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To Boot Out Prop 209: Black Lawmakers Make Case for Affirmative Action in California



Does California have a “legacy of unequal treatment” of minorities and women? That’s language from Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA-5) introduced by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson). Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) want their colleagues in the legislature to consider that question and examine whether affirmative action is the right response for redressing that history of inequality. 

The Opportunity for All Coalition is a group that has formed in support of ACA-5, which would repeal Proposition 209. 

In 1996 voters passed the controversial amendment to the state constitution. It banned discrimination or preferential treatment based on race or gender in public education, employment, and contracting. 

“It’s been 24 years — 24 long years — since Prop. 209 was promoted as a civil rights initiative,” said Weber. 

On May 1, the Opportunity for All Coalition held a virtual seminar. More than 100 people logged on to take part in a discussion about the ethnic disparities of the COVID-19 crisis. Coalition member and the Chair of the California State Board of Equalization, Malia Cohen, said data revealing that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus crisis highlights inequities in society and the need for affirmative action. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report confirmed that death rates for African Americans and Latinos, “were substantially higher than that of white” people. 

Coalition member Vincent Pan is the Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA). During the discussion he referenced recently-released California Department of Public Health (CDPH) data that showed Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians are also dying at a higher rate than their representation in the population. CDPH numbers show, as of April 30, 2,073 people have died in California from COVID-19. 

Coalition members said Proposition 209 exacerbated disparities. While people from communities of color are more likely to be hospitalized for the virus, they’re less likely to have healthcare coverage and more likely to work essential service jobs. ACA-5 supporters also said this population is less likely to have access to public job opportunities, and women and small business owners who are Black or from other minority groups are less likely to earn government contracts. “Proposition 209 cost women- and minority-owned businesses $1.1 billion each year,” Weber said in a written statement. 

Prop. 209’s impact on admission at California’s most competitive public universities has remained a flashpoint in public debate about the policy. Ethnic minority groups have mobilized on both sides “… with the intent to divide the various ethnic communities to fight over the scraps at the University of California,” said Weber at the March 10 press conference announcing ACA-5. 

The movement against reestablishing affirmative action in the state is also virtual. “No On ACA-5″ is the name of a petition being circulated by a Silicon Valley-based Asian American group that campaigned to block past repeal efforts in 2014. As of May 2, more than 22,000 people have signed the petition. One supporter wrote that “race-based” policies are “unconstitutional” and are not fair to Asians.

The Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) used similar language in a press release encouraging Californians to join the fight. The national organization known for accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asians wrote: “ACA-5 will surely result in racial discrimination against Asian Americans in California.” 

Groups opposed to ACA-5 argue that race-conscious policies favoring other groups take opportunities away from qualified Asian American students. In a written statement, the Opportunity for All Coalition said the state’s ban on affirmative action hurts everyone, citing a decrease in college-educated workers and lost wages. 

“We can’t have shared success without shared opportunities to get ahead,” The Opportunity for All statement read. “We refuse to let the rich and powerful use race and lies to divide us when so much is at stake. We’re not going to rebuild a stronger California unless we come together to end discrimination and ensure real equal opportunity for all.” 

The number of Asian students enrolled in the University of California (UC) system increased in the absence of affirmative action. While post Prop 209, Black, Latino, and Native American enrollment at UCLA and UC Berkeley dropped by 60 percent. The same UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning report found an overall decline in diversity. 

Race-neutral programs targeting students from disadvantaged communities have helped to increase enrollment for some minority groups. The number of Latino students also increased as the population grew statewide. Still, African American enrollment at the UCs hasn’t rebounded. In the fall of 2019, Black students made up 3.8% of the student body system wide. Asian students made up 36% while accounting for about 15% of the state population. 

UC research also finds a denial letter can derail a student’s life trajectory. Applicants shut out of UCs are less likely to earn a degree or high wages. This might help to explain some of the emotion driving the dispute that has gone before the nation’s highest court. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of affirmative action in college admissions only to achieve diversity. The Court also ruled that race cannot be the deciding factor in admission. California is one of eight states that has barred affirmative action altogether. 

Opponents of the ban argue affirmative action is not preferential treatment. Instead, they say, it removes barriers. Supporters of ACA-5 say, in the absence of affirmative action, historically excluded groups are denied opportunities for upward mobility. They argue public organizations should reflect the communities they serve — and point to data that shows that diverse environments foster understanding and respect for others. 

Though less often discussed, Prop. 209 has impacted public contracts and hiring for nearly a quarter of a century. “This law served as an impediment to state contracting, hiring and legislative policies addressing economic and social disparities experienced by women and people of color,” said Weber. One example is the state’s efforts to increase the number of Black and Latino teachers to address the achievement gap between Black and Latino students and their white and Asian peers. 

