New Blog Website!!

Hey folks!!

I’ve moved my blog over to a self-hosted site!

Please go to for new blog posts!

In particular, check out my breakdown of California Propositions..starting with Proposition 30:




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Filed under Love

Are you ready for the November 2012 Election?

By now, you have probably heard enough information about the November 2012 election to turn you blue in the face. I’ve heard some say they wish this election season was over and it’s only August!

However, this election season is crucial. Not only are we (re) electing the President of the United States, but there are important issues to decide upon locally as well.

What’s at stake?

In California, we have 10 new propositions including a re-evaluation of the 3 – strikes Law, getting rid of the Death Penalty, and deciding if we want to tax the wealthiest in order to help support education. We also need to elect new state legislators.. and decide whether or not a governing body can re-draw county boarders. This is not only important to Californian’s but the rest of the country, because what we do here is often modeled in other states.

In Alameda County, we need to vote for 2 Council members, an auditor and a treasurer.

In Oakland, we get to elect practically a whole new City Council – something that local policy nerds and a large portion of residents are really looking forward to. Districts 1 (North Oakland, Temescal, Rockridge), District 3 (West Oakland, Downtown Oakland and Adam’s Point), District 5 ( East Oakland like Fruitvale), District 7 ( Deeper East Oakland near San Leandro) and Oakland At-Large are up for grabs.  We also need to vote for a new City Attorney and School Board Directors for Districts 1, 3, 5, 7.

Phew!  A lot to decide about.

However you can’t decide on any of it unless you are registered to vote.

Why is it important to vote?

Some people feel that voting isn’t important and in the end your votes don’t count. It’s easy to feel that way, because often when you do take the time to vote, you may or may not get what you wish, causing you to walk away feeling that it was pointless. I would like to propose some reasons why voting is really important.

1. If you care about history and have any kind of reverence for your ancestors at all: you should vote. I’m not going to give you a history lesson behind voting and the trials and tribulations that people who have came before us (that includes males, females, races and ethnic groups of all kinds) to secure you the right to have a voice in how our society is run. Just know that people fought and died for your rights. Respect that.

2. If you care about social issues in your present life.. You should vote.  Do you care if your child gets an adequate education? Do you care if people can be sent to prison for life for being caught with marijuana 3 times? Do you care if your district is mainly Democratic or Republican? Are you concerned with the level of crime in the city of Oakland and whether or not you should be taxed yet again in order to supply the city with police protection? Want to make sure your vegetables are truly organic and come from local farms? If so, you should vote.

3. If you like to complain about things and want people to listen and take you seriously instead of rolling their eyes and telling you to be quiet, you should vote. Voting is the most official, and productive way to complain there is. REAL complainers vote..and if you have any pride in your complain game you should vote in every election there is.

Being a voter is great and the responsible thing to do. However, sometimes voting isn’t enough to create real change. Some cynical Sues and Sams out there already know this and remind folks about it every election season, so here is something else you might want to think about.

Why it is important to be an informed and informing voter, despite sketchy results..

Here is the thing. We live in a society where quite frankly, the majority rules. You might think that it’s money that rules and  money does have great potential to shape things, but imagine what a little bit of research and responsible decision making by the majority can accomplish? A lot.

Wealthy position holders can plaster tv and radio with ads sharing their opinions all day, but word of mouth can be just as powerful. A broad game of “Telephone” can sway an election like no other.

Some folks aren’t willing or have the time to do analysis of issues. That’s fine. But maybe you are. Maybe you will read your registrar packet. Maybe you will Google a measure that is confusing. Maybe you will do more than just listen to commercials you see or hear, but pay attention to who is paying for those commercials and what their agenda is. When you do so, tell a friend who can’t do that kind of research. Talk about it over coffee, while playing on your Wii, or jogging around the Lake.  Share what you have learned, be informed and be an informer. The more you talk about it, the more likely the listener is going to vote. Whether they agree with you or not! If everyone talks with just one other person about the issues..can you imagine how powerful that would be?

The more knowledgeable about your vote you are..the more democratic and fair the process is. Even if your vote doesn’t produce the results you are looking for, you will feel good about your decisions and you won’t be as frustrated about the process.  Also, if you do your part to educate your neighbor, you will know that decisions were made responsibly and not because an individual voter didn’t know which option to pick. People actually vote that way, and that’s a little scary if you think about it.

Plus, when you complain, folks will listen!

Who can vote?

The simplest answer is registered citizens. Things are rarely as simple as that, and there are currently real efforts to make sure some voters don’t make it to the polls. #sigh

In California, we don’t have such concentrated efforts,  YET, there are people who can register to vote but haven’t done so for some reason or another. Who are those people?

