Oakland – The Oakland City Council is having a celebration for Black History Month today, that is a combination of at once an expression of what long-time Oaklanders have done, but also a statement that ignores blacks in tech in Oakland.
Moreover, it makes it seem like the City of Oakland has an issue with black folks who don’t fit a racial stereotype, like me. Just to make it personal since I’m sadly used to the City of Oakland’s treatment of black men who dare step outside “the zone”, as I put it. Consider that I, alone, formed what will be Oakland’s only bid to host a Super Bowl Game, and out of 11 cities, pushed Oakland to be one of three finalist cities, the others being Jacksonville and Miami, for the right to host the 2005 Super Bowl. And I did it in the face of a City of Oakland that was bent on treating me like shit. A major reason why the NFL has been a friend to me to this day: the league was witness, from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to then NFL Executive Vice President Of Football Operations and now NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. A big reason why I started ZENNIE62MEDIA was because of the way Oakland treated me. Hell, I carry Oakland with me nationwide, and arguably have given more visibility to my city whenever I break news via my pioneer Zennie62 YouTube Channel and my Oakland News Now blog. But, I digress. That’s something for in the future, let’s celebrate the people, tonight.
Here’s the agenda item, below.
4.1 Subject: Celebrating Black History And Heritage Month
From: Councilmember McElhaney, Councilmember Taylor, And Vice Mayor Reid Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution In Celebration Of Black History Month Honoring Courageous Black Individuals And Organizations, Who Through Their Innovative, Groundbreaking Work, Have Promoted Positive Change And Uplift For The City Of Oakland.
Ok, I Have To Make A Moms 4 Housing Statement Here
And, here’s the Oakland City Council Agenda descriptions of the people and organizations that are to be celebrated, and congratulations to them. But I have to add that I don’t think what Moms 4 Housing did is something to be celebrated as “black history” at all – but fits the City Of Oakland’s sad view of black folks, collectively. What Moms 4 Housing did represents a failure of a California government system ran by Democrats who should know better. We had California Redevelopment Law to avoid the problem until Governor Brown wrongly terminated it, and still have tax increment financing the City of Oakland could use to fix the problem, yet no major bombshell emergency measure has been inacted, still, to this day. To celebrate Moms 4 Housing in that context send a powerful message that the only way blacks will be seen by other black folks in the City of Oakland as worthy of note is to be pushed to do something that falls in the area of economic moral turpitude. Wow.
Forget people like Stephen DeBerry, the Founder and Managing Partner at Bronze Investments, who was a founding partner at Kapor Capital in Oakland. Forget the fact that venture funding for Oakland tech companies over the past three years totaled just under $500 million. Why doesn’t the City of Oakland ask who’s black that’s part of that? People like Lindsay Lee, Managing Member of Oakland-based venture firm Authentic Ventures? And Authentic Ventures is really in Oakland on Skyline Blvd.. Or how about Kesha Cash, the General Partner at Impact America Fund? And also, yes, in Oakland! And we have to mention Erik Moore, the venture capitalist who’s firm BASE is in Berkeley, but he lives in Oakland.
I could go on, but the point is, the City of Oakland has a screwed-up view of black folks, and it needs to change. Celebrate Oakland blacks in tech.
