Archive for April, 2014

New Fund Helps Oaklanders Get Jobs at Army Base

By Ashley Chambers

Community groups and leaders have come together to support local workers who have been trying for several years to fill the jobs that have been promised with so much fanfare at the Oakland Army Base development project.

(L to R): Johnny Evans, Otis Duckett, and Jeffery Duckett have been trying for years to get jobs at the Oakland Army Base. Photos by Ashley Chambers

(L to R): Johnny Evans, Otis Duckett, and Jeffery Duckett have been trying for years to get jobs at the Oakland Army Base. Photos by Ashley Chambers

Seeking to help job seekers overcome barriers to employment, the Oakland Post has taken the initiative to set up a worker assistance fund to help job seekers pay for work equipment and other fees.

Supporting the fund are Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the West Oakland Job Resource Center, the Urban Strategies Council and City Administrator Fred Blackwell.

The fund is kicking off by providing support for four workers, who have years of experience in the building and construction trades but have struggled to pay for work equipment and cover union fees, which could allow them to qualify for union jobs at the Army Base project.

So far, the four have not made much headway in either of the two job pathways – going through a local union or sponsorship by a company. A letter of sponsorship from one of the companies working on the development would give these local job seekers two years of permanent employment, says Fernander Thompson, an Oakland resident who has devoted his efforts since 2012 to getting hired on the Army Base .

Fernander Thompson

Fernander Thompson

Thompson, along with Jeffery Duckett, Johnny Evans, and Otis Duckett, have worked temporary warehouse jobs for the past three years to make ends meet.

Still, they remain hopeful that with the necessary resources and a sponsor, they will finally get a chance to put their skills to work on the Army Base.

“We’ve been waiting,” says Duckett. “I want to get into the Army Base like everybody else is getting in there. I’m ready to work; we just haven’t had the opportunity.”

These four workers, like so many others, do not lack training. With many years in warehousing, construction, landscaping, and welding, they are highly experienced. In addition, they have worked closely with the West Oakland Job Resource Center to enhance their skills with workshop trainings and apprenticeship programs.

They, like many other job seekers in West Oakland, are counting on the promise of Army Base jobs for local residents.

“West Oakland was particularly impacted by the loss of jobs with the close of the Army Base. It’s really critical that West Oakland residents are empowered to receive the jobs that are returning to the base,” says Brigitte Cook, West Oakland Community Liaison at Councilmember Lynette McElhaney’s office.

“The job center is working to get residents to apply and be qualified for these positions. We’re tracking the number of residents, particularly in the 94607 and 94608 areas, to see how successful our outreach is and make sure our efforts are going to encourage West Oakland residents to apply for those positions,” Cook continued.

Andreas Cluver, Secretary-Treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County, encourages job seekers looking to get into construction to first go through pre-apprenticeship programs.

“[Construction] is a difficult industry to get into, but pre-apprenticeship programs are so essential. Their chances of success are going to be much higher,” Cluver said.

As far as funding, Cluver adds, “The city should continue funding these programs to ensure that [job seekers] have access to the services they need. That really needs to be coming from public sources.”

The promised worker support funding that was meant to be part of the West Oakland Job Resource Center has not materialized. That money was supposed to come form revenue from billboards, which have not been built.

Duckett, Thompson, Evans, and Duckett have already received contributions towards their work equipment but are still looking for donors to cover their union dues, and are seeking a company sponsor. They have committed to reimburse the funds paid after they find permanent employment so that job seekers after them can also receive the benefits.

The Post will be following this story and tracking the progress of these four men and their journey to employment.

For more information on how to make a contribution, call the Oakland Post at (510) 287-8207.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 25, 2014 (

New West Oakland Skate Park Runs into Bumpy Ground

By Tasion Kwamilele

A conflict over a skate park in West Oakland has become the latest skirmish over what some see as the wave of gentrification that is sweeping the Bay Area.

The builders say the skate park is a productive use for property that was an eyesore and going to waste.

Lower Bobs Skatepark in West Oakland

Lower Bobs Skatepark in West Oakland

But a number of community members view these new arrivals like they are European settlers who claimed to have discovered America hundreds of years ago, who want to “improve” the land by pushing the residents out.

Compounding the disagreements are cultural and age differences that frequently come up when a new skate park is built in a neighborhood.

