From April 2013

Officials Seek Changes in Aftermath of Chevron Refinery Fire

 
Loni Hancock

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

Nancy Skinner

Jim Rogers

Nat Bates

By Danielle
Savage

Newly released results of two investigations into the causes of the fire at the Chevron Richmond Refinery have set off fresh discussions in Richmond and around the East Bay about what must be done to prevent future disasters.
The fire, which took place in August, resulted in six minor injuries and more than 15,000 residents seeking medical treatment.
One report was released by investigators from the federal Chemical Safety Board, and Chevron submitted its own 80-page findings to the Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Division acknowledging its failures and promising safer methods to prevent another accident.
For some leaders, the reports highlight the need for  greater vigilance and more outside oversight of refinery operations.
“Our community is not going to forget about this. We cannot afford to forget,” said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
“During the fire, thousands of people were told that they had to stay in doors and keep their windows and doors shut,” said Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley). It’s about the safety of human beings. It’s very disappointing when a large corporation that makes billions of dollars in profit a year chooses not to provide safe conditions, and we can’t let it go on.”
“Tragically, Chevron ignored a fact that has been known within the refinery industry for 40 years: sulfur causes corrosion, and is especially corrosive in the type of pipes used at the Richmond Refinery,” said Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.
Others find that Chevron is responding to community concerns and emphasize that the company is a responsible community partner that is moving forward to make necessary changes.
“They acknowledged their mistakes [and] they are willing to correct the problem. We just have to be positive about it, learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward,” said Richmond City Councilmember Nat Bates.
“They’re working with the community, [and] they continue to contribute to a number of non-profits and organizations that are dependent upon there financial assistance,” Bates said.
“ We have to move beyond the fire and start working collaboratively with Chevron to make this community a better community, and I think Chevron is willing,” he said. “They are a major taxpayer and a major employer. They contribute almost 40 percent of our general fund revenue. That’s potential revenue that this city needs.”
Richmond City Councilmember Jim Rogers sees Chevron’s report as a good first step. “It’s clear that some changes have to happen [and I’m] glad Chevron is making some of those changes,” he said.
Chevron report’s was produced by the company’s experts as well as independent experts and members of the United Steelworkers Union.
“We’ve inspected every piping component in the unit where the fire occurred. We are replacing every piping component as necessary, based on the results of these inspections. We are implementing a new protocol for evaluating leaks and shutting down equipment,” the report said.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s report on the fire that took place at the 2,900-acre refinery says changes are necessary at the state, county and city level. The report criticized Chevron but also the state for lacking in methods to hold the company accountable.
Although Cal/OSHA hit Chevron with more than $900,000 in fines after the fire, according to the safety board, “Between 2006 and Aug. 6, 2012, Cal/OSHA conducted three planned inspections of the Chevron Richmond facility. None of these inspections resulted in citations or fines.”
“Cal/OSHA is very understaffed, [it] does a wonderful job. It just doesn’t have enough people. I’m taking steps to try to correct that,” said Senator Hancock, who also faulted Chevron for not maintaining  the refinery.
“The concern is not just that there was a fire, but that there were clearly a lot of breakdowns and a lot of sloppy procedures,” said Councilmember Rogers. “The most important thing is to be taking care of business on a safety level and that was not happening.”
Hancock is currently working on two bills to help maintain the safety of the community. One would increase penalties for large violations like the fire.
The other bill, which she is working on with Assemblywoman Skinner, would give oversight agencies like Cal/OSHA the power to force Chevron to fix unsafe conditions regardless of whether the company appeals or not.
“They need to correct all the safety violations at the plant. We don’t need more public relations or outreach. We need those pipes fixed. It turns out there are hundreds of pipes that are unsafe,” said Hancock.
“In the 10 years prior to the fire, Chevron Richmond personnel recommended on multiple occasions that the failed pipe be upgraded,” said Skinner.
Longtime Richmond resident Tiara Mosley says she would like to believe Chevron wants to make the plant safe but is not convinced the company is sincere.
“Chevron as a major corporation is not going to change.They’re just issuing statements because they have to. The company wants to protect itself rather than the community around them,” Mosley said.
“My biggest concern would be the side effects of the chemicals that are being put out [in the community],” she said.

Oakland Vocal Students to Perform

Vocal music students at the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) are preparing to perform in “Spotlight,” a one-night show on Thursday, May 2 at the Fox Theatre in Uptown Oakland.
The show will take the audience on a  journey into competitive singing reality TV shows such as American Idol, Making the Band, and The Voice. Talented vocal students will perform music by Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, Prince, Whitney Houston, John Legend, U2, En Vogue and other artists.
The program will include 10 choirs from OSA’s School of Vocal Music, alumna Kent Overshown of the Broadway show “Memphis,” the award winning A Capella group Vocal Rush, as well as students from the instrumental and dance departments.
The show will be hosted by OSA student Ali-Khan Guidry of the music group POPLYFE. The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. To purchase tickets, visit www.oakarts.org or call Denise Booker at (510) 873-8807.