  • High School Seniors (aged 18)
  • College Freshman (aged 18)
  • People who have moved recently.
  • Recently married and changed your name? Re-register please!
  • Newly recognized citizens.
  • Released felons and parolees.. (say what? Served your time and parole is done? Peep this!)
  • Complainers who haven’t made it official. (shaking my head)

If you know someone who is in this situation, tap them on the shoulder and say “Hey? Have you registered to vote yet?” Get to it!

Send them to these websites. They don’t have computer access? You are reading this blog right? Share it with them!

State Registrar: You can find information about state propositions, who is running for office and local rules and regulations about voting.

Voter Registration – Elections & Voter Information – California Secretary of State.

Alameda County Registrar: You can learn qualifications of voting, where your poling place is..and actually register online!

Rock the Vote: help register young people and educate them about the importance of being heard this election cycle! Register to vote, get information on what you need to bring and sign up for important reminders.. (this is paid for by the Obama/Biden campaign btw).

REGISTER TODAY: You have to have your registration post-marked by Oct. 22, 2012 to be eligible to vote in November!!

Check back here!

I am going to try to attend local candidate forums and write about the 10 CA propositions. So check back here for more details and share them with a friend! Let’s all do our part to make sure everyone is an informed voter this election season!

What’s your opinion? Why do you feel it’s important to vote? Any issues you are excited about? Got a crazy story? Share!

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Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Election 2012, Oakland, Politics

My Rant: #OPD needs to do better.

Howard Jordan and the Police Department may be trying..but they are losing the PR game.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded person. Every person and/0r entity deserves a chance to redeem themselves, even if I harbor a healthy dose of internal skepticism.

This was essentially my attitude towards the Oakland Police Department. Wednesday, OPD tested even my generous patience.

(You might say..really? As a black woman you should question everything the police does. I will get to that later..).

Giving the Oakland Police Department a chance..

Earlier this month OPD tried to establish a positive relationship with Oakland by hosting an Open House on May 4th. I not only attended, I was a little excited! My activist friends openly laughed at me, questioned my sanity and probably wondered about my motives behind my back.

I didn’t care. I had attended various town hall meetings featuring the police and the Mayor’s office in regards to public safety and the 100 Block program.  OPD is short of staff, yet committed towards reducing crime.  Along with the  Mayor’s office, they have implemented new technology, pulling resources and  coordinating with city agencies (like Parks and Rec) in an effort to help keep the city safe. I want them to be successful. I want Oakland to thrive and not be plagued by a reputation for being a dangerous city. (OPD gave me props on my twitter coverage of one of the meetings..which freaked me out a little).

So, I went to the Open House. I figured this was the closest (hopefully) I would ever to get to a jail cell and I was curious.  I actually had a good time. I got to tour the facilities, a cop car,  and witness a cop standing up on his motorcycle while it was moving. The Chief admired my “I Hella Heart Oakland” t-shirt. Good times and feelings was shared by all who attended.

Children get their finger prints at OPD Open House May 15th

When things go down hill for me..

1.  Then Alan Blueford was shot and killed during the early hours of May 6th. ( The very next night! #smh). I had not paid close attention to the case until I read the statement from the family expressing anger over what they were told about their son’s death. Then I attended the city council meeting, May 15th where the family expressed further outrage over how they were treated at the police station while waiting for information on what happened to their son.

This affected me emotionally.  The mom works in a hospital, the cousins are graduates of college, one a lawyer another with a Master’s degree in social services. They are home owners, tax payers, supporters of the police and the City Council. Yet, they were treated horribly by the police, having to wait several hours before anyone would talk to them about what happened to their son.

That hurt me. As a law abiding Oakland resident, a black woman and human being.

Alan Blueford’s family testifies at May 15th City Council meeting.

2. Community Meeting goes wrong..

In response the city council declared they wanted an investigation into how the police treats families of shooting victims and, Chief Jordan met with the family and apologized,  which according to everyone is unprecedented. In my opinion, it’s the very least he could have done. That should never have happened.

Sensing that public wasn’t too happy with them, the Police Department and the Mayor decided to have a meeting in East Oakland to explain how the investigation into Alan Blueford would progress at Acts Full Gospel Church. I made every effort to attend expecting a nuanced discussion on the case, a chance to get answers and a show of good faith by the Mayor and the police department.

What took place instead? An unnecessary waste of time that ended up pissing people off. The police trotted out various officers to explain the process of the investigation. I missed the first 10 minutes coming from work in Concord, but was able to catch a representative from Internal Affairs explain the chain of command in the investigation: (in case you can’t read the handy chart pictured below) first the Sergeant makes a report, then the Lieutenant reviews the report (it goes back and forth between them until it’s approved) then the Captain reviews it, Assistant Deputy, then Chief..then God knows who else.

An officer describes the chain of command in Internal Affairs investigation using a ‘chart’.

