Archive for May, 2014

Black Construction Workers Overcome Obstacles to Land Army Base Jobs

City Administrator Fred Blackwell's office donated work boots and supplies to four Oakland residents this week to help them in the process of qualifying for jobs on the Oakland Army Base. Left to right, Johnny Evans, Fernander Thompson, Otis Duckett, Jonothan Dumas, employment services supervisor with the Contract Compliance & Employment Services Division, and Jeffery Duckett. Photo by Ashley Chambers

City Administrator Fred Blackwell’s office donated work boots and supplies to four Oakland residents this week to help them in the process of qualifying for jobs on the Oakland Army Base. Left to right, Johnny Evans, Fernander Thompson, Otis Duckett, Jonothan Dumas, employment services supervisor with the Contract Compliance & Employment Services Division, and Jeffery Duckett. Photo by Ashley Chambers


By Ashley Chambers

Four experienced Oakland construction workers have been trying for years to qualify for jobs that have been promised to local residents on the Oakland Army Base development but have found themselves mired in union, bureaucratic and financial obstacles until now.

This week, Jeffery Duckett, Fernander Thompson, Johnny Evans, and Otis Duckett received a donation from a division of City Administrator Fred Blackwell’s office in answer to their call for help to purchase work equipment.

The Post recently started a campaign advocating for jobs on the Army Base – pushing to make sure the city would fulfill its commitment to 50 percent local hire on the project – and helped set up a Worker Assistance Fund to assist job seekers to pay union fees and purchase work supplies.

As a result, each job seeker received all his basic supplies: work boots, masks, tool bags and belts, gloves, helmets, knee pads, pliers, wrenches and a measuring tape.

The supplies were donated by the city’s Contract Compliance & Employment Services Division and organized by Jonothan Dumas, employment services supervisor, and Deborah Barnes, department manager.

“I’m appreciative of you stepping up and putting yourself in the position for someone to help you,” Dumas said to the job seekers. “You’re standing here and not having somebody carry you.”

Having himself worked in construction for 30 years, Dumas volunteered to be an “ongoing resource” for Duckett, Thompson, Evans, and Duckett as they continue working through the job process.

These four construction workers are the first to receive assistance from The Post’s Worker Assistance Fund, organized by a committee of six of the newspaper’s staffers: Paul Cobb, Ken Epstein, Ashley Chambers, Maxine Ussery, Majeedah Rakman and Tasion Kwamilele.

The group so far has raised $2,000.

The four workers said they grateful for the generosity of Dumas and Barnes and are committed to setting an example that with hard work and determination, opportunities can abound.

The Post looks forward to continuing to follow the progress of these workers and help others overcome the obstacles to employment in the future.

For more information or to make a contribution, call the Post at (510) 287-8220.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 29, 2014 (

Local Activists Threaten to File Civil Rights Complaint Against Army Base Project

Complaint could jeopardize $25 million in federal funds

 By Ken A. Epstein

Oakland community environmental leaders have notified the city that they are prepared to file a formal federal Title VI civil rights complaint over the negative impacts on air quality of the Oakland Army Base development in West Oakland, which potentially could jeopardize over $25 million in federal funding that the city is seeking for the project.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

“It is a violation of Title VI (of the Civil Rights Act) for a grantee to use federal funds for a project that increases the environmental, health or economic burden on (already impacted) communities of color,” wrote Margaret Gordon and Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) in a May 9 letter to the city, calling on city officials to meet with them to resolve these issues.

At stake in the dispute is over $25 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funding – an Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant – that the city needs for the Oakland Global project at the old Army Base next to the Port of Oakland.

Besides the possible impact on federal funding, the complaint would also be filed with the state and could affect the $242 million in state funding the project has already received.

In their letter to the city, Gordon and Beveridge contend the city has failed since 2002 to produce a Truck Management Plan to mitigate the negative air quality impacts and the disruptions in truck traffic caused by the Oakland Global project.

“This failure has led to the introduction of additional truck traffic into the …neighborhood, a community with more than significant population of low-income people of color,” they wrote.

Brian Beveridge

Brian Beveridge

Because of the city’s failure to plan, they said, the city evicted a private company, PCC Logistics, which was serving as a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Centralized Examination Station (CES), inspecting cargo entering the U.S.