Ethiopian Immigrant Realizes Dream as Owner of Salute Evita Ristorante

Menbere Aklilu

By Uche J.
Uwahemu

Upon arrival in the United States in 1995, Menbere Aklilu began living her American dream as a hostess at Salute Evita Ristorante in Richmond.  Little did she suspect that seven years later she would become the owner of Salute Evita.
The restaurant is nestled at the Marina Bay in Richmond, with a view of San Francisco in the background.
Menbere, an Ethiopian immigrant, is a single mother and former actress in Ethiopia. When she made the decision to leave Ethiopia in search of better life, her journey took her to Italy and then to the United States.
While in the Vatican City, she and her son ran away from an abusive husband and lived at Mother Teresa, a homeless shelter in Rome.   The experience gained from living in the shelter helped to build her character as a businesswoman.
A true believer in great customer service, Menbere took the lessons to heart when she started working for $7 per hour as a hostess at Salute in Richmond.  “I believe in making my customers feel at home,” she said.  So when she worked as a hostess she made sure her customers were given the best service.
Her belief in customer service and a fortuitous meeting with a customer were instrumental in providing her with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Salute Ristorante was up for sale by previous owners, and a customer, an Italian immigrant, told her that due to her work ethic and great customer service, he was willing to help her finance the purchase of the restaurant.
So, what seemed impossible became a reality for Menbere.  When Salute Ristorante became available for sale, she worked her way up a position as manager.  This allowed her to learn the business, the intricacies of running a restaurant.
In 2002, she completed the purchase of the restaurant.  Despite the economic downturn, “We have not laid off any employees,” she said.
According to Menbere, the City of Richmond and the entire community have been good partners that have helped the restaurant attain success.  “You have to know how to handle success as much as failures – I give back to the community that has helped with my success,”   she said.
For many years, Salute Ristorante has hosted a yearly thanksgiving dinner for homeless people and low-income families. Menbere continues to support Mother Teresa Shelter and recently traveled to Rome with her son to volunteer some time at the shelter.

Richie Havens, 72, Folk Icon

Richie Havens

By David Browne,
Rolling Stone

Richie Havens, who brought an earthy soulfulness to the folk scene of the Sixties and was the first act to hit the stage at Woodstock, died of a heart attack on Monday.  He was 72 and was living in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Last month, Havens announced he would no longer be touring due to health issues.
From the beginning, when he played Village folk clubs in the mid-Sixties, Havens stood out due to more than just his imposing height (he was six-and-a-half feet tall) and his ethnicity (African-American in a largely white folk scene). He played his acoustic guitar with an open tuning and in a fervent, rhythmic style, and he sang in a sonorous, gravel-road voice that connected folk, blues and gospel.
Like many of his peers, Havens was a songwriter (he co-wrote one of his best-known songs, “Handsome Johnny,” with actor Lou Gossett Jr.). But Havens also knew a great contemporary song when he heard it, and made his name covering and rearranging songs by Bob Dylan (“Just Like a Woman,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”) and the Beatles (“With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here Comes the Sun”). “Music is the major form of communication,” he told Rolling Stone in 1968. “It’s the commonest vibration, the people’s news broadcast, especially for kids.”

Former Black Panther Leader Elaine Brown Speaks at Marcus Books

Elaine Brown

Elaine Brown, former leader of the Black Panther Party, will give the second in a series of lectures at Marcus Books on May 11, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Oakland  store, 3900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Born in North Philadelphia, Brown’s story is one of a poor Black woman who managed to break the chains of a prejudiced society to become a powerful leader. Her life has been dedicated to equality, justice, and pride, which she continues to fight for today.
Brown will speak on  “Black Life in the Age of Obama” and will answer questions from the audience after her lecture.
Brown’s first lecture drew a full house.  People are advised to arrive early for seating.  Email Marcus Books at marcusbooksoaklland@gmail.com

Bonta Backs Bill to Reduce HIV/AIDS in Prisons

Rob Bonta

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has announced that his bill to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDs in California prisons passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
The Prisoner Protections for Family and Community Health Act (AB 999) now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Sexually transmitted disease is a tragic reality of life in prison. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in prison is 8 to 10 times higher than among the general population,” said Bonta.
“Our state must address this unsettling and sometimes disturbing topic head-on and realize that the long-term benefits to vulnerable communities and to the budget are well-worth the modest state investment.”
Though many legislators have taken steps to address this issue in the past, AB 999 takes a new approach to the problem by reassessing those prior bills and refining them with insight learned from a recent pilot project.
Specifically, AB 1334 (Swanson, 2007) would have required the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to allow nonprofits and health agencies to enter prisons to provide sexual barrier protection devices, condoms, to prisoners.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto message directed CDCR to conduct a pilot program at one state prison facility to determine the risks and viability of condom distribution. A one-year pilot project was subsequently conducted at Solano State Prison in 2008-2009.
“My office carefully evaluated the successful findings of that pilot project contained in the September 2011 report,” Bonta said. “Evaluation of a Prisoner Condom Access Pilot Program Conducted in One California Prison Facility, and drafted AB 999 as a direct response to those findings. AB 999 would require CDCR to implement a five-year phase-in to distribute condoms at all state prisons in a manner consistent with the Solano Prison pilot project findings.
“By taking this most basic step in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, we are not only advocating for the improved health of prisoners, but we are also protecting communities across the state that may be exposed to former prisoners with communicable diseases who relocate to neighborhoods upon reentry.
“And if the moral principle of keeping innocent vulnerable populations safe from deadly disease doesn’t compel you,” Bonta said, “the financial considerations are also persuasive. According to the California Department of Health Services the average cost per patient with HIV in the Medi-Cal system is $23,964 per year.
“Over the life of the patient, a single infection can cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. The pilot program we studied cost approximately $1.39 per prisoner to implement; and the report concluded that this modest cost of the program paid for itself when considered against the fact that the program averted 2.7 to 5.5 infections per year.
“The Solano pilot project found that when condoms are distributed in prisons, they are used. The condoms don’t increase the incidence of consensual sex or rape, but they do create an inexpensive barrier to a deadly disease.  I am proud to take a leadership role on this issue and stand up for the vulnerable communities who are being affected by this devastating and preventable cycle.”

Gospel Play “For Every Mountain” Dramatizes Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Lyricist Reshanya Keough plays the part of “Billye” in the upcoming gospel play “For Every Mountain.” Photo by Adam Turner.

