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Who Is Janani Ramachandran, Candidate for Assembly District 18? 

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

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Janani Ramachandran/ Photo Courtesy of Janani Ramachandran

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

Post columnist Richard Johnson conducted the following interview with the candidate, which has been edited for length and clarity.

(RJ): Tell us about your background and upbringing?

(JR): I am the granddaughter of immigrants from a small village in South India who immigrated to this country for a better life, education, jobs and health care. My grandparents were represented by labor unions that eventually led to stable jobs, higher living wages, health care and decent benefits. I am grateful to have been part of a family that was lifted out of poverty because of the strength of their labor unions.

When I went to my undergrad at Stanford, I worked at a community health clinic for a few years serving teen moms and immigrant mothers while providing Case Management services for many folks. A majority of my work there was with survivors of domestic violence. Many were on the brink of homelessness.

(Later), I lived in Oakland and attended Berkeley law school and continued to do a lot of direct Community Services representing elderly tenants who were facing eviction. I worked on restorative justice programs to address community violence, interpersonal violence, and continuing to represent survivors of violence.

All of these experiences got me thinking about the corruption in many parts of the system whether it is Oakland Calif., local governments or across the country. So, I joined the City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission to determine where the corruption really lies, to uncover bribery and lack of transparency. 

(RJ): What do you bring to the table that others are lacking?

Firstly, real compassion. You know, we have a lot of leaders working in politics but are faking it, because they want political power. They are driven by ego and greed.  I have provided Community Services my entire life.  I’m driven to do this, because I’ve seen the unintended consequences of our laws that are not written with the interests of us and not written with the interests of communities in Oakland.

(RJ): Can you name two main challenges that you feel passionate about that would benefit the people?

(JR): One thing is raising the minimum wage because $15 does not cut it for anyone, especially here in the East Bay. In Oakland, if you made $15 an hour, you would have to work 89 hours a week for a one-bedroom apartment. Our wages are too low, and I want to raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

The second thing is housing. A lot of my work as an attorney was representing elderly tenants in Oakland who are being evicted and/or survivors of violence. Many of these people are being evicted despite the global pandemic. So, our state does not put any priority on tenants. 

(RJ): Far too many legislators in office tend to renege on their promises that govern them.

(JR): Corporate money is a huge reason why people don’t keep their promises. Our own governor, Gavin Newsom, promised that he would implement a “Medicare for All” system that would be paid for by the government. This system will save lives and save our state money. The only people that it would harm are big pharmaceutical companies, or big health insurance companies. 

These are the very industries that are lining the campaign’s pockets of even our so-called progressive Democrats, including my opponent who insists she is for universal health care. 

To the contrary, she’s gotten over $200,000 from the healthcare industry and Big Pharma who do not want a universal health care system because it’s going to impact their profits. This happens time and again! 

(RJ): What do you put first in your life to help you remain on the right path?

(JR): I believe in God and I’m spiritual. This is important to me because my spirituality guides me to make sure that I’m not operating in greed, but I’m doing so for the service of others.

(RJ): What is your position on LGBTQA issues?

(JR): I support them as I am LGBTQ myself. I identify as a queer woman and as a lesbian woman.

(RJ): How has women’s liberation helped or hinder the community?

(JR): It’s important that genders are equal, and we need to start treating all genders as equal. Women do not make the same money, and we earn approximately .35 cents to the dollar. 

We need to make sure that we have equality. We need to make sure that women have paid leave to take care of family members, children and elders without having to risk their jobs.  We have so many women who are incarcerated for reasons unrelated and even though they’re Victims of Crime themselves. We need to unpack this and dive deeper and make sure we have equality in so many different ways.

(RJ): What is your position on providing living spaces, employment training and substance funding to those who have paid their dues to society by serving their time?

(JR): Absolutely, we need to make sure that we are providing all the required social, mental, housing and employment opportunities for those who are re-entering society. We need to make those pathways easier, not more difficult in the way that we have them.

(RJ): Will you support more family visits (for inmates? Will you support legislation that requires education and training for inmates?

(JR) Yes. We need to provide all sorts of services and opportunities for all inmates. I previously volunteered in the San Quentin Restorative Justice Project. I learned so much from and about these men. The programs offered prepared them to engage in a conversation about growth, learning and the restorative justice process with fellow inmates and leaders. These types of programs should be funded more and eliminated.

(RJ): Given the fact that we live in a divided country, one blue and one red, how can you help to bring people together in unification?

(JR): We need to return to compassion and empathy. We need to see humanity and each other right now. But I need to say this is not only the case in California. It’s not just about blue versus red. You know, it’s about Democrat versus Democrat as well. I’m going up against an opponent who slammed it and she was a fellow Democratic and woman of color who slanders, comes up with lies, and dirty-nasty smear campaigns that violate all sorts of ethics. So, we need to look within our own party.

(RJ): Since marijuana has been legalized, (why are offenders still incarcerated)?

