Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

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#METOO WorldWide Movement

#METOO – “Ain’t I A Woman”

The Worldwide #METOO Movement came to Berkeley this week. Fifty speakers came from around the world to talk about global resistance to sexual harassment and violence. I am honored to participate in the conversation and the ongoing struggle against oppression based on gender.

The most important insight that I can contribute about resistance to sexual harassment and violence is that it is deeply rooted in the intersectional oppression and resistance of Black women.” And so I started to engage with this amazing group of activists, lawyers, professors and students. We are all committed to moving #METOO beyond the popular hashtag into real challenge and change. We must honor and appreciate the roots of this movement as we move “forward and beyond.”

The title “Ain’t I A Woman” goes back to Sojourner Truth’s famous speech on May 29, 1851 in Akron, Ohio. She spoke from her heart and the pain of slavery to challenge white women to “see” her. In 1981, Professor Bell Hooks in her famous book, “Ain’t I A Woman” challenged contemporary white feminists to “recognize” Black women in “their” movement. Ten years later, in 1991, Anita Hill‘s riveting testimony before an all white male Judiciary Committee (headed by Uncle Joe Biden) gave voice to the outrage of women everywhere. After that hearing, the battle cry was “I believe Anita Hill.”

#BlackWomenBuiltThat

The oppression and resistance of Black women created the
law of sexual harassment. In the fall of 1977, I joined the sexual harassment lawsuit called Alexander v. Yale. My political science professor sexually propositioned me. Yale’s band leader raped Ronni Alexander. Ronni’s case was dismissed. Mine was not. As a 21-year-old Black woman, I became the lead plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit ever litigated in this country in education. We gave sexual harassment a name and made Title IX apply to it.

I was not alone. In 1976, Diane R. Williams, a 23-year-old Black woman attorney won her sexual harassment case against the Dept. of Justice. Diane persisted after the case was overturned on appeal. She started fighting her case in 1972 and kept fighting until she finally won in 1980. Her case was among the first in employment to say that “quid pro quid” sexual harassment is sex discrimination.

Paulette L. Barnes, a Black woman, filed and lost her case against the federal government in 1974. Paulette persisted. On July 27, 1977, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled that it was illegal to fire a woman who refused a supervisor’s advances. On the West Coast, Margaret Miller, a Black woman, sued Bank of America for sexual harassment. Margaret lost her case in the district court in 1976. But she persisted. She finally won her case in June 1979.

“Anita Hill’s Grandmother”

Sandra Bundy in 2018 (Credit: Lexey Swall)

Sandra Bundy‘s case was the first federal appeals court case to clearly say that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. Sandra sued the federal government in 1977. She lost at trial in 1979 and fought until she won in 1981. Because of Sandra Bundy, women everywhere can say that sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment. As a result, in 1986, Mechelle Vinson, a Black woman, won her hostile work environment case in the United States Supreme Court. She fought her case for almost 10 years, from 1978 to 1987.

From #METOO to #SayHerName

Fast forward 30 years to October 2017. That month, actress Ashley Judd went public with her story of sexual harassment by powerful Hollywood icon, Harvey Weinstein. Soon after that, Actress Alyssa Milano tweets “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” #METOO goes viral worldwide.

Tarana Burke, 2018. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tarana Burke, a Black woman activist, created the phrase “MeToo” and an organization in 2006 to empower survivors of sexual violence. The worldwide #METOO movement to fight sexual harassment and sexual violence springs again from our oppression and our resistance.

It was my privilege this week to share our history with women and men from around the world. At last year’s conference, Professor Kimberle Crenshaw shared this herstory. Professor Crenshaw’s work on the urgency of intersectionality clearly points the way forward for our #METOO global movement. Black women must not be invisible in this movement. We are the veins in the “kaleidoscope of butterflies” that Professor Catherine MacKinnon so beautifully describes that gives our movement wings. Our power lies in our collective effort.

Pamela Price & Joelle Dzukou Epse Nwabueze
UC Berkeley Law School, 2019

Repeal No. 2

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Protest, Parkland, Florida 2018

The news this week is the same news we heard last week. The same insane incessant scourge of gun violence overwhelms us. The same “thoughts and prayers” that were issued by legislators around the country last week are re-issued this week. To a different family. To a different grieving community. To the same shocked nation.

Someone asked me after reading “Every 16 Hours” last week, what is the call to action? The call to action is simple: Repeal the Second Amendment. Repeal No. 2. The Second Amendment is the hard rock that supports every argument that we should continue to allow people to be killed with guns.

The Second Amendment was added to the Constitution as a compromise to protect the slave patrols in the South. The Founders knew the militias were necessary to keep slaves under control. Just like we abolished slavery, we need to abolish the Second Amendment. It is a vestige of our history, just like Jim Crow and mass incarceration, that is still killing us.

