From February 2012

Holly Robinson Peete and Common Inspire Attendees at AT&T 28 Days Speaker Series

By Ashley Chambers

Grammy-award winning hip hop artist, actor, author, and activist Common entertained Oakland with his optimism and a motivational performance as the host of AT&T’s 28 Days Speaker Series at the Scottish Rite Center on February 1. Joined by the acclaimed actress, author, philanthropist, wife and mother Holly Robinson Peete, the energy in the theatre that night was breathtaking.

In anticipation of Common’s performance off his album, The Dreamer The Believer, and Peete’s motivating presentation, attendees socialized and rocked to some rap and R&B beats played by KMEL DJ Benzo prior to the event. Attendees also entertained the AT&T digital lounge, browsing products and expressing their own personal reflections on Black history.

As actress Peete took the stage telling her story along with poignant chronicles of African American history, her enthusiasm and humor matched that of the audience.

The Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper actress said, “African Americans that we know who have been so amazing in our history never sought out to be, you know, in a movie. The Tuskegee Airmen didn’t say, ‘Oh I hope one day Denzel Washington plays me in a movie.’ We wouldn’t even have to tell the story of Red Tails if that had been part of our history as Americans all the time. It’s important that we keep these stories alive.”

Peete’s story also included a personal video presentation of her autistic son, Rodney, and how he beat the odds, like saying I love you, after doctors said he may not be able to say it again. This set the tone for profound discussion as professionals in mental health, media, and entertainment industries raised questions and concerns with issues of mental health in the black community.

Peete inspired many with her unique story of perseverance and philanthropy, saying, “We have these 28 days but Black history is American history and we have to make sure that we remember that.”

As Common moved dreamers and believers in the crowd with “Blue Sky”, he was also inspired. “I get inspired by coming here and seeing the heart of the people, I see people that want to accomplish some things and want to move forward.”

“When Martin Luther King said he had a dream that was his vision for this country; that was his vision for this world to be better. You have to have a vision and then believing in that vision is what we all need to do to accomplish those dreams. Being apart of AT&T 28 Days is really about that. I think The Dreamer, The Believer is really the soundtrack to that inspiration,” the Grammy award winner said.

Loretta Walker, AT&T Vice President of External Affairs, added, “It’s a program that revolves, so not only is it on the website, but you can review all of the different series that are in different cities. It’s a viral effect, the ability to interact with others who are tweeting about it.”

You can visit www.att.com/thebridge to stay engaged.c

The Health Care Law and You:

What is available to you NOW. Who Gets What Benefit Californians with a pre-existing medical condition can qualify for health insurance through a special insurance program. How Many Will Benefit About 6.5 million Californians under the age of 65.
Rollout Date: July 1, 2010 Who Gets What Benefit Children with a pre-existing medical condition up to age 19 cannot be denied coverage through private health insurance. How Many Will Benefit Around 576,500 children. Rollout Date: September 23, 2010
Who Gets What Benefit People 65 or older and the disabled on Medicare Part D (prescription drug plan) will get financial relief when they fall into the prescription drug coverage gap called the so-called “donut hole.” They will get a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs in the” donut hole” and pay less for generic drugs. How Many Will Benefit 4.6 million Californians. Rollout Date: January, 2011 Who Gets What Benefit Those on Medicare will get free preventive care with no co-payments for such things as mammograms, blood pressure checkups and HIV screening. How Many Will Benefit 4.6 million Californians.
Rollout Date: September 23, 2010 Who Gets What Benefit Californians cannot be dropped from their insurance plans when they get a serious illness. Insurance companies are banned from doing that. How Many Will Benefit Approx. 2 to 3 million Californians in the individual insurance market Rollout Date: September 23, 2010 Who Gets What Benefit Young adults can remain on a parent’s employer-based insurance until they turn 26. How Many Will Benefit Approximately 200,000 young adults in California.
Rollout Date: September 23, 2010 Who Gets What Benefit Small business owners with 25 or fewer full-time employees who earn less than $50,000 may qualify for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of what they pay in health insurance to offset the cost. Non-profits qualify for up to 25 percent tax credit. How Many Will Benefit Approximately 456,000 small businesses.
Rollout Date: March 23, 2010

Women’s AIDS Group Celebrates 20 Years

By Jesse
Brooks

Cynthia Carey-Grant, WORLD’S Executive Director since 2009.

A special awards program with cocktails and a silent auction will give “Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Diseases” (WORLD) a chance to remember and honor courageous people who are committed to fight against HIV/AIDS and the stigmas that  accompany it for women.
2011 marked 20 years that WORLD has been providing critical life-enhancing programs and advocacy for women living with HIV and their families.  No one imagined that a small group of   Bay Area HIV positive women who started a support group in 1991 to share information, resources and survival strategies would grow into an internationally recognized organization, linking over 12,000 women in 85 countries.
Television personality Barbara Rodgers will serve as mistress of ceremonies. Special guest speaker Marvelyn Brown, a 27-year old native Tennessean who learned that she was HIV positive at the age of 19, will tell her compelling story, which has moved audiences at hundreds of colleges, universities, churches and conferences worldwide.
Brown’s autobiography, “The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive,” was published in 2008.
Cynthia Carey-Grant, who became WORLD’s Executive Director in 2009  in the midst of difficult budget cuts, sees WORLD as a powerful organization with a rich inspiring history and a legacy that must be honored.
“As someone whose life has been personally touched by HIV, ” she said, referring to her brother who died from AIDS, “I know that the face of women most at risk for HIV looks like my daughter, my sister, and me. I believe we must make the change we want in the world.”
African American women account for over half of HIV transmissions in women each year.  AIDS is the No. 1 cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 44, beating out heart disease, cancer and homicide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women made up 67 percent of AIDS diagnoses among women in 2004 and of all women living with AIDS, 64 percent are estimated to be Black.
WORLD’s 2012 Award recipients include Dr. Robert Scott, and Clara Broker, both deceased; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Loren Jones; Nilda Rodriquez; and Cecilia Chung, a nationally recognized civil rights leader who is currently a Human Rights Commissioner in San Francisco.
Scott and Broker were both East Bay doctors, who are remembered for their fearless leadership in the HIV/AIDS community.
“All of these people are unsung heroes and sheroes,” said Carey-Grant. “In many cases their recognition doesn’t match their compassionate contributions.”
For more information  contact mrjessebrooksii@gmail.com or 510-575-8245.