An issue is the  “Lower Bobs Skatepark,” recently built on 8th and Pine streets in West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood.

The builder is Gauntlet Skateparks, a non-profit organization that consists of “skate park builders from Oakland, Portland, Atlanta and Pittsburg working with local communities to get skate parks built anywhere, everywhere,” according to the group’s website.

However, Gauntlet did not work with the community or local officials before building the park and instead constructed it without permits and liability insurance to ensure the public’s safety.

Santiago Menendez, an organizer for Gauntlet, says the area was filled with garbage, and the group just wanted to do “something productive” for the community.

“We did build it. We’re not denying that, but we’d like to move forward and talk about what we’re going to do,” said Menendez.

Given the lack of effort to work with the city form the beginning, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney calls Gauntlet’s methodology “disheartening” and “disrespectful” to the residents.

“Doing it the way they have, has been a drain on the city’s scarce resources,” she said. “It’s discouraging to investors who actually go through the process.”

McElhaney cited another nearby skate park, Town Park, as an example of a project that went through the process in the right way.

Built in West Oakland at the historic Defremery Park by Keith “K-Dub” Williams, Town Park has been in operation since 2008. While the project may have taken longer to get up and running, Williams followed the necessary steps, according to McElhaney

Williams is now in the process of getting permits to rebuild the wooden skate park with concrete, which he says Oakland needs more of. He says he understands the Do It Yourself (DIY) culture of skateboarding and resourcefulness of skaters, but skate boarders should be caring enough to engage the community from the onset.

“Aesthetically it’s a beautiful site, but in terms of not engaging the community, [it] may have been a bit naïve,” said Williams. “I’m about skateboarding and skateboard culture, but I’m about community first.”

“There’s a need for this type of recreation,” he said. “[But] if I had did that in Piedmont, I’d be in jail.”

He said some skaters have told him they were not welcomed when visiting the new skate park because they did not help build it or did not bring beer.

Williams, however, is not worried about these glitches. Instead, he says he is committed to his primary focus, creating events for youth to engage in.

In the meantime, Lower Bobs Skatepark is closed until an agreement is reached between the group and city officials

“We didn’t build it with permits, but we want to go on from here out the right way,” said Menendez. “We don’t want to lose it.”

McElhaney says she supports the group going through the process. She hopes that if the park is not approved, the group will responsibly remove it just like they built it and not impose that burden on taxpayers.

OPD Still Struggling to Report Officer Misconduct, Reduce “Unjustified Use of Force,” Says Warshaw

Court-appointed overseer finds reasons for “cautious optimism”

By Ken A. Epstein

The Oakland Police Department’s progress on key court-ordered reforms is “stagnating,” including requirements that officers report police misconduct, end retaliation against witnesses and reduce the number of incidents involving the unjustified use of force, according to a new report by Robert Warshaw, federal Judge Thelton Henderson’s representative in Oakland.OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

However, Warshaw found reasons for “cautious optimism.” Citizen complaints are down 65 percent from the same quarter last year, and reports of the use of force are down while the numbers of arrests have increased, he wrote.

Warshaw issued the progress report Friday, April 18, his first since assuming responsibility as compliance director, in addition to his role as monitor who evaluates the department’s progress in making reforms.

“Wearing two hats – as monitor and compliance director – is an extraordinary charge,” he wrote. “It affords me many authorities: to determine whether the department has achieved compliance with the NSA (Negotiated Settlement Agreement): and also to provide certain direction to the agency in its efforts to attain compliance.”

The department is still making sluggish progress on the eight areas of reform still on the table, 11 years into court oversight.

In one area, Warshaw reports that the department says, “It is increasingly holding (officers) accountable for failure to report misconduct or activate their (vest cameras), as required.”

“In the next few weeks, I will discuss with the chief and his executive team ways in which the department can increasingly hold individuals accountable for failure to report misconduct,” he said.

Warshaw also reports that for the last two quarterly reporting periods OPD has failed to “respond fully to the most serious allegation of retaliation (against witnesses) observed by the Monitoring Team.”

“OPD reports that it aggressively scrutinizes and investigates allegations of retaliation,” he said.

Warshaw also wrote that he is working with the department leadership to change OPD culture and develop an “early warning system” to identify problems related to “incidents involving the unjustified use of force.”

