From December 2012

The wait is over…. It's Pryor's time

By: Malaika Bobino

Oakland, CA – The decision was made and he will finally start his first NFL game since being signed two years ago.  Raiders head coach Dennsi Allen announced the news to media Friday before Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.

“It’s my decision and I have decided to go with Terrelle Pryor as our quarterback,” said Allen.  “He’ll start the game, the plan is to see how the game dictates and we’ll go from there.

Despite being the final game of the season, the wait is over.  In preseason Pryor wowed us with his ability to run the ball and pass when needed.  His athleticism overall is somewhat similar to how the San Francisco 49ers used back-up Colin Kaepernick with the “wild cat”.

However, Oakland decided against the “wild cat” and stayed with their starting quarterback Carson Palmer.  But things changed after Palmer was injured with a bruised lung and cracked ribs against the Carolina Panthers last week and ruled out for the season.

“I think really we’ve been around Terrelle for a whole season and we know what his strengths and weakness are but we really want to give him an opportunity, a chance to play and it gives us a view into the future,” Dennis explained.

The third-string quarterback had been patient all season.  He stayed close under Carson learning as much as he could and often praised Palmer as a father-figure and dear friend.  After seeing some action during the pre-season Terrelle had enough time to prepare for this day.

“I’m ready,” said Pryor.  “I had a decent week of reps, I show cased in practice with help from Carson and Matt.  I felt comfortable.  I felt like a leader in the huddle when I was in there.  I look forward to the opportunity.”

This will be Terrelle’s first start since leading Ohio State to a 31-36 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on January 4, 2011 when he was named Most Valuable Player.

A buzzer beater shot, Kings beat the Knicks

By: Malaika Bobino

Sacramento, CA – It was an amazing comeback but you had to be there to see it.  After blowing a twenty-seven point lead in the first half, the New York Knicks rallied back behind J.R. Smith who finished the night with 28 points.  With the clock running out James Johnson made an incredible three-point shot at the buzzer for the win.

“Isaiah [Thomas] hit John [Salmons], but he couldn’t take the shot, he was crowded,” said Johnson.  “He looked at Francisco [Garcia] as his first option and I was his second read.  There was no thinking after that, I had to shot it.  I knew it was good as soon as it left my hand.”

The Kings beat the Knicks 106-105 and for the third straight game, Sacramento has dished out 28 or more assists.  In the last three games they are averaging 29.0 apg.  A depleted New York team were without starter Carmelo Anthony (hyperextended knee), Raymond Felton (fractured finger), Rasheed Wallace (sore left foot), Iman Shumpert (torn left ACL/meniscus) and Amar’e Stoudemire (left knee debridement).  But all injured players were in attendance to see the Kings dominate early.

“We gambled a bit when the ball came out of the deep corner for the steal,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.  “But we came up empty and Johnson was able to get a free catch and shoot it.”

“Well, it’s disappointing because we shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position,” said Jason Kidd.  “In that first half we didn’t play any defense and in the second half we had the chance to win the ball game.  I had Tyson [Chandler] wide open with an easy pass but I turned it over and they came and capitalized on it.”

Sacramento played a brilliant first half with good ball movement but allowed Smith to outplay them in the second half.  J.R recorded a season-high while rookie Chris Copeland finished with 23 points and Chandler had 21 points and 18 rebounds.  New York came out after halftime playing solid defense.  They outscored the Kings 31-16 and pulled within 87-81 heading into the fourth but Sacramento did not give up.

“We got stagnant out there in the second half,” Kings coach Keith Smart said.  “We played great early on but the game quickly changed in the second half.”

Sacramento shot a season-high 15-of-30 three pointers.  Jimmer Fredette came off the bench scoring 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting and added four assists in the first 12 minutes of play in the first half.  The bench picked up where the starters left off knocking down three’s left and right.  The Kings had a total of seven players shoot 3-point shots that all went in.

DeMarcus Cousins returned to the starting lineup after missing two games.  He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds recording his ninth double-double of the season.  Isaiah Thomas also returned to the staring lineup, he started the first nine games of the season but was replaced by Aaron Brooks.  The recent changes by the coach have been good for the team.

“I thought that Isaiah would provide what I needed,” said Smart.  “We had DeMarcus back and I needed someone to be a little wise and strong and be able to play there…  I thought it gave us the right boost we needed.”

Holiday Message

Rev. Dr. W. Haziah Williams

By Rev. Dr. W. Haziah Williams,1988

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
This is a most insightful arrival of understanding the dilemma of reality.
The words are more searing today than ever.  The hopes and the fears are not only met in the occasion but are mingled in such a way that we may become hostages, not of the terror, but of the balance between hope and fear and the paralysis flowing there from.
All of the hope routed in the tradition, all of the hope laid upon a life through the yearnings and struggles of community were born and expressed in the intricacy of a personal existence in time.
The hopes and fears of all the years, and all of the intermingled contradictions, come with us this season to the manger.  The angels said, “Peace on Earth, Good Will among all people”.
That is an amazing hope and a major statement.  The forces moving against that hope appear to have the upper hand.  But Jesus comes to underscore that our life is an opportunity to move against the death dealing forces of history, and to give ourselves over to the truth, the good and the beauty that we have seen.
Jesus’ expression is in his example, and that example, along with others who attempt to take it seriously, has created a break water against the oblivion of everything God obviously intended by all of the intricacy, majesty, grandeur, and beauty of the creation.

Bishop Flunder and City of Refuge Celebrate 21 Years of Ministry

Bishop Yvette Flunder with longtime partner renown gospel singer Shirley Miller.