The Second Amendment Is Killing Us

This week, two teenagers opened fire at a high school in Colorado. They killed Kendrick Castillo, 18, and wounded eight other students. A gunman killed Riley Howell, 21, inside a University of North Carolina-Charlotte lecture room. Two people were killed and four others were injured in the attack.  The national news is abuzz with tributes to these two young men for bravery. The media sensationalizes their lives and murders.

Less sensational but just as deadly are the events here at home in the Bay Area. In Oakland, on Friday night, someone shot and killed 30-year old Tristan Carson, a clothing designer and event promoter at the intersection of East 12th Street and 23rd Avenue. No suspects, no motive. Just another young life lost to gun violence.

On Tuesday morning, a gunman shot and killed a 47-year-old man in Pittsburg as he stood outside his car. The shooting was the City of Pittsburg’s 8th homicide in 9 months, and the 5th in less than 6 weeks.

Today, May 9th, in San Ramon, police and FBI descended upon California High School to investigate threats of a gun attack. Someone scrawled three graffiti messages threatening to shoot up the school on May 9th. Two of the messages included racist slurs about Black people.

In Oakland, 4-year-old Na’Vaun Jackson is still recovering.

Na’Vaun accidentally shot himself in the head when he found a gun in the house. He survived but his family and the entire neighborhood was traumatized. There is a GOFUNDME page to help the family survive the financial devastation of this tragedy. The man who left the gun in the house has been arrested and will likely go to jail.

It Is Time to Repeal No. 2

What do all of these events have in common? Guns. Across this country, guns are everywhere. Despite our efforts to regulate and control access to guns, the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Increased criminal penalties and harsh sentences have had no impact whatsoever on the access to guns or the number of people killed by guns. Legal or illegal, guns kill, wound and maim too many people every day.

It is long past time to repeal the Second Amendment. That will remove the legal justifications that have thwarted every gun control measure ever proposed. We have the highest gun ownership per capita rate in the world. A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 90% of all women, 91% of children under 14 , 92% of youth aged 15 to 24 years, and 82% of all people killed by firearms in the world were in the United States.

The United States stands alone in its allegiance to gun violence. In 2010, the number of gun homicides in the U.S. was at least 9,960. The Centers for Disease Control reported 11,078 firearm-related homicides that year. In comparison, there were only:

173 in Canada

155 in the United Kingdom

158 in Germany

142 in France

30 in Sweden; and

11 in Japan.

How Do We Repeal No. 2?

The devastation to our country because of the Second Amendment should compel us to take bold action to address our national crisis. It will not be easy – it may not be quick. Going through Congress requires a 2/3 majority in both the House and the Senate and approval by 38 states. Bypassing Congress means we need 34 states to call for a Constitutional Convention to pass the repeal legislation and then 38 states to approve it.

The last time a Constitutional Amendment was repealed was in 1933. It took legislators less than a year to repeal the 18th Amendment which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. It was a national conversation that led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

In this moment, we are having a national conversation about gun violence and gun control. In the words of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the simple but dramatic action of repealing the Second Amendment will move us closer to stopping gun violence than any other possible reform.

To support the movement to repeal No. 2, sign a petition at MoveOn, find and support a youth group in your community that is committed to getting this done. In this season, young people are on fire to stop the violence and they should not listen to anyone who tells them it can’t be done. The future of this country is in their hands.

In the immortal and wise words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible, until it is done.” Let’s get this done as soon as possible. #RepealNo2.

Every 16 Hours

It’s finally May, thank God. April is always a hard month for me. It starts with April 4th, the anniversary date of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. That date always brings me to somber reflection of the challenges we still face despite Rev. King’s sacrificed life.

This April 2019, there are too many stories and other anniversaries of tragic deaths, most of them by the gun. America is among the most deadly countries in the world when it comes to gun violence. In fact, America’s gun-related murder rate is the highest in the developed world, excluding Mexico.

According to one 2012 study, Americans own at least 270 million guns. The second gun-ranking country, India, a country over three times our population, only has 46 million guns. And, the vast majority of the world’s countries have fewer than 10 million privately-owned guns. This disparity is based on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The devastation to our country because of this law should compel us to take bold action to address our national crisis.

Everyday Gun Violence

An end to gun violence in America cannot come too soon for Black and Brown communities, women or children. Too many lives are lost, not just in schools, but in our homes or in the streets. There are so many preventable deaths that only happen because there is a gun available. In fact, there are always way more gun suicides than gun homicides in America. In 2016, 22,938 people committed suicide with a gun, while 14,415 people died in gun homicides. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides.

Guns are easily purchased or traded in the streets everywhere. These guns do not show up in surveys. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, African Americans were 55% of the victims of gun homicides, whites were 25%, and Hispanics were 17%. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1980 to 2008, 84% of white homicide victims were killed by another white person and 93% of Black homicide victims were killed by another Black person.