By Ashley
Chambers

Shedding light on modern day mental and emotional health challenges, the inspirational gospel play “For Every Mountain” is returning to the stage after a successful run last year. Presented by Totally Led Ministries under Rev. George Brown and Grace Baptist Church in Oakland under Pastor Charles L. Hopkins, the play is written and directed by veteran Bay Area playwright Beverly Brown.
Featuring a group of talented Bay Area actors, musicians, and vocalists, the play is based on a modern day “Job,” a man who faced a great test of his faith in the Bible. The journey of  the main character, “Joy” played by Tamara Edwards, gives viewers a glimpse into the impact of mental health issues on the victim and on those close to her as well. “Billye,” a close friend of “Joy,” played by lyricist Reshanya Keough, goes to all ends to support and protect her friend.
“Billye is feisty and passionate. She’s supportive of [Joy] as she’s going through her mental issues,” Keough said.
“I’m really protective of people that I see are victims, but even more so individuals that I care about,” she said, relating to her character.
Other characters in the play include “Ellie,” the bitter, manipulative friend played by Michelle Jenson; “Zoey,” the seductress played by Simone Foster; “Ron,” Joy’s husband played by Jeremy Bardwell; and special guest comedian J-Red.
Performances of the play will be held at the El Cerrito Theatre and will feature a mental health resource fair. Representatives from Kaiser Permanente, Berkeley Christian Counselors, Family Education and Resource Center of Alameda County, Mental Health Friendly Congregations, and Family Paths of Alameda County will be on hand with information, answering questions and making referrals.
“There’s a stigma in the Christian and African American communities that we don’t seek professional help for our issues,” Keough said. “Beverly’s objective with this [play] is that there’s nothing wrong with people seeking professional help for mental issues. It’s also important for individuals to be supportive of people they know that might be going through mental issues.”
Performances will be held on Saturday, May 4 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 at 4 p.m. at the El Cerrito Theatre, 540 Ashbury Ave. in El Cerrito. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.totallyled.org or call (510) 904-7045.

Castlemont Students Win “Write to Live” Essay Contest

Left to right: Micaela Clark, Judge Trina Thompson, Zelana Smith, and Thomas Logwood. Photo courtesy of Tapestry Life Enrichment Programs.

By Ashley Chambers

At this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Fest, Zelana Smith, Micaela Clark, and Thomas Logwood from Castlemont High School demonstrated the power of young voices winning the 2013 “Write to Live” essay contest.
Begun in 2011, the contest is based on the book “Write to Live, Telling Our Stories,” authored by students of Leadership Preparatory High at Castlemont with the help of English teacher Marsha Rhynes.
The book includes a foreword by  author and poet Maya Angelou and an endorsement from her son Guy Johnson.
Students were asked to write a personal, analytical essay in response to a quote published in the book
“We must acknowledge that literacy is a need, not a want, and literacy is essential for the growth of self-empowerment of an individual as well as a community, and the world at large,” wrote Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who volunteered as a judge in the contest.
Smith won third place; Clark won second place; and Logwood won first place. They each read their essays at the Oratorical Fest speaking on the value of literacy to the advancement of society.
“I’m really proud of the students for accepting this challenge because it involved writing 1500 words, meeting a deadline when seniors have several deadlines, and it gave them an opportunity for other people to hear their voices,” said Rhynes, who teaches Micaela and Zelana in her AP English class.

Mormon Helping Hands Community Service Projects

Volunteers paint the Fred Finch Youth Center campus on Coolidge Avenue in Oakland.

The Mormon Helping Hands program mobilized more 5,000 volunteers to conduct community service project on April 20 and 27 throughout the Bay Area.
The largest project this year took place in Oakland where Mormon Helping Hands 2013, in partnership with Rebuilding Together Oakland and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led an interfaith effort bringing together about 900 volunteers to prep, paint, and weed the Fred Finch Youth Center campus on Coolidge Avenue in Oakland.
Fred Finch provides professional, culturally competent, individualized mental health and social services including housing and schooling for 30 at-risk foster children.
Rebuilding Together Oakland utilizes volunteers to repair the homes of low-income homeowners in Oakland so they may live in safety, comfort and independence. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Oakland and Oakland East Stakes represent over 3,800 households in Oakland and the East Bay and provided volunteers and a donation of $10,000 toward the project.
The Mormon Helping Hands program, established in 1998, has provided thousands of volunteer hours in hundreds of project including the 2012 Sandy cleanup in the multiple states affected by that storm.
This year, the Mormon Helping Hands is sponsoring hundreds of interfaith community service projects throughout California as mapped on http://mhhcalifornia.org/locations. For more detailed information on the scope of the California Mormon Helping Hands projects, go to  http://mhhcalifornia.org
The Antioch Stake brought about 500 volunteers to clean up three city parks, joined with another church in planting trees in Brentwood, did rehab at the county fairgrounds and cleaned up Marsh Creek.
The Concord Stake, with about 350 volunteers, cleaned up a city park in San Pablo.   In Martinez, they painted and cleaned the historic railroad station, cleaned up the downtown area and weeded and cleaned headstones at the historic cemetery.
Danville Stake, with 400 volunteers, painted, cleaned up and landscaped at California High School in San Ramon.
The Hayward Stake, with 300 volunteers participating, conducted nine projects including planting trees in Union City and making quilts for the homeless.
The Mormon’s San Francisco Stake brought about 200 volunteers to work at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, cleaning and beautifying headstones and landscaping.  The San Francisco East Stake (Tongan), with about 300 volunteers participating, performed cleanup and landscaping work at Coyote Point Park near San Mateo.
The San Francisco West Stake was involved in seven projects, including the Food Bank. The San Leandro Stake, with about 300 volunteers, did park cleanup in San Leandro and painted the historic train station in Alameda.
Walnut Creek Stake brought 100 volunteers for cleanup in Clayton and 200 volunteers who performed landscaping and built trails and a volleyball court at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek. Another 40 volunteers constructed 4,000 feet of new fencing at Sugar Loaf Park in Walnut Creek.
There were also projects in San Jose and Marin County, which brought the total number of Bay Area participants to over 5,000.