I know..who cares right? We want to know what’s going on with the Alan Blueford case. AND WHY WOULD YOU COME TO A MEETING WITH A DRAWING? Really? Every meeting I have been to with the police they came prepared with fancy power point slides, facts, figures, technology.. the whole she-bang. What happened here?

After hearing from a representative of the Community Police Review Board explain who they are ( a group of independent citizens appointed by City Council and sworn in by the Mayor that conducts independent investigations) and tell us that their hands are essentially tied until the police shares information with them from their report.. we are finally able to ask questions….

Chief Jordan took questions from people who wrote them down on cards. The answers were ones we have heard before:

  • No Alan Blueford wasn’t left on the street for 4 hours. He got CPR and within minutes was taken to the hospital. How many minutes? When did he get CPR? Exact times..they didn’t know.
  • Did Alan point a gun at police? Yes.
  • Why did the officer shoot himself? We are looking into it.
  • [The police] do not know how false information got out about Alan shooting the officer. A reporter did ask witnesses and it came out that Alan took a shot..but there is no evidence Alan shot at the police.
  • Has there ever been a police shooting that is not justified homicide? Yes.
  • Why hasn’t the officer not been identified and what is his complaint history? We will release his name at the appropriate time. He is now on administrative leave. We can’t release his complaint history by law.
  • When will results of the fingerprints identifying who owned the gun that was found be released? They will share the information with the family as soon as it is available.
  • Why was it necessary to chase Alan Blueford? The officers were investigating a drug and weapons violation.
  • How many times has the CPRB recommended that an officer be removed? Chief Jordan said “ my tenure there has been at least 1.”
  • Who saw Alan Blueford with a gun? The officer and three independent witnesses.
  • Why do officers always shoot to kill when the suspect is black? Officers are trained to incapacitate when their lives are in danger.
  • How is it possible that the officer could not distinguish between drugs and a gun? We are currently doing an investigation and we can not answer that at this time.

As he continued to give rote answers, the audience became more agitated and started asking questions that weren’t on cards: Why is it that black men are getting shot in the back? Is the officer hiding in Las Vegas like Mesherle was? Why aren’t we able to ask our own questions?

Participants at community meeting at Acts Full Gospel turn their backs on Chief Jordan as he answers questions.

The Chief did make a brief complaint that folks in audience weren’t being respectful by yelling out questions. He said folks came to get answers and they weren’t getting any because some were being disrespectful. He answers a few more questions (which I already reported on). And then concluded the meeting… at 6:30 pm!!!

Local Hip Hop icon Davey D wrote a blog post and recorded an awesome video of the red hot mess that was the community meeting. It also talks about the arrest of an Occupy Oakland Member shortly after for an alleged assault after the meeting.  Please read it.

Yes, it was a red hot mess. It was disrespectful in the extreme and if I was the Pastor of that church I would be MAD. Acts Full Gospel is a highly respected church with a large and vibrant membership within the Oakland Community. For OPD to come in and pretend to be reaching out to the community, come with drawings and end the meeting within 30 a slap in the face.

Oh and the Mayor? She wasn’t there. -___-

What took me so long??

I’ve only lived in the Bay Area 17 years..and in Oakland for 14 of those years. During this time I focused on cultivating a good life for myself.  I went to school, found a decent job,  a church home, made great friends, I voted, paid taxes, volunteered in the community for various causes… I basically just, lived. I don’t have a lot of experience with crime. My mother  also raised me to have a healthy respect for authority ( I even find men in uniform attractive. Firefighters…mmmm….). Interactions with the police is not something I am accustomed to.

I am not a trouble maker. I am not confrontational. I hate it when people rudely yell, curse or interrupt a peaceful meeting. I don’t think provoking police is a good idea. I’m a liberal..but moderately so. (I probably wouldn’t even call myself progressive). I wouldn’t classify myself as an Angry Black Woman.  I’m about Peace, Love and Hair Grease.

I also recognize that there are criminals in the world and that they deserve to go to jail..and yeah some of them are black.

However, when I witness something that is unfair or wrong I will take notice..and everything about this case and how the police are treating minority citizens in Oakland in general stinks.

Yes, Occupy Oakland has seemingly become pointless, with no organization and/or goals..but the noise and ruckus they are making about what is going on with the police department and city government in general is not WRONG. Yes..Black People can be loud and angry..but given the behavior of the people that we pay to protect us and keep our community safe we have every right to be!

“We fear for our lives. We fear the police because they don’t have no consideration for people, for humanity,” Raymond Arnold said. “Autopsy reveals ODP shot Jones in the front” ABC News, Nov. 2010

OPD has a long history of abuses towards the community. But lets look recently, like the past 10 years. Alan Blueford is not the only questionable officer involved shooting of black men in Oakland.. “jpmassar” of the Daily Kos lists other deaths and lawsuits that Oakland is facing as a result:

  • Gary King – August 2007
  • Jody Woodfox – July 2008
  • Derrick Jones – November 2010
  • Raheim Brown – January 2011
  • John Sloan and Antoine Jackson – May 2011
  • Tony Jones (cousin of Oscar Grant) – February 2012

I don’t want to argue the merits of each case (including Alan Blueford’s) or who was ultimately right and/or wrong. But this list is too long for it to be a coincidence..and it’s costing our city too much money to settle. Money we do not have.