The McElhaney Family

The fact of random violence was painfully brought home to Oakland again on March 10, 2019, when we lost Victor McElhaney. Victor was a son of Oakland killed in a senseless act of gun violence in Los Angeles. Heartbroken family and friends in Los Angeles and Oakland will forever be linked through the loss and legacy of Victor McElhaney.

In the same month, Los Angeles lost the visionary brilliance of its native son, Nipsy Hussle. Hussle, a former gang member, wanted to focus on “giving solutions and inspiration” to young black men like him. He spoke openly about his experiences with gang culture, and denounced gun violence through his music, influence and community work. On March 31, 2019, Nipsy was shot 6 times and killed by another Black man.

Women And Children are Not Safe

A recent study found that “intimate partner homicides ― when a person murders their spouse or romantic partner ― increased each year between 2014 and 2017.” The reason: guns. The study found that since 2010, intimate partner homicides by gun increased 26% while the murder of women by other means has decreased. According to one estimate, a woman is fatally shot by her boyfriend, husband or ex every 16 hours.

6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly killed by her 4-year old brother

Then, there are the guns legally owned and accidentally used to kill or maim someone. On April 11, 2019, 6-year old Millie Drew Kelly died after her 4-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head. This kind of tragedy is a recurring event in America. In December 2018, a 6-year-old girl in Missouri died after she was accidentally shot in the head by her 12-year-old brother. October 2018, in Virginia, a 7-year-old boy found his grandfather’s gun and accidentally shot his 5-year-old sister. March 2018 – an 8-year-old in Ohio loads a .22-caliber rifle and opens fire on his 4-year old sister. She miraculously survived.

The Mass Shootings

The face of death by gun knows no boundaries of age, race, sex or religion. Most of the time we hear of a mass shooting, we see the perpetrator is a young white male. Our senses have been shocked over and over again since the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999. Over the last 20 years, we have watched this type of random mass shooting increase in frequency. The number of lives lost in each incident is completely unpredictable.

A gunman kills 32 people and wounds 17 at Virginia Tech State University in April 2007. Twenty-seven people – including 20 six and seven year olds – are murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Another gunman kills 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. Fifty-eight people die by the gun at a concert on the Las Vegas strip in October 2017.

Nine victims of racially-motivated attack shot & killed inside Emanuel AME Church

We have also seen the rise of racially motivated gun attacks on churches. In June 2015, a white man wanting to start “a race war” kills 9 Black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. In October 2018, a man expressing hatred for Jews kills 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Courageous Young Ones

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Finally, on Valentine’s Day 2018, a gunman kills 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This one woke up young people across the country. #EnoughIsEnough. Since then, they are organizing state-by-state to challenge America’s gun laws. They took on the National Rifle Association (NRA) with fierce energy. Their attack on the influence of the NRA in the political and media world has left that organization reeling.

Watching the young activists who survived the Parkland massacre step up last year and demand an end to gun violence in America was inspiring. These young people are outraged and insulted by the excuses people make for gun violence. They courageously rejected the stupidest idea that we should arm teachers as a solution to the problem. They have been uncompromising in their insistence that we stop the violence now.

What Are We Doing About This?

In Oakland, we have a new Department of Violence Prevention. It is a small effort – a start – to tackle a huge problem in our City. It needs funding and leadership – two things in scarcity in our City administration in this season. Ironically, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney spearheaded the effort to create this Department. She is one of millions of Americans who have buried their children and loved ones long before their time.

For more than 20 years, Congress prohibited the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting any research on gun violence in America. It was NRA pressure that led to the restriction on research. The CDC interpreted the ban to include all research on gun violence prevention, and so has not funded any research on this subject since 1996.

On April 29, 2019, however, a Congressional committee allocated $50 million dollars to study ways to prevent gun violence, giving $25 million to the CDC. It seems that if our children are not afraid of the NRA, maybe the politicians will finally stand up to the NRA as well. Based on what I’ve written, you know we don’t really need another study. We need action. The battle lines are drawn. Our future depends on the fight. We can only hope that the power and resilience of today’s young people will lead us to do what is absolutely necessary for all of us. Stop the violence now.

Time to “Bern” America

Black American Soldiers In Vietnam (1971)

This coming Saturday April 27th, I will co-host a bilingual house party with Andrea Luna for people to learn more about Bernie Sanders campaign for President and sign-up to volunteer. After much soul-searching, I have decided and declare that I’m all in for Bernie Sanders.

“The Fierce Urgency of Now”

Killer Mike caught my attention when he asked the question on the Real – do you like and respect Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? His analysis is that Bernie’s agenda most closely matches the agenda of Rev. King.

In the years right before he died, Rev. King talked about the need to transform America. In his book “The Black Presidency” Michael Eric Dyson reports a conversation in 1966 where Rev. King told his advisors that “[t]here must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” We know that King was murdered as he was organizing the Poor Peoples March on Washington, and unifying people across race, religion and class with the goal of eradicating poverty in America. Rev. King did not live to see the March. He knew that his days were numbered. One of his most famous statements is “the time is always right to do what’s right.”