By Camryn

Bishop Yvette Flunder recently  was awarded the “Heritage Award” at the 8th annual “Out Awards” in Las Vegas, an awards show celebrating the best Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) recording artists in music each year that have messages of inclusion, equality and creative achievements.
The award comes on the heels of Flunder celebrating 21 years of ministry at the church she founded, City of Refuge United Church.
“I am honored to be the recipient of  The Heritage Award  from my community,” said Flunder. “When I sang ‘Something Inside Me So Strong’ with other out artists, it was   a powerful and affirming moment.”
With her radical inclusive love and community outreach, Bishop Flunder has earned a reputation for creating a safe space that bridges the gap between gospel and social ministry. She says God led her to found the City of Refuge in 1991 to liberate people from physical and mental oppression.
Flunder’s work has created a home for all, no matter the gender, sexual orientation, economic status or racial ethnicity.
She was one of the first to respond to the needs of the AIDS epidemic. Opening the Hazard-Ashley House in San Francisco, she provided housing for HIV positive African American women and African American Transgendered women living with HIV.
There are now over 100 churches under the fellowship of Bishop Flunder in the U.S. and in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, Zimbabwe and So. Africa.
She says it is a blessing to see her religious model of inclusion duplicated  across the country and the world.
She continues to provide intervention for those who suffer from substance abuse and transitional housing for youth.

African American Physicists to Receive Presidential Awards

Dr. S. James Gates

Dr. George Carruthers

By Hattie

Dr. James Gates will receive the National Science Award, and Dr. George Carruthers will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation – among the highest honors conferred upon scientists and engineers by the federal government
The newly named recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony next year.
“They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great — and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment,” said President Obama.
Gates is an American theoretical physicist, known for work on supersymmetry, supergravity and superstring theory .  He is currently John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park and serves on President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and was formerly President of the National Society of Black Physicists.
Dr. Carruthers was the principal scientist responsible for the development of the ultra-violet camera that made the trip to the moon aboard Apollo 16 in 1972. The camera was designed to study the earth’s upper atmosphere, interplanetary and interstellar space, stars, and galaxies by making observations of light in the far-ultraviolet.
Later versions of the camera have flown on Skylab 4, two space shuttle flights, and the ARGOS satellite. Carruthers was editor of the Journal of the National Technical Association.
Both recipients have lectured in Oakland.  In 2003, Gates lectured at McClymonds High School as a participant in a lecture series sponsored by the Museum of African American Technology (MAAT) Science Village.
In 2009, Dr. Carruthers was the featured speaker for premier of the film, “Hubble’s Diverse Universe,” held at MAAT Science Village.
President Obama named 12 researchers for the National Medal of Science and 11 inventors as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation., according to a  Dec. 17 White House statement.

Canada’s ‘Idle No More’ Movement Spreads Like Wildfire

Over 2,000 demonstrators in Canada, part of a growing grassroots First Nations movement called “Idle No More,” marched on Dec. 21 through the streets of Ottawa to Parliament Hill to defend treaty rights that protect their lands and waterways.

By Craig Brown

The “Idle No More” movement, a campaign of grassroots First Nations protests, has spread like wildfire over the past week in response to bills passed by the conservative Canadian government.
The protests are against the passage of the  C-45, omnibus budget bill, which includes changes to the Canadian Indian Act regarding how reserve lands are managed, making them easier to develop and be taken away from the First Nation people.
The bill also removes thousands of lakes and streams from the list of federally protected bodies of water. “This is unacceptable. They have made a unilateral decision remove the protection of waterways… Shell Canada has proposed to mine out 21km of the Muskeg River, a river of cultural and biological significance. This ultimately gives the tar sands industry a green light to destroy vital waterways still used by our people,” stated Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
Atiwapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11, resolved to starve herself to death unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets to discuss treaty rights, and Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples. She is currently living in a teepee on Victoria Island, in Ottawa, just a kilometer away from the Parliament buildings.
So far, Harper has rejected calls to meet with Spence.

Crowdmapping Group Used Mobile Phones to Expose Kenyan Election Killings

Ory Okolloh, the founder and executive director of Ushahidi, which crowdmapped the post-election violence in Kenya. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Three Kenyans – Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, Francis Kirimi Muthaura and Mohammed Hussein Ali – are appearing at the international criminal court in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity, after being exposed by youth using the web and mobile phones.
The three Kenyans are accused of contributing to an estimated 1,300 deaths in violence following the 2007 presidential election when they were deputy prime minister, head of the civil service and police commissioner respectively.
Violence erupted when the incumbent Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in the face of charges of vote rigging from supporters of his challenger, Raila Odinga. It soon spread across ethnic lines in often remote parts of the country far away from the reach of national or international media.
An answer to this was the Ushahidi crowdmap – the crowd in this case being Kenyans across the country texting reports of violence from their mobile phones or supplying information via email. Ushahidi means witness in Swahili: the reports were added to an online map and within days all those individual witnesses had together compiled a more complete picture of the violence than any one organization.
One of Ushahidi’s founders, Ory Okolloh, a lawyer, explained in an interview last year that Ushahidi started out as “an ad hoc group of technologists and bloggers hammering out software in a couple of days, trying to figure out a way to gather more and better information about the post-election violence”.
The January 2008 blogpost in which Okolloh asked for “any techies out there willing to do a mashup of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google Maps” said recording the truth of what was happening right at that moment would help the later process of reconciliation.
When Ushahidi was born after two sleep-deprived days of coding, Okolloh blogged:
“We believe that the number of deaths being reported by the government, police, and media is grossly under reported. We also don’t think we have a true picture of what is really going on – reports that all have us have heard from family and friends in affected areas suggests that things are much worse than what we have heard in the media.
“We also (in my idealist world) hope that we can begin to put names and faces to the people who have lost their lives in this mess.
Although put together hastily, it worked. A key feature was that it could accept text messages from mobile phones. But the team running Ushahidi was vital too: to guard against false reports a blogger was enlisted to attempt to verify the facts with aid agencies and other sources on the ground.
This wasn’t the first example of the idea known as crowdsourcing: that the aggregate of individual efforts could be more than the sum of its parts.
Before Ushahidi came Wikipedia, though founder Jimmy Wales dislikes the word crowdmap and calls it a “vile, vile way of looking at that world”. One of Ushahidi’s eye-catching predecessors tracked the price of milk, Budweiser and iceberg lettuce in New York grocers. But it was Ushahidi’s use in a fast-moving crisis situation, mapping what journalists call hard news, provided inspiration to many others.