St. Andrew Holds Empowerment Workshops

By Haqq Shabazz

St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church at 2624 West St. in Oakland is presenting a series of workshops on Saturdays beginning in March.
The workshops are designed to meet the needs of single parents who are looking for assistance with their homes and children, social and community needs; struggling students who are seeking high school diplomas, math enrichment or to build literacy skills; adult literacy skills; music courses in percussion, keyboard and wind instruments; candidates for licensing and ordination in ministry courses for university credit; homework help; test taking; and how to fill out a job application.
The community is welcome to participate in these workshops. For information and to RSVP, call (510) 465-1515.

Allen Temple Offers Drug Abuse Intervention Training

A panel of experts at Allen Temple’s substance abuse in-service were (L to R) Kenny Hall, Senior Case Manager, Allen Temple and Ark of Refuge; Angela Porter, Director of Operations, New Bridge Foundation; Suzanne Hicks, Program Director, New Bridge Foundation; Claudius Johnson, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice. Photo by Adam L. Turner.

Whitney Houston’s untimely and senseless death profoundly shocked and saddened many in the African American, and larger community, sadly punctuating the continuing cycle of drug-related deaths among Americans, whether caused by overdoses, mixing alcohol and prescription drugs, or violence.
The aftermath also punctuated the anger, frustration and pain that family and friends feel as they watch loved ones succumb to the negative impacts that drug abuse can have on individuals, families and neighborhoods.
“Save a life. Save a family. Save our community!” – was the theme of an Allen Temple Baptist Church in-service training workshop organized with the support of New Bridge Foundation, one of the largest and oldest drug treatment agencies in Alameda County.
Coincidentally, Houston’s funeral was held the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18, when the pre-planned in-service training was held in the afternoon for more than 60 Allen Temple ministers, deacons, social service staff and other professionals from the community.
“We are committed to attacking the problem of drug abuse that is taking such a horrendous toll on our communities,” said Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr., Senior Pastor of the 5,000 plus member Allen Temple.  “To do this, we must use the wisdom and best practices available so that we are effective in motivating substance abusers to get into treatment.”
In two hours of highly interactive and spirited discussion, the assembled group, led by Dr. Abby Medcalf and other professionals from New Bridge Foundation, grappled with approaches, concerns and the “do’s and don’ts” related to successfully engaging work colleagues, loved ones and others to encourage them to commit to treatment.
The “Save a life; Save a Family; Save Our Community” theme highlights a campaign mounted by New Bridge Foundation as it works with churches, labor unions, private and public sector employers and other organizations to get more people into treatment.  Located just north of the U.C. Berkeley Campus, New Bridge Foundation provides services to more than 2.000 people per year.
For more information about getting into treatment, or sponsoring a training workshop, call Daina Coffey at (510) 548-7270.

Whitney Houston is Alive in Our Memories

The world lost a treasured voice when Whitney Houston died on Feb. 11. She is being remembered not only as a great singer but as a trailblazer in the industry, setting many records and becoming one of pop music’s divas.
Whitney Houston’s groundbreaking achievements included more than 400 career awards, and a record-setting string of seven consecutive Number One singles. She sold more than 170 million albums worldwide including one of the best-selling movie soundtracks of all time, The Bodyguard.
Whitney Houston was from a musical family. Her mother is the She was the daughter of a famous gospel singer Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick was her cousin and Aretha Franklin was her godmother. Whitney began singing as a gospel singer and pianist in her mother’s church and sometimes she performed alongside her mother in nightclubs. At age 15, Whitney sang backup on Chaka Khan’s song  “I’m Every Woman,” a tune she later performed on The Bodyguard soundtrack. Her vocal range became her signature sound.
But Whitney wasn’t only a singer. She was also an actress, starring in “The Bodyguard,” “Waiting To Exhale,” and “The Preacher’s Wife.”  In 1998, she released her most musically-diverse album to date, “My Love Is Your Love.”  Her final album, I Look To You, sold more than two million copies and reached the Number One spot in 2009.
The past 10 years were filled with highs and lows. Whitney’s contract at Arista Records was renewed for $100 million but album sales began to drop. Her marriage to singer Bobby Brown ended in 2007, and she canceled concerts and interviews. There were also allegations of drug abuse. In May of 2011, she went to a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol problems.
Houston’s untimely death prompted tributes the world over. Celebrities in Los Angeles for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards spoke about her contributions. Mariah Carey said, “She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices ever to grace the earth.”  And Tony Bennett, who dedicated a song to her at a pre-Grammy party, said, “When I first heard her I called Clive Davis and said, ‘You finally found the greatest singer I’ve ever heard in my life.’”

Mills College President Speaks at Beth Eden

By David Scott

Dr. Gillette O. James, Pastor of Beth Eden Baptist Church, and Dr.Alecia A. Decoudreaux, President Mills College.

Dr. Alecia A. DeCoudreaux, the first African-American President of Mills College, was keynote speaker Sunday Feb. 19 at Beth Eden Baptist Church in Oakland.
“I want students to think critically, communicate effectively, following their passion to impact the world and giving back to those in need, “ she said, explaining her vision for the women’s college, which she has led since taking the position in July.
Pastor Gillette O. James, Senior Pastor at Beth Eden, invited DeCoudreaux to speak as part of Black History Month and to welcome her to the Bay Area.
“We here at Beth Eden were blessed with her global vision for Mills College. She inspires our congregation to pursue higher education at any age,” said Pastor James.
As a child raised on the South Side of Chicago, she learned from her grandmother about the value of education, DeCoudreaux said. “She taught me education is the key to independence.”
Before taking the position at Mills, she served as vice president and deputy general counsel at Eli Lilly and Company, where she worked for three decades. She was also executive director of Lilly Research Laboratories, research planning and scientific administration and directed governmental and community relations for the company.
A graduate of Wellesley, one of the largest women’s colleges in the nation, DeCoudreaux has a background in women’s education combined with more than 30 years of experience as a corporate attorney, women’s advocate, fundraiser, and community volunteer.