Chief Jordan: you  need to take a hard look at how the police is interacting with the community and make changes. Especially if you are looking for city residents to pay more money in taxes for more police. Especially if you are trying to make sure the Oakland department doesn’t come under federal receivership.

Chief Jordan, if you want to reach out the community and be real. Don’t half step it. Answer questions that may be uncomfortable. Listen to people when they are talking to you. Stop prevaricating, reading speeches, giving rote answers, hiding behind ‘the law’ and  just tell the truth. Negotiate and compromise.  Stop waiting for bad things to happen and then responding. Be preemptive.  I understand that you need to protect your sworn brother’s but you are paid to protect the residents of Oakland. Make rules and enforce them. Hold your officer’s accountable for their behavior. End the corruption. Face what you and your department are doing wrong and make every effort to change it.

It may seem unfair, given that you haven’t been Chief for very long. Folks are loud and rude and confrontational. But you just are going to have to take one for team. You are the leader and you represent your organization. People are understandably upset, but if you want them to believe you are sincere and care, you have take them seriously and respect their feelings. It’s your job.

This just doesn’t go for the Chief. The Mayor, City Manager, Community Police Review Board, City Council, anyone who works for the city, represents the city and says they want to see OAKLAND be better..they need to actually BE better.


Filed under Advocacy, Oakland

Will Trayvon Martin’s death be a moment or a movement? Let’s create a community movement!

This weekend, I attended two discussions regarding the Trayvon Martin incident, the problems that African American’s face in our country and how we can overcome them.

[ Yes..this weekend, Black folks were actually meeting. ..everyone was invited though.]

If you have been paying attention, you know that the country, the world, is concerned about Trayvon Martin being shot and killed by a professed neighborhood watch member in Florida.

In reaction, the media and groups across the country have been in discussion about racial profiling, social justice and just how and why in the year 2012 we still have to contend with these issues 40 years after Jim Crow.

One such discussion was held in downtown Oakland, hosted by Top Ten Social, a local organization whose mission “is to push the cultural, artistic and intellectual envelope of Afro-futurist urban expression and create sustainable models through innovative events” a Speaker’s Series. On March 31st they dedicated time for the community to come together and to share reflections and strategies on how we should respond to the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

A member of Top Ten Social takes notes on the discussion while a community member speaks.

On Sunday April 1st, I attended a more intimate affair organized by my wonderful friend Tiffany who texted all of her friends asking for discussion and ideas on what we should do. We had a potluck at my church Memorial Tabernacle CHSC ( Christ Holy Sanctified Church) in North Oakland (Easter Services this Sunday at 10:30 am- if you don’t have a church home..:) . This event, though smaller, was a tad bit more structured. Tiffany (who is a master bossy A-type awesome organizer) came with a preset agenda, movie, food and discussion questions.

A Southern Belle - Tiffany. "Isn't she looooovvvelyyyyy???"

At both discussions we all had something to say about the problems. It was, to some, a relief to give voice to fears we have lived with for a long time. What’s obvious is that despite the amount of progress we have made (integration, right to vote, education, etc)..Blacks in America still have a long way to go.

Both discussions also generated a laundry lists of things we can do in reaction from driving down to Florida to petition a state representative, to protests, marches and boycotts, and multi-media campaigns.

I would like to talk about three solutions that came out of the discussions that help to create a community movement, and will make it hard for another Trayvon Martin moment to occur.

Check it out..

Problem: Our children are being maligned, made to believe that they are not good enough and shown that their lives are meaningless.

Solution: We need to love support and cherish our children!

Not just when there is a problem, but constantly. Even before a problem starts. When your baby is born, read to them, nurture them..tell them everyday that they are beautiful, smart and important. If you don’t have children interact with the ones you come across. Ask them how they are doing, smile at them, give them complements. Hug them. If you see a child on the street- don’t look a way and ignore them. Smile and say Hi! Don’t be afraid of them.

Tiffany says: “I ain’t afraid of no child. If they are under 20 years old..I ain’t scared of them. Now if they are over 21 that’s a different story..” *Insert South Carolina cackle*

If we spend more time nurturing our children, our children would love and cherish themselves more. They wouldn’t feel defeated when the world tells them they are nothing…and they would feel like they were capable of accomplishing ANYTHING.

Let’s also stand up for our children by supporting education and community organizations that work specifically with youth.

Oakland: One such group is Young, Gifted and Black. YGB provides cultural support to African American youth by educating them about history through poetry, music, art and movement. Members of YBG performed at the Top Ten Social Discussion and gave a tribute to Trayvon Martin that you can watch below:

Problem: The system seems to be working against us.