Subsequently, the city’s Planning Commission in April gave a permit to another company to operate the CES for U.S. Customs in the West Oakland neighborhood –North America 3PL, owned by local entrepreneur Tom Henderson.

“This permit approval serves to facilitate the introduction of thousands of truck trips each year into the community,” Beveridge and Gordon wrote. “This port-related truck traffic could have been avoided if a Truck Management Plan had been produced prior to eviction of trucking tenants and the start of construction on the Oakland Army Base.”

U.S. Customs and its contactor North America 3PL are also mentioned in the complaint. “(U.S. Customs) had no  civil rights or public safety protocols in (place to) select a new site for CES operations and relied solely on the contactor’s understanding of City of Oakland zoning regulations to protect the public from increased impacts.”

According to their letter, “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly requires federal agencies to take whatever steps are necessary to avoid discriminatory effects of their actions through their contractors or grantees.”

In addition, they said, President Obama this year reauthorized President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order 12898, affirming that it is the “responsibility of federal agencies to consider the health and environmental impact of their actions in the communities in which they act.”

The Port of Oakland is included in the complaint because it did not take steps to provide space for U.S. Custom’s inspections on port land.

North America 3PL and its owner Tom Henderson has support in West Oakland because of Henderson’s pledge to bring desperately needed jobs to the community.

A meeting between officials and the environmental activists is scheduled for Monday.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 29, 2014 (

OPD Wants to End Shotspotter – Council Members Disagree

By Ashley Chambers

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) is considering ending its use of ShotSpotter, a electronic sound detection system that the city has used for the past eight years to detect gunfire in East and West Oakland, pinpointing the location and number of gunshots fired.



The system, which is known for “increasing community awareness and improving police-community relations,” costs the city $348,000 a year.

OPD has previously said that those funds could be better used for its helicopter program. However, city councilmembers have expressed no interest in ending ShotSpotter in Oakland and want to renew the city’s contract that is set to end in August.

“This is a serious issue that Oakland is facing, and ShotSpotter allows police to respond a lot sooner to bring some kind of order in our neighborhood(s),” said Councilmember Noel Gallo, chair of the Public Safety Committee.

According to a report prepared by OPD staff and presented at a recent Public Safety meeting, over 16,000 rounds of gunfire were fired in Oakland last year.

The report also notes that, “Timely and accurate information provided by [ShotSpotter] allows OPD to respond more rapidly, which increases the opportunity to capture perpetrators.”

“Right now, our police force is understaffed, and we need to provide the tools necessary for our police to respond, not just to emergencies but to gun activity throughout the city. It’s a good investment of our resources to improve public safety,” Gallo said.

A recent audit of ShotSpotter shows that “every two hours and four minutes, a gun is fired in Oakland.”

Vice Mayor Larry Reid and Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan recently coauthored a letter to the city administration specifically saying they would not support any budget revision “proposal that eliminates funding for ShotSpotter.”

The system tracks gunshots within four seconds after they are fired and sends alerts to patrol officers, reporting 98 percent of incidents.

“This is a very important investment in public safety,” said Jason Overman, spokesman for Councilmember Kaplan. “It’s a tremendous technological resource – it tells officers how many times shots were fired, what caliber, specific locations, and very important distinctions that the average ear is not trained to detect, even the direction from which the gunshot came.”

The Public Safety Committee unanimously approved renewing the ShotSpotter contract on May 13. OPD will need to get approval of City Council before ending the contract.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post May 13, 2014 (

Mayoral Candidates Address Black Issues

Mayoral candidates who spoke Wednesday night at the forum were: Jason Anderson, Patrick McCullough, Mayor Jean Quan, City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Sam Washington, Dan Siegel, City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Joe Tuman, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker and Larry Lionel Young Jr. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Mayoral candidates who spoke Wednesday night at the forum were: Jason Anderson, Patrick McCullough, Mayor Jean Quan, City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Sam Washington, Dan Siegel, City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Joe Tuman, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker and Larry Lionel Young Jr. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken A. Epstein

The contest to become the next mayor of Oakland began to get more serious this week, as 10 candidates for the job faced some tough questions at the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area’s mayoral debate.