Oh, here’s the City of Oakland’s presentation for tonight:
The individuals and institutions we honor today have made significant contributions to the City of Oakland, through their dedication to the celebration, expansion, and preservation of the unique contributions of African Americans and these historic contributions are woven into the fabric of American history in the City of Oakland, the United States and the world; and
WHEREAS, District 1 is honoring Marcus Books, the historic black-owned bookstore on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in North Oakland founded by Dr. Julian Richardson and Dr. Raye Richardson that established its Oakland location within District 1 in 1970s to serve as a sanctuary and a resource center for the Black community to gain knowledge to feel confident in fighting back against racial inequality. During the Black Power and Black Arts movement, Marcus Books was an important meeting place and lecture room for the Black Panthers. Over the years, Marcus Books has hosted such legends as Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Barry White, B.B. King, and Pattie LaBelle. Marcus Books has also been the chosen meeting place for the Black Firefighters Association, the Association of .Black Police, the Black Nurses Association, and many more organizations. Daughters Blanche and Karen
Richardson now operate the Oakland pillar that continues to thrive and keep up with community engaging traditions by hosting events, supporting local artists and Black authors; and
WHEREAS, District 2 is proud to honor long-term resident James Vann. James is the co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union (OTU) who continues to monitor the needs of renters through local and state legislation and is the go-to expert in the City of Oakland on those issues. He has also consistently advocated for the local control of our resources, including but not limited to pushing hard for the public use of public land. In addition to advocating for tenants who are 60% of our city, he spearheaded the Coalition of
Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM) which developed Measure DD, the improvements for the “Jewel of Oakland” Lake Merritt, and watchdogs its implementation as the father of the Green Pedestrian Bridge. When the affordable housing crisis was brewing, he had already been fighting for housing as a human right for decades. He tirelessly responds to individual tenants in distress while working to build coalitions in Oakland and Alameda County that bring residents together to fight for a real social safety net. He has proven time and again that he has never been afraid to speak for unpopular causes if they benefit the average Oaklander. As the homelessness crisis grew in Oakland, James helped to found another organization, the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), that currently advocates for policies that offer real alternatives to the growing number of encampments and dignity to those forced to live on our streets. He is a hero to many and a gracious advocate to all; and
WHEREAS, District 3 is honoring: Kin Folkz who is an award-winning educator, human rights artivist, author, and community organizer. Kin Folkz founded Spectrum Queer Media in 2009 which is an internationally recognized Oakland based LGBTQIA rights, media, and creative arts advocacy organization promoting social justice and voice for marginalized LGBTQIA people and their allies. Kin is also celebrated for their work as a co-founder of Oakland Pride and as the creator of the Oakland Pride Creative Arts & Film Fest, the Oakland Pride Run, Ball and Wellness Expo, and the Queer Art Crawl celebrating queer and trans people of color Oakland artists. Kin also founded or leads numerous efforts promoting self-care and justice for queer and trans people such as the Omni, the Oakland Queer + Trans Open Mic, and the Transgender and Intersex Justice Project. As a spirit-gender, queer, Black indigenous, autistic, Eider-In-Training, parent with Lupus, Kin is a sought after diversity, inclusion, and equity workshop leader and panelist. Kin has been recognized internationally for their work as a catalyst for
positive social change through the arts and is contributing closer to home by opening Oakland’s very fist LGBTQIA Arts Center and Gallery in March 2020; and
WHEREAS, District 4 is honoring: Bertram Harris who has worked in Oakland for the past decade as a Designer and Building Contractor, designing and building Accessory Dwelling Units. Bertram currently works with Redesign2Renovate, a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Mr. Harris was born and raised in Indiana before moving to the Bay Area and finally settling in Oakland. He realized the potential for unused spaces in yards to become a creative solution to create more housing by building Accessory Dwelling Units. Bertram has designed, built, and renovated Accessory Dwelling Units in
Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Foster City, Harbor Bay, and Hillsborough. His work has taken him all over the Bay Area, and he has immersed himself in many Bay Area communities. In addition to designing Accessory Dwelling Units, Mr. Harris has advised clients on how to overcome funding challenges to complete a new Accessory Dwelling Unit, creating more housing options for community members based in Oakland; and
WHEREAS, District 5 is honoring: The Konte Family – Keba, Rachel and family members. Owners of Red Bay Coffee and two other Oakland businesses. Red Bay Coffee Roasters was founded in 2014 by Keba Konte, a renowned artist and successful food entrepreneur with deep roots in the San Francisco Bay Area specialty
