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This 159-Year-Old College is Spending Millions of Dollars in a Last-Ditch Effort to Stay Alive

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A historical marker for Wilberforce University (Courtesy of YouTube)

A historical marker for Wilberforce University (Courtesy of YouTube)

 

(Business Insider) – A decade ago, Wilberforce University was struggling but stable.

The storied historically black university (HBCU) was in debt, and enrollment was beginning to decline. But it didn’t seem like Wilberforce — the oldest private HBCU in the county — would soon be in danger of closing.

However, following two problematic presidencies, widespread student protests, and various internal issues, Wilberforce now finds itself in a fight to stay alive.

Wilberforce’s leadership has recently played host to a group of visitors who may determine the future of the HBCU — an accreditation board that will soon determine if the university has improved enough to keep its accreditation. If it loses that accreditation, it’s much more likely Wilberforce will close.

“To keep its accreditation, Wilberforce must address its ballooning debts, deteriorating buildings and leadership shortcomings,” Charlie Tyson reported in Insider Higher Ed in June, after the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) threatened to revoke the school’s accreditation.

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Activism

Reparations Task Force: What to Expect in the Committee’s First Report

California’s AB 3121, signed into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States. AB 3121 charges the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on Black Californians who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

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Six of the nine members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. From left to right are Don Tamaki, Jovan Scott Lewis, chair Kamilah Moore, vice-chair Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, Dr. Cheryl Grills, and California State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Six of the nine members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. From left to right are Don Tamaki, Jovan Scott Lewis, chair Kamilah Moore, vice-chair Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, Dr. Cheryl Grills, and California State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans will submit its first report to the California Legislature in June.

The 13-chapter document will detail the committee’s findings so far and include recommendations related to them.

Task force member Donald K. Tamaki said the “comprehensive report connects the dots between past racism and its current consequences.” He also inferred that the report presents a “landmark opportunity” to shape the national conversation around reparations.

“I think the report will not only attract California publicity but will also be looked upon nationally,” Tamaki said before the task force approved the report. “With the report, we can go out to the people to develop an allyship and (generate) support for it.”

As prescribed in Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, the report will establish how California laws and policies have disproportionately and negatively affected African Americans. The report will be available to the public.

The California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Enforcement Section formulated the document based on hearings, expert testimonies, and evidence accumulated since the panel first convened on June 1, 2021.

One of the DOJ’s duties is to facilitate task force consultation with various experts on California history and reparations. The department also provides administrative, technical, and legal assistance to the panel.

The preliminary report opens with an introduction that leads to chapters focused on enslavement, racial terror and political disenfranchisement, among others. It also covers a range of topics documenting historical injustices Black Americans have endured, including housing segregation, separate and unequal education, environmental racism, and others.

Titles such as “Pathologizing the Black Family;” “Control over Spiritual, Creative and Cultural life;” “Stolen Labor and Hindered Opportunity;” and “An Unjust Legal System,” among others, frame the testimonies and historical accounts recorded during the task force meetings.

Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore wrote the foreword. Her introduction is an overview of the task force’s activities over the last year.

“This interim report will catalog all those harms we’ve discussed throughout those two-day virtual meetings since June of last year,” Moore said in an online Blk TLK Platform discussion in April. “It will also have some preliminary recommendations for the legislation to adopt.”

The first report was supervised by Michael Newman, the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Senior Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Enforcement Section (DOJCRE).

The task force voted to describe the first presentation, the “Interim Report.”

Tamaki said about 10 DOJCRE attorneys — including Deputy Attorney General Xiyun Yang, DOJCRE Legal Assistant Francisco Balderrama and additional DOJ staff members created the report.

In a collaborative effort, the diverse DOJCRE team, Newman added, consulted with the task force to determine edits, make clarifications in terminology, modify corrections, and implement recommendations.

“It was a labor of love for everyone who worked on it,” Newman said during the task force meeting held in San Francisco on April 14. “I also want to thank all of the (task force) members and the community’s input in producing an incredible record.”

California’s AB 3121, signed into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States. AB 3121 charges the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on Black Californians who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

The group is tasked with studying and developing reparation proposals for African Americans and recommending appropriate ways to educate Californians about the task force’s findings.

After the task force decided on March 30 that lineage will determine who will be eligible for compensation, the panel approved a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States.

An expert team of economists identified 13 categories that would be the basis of the method used to calculate damages and determine what constitutes harms and atrocities. A second report is due by July 2023 when the task force two-year charge is expected to end.

Members of the task force include Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; vice-chair Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s; Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Rounding out the panel are Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena); Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles); San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe; Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley; and Donald Tamaki, Esq. is an attorney best known for his role in the reopening of the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. the United States, which led to the conviction being overturned of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II.

For more information, visit https://oag.ca.gov/ab3121#

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Bay Area

Mom and Pop Business Destroyed by Marriott Project

The Thomases have lost their tenants because of the noise and dust. The Thomases’ last remaining tenant, who asked not to be named, says her quality of life has diminished drastically, “I can’t open my windows. The shadow of their building has taken our sunlight and all my plants have died,” she said.

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Scaffolding at a Marriott structure in Downtown Oakland broke loose March 28, threatening the safety of pedestrians below. Photo by Craig Jones.
Scaffolding at a Marriott structure in Downtown Oakland broke loose March 28, threatening the safety of pedestrians below. Photo by Craig Jones.

