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The Need for a Public Bank

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According to the Federal Reserve, large, white-controlled banks like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo with  $6 trillion in total assets, are the largest suppliers of money.  Black banks, by contrast, have only $4 billion in assets, a minuscule amount compared to the big banks.  Historically African Americans have been “red-lined” when applying for loans and mortgages.  During the great recession of 2007, 35% of African Americans lost their homes because of “liar loans” provided to them by the banking industry.

How can the African American community avoid further victimization and be serviced equitably? This is where public banking comes in. As the name suggests, a public bank is a commercial bank that is government-owned and controlled.  Just like a private bank, it takes deposits and makes loans. However, unlike typical Wall Street banks, public bank loans are limited to those that serve its community, such as affordable housing, education, and minority business loans.  A public bank can also provide inexpensive financing for local infrastructure and green energy.

Public banks won’t be as large as Wall Street banks, but they can be large enough to make a difference. Here in the Bay Area, the revenue collected by local governments and a small percentage of the cash held by local tech companies could provide a public bank a multi-billion dollar deposit base, in other words, enough to finance billions in loans every year.

A public bank can make a monumental difference. Almost everyone who wants to buy a house must afford the monthly payment on the standard 30-year mortgage. If you request a $500,000 mortgage, you will pay 5% interest, with a monthly payment of $2,700 a month.  The public bank could possibly do what Japan and Sweden have already done, which is offer mortgages with terms much longer than 30 years.  A 50-year mortgage at 3% interest would result is an affordable $1,600 a month payment, resulting in a lot more people now able to qualify for housing. Concerns regarding a longer term mortgage resulting in more interest can be thwarted by refinancing, exchanging the 50-year mortgage for one with a shorter term.

Currently, there’s one public bank in the U.S., the Bank of North Dakota. Established over 100 years ago, it works with small local banks to provide student loans, farm credit and other types of financing to North Dakota residents.  It’s been a solid success that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Late last year, Governor Newsom signed legislation authorizing 10 public banks in California. But despite the Bank of North Dakota’s success, the strong track record of public banks in countries like Germany and the obvious need for alternatives to big Wall Street banks, it’s not clear that local officials will immediately embrace the idea. One reason is simply that it’s new.

So, it’s up to us. We have to let our elected leaders know that one of the best ways to solve our community’s lack of money is to create public banks specifically designed to help us finance our way to prosperity.

Activism

OP-ED: Interfaith Faith Council of Alameda County Laments Gun Violence in Oakland

With all the shocked and grieving members or our community, and with the devastated members of the Oakland Islamic Center, we call on those who committed these crimes to turn themselves in, we call on our leaders to redouble their efforts to bring violence to an end, we call on those who glorify the use of weapons to reconsider their stance and we call on those of us who can exert some influence on those most likely to shoot to plead with them to put down their guns.

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Rev. Jim Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, Head Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and ICAC Founding President.
Rev. Jim Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, Head Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and ICAC Founding President.

By Rev. Jim Hopkins, ICAC Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, ICAC Founding President

The headline in the September 20, 2022, East Bay Times read, “‘Everybody was devastated’: Four people killed, five others wounded in string of violence across Oakland.” The article began, “A torrent of violence during an 18-hour stretch Monday evening and Tuesday left four people dead and five other people wounded by gunfire across Oakland, including three men who had just finished praying at a local mosque and a teen girl who was left gravely injured.”

The Interfaith Council lifts its voice in lament over these deaths and this violence. We cry out “How long O Lord, how long, must our city live in the deadly grip of guns and gun violence? How long will the fear of our loved ones being hit by a bullet cause parents to worry, grandparents to be anxious and children to live in terror?’

With all the shocked and grieving members or our community, and with the devastated members of the Oakland Islamic Center, we call on those who committed these crimes to turn themselves in, we call on our leaders to redouble their efforts to bring violence to an end, we call on those who glorify the use of weapons to reconsider their stance and we call on those of us who can exert some influence on those most likely to shoot to plead with them to put down their guns.

We long for the day when the faith communities of Oakland are united in peace. Today, we acknowledge that we are united in grief even while we are united in our commitment to bring about a better day.  To this end we will pray, organize, and labor.

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Bay Area

IN MEMORIAM: Honoring Henry Fuhrmann, Self-described “Hyphen Killer.”

Henry Fuhrmann was an Asian American son of a German Danish Navy corpsman and a Japanese mother, born on a U.S. hospital ship in Japan. He probably saw hyphens all his life and knew why they should be eliminated.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

Are you African American? Or African-American?

Filipino American? Or a Filipino-American?

Asian American? Or Asian-American?

What’s the difference?

That line between words. You either like it, or you despise it. Henry Fuhrmann despised it.

It might as well have been a royal scepter.

This week, when most of the world was still thinking about Queen Elizabeth II, I was thinking about Henry.

Perhaps you could tell, I wasn’t much for the media’s hagiography. Since her death, I took to criticizing the repressive colonial misdeeds of the British Empire to balance out the steady stream of adulation.

When you hear someone say ‘queen,’ remember Kenya. Or Kowloon. Or Burma.

I wouldn’t have bothered to watch the funeral. But then my friend Henry died last week from esophageal cancer. He was just 65. And that put me in a somber mood.

I mean, what did the queen ever do for us? Compared to her, Henry was a king. Or deserved to be.

Henry Fuhrmann liberated us from our hyphens. I will use none here.

Henry was an Asian American son of a German Danish Navy corpsman and a Japanese mother, born on a U.S. hospital ship in Japan. He probably saw hyphens all his life and knew why they should be eliminated.

But deleting the hyphen would take more than a keystroke.