Speaking at a packed meeting in Oakland City Hall chambers Wednesday evening, the candidates answered questions from representatives of African American organizations.

An immediate challenge confronting the candidates is to distinguish themselves from each other and from incumbent Jean Quan, who is standing on what she considers to be her accomplishments – creating affording housing, reducing violent crime and bringing economic development to the city.

John Burris

John Burris

City Auditor Courtney Ruby was asked a question about what she would do as mayor if there were a recurrence of a situation where Oakland’s Workforce Investment Board (WIB) administrators failed to utilize funds and therefore had to send back $650,000 to the state for job training for unemployed Oaklanders.

“This is absolutely unacceptable in our community – we need to be able to track every dollar that’s coming in,” said Ruby, who at the time did not use her elected position to investigate why the city lost the money.

“The Workforce Investment Board is a total travesty in my opinion,” said civil rights attorney Dan Siegel. “It sucks up too much of the job funds. The administration should be cut,” he said adding that anyone who gives back funds should be fired.

“It’s atrocious, but its goes beyond that. Oakland needs to put some skin in the game,” said Councilmember Libby Schaaf, pointing out that Oakland uses a significant part of its federal Workforce Investment Act funding for overhead rather than kicking in additional money for on-the-ground services.

The panel of questioners included Kimberley Mayfield Lynch of the Oakland Berkeley Chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), Merlin Edwards of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Diane Lewis of 100 Black Women, Pastor Gerald Agee of Pastors of Oakland and Paul Cobb publisher of the Post and El Mundo newspapers.

Civil rights attorney John Burris moderated the debate and asked some questions. Leaders of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Frank Tucker and Derrick Bulls hosted the forum.

Celebrating the huge Oakland Army Base development that broke ground under her administration, Mayor Quan said the project is reaching the city’s 50 percent local hiring goal. But finding people to fill these jobs is tough, she said, adding that she has to do outreach to churches to recruit workers.

However, according to the West Oakland Job Resource Center, there is a waiting list of construction workers seeking employment at the Army Base project.

Post publisher Cobb chimed in, saying that Quan was reluctant to advertise her message in the Black and Brown media. All the other candidates then said if they were mayor, they would enthusiastically advertise in the Black press to reach the voters who attendthe city’s more than 500 Black houses of worship.

With the new development coming into the city, “We have to be sure people are not left behind,” said Quan, citing figures that place unemployment of 18-25 year olds at 35 percent in East Oakland and only 4 percent in Montclair.

Addressing the hot button issue of public safety, the candidates pledged to contribute resources to reduce recidivism and help unemployed and out-of-school youth.

Several candidates pledged to dramatically increase the number of police officers to 800 or more, though they did not say how they would pay for them.

Oakland had 654 sworn police officers as of the beginning of May, and public safety already consumes about 50 percent of the city’s annual budget. Potential new officers are currently attending a Police Academy at a cost of about $4 million.

“The minimum is 900 (officers),” said candidate Joe Tuman,

Bearing down on public safety, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker asked, “Do you feel safer than you did four years ago? People do not feel safe at home, at work and walking round in the streets. “

“We need a safe, educated, economically healthy Oakland,” he said.

Ruby ended her remarks with a call to action. “Imagine what we could do if we had City Hall on our side.”

Quan emphasized the progress that OPD has made during her administration. “Our police force is the most diverse (it has been) and more effective than it has been in more than a decade,” she said.

Candidates also opposed gentrification, comparing Oakland’s potential future to the negative example of the forcing out of African American and Latino residents of San Francisco.

The people who are forced to move out, said Tuman, are the most vulnerable residents with limited “social and economic capital.”

Siegel said he would work with organizations like Urban Strategies Council to use up to 1,200 acres of existing public land to build affordable housing for 5,000 Oakland residents. He also was interrupted with applause when he said he would help establish a minimum wage of $15 an hour and create an Oakland Bank to help with housing affordability issues.

The answer, said Parker, is training and better paying jobs for Oakland residents.

Other candidates who spoke at the forum were Jason Anderson, endorsed by the Green Party; Patrick McCullough; Sam Washington, business and technology solutions strategist; and Larry Lionel Young Jr., past candidate for City Council, District 3, and for mayor in 2010.