Solution: We need to make the system work for us.

I know that there are some cynical Suzie’s out there who feel that “The Man” controls things around here. There is no point in voting when money and greed rules the day. You can’t trust a politician as far as you can throw them..etc, etc.

But we elected Barack Obama! “Well what has he done for me lately?” Folks are unemployed, he’s killing US citizens with unmanned drones, attacking innocent state-supported medical marijuana colleges, AND he wants me to buy insurance? grumble, grumble, doom and gloom.

Some of that is true. But what is also true is that the Justice Department didn’t decide to look into Trayvon Martin’s case until we, the public, raised our voices in complaint. What’s true is that when enough of us are present..and in one accord- we can move mountains.

What’s true is that if you communicate your desires, by voting AND by attending town hall meetings, city council meetings and the like, you can take part in change. Barack Obama is one man. He can’t do this alone and he shouldn’t have to. We should take responsibility and be the change that we want to see!

We tend to react to things instead of being present from the very beginning. We reacted to Troy Davis too late. We are reacting Trayvon Martin’s death, rather than the passage of a law that made his death possible. We should have been there from the beginning, when the law was introduced and shut it down.

The difference between us and “The Man” is that “The Man” participates in the system and makes it work for them from the beginning and doesn’t just ‘give up’ when things don’t seem to go their way. We need to do the same.

Oakland: an opportunity is presenting itself. Wednesday at 6 pm is the Community Police Review Board meeting, at City Hall. On discussion is “100 Block” program and the increase in crime outside of the “100 Blocks”. Gotta concern? You had better be there to make sure your concern is addressed. I can BET “The Man” will be there. We should be there too.

Problem: We don’t have a sense of community.

Solution: Get to know, love, respect and protect thy neighbor and thy hood.

Do you know your neighbor? Do you know their name? Would you go next door to borrow a cup of sugar? If you get locked out of your home, could you go to your neighbor for help? Would you trust your neighbor to babysit your child? If your car gets stolen from your driveway, would your neighbor see it and tell you? If you are screaming outside of your home because you are being assaulted would your neighbor come out to help?

If your neighbor saw you getting attacked would they report it to the police? Or does “Snitches get stitches” hold them back?

What if things were different? What if we trusted enough in our community to not let a few dictate what happens?

You can’t build community and trust without building relationships. A relationship starts with you. If you don’t know your neighbor, go next door and say hi. Bring over a cup of sugar. Exchange emergency contact info or talk about a plan in case of an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado or crazy person with a gun.

That’s just the beginning. From there you can start looking at your neighborhood and what you can do to help it. You can have block parties, and clean up days and all sorts of civic wonderfulness. Wonderfulness that is worth being protected and fought for.

As a community member at the Top 10 Social discussion stated: “We don’t have to travel across the country to Florida to make a difference, we can make a difference here at home.” We can take our communities back. It just takes us working together. That work begins and ends with us.


Soledad O’Brien had a national town hall “Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America” that aired on CNN this past Saturday. Roland Martin said “This is the conundrum, will Trayvon Martin’s death be a moment or a movement”

I don’t know if we are going to see the kind of political movement like that of the 60’s.. but I think what we can all do is create a movement of community change that can be just as powerful.

We’ve lost our village. Lets bring the village back!


What do you think? Do you think we can bring back our village? Do you know your neighbor? If you heard someone outside screaming for help..would you go out to help them? Be honest!


Filed under Advocacy

East Bay Democracy for America chooses an AD18 candidate!

Remember Howard Dean?


Well he may not have been able to become President, but his progressive energy lives on in Democracy for America, a “grassroots powerhouse working to change our country!”

The East Bay DFA Meet-Up Group, had a gathering this past Tuesday in order to discuss current events (WHY are Republicans attacking contraception?) learn about progressive initiatives ( Move to Amend: corporations are NOT people!) and to hold a forum in order to choose a candidate for the hotly contested California Assembly District 18 seat!

The candidates for #AD18 (Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro) are Rob Bonta, Vice Mayor of Alameda City Council; Abel Guillien, Peralta Community College Trustee and Joel Young, AC Transit Director-At-Large.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger was able to crash this event in order to obtain some free $5 donation pizza, witness a contentious and heated debate and to participate in a straw poll! (I’ve never done one .. and it’s on my bucket list. I mean who really wants to go sky diving? Pfft!!)

To my utter disappointment, a contentious and heated debate was not to be had. None of the candidates showed up! Bonta had to attend an Alameda City Council Meeting, Guillen was sick with the flu ..and Young, unfortunately, just wasn’t present.

Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen did send some representatives on their behalf. So instead being on hand to witness a fist cat fight, I was able to obtain some information to share with you all.