In America today, there is no time to wait. Certainly not for anyone who cares about Black people. In 1966, Rev. King declared that “Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” According to a 2016 Kaiser report, Blacks have significantly higher death rates than Whites for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. HIV and AIDS diagnoses rates among Blacks between ages 13-64 are more than eight and ten times higher than that for Whites. The death rate for HIV is eight times higher for Blacks compared to Whites.

The Kaiser study also found that in 2014, 71% of Whites were insured privately and only 21% had Medicaid or public insurance. By comparison, 51% of Blacks had private insurance, and 37% had Medicaid or public insurance. We know that the substantial gains made under the Affordable Care Act are being wiped out by Trump.

In 2019, Black women are disproportionately suffering high and increasing infant and maternal mortality rates. In 2019, too many people in America of every race and gender have to choose between filling a prescription or buying food. The high cost of health insurance means that many people simply cannot afford health care. In fact, medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy.

Enter Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist. Bernie is undeniably the leader on national health care reform. The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United went to the mat for him in 2016 because of his position on health care reform. Every other candidate today is sailing in his wind and mimicking his commitment.

In 2009, the Democratic Party abandoned single-payer, and even as late as 2017, many House Democrats did not support Medicare for All.

Consistent Values & Commitment

Bernie Sanders has been consistent on health care reform, civil rights and opposition to war, some of the biggest issues we face today. He has a plan to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country, an issue that I care deeply about.

Bernie Sanders Arrest In Civil Rights Demonstration – Chicago (1963)

Bernie’s arrest during a 1963 civil rights protest of segregation in Chicago schools when he was a student at the University of Chicago resonates deeply with my personal history. At the University of Chicago, Bernie was a leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a major civil rights group and led protests over racial inequality.

As a Senator, Bernie voted against the Iraq War in 2002 and warned of “unintended consequences.”

As the conscience of the country, in 1967, Rev. King condemned the Vietnam War and warned about “the Casualties of the War in Vietnam.” As a result he was labeled “an enemy of the State” and ridiculed on all sides.

My True Confessions

One, I am not an original “Berniecrat” from the 2016 presidential campaign. Two reasons: (1) I was dealing with seismic shifts in my personal life in that season; and (2) an elderly White male senator from Vermont was not someone who caught my attention in time for me to do anything to help him.

Two, I knew Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate. I witnessed how she and Bill treated Lani Guinier and Marianne Wright Edelman. I witnessed Hillary’s complicity in the Monica Lewinsky episode – how they treated “that woman.” I watched the proliferation of criminal injustice laws and new unfair tax burdens imposed on victims of unlawful discrimination under the Clintons’ leadership. I watched how they ran against Sen. Obama. I heard Bill’s racist comments and Hillary’s disappearing-reappearing Southern drawl.

Three, I went “hard to the paint” to elect Barack Hussein Obama as the first Black president. In 2008, Hope Young and I went to ground zero – Dayton, Montgomery County Ohio – and walked, talked and worked to the point of exhaustion. Election night, as we eagerly watched the results coming in and started to party to Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, I confessed to my friends that my greatest joy in my commitment to Obama was not about him, but the fact that Michelle Obama – a Black woman – was going to be the First Lady. 

The Time Is Right Now

As we move forward in 2019, the time is now and there is a fierce urgency. My father often said “time waits for no man.” The California primary is less than a year away. Yes, I need Bernie to call out sexism and racism more, and to focus on equity in addressing the impacts of centuries of racial inequality. But, I appreciate his consistency and I hate hypocrisy.

At the end of the day, I agree with Killer Mike (and Nina Turner and Danny Glover): “we need the total antithesis of what we say we don’t like about Donald Trump.” We need more than simply “any functioning adult” to help us get out of the mess we are in. I believe that loyalty to the legacy of Rev. King requires all out support to elect Bernie Sanders in 2020.

Whether or not you are sure about what to do in this moment, I urge you to attend one of the many house parties taking place on Saturday, April 27th around the country. Go to map.berniesanders.com to find a house party near you! Don’t wait – get it done now. “The time is always right to do what’s right.”

A Luta Continua!

“I Reject the Chief’s Conclusions”

“I reject the Chief’s principal conclusions in this matter.”

Those few words summarize the February 19, 2019 report by Oakland’s Compliance Director, Robert Warshaw. Those few words should end the career of OPD Chief Anne Kirkpatrick in Oakland.

Robert Warshaw 2016 – Credit: Darwin Bond Graham

The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” should be the OPD cover-up of the murder of one Joshua Pawlik. A year ago, on March 11, 2018, Mr. Pawlik was shot 22 times with AR-15 rifles by four (4) OPD officers. His crime – he had a gun.