KBLX’s Nikki Thomas Celebrates 42nd Birthday

By David Scott

Nikki Thomas. Photo by Cory E. Jefferies.

Radio personality Nikki Thomas celebrated her 42nd birthday and the Networking Love Festival on Valentine’s Day Feb. 14 at the Liege Spirit  Lounge in Old Oakland.
“I wanted to get people together to network, celebrating love, community, entertainment and most important – empowerment,’’ said Thomas, who is co-host of the Kevin Brown Morning Show on KBLX 102.9 FM Radio.
Born and raised in New Orleans, she knew as a child she was destined to be on the radio.  Inspired by her great grandmother’s request to read her the daily horoscope, she began reading news articles aloud, pretending to be on the air.
After graduating from high school in 1988, she attended Xavier University, majoring in communications. While in college she started working at a local New Orleans radio station, eventually moving to the Bay Area to work at KBLX.
“Working with Kevin Brown is a wonderful experience,” she said. “We have a great chemistry with each other that’s totally spontaneous, unscripted and unrehearsed.  And our listeners love it. “
Her advice to young women is, “First take yourself and your career seriously, set goals for yourself, and have a game plan. The greatest love of all is to love and value yourself.”
For information on the Nikki Thomas Network visit www.thenikkithomasnetwork.com.

A Safe Place Holds Teen Dating Violence Town Hall

Carolyn Russell, Executive Director of A Safe Place, holds “Love Never Hurts” Poster with Teen Dating Violence Prevention Contest First Place Winner Shawn Robinson of Lincoln High School.

By Carla
Thomas

Teens and youth advocates shined a light on an important but under-discussed issue facing young people – teen dating violence and prevention – at a Feb. 15 town hall meeting at Oakland City Hall.
The session, called “Teens Acknowledging their Strength and Power” was organized by A Safe Place, an Oakland-based agency, to commemorate National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and hosted by Council Member Desley Brooks and the City of Oakland.
Several speakers emphasized faith as a crucial factor that allowed them to survive some of the most horrific crises.
“Don’t ever discredit the power of God,” said 25-year- old Kareem Marshall Sasir, whose battered mother was discovered stuffed in a suitcase floating in San Francisco Bay in May 2010.
A panel of speakers included spoken word artist Jazz, journalist Tasion Kwamilele and psychologist Dr. Arthur L. Hall.
Jazz urged youth to find their focus and purpose, build self-esteem and take pride in their heritage as part of the global African Diaspora.
“Don’t believe all the negative hype you hear about Black people,” she said.
Kwamilele urged people to remember that even perpetrators require services because they, too, were often victimized as children.
Carolyn Russell, executive director of A Safe Place, talked about the expansion of the agency’s services to male victims of violence.
“More than 63 percent of prisoners were incarcerated for hurting a male who was hurting their own mother, and over 50 percent of Oakland high school students say they have experienced teen dating violence,” said Russell.
Regina Rimando and Darlene Cooper, A Safe Place teen program leaders, presented i-Pods to winners of the agency’s poster contest.
The first –place winner was Shawn Robinson of Lincoln High School, who created a “Love Never Hurts” poster of a broken heart with chained hands breaking free.
The second-place winner was Diana Jauregui of Oakland Unity High School. “I wanted my poster to show youth and the power they have to break the negative cycles in their lives,” she said.
For more information on A Safe Place, go to www.asafeplacedvs.org

The West Dominates NBA All-Star

By: Malaika Bobino

Orlando, FL – It didn’t take a looming lockout to keep the stars from shinning tonight.  Excited to be back on the court, taking a break from a grueling schedule, NBA players maintained a smiles and had a good time on the court.  The usual cast of characters were named to this year’s NBA All-Star game with a few surprising additions.

Every year it gets more and more competitive, especially due to the new generation of talent across the league but tonight the best in the NBA displayed why they were the chosen ones. The Western Conference wasted no time in soaring in the first half with an all time best 88 points.

The first time any team scored that many points in a All-Star game, yet the East Conference provided the best entertainment in dunks and assists.  It makes you think back to the night before when the Slam Dunk Contest lacked the superstar caliber which many of us hope returns next year. There wasn’t much defense in the first half from the East as the West dominated early.

But as most All-Star games go the second half becomes more serious for the team who plays catchup.  The East led by LeBron James and Dwayne Wade got back into the game mentally and physically to cut the lead down to one making it more exciting down the stretch.

“When you put that many great players on the floor, your in a bind on almost every possession,” said Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.  “If you over commit to your help, your going to give up wide-open shots and then have to take a second shot.  Often times the speed of the game your caught cross-matched and your giving up lay-ups.”

Not the case for the West, the two shinning stars were Kevin Durant  and Kobe Bryant.  In his 13th All-Star game Bryant set the all-time All-Star record surpassing Michael Jordan with 271 points.  Jordan had set the record of 262 career All-Star points.

Kobe finished the night with 27 points. Durant ended his spectacular night with 36 points and the MVP.  Along with Bryant they both led the West to a 152-149 victory over the East.  Up by as much as 18 points Kevin began the night on a mission.  By the end of the first half he led all scores for the West with 14 points.

“With all these great players on the floor, you never know what will happen, Durant said.  “Guys making big shots and they cut it down to one.  We were up 18.”

James who started the game with laughter and fabulous dunks got serious in the fourth along with the East.  In the closing seconds LeBron inbounded the ball which resulted in a turnover for the East and that cost them the game.  He finished with 36 points while Wade ended the night with a triple double.