(JR): I don’t understand why we still have individuals incarcerated for crimes related to marijuana and cannabis. They need to have an immediate pathway to release and to be pardoned. It is unacceptable that we haven’t already implemented that. 

(RJ): How do you see the role of the police? Do they truly serve and protect the communities?

(JR): I know we need to hold police accountable. We really do need to make sure that police are not getting away with committing crimes and with a sense of impunity. Last year, there were 1172 people killed at the hands of police. How many of their families got any sense of justice? How many of those police officers faced justice? Few cases have been fully investigated.

(RJ): What should the voters know about you that they don’t already know?

(JR): I’m real, I’m authentic. I’m not going to be someone who makes empty campaign promises while turning my back on the people. When I say I’m listening to the people, I am. When I am elected, I’m coming back to make sure that I continue to hear from you and implement the answers. 

I want us to march together, protest together and fight together because politics can’t be the answer alone. It has to be politics along-side social movements that create change. We have to work together, and I will continue to ask for your feedback, ideas and solutions. 

(RJ): How do you see the recall of Governor Newsome?

(JR): I oppose the recall. If we as voters decide that we’re not happy with what he’s doing, then next year is an opportunity for voters to vote him out. I think about what those hundreds of millions of dollars could have gone towards instead of being used on a recall: public education, recovery, supporting small businesses, raising the minimum wage.

(RJ): Back to religion, how can churches assist someone in your position?

(JR): I’ve had the honor of speaking at several churches in Oakland with pastors inviting me to address their congregation. I also spoke to their church members who reside in East and West Oakland to share my message and connect with folks. I really appreciate having the opportunity to speak at churches.

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.

Activism

Over 500 Attend Police-Free Event to Reimagine Safety in Oakland

Night Out for Safety and Liberation started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-centric National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with over 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of community, not cops.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Night Out for Safety and Liberation Events Held in More Than 50 Communities Across the Country

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

OAKLAND, CA — Over 500 people and families filled Josie de la Cruz Park in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood on Aug. 2 to enjoy performances, kids activities, and mutual aid to celebrate Night Out for Safety and Liberation (NOSL), an annual national event that redefines what safety and joy is without policing. The free community event included free diapers and books for all ages, food, bike giveaways, air purifiers, self defense training, a drag show, and performances from poets and artists such as Lauren Adams, TJ Sykes and Voces Mexicanas.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Night Out for Safety and Liberation started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-centric National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with over 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of community, not cops.

“We have been reimagining what safety means beyond police for our communities for over 25 years at the Ella Baker Center. When we create safe spaces for our community to come together and support each other, when we provide living-wage jobs so people are able to put food on their table, when we empower our children and provide opportunities for them to thrive, when we invest in healthcare and mental health resources, this is how we create real safety,” said Marlene Sanchez, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Through Night Out for Safety and Liberation, communities are creating safety not through policing but through healing and restorative justice, through creating gender affirming spaces and protecting trans and LGBTQIA communities, through reinvesting funding into community-based alternatives and solutions that truly keep communities safe.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

“We don’t need more police in our streets. We don’t need more surveillance. What we need is resources!” said Jose Bernal, Organizing Director with the Ella Baker Center. “What we need is housing, diapers, legal resources, jobs. This [Night Out for Safety and Liberation] is what keeps us safe. This is resilience.”

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

The event was emceed by Nifa Akosua, Senior Organizer and Advocate with the Ella Baker Center, and TJ Sykes, author and community activist–both natives of Richmond, California. The show included entertaining performances from Oakland Originalz break dancers, Voces Mexicanas mariachi band, singer Lauren Adams and a drag show from Afrika America.

“Night Out for Safety and Liberation is about neighborhood love and neighborhood safety. It’s about connecting, showing up for each other and staying connected as a community. That’s how we keep each other safe,” said Nifa.

More than 20 organizations and vendors participated in Tuesday’s event, offering community resources, face painting, giving away 500 books for all ages, and free diapers. Those participating included: Help A Mother Out, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, ACLU of Northern California, TGI Justice Project, Urban Peace Movement, Ella Baker’s Readers & Cesar Chavez Public Library, Alliance for Girls, Bay Area Women Against Rape, Centro Legal de la Raza, Common Humanity Collective, Street Level Health Project, Malikah – Self Defense, East Bay Community Law Center, Unity Council, Young Women’s Freedom Center, East Bay Family Defenders, Bay Area Workers Support, L’Artiste A La Carte, Education Super Highway, Cut Fruit Collective, and WIC.

Other Night Out for Safety and Liberation events were held in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Waco, Hampden, Conway, Washington D.C. and other cities. Follow the conversation and see photos from events in other cities using #SafetyIs and #NOSL22.

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Activism

OPINION: Are We About to See the Permanent Exclusion of Most Black People from Construction Jobs in Oakland?