Report: Tobacco Sales Focus on Youth, Low-Income Neighborhoods

Dr. Ron Chapman

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director and state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman has released the state’s first “State Health Officer’s Report on Tobacco Use and Promotion” providing new data related to cigarette consumption declines, and the millions of dollars and lives saved.
The report also includes new data on illegal sales to minors, the disproportionate number of tobacco retailers, advertising in minority and low-income neighborhoods and the effect of tobacco advertising in retail stores.
“The illegal sale of tobacco to minors is a serious issue and we are committed to working with retailers and inform the public in order to stop these practices,” said Chapman.
“The tobacco industry’s advertising tactics towards a younger audience is disturbing and shameful. It is startling that the tobacco industry spends nearly $1 million every hour to market their products nationwide,” said Chapman.
In addition to illegal sales to minors, the state report draws attention to the disproportionate number of tobacco retailers, advertising tactics, and the effect of tobacco advertising in retail stores.
Since the inception of the Tobacco Control Program, the annual number of cigarette packs sold in California dropped by more than 1.5 billion per year, from 2.5 billion packs in 1998 to 972,000 packs in 2011.
Illegal tobacco sales to minors rose to 8.7 percent from 5.6 percent in 2011, which was the state’s lowest rate since the survey began in 1995;
Prevalence of smoking was higher at schools in neighborhoods with five or more stores that sell tobacco than at schools in neighborhoods without any stores that sell tobacco.
In 2011, young adults 18-24 had the highest smoking prevalence among any age group in California;
The popularity, promotion and availability of smokeless tobacco have greatly increased – examples include snus (a smokeless, spitless, moist-snuff product), cigarillos (small flavored cigars that are often sold individually), as well as dissolvable and flavored “orbs” and “sticks” that are currently being test-marketed in other states.
“In 2012, smoking and the use of other tobacco products continues to be a major public health concern in California, with approximately 3.6 million smokers in the state,” added Chapman.

Vatican Says Pope Beats Justin Bieber on Re-tweets

Pope Benedict

Justin Bieber

Pope Benedict, white-haired, 85, and a neophyte to social media site Twitter, has beaten out 18-year old heartthrob Justin Bieber to set a percentage record for re-tweeting by his followers, the Vatican said on Thursday.
The Vatican newspaper said that as of noon Italian time on Thursday the pope had 2.1 million followers on Twitter, eight days after his first tweet was sent.
While Canadian singer-songwriter Bieber has roughly 15 times as many followers – 31.7 million – the Vatican newspaper said Benedict had beaten Bieber on re-tweets.
It said about 50 percent of the pope’s followers had re-tweeted his first tweet on Dec. 12 while only 0.7 percent of Bieber’s followers had re-tweeted one of the singer’s most popular tweets on September 26, when he commented on the death by cancer of a six-year-old fan.
The Vatican said this was part of a wider trend in which people were looking for more spiritual content.
The pope already tweets in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Arabic. The newspaper said he will start tweeting in Latin and Chinese soon.

Homeowner Bill of Rights Takes Effect in January

Kamala Harris

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a landmark package of legislation that extends key mortgage and foreclosure protections to California homeowners and borrowers, will take effect on Jan. 1
The new laws restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender and impose civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents. In addition, homeowners may require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.
“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”
There is a restriction on dual-track foreclosures, where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in discussions over a loan modification to save the home.
Struggling homeowners are guaranteed lenders will provide them a single point of contact with knowledge of their loan and direct access to the banks’ decision makers.
The statute of limitations to prosecute mortgage-related crimes is extended from one to three years, allowing the Attorney General’s office to investigate and prosecute complex mortgage fraud crimes.
The Attorney General’s office can use statewide grand juries to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties.
Purchasers of foreclosed homes are required to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. If the tenant has a fixed-term lease of one year or less, the new owner must honor the lease unless the owner can prove that exceptions intended to prevent fraudulent leases apply.
Local governments have additional tools to fight blight caused by multiple vacant homes in their neighborhoods.
For more information, visit

“In the Name of Love” Tribute Honoring MLK

Melaine Demore conducts the Oakland Childrens Community Choir that will perform Jan. 19 in a tribute honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holiday.