Anderson was warmly received over his plans on how to purchase and preserve historic housing in the Black community, such as the Marcus Garvey Building.

Publisher Cobb said, “Based upon the candidates’ answers, I’d say the forum attendees’ ranked choices would be Siegel, Parker and Schaaf. But Anderson is coming on strong.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post,  May 23, 2014 (



Educator Denise Saddler Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Denise Saddler. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Denise Saddler. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

By Post Staff

Dr. Denise Saddler, former principal and administrator in the Oakland Unified School District and a matriarch of the local Saddler has over 39 years in education and is currently assistant superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose. She was presented with the award by Oscar Wright, an Oakland resident who for decades has fought for educational opportunities for African American youth.

“I have so much high regard for Oscar Wright and his advocacy for African American children achieving,” said Saddler. “To be acknowledged for playing a small role in achievement in Oakland means so much to me. ”

“We can see the brilliance in the room, and all of our children have the potential and the brains to be successful. We have to harness everyone to work together to make a difference,” she said.


Laney College President Elnora Webb’s Contract Renewed

webb copy copya_0


By Ken A. Epstein

Supporters of Dr. Elnora Webb breathed a partial sigh of relief this week when the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a one-year contract extension for the popular Laney College president, who was facing losing her job at the end of the school year.

However, community members are still upset that the renewal is only for one year, which does not guarantee stability at the college, and that the district is not giving Webb a sufficient budget to institute the programs that the college needs.

The vote to renew Webb’s contact was taken in closed session and announced at the beginning of Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The board as a whole is happy that the chancellor and Dr. Webb were able to reach an agreement on a new contract, said Boardmember Linda Handy, who emphasized that “the chancellor and Dr. Webb came to a resolution. Both of them of them are accepting the terms of the contract.”

Handy said she was excited to see the passionate community outpouring to support positive change at the community colleges. “Working together, there is nothing that our city and colleges cannot accomplish for our students,” she said.

Community members who spoke at the meeting said they remained deeply concerned that Chancellor Jose Ortiz and the board had even been thinking about getting rid of Webb, considering what they see as her outstanding record and close ties to many segments of the community.

“We’ve spoken to you in person, via letters, emails and petitions with over 2,000 signatures,” said the Rev. Cheryl Ward, a founder of the East Bay Coalition for Change, speaking to the board and the chancellor.

“You have taken the vote, (and) we hope you attempt to restore confidence in the community,” she said. “We will be watching. Do not make her job difficult by not equipping her with the tools she needs.”

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.

“We are here in total support of Dr. Elnora Webb. We get to see her in action on the campus – she is a stalwart individual,” said Carol Ward Allen, a professor in African American Studies at Laney, who has worked at the college since 1970.

“We see a shrinkage of the number of African Americans in all areas at the college,” she said.

Mary Trimble Norris, executive director of the American Indian Child Resource Center, praised Webb for creating educational opportunities for young people in her program.

“She personally reached out to the American Indians who we serve and welcomed them to attend Laney College,” said Norris, who is Oglala Lakota.

“The American Indian community often feels shut out, like we’re invisible people,” said Norris, adding that Webb has demonstrated that she is a friend “by actions, not words.”

Local business owner Geoffrey Pete said that he considered the threat to Webb’s job to be part of the overall gentrification that is progressing in Oakland.

“ I live in a city in which there is an all out assault on the African American community,” Pete said.

“Gentrification has a myriad of moving parts,” he said, which mean getting “rid of us in the residential, educational and employment aspects of our community.”

Among others who supported Webb were Merlin Edwards of the Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce; Carl Chan, known as the mayor of Chinatown; and Ada Chan from council member Rebecca Kaplan’s office.