I have long come to know that if you have a gun and you encounter a policeman in Oakland you will die. Mr. Pawlik’s case is so very similar to that of Demouria Hogg. Both men were apparently asleep when awakened by OPD officers. Both men had guns in their possession and they were immediately shot and killed when they woke up. A gun is a death sentence.

Or, consider consider the case of Alan Blueford who was alleged to be found near a gun and shot dead. Or the case of Sahleem Tindle, who was also observed near a gun and shot dead.

If you are even near the gun, and there is an OPD or Bart officer present, you will die. If they think you have a gun, you will die.

Mr. Pawlik’s murder, however, disturbed Mr. Warshaw. Mr. Warshaw is the Court-appointed monitor, who for the last 10 years has been getting paid to monitor OPD under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement aka our Consent Decree. What seems to have disturbed Mr. Warshaw is that there is a video of the murder which OPD ignored. Apparently, the video is inconsistent with the officers’ statements.

According to to Mr. Warshaw, the OPD investigators did not

(a) did not use the video to question the officers;

(b) did not address the inconsistencies between the video and the officers’ statements; and

(c) used their questions to support the justification of the officers’ actions.

According to Mr. Warshaw, the video shows minimal movements by Mr. Pawlik, consistent with someone waking up. The video “does not show an overt threatening action on his part.”

Why Fire the Chief?

According to Mr. Warshaw, Chief Kirkpatrick went “above and beyond” in her efforts to discount the video evidence and exonerate the officers. Chief Kirkpatrick also rejected the disciplinary recommendations of the department’s internal Executive Force Review Board for the officers and the commander in charge of the situation, Sgt. Francisco Negrete. According to Chief Kirkpatrick, Sgt. Negrete’s “errors in judgment” were not significant enough to sustain the recommended discipline even though they likely cost Mr. Pawlik his life.

Chief Kirkpatrick came to Oakland in the midst of one of the worst police misconduct scandals in our history involving the murder of an officer’s wife, sex trafficking and the rape of a minor by police officers. So far, we have 3 lawsuits arising out of OPD’s cover-up of various parts of this criminal activity. Chief Kirkpatrick’s only response to our troubles was to promote the commanders who led the cover-ups and close the promotional ceremony to the public.

These are the men that she has come to rely upon and protect as the Chief.

Oakland police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick greets officers as she arrives to the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Oakland to attend a department promotion ceremony in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 14, 2017. The promotions of Roland Holmgren to captain, John Lois to assistant chief and Kirk Coleman to captain has raised eyebrows after the trio were referenced in a damning report about how OPD mishandled the Celeste Guap investigation. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Chief Kirkpatrick claimed that she came to Oakland as “a reformer.” But she admitted to reporters in her first press conference that she had not even read the Consent Decree and she had no plan for how to comply with it and end Court oversight. Apparently, she still has no plan. And it would appear that Mr. Warshaw has lost all confidence in her judgment.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Whether the Chief goes or stays, the City will pay. We will pay.

The City paid $1.2 million to settle the civil lawsuit for the murder of Demouria Hogg. Mr. Pawlik’s family has already filed suit, and no doubt, we will pay to settle that case. Federal Judge Orrick, upon receiving Mr. Warshaw’s report, appointed his own investigator to take another look at Mr. Pawlik’s murder. His Order directs the City to start paying for this investigation.

We will continue to pay for Mr. Warshaw’s services. Since his appointment in 2009, we have paid his two companies more than $8 million, on average almost $1 million a year. The Chief’s base salary is a whopping $270,000 a year. The four officers who fired 22 rifle shots at Mr. Pawlik are still on the payroll.

On March 6, 2019, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley issued her report simultaneously with OPD’s report, finding no problems with the investigation and exonerating the OPD officers. Nothing new there either.

I say, fire the Chief and let’s hold the monitor accountable for holding our police accountable. He seems to be the only one with any official power interested in doing so at the moment.

The ADEM Elections

AD18 ADEM Elections

The ADEM Elections

A political battle is brewing quietly but fiercely across the State of California. It is scheduled to erupt in Alameda County the last weekend of this month. It is part of the upheaval that started in the Democratic Party in 2016. That year saw an epic battle between Hillary and Bernie. When Bernie lost that battle, political activists across the country known as “Berniecrats” made 1 of 2 choices: leave the Democratic Party or stay and try to reform the Party from inside.

Their choices set the stage for the next battle: the ADEM elections in January 2017. “ADEMS” is short for Assembly District delegates. Inside the Democratic Party, each Assembly District can elect 14 delegates to the State Party. In 2017, the well-organized Berniecrats won – they swept the ADEM elections with slates of progressive candidates across the State.

In 2019 and 2020, the ADEMS elected to the State Party will make two critical choices: (1) who will lead the State Party following the resignation of the disgraced Party Chair; and (2) who will be endorsed for President by the California Democratic Party.