“In the Name of Love” is the 11th annual tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest humanitarians of our time, starring  American singing legend and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holiday; the 65-voice Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir; and the 250-voice Oakland Children’s Community Choir.
The event will take place from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway in Oakland. For information and tickets go to

Blues Great Jimmy McCracklin, 91

Jimmy McCracklin

By Lee

The blues community is mourning the passing of bluesman Jimmy McCracklin, who diedThursday, Dec. 20, at Creekside Health Center in San Pablo. The prolific singer, pianist and songwriter, a longtime Richmond resident, was 91.
“He had a style that was completely his own,” singer-guitarist Sonny Rhodes said of his late friend.  “It was a style that people tried to imitate, but they couldn’t even come close.”
“He was such a persuasive singer in the way he put his lyrics across,” commented Mark Naftalin, a pianist and promoter who had presented McCracklin at the Monterey Jazz Festival and Marin County Blues Festival, among other venues. “He was a real stylist.”
“A song is like a conversation, and sometimes people don’t wanna hear your conversation, but his voice would draw you in,” stated singer-guitarist Joe Louis Walker. “He just really knew how to push the punch line.”
McCracklin’s recording career spanned the years 1945 to 2010 and took him from the Club Savoy in North Richmond to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He had been recording for over a decade when he scored his first national hit, “The Walk,” in 1958. He performed the song on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” that year, making him one of the first African-American artists, if not the first, to appear on the popular program.
His other hits included “Just Got to Know,” “Shame, Shame, Shame,” “Every Night, Every Day,” “Think” and “My Answer,” all of which he composed.  He also wrote “Tramp,” a hit for his friend Lowell Fulson in 1967, again for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas later that year and for the hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa in 1987.
McCracklin was born James David Walker on Aug. 13, 1921, in Helena, Arkansas. He moved to St. Louis at age 9 and soon fell under the musical spell of Walter Davis, a friend of his father’s and one of the most popular blues singers, pianists and songwriters of the 1930s. Memphis Slim would become another important influence on McCracklin’s style.
After graduating from high school in St. Louis, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Because he was under 18, his mother had to sign for him to join. She had taught him to cook, and he worked in that capacity, as well as took up boxing, while in the service.
Following World War II, he divided his time between singing and boxing in Southern California before moving to Richmond in 1947. From the late ‘40s to the early ‘60s, he frequently recorded for Oakland producer Bob Geddins. During the ‘50s, McCracklin and his band, the Blues Blasters, often toured the country backing up such blues stars as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Percy Mayfield and Joe Turner.
McCracklin was one of the greatest blues songwriters of all time, in a league with such other giants as Mayfield, Willie Dixon and the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. His tunes have been recorded by the Beatles, Los Lobos, Steve Miller and numerous others.
“He was so true about everything he wrote,” Rhodes noted. “You could look around and find these things in everyday life”
“He plays good and he sings good – and he writes better,” B.B. King said in “Jimmy Sings the Blues,” a 14-minute Bancroft Library oral history project documentary that can be viewed on YouTube.
“He’s just one of my favorite songwriters,” Bonnie Raitt said in the film.
McCracklin is survived by his daughter Linette Susan McCracklin and several stepchildren and by his grandchildren Jimmy and Sarah Busby. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Santa Claus Comes to Marin City

Top row from left: Santa and Mrs. Claus leaving their Cessna 172 Seaplane, Aaron and Tiffany Singer as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Second row: Children waiting to talk to Santa Claus; Bottom photo: First row – Officer Glen Newcommer, California Highway Patrol; London (little girl); Dan Appleton, Firefigther, Mill Valley Fire Department; Aaron & Tiffany Singer – Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus; Marshan (little boy); Felecia Gaston, Performing Stars; Deputy Michael Dobbins, Marin County Sheriff’s Department. 2nd row – Jesse Rudnick, Mark Puchir, Jesse Rudnick – Firefighters, Marin County Fire Department; Clint Mason, Captain, Mill Valley Fire Department; Firefighter, Jesse Rudnick, Mill Valley Fire Department; Officer Daniel Ruiz, California Highway Patrol; Officer Brian Miller, California Highway Patrol. (Photos by Godfrey Lee).

First row from left: Sylvia Bynum registering her grandson Sheldon Bynum, Jr. with Janice Mapes. Susan Neil helping the girls with their crafts. Second row: Santa Helper (Monica Rivera) and Santa Claus (Jack) talking to Joseph Mays in the left photo and to Alawna Donaldson and Rachel Gutierrez in the right photo. Third row: Sana Surti looking at the toys set up on the stage, Joseph Mays looking at the books. Bottom photo: Lenine Dorsey, Brianna Banks-McLean, Cecile Banks, Kathleen Wade Caston, Janice Mapes, Dr. Wyna Barron. Photos by Godfrey Lee.