Jim Oddie and Jessica Reynolds for Rob Bonta.

Rob Bonta sent Jessica Reynolds and Jim Oddie. I don’t really know either of them and I wasn’t able to catch what role they play in Bonta’s campaign. However they seemed very knowledgeable about their candidate and what’s happening in Sacramento. …. and I give Jessica points for the awesome red hair that matched her outfit.

Winnie Anderson, for Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen sent his campaign manager Winnie Anderson from Inkwell World Tattoo, my best friend er..the lady I met while visiting the studio a couple of blog posts ago. Not only is she associated with an awesome local business, but she is a very dynamic and engaging speaker!

Each representative gave general introductions on their candidate, of which you can read more details on their website. Essentially..

  • Rob Bonta is all about education, economic development and public safety (
  • Abel Guillen wants to increase revenue by taxing big corporations and improving education (
  • From submitted summary.. Joel Young is about bringing in new jobs into the community, in particular those involving green (clean energy) and informational technology. (

Afterwards, the audience asked some probing questions, the answers of which I will summarize for you below.

What can you do about the foreclosures happening in our community?

Team Bonta: One of the most horrible aspects of the foreclosure crisis is the dissolution of the social service network. Due to our state budget crisis, may social service programs have been cut. If someone is in jeopardy of losing their home, where can they go for advice or services? Who can they run to? He may not be able to affect what is going on nationally, but Bonta wants to create a better social services network in California by bringing in more revenue and reduce cuts to important programs.

Guillen Manager: Banks are not dedicated towards re-investing into our community. Re-investing means caring about it’s customers enough to work with them and help them keep their homes. Winnie Anderson spoke to the audience about a family member who was in danger of losing their home, so she knows what it is like. Guillen is determined to get banks to reinvest to the community. He has experience in working with banks for the benefit of the community. Did you know that he was instrumental in the Peralta College divesting a large amount of money (140 million) from big banks and reinvesting into community banks and credit unions? He is interested in getting banks to work with us, and not against us.

Jessica Reynolds also let us know that there is legislation in California to fight dual tracking. Dual tracking is when the banks starts working with you to renegotiate your loan, but at the same they start the foreclosure process. (SHADY!!) There is also some federal legislation in the works.

Can you share with us 2 or 3 of your most important endorsements?

Team Bonta: Rob Bonta has more labor support than any other candidate. Professional Firefighters, Bay Area Police officers, and the United Farm Workers. He is most proud of this endorsement because his parents were active members of the United Farm Workers. That is where he got his life mission to fight for social economic justice. (Check out more endorsements here)

Guillen Manager: Guillen has the endorsement of the National Democracy for America. The most important endorsement is the support of the community. Guillen’s camp is proud to say that the majority of their donations comes from residents who have given $100 or less. California Nurses Association, California Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers. (Check out more endorsements here)

Incidentally, Joel Young has the endorsement of the Bay Area Business Roundtable, the American Nurses Association and the California Black Congressional Caucus. (Check out more endorsements here)

What are the candidates positions on Single Payer?

[ What? According to our friend WIKI, single payer health care is medicare funded by a single insurance pool run by the state. Apparently California legislature has passed a single payer bill twice. Governor Schwarzenegger then vetoed both bills. (swell!..not really) There is currently another bill being introduced.]

Team Bonta: in favor.. Served on the Alameda Health Care District Board as Director and helped keep the hospital open. The hospital serves a lot of senior and Medicare patients. It’s a critical resource for health care in the East Bay. He helped put together a Wound Care Center that is going to open this summer.

Guillen Manager: in favor..and of universal health care for all. He established a Peralta Wellness Center at the college. For those that don’t have insurance or qualify for Medicare can have access to health care.

It’s hard to get things done in Sacramento. Share a story that will demonstrate your ability to be successful?

Team Bonta: Rob Bonta has the ability to get people to work together in order to get things done. When he was in private practice he worked on a class action suit against Cal Highway Patrol to end racial profiling. Donated a lot of pro-bono time to get that accomplished. Just another example of his work in social justice… [this is one story of many..but I’m already typing too much]

Guillen Manager: Abel Guillen has a reputation of being respected. He established himself as someone they can go to. He did his research and proved his credibility. When he became a trustee he was able to build consensus through communication. He’s not afraid to have difficult conversations. Communication is very important in order to get things done. He has a relationship and the respect of a lot of legislature (including Republicans) already through his work as a trustee.

Straw Poll with no straws?? That’s just crazy.

After the debate portion ended a straw poll was cast and who won?


Good job, guy.. or rather good job Winnie Anderson!

However, I would like to hear from the candidates themselves before I make my final decision. How about you?

Would you like to see a debate with all three candidates? Do you know of when they are going to get together? What are YOUR opinions on the AD18 candidates?

Share! Inquiring minds wanna know.. (okay..I just wanna know.)