By Tanya Dennis

Uncle Willie’s Bar-be-cue, located on 14th Street in Downtown Oakland, continues to struggle to survive the Marriott Hotel construction literally occurring in their backyard. Craig Jones, the son of owners William and Beverly Thomas, says it is a clear example of white power/privilege suppressing Black power and building of generational wealth.

“My parents bought this building in 2005 and have operated Uncle Willie’s for 16 years,” Jones said. “We have four rental units on the top of our store and, in 2017, contracted with The Kingdom Development Group to do a complete teardown and rebuild 24 units of housing, a $10 million project.

“This was my parents’ plan to pass generational wealth to me. Then, in 2018, Marriott started construction next door. We could no longer cook outside in the back because of the dust, danger and filth created by Marriott, and we lost half our tenants,” Jones said.

The Thomases went to the mayor’s office and the Oakland Planning Department seeking help, but nothing worked in their favor. The Planning Department told them to seek legal counsel.

“We’ve lost $2 million in business since Marriott encroached on our property, and all they want to offer us is $58,000, and that’s for future use of our backyard so they can finish the back side of their building. They said if we accept the money, we can’t sue them for any damages, so we didn’t sign and counter-offered for $250,000. We haven’t heard from them since, and that was in January,” said Beverly Thomas.

After Marriott completes the back side of the hotel, their last phase of construction is a four-story parking garage that will be constructed behind the Thomases’ property.

“Our backyard was where we cooked and smoked our food, and, after the pandemic, served our clients,” Jones said. “That’s impossible now, and will remain so, as the Marriott’s 18-story structure has created a wind-tunnel, which makes our property perpetually cold and has blocked out the sun.”

The Thomases have lost their tenants because of the noise and dust. The Thomases’ last remaining tenant, who asked not to be named, says her quality of life has diminished drastically, “I can’t open my windows. The shadow of their building has taken our sunlight and all my plants have died,” she said.

Further, going outside in the backyard can be dangerous. “I fear going into the backyard to perform simple daily tasks like taking out the garbage or doing laundry,” she said. “A metal bit is wedged in my window screen. If not for the screen, that metal piece would’ve broken my window,” she said. (During Jones’ interview with the Post outside his restaurant, a nail hit his shoulder.)

The Post contacted Joshua Bird, Marriott’s legal representative for comment but he declined stating he would get in touch with the Thomases directly, as “Marriott strives to be a good neighbor.” Two weeks have passed and the Thomases have not been contacted.

The Thomases’ attorney Edward Lai sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bird on May 12th and received no response. On Tuesday of this week Lai filed a formal complaint against Marriott.

William Thomas, who passed away in May 2021, died fearing Marriott was going to squeeze his family out of their property. Craig and Beverly Thomas now fear the same.

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Activism

Council Unanimously Declares Oakland a Pro-Choice Sanctuary City

Said Council President Sheng Thao: “The passage of this resolution makes Oakland the first City in California to declare itself a Sanctuary City for Abortion Access and is the first step we will be taking to expand abortion access to anyone who needs it. Healthcare is a human right, and the City of Oakland stands firmly behind anyone exercising their right to reproductive care.

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Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao and council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas. (Photos: City of Oakland/oakland.gov)
Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao and council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas. (Photos: City of Oakland/oakland.gov)

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring Oakland a Pro-Choice sanctuary city, backed by Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Nikki Forunato Bas, as well as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Assemblymember Mia Bonta.

This resolution was passed on Tuesday, May 17, introduced by Thao, Bas, and Kaplan. The resolution puts Oakland on record as a city that celebrates abortion-access and reaffirms the city’s support for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law, and advocates for more state and county funding to be provided to reproductive care providers in anticipation of an influx of out-of-state patients.

Said Council President Thao: “The passage of this resolution makes Oakland the first City in California to declare itself a Sanctuary City for Abortion Access and is the first step we will be taking to expand abortion access to anyone who needs it. Healthcare is a human right, and the City of Oakland stands firmly behind anyone exercising their right to reproductive care.

“This resolution says to women across the country, who are under attack, that your rights will be protected here.”

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said, “With this resolution, Oakland reaffirms loud and clear our fierce commitment to our values of freedom, justice, and honoring each person’s dignity and sovereignty to choose what is healthiest and safest for their body. I am proud to co-author this effort and committed to working with my colleagues and urging other jurisdictions not only to protect abortion access, but to significantly expand the inclusiveness, capacity, and quality of reproductive health services for all who need them in our community.”

Vice Mayor Kaplan said, “Make no mistake, the Supreme Court is threatening to turn back the clock. They are threatening our rights and fundamental liberty. The laws that guarantee the right to reproductive freedom are the same laws that ensure the right to contraception, the right for LGBTQ+ people to be allowed to live and love as we choose, and privacy and racial justice. Let us continue to move forward, not backwards.”

Added Dr. Jessica Hamilton, associate medical director of abortion services for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, “The news of the SCOTUS leak has been heart-wrenching for those of us on the front lines. No patient or physician has ever asked for a politician to be in the exam room with them.

“Since SB 8 (the heartbeat bill) went into effect in Texas in September, we have watched California remain a beacon of hope for people seeking abortions. At Planned Parenthood Mar Monte alone, between July 2021 and April 15, 2022, we have provided care abortion care to twice the number of patients from out of state than we did during the same time period the previous year. The reversal of Roe could drive up the number of out-of-state patients whose nearest abortion provider would be in California to 1.4 million! And while no patient should have to travel for care, at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, we have been building capacity and are ready to support this increase in patients seeking care in California, especially in major transportation hubs and sanctuary cities like Oakland,” she said.

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