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Op-Ed

To Be Equal: 2015 National Urban League Conference

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Marc Morial

By Marc H. Morial
NNPA Columnist

 

“You can holler, protest, march, picket and demonstrate, but somebody must be able to sit in on the strategy conferences and plot a course. There must be strategies.” – Whitney M. Young, National Urban League President, 1961-1971

America faces tremendous challenges today and tomorrow. As a nation, we are experiencing what may be the most intense focus in decades on economic inequality, educational equity, racial justice – and injustice.

In a moment of perhaps the greatest social and economic upheaval in a generation, thousands of people from all walks of life and manner of profession will convene in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to do more than recite our country’s familiar litany of challenges; more than march and raise our voices in rightful and outraged unison; and more than debate within the narrow confines of our individual communities. For four power-packed days, we will discuss and debate the state of our cities. We will become the architects of new solutions to old, entrenched problems and well thought out strategies to save our embattled cities.

This year’s National Urban League Conference theme, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice,” is a unique opportunity for mission-oriented conversation and action on policies and issues affecting African Americans and urban communities. As in years past, our nation’s most influential community leaders, top policy makers, political and business leaders, and so many more, will join in our continuing efforts to make a real difference for our cities.

Following a long-standing tradition of major-party presidential candidates addressing the conference, the National Urban League counts several 2016 presidential hopefuls –   Republicans and Democrats alike – as invited guests. The candidates, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, will share their respective visions for a more equitable and inclusive America in the candidates’ session, “Off to the Races: The 2016 Presidential Candidates’ Plenary.”

It is vital that those contending for the highest office in the land not only listen to our concerns, but be a part of its discussion and offer up their unique strategies and solutions for consideration to the very people who may one day move them into that coveted White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The chance to engage in thoughtful dialogue and interact with national leaders and luminaries is one of many unique opportunities being offered at the conference. The National Urban League has also developed quality programs, events and forums to inform and inspire attendees and motivate them to continue empowering themselves, and by extension, their communities and the nation.

The Expo Hall will feature hundreds of exhibitors; a career and networking fair; a Health Zone where attendees can enjoy workshops and get free health screenings for the entire family; an Empowerment Stage with celebrity-filled sessions and local entertainment; a college fair with colleges, universities, and scholarship organizations; and a marketplace of local small businesses.

In a nod to these modern times and this generation’s methods of mobilizing around issues of social justice in the digital era, the National Urban League, in partnership with Digital Grass, is hosting “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” presented by Comcast NBCUniversal. The two-day hack-a-thon is a call to action for tech-savvy innovators to design original applications to alleviate the most pressing social issues of our day, particularly in the areas of education, jobs and justice.

There are many reasons to register and become a part of this singular, unprecedented opportunity. Besides the unmatched professional and civic engagement, business development and networking opportunities, this conference is stronger, more inclusive and more reflective of the diversity of thought around the areas of economic and social justice as the number of voices and opinions added to the discussion grows. The benefit of your presence is another noteworthy addition to this conference that only you can decide to include in what promises to be an enriching and inspiring experience.

I look forward to meeting you in South Florida.

 

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

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Bay Area

Comcast RISE Seeks Applicants from Small Businesses Owned by Women, People of Color for $10,000 Grant

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

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Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.
Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Tamika Miller, owner of Cuticles Nails Spa. Both businesses are located in Oakland and have received multiple awards from the Comcast RISE program.

By Adriana Arvizo

Women, regardless of their race and ethnicity, and Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland will have the opportunity to apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue grants totaling $1 million.

Eligible businesses can apply online at www.ComcastRISE.com from Oct. 3 through Oct.16, 2022, for one of the 100 $10,000 grants.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

  • Have established business operations for three or more years
  • Have one to 25 employees
  • Be based within Oakland, California city limits

The Investment Fund is coming to Oakland for the second year in a row and is an extension of Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment), the multi-year, multi-faceted initiative launched in 2020 to provide small businesses owned by people of color the opportunity to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable.

If a business is not eligible for the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, applications are also open for marketing and technology services. In fact, 160 businesses in Oakland have already been selected as Comcast RISE recipients.

“The advertising campaign and technology services have allowed me to reach and service new audiences,” said Oakland resident Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness. She has benefited from the program three times, with the production and placement of a TV commercial, a technology makeover and a $10,000 grant. “The application process was easy, and I encourage my fellow eligible business owners to apply for the grant or the other benefits.”