coffee and hospitality industry. Red Bay Coffee seeks to create unity by hiring and serving people of all backgrounds, striving to be diverse and inclusive of those who have traditionally been left out of the specialty coffee industry, especially people of color, the formerly incarcerated, women and people with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, District 6 is proud to honor the life and work of Arthur “Art” Bolden Shanks II, founder of the Cypress Mandela Training Center. He was raised in Oakland, California along with his four brothers and two sisters. Art had three children with his high school sweetheart and one child with his current wife, Linda Shanks, and two grandchildren. Art was the recipient of numerous awards and was recognized for his work in the community. He was featured in many news broadcasts and in many written publications. He was not a believer of mediocrity or status quo and he confronted challenges with courage, determination, perseverance and consistency. While he had a heart of compassion, he was not afraid to speak his mind and at times it was his way or the highway. Learning and education were also ingrained in his life passion as the Executive Director of the Cypress Mandela Training Center for 26 plus years. The
Cypress Mandela , Training Center is a pre-apprenticeship program for the trades that places the underprivileged and underrepresented into meaningful jobs so that they may positively maneuver in society. As the founder of Cypress Mandela, it was his duty to ensure that the students were given the best opportunities he and his staff could provide. He believed that life skills were equally as important as the trades training. Art passed away on December 29, 2019. He will be missed but his legacy will not be forgotten; and
WHEREAS, District 7 is proud to honor lie Omode School, an independent African centered institution whose mission is to give birth to the natural genius in every child while maintaining the best traditions of their ancestors has been providing an exceptional educational experience for black families for over 30 years. Grounded in the belief that every child deserves a quality education, the members of Wo’se Community Church established lie Omode as a manifestation of kujichagulia, self-determination, lie Omode School is committed to high academic standards, cultural authenticity, family and community, and the divine within, lie Omode School stresses the development of their students’ bodies, minds, souls, and consciousness. Serving students from preschool to 8th grade, their students are among the top performers in high school and college, lie Omode graduates boast a 100% private high school acceptance rate. Their programs include advanced mathematics, STEM, computer technology, health & wellness, and cultural performing arts. Starting in preschool, culture and technology is integrated into the curriculum. During middle school, every student participates in a college tour to Washington, DC and Georgia, lie Omode School has exposed nearly 200 students to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Their college preparatory curriculum is deeply rooted in a cultural authenticity that endeavors to bring the very best out in every child, lie Omode’s vision is that their students become highly motivated and creative leaders who are both capable and committed to the betterment of our nation; and
WHEREAS, the At Large Office recognizes that on November 18, 2019, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment led a statewide week of housing action which began with nonviolent civil disobedience that included Black mothers, known as Moms 4 Housing, with the steering committee of Misty Cross, Carroll Fife, Sameerah Karim, Tolani King, Merika Regan, Sharena Thomas, and Dominique Walker, who moved their children into a vacant house on Magnolia Street in West Oakland to highlight the trauma of homelessness and housing insecurity, the inequities of housing access, and the human cost of displacement caused by real estate speculation; and to make real that housing is a human right; and
WHEREAS, Mayor Libby Schaafs Office honors Donald Oliver. He was an Oakland principal who founded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Festival in 1978. In creating the Oratorical Festival, Mr. Oliver provided an opportunity for students to showcase their intellect, learn in a unique environment, and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Oliver understood that public oratory required students to think quickly and use many different aspects of their education. Mr. Oliver also believed that public speaking allowed his students to demonstrate their intellectual skills in a more personalized manner than in the classroom. Donald Oliver passed away in 2010, yet as the Oratorical Festival moves into its 42nd year, his great impact on the City of Oakland endures. Continuing Mr. Oliver’s work, Awele Makebe has been the of director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Festival for the last 5 years. Ms. Awele is the Drama Director at Skyline High School has sought to honor the principles of Dr. King by encouraging her students to explore social justice issues and the role of ordinary people in those issues; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED: That the City of Oakland herby honors and commends the following
individuals and organizations in recognition of Black History and Heritage Month 2020:
The Konte Family
llle Omede School
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
and be it;
Ok, fine. And again, congratulations to all of them. But I have to ask this question: why do Oakland elected officials not seek to find blacks in Oakland who aren’t fitting a common racial stereotype? Time to change.