Among those issues are racial profiling and high-speed pursuits, as well as “the drawing and pointing of a firearm at a person or an officer-involved shooting.”

Warshaw also criticized the city for failure to hire a permanent police chief, indicating he might support interim Chief Sean Whent for the position.

“For nearly one full year Interim Chief Sean Whent has competently served while the city’s fragmentary attempts to select a permanent chief have consumed public resources and done little to nurture public confidence in the process,” he said

“The interim chief and his team have worked well…,”he wrote. “It is the duty of the city’s executives to once and for all give permanence to the leadership structure of the organization. Without such executive action, the department’s strides will either stagnate or regress.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 25, 2014 (

Wide Open Race to Replace Outgoing County Superintendent of Schools

Naomi Eason

Naomi Eason

By Ken Epstein

Five candidates are competing to replace Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, who is retiring after 16 years in the position.

The superintendent, an elected office, runs the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), which serves 18 school districts comprising more than 400 schools with more than 11,000 teachers, nearly 8,000 classified employees and nearly 215,000 students.

The office provides a broad range of services including fiscal oversight for school districts, direct operation of schools for at-risk students, including the school at Alameda County Juvenile Hall and provides teacher in-service programs to advance teaching and learning.

If no candidate wins at least 50 percent in the June 3 primary election, the top two will compete in the November general election.

Karen Monroe

Karen Monroe

Jeff Bowser, Board of Education member of the Pleasanton Unified School District, was elected in 2010. According to his campaign, he has led his school board’s efforts to “right the ship” after devastating cuts from the state and federal governments – working to reduce class sizes, balance budgets and restore programs for arts, music and reading.

Ursula Reed

Ursula Reed

A fourth-generation Alameda County Democrat, he has worked for 14 years as a credentialed teacher and administrator at the school, district and county levels.

Naomi Eason, with over two decades of experience, is a professional educator, administrator, parent of five and Oakland PTA member. She has worked as a teacher and administrator in Oakland and Emeryville and served as Assistant Superintendent at ACOE.

At present, Eason is California executive director of Building Educated Leaders for Life, a nonprofit delivering afterschool and summer school programs.

“Your vote for me will keep student achievement for all at the forefront as I collaborate with district administrators, teachers, staff and parents to improve education across the county,” she said.

Helen Foster is a member of the board of the San Lorenzo Unified School District and works as human resources director for the Hayward Unified School District. She said her priorities include implementing California’s new “local control” funding Jeff Bowenformula and nationwide Common Core standards.

A former high school science teacher, Foster said she wants to attract more funding to science and math education while also restoring arts programs.

Karen Monroe, associate superintendent of the ACOE, is the candidate endorsed by County Supt. Jordan. She has worked for the Bay Area Liaison for A Better Chance, formed the non-profit Educational Technology Training Institute, served as an Oakland teacher and principal and worked as Director of Academics for the Seneca Center.

Monroe wants to expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) instruction in the schools and in afterschool programs.

Helen Foster

Helen Foster

Ursula Reed, a member of the San Leandro City Council, has 25 years experience in education, including serving as a principal, teacher and central office administrator in the Oakland and Hayward school districts.

“At the top of my priorities is the goal to put our children first on the list when it comes to funding,” said Reed, who would conduct an audit of ACOE t to eliminate duplication and waste.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 25, 2014 (

Five Compete to Represent Council District 2

By Ken Epstein

The five candidates who are running for Oakland City Council, District 2 represent a powerful mix of experiences and strengths that reflect the talents and character of the people who live in the city.

Dana King

Dana King

Among those seeking the office are Dana King, a sculptor and former television news anchor with mega name recognition;

Abel Guillen, a sitting member of the community college board of trustees; and Sokhom Mao, a former foster youth who grew up to become a community leader who has done the hard work in the trenches to make the Oakland Police Department more accountable to the community.

Also running are Andrew Park, a doctor of ministry and manager of UC Berkeley’s physical education program, who operates a youth-focused nonprofit organization; and Kevin Blackburn, an assistant vice president at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.

District 2’s current representative is Patricia Kernighan, 64, who is retiring after nine years on the council.

Dana King moved to Oakland after leaving KPIX-TV in 2012. When she is not working on her sculptures, she teaches journalism at Dominican University in San Rafael and volunteers at the Alameda County Probation Department.