Henry was a copy editor who retired in 2015 as an assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times. An Asian American Journalist Association buddy of mine, we’d see each other at professional events, and re-tweet each other from afar.

Henry’s passion was that demon hyphen. He wanted to expose it for what it was and get rid of its use. In that simple dash, the parallel line that posed as a connector, Henry saw a dividing line, an “othering” tool that did us more harm than good.

“Asian-American?”

Uh, no. Nope, Henry said.  Just write Asian American. Or Filipino American. Or Mexican American. Or African American.

The hyphen was a grammatical prosthetic that didn’t help matters. It made us less than.

Henry made his case professionally to journalism’s high court of wordsmithing, the keepers of the Associated Press Style book, known as AP Style.

In an essay Henry wrote in 2018 he cited the Oakland writer Maxine Hong Kingston, who expressed how she felt being called ‘Chinese-American’ in her 1982 piece “Cultural Mis-Readings by American Reviewers.”

“I have been thinking that we ought to leave out the hyphen in ‘Chinese-American,’ because the hyphen gives the word on either side equal weight, as if linking two nouns,” wrote Hong Kingston. “Without the hyphen, ‘Chinese’ is an adjective and ‘American’ a noun; a Chinese American is a type of American.”

Wouldn’t that be better?

From that, Henry attacked the hyphen and pushed for change.

A year later, AP eliminated the hyphen in Asian American, and mentioned Henry’s essay as a driving force.  In 2021, the New York Times changed its usage.

Since media organizations can adopt their own style books, you’ll still see the hyphen used. And you’ll still see ‘black’ uncapitalized. But you surely won’t see “oriental.” It’s used to describe rugs. Just not people.

Normally, editors act as conservative gatekeepers of so-called standards. They’re not my favorite people. Unless they’re like Henry. Freedom fighters for a changing language in a changing world.

It’s always a matter of clarity.

Were Japanese Americans placed in internment camps? Was what happened to them “internment” or were they more truthfully incarcerated?

More and more are saying the truth — incarceration. That was Henry’s influence on the AP Stylebook as well.

It shouldn’t be so hard to tell the truth in mainstream journalism. But look at how big-time journalists pull their punches in calling Trump a liar. Or a racist. Or a fascist. Did you see his rally in Ohio? The facts are there.

Or look how cautious people are about calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a racist for his inhumane and possibly illegal relocating of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

That’s why I mourn Henry’s passing. He was against editing the truth.

He’s the reason you are an African American. Not an African-American.

And I am a Filipino American.

We deleted that line, the dash, the minus sign, and became whole. At least in print.

If words matter, if the truth matters, then remember Henry Fuhrmann, the ‘word nerd’ who unchained all people of color from the hyphen and liberated us all.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

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Bay Area

IN MEMORIAM: Elberta Eriksson’s Life Honored in Marin City

Mrs. Elberta Julia Eriksson, BCD, MFT, LCSW was born on March 19, 1930 in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew up in Oakland. She graduated from Sacramento and San Francisco State Universities and was on the faculty at Dominican College and the California Graduate School of Psychology.

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Cynthia Williams and Elberta Eriksson
Cynthia Williams and Elberta Eriksson

By Godfrey Lee

The life of the late Mrs. Elberta Julia Eriksson, BCD, MFT, LCSW was honored at the Marin City Senior Center in Marin City on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. She passed away on May 9, 2022.

The service was well attended by the community. Terrie Green, Indie B, Kahaya Adams, Ricardo Moncrief and his Music is Health Band, Johnathan Logan, Jr, Ida Times, Maralisa Mack, and Felecia Chavez participated in the service.

Eriksson was born on March 19, 1930 in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew up in Oakland. She graduated from Sacramento and San Francisco State Universities and was on the faculty at Dominican College and the California Graduate School of Psychology.

Eriksson was a social worker, family therapist, and a leader in child advocacy and family issues. She worked as the Director of the Multi-Cultural Outreach Project at the Family Service Agency in Marin, and as a family therapy consultant at Operation Give a Damn. Eriksson has received twenty-year service awards from both organizations.

Eriksson was actively involved in the Marin City Project, participating in the design of the social services to be provided. She served her third term on the Human Rights Commission and is the founder of the Marin African-American Coalition, which provides social, political, educational and cultural exchange. She has received awards for her contributions to the prevention of child abuse from both the State of California and the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

Eriksson was a Board-Certified Diplomat, a State Delegate on the Democratic Committee to advance family and children’s rights, and a charter member of the American Family Therapy Academy. Eriksson was also the head of the Southern Marin Community Connectors Internship Program, and is creator of the Family Functioning Scale.

Felecia Chavez wrote a blog: “Operation Give A Damn — A Former Wrap-Around Organization in Marin City — A Very Brief History,” that describes Eriksson’s passion for resurrecting “wrap-around services” for families in Marin City, and Southern Marin.

The organization that provided “wrap-around services” for families was called ‘Operation Give A Damn,’ or OGAD, which existed in Marin City from 1968 to 1995.

OGAD was a modified ‘Big Brother Big Sisters’ Program that worked in concert with mentors, education, social workers and the family. It addressed the individual client’s needs, and understood that the role, interactions and impact of family dynamics should also be addressed in order for a successful outcome. This often resulted in improving the functioning level of the whole family, says Chavez.

The focus on relationships is primary. “Traditionally, services had been dispersed to clients by social workers who acted as decision-makers working with little input from the client or his community. With organizations such as OGAD, intervention became a group effort; the child, his family, the community at large, all worked together to decide what was best for the child and where to seek help,” said Elberta.

“Building bridges, building high quality human relationships is the very heart of making the world a better place,” writes Chavez.

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Rev. Jim Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, Head Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and ICAC Founding President.
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