From England – Words Of Colour Celebrates Seven Years.

[responsive_vid]Words of Colour Productions celebrated its seventh anniversary on Thursday 24 May 2012 in London with guest appearances from acclaimed poet and spoken word artist Malika Booker, spoken word artist, writer and singer Lyrical Healer, rnb singer Joel Culpepper and award-winning singer and spoken word artist FLOetic Lara. Music was supplied by Pyramid with background images by Samantha Watson.

Filmmaker: Nathan Edward Richards

 

SF Labor Protests for Construction Jobs

Sheet Metal workers led a protest Wednesday at BRE’s Annual Shareholder’s Meeting in downtown San Francisco.

Members of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 104 and other construction trades unions joined forces this week with environmentalists, transit advocates, and community leaders in a day of action at BRE’s Annual Shareholder’s Meeting to protest use of out-of-area workers at “substandard wages in developments around the Bay Area.
“It is critical that the developers we invite into our communities understand San Francisco values. Developers who take advantage of the unique opportunities found in San Francisco must stand by the letter and the spirit of our First Source agreement, which is to provide middle class job opportunities in the construction trades by paying a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” said Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo).
BRE Properties did not return a call from the Post requesting a comment.
Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 104 led the day of action on Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome St. in San Francisco’s financial district to expose what the union calls BRE Properties’ practice of importing out-of-area workers and paying substandard wages in developments around the San Francisco Bay Area.
The union represents 9,000 workers in Northern and Central California in the commercial, industrial, and residential sectors and is a shareholder of BRE Properties.
“Billions of dollars are pouring into the Bay Area, fueling the construction of new developments. BRE Properties is exploiting the workers it hires to build its projects simply to increase its corporate profits. That is not how the Bay Area builds,” said Jack Jones, sheet metal worker from Sunnyvale, California.  BRE is building hundreds of new apartments in Sunnyvale where hundreds of workers from outside the Bay Area were brought in to complete the job some being paid 80 percent less than the Area Standard Wage.
“BRE has brought in out-of-town, inexperienced workers, and they’re paying them substandard wages with little or no benefits.  It’s a slap in the face to our communities. Sheet Metal workers support the community and the City. We live in this community, we pay taxes, our kids attend school here, and we support small businesses that support the local economy,” continued Jones.

Huffman Calls on Speaker Boehner to Work on Budget Agreement

Jared Huffman

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), a member of the House Budget Committee has called on Speaker John Boehner to appoint representatives to a conference committee on the budget so Congress can reach an agreement that creates jobs, strengthens the middle class, and reduces the deficit:
“For months, House Republican leaders have complained about inaction on the budget, but now that the ball is in their court they are dragging their feet,” said Huffman.
“The only way we’re going to move forward and come to agreement on a budget is if we sit down in a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee to work out our differences.
“With the President’s budget, the House-passed Paul Ryan budget—which I voted against—and the Senate-passed Democratic budget all on the table, it’s time to stop delaying and start the conference committee process.
“Congress has already missed its legal deadline of April 15 to pass a final budget, which is unacceptable. We can’t return to the cycle of endless short-term budget crises—House Republican leaders should get moving and appoint conferees.”
Last week, Congressman Huffman joined fellow House Budget Democrats to send a letter to Speaker Boehner urging him to appoint conferees.

Youth Rocks the Rebuild for Performing Stars

First row, from left: The Marin School for the Arts, The Marin City Zydeco Boys – Daesan, Kevin, Oceil, Evan, Marsean and Nicholas. Second row: Ali MacMillian, Matt Jaffe (guitar), Sema Serifsoy-diFalco, Rose Paradise. Third Row: Will Kepler (guitar), John Strand (drums), Darren Miyawaki (sax), Sean McGee (bass), Angelina Quezada (vocal), Sabrina Saunders (keyboard), Marita Prodger (vocal), Ryan (beat box) and Raymon (guitar). Fourth row: The Spotted Botanists: Max Mercier (guitar), Zak Langford-Do (guitar), Kai Langford-Do (drums), Adam Hilario (bass), Chloe (piano), Chase McDonald (guitar), Talita Stiles (vocal). Fifth row: Olivia Fischer Smith (Keyboard), Matty Michna (guitar), West Houser (drums), Brian Whitelaw-McDonald (bass), Devon Lawrence (vocal and keyboard), Matt Jaffee and the Distractions. Bottom row: Felecia Gaston and Miller Klitsner standing outside Sweetwater, and with the Square Three Design Studio displaying plans for redesigning the Performing Stars studio, Youth Rock Rebuilds! logo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee).