The stakes are high and the battle is intense. In Assembly District 18 (AD18), the incumbent slate of progressives who won in 2016 is facing a stiff challenge organized by Assemblyman Rob Bonta. The “East Bay Unbossed” slate includes 5 members of the original progressive slate that won in 2016 – Rabi’a Keeble, Lisa Lefave, Michael Fortes, Michael Katz-Lacabe and Dan Wood. They have been endorsed by a 6th incumbent member, Gaby Dolphin, the President of the City of Alameda Democratic Club.


East Bay Unbossed includes several new grassroots leaders from Oakland:

Andrea Luna, President of the Toler Heights Neighborhood Association,

Nina Moore, a daughter of the famed Everett & Jones Restaurant and Black Lives Matter activist,

Kiisha Orr, an early childhood education activist,

Royl Roberts, a longtime leader of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center, and

Matt Hummel, recent candidate for Oakland City Council, District 4.


Others new to the East Bay Unbossed slate include Cheri Johansen, a tenants’ rights organizer, leader of Alameda Progressives and the manager of the successful No on K Campaign in Alameda, Lily Kelly, an LGBTQ activist, Austin Tam, a disability rights advocate and Nestor Cuellas, a worker and tenants’ rights activist.

Other notable ADEM candidates not running on either slate include East Oakland rising star, Mya Whitaker (who impressed many in her run for Oakland City Council District 6) and Meredith Orthwein.

Asm. Bonta is challenging the incumbent progressives with his hand-picked slate of candidates, and he is financing their election. The Bonta slate is heavy on electeds. It includes newly-elected Oakland City councilpersons Sheng Thao and Nikki Fortunato Bas as well as newly-elected officials from Alameda. Asm. Bonta already gets to appoint 5 delegates who can vote his wishes in 2019 and 2020 just because he’s an elected official. If the Bonta-financed slate wins, Bonta will have a total of 19 votes to cast in 2019 and 2020 party elections.

I endorse the East Bay UnBossed slate because the Democratic Party is sorely in need of independent leadership and new voices, not simply elected ones. The State Party suffers from the outsized influence of its elected members. The ADEM slots are one of the few places where grassroot leaders with ties to the community can actually influence the party. In my view, ADEMs need to be independent to have that influence.

The AD15 ADEMS election is Saturday, January 26th from 10:30 to 12:30 at the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) Gymnasium, 4727 San Pablo Avenue.

AD18 voters will decide on Sunday, January 27. Elections will be held from noon to 2:45 at College of Alameda – Building F Student Lounge, 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway in Alameda. Doors open at noon. You must be in line by 2:45 pm to be able to vote.

For a complete list of all of the “unbossed” progressive slates across the State, go to adems.vote.

For all those who have been cheering the advancement of progressive candidates across the country, here is another chance to move Alameda County in the right direction. I hope you take it!

I Hope You Dance

In America, money and race always matter, and usually, they rule the day. And yes, as Sister Stacey  Abrams points out in her phenomenal speech, politics “can be as rotten and rigged as you’ve always believed.”

 

But still, when everything you love is on the line, I hope you dance.

So yes, the race is over. But no, this is also “not a concession speech.”

The High Cost Of Housing Is Killing Us

 

When I announced my candidacy for Mayor of Oakland, I talked about how ‘the high cost of housing is literally killing us.” Today and for the last week, we watch helplessly, knowing that the recommendation to stay indoors – at home- because the very air we breathe is poison, is not an option for 6,000 Oaklanders. Most of them Black and Brown. This is the reality of the painful failures of the Libby Schaaf administration.

I cannot congratulate or celebrate those failures. I will not condone nor accept the “systemic cruelty” of our response to the homelessness crisis documented by the United Nations.

Thank You So Much

For this moment, for Oakland, despite the disappointing outcome, it was worth the fight. So I say thank you to all those who gave their time, money, heart and commitment to this fight. To those who staffed the office, wrote the postcards, dialed the numbers, text the message, walked the cards, and went to church, thank you. Whether you gave $800 or $15, thank you.

To all those, who wore the purple shirt with pride, thank you.

We helped turn out the vote in a historic way. We pushed the vote in June in the race for DA.  For November, we went back to those places where we knew voter turnout was low, and pushed some more. 99,879 ballots were cast in Oakland in June. So far, 164,700 ballots were cast in the Mayor’s race.

We bet on Oakland because Oakland has always been there for me. My mentor, Howard Moore Jr., taught me a long time ago, if you take care of the people, the people will take care of you.

So once again, I can say to my family, friends and supporters near and far, I’m ok. I survived the fight and live to fight another day. And thank you for being “the wind beneath my wings.”

I Hope You Dance

And to all those who stand on the edge of the Arena, not sure if you can make it, I hope you dance. 