In a statement appealing to Asian American business owners, CAA wrote, “repealing Proposition 209 would unlock billions of dollars in economic opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) small business owners. In cities where affirmative action is legal, like Chicago or Atlanta, AAPI-owned businesses earn much more in public contracts than in San Francisco or Los Angeles.” 

In addition to virtual meetings, the Opportunity for All Coalition is encouraging supporters to tweet Assemblymembers Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) and Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) to encourage the Democratic lawmakers to vote for ACA-5. It would take a two-thirds majority vote to repeal Proposition 209. 

Opponents are working to stop the bill in its tracks. The campaign against affirmative action includes drumming up support mostly online and encouraging people to contact their state representatives. 

Organizers on both sides say they’re fighting for equality. ACA-5 is set to be discussed Tuesday May 5 in committee when the state Assembly reopens for sessions this week. If the constitution amendment passes and meets all requirements by June 25, voters could once again have a chance to weigh in on a ballot measure in November that decides whether affirmative action is the right answer for California.

Due to the statewide stay-at-home order and guidance on physical distancing, seating for this hearing will be very limited for press and for the public.  All are encouraged to watch the hearing from its live stream on the Assembly’s website at 10:00 a.m.


Oakland Post: Week of June 7 – 13, 2023

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 7 – 13, 2023



The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 7 - 13, 2023

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Big Picture Living Day

Through their global network of nearly 300 schools, Big Picture Learning activates their core initiatives by encouraging 6 healthy habits of proper nutrition, movement, healthy relationships, managing stress, adequate sleep and avoiding substances of risks. 



By Carla Thomas

On Friday, June 2 Big Picture Lving Day will be celebrated with a series of virtual events designed to improve the life of participants. Through a virtual network of schools and organizations the event will feature speakers on health, wellness, mindfulness, exercise, and overcoming challenges.

Participants will practice Yoga & Mindfulness with Dawn M. Rivers.

Dr. Marsha-Gail Davis will discuss lifestyle medicine and healthy practices, and BPL alumni former advisor Chef Bree reunites with former principal Danique “Dr. DD” Dolly and a few of their former students will discuss health and lifestyle changes.

Big Picture Learning Day was created by

Big Picture Learning, an organization of progressive learning concepts centered around the belief that all students can and should live lives of their own design, supported by caring mentors and equitable opportunities to achieve their greatest potential.

Through their global network of nearly 300 schools, Big Picture Learning activates their core initiatives by encouraging 6 healthy habits of proper nutrition, movement, healthy relationships, managing stress, adequate sleep and avoiding substances of risks.

Co-founded by Elliott Washor a veteran educational leader in Rhode Island, BPL grew out of a passion for students and improving the concept of learning.

“We just had this fierce desire to evolve our educational system to one that puts students at the center of their own learning with mentors, time immersed in the community and not evaluated solely on standardized tests,” said Washor.

“The entire Big Picture Learning experience is personalized to each student’s interests, talents and needs beyond mere academic work and involves looking at each student holistically.​”

Former BPL principal, Danique Dolly says, “There are youth and adults in schools and organizations throughout the nation practicing the 6 healthy habits and speaking up on it. People have created rooms and spaces that focus on relaxation and meditation. Many adults and youth are taking steps towards wellness, a total lifestyle change and health and wellness are a part of students learning goals just as English and math are.”

“With BPLiving Day we invite all to get up, get out and get living and to do something around health and wellness,” said Dolly.

For students Jasmine Poirier and Angel Feliz and educator Andrew Coburn BPL has been life changing.

“Through collaborative physical movement, nutrition education and eating healthy together and various group activities for relaxation and mental health support, many are finding ways to live healthier and happier,” said Colburn. “For Big Picture Living Day we’re celebrating lifelong healthy habits for teens and the communities around them. BPL Day is a celebration of all the progress we have made.”

“Whether it is in my school campus or through a zoom call with people all across the world, BPLiving has an ability to bring people together to share wellness habits with each other,” said Feliz.

“Through spreading the principles of BPLiving into the everyday academic learning of my peers, I have seen them improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Poirier. “By reestablishing sports culture with school-wide volleyball and capture the flag tournaments, students have been able to connect with each other across different grade levels, become more physically active and take a break from our everyday learning.”

In Oakland at MetWest, a BPL school in Oakland, the garden is run by parents and students. The garden serves as the foundation for nutritional learning and generational collaboration.

Today, Big Picture Learning network schools can be found in over 80 schools in 28 states, and hundreds more around the world.

For more information visit

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Oakland Post: Week of May 31 – June 6, 2023

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May 31 – June 6, 2023



The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May 31 - June 6, 2023

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