By Godfrey Lee

Santa Claus visited Mill Valley on Wednesday, Dec. 19 and Marin City on Sunday, Dec. 23, to give out presents and made the holiday season more joyous for the children living in Southern Marin.
On Wednesday, Aaron and Tiffany Singer, owners of Seaplane Adventures, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, arrived in their Cessna 172 Seaplane in a kickoff of the 15th Annual Holiday Toy and Gift Drive.
The plane landed on Richardson Bay, and they greeted the excited children who swarmed around him.
The 60 children then formed a line to receive a book and a present from Santa. They young people are members of Performing Stars of Marin, and residents of Marin City and the Canal area of San Rafael.
The Mill Valley Fire Department, Southern Marin Fire District, Marin County Fire Departments, Sausalito Parks and Recreation Department, Bridge the Gap Tutoring, Community Action Marin and Outback Steakhouse sponsored the event.
Aaron Singer came up with the idea of Santa arriving in a seaplane to deliver the presents to the children and worked with Felecia Gaston, director of Performing Stars, to make it happen.
“This is the first time we have done this, and we hope to do it many years to come,” said Singer.
On Sunday, Santa went to the 15th Annual Toy and Gift Drive at the Manzanita Recreation Center. It was raining that morning, and the whole event was held indoors in the gym and on the stage.
But the weather did not dampen the spirits of the children, who were eager to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. About 300 young people were served during the afternoon.
“Keeping tradition is so important in these days and times. We want kids to believe and dream so they can be happy,”  said Gaston, who coordinated both events.
Agencies that participated in the event included the California Highway Patrol, City of Mill Valley Fire and Police Departments, Sausalito Parks and Recreation Department, Marin County Fire, Probation and Sheriff’s Departments, Sausalito Lions & Rotary Club, Volunteers in Public Safety, Southern Marin Fire Protection District, Tiburon Fire Department, 142 Throckmorton Theatre, Marin Theater Company, Bridge the Gap College Prep, and the Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty.

Let’s Change the Culture of Gun Violence

By Alice A. Huffman, Criminal Justice Chair for the National Board of the NAACP and the State Conference President in California/Hawaii; and Wilfred T. Ussery, former National Chairman of CORE and former President of the Board of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART)

How proud we were to watch the president while supporting the families of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut vowing to do whatever he can to stop the carnage.
We are asking all Americans to move beyond the traditional incremental modifications of gun laws and address a more systemic problem in America, namely, the nation’s out-of-control, culture of gun violence.
We are now a nation with 5 percent of the world’s population but which has 50 percent of the world’s guns in civilian hands.
The nation’s obsession with gun ownership emanates from, and is supported and nurtured by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. The 2nd Amendment has fulfilled its initial purpose and is no longer needed.
Years ago when it was created, we lived in a far different world.  The 13 American colonies became the 13 United States of America in 1783, following the war for independence from Britain.
The 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791. It is believed that Madison proposed it, but it was common law in the constitutions of most of the 13 states.
The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution supports the creation of a militia and gives everyone in the United States the right to “keep and bear arms.”
Obviously when a massacre, like the one in Newtown, happens to little children, it stops the nation in its tracks, but if we look at the shocking results of our nation’s gun laws, we know that no community in America is safe from gun violence, particularly, the nation’s urban communities where people of color are being murdered in greater numbers than all of the Americans who died in the last two World wars and Vietnam.
The 2nd Amendment that many hold so dear reads, “A well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
This 2nd Amendment was adopted almost 221 years ago. With the formation of the new Constitution that gave the federal government its national power and presence, the founding fathers  created:
A common currency, where before, individual states still produced their own; a national military force – until then many states still had their own armies and navies; a centralized control over foreign policy rather than states negotiating directly with other countries; and the national system for imposing and collecting taxes.
In 1787, the new Constitution was approved. In 1789, Congress began deliberation on the Bill of Rights that created the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution.
In 1789, the newly created country was slowly taking shape, but the states that still had been acting as their own countries and were negotiating with foreign powers with their own currency  and wanted their own militia.
Today, the official militia of the states is the National Guard. The National Guard was established as a federally funded reserve component of the nation’s armed forces in 1903 with the Militia Act of 1903 under Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code.
The National Defense Act of 1947 created the Air Force as a separate branch of the Armed Forces of the United States and concurrently created the Air National Guard as one of its reserve components, mirroring the Army’s component structure.
So now that we have a National Guard that operates under the control of the governors of the states, why do we need a Constitutional Amendment that allows individuals to form a militia?
We will not stop our nation’s infatuation with guns, its culture of gun violence, and the directly related senseless killing that occur daily in America until we change our nation’s 221 year old, obsolete, 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.
“USA Today” reported on Dec. 20 that, “Mass killers target Americans once every two weeks on average, in attacks. The killings between 2006 and 2010 of 747 victims from 157 murders classified as mass murders by the FBI offer a portrait of mass murder that in many ways belies the stereotype of a lone gunman targeting strangers.
Children are frequently victims of gun violence.
These massacres are never called white on white crime, but, when it comes to urban areas we think about Black on Black crime and Brown on Brown killings which gives the majority population a reason to look the other way.
So we propose two things: first, that we should begin thinking about all of these deaths without regard to race, but as all of our children and others – young and old – who are affected by gun violence in America. Race has nothing to do with the finality or neutrality of death.
Second, we should modify the Second Amendment to read: “While a well-regulated militia is unnecessary to sustain the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall be well regulated.”
Approval of this proposed rewrite of the language of the 2nd Amendment can lead to the successful adoption of an amended Second Amendment that over time would profoundly change the nation’s culture of violence, the incidence of gun violence and make us all safer.