“When I tried to throw it late, that’s what usually happens and it results in a turnover, said LeBron.  “Definitely wish I could have that one back.”

Bethel AME Celebrates 160 Years

By Lee Hubbard

Bethel AME Church in San Francisco.

Just a few years after the California gold rush began at Sutter’s Mill in Northern California, Bethel AME church in San Francisco was founded in 1852.
The church was founded as a merger between several AME churches in San Francisco, making Bethel the oldest African American church in the city.
Three of the church’s early members were involved in the Underground Railroad, part of the historic legacy of Bethel AME that will be celebrated in a series of events in the next two weeks.
“Bethel was born the same year Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The church’s history shows the power and presence of African Americans in the early period of California,” said Rev. J Edgar Boyd, senior pastor at the church.
A celebration, “Preserving a Legacy,” will mark the church’s 160th anniversary with three events.
On Sunday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m. there will be a musical celebration featuring Bethel AME’s New Vision choir.
“The show will feature our heritage in music,” said A. Keith Williams Sr., minister of music at Bethel. “We will show how church music has changed from spirituals to contemporary music to traditional gospel.”
The 160th Anniversary Gala Banquet will be held March 3 at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in the Nob Hill area of San Francisco.  The banquet features a retrospective of Bethel’s history, a silent auction, presentations and musical performances.  Tickets are $160 and can be purchased at the church’s business office.
The traditional anniversary celebration services will be held at the church Sunday, March 4, at the 8 a.m. and the 11 a.m. services.  At the 8 a.m. service Dr. Paul Martin, President of the American Baptist Seminary of the West, will be host preacher.
Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop T. Larry Kirkland will be the host preacher at 11 a.m.
“This is a great time of celebration for the church,” continued Pastor Boyd.  “Looking back on 160 years, the congregation has come mighty far. Much of the church’s life also spans the history of San Francisco.”
Bethel AME moved to its present location in the 1950s, where it has played an important role in the Western Addition and the city’s African American community.
Bethel AME Church is located at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. For more information on all of the events visit www.bethelamesf.com or call the church’s office at (415) 921-4935.

National Occupy Faith Gathering in Berkeley

An Occupy Faith National Gathering is being held in Berkeley, hosted by the Interfaith Tent at Oakland  to bring together faith leaders supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The gathering is billed as a chance to be with other faith leaders, to link people, support each other, share ideas, and create a few ways people of faith might help, in their own way, to make a national impact on the movement, including planning something they can do as a coordinated effort.
The event runs from Tuesday to Thursday, March 20 – March 22 at the Ecumenical Center of the Graduate Theological Union, 2401 Le Conte Ave. in Berkeley.
Each faith occupation is invited to send up to three delegates. Anyone can attend, but delegations are limited to three representatives, in order to provide financial support for travel and housing in people’s homes.
On the first evening, participants will hold a public panel for occupiers from all over the Bay Area. The second evening, Wednesday, they will hold an interfaith service at Occupy Oakland.
For information, contact Sandy Gess at sjgess@earthlink.net or Rita Brock at 510-459-5123.

Nominations for Historic Preservation Awards

Richmond’s Planning and Building Services Department is now accepting nominations for the 5th Annual Historic Preservation Awards.
The purpose of the Historic Preservation Commission’s awards program is to increase public awareness of Richmond’s heritage by recognizing individuals, organizations, businesses, and agencies whose contributions demonstrate outstanding commitment to excellence in historic preservation, local history or promotion of the heritage of the City.
In addition to public and private buildings or structures, eligible historic preservation projects include media, publications, presentations and exhibits, parks, burial grounds, public art, oral history, theater productions, events and video presentations.
Nomination forms are available online at www.ci.richmond.ca.us/preservationawards.  Or pick up a nomination form at the Planning and Building Services Department’s information counter at City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Last year’s award recipients were the City of Richmond and the Save the Plunge Trust for Rehabilitation of the Richmond Municipal Natatorium.
The deadline to submit nomination is 5 p.m. on March 30. Awards will be presented during May, which is National Preservation Month.
For information contact Hector Rojas, Associate Planner, at (510) 620-6662 or hector_rojas@ci.richmond.ca.us.

Richmond’s CyberTran Ultra Light Rail Moves Ahead

By Ken A. Epstein

Dexter Vizinau, president of CyberTran, stands next to ultra light rail car.

CyberTran International, a Richmond-based start up company, is turning a lot of heads with its “ultra light rail” project that has the potential to significantly transform mass transit in the Bay Area and around the country.
CyberTran is developing computer-automated, solar-powered trains, in reality more like passenger cars, that can move up to 20 passengers at a time between stations. Because of the small size of the vehicles, they are easier to build and much cheaper than bigger systems like Bay Area Rapid Transit.
The company’s technology will create a passenger rail system that allows passenger to plan their destinations around their personal schedules, not stop at every station like other systems.
Because stations are built on off-track sidings,  other cars can move through the system while some are unloading and loading.
“Currently, transit projects in the Bay Area are stalled or can only be constructed piecemeal. The ultra-light rain transit system developed by CyberTran represents the possibility of enabling these projects to built soon and at a quarter of the cost,” said Dexter Vizinau, president of CyberTran.
In addition, said Vizinau, the success of CyberTran’s project would be a major economic boon to Richmond. “The development of a light rail manufacturing plant in Richmond potentially means thousands of jobs for local residents,” he said.
The Richmond City Council voted unanimously in September to enter a public-private partnership with company. On Feb. 14, another agency, i-Gate, signed an agreement with the company.
i-GATE, a state-sponsored business incubator, has asked CyberTran to participate in a network of green transportation and clean-energy technologies, where the company can access advanced industry and  technology development opportunities.
“We are excited by joining i-GATE,” said Neil Sinclair, CyberTran’s chairman. “Cyber-Trans’s technology development will be accelerated by joining i-GATE’s system of two national research labs, universities and venture community.”
The company currently is seeking $25 million in funding in order to build a test track,  a significant price tag but much less than an equivalent piece of BART track.
CyberTran is hoping it will be funded by a new transportation reauthorization bill that is now under discussion in Washington.  However, the company understands that it  still struggling within the context of a transportation environment  traditionally dominated by points of view that opposed or ignored  new transit technology for the past 30 years.