“When we launched Comcast RISE, we knew a profound need existed in many of the communities we serve,” said John Gauder, regional senior vice president of Comcast California. “We have now seen firsthand how the program’s marketing and technology resources benefit small business owners who continue to work hard and rise above 2020’s impact.

“Today, with Oakland receiving additional funding as a Comcast RISE Investment Fund grant city, we are excited to see how this infusion of funding will continue to propel businesses to thrive,” Gauder said. “We know the impacts will be fruitful and far reaching, especially with this year’s program expansion for women-owned businesses.”

To help drive outreach and awareness about Comcast RISE and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded $50,000 to six chambers of commerce in the Oakland area. The organizations are:

  • The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce
  • The Latino Chamber of Commerce
  • The Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
  • The Unity Council

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last summer. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

Grant recipients will also receive a complimentary 12-month membership to the coaching program from Ureeka, an online platform for entrepreneurs, to help them build skills, gain more customers and become financially stable.

More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

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Activism

We Will Not Incarcerate Our Way Out of This

Housing is a human right. We can use public resources to ensure everyone has a safe place to live and effective mental health and substance use treatment. Instead, we’ve gutted our social programs to the point where they don’t function and assume this lack of functionality means there’s no solution.

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As we’ve overfunded police and underfunded housing, treatment, and other essential services, we’ve seen more policing but less safety.
Last week, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalTrans violently evicted the Wood Street community, the largest encampment in the Bay Area.

People Are Liberating Public Spaces to Fight the Criminalization of Poverty

By Cat Brooks

How many times have you walked by an unhoused neighbor and told yourself it’s their fault, that they made the wrong life choices?

But the truth is that our unhoused crisis is the result of decades-long policies that criminalize poverty, addiction and mental health disabilities and treat human beings like garbage to be swept away with Friday’s trash while ignoring root causes.

Every city in the U.S. responds to visible poverty with fences, fines, cops, courts, and cages. These shortsighted responses make great photo ops, and let politicians pontificate, but all only accomplish terrorizing the most vulnerable, who move into new neighborhoods and reestablish their right to exist.

No matter how many arrests or evictions, the people will continue to be, and as part of that being — reclaim public spaces.

When San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen called for the erection of fences around the 24th Street Bart Plaza, the community struck back and retook the plaza. @MissionDeFence_SF posted a statement in solidarity with other current public land struggles, including: People’s Park in Berkeley, Parker Elementary in Oakland, Echo Park in Los Angeles and Mystic Garden in Daly City.

These struggles are proof positive that the power lies with the people who will rise up, resist and reclaim the people’s space.

Last week, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalTrans violently evicted the Wood Street community, the largest encampment in the Bay Area. CHP (the 4th most murderous law enforcement agency in California) descended on the camp for phase one of an armed eviction that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wood Street’s estimated 200-300 residents are being offered little relocation support or resources. Only a fraction has been given shelters or RV spots. Two were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience amidst an outpouring of community support.

Most of the Wood Street folks are Black, several are elders, many extremely vulnerable, and almost all are victims of gentrification and criminalization.

I was there to bear witness as the state demolished a tiny home, towed RVs, and destroyed lives. No effort was made to move their homes and belongings. Mayor Libby Schaaf doesn’t believe the city has any obligation to do so.

In an open letter to Schaaf, Governor Gavin Newsom, and others, residents offered concrete solutions and laid out their needs. They’ve been asking for sanitation services and fire safety for years. They’ve been ignored.

In their letter, they wrote, “The Wood Street community stands strong in our determination to keep our community together. We plan to continue organizing and fighting for long-term and permanent housing solutions.”

For now, they’ll be forced to move into residential areas where NIMBYS will call cops to protect their fragile senses from the brutality of visible poverty. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This story is playing out across California.  Instead of meeting people’s basic needs, the state legislature does things like “CARE Courts” — to force unhoused people into court-ordered treatment that will cost millions and target Black and brown folks. The bill is Governor Newsom’s brainchild and a continuation of criminalizing the unhoused under the guise of “care” which he’s done since his days as mayor of San Francisco.

Housing is a human right. We can use public resources to ensure everyone has a safe place to live and effective mental health and substance use treatment. Instead, we’ve gutted our social programs to the point where they don’t function and assume this lack of functionality means there’s no solution.

Poverty is a political choice. Oakland’s unhoused population increased 24% since 2019 (thank you Libby), yet the Town spends 10 times as much on police as it does on housing.