Faith Is Stronger Than the Sword

By Jesse

Christmas decorations light the streets. Malls are full. Christmas music fills the air.
But this year, there is a somber undercurrent to the celebration. We will all hug our children a little harder. Our hearts will be in our throats as they go out to play. After the horror of Newtown, we remember how precious and how vulnerable they are in a country that is drowning in guns.
Some good news can be told, however. Violent crime, teenage pregnancy, binge drinking and cigarette smoking are down. Yet, one in five children in the U.S. is now living in poverty — up dramatically over the course of the past decade.
More are obtaining a college degree, but more find themselves unable to afford higher education. And too many are at risk from guns and violence. We can do better for them.
This year, the real story of Christmas — the mass we celebrate on the birth of Christ — has more power than ever.
The real story isn’t about a holiday; it is about a holy day. It’s about two parents summoned from their home, forced to return to register so the occupier could count them.
They had no place to stay. One brief look and the innkeeper announced there was no room at the inn. The baby was born in the cold, in a working barn, set in a rough manger on a straw floor.
This was a child at risk.
Like today, those were not normal times. Poverty and violence were spread through the land. The sufferers began to expect a change. Prophets predicted that a mighty messiah would come — a king of kings — to free the oppressed.
But this messiah wasn’t a powerful warrior wielding mighty armaments. He led disciples, not armies. He sought to preach good news to the poor.
He was the Prince of Peace, not a man in arms. He never lifted a sword nor carried a shield, never held an office nor amassed a fortune, yet his gospel overturned an empire and transformed the world.
He taught us the power of love and hope and charity.
Christmas should be a time when we hear this message. Faith is stronger than the sword. We do not have to accept a nation where 6-year-olds and their protective teachers are mowed down by a sick man armed with an assault rifle. We don’t have to let the gun lobby keep us from insisting that no gun should be sold without a background check.
We don’t have to accept a country of Gilded Age inequality where poor children go without adequate nutrition, where promising students cannot afford the education that they have earned.
We don’t have to emulate Rome and seek to police the world.
This Christmas, let each of us take a moment for the real story.
Let us take stock, not of the presents we give or get, but of how we treat the young in the dawn of life, the poor in the pit of life, the elderly in the dusk of life, the stranger on the Jericho Road.
Let’s commit ourselves to bringing peace to Bethlehem.
This year, more than ever, we will hug our children and hold them close and remember that they are the true measure of our wealth. This year, we will remember that the presents the Wise Men brought weren’t the real gift; the real gift was the child himself, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Chess Tournament in Richmond

By Will Delaney

The 2nd Annual McKinley Williams and John Easterling Community Chess Tournament was held recently at the Richmond Recreation facility on MacDonald Avenue.
The Dec. 8 tournament was sponsored by the City of Richmond, Contra Costa College and the West Coast Chess Alliance (WCCA).  Coordinators were Trendell Ball, Gerl Jenkins and Will Delaney.
The event was named after McKinley Williams, retired president of Contra Costa College, and the late John Easterling.
Williams, an ardent supporter of chess, was instrumental in bringing Maurice Ashley, the first African American Grand Chess master, to the college, and encouraged chess as a learning tool to improve academic skills of students.
Easterling was a moving force in the East Bay chess community for many years before his passing.  He taught the game to new enthusiasts and was responsible for keeping chess alive in this area.
Over 40 participants enjoyed the 4-quad format.  Players were grouped at tables of 4 players who played each of their tablemates.
Players ranged from 6 years old to 76. Some of the participants were novices, while one was a United Chess Federation player, who holds a 1900 ranking.
Congressman George Miller attended the event.
For more information contact Trendell Ball at (510)439-6311 or

Richmond Stands Up Against Violence

DeVone Boggan

By DeVone

There is an African Proverb that I am fond of quoting: “The experience of one generation becomes the history of the next, and the history of several generations becomes the traditions of a people.”
On Dec. 14  like many Americans and peoples from around the world, I found myself once again extremely grieved by the horrible reality of gun violence in many of our American, particularly urban, communities.
We here in Richmond experience and understand that reality far too well. Much too much! Much too often!
Like in Newtown Connecticut, too many Richmond parents have experienced a nightmare that no parent should ever have to experience, and countless more have been traumatized by such evil.
Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C. recently noted, “Since 1979, when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517).”
“Where is our anti-war movement to protect youth from pervasive gun violence here at home?” She asks.
In Richmond, 14 families have lost a loved one to the unspeakable horror of gun violence this year.
Although Richmond has experienced a trend towards fewer firearm related injuries and deaths over the past five years, we cannot rest, become complacent or halt our efforts to ensure that our city is healthier, safer and as prosperous as it can be for everyone – where firearm related deaths are as uncommon and unlikely as snowfall is in Richmond during the coldest of winter months.
We as a community know that there is still a great deal more to be done and accomplished to reach our goals – absolutely no firearm related incidents and homicides, year in, year out.
Each and all of us must do more to stop this intolerable and wanton epidemic.  As a community, we cannot continue to solely talk about, be angry about it, be divisive about it, politicize it, want money for it, want credit for it. We must BE about it.
There is no one strategy, agency, church, preacher, community-based organization or super-person that who can create the new reality that we seek.
The answer lies in first our example and humanity towards one another, and then our combined efforts and resources, the integration of a multitude of services, whether public, private, philanthropic or the indigenous, grassroots Richmond community assets working together to create the conditions that will help to produce our new reality – Healthy Kids, Healthy Families and Communities – A Healthy City!
If we do not immediately work to further and more resolutely, the traditions we pass on will not be strong enough to keep evil and chaos from destroying our children, our families, our communities.
So I say Rejoice during this Holiday Season, cherish and hug those you love, rejuvenate and get ready to BE and DO your part – Remain Vigilant Richmond!
DeVone Boggan serves as Neighborhood Safety Director and Director of the City of Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety.

Mother Stevanna Herron Turns 100

Mother Stevanna Herron. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC).