Economics of Happiness Conference in Berkeley

Helena Norberg-Hodge

An Economics of Happiness conference will bring together respected thinkers and activists in the worldwide localization movement to focus on an agenda for change—away from jobless growth towards sustainable livelihoods; from large-scale sweatshops towards scaled-down business; from a globalized system of inequality towards an economics of happiness.
The three-day event will be held March 23 to 25 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.
Hosted by the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), the Economics of Happiness conference seeks to provide clarity on the way forward — towards more truly sustainable ways of living. It will cover a range of interconnected topics, including public policy choices; local initiatives in food, energy, education, business and banking; the need to bridge the North-South divide; and the influence of the economy on our psychological well-being.
Speakers include Bay Area locals Annie Leonard, Anuradha Mittal, Joanna Macy and Rebecca Tarbotton, as well as Charles Eisenstein, Sulak Sivaraksa, Richard Heinberg, Michael Shuman, Stacy Mitchell, Megan Quinn Bachman, Judy Wicks, Gustavo Esteva, Manish Jain, Helena Norberg-Hodge and more.  The event will also feature performances by local celebrities Jennifer Berezan, Nina Wise and Wes “Scoop” Nisker.
“Economic localization is the key to sustaining biological and cultural diversity – to sustaining life itself.  The sooner we shift towards the local, the sooner we will begin healing our planet, our communities, and ourselves,” said Helena Norberg-Hodge, director and producer of The Economics of Happiness film.
For more information go to www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/

March for Dignity at Pacific Steel

By Tony Wilkinson

Protesters support 200 immigrants who lost their jobs at Pacific Steel. Photo by Tony Wilkinson.

Hundreds of neighbors, friends, family   members, clergy and union members gathered in front of Berkeley old City Hall Friday, Feb. 17 for a March for Dignity that had been called to support 200 workers who were removed from their lobs at Pacific Steel as a result of a “silent” raid by the Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency – also known as ICE.
With banners, strollers and a brass band, the marchers walked down University Avenue and then San Pablo Avenue to the plant on 2nd Street near Gilman. Many of the participants wore paper hearts, to show that their actions were a statement of love as well as solidarity.
ICE, instead of sending a team of armed agents to the plant, had simply instructed the company to remove the workers from the payroll for failing an “I-9” audit. The workers, who were all members of the Glass, Molders, Pottery Workers International union Local 164B, totaled about one-third of Pacific Steel Casting’s Berkeley plant, where they had worked between 5 and 20 years.
Those who had failed the ICE audit appeared to be working without residency documents and have lost their jobs and access to health care for their families.
One of the laid off workers, Jesus Navarro, had been waiting for a kidney transplant, but now without medical coverage, he has been denied treatment at UC San Francisco Medical Center.
The march concluded with a rally near the plant, calling on Congress and the Obama administration to implement immediate immigration reform that allows immigrants to work within a framework of peace, fair working conditions and unity with their families.
“How is it that the federal government can step into a community and put hundreds of union workers on the street, and yet they can’t address comprehensive immigration reforms?” One marcher asked.
“Why is it so easy to find hundreds of workers without papers when they can’t ‘t find a crooked banker in a sea of papers?”

Youth Mentor Andre Mouton Wins Pardon

By Ken A. Epstein

Andre Mouton

Andre Mouton, longtime youth mentor in Oakland and San Francisco schools, had his criminal record cleared recently when he was pardoned  by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Mouton, 51, was one of 21 whose pardons were approved by Brown  from among more 50 names that the Department of Corrections had  recommended to the governor.
“It kind of offsets my record. The significance is that this restores most of my civil rights,” Mouton said.  “I can serve on a jury and serve in public office. I also can hold jobs in probation and parole.”
Mouton currently works at UC Berkeley as a mentor and runs a mentoring organization, Students Advocate for Education (SAFE), providing services at the three small schools at Castlemont High School in East Oakland.
He was convicted in 1989 of second-degree burglary, which is classified as a nonviolent and not a serious felony.
“When I got out, I started working as a principal’s secretary in 1994, because I type 80 words a minute,” he said. The district was aware of his record and had no issue with hiring him.
He started a mentoring program at Castlemont in 2000, supervising a staff of five that was funded by the school district. He also began a transitional program for homeless students at the school.
When the state took over the school district in 2003, he was “ousted” by State Trustee Randy Ward. “They used my criminal record against me because they wanted to use the money my program was getting,” he said.
At that point, he went to work in San Francisco schools and at a charter school.  When Randy Ward left, he was rehired in Oakland.
Former School board member Paul Cobb said he remembered Mouton´s activism on behalf of students.
“If more teachers, churches and counselors followed Mr. Mouton´s example, our schools would be a better place,” Cobb said. “Maybe Mr. Mouton would consider running for a seat on the school board some day.”

Churches Host Stop the Violence Party

By Carla
Thomas

Bishop Bob Jackson in red hat and jacket with Bay Area church leaders. Photo by Carla Thomas.

With the love of Jesus Christ in their hearts and a mission to heal the neighborhood, the Spreading the Word Across Town (SWAT) team at Acts Full Gospel Church partnered with Tower of Faith Ministries to host a “Stop the Violence” block party Saturday Feb. 18.
“We want to pray and just touch heaven today,” said Senior Associate Pastor Dr. Wendell McCoy, as Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full COGIC and Pastor Roosevelt Taylor of Tower of Faith Ministries led prayers in praise and a spirit of hope with about 400 community members at the intersection of Havenscourt Boulevard and Bancroft Avenue in Oakland.
“I was inspired to have this block party because I am tired of the violence and the babies dying,” said Bishop Jackson, as he released one of three white doves in memory of Oakland children who have died by gun violence, all before their sixth birthdays.
The doves were released for 3-year-old Carlos Nava, 23-month-old Hiram Lawrence Jr. and 5-year-old Gabriel Martinez Jr. A dozen more doves were released in commemorate all who have been affected by the violence and killings.
“We can reach these troubled kids in the community more effectively if they see the church, law enforcement, politicians, and park and recreation department connected, ” said Pastor Taylor.
Participants included Lena Binns and Darren Brown of PG&E who authorized the use of the company parking lot for the kids’ zone, which featured a brightly colored bounce house and refreshments.
“I’m an Oakland resident, and this means a lot to me. And anything we can do to partner with Bishop Jackson and Pastor Taylor, I’m happy to do it, said Binns.