Youth Rocks the Rebuild, an organization of young adult musicians, performed a concert benefit at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley last Sunday, April 21, to help redesign the Performing Stars of Marin’s dance studio.
The Marin City Zydeco Boys – Daesan, Kevin, Oceil, Evan, Marsean and Nicholas – performed at the beginning of the concert to an enthusiastic audience.
Miller Klitsner, who produced the concert, a junior at Urban High School of San Francisco, plays the bass  and is musical director for a youth band.
He raised funds for Performing Stars of Marin when he was 12. He has chosen to return to Performing Stars and has taken on the project of re-designing the practice room and building safe storage for the instruments.
Klitsner is collaborating with Architecture for Humanity who will help with the design.
Youth Rock the Rebuild has been playing concerts in local communities to help raise awareness of various causes since 2010. Based in the Bay Area, the group has raised money to help charitable organizations all over the country, including the Bezos Foundation, the Windhorse Foundation, Architecture for Humanity  and Kiddo.
In January 2010, 40 youth musicians from Youth Rock held a benefit for earthquake victims in Haiti. Musicians played in the streets of downtown Mill Valley and on stage of the Masonic auditorium to a sold out crowd.
The theme of the concert was “Save Lives,” and over $11,000 was raised for Doctors Without Borders.
The benefit was the first time on stage for several of these musicians. It was also a way for the other musicians to share their passion to serve the community.
The musicians saw the power of performance first hand and learned that they could make a meaningful contribution.
The second concert was held May 30 in the plaza of downtown Mill Valley, to support the efforts of Architecture for Humanity to rebuild schools in Haiti. Fifteen groups of young performers played as street musicians around town, and another 12 bands played in the plaza.
In 2012, Youth Rock the Rebuild had an ambitious schedule of concerts and service. An overflow crowd enjoyed a concert at Sweetwater in February, and an exceptional group of musicians supported the Windhorse Foundation at the Mill Valley Plaza in May.
The Sweetwater Concert for World Peace Day on Sept. 21 was sold out.
Overall, nearly 100 musicians have played in Youth Rock the Rebuild concerts, and together have raised over $45,000 for schools, shelter and medical assistance.

Find Jobs, Careers at East Bay HIREvent

Filing tax forms was a fresh reminder to many that both their income and employment status are in need of a boost. Whether that means rejoining the workforce, finding a better job or going in a different career direction, the East Bay’s HIREvent in Emeryville offers an ideal venue to explore a broad array of exciting new opportunities and lucrative careers.
This popular job fair brings applicants together with representatives from both public and private-sector organizations eager to fill rewarding positions in a variety of fields. Jobseekers will meet face-to-face with recruiters, so they should dress professionally and be prepared to impress prospective employers.
For those who would like to improve their resume, employment experts will be on hand for free consultations.
The East Bay HIREvent will be held Tuesday, May 7 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1800 Powell St, on the waterfront in Emeryville. Admission is free to this event, sponsored by ABC7 KGO, Salem Communications and Job Journal.
For information, visit JobJournal.com or call 888-THE-JOBS (843-5627).

San Leandro Crossings Development Update

City staff and representatives from nonprofit housing developer BRIDGE Housing Corporation will present an update on the proposed Cornerstone building, which is part of the San Leandro Crossing development project at the San Leandro BART station, Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers.
The Cornerstone building will consist of 200 affordable housing rental units. The building complies with existing planning entitlements from 2009, the Zoning Code, the General Plan, and the City’s Downtown Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Strategy.
BRIDGE is preparing to apply for the final round of 2013 State/federal low-income housing tax credits in early July.
In Spring 2012, the City, BRIDGE, Westlake Development Partnership, and OSIsoft presented to the City Council a revised San Leandro Crossings master development that included: 1) changing the proposed 200 unit Cornerstone residential rental development from market to affordable housing and having BRIDGE replace Westlake as developer, 2) having BRIDGE provide the replacement BART parking, and 3) creating a multi-phased privately funded tech campus for OSIsoft, with Westlake as developer, on the site west of the BART Station previously planned for affordable housing.
The May 6 presentation will cover the Cornerstone and replacement BART parking. The Westlake tech campus will begin the public approval process this summer.
Revised Cornerstone features that will be presented on May 6 include: development of the 200 units in two phases – 115 units of affordable housing followed by 85 units of senior affordable housing; provision for BART indoor replacement parking on-site through the addition of a second level of underground parking; reduced BART replacement parking; lowered height for the building façade facing Carpentier Street; and inclusion of a ground-floor community childcare center.
Maintaining BART parking at the Cornerstone site keeps parking close to the BART station and Downtown San Leandro. Replacement parking will be provided at a 75 percent level consistent with the Downtown TOD Strategy. Additional parking spaces will be available on San Leandro Boulevard as a result of the streetscape improvements currently underway.
The updated Cornerstone affordable rental housing project represents the first residential development to occur under the Downtown TOD Strategy.
Cornerstone will enhance downtown with its attractive architectural design, increase public transit use and the number of people patronizing downtown businesses. Cornerstone has leveraged over $30 million in public funding ($9.1 million loan from the former Redevelopment Agency and over $22 million in Proposition 1C grant funding from the State,) and will help the city meet its state and federal affordable and workforce housing goals.
For more information call the City Manager’s Office at (510) 577-3351.

Community Child Care Council of Alameda County 40th Anniversary

The Community Child Care Council (4C’s) of Alameda County will be hosting its 40th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, May 4 at 6 p.m.
The organization will present awards to Michael A. LeNoir, M.D., president-elect of the National Medical Association; George Halvorson, president and CEO of Kaiser Permanente; Kristina Adams, president-elect of the California Child Development Administrators Association; and the Golden State Warriors Community Foundation.

Afternoon of High Tea and Vintage Fashion in San Leandro

The Alta Mira Club is presenting a Vintage Fashion Show and Tea on Saturday, May 4 at the Alta Mira Club House, located at 561 Lafayette Ave. in San Leandro.
High tea, which will be served at 12:30 p.m., includes tea or coffee and a spread of assorted tea sandwiches and desserts.
Theresa LaQuey, custom clothier and designer for Simplicity Pattern Company, and her models will present a  fashion show. There will also be a free home tour of the historic mansion afterwards.
Admission is $25 per person. Purchase tickets by check (payable to Alta Mira Club) or cash at the Information Desk at the San Leandro Main Library, 300 Estudillo Ave. in San Leandro.
Seating is limited. Reserved seating can be made for groups of eight or more. For information, call (510) 577-3986.