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

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The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.
The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

By Kitty Epstein

For decades Black people in Oakland have obtained 9% or less of the work hours on publicly funded construction projects. So…for jobs that are paid for by all of our tax dollars, Black residents, who make up 23% of Oakland’s population, get only 9% of the relatively well-paid work doing construction.

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

Nationally, only 7.2% of the carpenters’ union members are Black; 8.3% of the electricians’ union members and so on. The City of Oakland has done two very thorough reports of these racial equity issues. You can find this important information at the end of this story.

But the leadership of the construction trades now insist that that they should obtain an even larger portion of the construction hours and that this practice should be set in stone by something called a Project Labor Agreement. It is now being inaccurately called a “Community Workforce Agreement,” which is nonsense because it doesn’t help the community.

Why would progressive Oakland consider giving exclusive benefits to organizations that practice well-documented racial discrimination? At least one part of the reason is that the construction unions spend enormous amounts of money on Oakland elections. They were instrumental in former City Councilmember Desley Brooks’ defeat in District 6, for example, because they did not consider her sufficiently compliant with their demands.

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

The community members proposed that the entire task force work collectively throughout the process of making proposals and negotiating solutions. The City rejected this proposal and began meeting with the building trades alone, saying that they would return with a proposed Project Labor Agreement, although there has been no demonstrated change in the racial exclusivity practiced by the construction trades.

This is outrageous on three levels:

  1. These are the tax dollars of Black residents, as well as others.
  2. The community’s interests in racial justice have not been resolved in any policy venue.
  3. The community belongs at the table throughout whatever process takes place.

The usual arguments for labor/employer negotiations do not apply. The construction unions are NOT city workers. If they were city employees, they would have both the rights (negotiations) and the responsibilities (non-discriminatory hiring) of the city. Since they are not held responsible to Include Black people in their organizations, they should not have the right to exclusive negotiations about anything

I am hopeful, of course, that the City will reject the continuation and expansion of racial discrimination policies practiced by the leadership of the trades unions and will insist on the drastic changes necessary for Black people to obtain 23% of the work hours they are due by virtue of their proportion of the population and tax dollars contributed.

These two documents below provide information that is both illuminating and horrifying.

Oakland Equity Indicators: https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Disparity Study – https://www.postnewsgroup.com/disparity-study-examines-patterns-of-discrimination-seeks-remedies-for-city-practices-of-selecting-contractors-in-construction-goods-and-services/

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Activism

The California Department of Aging: There Is Help for Elder Californians

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process. DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

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Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.
Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles California Black Media

The St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Commission on Social Action held a community meeting on aging last Thursday in San Bernardino with representatives from the California Department of Aging (CDA) and the Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services.

Held in the sanctuary, the discussion featured state representatives and Social Action Commission members led by former Assemblymember and Commission Chair Cheryl Brown, who represented the 47th Assembly District in San Bernardino County from 2012 to 2016.

Brown spoke with community members and leaders from San Bernardino and Riverside counties about programs and resources available for elderly Californians and the caregivers who look after them.

“The state has set aside millions of dollars to help older Californians have a better quality of life through the Master Plan for Aging. And caregiving is fourth of the five goals established in the state’s Master Plan for Aging,” Brown told California Black Media.

CDA Director Susan DeMarois also attended the meeting.

CDA administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the state. It has a $450 million budget and according to its Strategic Plan, CDA’s first objective is to advance Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Master Plan for Aging.

Newsom’s master plan was introduced as an executive order in the summer of 2019. Conceptualized as a five-point plan, its framework encompasses housing, health, equity, caregiving “that works” and affording aging.

According to DeMarois each point of the governor’s master plan has its own budget and will be implemented over the next eight years.

During the meeting — titled “Lunch, Listen and Learn” — community members expressed their concerns and suggestions specifically regarding how to take care of elderly Black people in the Inland Empire. A major theme of the discussion was ensuring familiar (traditional) modes and channels of communications that were being employed to reach Black elders.

Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services, spoke about ways in which the county has been involved in addressing those concerns.

“We have staff out there in the community, putting information in hands,” said Nevins.

Nevins emphasized the significance of Black churches and their unique influence on Black elders in California.

“We definitely reach out to the churches. We’ve always done that,” Nevins said.

DeMarois hailed San Bernardino as a model for the rest of the state because the city has been “meeting the needs of the whole person.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), California was tied with Hawaii in 2019 for the states with the nation’s highest life expectancy at an average of about 81 years.

Riverside County has a life expectancy of 80.3 years and San Bernardino County has a lower expectancy at 78.8 years.

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process.

DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

“It’s multi-pronged,” said DeMarois. “We know in the Black community faith is a proven path.”

One of the organizations mentioned during the community meeting – an organization that DeMarois claims she took note of – is the Inland Empire Pastor’s Association.

DeMarois expressed the need for the state and local agencies to implement “coordinated strategies” to approach challenges facing the state’s aging population.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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