King, who lives in the San Antonio district, says her district’s top concerns are public safety and quality of life issues that are related to it. Solutions must focus not only on hiring more police but also on more lighting, getting rid of illegal dumping, graffiti and the blight that undermines the morale of people in the community.

Sokhom Mao

Sokhom Mao

These are the issues that “make people unsafe in their communities, make people feel that nobody cares about their communities,” she said.

Gentrification is a word that frightens people, especially in light of the way it is unfolding in San Francisco, she said, but people should understand that “gentrification is development.”

“It’s important to embrace and help to drive it and shape it. We can get involved and try to drive that engine ourselves,” she said.

King is in favor of a collaborative approach to governing that brings people together to create solutions.

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen

“I’m looking forward to bringing people to the table who have a vested interest in this city,” she said.

Abel Guillen, 38, is in his second term as a member of the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees. Two years ago, he ran for state Assembly, narrowly losing to Rob Bonta. In the current race, he is supported by Bonta and former Assemblyman Sandré Swanson.

The only candidate to serve in an elected position, Guillen emphasizes that he has the financial background and experience as a legislator that the Oakland City Council needs.

Like most everyone else running for office in Oakland, he considers public safety a top priority. In addition to hiring and putting more police on the street, the city should make greater efforts to hire local residents to work for OPD, he said.

“We have a great administration of justice program at Merritt College,” said Guillen, who calls the program an excellent pathway for young people who might want to go into law enforcement.

Planning for future development, the city can take steps to control gentrification, “so we don’t end up like San Francisco,” he said. “We can put policies in place to protect tenants, to make sure we have an increased housing stock so that we can accommodate growth.

“We need to make sure we grow but that we include all of Oakland’s residents in that equation.”

Kevin Blackburn. Photo courtesy Zennie Abraham

Kevin Blackburn. Photo courtesy Zennie Abraham

Andrew Park has been has been part of the Oakland community since his parents emigrated from South Korea when he was four years old.

“As co-chair for my local Neigh Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and a board member of many community-based

organizations, I helped organize community projects and events that empowered youth, brought neighbors together and enhanced public safety,” he said.

“I am running for Oakland City Council because our beautiful city is full of potential—both realized and unrealized—and the people of Oakland are ready for a safer, stronger Oakland across the

Andrew Park

Andrew Park

board,” said Park, who manages the Physical Education Program at UC Berkeley, with a $1.8 million annual budget.

He currently runs TRYBE, a community-based non-profit whose mission is to heal and improve the lives of Oakland’s urban youth and families.

Oakland native Sokhom Mao, 27, a graduate of Oakland High School, is a former foster youth whose life experiences have taught him the impact public policy has on children and other community members.

“I’ve overcome numerous adversities and challenges which have influenced my understanding of politics and the effects government choices have on constituents,” he said.

For the past 10 years, he has worked on policies to improve the lives of foster youth and families. He was worked for last three years with the city’s Police Review Board.

“I’ve worked tirelessly to improve police services to the City of Oakland where I helped with the hiring of civilian staff so more police officers can spend more time patrolling the streets to keep our neighborhoods safe,” he said.

Kevin Blackburn is assistant vice president for Legislative & Regulatory Affairs at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. At present, he does not have a website, but he is interviewed on YouTube at

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 25, 2014 (

BART Police Respond to Alleged Dancing on Train, Arrest and Assault Young Woman

By Spencer Whitney

When 19-year-old Nubia Bowe was returning home on BART with friends on the evening of March 21, she had no idea that it would be the worst night of her life.

Nubia Bowe

Nubia Bowe

The evening ended up with her being accused by police of intimidating a witness and her friends arrested for  dancing and soliciting money on a BART train. She was  slammed to the ground and struck repeatedly, arrested and sent to the county jail for four days. She now faces now four misdemeanors and was kicked out of school.

That’s what happened when BART police responded to a complaint that young men were dancing on a train at the Lake Merritt station. Bowe and her friends, who had not seen anyone dancing on the train, were picked out as the culprits by one witness, who later recanted.

However, her friends were arrested, even though a train full of witnesses repeatedly told police the young people were not the perpetrators.

But the arrest was the only the beginning of the ordeal. Bowe was slammed to the ground, handcuffed and accused of resisting arrest, among other charges.