San Leandro Expands Dates and Hours for Summer Swimming

The San Leandro Recreation and Human Services Department will operate pools over the summer at the San Leandro Family Aquatic Center, Boys and Girls Club and Farrelly Pool.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy

San Leandro Boys’ and Girls’ Club Pool

Farrelly Pool

San Leandro Family Aquatic Center at Washington Manor Park

Each of the pools offers swim lessons for all ages and levels at a variety of times with American Red Cross certified and trained instructors.  To register for swim lessons online, go to: http://bit.ly/SLswim2013 and click Aquatics in the left-hand sidebar.
Recreational swimming is offered at each of the pools at a variety of times and days as well.  Thanks to a generous anonymous donation, recreational swimming will be expanded at Farrelly Pool to include the weekends as well as Monday-Thursday evenings.
According to Mayor Stephen Cassidy, “We are delighted that Farrelly Pool will be open to children and adults on the weekends throughout the summer. Keep your kids and yourselves water safe, and enjoy our pools located across San Leandro. Exercise classes, lap swimming and recreational swim are also offered.”
Purchasing a pass saves time (you get to enter 10 minutes before the doors open!) and money (there’s a $25 discount if you purchase before May 24t- plus save $25 more if you register with another family).
This year, summer recreational swim hours are as follows:
San Leandro Family Aquatic Center: Open from May 25 to Sept. 2 on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4:45 p.m. Starting on June 17 through Aug. 20 the facility will be open every day of the week from 1 to 4:45 p.m. The facility will also be open for recreational swimming from 1 to 4:45 p.m. on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays. The center is located at 14900 Zelma St., San Leandro.
Farrelly Pool: Open from June 17 to Aug. 15 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Also open from June 22 to Sept. 1 on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4:45 p.m. (No recreational swimming on July 4 or July 28). The pool is located on the grounds of Roosevelt Elementary School at 864 Dutton Ave., San Leandro.
Boys and Girls Club: Open from June 17 to Aug. 15 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. (No recreational swimming on July 4). The club and pool are located at 401 Marina Blvd., San Leandro.
To register for swim classes and purchase Family Recreational Swim passes, contact the San Leandro Recreation and Human Services Department at (510) 577-3462. Or, go to the department’s customer service locations at the Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Blvd., Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., or the Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th St. Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For further information, please call San Leandro Recreation and Human Services customer service at (510) 577-3462.

Felony Disenfranchisement, A Jim Crow Era Holdover

By

Benjamin Todd Jealous

Last week, the Delaware State legislature approved a constitutional amendment to all but remove the last Jim Crow-era voter suppression law from its books.
The amendment, passed at the urging of the Delaware NAACP, allows people with nonviolent felony convictions to vote after their release from prison.
This is a major victory for voting rights and a strike against the practice of “felony disenfranchisement.” It is also a major step forward for a nation still struggling to heal old racial wounds.
Felony disenfranchisement has direct roots in the Jim Crow Era. In the late 19th Century, states above and below the Mason-Dixon Line began to find new and creative ways to keep Black voters away from the polls. Banning people with felony convictions was one of the solutions.
For example, in 1901 the Commonwealth of Virginia had 147,000 Black voters on the rolls. But many lawmakers saw this growing political block as a threat.
At that year’s Constitutional Convention, they hatched a plan to disenfranchise African Americans through a combination of Black codes and felony disenfranchisement. One legislator said on the record that the plan would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor.”
Ninety years later, Kemba Smith-Pradia was an undergraduate student at Hampton University. She got involved with the wrong crowd and found herself behind bars as an accessory to a nonviolent drug offense. President Clinton granted Kemba executive clemency in 2000, six years into her 24-year sentence.
She went on to become a college graduate, law student, mother and foundation president – but until 2012, when her rights were finally restored, not a voter.
Kemba’s story is just one example of how the legacy of the 1901 Convention lives on. In today’s Virginia, 350,000 people are still disenfranchised by the 1901 law, and many of them are African Americans.
Nationwide, 48 states allow some form of felony disenfranchisement, and one out of every 13 voting-age African Americans is affected. In four states – Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Florida – disenfranchisement can be permanent.
When Virginia introduced felony disenfranchisement in 1901, they also expanded the list of felony crimes. By raising the penalty for a number of minor offenses, they planned to lock African Americans in the prison system – and out of the political system.
A century later, our drug laws have the same amplifying effect. African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for minor drug crimes, and therefore more likely to have their vote taken away.
The good news is that Delaware and other states are beginning to turn the tide. In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell has sped up the review process for those who have finished the terms of their sentence.
So far he has restored the votes of more than 4,000 citizens. And Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who callously eliminated automatic restoration of voting rights early in his term, is now taking steps toward restoring those rights.
These are certainly steps in the right direction, but there is more work to do. Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Florida still allow permanent disenfranchisement, and 44 other states permit some level of felony disenfranchisement.
You can learn about the law in your state at www.restorethevotes.org. If you or someone in your community is affected, you can use that information to educate your family, your community and your elected officials about why this is an important issue.
Felony disenfranchisement is an affront to our democracy. Millions of people like Kemba Smith-P Pradia – parents, workers, and community leaders – pay taxes, raise families and contribute to society. But they cannot fully participate in our democracy.
If poll taxes, literacy tests, and gumball-counting tests could be outlawed because of their racist intent, then felony disenfranchisement laws from the same era should be overturned today.
Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.