As we’ve overfunded police and underfunded housing, treatment, and other essential services, we’ve seen more policing but less safety. We are less safe when we build walls to keep unhoused neighbors out of public spaces. We are less safe when we respond to mental health crises with a badge and gun.

We are less safe when the treatment plan for substance use problems is a cage.

If seeing unhoused people makes us uncomfortable, then we should invest in housing for all. If public drug use offends us, then we should invest in safe injection facilities (a proven public health intervention that Newsom just vetoed).

If watching someone experience a mental health crisis is distressing, then we should invest in community-driven approaches to support individuals in crisis.

Until we do these things, no matter how much our elected officials try to sanitize the crises we face, the people will keep knocking down fences to liberate public spaces.

Cat Brooks is co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, executive director of the Justice Teams Network and host of Law & Disorder on KPFA, a new show that exposes the cracks in our system and agitates for resistance.

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Activism

OP-ED: Just Say No to the A’s at Howard Terminal

The voters said they wanted the right to weigh in on whether to spend public funds on the Howard Terminal project. The Council refused to place a measure on the ballot, saying no public funds would be spent and they preferred a financial review before such a vote could be scheduled. But the City never did the financial review. 

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Paul Cobb, publisher, Post News Group
Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group

By Paul Cobb

What an absolute mess!  The City of Oakland promotes a baseball stadium and luxury real estate development at Howard Terminal for the Oakland A’s, but it has not completed a financial analysis of risk and benefits associated with the project. It does not know what the project will cost, how it will be paid for, how many public dollars will be spent, and how much the City is at risk for anticipated cost overruns that are likely because of changing economic conditions due to inflation.

This situation is worse than the Raiders debacle at the Oakland Coliseum. You would think that once burned, the City would make sure that would not happen again.

But here we are.

Public funds from the city, county, state, and federal government will exceed $1 billion.  Worse, because of changing economic conditions, the City now admits for the first time that anticipated cost overruns could pose a risk to the city of Oakland. The City Administrator won’t say how much is at stake, because he doesn’t want to “throw numbers around.” But a source close to the A’s said some estimates have pegged the cost to the city to be more than $300 million.

Before we go further, let’s be reminded how we got here. Last spring, the voters of Oakland asked the City Council to place an advisory vote on the November ballot on whether any public funds should be spent on billionaire John Fisher’s baseball and luxury real-estate deal at Howard Terminal. That request was denied.

On April 28, 2022, Councilmember Noel Gallo convinced the City Council to unanimously vote to have an independent analysis done on the risks and benefits of the project.  The analysis was scheduled to be presented to the public on Sept. 20. When the date came around for the report, the City had not done the analysis even though five months had passed since it was approved.

On Sept. 20, after the meeting started, staff sent out an e-mail with an attached 18-page report that was chock full of new data and a dire warning that “significant increases in costs are anticipated and there are not yet sufficient funds currently in-hand to cover the estimated costs of the off-site infrastructure (on the project). As a result, under the current structure, there is a risk that the City would be required to fund the remaining costs as well as any cost overruns, each of which may prove significant.”

Councilmembers were stunned. They had been assured that the City would have no risks, but the report included an admission that the City could be at risk and the amounts may prove significant. Councilmember Carroll Fife asked how much was at stake. The City Administrator refused to give an estimate.

So, again, here we are.

The voters said they wanted the right to weigh in on whether to spend public funds on the Howard Terminal project. The Council refused to place a measure on the ballot, saying no public funds would be spent and they preferred a financial review before such a vote could be scheduled. But the City never did the financial review.

This process has been a disaster. Promises made have been reneged on. Assurances that no public funds would be used, and that the City would not have risks turned out to be false. Oakland voters demanded the right to be heard on whether public finds should be spent, but they were turned down.

This is the same kind of incompetence and lack of transparency displayed during the Raiders deal. But the amounts at risk on this deal make the money spent on the Raiders look like chump change.

The Oakland City Council needs to put this on pause and figure out all the details before anything moves forward. Now, more than ever, City Council must insist on an independent financial analysis on the costs and risks of the project. Since public funds are clearly being spent, and the administration now admits Oakland has financial risks, City Council needs to revisit the question of letting the voters weigh in. As Councilmember Dan Kalb said previously, if that requires a special election, so be it.

Is the Council woke yet? They have been bullied, misled, and disrespected in this entire process. Transparency be damned! Will they finally say “enough,” or will they continue to move forward with their eyes wide shut?

It is time to Just Say No!

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