When she reached the county jail at Santa Rita, she says officers beat her for allegedly attacking one of the guards, and she was put in restraints, similar to a straight jacket. She was chained to a chair, and her face was covered.

As a result of the arrest, was kicked out of her training program at Treasure Island Job Corps.

When contacted by the Oakland Post, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost forwarded the police log, which stated, “A BART sergeant and officer were flagged down on a complaint of patrons on a train dancing, playing music and creating a disturbance.

“They did not cooperate and became combative. One suspect bit one officer causing a moderate laceration on his left arm. Two suspects were cited and released, one was booked into the Alameda County Jail.”

“If there are any reports of police misconduct, we encourage people to contact our Office of the Independent Police Auditor, who will conduct an investigation,” said Trost.

By press time, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office had not responded to the Post’s questions.

The March 21 incident began when BART officers responded to a complaint that two young, male dancers were soliciting for money on the train. The two men who were accompanying Bowe were approached by the officers at the Lake Merritt station, with a witness who at first identified the young men as the suspects.

The men were instructed by the officers to get off the train for questioning. During the questioning, train riders told the officers that the three suspects had not engaged in the solicitation of passengers and that young people they were looking for had already left the train at the West Oakland station.

“We were on the train minding our own business when a man entered the train with two BART officers and told them it was us,” said Levi Allen, one of Bowe’s friends. “The guy came from a different car, and we had never seen him before.”

BART police

BART police

Bowe and her two friends are African American. She was a full-time student at a local security-training program. Repeatedly trying to explain that her friends were innocent, she told the officers that they were violating the young men’s rights.

By this time, BART passengers were loudly calling out to the officers, saying the young people were innocent, and the police forcibly removed Bowe from the train.

The witness who had initially identified Bowe and her friends as the perpetrators later told officers they weren’t the right group.

“Once they pulled me off the train, I was first slammed to the ground and then thrown against the wall,” said Bowe. “The officers pushed me back down and continued to elbow and knee me in my back. My mouth was full of blood by then. The whole time this was happening, I repeatedly said ‘I am not resisting arrest. You are violating my civil rights.’”

When Bowe’s friends protested the young woman’s treatment, they were taken upstairs away from the conflict. Some of the passengers recorded the confrontation on their cell phones showing footage of Bowe pinned down by officers while screaming for help.

Bowe was taken to the Lake Merritt station holding cell in preparation for transport to Santa Rita Jail on one felony and three misdemeanor charges.

When she arrived at Santa Rita, she was taunted, battered and denied medical care, as well as the right to make a phone call for three days. Bowe is 5’1” and weighs 105 pounds.

“Three male guards and one female guard came in my cell and beat me up,” said Bowe. “They hit me and then said that I assaulted one of them. So they chained my wrists to my ankles and tipped me over onto the urine-soaked ground so I couldn’t get up.

“I could tell they were trying to break my spirit.”

She was in custody for four nights. Her bail was set at $120,000.

Though the felony charge was eventually dropped, the arrest resulted in Bowe being kicked out of her training program, where she was only two months away from graduating.

“This case represents another example of racial profiling by BART police,” said civil-rights Attorney Dan Siegel, who represents Bowe. “Although the end isn’t as tragic, its similar to the Oscar Grant case. Some person made a complaint about dancing on BART, Nubia and her friends were not the people dancing, and yet, she still faces two sets of charges for allegedly fighting with police and resisting arrest.”

In light of the charges, Bowe’s family and friends have started a group against police brutality called the One Shot Away Coalition. The coalition is saying that people of color are all one shot away from incarceration and/or death.

A trial date on the BART charges has been set for Aug. 5, and the pre-trial hearing on the Santa Rita charges is scheduled for May 19.

“She will forever have to deal with the trauma of her experiences,” said Carroll Fife, Bowe’s godmother. “We want justice for Nubia and those young men who were arrested. The district attorney is pressing for jail time, so we have to get prepared for a long fight with help from the community to get the word out.”

Anyone who has information about the case or who wishes to learn more should go to

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 24, 2014 (

Tony Thurmond Gains Major Endorsements in Assembly District 15 Race

By Ken Epstein

With election season now in full swing, Assembly District 15 candidate Tony Thurmond is making the rounds to house parties in his district, which includes Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley, Piedmont and parts of North Oakland.

District 15 candidate for Assembly Tony Thurmond campaigns at house meeting.