Photo caption:

Backers of Dr. Elnora Webb turned out Tuesday evening to support retaining her as president of Laney College. Top row from left: Dr. Elnora Webb; Merlin Edwards, Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce; Corrina Gould, co-founder of Indian People Organizing for Change; Mary Trimble Norris, executive director, American Indian Child Resource Center. Row Two: Carole Ward-Allen, professor of African American Studies; Bishop J.E. Watkins, Overcomers with Hope. Row Three: Lily Leung, library technician, Laney College Library; Evelyn Lord, head librarian, Laney College; Ada Chan, office of Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan; Rev. Cheryl Ward, East Bay Coalition for Action. Collage by Ken Epstein

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2014 (

Oakland Recognizes High Achieving Students

Oakland City Council members recognized some of the city's high acheiving students thir meeting this week. Shown (L to R): Maria De Jesus Ramos Mendez,  Fremont High; Cindy Mach, Donglang Li, Oakland Charter High; Justin Shelmire, American Indian Public High;  Calvert Chan, Oakland Charter High, and Akintunde Ahmad, Oakland Tech. Photo by Ken Epstein

Oakland City Council members recognized some of the city’s high acheiving students  this week’s council meeting. Shown (L to R): Maria De Jesus Ramos Mendez, Fremont High; Cindy Mach, Donglang Li, Oakland Charter High; Justin Shelmire, American Indian Public High; Calvert Chan, Oakland Charter High, and Akintunde Ahmad, Oakland Tech. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstien

The Oakland City Council recognized some of the city’s top students at this week’s council meeting, paying tribute to the young people, who “through their natural talents and unflagging commitment to academic excellence, have distinguished themselves in Oakland schools.”

District 1 student Yasser Alwan attends Oakland International High School. Yasser was honored for excellence in the school’s multimedia California Partnership Academy program.

Two District 2 students were recognized, Sherry Ling, an 11-grader at Oakland High; and Marisol Jauregui, a senior at Oakland High. Sherry was a student body Commissioner of Education. Last summer, she visited Peru with World Savvy to investigate the idea of global sustainability. Marisol has excellent attendance and grades and is a member of the Leadership class.

Terrance Tucker, who attends McClymonds High in District 3, plays on the varsity basketball team, is a leader on the Student Leadership Team and an academic leader in each of his classes.

Janne Ho is an eighth grader at Bret Harte Middle School in District 4. Janne has perfect grades and is a math tutor.

District 5 honorees are Maria de Jesus Ramos Mendez, Fremont High, who has a 4.05 GPA; Jamika Wilson, Fremont High, who is a community leader and youth mentor; Justin Shelmire, American Indian Public High School, who has perfect attendance since kindergarten and is graduating with honors;

Clavert Chan, Oakland Charter High has been accepted to six universities including Princeton and UCLA; Dongliang Li, Oakland Charter High, has perfect attendance since sixth grade; Cindy Mach, Oakland Charter High, is a leader and president of the BAUCE Club, associated with the Jefferson Awards and has perfect attendance in 12th grade.

District 7 honoree Akintunde Ahmad attends Oakland Technical High. Akintunde has a 5.0 GPA and will attend Yale University with a $15,000 scholarship.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 11, 2014 (

Entertainment Complex Poised for Jack London Square

Condo tower proposed for entrance to square

 By Ken A. Epstein

Construction is already underway to build a dining and entertainment complex at the Pavilion Building that formerly housed a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Jack London Square.

Artist's rendering of a new entertainment complex at Jack London Square, scheduled to open by the fall. Rendring courtesy of  Ellis Partners.

Artist’s rendering of a new entertainment complex at Jack London Square, scheduled to open by the fall. Rendering courtesy of Ellis Partners.

In addition, a developer has submitted a proposal to the City of Oakland to build two residential towers – which could be as tall as 25 or 26 stories – in the square by the waterfront.

One of the towers, which is already raising local concerns, would be built on the site of the parking lot at the entrance to the square, across the street from the old bookstore.

A detailed description of the entertainment project will be introduced later this summer, and the site will open to the public this fall.

The entertainment complex will offer casual dining featuring “gastro pub” and coastal California cuisine, luxury bowling lanes, up-to-date and vintage interactive games and a large outdoor beer garden with a long bar and bocce courts.

In addition, the entertainment venue will offer live music and entertainment on weekends as well as an area that can be separated for corporate events and private parties.

Located at 98 Broadway, the city block-sized site includes a 34,000-square-foot building and a 15,000-square-foot outdoor plaza. The development is a project of Jack London Square Ventures, a joint venture between Ellis Partners LLC and DivcoWest, which is working with Trifecta Management Group.