Protesters to Occupy State Capitol

By Tanya
Dennis

Andrew Faulk, Frank Jernigan and ACCE Member Shirley Burrell at the Millionaires Tax Press Conference. Jernigan, who made millions investing in Google is a member of the “Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength” On November 15th 2011 Jernigan called on the Super Committee and Congress to increase the country’s revenues by taxing the most wealthy. “How can we stand back while they insist on financing the economic recovery on the back’s of the less fortunate by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, social security, education, health care, etc. It is unconscionable!”

Thousands of students, parents, teachers and workers will occupy the state Capitol Monday, March 5, while 70 people are planning to walk 99 miles from Berkeley to Sacramento to join the rally.
A march to kick off the occupation begins at 10 a.m. at Southside Park at 6th and T streets. The  rally at the Capitol Building begins at 11 a.m.  The protest  will support the Millionaires Tax initiative that is gathering signatures for the November ballot.
The March 5 occupation is is supported by SEIU 1021, UAW 2865, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Organization (CCISCO), Oakland Community Organization (OCO), the California Federation of Teachers, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Oakland, San Francisco and Contra Costa chapters; California Nurses Association and Refund California, which is a coalition of groups.
Refund California will provide buses leaving at 7 a.m. from Berkeley and Oakland to Sacramento.  The coalition is encouraging participants to spend the night in support of the occupation and is anticipating 1,000 protesters will demand that Wall Street and the 1% pay to refund education, jobs, essential services and a better future.
For bus information call (510) 549-3863 or email uaw2865@uaw2865.org

Nigerian Tunde Okorodudu Returns Home to Oakland to Celebrate Black History Month

Tunde Okoroduduwas featured in January 2012 edition of WARRI VOICE.

Tunde Okorodudu this week congratulated President Barack Obama for the groundbreaking of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
He is a political leader and union and human rights activist with over 30 years experience working for justice in Nigeria.
While living in the Bay Area, he has served as president of SEIU Local 535, President of the Nigerian Association of California and is a longtime friend of former Post editor Chauncey Bailey and host of TV show AfricaBeat.
In 2003, he ran for the Nigerian Senate in Delta State as a candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which is the country’s leading opposition party, while the ruling party is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The following is an excerpt of a recent interview with Mr. Okorodudu in the Warri Voice, a news magazine in Nigeria.
Q: You bave been out of the political scene for quite a while; what is the reason?
A: No, I have been fully involved in the development of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in Delta State. As a leader in the State caucus of the party, under the leadership of Chief Adolo OkotieEboh, who is the State Chairman, we have been working very hard, to present an alternative party, other than the PDP, for Delta State. As you will see, the wind of change is blowing. ACN, has taken over in virtually all the South West States, and it has reached Edo State with an ACN Governor in the person of Adams Oshiomole. Very soon the wind of change will blow into Delta State.
Q: The security situation in the Northern part of the country has become worrisome; what would you ascribe for this?
A: The bombing of Churches and killing of mostly Christians from the Southern part of Nigeria by the terrorist group, Boko Haram reminds me how the civil war that started in 1966, when southerners were butchered. It led to the Aburi summit in Ghana by the military government then led by Gen. Yakubu Gowon which was to discuss about confederation for Nigeria. It was not implemented; this led to the Biafran/Nigeria war in 1967-1970.
Q: Some people are insinuating that the Boko Haram onslaught is politically motivated; do you subscribe to that argument?
A: Boko Haram is just a front for some unscrupulous northern political leaders who have sworn that, they will make Nigeria ungovernable for President Jonathan because, he did not step aside for a Northern candidate, in the last Presidential election.  The Nigerian constitution does not have this kind of arrangements for alternating between the north and south.
Q: What do you think is the way forward on the present security situation?
A: The only solution to avert a civil war or a disintegration of Nigeria is to allow for. a sovereign National Conference to hold, so that all ethnic Nationalities can sit together and deliberate a peaceful solution to the Nigeria question. We need to sit and talk about how, we can form a true Federation, where there will be more regional powers, than the current unitary system, where all powers have been centralized in Abuja. The CIA of the United States, seven years ago, predicted a possible disintegration of Nigeria before 2015.
Q: Ever since you con tested for Senatorial seat, nothing else has been heard from you. Do you have any plans contesting in 2015?
A: Yes, I contested for the Delta South Senatorial seat in 2003 when I returned from in the United States of America, where I acquired my University education. I was employed as a civil servant in the County govt for over 15 years. I took an early retirement to come back home to contribute to the development of my Country. I felt that with my vast experiences from being the first non-American Student Union President of my University in California in the 1980s, also elected as a regional President of the California Student Association. Also elected as the President of the Nigerian American Association of California for several years, I felt I have acquired the motivation and experience to go back home and serve my people. The unfair electoral malpractice in Nigeria robbed me of an opportunity to serve my country. However, I am still fully involved in politics. As, I earlier mentioned, as a chieftain of CAN in Delta State, the future is still of hope for me to contribute in any way, to help in uplifting  my beloved state, Delta.

