continue to be forced from the city and locked out of economic opportunities.

 

This was the theme of the first Oakland Summit on Blacks in Tech, held recently at the Impact HUB of Oakland. The summit brought together entrepreneurs, educators, coders and engineers, investors and others involved in Oakland’s burgeoning tech field.

 

Attendees focused on networking and develop an agenda to create opportunities in the tech field to prevent further displacement of Oakland’s Black population.

 

Organizers of the May 2 event evoked Black Oakland’s legacy of organizing for dignity, justice and freedom, dating back to the Pullman porters who bought homes and established community in West Oakland one generation after slavery. The tech field presents opportunities to fulfill the aspirations of those Black pioneers.

 

“If the train was the engine of prosperity for our forefathers, tech is the engine of prosperity today,” said Darrell Jones, III of Clef and co-convener of the summit. “It’s time to stop servicing the trains and start owning the tracks.”

 

Jones co-convened the summit with Cedric Brown of the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

 

Over the past 15 years, Oakland’s Black population has decreased severely, according to Junious Williams, CEO of Urban Strategies Council.

 

The foreclosure crisis stripped generations of Black wealth and fueled displacement and outmigration, with many African Americans forced to outlying parts of Costa and Stanislaus counties, he said.

 

Meanwhile, Oakland’s white and Latino populations have grown. The combination of high unemployment, low graduation rates and low-income levels feeds the population loss.

 

“Unless we do something to elevate the income of African Americans, we will continue to see long-term outmigration,” Williams said.

 

Many educational opportunities exist to stem the tide. Over 40 percent of Black Oakland has attended college and many tech jobs only require some vocational or college-level education.

 

Williams recommends building pipelines from schools and organizations to the field, as well as adopting inclusive housing policies.

 

Oakland’s tech pipeline features a range of organizations and projects, ranging from Color of Change, the David Glover Technology Center, the Stride Center, to the Hidden Genius Project and #YesWeCode.

 

Educational opportunities are provided by groups like Black Girls Code, Hack the Hood and Telegraph Academy.

 

According to Marisa Raya who works for the City of Oakland, “Tech in Oakland looks like Oakland,” meaning the tech sector’s demographics mirrors the city population. Diversity also exists among the types of tech jobs and the Town’s unique start-up culture.

 

Monique Woodard, co-founder of Black Founders, a Black venture capitalist group, emphasized the need to have Black investors fund Black talent. “Not just Black investors who invest in white investment firms that invest in entrepreneurs, but we need Black investors investing in Black entrepreneurs,” Woodard said.

 

Notably, the summit was hosted at the Impact HUB on Broadway, whose founders include a number of Black women.

 

The idea for the summit grew out of conversations between Brown and City Council President Lynette McElhaney, as well as the ongoing conversation about tech industry workers displacing residents in San Francisco and Oakland.

 

“I want to see Blacks in tech have a home in Oakland,” McElhaney told attendees. Too often only negative stories are told about Black people, not about the “geniuses, creators (and) investors.” She added, “We don’t need for any one to come save us.”

 

In small breakout sessions, participants brainstormed suggestions to both increase opportunities in the tech field and curb housing displacement. Organizers plan to publish a follow-up report on the summit.

 

Beginning on June 11, they will host the RealTech Kickback on second Thursdays at Clef, 1212 Broadway, Suite #1200 in Oakland.

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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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Commentary

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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