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Filed under Election 2012, Oakland, Politics

A new understanding of violence and nonviolence as a tactic.

“Nonviolence is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of self-confidence and courage” – Dalai Lama tweet.

There is a debate being carried out in the #Oakland internets. Deep and contentious conversations are taking place on Oakland blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter threads about the violence that has become associated with the Occupy Oakland movement. Many advocates have withdrew their support of Occupy Oakland because they can not condone the senseless and seemingly random acts of violence (trashing landmarks, retaliating against police) and damage to our beloved city. Others feel that these acts attract the attention that is needed towards the real issues: political and socioeconomic disparities, police brutality, and local government corruption.

I think there is  confusion regarding the terms and the tactics and I think the media plays a big role in shaping our perception of what violence is and what role it plays in a movement.

Let me rephrase that. I was confused about the terms and tactics .. The media does play a big role in shaping perception of what violence is and what role it plays in a movement..but advocates can also play a role.

In a previous post, I stated that “violence isn’t graffiti or vandalizing, but violence is murder and robberies”. I had directed that statement towards the Oakland police, because I was frustrated over their focus on Occupy Oakland rather than the increase in shootings and robberies happening in Oakland recently.  Although, I still think the police need to evaluate the placement of their definition of violence (and nonviolence) has changed.

Let me share what I learned..

Webster’s 1st Definition of Violence is an..”exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse”. I previously took this to mean directing physical force or harm onto a person..but violence can include destruction of property and low level throwing bottles and stuff at police.

How does destruction of property injure Oakland? It’s demoralizing. There are buildings and landmarks within the city that has great meaning.  For example Frank Owaga, a former city council member, was also civil rights leader and (along with his family) a former Japanese detainee during the Civil War. Destruction of  City Hall and it’s plaza is an insult to his memory and all the hard work that residents and officials put into making it into a highlight of the city of Oakland. This not only hurts ‘the man’ but it hurts the residents of Oakland and all who care about the city and have pride in it. Residents that include the 99%.

When the public sees this kind of disrespect for the city, they lose respect for the movement.

How does this kind of violence compare in the face of the brutality the police uses against Occupy Oakland when occupy engages in peaceful protest? It doesn’t. The use of tear gas and batons against a protestor is inexcusable. But this is where nonviolence comes in..

Websters definition of nonviolence:..” abstention from violence as a matter of principle; also : the principle of such abstention “.

When engaging in a peaceful protest..and the police react to you by spraying tear gas and rubber bullets, try this as a tactic: do nothing. Abstain from responding in kind.  Protect yourself..cover your face, move away..but don’t throw rocks or bottles back at them. Do not go to another part of the city and cause further destruction.

Destruction of property and other violent actions places the focus on the violence, and not on the issue. Whereas nonviolence places the focus on how the police react to your nonviolent protest and gains sympathy for the issue.

The media is the media and they are going to do what they do. However, the Occupy Movement can play a role in what the headlines are going to be.  The headlines should be “400 arrested in peaceful protest” and not “Occupy destroys City Hall”.

The police should not be able to say: “they threw rocks at us!!” when confronted by the media and the public.  The  general public (the 99%) should be able to point at the police and say “all they were doing was protesting!! Why are you using our tax dollars to focus on peaceful protesting instead of the MURDER happening around the corner?”

Where did I learn this from?

Kazu Haga leads a Kingian Nonviolence Orientation in Oakland

Abstaining from violence is just part of what I learned in using nonviolence as a tactic during a two-day “Nonviolence and Conflict Reconciliation Orientation” developed from the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr taught by Jonathon Lewis and Oakland’s own Kazu Haga from the Positive Peace Warrior Network. During this two-day workshop that included readings, videos and group activities, I learned about the principles of nonviolence and how MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference used it as a successful tactic during the Civil Rights movement. During this weekends orientation not only did I gain a deeper understanding of MLK and his teachings, but I learned how nonviolence plays a positive role in putting an issue to the forefront.

I was blessed by this orientation and learned so much about advocacy and conflict resolution. This was a free workshop, but I donated not only my time and energy but a little bit of cash towards this effort, because I feel it so needed during this pivotal year of advocacy in Oakland. I feel very proud to have earned my certificate!

To learn more about the Positive Peace Warrior Network and the workshop.. read their blog! Click HERE Go to a training and support their efforts! 🙂


Filed under Advocacy, Oakland

Learning from “The Interrupters” of Violence in Oakland

It’s the end of the second week of February in Oakland, and last week there were seven homicides. You wonder if there is anything that can be done.

I was blessed to be able to watch a screening of “The Interrupters” on Thursday night (Feb. 9th) at the Oakland Museum of California.

[ I say blessed because if it wasn’t for my friend Tiffany, who has the gift of being able to talk her way into anything (even bringing a Burger King hamburger, fries and drink to the Bill Graham auditorium in SF), we would not have been able to get seats..and in the front row!]