Keith Carson Honors “Future History Makers”

By Ken A. Epstein

Winners of Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s Future History Makers awards are (L to R) Kevin Taylor, McClymonds High principal; Patricia Saddler, Longfellow Middle School principal; Jakada Imani of Ella Baker Center; and for Turner Group Construction, Kenneth Houston and Len Turner, General Manager. Not shown is Nola Brantley, executive director of MISSSEY. Photo by Ken A. Epstein

County Supervisor Keith Carson commemorated Black History Month this week with a celebration of five outstanding “Future History Makers” whose leadership is making a difference in the community.
“We are here to say thank you to individuals who are contributing each and every day,” said Carson, speaking at Thursday’s reception held at Joyce Gordon Gallery at 406 14th St. in Oakland
Winners of the award, who were also honored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, were: Patricia Saddler, principal  of Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley;  Kevin Taylor, principal of McClymonds High School in Oakland; Nola Brantley, executive director of Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY); Jakada Imani, Executive Director of Ella Baker Center; and Turner Group Construction.
Patricia Saddler served as a teacher and principal in Oakland schools before moving to Berkeley, where she works at Longfellow.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan honored her school in 2010 for outstanding achievement in math and the impressive percentage of students of color performing at or above grade-level.
Kevin Taylor, an Oakland native, attended Cal State Northridge on a full basketball scholarship, winning recognition as Academic Athlete of the Year. He became principal in 2010 at McClymonds High. He is promoting academic improvement and community involvement at the school, letting the world know that “Mack is Back.”
Nola Brantley, through her work at MISSEEY, coordinates services for commercially sexually exploited and trafficked minors in Alameda County.  Her efforts have resulted in increased community awareness and services for victimized children and youth.
Jakada Imani, born and raised in Oakland, served on the staff of Oakland Councilmember Nancy Nadel and at several nonprofit youth groups before finding a home at Ella Baker Center, where he has been executive director since 2007.  An experienced youth organizer, he leads Ella Baker’s campaigns for “Books Not Bars,” youth empowerment to “Heal the Streets” and for “Green-Collar Jobs.”
Established in 2005, Turner Group Construction was founded by brothers Len and Lance Turner.  As Oakland natives, the company hires local residents and has been involved in many important local commercial and public development projects.

Freedman’s Bank Still Connecting Families

Editor’s note: In partnership with the Deseret News, we bring you this story about how the Mormon church digitized the Freedman’s Bank Records as a resource to unite African American families.

 

Part I
By Trent Toone,
Deseret News

Darius Gray (right) gets a hug from Winston Wilkinson after his lecture on genealogy for African-Americans at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in 2010. James Edemenang is pictured at the left. (Jason Olson, Deseret News Archives).

The cousins from New Jersey can still vividly recall a day two years ago when they found the name of a Florida plantation owner and unlocked a list of their slave ancestors from the 1850s.
“The feeling was indescribable, so emotional,” Floyd Riley said. “It’s a roller-coaster ride. What happens is you get this adrenaline rush. You are so excited you want to scream, ‘I found them!’”
Riley and Shamele Jordan were in the quiet Family History Library, but it was difficult to refrain from high-fives and fist pumps after their long, toilsome search.
“We did a little yell. People came over and asked what we found. It was really super exciting,” Jordan said. “African-Americans were considered property, bought and sold like cattle. That makes it very difficult to continue tracing your family during the Antebellum period. But we were able to find an ancestor. That feels like a triumph over the whole institution of slavery.”
Discovering this lost branch of family history would not have been possible without Nancy Guiles, a name Jordan and Riley found in Freedman’s Bank records.
More than a decade since its release, this database of post-Civil War-era documents covering several generations of African-Americans continues to open previously hidden doors in genealogy and family history research. It continues to connect families and bless lives.
William Alexander Haley, chairman of the Alex Haley Center and son of the late Alex Haley, was right in 2001 when he said Freedman’s Bank records would be more than just historical records: “They may be the Rosetta Stone — the piece that allows you to go in and make the connection.”
In 1865, Freedman’s Bank was chartered to offer financial services to tens of thousands of former slaves across the United States. An estimated 70,000 customers opened and closed accounts at the bank, with deposits totaling more than $57 million. Nine years later, mismanagement and fraud caused the bank to collapse.
But the records remained.
In 1989, Marie Taylor, an employee of the Family and Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, found the original microfilms of the records and recognized their significance.
“When I discovered Freedman’s Bank records, I envisioned African-Americans breaking the chains of slavery and forging the bonds of families,” she said in 2001.
With the help of Darius Gray, a friend and genealogist, and approximately 550 prisoners at the Utah State Prison, more than 480,000 names were extracted, linked and automated over the next 11 years. The inmates performed the work on their own time and agreed to pray together each day before going to work. Gray recalls how the prisoners came together to help each other decipher the names and ultimately accomplished the massive task.
Ultimately, it was the people in the records that meant the most to Gray and Taylor.

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Collins’ Freedman’s Bank Book Parallels Mormon Church Research

By Paul Cobb

John Collins

John Collins wants all Americans, especially Blacks, to commemorate March 3 this year: “Everybody should research the Freedman’s Bank, which was founded March 3, 1865. Congress backed the bank as a safe haven for former slaves to deposit their savings and small treasures.”
Collins, a numismatist, historian, Buffalo Soldier, inventor and minister, had collected rare civil war era currency and begun research for his book about what happened to the millions of dollars of freed Blacks’ money when he heard on March 3, 2001 that a Black Mormon, Darius Gray, and White Mormon, Marie Taylor, had initiated automating the Freedman’s Bank records.
“What a courageous effort by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to digitize a significant portion of names of our ancestors,” said Collins. “They were focusing on bank books. I was focusing on what happened to the money and why Congress didn’t fulfill the promise to the former slaves.”
“If all the other denominations would do something similar, it would help me  and the Post News Group complete the story of what happened to the money. That would help us repair this nation’s history,” Collins continued.
Collins   is a retired pastor in the same church that had Sojourner Truth as a member, the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She met with President Lincoln to discuss the needs of African Americans.
When Collins saw a slave on a hundred dollar bank note issued by the city of Montgomery, Alabama, he began his research into slave images on Confederate and US currency and coins.
He discovered that Frederick Douglass was made president of the bank and asked to give $10,000 of his money to bail out the white Congresspersons and philanthropists that had made bad loans to white businesses and did not collect on the unpaid loans.
Collins’ book will reveal the genesis of the term “window-dressing,” which was used to describe how illiterate blacks were hired to sit in the window and behind desks to help convince other Blacks that the bank was trustworthy.
For more information visit www.postnewsgroup.com

Pete-2

Irregularities in 99% of Audits Found

By Tanya Dennis

 

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting

San Francisco County officials turned over an audit report to Attorney General Kamala Harris and the San Francisco District Attorney last week that revealed irregularities in 99% of foreclosed homes in the audit.