By Evelyn McDonald

Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond is celebrating the birthday of Mother Stevanna Herron, who turned 100 on Thursday.
She is a charter member of the church and has been a member for 69 years.
Very active in the community, she was one of the organizers of the Girls Club, now Girls Inc. She put up the first $1,000 to secure the building currently occupied by Girls Inc.
She was instrumental in starting South Side Community Center, Neighborhood Youth Center (NYC), Well Baby Clinic, Job Placement Center, voter registration and the Brown Bag lunch program.
She also helped many young people obtain their first jobs.
According to BAPAC president Lloyd Madden, she helped him find his first job as a youth and community organizer when he returned home after graduating from Fresno State.
“Mrs. Herron was on the Board of Directors, chair of the Personnel Committee (at Southside Community Center), and she offered me the job,” Madden said. “ She said she was extremely proud that I came back home after graduating to work in the community …  that I would be a role model for all young adults and youth regardless of the neighborhood.”
Born Dec. 27, 1912, in Corpus Christi, Texas, she and her husband migrated to Richmond in 1942.
In 1943, she met Rev. G.W. Dowthard, and Zion Hill was started. She served as church clerk, director of Christian Education and president of the Mission Society. She also served as dean of Christian Education, and 2nd Vice President of the Home & Foreign Mission District Association at the state level.
Mother Herron lives by her creed: “If I can help somebody, then my living will not be in vain.”

Berkeley’s First Woman Fire Chief Retires

Chief Debra Pryor

By Danielle Savage

Chief Debra Pryor, who made history as the first woman head of the Berkeley Fire Department, is retiring at the end of the month after 20 years in the city’s fire service.
She has been fire chief since 2004.
“I was the first woman hired, and I just happened to be African American…there was a lot of ignorance of a woman’s capability to doing the work of a fire fighter. I had to overcome that stigma,” Pryor recalls.
Pryor was working as a clerk for the city of Berkeley in 1985 when a fire service recruiter caught her interest. Finding a home in the department, she soared through the ranks, which she describes as being “like the military.”
According to the city, Chief Pryor is one of three women fire chiefs in California and one of 21 in the nation, and became the second African American fire chief in the country.
“I really had to demonstrate that I could do the job, especially the physical aspects of the job. Women tend to be viewed as having less strength,” said Pryor.
Over the years, she won recognition from the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters and was awarded the Pioneer Award by the Oakland / Bay Area Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
In 2001, she received a Master’s degree in Public Administration from California State East Bay.  She has served as president of the Alameda County Training Officers Association and attended the National Fire Academy’s Executive Officer Development Programs.
Looking back over her career, she said, “The thing that I’m most proud of is being a product of a community here in Berkeley, being able to serve and give back.”
She says she wants to be remembered as “one of [the] authentic public servants.”
Pryor looks forward to finding time “to enjoy life and to enjoy retirement.”  But “when I’m ready,” she wants to serve the community by becoming a school teacher.

Mary Everette, Berkeley’s Ever-Ready Santa, Brought Joy to Children


Everett and Jones Barbeque hosted its annual Holiday Toy Giveaway at its Berkeley restaurant on Saturday, Dec. 22, handing out toys to children in need for Christmas. Owner Mary Everett (center photo wearing Santa hat) started the toy giveaway 20 years ago, using toys donated by her loyal customers and celeb athletes New York Yankees CC Sabathia, San Francisco 49ers Vernon Davis, and Milwaukee Bucks Drew Gooden. Children took photos with Santa, who made a special appearance at the event. “Kids should be happy,” said Everett. Photos by Laura M. Wong.

Singer Fontella Bass, 72

Fontella Bass

By Jim Slater,

Fontella Bass, a St. Louis-born soul singer who hit the top of the R&B charts with “Rescue Me” in 1965, has died. She was 72.
Bass died Wednesday night at a St. Louis hospice of complications from a heart attack suffered three weeks ago, her daughter, Neuka Mitchell, said. Bass had also suffered a series of strokes over the past seven years.
“She was an outgoing person,” Mitchell said of her mother. “She had a very big personality. Any room she entered she just lit the room up, whether she was on stage or just going out to eat.”
Bass was born into a family with deep musical roots. Her mother was gospel singer Martha Bass, one of the Clara Ward Singers. Her younger brother, David Peaston, had a string of R&B hits in the 1980s and 1990s. He died in February at age 54.
Bass began performing at a young age, singing in her church’s choir at age 6. She was surrounded by music, often traveling on national tours with her mother and her gospel group.

Quan Pledges Lower Homicide Rate

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan (right) and Mayor Jean Quan. Photo b, Eric K. Arnold, Courtesy of Oakland Local.

William J. Bratton

Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan this week pledged to reduce the rates of homicide and other serious crime in Oakland in the coming year.
The police department will hire nationally known police consultant William J. Bratton to institute Bratton’s CompStat data driven management model, which he first introduced in New York City in 1994 as police commissioner.
Jordan also announced the department will to return its previous focus on neighborhood policing, dedicating resources to five police districts throughout the city, starting with two between the High Street and San Leandro border.

Nyeisha Dewitt to Serve on Rob Bonta’s Assembly Staff

Nyeisha Dewitt

Rob Bonta

By Post Staff

Nyeisha Dewitt, who has worked to secure jobs for Oakland residents on the e Army Base development project and a candidate for Oakland City Council in November, has been hired as a senior field representative in the office of newly elected Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who takes the place of Sandre Swanson, who was termed out of the State Legislature.
“I’m proud to announce that I’ve brought together a strong team to represent Oakland in my Capitol and District offices,” said Bonta. “I am extremely fortunate that Nyeisha has decided to commit her enormous talents and invaluable experience toward continued strong advocacy efforts on behalf of the East Bay at the state level.”
Dewitt is the co-founder of Oakland Natives Give Back, which delivered more than 6,800 backpacks and bus passes to Oakland public school students.
She also was active in the schools through the African-American Male Achievement Task Force, Oakland’s Promise Alliance, and OUSD’s Truancy Task Force.
Dewitt is also a founding member of OaklandWORKS, a coalition that worked on the year-long West Oakland army base negotiations to obtain jobs for Oaklanders.
She is the parent of three Oakland public school students.