District 15 candidate for Assembly Tony Thurmond campaigns at house meeting.

Last Sunday afternoon, he spoke in a backyard in North Berkeley to over 30 supporters who warmly applauded and opened their checkbooks in response to his message, which emphasized his hands-on experience as a member of the Richmond City Council and school board and a nonprofit director.

“I’ve fought hard to create jobs” and worked to reduce greenhouse gases and to protect the environment, Thurmond said.   On the Board of Education, he said, he opposed school closings and worked with others to save over half the schools that were slated for closing.

He is endorsed by Congressman George Miller, Attorney General Kamala Harris, State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, the California Nurses Association and the California Teachers Association, as well as the Latino and Black Caucuses in the Legislature.

Thurmond faces a formidable opponent, Elizabeth Echols, who served as Regional Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in the Obama administration. She is endorsed by Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

Other candidates for the District 15 seat, currently held by Nancy Skinner, include Eugene Ruyle, Peace and Freedom, retired Anthropology professor; Bernt Rainer Wahl, No Party Preference, scientist/entrepreneur/professor; Rich Kinney, Republican, City Councilmember and teacher; Clarence Hunt, Democrat, small business owner; Sam Kang, Democrat, Civil Rights organizer; and Pamela Price, Democrat, Civil Rights attorney.


Sanjiv Handa Died of Acute Diabetes Complications

By Post Staff

Now more than two years after the sudden death of independent journalist Sanjiv Handa, many Oakland residents are still wondering what took the life of the 55-year-old journalist, who was found dead at a friend’s residence on Dec. 27, 2011.

Sanjiv Handa

Sanjiv Handa

A well-known fixture at public meeting, Handa irritated some officials but endeared himself to many residents as a tireless crusader for transparent government. He covered nearly every council meeting, including committee hearings, since 199 He was the sole proprietor of the East Bay News Service, an email newsletter.

According to the coroner’s report, Handa died of “acute diabetic ketoacidosis,” a potentially life threatening complication that affects patients with diabetes.DKA occurs predominantly in those with type 1diabetes, but it can occur in those with type 2 diabetes. DKA results from a shortage of insulin. In response, the body switches to burning fatty acids and producing acidic ketone bodies that cause most of the symptoms and complications.

DKA may be the first symptom of previously undiagnosed diabetes, but it may also occur in people known to have diabetes. Vomiting, dehydration, deep gasping breathing, confusion and occasionally coma are typical symptoms.

Without treatment, DKA can lead to death. Until the introduction of insulin therapy in the 1920s it was almost universally fatal.It now carries a mortality of less than 1 percent with adequate and timely treatment.

Ketoacidosis can be smelled on a person’s breath, due to acetone. It is often described as smelling like nail polish remover.

Shortly before his death, Handa had been “feeling weak…and had been coughing a lot,” according to the Coroner Investigator’s Report. Handa had gone to see his doctor, who sent him for blood work, but he never got the results. “There were no signs of trauma or foul play to the body,” and there was no drugs or alcohol in his blood, the report said.

The report concluded that the evidence was “consistent with a natural death.” The case was reviewed and officially closed on April 21, 2013.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 17, 2014 (

Community Speaks Out to Defend Laney President Elnora Webb

 By Ken A. Epstein

As the news is spreading that Dr. Elnora Webb is in danger of losing her job, many local organizations and leaders are coming forward to defend the respected president of Laney College in Oakland.

Dr. Elnora Webb

Dr. Elnora Webb

“It is our position without hesitation or reservation that to continue the continuity and positive growth at Laney College, Dr. Webb should continue as president of Laney College,” said Dr. Herb Kitchen, president of Peralta Association of African American Affairs, who was among Webb’s supporters who spoke at last week’s Peralta Community College District’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Webb has received a March 15 letter from Peralta, an official warning letter that her contact may not be renewed and that she may be laid off.

Called for a response, Peralta Executive Director for Communications Jeffrey Heyman said the district cannot comment on personnel issues. Several board members said they had been warned by Peralta’s attorney not to discuss the case with the public.

A petition to Peralta Chancellor Jose Ortiz and the trustees is being circulated by the East Bay Coalition for Action.

Among the members of the coalition are the African American Chamber of Commerce, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), NAACP Oakland Branch, National Action Network (NAN) of Oakland, Oakland Black Caucus, Faith Advisory Council and Pastors of Oakland and Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay.