The study, commissioned by Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, and compiled by Aequitas Compliance Solutions, a mortgage regulatory compliance firm, revealed that in approximately 400 foreclosures, suspicious documentation or legal violation was discovered in 99 percent of the cases, many with four or more irregularities. The study reveals systematic abuse of homeowners by the banks.

Kathleen Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston said: “If there were any lingering doubts about whether the problems with loan documents in foreclosures were isolated, this study puts the question to rest.”

Last week the Attorneys General reach a $26 billion settlement regarding foreclosure improprieties with 1.5 billion to borrowers who were foreclosed upon illegally. Unfortunately those homeowners will only receive $2,000 for their homes, and as the San Francisco analysis points out, “the settlement does not resolve most of the issues this report identifies nor immunizes lenders and servicers from a host of potential liabilities.”

The study found banks filed false documents. It is a felony to knowingly file false documents with any public office in California, and many transfers of loans were made by entities that had no right to assign them, while banks took back properties in auctions without proving they owned the property.

Mr. Ting’s report is the first detailed analysis of foreclosure improprieties in California that cast doubt on the validity of almost every foreclosure examined.

The study found problems with the loan servicers not providing borrowers with a notice of default before the eviction process; 45 percent of homes were sold at auction to entities improperly claiming to own the deeds of trust, which would render the sale invalid; 85 percent recorded the transfer of a defaulted property to a new trustee improperly or not on time; breaks in the chain of title were found, a process where the lender must “endorse” the note to the new lender. In 6% of the cases, this was not done which indicates that the written transfers are invalid. The audit found serious flaws with MERS, the electronic beneficiary database set up by Freddie and Fannie Mac. 58% of the time MERS showed different owners for the same property.

Banks are aware of these potential problems and those selling foreclosed properties now require buyers to sign a document that will hold them harmless if questions arise regarding the validity of the foreclosure sale.

Clearly, we need to set up a process where lenders are following every part of the law,” Mr. Ting said. “It is very apparent that the system is broken from many different vantage points.”

Aequitas Compliance Solutions, a mortgage regulatory compliance firm, did not identify specific banks involved in the irregularities. The report contradicted the stance many banks have taken that foreclosure improprieties did little harm because the borrowers were behind on their mortgages and should have been evicted anyway. The report notes that, “We can deduce from the public evidence that there are indeed legitimate victims in the mortgage crisis. Whether these homeowners are systematically being deprived of legal safeguards and due process rights is an important question.”

The auditors say their report paints an “accurate picture” of the mortgage industry’s failure to comply with California’s foreclosure laws.

Multi-State Settlement, First Step or another Bailout?

By Tanya Dennis

Last week Attorney General Kamala Harris signed what was touted as a historic commitment to California that will benefit hundreds of thousands of homeowners hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Upon closer investigation, economists, CREDO, other grass-root organizations and others see the settlement as a “sell-out” rather than a settlement.

President Obama pressured the Attorneys General to sign an agreement that is totally inadequate.  Senator Dick Durbin said that the Wall Street banks own politicians in Washington D, .C. and it appear that his observation is true.  Compared to the 1998 tobacco industry multi-state settlement of $206 billion, equivalent to $350 billion in today’s dollars, this multi-state deal is bush league by comparison.

In the final outcome, the banks will only pay out $5 billion in actual currency.  Roughly $17 billion will be credit for principle modifications which will affect investors, pension funds, insurers and 401(k)’s.

The settlement will not help borrowers whose loans are owned by Freddie and Fannie Mac who own 62% of the loans in California, and although Wall Street banks fraudulently and illegally foreclosed on 500,000 homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the multi-state deal lets the banks off the hook by paying those homeowners $1,500 to $2,000.

The banks have been allowed to settle for $25Billion when the nation’s collective negative equity is nearly $700billion.

Yves Smith, financial analyst and founder of “Naked Capitalism” states the settlement will actually benefit the banks “now that a price for forgery and fabrication of documents has been set at $2,000, less than the price of title insurance.  While providing aid to a relatively small portion of homeowners who are delinquent and facing foreclosure, it’s a great deal for the banks because no servicer will go to jail for forgery.”

Many fear that enforcement will be a joke as the first layer of supervision will be banks reporting on themselves.  Historically, according to New York Attorney Tom Adams, “Servicers cheat in all sorts of ways to reduce their losses.”

Despite U.S. Trustee’s officers finding undisputed evidence of significant servicing errors in bankruptcy related filings and the AG’s/Fed investigation revealing 62% of documents had errors with evidence of widespread abuses such as servicer driven foreclosures and looting of investor funds, thus far no serious probe has been undertaken and servicers and banks have suffered no real consequences for their abuses.

Paul Diggle, property economist at Capital Economics in London suggests the notion that the multi-state settlement will not help turn around the American Housing Market.

“Forgiving 17 billion in principal is a drop in the Ocean.  Given that close to 11 million borrowers are underwater on their loans to the tune of 700 billion in total. $17billion in write-downs will address about 2.4 percent of the total negative equity across the nation.”

The banks received a $700Billion taxpayer’s bailout and $17 trillion in loans by the Federal Reserve.  Economist Yves Smith says that, “this settlement is yet another raw demonstration of who wields power in America and it isn’t you and me.  It’s bad enough to see these negotiations come to their predictable sorry outcome.  It adds insult to injury to see some try to depict it as a win for long suffering, still abused homeowners.”