Floyd Mayweather Takes on Northern California’s Robert “Ghost” Guerrero

Floyd Mayweather

Robert Guerrero

By Lee
Hubbard

The weekend of Cinco de Mayo will be the place to be in Las Vegas, Nevada, as current Welterweight World Boxing Champion Floyd Mayweather will return to the ring to fight Robert Guerrero in “May Day: Mayweather vs. Guerrero.”
The championship bout will take place Saturday, May 4 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and will also be shown live on Showtime pay per view.
Also featured on the under card is a bout between WBC Featherweight World Champion Daniel Ponce de Leon and Two-Division World Champion Abner Mares.
The fight with Mayweather will be a tough task for Guerrero, who hails from Gilroy, California. Called “The Ghost,” the 29-year-old Robert Guerrero is 31-1 with 18 knockouts and is a six-time and four-division world champion.
The southpaw boxer attracted the attention of the boxing world when he defeated two-time world champion Andre Berto in November 2012.
“This will be my third consecutive fight at welterweight, and I’m feeling extremely strong going into this fight,” said Guerrero.  “My power is still there, and it will be effective against Mayweather. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have the power and skills to beat Floyd.”
Mayweather, 36, is an eight-time world champion in five divisions. He has a record of 42-0 with 26 knockouts. The lightening quick counter puncher has become boxing’s biggest attraction.
He has amassed wins over champions such as Diego Corrales, Joe Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz and most recently a stellar knockout of Welterweight World Champion Miguel Cotto.
“I know Guerrero has been campaigning to fight me for quite a while now, and I am happy to give him his opportunity,” said Mayweather.  “His name is mentioned among the other great champions in boxing today, and that means he has proven himself in the ring. He will now have to prove himself against me, which is a whole other story.”
Guerrero says his rough upbringing in Gilroy and tough nature of the little town has helped prepare him for his big fight against Mayweather.
“Growing up in a small town like Gilroy was rough,” continued Guerrero.  “My dad was always training my older brothers, and we were always in the gym. All the time I spent watching them has molded me into the fighter I am today.”
The fight against Guerrero will be the first fight Mayweather has had since completing an 87-day jail term for domestic abuse in August 2012.
“I’m excited for the challenge and fully expect a good, tough fight from him,” said Mayweather.  “However, I do expect the same outcome for him as all of the others who have challenged me before.”
While Guerrero may be new to the international boxing community, he has been an inspiring boxer out of the ring.
He notably gave up his junior lightweight crown in early 2010 to take care for his then ill wife, Casey, who has since fully recovered from her battle with leukemia. Her inspiring battles motivated Guerrero to take advantage of his opportunities in the ring.
“I believe I can beat him,” continued Guerrero.  “He’s just another human being walking the earth. Being a Christian, we know all things are possible through Jesus Christ. He’s getting a bit older now, and I feel I have the power and speed to take him out. Everyone will be shocked on May 4 when my hand is raised in victory.”

Richmond Business Owner Ran Boston Marathon

Robert Speck. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee.

By Kia Croom

Richmond business owner Robert Speck narrowly escaped the deadly explosions at the Boston Marathon.
He finished the race in 3 hours, 9 minutes – before the first explosion went off at the finish line.
“Although I finished one hour before the first explosion, my friend finished 19 minutes before. I would normally wait at the finish line for her, but we had an evening flight, so I hurried to the hotel. Our hotel was just three blocks from the marathon.”
Speck says he and his friend heard a loud noise that sounded like a huge sign had fallen. But by then they both were safely at their hotel.
“On the way to the airport, we figured out what had taken place. We noticed smoke and saw people looking at nearby T.V. monitors. When we got to the airport, Homeland Security was there with weapons,” he said.
Speck says he is very saddened by the devastating course of events. Prior to the bombings, he described a scene in which exuberant crowds celebrated the runners, tailgating and sharing refreshments with them as they passed by.
All that changed in a few minutes.
“Bostonians were visibly sad and angry. To think that someone would want to torment and inflict pain on so many innocent people is saddening. I did not get a good night’s sleep until the last guy was captured,” he said.
Speck was among 27,000 runners. He noticed authorities accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs prior to the start of the event. No explanation was given to runners or those who attended.
“It makes you wonder, did the authorities anticipate something like this happening? Had there been any threats?” he asked.
Speck, who has participated in the marathon for the last four years, anticipates running again in the Boston race.
“I will run next year, there is nothing going to intimidate me. I am going. It’s a major goal for many runners to qualify, as the times are pretty tough to beat. One out of 100 runners qualify for the Boston Marathon,” he said.
Speck says he runs an average of five to six marathons per year including the Napa Marathon, where he first qualified for the Boston Marathon, three years ago with a finish time of three hours, 11minutes.
He believes the explosions will affect future races in Boston and other places. “The race will never be the same. There will obviously need to be more security measures, not just a Boston, but any of the high profile races that have an international presence,” he said.
Speck is the owner of the Central Richmond Pharmacy, which has been in business for more than 30 years. He says he is proud to work in Richmond and to be able to serve such a great community.

Free Rotacare Health Clinic Tuesday Nights

Lacy J Dalton

Free medical diagnosis/service is now available for the medically uninsured at the Richmond Rotacare clinic Tuesday evenings from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 2727 Macdonald Ave.in Richmond,
The clinic opened in March in response to the request to Rotary by the Health Department of Contra Costa County so that medical services would be available to the 150,000+ uninsured in the western portion of the county.
The I-80 Corridor Rotary clubs worked with Rotacare and Brighter Beginnings to rehabilitate a facility, recruit over a hundred volunteer doctors and nurses and social workers, and raise funds to open the clinic.
Patients should call (510) 213-6678 in advance for appointments on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. It is hoped that hours and possibly days of service will expand over time.
A fundraiser is being held on May 2 at Freight and Salvage in downtown Berkeley with Hall of Fame singer/songwriter Lacy J. Dalton to raise money for the pharmaceutical drugs the doctors will be prescribing.
Tickets are available at $40@ by mail to Rotary Endowment, 2925 Russell St., Berkeley 94705.