Besides the entertainment complex, Ellis Partners has revamped previously approved Jack London Square plans, now proposing to build two apartment or condominium towers with 665 housing units.

The new proposal is to place buildings of over 20 stories on sites currently slated for office and retail development.

One of the sites is a parcel at the corner of Broadway and Embarcadero, currently used for surface parking that is across from the former Barnes & Noble bookstore. It was previously approved for 120,000-square-feet of office and retail space.

A second tower is proposed for Embarcadero between Harrison and Alice streets, already approved for135,000-square-feet of offices. The site is next to the Jack London Market building, which has housing and retail space, and the site of a proposed, 248-room hotel.

Oakland’s planning director Rachel Flynn is supportive of allowing the developer to building housing instead of commercial space as long as it activates the area and can become a landmark for the neighborhood, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

“If they’re not going to have retail, then we want the buildings to be open and have lighting,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2014 (

“World Asthma Day” in Alameda County

Northern California Breathmobile

Northern California Breathmobile

By Spencer Whitney

The Alameda County Asthma Coalition, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Northern California Breathmobile celebrated “World Asthma Day,” focusing on the need to work for more solutions and to continue to raise awareness about the condition.

Among those who turned out for the event were  featured speakers representing Hon. Rob Bonta, State Assembly; Hon. Keith Carson, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney; and, the Port of Oakland.

World Asthma Day is part of the global effort to mobilize resources in the fight against asthma. The Alameda County Asthma Coalition is a group of community members who advocate for increased awareness, effective medical care and reduction of asthma triggers.

Research indicates asthma is the number one cause of school absenteeism and the third leading cause of emergency hospitalization among children each year, according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brigitte Cook, speaking for Councilmember McElhaney, stated that the councilwoman’s son has recently suffered an asthma attach and had to receive treatment. Cooks stressed the importance of the community nonprofits that aggressively provide care and resources, like the Prescott-Joseph Center in West Oakland.

The Prescott-Joseph Center launched the Northern California Breathmobile in 2009 and is a main source for asthma awareness within the Easy Bay. The Breathmobile is a mobile health van that travels to elementary schools throughout the East Bay providing free asthma screening, medical testing and treatment to economically challenged families.

Significantly, young people and their families that are regularly treated by Breathmoblle medical personnel almost completely eliminate respiratory crises that result in emergency room visits and missed school.

“As we recognize World Asthma Day, we must recognize that healthcare is a human right,” said Jacqueline Orpillafrom, representing Rob Bonta. “Together we can promote the solutions to reduce the effects of asthma and other diseases.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 8, 2014 (

Oakland Declares May 6 “Father Jay Mathews Day”


Father Jay Mathews

Father Jay Mathews

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council this week honored beloved local priest Father Jay Mathews, who is celebrating his 40th anniversary in the priesthood and 25 years of service at Saint Benedict’s Church in East Oakland.

A City Council resolution proclaiming Tuesday, May 6 as Father Jay Mathews Day, introduced by Councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Larry Reid, passed unanimously at the Tuesday evening meeting.

Father Mathews has traveled widely in the world, meeting the haves and the have nots, said Councilmember Desley Brooks, speaking at the meeting.

“He has treated each of them with kindness and love,” she said. “And he has made no distinction between the two.”

Born James Vernon Matthews II in 1948 in Berkeley, Father Mathews was ordained on May 3, 1974, as the first African-American Catholic priest in Northern California.

He spent his early school years in Albany and in Oakland, graduating from Skyline High in 1966. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities and Philosophy from St. Patrick’s College, Mountain View.

He received a Master of Divinity degree from St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, and, in 1973, he was a candidate for the Doctorate of Ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley and completed his sabbatical studies in Church History at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2000.

Besides serving at St. Benedict’s Church since 1989, he has worked as administrator at St. Cornelius Church in Richmond, administrator and Associate Pastor at St. Cyril Church in Oakland and All Saints Church in Hayward; Associate Pastor at St. Louis Bertrand Church, Oakland, Vicar for Black Catholics and In-Residence at St. Anthony Church in Oakland.

Father Mathews has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Outstanding Community Service, the Marcus Foster Educational Institute’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Rose Casanave Service Award of the Black Catholic Vicariate.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 8, 2014 (