“The Interrupters” (@TheInterrupters) is a documentary by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz that follows the work of an organization called CeaseFire (@CeaseFire_IL) and it’s efforts to fight violence on the streets of Chicago. CeaseFire outreach workers, many of whom have had a past history of violent crimes, connect with youth to try to prevent violence through counseling and just plain ‘real talk’.

Thursday night’s preview was sponsored by Oakland’s Ella Baker Center, KQED, the Oakland Museum of California, Youth Alive! and a many other organizations.

After the movie screening there was a panel moderated by Abel Habtegeorgis of Ella Baker Center that included Eddie Bocanegra and Ameena Matthews, two of the outreach workers from CeaseFire and featured in the movie.. as well as Kendra Simmons from Youth Alive! and Anthony Del Toro from California Youth Outreach who work in violence prevention in Oakland.

(l to r) Abel Habtegeorgis, Ella Baker Center; Eddie Bocanegra, CeaseFire; Ameena Matthews, CeaseFire; Kyndra Simmons, Youth Alive!; and Anthony Del Toro, California Youth Outreach

Real Talk

I was able to record a bit of the panel conversation below..

Ameena Matthews from CeaseFire speaks on the similarities between Oakland and Chicago and why it’s important to share our history with youth today. (9. 03 min)

Eddie Bocanegra from Cease Fire talks about the consequences for him after he shot a young man while he was young and what motivates him to be an ‘Interrupter’ (7.42 min )

Youth Alive! is an organization that believes that violence is preventable, and advocates for policies that reduce gun, gang, family and rape violence. Kendra Simmons talks about her approach to counseling youth that are hospitalized as a result of violence in Oakland. (1.27 min)

California Youth Outreach helps youth involved in gangs via education, intervention programs and offering various opportunities towards future success. Anthony Del Toro talks about how to gain the trust of youth who are engaged in violence. (1.48 min)

Special Guests

In the audience were local teens and organizations that work to build a better Oakland…

  • Hope Collaborative: a grassroots effort to create a healthy, prosperous, and vibrant Oakland
  • Alameda County Health Department’s Place Matters: a team that’s working for equity in: education, economics, criminal justice, housing, land use, and transportation.
  • 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence: a support group for families who have been victims of violence is having a Mourning Mother’s Walk at the San Leandro Marina on May 5, 2012!
  • Oakland’s Kids First: an organization that develops leadership opportunities for teens in order to help them graduate with a back pocket of skills..
  • The Khadafi Foundation for Non-Violence: an organization that provides support for victims

    Oakland's Measure Y Outreach Team

    of violence.

  • Youth from the Measure Y Outreach Team: who interact with the youth of Oakland in the areas most hardest hit by violence.
  • Berkeley Youth Alternatives: a community organization that helps children, teens and families through preventative interventions and support services to kids in the juvenile justice system. (I was an after-school tutor here when I as an undergrad..memories!)

And probably many others who I might have missed..

But let’s not forget one of our hosts The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.. a grassroots organization whose mission is to give Oakland residents skills to work together to strengthen our community. One of their campaigns, Heal the Streets, trains youth to become community leaders and violence prevention advocates.

The resulting conversation was honest and eye-opening. One teen asked panel members how can she uplift a brother who had just been sentenced to life in prison for murder. Another young lady, whose father was shot in the head and cousin recently murdered, applauded the panelists for their efforts which inspired her. (After the conversation she immediately went to a representative from Kids First and asked to volunteer.)

So what?

At end of the discussion a young man, who took it upon himself to start a grassroots organization called “The Eagles Program” (sorry couldn’t find a link) where teens learn dance and acrobatics to keep them off the streets, expressed frustration about going to all of these talks/meetings on violence and nothing seems to come of it. The violence in Oakland still persists.

In response Ameena Matthews stated ..”The end result starts and ends with self”

Don’t worry about what the myriad of organizations are or are not doing. Or how our elected officials seem more concerned about getting re-elected and protecting their own instead of protecting those most in need.

Look at your actions and figure out what you can do to stop violence in your community based off of your own personal strengths.

I agree 100% and that goes for everyone.

Here is a couple of small things that you can do that can push us towards progress.

1. Some of these organizations need donations to support their work. Donate some money..but also donate your time.


“The Interrupters” will air on PBS’s Frontline on Feb. 14th (click for trailer). Check your local listings (I think it comes on at 10 pm Bay Area time) and watch this show.

Go a step further and invite your friends and some local youth to watch with you.


Side Note

KQED Celebrates Black History with an awesome website describing local heroes and a handy dandy Black History Month Resource Guide (click to download)! Make sure to check out KQED and PBS for awesome programs coming up in February.

As my intrepid friend Tiffany would say … Smooches!


Filed under Advocacy, Health, Oakland