Chancellor Jose Ortiz

Chancellor Jose Ortiz

“Dr. Elnora Webb’s career is in jeopardy. She is needed to remain in her leadership role as president of Laney College to maintain the continuity of its development and management,” says the petition, which is being circulated online at

According to people close to the case, there is nothing in Webb’s record to explain why Chancellor Ortiz would remove her.  Her backers point to her excellent job performance and her rapport with the community.

Others are concerned that she is the only Black president remaining at Peralta’s four campuses. If she is removed, they say, there will be no African Americans in one of those top positions.

“She is an extraordinary individual who is nationally regarded among her colleagues as an innovator, trailblazer and visionary leader,” said Pastor Raymond Lankford, speaking at the April 8 board meeting on behalf of Pastors of Oakland and Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay.

“With the absence of transparency, we are left to believe that other factors, such as … differences in personality, may be driving the current process. We strongly urge you Chancellor Ortiz and the board to reconsider this action, ” said BWOPA Oakland/Berkeley Chapter President Dr. Kimberly Mayfield Lynch.

Webb’s backers have already gathered nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition. On Easter Sunday, they plan to visit at least 10 churches to circulate petitions for parishioners to sign.

Other community members are also speaking out in support the Laney president.

“I have worked with Dr. Elnora T. Webb at Laney as faculty and in the community around healing from trauma. I appreciated her ability to listen and her willingness to hold a space within the institution for collaboration and growth both students, faculty and community partners,” said Wanda Sabir.

“As a retired educator from the Peralta District and having worked with Dr. Elnora Webb in various capacities over the years, I know her to be a very articulate and astute educator, committed to Laney, the district and the greater good of the Oakland community as a whole,” said Dezie Woods-Jones, BWOPA state president, former vice chancellor at Peralta and former Oakland City Council member.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 17, 2014 (


Attorney Tanya Russell, 75

Tanya Russell, an Oakland attorney and activist for social and racial justice, died on Feb. 16. She was 75.

Tanya Rusell

Tanya Rusell

Henrietta Tanya Johnson was born on December 12, 1938, to Pauline Speese and Alfred Newell Johnson. She was raised in Berkeley, with her older sister Newellene, mother, and beloved Grandma Fannie Speese.

At age 12, Russell got her first real job. She worked at Mr. Hooper’s shoe shop on Alcatraz Avenue. After graduating from Berkeley High, she went to UC Berkeley where she majored in criminology.

She later moved to New York City and married Charlie L. Russell Jr. Their daughter Katheryn was born in 1961. While living in New York, Russell worked as a social worker at the Graham Home for Children, the New York State Department of Social Services and the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU) anti-poverty program.

After her marriage ended, Russell and her daughter moved to Berkeley in 1968. Russell returned to UC Berkeley to get a Masters’ Degree in education. She went to work Far West Laboratory for Education Research and Development as director of Head Start’s Parent-Child Project—which operated in 18 school districts throughout the nation.

Becoming active in political organizing, she was one of the main organizers of the first national African Liberation Day in Oakland in 1972. She was a member of the Committee for Justice for Tyrone Guyton, which fought against police brutality.

A committed activist for racial and economic justice, she went to work in the 1970s on the assembly line at CertainTeed Products and at Caterpillar Tractor.

At age 47, Russell decided to become a lawyer. She attended U.C. Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, graduating in 1988. She worked as an attorney for 13 years at the Oakland Unified School District and for seven years at Siegel & Yee in Oakland.

Russell with friend and colleague Anne Weills

Russell with friend and colleague Anne Weills

She also taught labor studies and employment discrimination courses at Laney College, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco.

She leaves to cherish her memory her daughter Katheryn Russell-Brown, son-in-law Kevin K. Brown, her twin grandchildren Louis M. Brown and Sasha P. Brown, her sisters FranCione, Natasha Wild and Leah Wise and foster sister Shaminade Ayo; aunt Cleodel Russelle; nephews Ahlee Lewis, Fred Lewis (Sonja), Babu Wild, and Avram Wild; nieces Samirra Wise, Mariana Jones, Maya Jones and Monay Jones; grandniece Jehlani Lewis; grandnephews Jalen Lewis and Ahjani Lewis. Her brother Adam Jones, III, predeceased her.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 16, 2014 (