“When the funds are low and the debts are high, don’t quit.” Everyone of us has an obligation to “keep the faith” and finish the race.

Our children are watching. A Luta Continua.

The Political Power of Incumbency

The Political Power of Incumbency

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Why is it so difficult to defeat an incumbent politician? Because the incumbent:

(a)  has more money so she can buy a campaign,

(b) is automatically endorsed and supported by the party machine,

(c) is usually endorsed and supported by the mainstream media, and

(d) is usually able to convince people that she will do better in her next term fixing the things she ignored in her last term.

Oakland’s Women In Power

Of the 10 largest cities in California, Oakland has the highest percentage of women serving on the City Council.  Yet, Mayor Libby Schaaf clearly lacks a commitment to maintaining female leadership on the Council. In the 2018 general election, all of Mayor Schaaf’s first rank choices for City Council were men. Schaaf’s consistent vocal attacks on two of the strong women on the Council – Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks – are legendary. With the defeat of Councilwoman Brooks by one of the three Schaaf-backed candidates, there is only one Black woman on the Council.

Fortunately, the defeat of  Mayor Schaaf’s major ally on the Council – Councilmember Abel Guillen – by community-backed challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas maintains the same number of women on the Council.

Desley Brooks Is the Exception to the Rule

Despite Desley Brooks’ defeat in this election, the power of incumbency generally rules the day. In 2016, despite a ballooning housing crisis and horrifying episodic accounts of police misconduct, all five (5) incumbent Councilmembers were re-elected.

Councilmember Larry Reid was first elected to the City Council in 1996. He has held the seat for 21 years.  He has served as the Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission and President of the Joint Powers Authority overseeing the Oakland Coliseum. Under his stewardship, East Oakland is facing an economic crisis fueled by the loss of both the Warriors and the Raiders. Indeed, East Oakland is trapped in a morass of potholes, illegal dumping and economic stagnation. The prolonged construction of the BRT line through the heart of East Oakland has accelerated displacement of longtime residents and destroyed small businesses.

Of course, Reid and District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley both endorsed and supported Mayor Schaaf’s re-election. Why not – look at how much she has done for East Oakland!

Incumbents Are the Rule

Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

In 2018, all of the incumbent Board of Supervisors supported District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s re-election. They helped her in spite of her horrible record of racial bias and unwavering support for police murders and misconduct.

O’Malley was also endorsed and aided by the Alameda County Democratic Party. Yet, her policies, practices and allegiances are clearly against our democratic values.

Look at our political structure in Alameda County.  Most of the Board of Supervisors are long-term incumbents:

Keith Carson    Elected 1992 – 26 years in position

Scott Haggerty Elected 1996 – 22 years in position

Nate Miley  Elected 2000 – 18 years in position

Wilma Chan  Elected 1994 – 2000, 2010 -present – 14 years in position

Richard Valle  Elected 2012 – 6 years in position

Women are the majority in Alameda County but we only have 1 woman on our Board of Supervisors. By comparison, both Contra Costa and San Francisco have a female majority on the County Board of Supervisors.

In Alameda County, as in most places, the power of incumbency “trumps” any commitment to your constituents. It often compels you to support the status quo without regard to the needs of the community. If you are in the boat, you do not want to be the one to rock the boat. So you sit silently by, even when the boat repeatedly crashes against the hard rocks of the shore.

Too many of our elected incumbents sit by silently while lives are lost, families are destroyed and communities are displaced. Because you see, their elections do not rest on the power of the people – their elections are assured by the power of incumbency.

Courage & Compassion

I have learned in my life that “it is always darkest just before the dawn.” Last week was so dark. I sat watching “with fear and trepidation” as the Republicans threatened to end healthcare for 16 million Americans. Even as I supported efforts to stop them, I felt like the freight train was running out of control.

A New Dawn in America

Then, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono stepped up to speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Every time I watch her speech, I am moved to tears. Her courage in sharing her story, including her fears, her family’s struggles, her unique path to the U.S. Senate, all of it. The shining sincerity of her compassion is so beautifully overwhelming, born of her uniquely American experience. Raised as a poor Japanese immigrant, she has never forgotten where she came from.

Her call for compassion, I believe, is what sealed the deal. As we all know, Senator John McCain‘s “no” was the deciding vote, following the tie-making opposition of Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Why is compassion so compelling? Compassion is not simply a human emotion. There is evidence that animals are also quite capable of giving and receiving compassion. We also know that compassion in animals is not limited to animals of their same species. A dog can show kindness to a cat. A mother hen can adopt a lost baby duck. A lion can hug a man who loved him without harming him. It seems that in the natural world, compassion has no bounds.

It seems that we are all capable of giving and receiving compassion. The response to Sen. Hirono’s empassioned plea to vote against repeal of Obamacare suggests that we are all vulnerable to the message of compassion. Sen. Hirono noted that when she was diagnosed with cancer, even Republican senators expressed their concern for her. They showed her kindness and compassion. Sen. Hirono called upon the Republican senators to show Americans the same compassion they had shown her. And it worked.