Former Oakland City Administrator Loses Appeal Over Firing

Deborah Edgerly

Nearly a year after former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly lost a lawsuit against the City of Oakland over her firing, the state Court of Appeals has rejected her attempt to pursue a claim based on the state’s whistle-blower law.
Edgerly sued the city in 2009 after she was fired in July 2008 by former Mayor Ron Dellums. In her claim she said she lost her job because she was a woman and because she refused to approve city reimbursement for three questionable expenses sought by Dellums.
Edgerly’s firing came after she was accused of interfering with a police investigation of her nephew, who police suspected was a member of the West Oakland Acorn gang.
During the trial, Dellums testified that he did not fire Edgerly because of the police investigation but because she stopped communicating with him after she withdrew from a previous agreement to retire.
In her appeal, Edgerly claimed she should be protected under the state’s whistle-blower law because, by rejecting Dellums’ expenses, she was refusing to allow him to violate the city charter.
But in its ruling published Wednesday, the state court ruled that her actions were not covered by the whistleblower law because Dellums was not attempting to violate a state law or rule.
Instead, the court ruled her claim that she refused to have the city reimburse Dellums was simply part of her routine work and not a protected action under the state law.

Prescott Circus: “Don’t Clown Us”

Children Learn Science and Math Related to Circus Acts

Students from Prescott and Lafayette Circus Arts programs pose for a picture during the Oakland Holiday Parade lat week. From left to right: First row – Andrew Musinguzi, Kevin Romero, Devin Nicholson, Walter Richardson, Anderson Montoya, Eli Lopez, Nicholas Lopez; Second row – Bryan Morales, Frizell Drivers, Nautical Reed-Gegg, Dejamelyah Tyler, Sontaneec Garza, Lelani Walker, Zaymon Thomas; Third row – Jose Barrera, Joshua Anderson, Carmen Shaw, Douglas Brooks, Pugna Som, Maurice Patton, Trinity Gibson, La’Niyah Ambrose, Shaela McCray; Fourth row – Nicole Funes, Jessica Funes, Keinan Woodson; Fifth row – Quiana Driver (Board member), DeMarcello Funes (staff), Tatiana Thomas, Esperanza Funes, Lee Hill, Jeremy Anderson, Yaqueline Verasques, Angelina Boggs, Yasmin Millett, and Ceara Walton (staff). Note: The Board member and both staff members in the photo were all Prescott Clowns as children.

Prescott Circus Theatre boasts some of Oakland’s most energetic young stars. This month 30 young performers knocked the holiday socks off of the crowds at the Oakland Holiday Parade as jugglers, unicyclists, stilt walkers, and acrobats.
“This is the largest contingent we’ve ever put together,” said Prescott Circus Theatre Director David Hunt.  “We wanted to show our Oakland love. Plus this was a chance for many of our newer students to experience the excitement of public performing.”
What began in 1985 as an after-school club at Prescott Elementary School has grown into a citywide youth development model.  Third- through fifth-grade students from Prescott, Lafayette, Parker, Laurel, Piedmont Avenue, and Manzanita Elementary Schools work with real circus professionals to build their skills.
Prescott Circus performers were recently seen at holiday events for the Lend A Hand Foundation, the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Dance-a-Vision, and the Alameda County Foster Parent Association, as well as the Hotel Oakland’s 100th Anniversary bash.
But they’re not just clowning around.  To become performers, students have to grow in many ways, including everything from planning ahead and multi-tasking to assessing risks and taking chances.
The skills develop in a context where students know they are part of a caring family of support, affectionately captured in the motto, “Once a Prescott Clown, Always a Prescott Clown.”
The Prescott Circus is currently piloting a new project to further support academic success through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
A group of Prescott Circus performers meet twice a week on a Circus Work with Science curriculum.  The performers can teach you how to juggle beanbags while explaining what bones, muscles, and joints are contributing to the effort.
If you prefer scarf juggling, they’ll tell you about the effect of air resistance on your progress. These students are busily making line graphs to chart their progress at skills like headstands and balancing acts, using the working hypothesis that “the more you practice the better you get!”
When youth use the phrase “Don’t clown me” it means don’t laugh or make fun of me. Now when you hear a Prescott clown “Get down with Algebra,” you will know they are studying hard to become high achievers, not just clowning around.
The Prescott Circus prepares their clowns to get down with science and to be ready for life.
“The special hook for this project is that the students will actually get to perform their findings, sharing what they’re learning about science,” said project leader and Prescott Circus founder Aileen Moffitt.
“We will be presenting at a special conference for teachers in February and look forward to visiting other schools, too.”
Prescott principal Enomwoyi Booker has invited the group to share the Science of Circus project at an upcoming STEM meeting for school administrators and other West Oakland stakeholders.
The Prescott Circus needs community support.  Contact the circus to find out more about upcoming events and a friendraiser/fundraiser brunch in the works for March.
Organizers of upcoming events can hire the Prescott Circus Theatre to provide roving entertainment, single acts, or full shows to suit their needs.
For information call (510) 967-0355 or email To make a tax-deductible donation to the Prescott Circus Theatre, visit and click the “Donate” button on the bottom right corner.