Nat Bates, 40 Years of Service to Richmond

Nat Bates. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee.

Part 1
By Lloyd
Madden

If one word describes Nat Bates and his time on the Richmond City Council, it is experience.
No other member of the council can claim to have as much experience and have as many long-standing relationships that have benefited the community. Over time, Bates has worked diligently and to utilize his experience to bring resources to Richmond and reshape the city for the better.
For more than 40 years, Councilmember Bates has worked hard for the people of Richmond. He grew up in Richmond and attended local schools. Prior to holding elected office, he worked as a probation officer and as field representative to the late Senator Daniel Boatwright.
First elected in 1967, at a time when there were nine members of the council serving terms of six years, he has worked on many issues like increased public safety, better access to health care, improved city services and smart land use.
His number one priority has always been attracting and retaining jobs. That’s why he worked hard to bring the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to Richmond.
It’s why he has always supported investing in the Port to bring auto warehousing and other jobs into the city, and why he supports job-training programs like Richmond BUILD.
Recently, Bates took a tough stand in favor of neighborhood businesses that are critical to the economic revitalization of Richmond. Bates says, “Small businesses are the first to employ new people, and they keep neighborhoods vibrant.”
That’s why he took a leadership position in opposing Measure N on the ballot in 2012, the harmful so-called “soda tax,” that put an additional burden on local business and customers.
“Bates is always looking out for the little guy, trying to support our local business community and create jobs,” said Rosa Lara, president of the 23rd Street Merchants Association.  “His leadership was critical in the effort to defeat the proposed business license fee that would have been imposed on our small businesses had Measure N passed.”
When asked about the most important project he has worked on, one that has had the most impact in the city, Bates said, “It’s hard to say the most important. There are at least four major projects that have had a significant impact in Richmond that I have supported while serving on the Council.”
“Building the Hilltop Mall was very controversial,” said Bates. At the time, some in the community wanted to bring the project to the downtown area. The developer wanted to build with easy access to the highway. If the developer didn’t get his preferred location, he was prepared to build in Pinole, Hercules or the surrounding area.
Bates stepped up to the plate and, in fact, made the motion to build the development in Richmond. “My priority was making sure Richmond got those jobs and the tax revenue, so I decided to support the project. On the basis of my support, the developer chose to move forward with the project here in Richmond.”
Next week, Nat Bates, Part II

Lydia Stewart Honored for Community Service

Lydia Stewart. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee.

Lydia Stewart is one of five individuals who will receive the Judge Carroll Community Service Award, sponsored by the Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC) of Contra Costa County.
She is the owner and operator of Stewart’s Rose Manor Funeral Service in Richmond. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she studied at the UCLA and University of San Francisco Law School.
She has served on the California Funeral Directors Association (CFDA) Board of Directors. In 2002, she was awarded “”Young Funeral Director of the Year” by the association for her community work and contribution to the funeral industry.
She also has served on Girls Inc. of Richmond Board of Directors.
Stewart is a member of North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church and the Women Missionary, actively participating in the Annual Youth Day.
Dedicated to teaching youth, she has taught English in both Los Angeles and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts and has taught dance and drama at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.
In 2007, she coordinated and taught etiquette seminars in Richmond for both boys and girls 13-19 years of age. The seminars were featured on Bay Area Channels 2 and Channel 5 evening news.
She continues to teach etiquette with Richmond Police Athletic League, Girls’s Inc. and local churches.
Following in her father’s footsteps, she is a member of Ashlars Chapter No.47 Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliation, and she is a lifetime member of the NAACP.

Shop at JCPenny to Support Girls Inc. College Scholarships

Amya Harris (left) and Mieasha Harris at JCPenny, Hiltop Richmond.

By Mieasha Harris,
Executive Director –
Girls Inc. WCCC

Shoppers at the JCPenny store at Hilltop in Richmond are helping  Girls Inc. raise $1 million for college scholarships. At mid-month, donations to the  nonprofit have already reached nearly $500,000.
Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County has been designated by the Hilltop JCPenny in Richmond to be the store the company is partnering with to promote the Round Up Initiative. Every Saturday during the month of April, Girls Inc. staff, volunteers and girls have committed to be on site, to talk about organization’s programs and the Roundup.
Working with local high schools, Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa is reaching out to girls ages 14-18 to inform them about college readiness and the Girls Inc. National Scholars Program. As a result of the outreach efforts, nine participants have been recognized as national scholars and have received scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.
During 2006, Girls Inc. of WCCC had three $10,000 scholarship recipients, more than any other Girls Inc. affiliate in the nation.
This year, Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa is honoring five high school seniors who are the first graduating class of the College Bound Girls program on Saturday, May 11 at the Richmond Recreation Complex.
With local roots dating back to 1864 and national status in the U.S. since 1945, Girls Inc. responds to the changing needs of girls and their communities through research-based programs and advocacy that empower girls to reach their full potential and to understand, value, and assert their rights.
The majority of Girls Inc. centers are located in low–income areas and provide a weekly average of 30 hours of after-school, weekend and summer activities. Girls Inc.  informs policymakers about girls’ needs locally and nationally. West Contra Costa County has a large population of Latino and African American youth — our agency tailors programs to assist in developing life skills.
Support Girls Inc. on securing college scholarships for girls by shopping JCPenny during the month of April. For more information, contact 510-232-5440.
Mieasha Harris is executive director of Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County.