The Courageous Women Who Defied Trump

We should not overlook the significance of the courage displayed by two other female Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. No. 45 actually threatened the residents of both of their states to retaliate against the Senators. Whereas some Republican senators caved in to pressure from the Trumpster, Senators Collins and Murkowski stood firm and represented their constituents.

Their votes demonstrate that when courageous women are present in positions of power, the conversation changes. But for the courage of Senators Collins and Murkowski, Sen. John McCain would not have had his historic opportunity to say “no.” In voting “no,” Sen. McCain also stood fast to represent the best interests of his constituents in Arizona. For the first time in my life last weekend, I was “proud” to be in Arizona.

Health Care Is A Civil Right

Healthcare in America has been denied and fought for like every other civil right.

Credit The Atlantic

In 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King declared that Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” Racial disparities in health care have persisted since 1966. A 2016 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that in 2014, 55% of all uninsured persons were people of color. Seventy-one percent ( 71%) of Whites were insured privately and only 21% had Medicaid or public insurance. By comparison, 51% of Blacks had private insurance, and 37% had Medicaid or public insurance. The Kaiser study concludes that “people of color have much to gain from health care reform.”

President Barack Hussein Obama was inspired to make health care his signature piece of legislation. Indeed, arguing for health care reform in 2009, President Obama cited the death of his own mother from cancer and the challenges she faced obtaining insurance because her cancer was deemed a pre-existing condition. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a White woman.

So, we know that cancer makes no preference based on race, religion, age, national origin or political beliefs. “Some may call me a dreamer” but maybe one day, we can make the same statement for compassion: it makes no preference based on race, religion, age, national origin or political beliefs. I am inspired by Sen. Hirono’s compassion and courage in facing her cancer and using it to uplift a nation. And every time I watch the video of her speech, I think that from the darkness of the Republican night, there might just be a new dawn in America. Hopefully “I’m not the only one.”

To learn more about the fight to provide healthcare for all, go to HealthyCalifornia.org or Citizen.org or NationalNursesUnited.org. Also check out Healthy California’s latest video.

A Tale of Twin Cities

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot driving while Black outside of St. Paul, Minneapolis. Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot him five (5) times. Philando’s murder was witnessed by his girlfriend and his 4-year-old daughter in the back seat.

Credit: Stephen Govel Star Tribune

Fast forward to June 16, 2017.  A Minneapolis jury acquits Officer Yanez of Philando’s murder. On July 15, 2017, barely a month later, Minneapolis police officer Mohammad Noor shoots Justine Damond, a White woman from Australia.  Ms. Damond calls the police to report a possible rape occurring outside of her home. When the police arrive, she goes outside in her pajamas to talk to them. As she stands on the driver’s side of the police car talking to the driver, Officer Noor shoots across the front seat, past his partner through the open window. He shoots Ms. Damond in the stomach and she dies on the scene.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Damond’s murder has sparked international condemnation, particularly by the Australian Prime Minister.  You see, we are among the most deadly countries in the world when it comes to gun violence. So, this type of crime in Australia is extremely shocking. The idea that the police “shoot first and ask questions later” seems incredible in most countries around the world.

Valerie Castile, Philando Castile’s Mother and Don Damond, Justine Damond’s fiancé, embraced at the Peace and Justice March for Justine on July 20, 2017

These two tragic deaths in the twin cities are interrelated. In both cases, the victim did not pose a threat of harm to the officers.  Still, it is likely that the officer who shot Justine Damond will claim that he feared for his life, just like the officer who shot Philando Castile. And, it is also likely that Officer Noor will not be found guilty of any crime, just like Officer Yanez. It seems that even when police officers are charged, it is still really difficult for prosecutors to get a conviction.

How Did One Murder Lead to Another?

Dr. Martin Luther King said it best: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

And so it is that the murder of a Black man laid the foundation for the murder of a white woman. Indeed, the inability of the community to hold a police officer accountable for the death of a Black man created the permissive climate for another officer to murder a White woman. Suddenly, everyone in Minneapolis-St. Paul is “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Now the truth is revealed. The use of deadly force by police officers in America against citizens is out of control. And when we allow police officers to target and terrorize communities based on race, religion or wealth, no one is safe.

It would not surprise me if Officer Noor thought that Justine Damond was Black.  The Yanez acquittal verdict certainly told everyone in the Twin Cities (and indeed the nation) that Black lives do not matter. For Officer Noor to pull his gun, shoot across the front seat of the car and out of the window to kill an unarmed woman in her pajamas, speaks volumes about public safety in that city. It clearly confirms that public safety does not exist in that community.

Nor can it exist in any community where the rights of everyone are not respected and protected. This is a hard lesson that we all should learn from this tale of Twin Cities.

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