ISSUES | One Richmond
Not a Competition for a Single Prize
At the June 5, 2012 Council meeting, long-time Richmond resident and social worker Dajenya Kafele started the following statement to the Council in response to a previous Council meeting where there was an attempt to divide the LGBT and African-American communities (see next article).This is the full prepared statement.
The oppression of African-Americans is very real and on-going, and is exemplified in, for example, the degree of poverty among African-Americans in Richmond, the inferiority of many ghetto schools, the proximity of toxic emissions from Chevron and other oil plants to poor neighborhoods in Richmond, and the way so many needed services for the poor are the first to disappear in this troubled economy. The problems in Richmond are huge, from massive unemployment to self-destructive gun-violence, and yes it is very important to do everything possible to instill Black pride in our young people so that they can strive to improve conditions for us all.
That said, each people's struggle for liberation and/or the attainment of civil and human rights is not a competition for a single prize. We all deserve freedom from oppression, and we all have the right, and even the responsibility to fight for these rights. If we can learn to work together, despite our differences, for rights and freedoms for everyone, we can all get a lot further than when we fight each other, to the benefit of no one except those who would like to keep us all down.
Black Panther leader Huey Newton understood this more than 40 years ago when he stated in a speech in 1970, "Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion..... We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people..... We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups."
For those who wanted to know why June was chosen as LGBT Pride month, it is important to understand that this choice was not made by the Richmond Mayor or City Council, nor was it made to take anything away from Juneteenth. June became LGBT Pride month decades ago as the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, when gay men, lesbians and transexual people grew tired of being oppressed by the police, and for the first time, fought back, marking the beginning of the modern LGBT movement. Fighting against police oppression is something I think most African-Americans might understand.
It should be noted that it was members of the African-American community, not the LGBT community, who chose to hold Black History Month in February, rather than in June. No one in the LGBT community has voiced any objection to Juneteenth celebrations being held during LGBT Pride Month in June, nor are LGBT celebrations being held during Black History Month in February. But if they were, it should not matter. Movements against oppression should not see themselves as competing for the crumbs thrown by the mainstream society. Real pride, racial pride or any kind of pride, does not depend on being the only one fighting for civil and human rights. Think how much further all movements against oppression might get if we all fought together instead of fighting each other.
Likewise, think how much further we might get in transforming Richmond into an environment in which we all can thrive, if we work together to make necessary changes to serve the people of Richmond as best we can, instead of defeating our own potential by spending all our time and energy tearing each other down.
I know we all have a great deal to contribute to restoring some of Richmond's former glory, and re-making it into a city in which all Richmond residents can thrive in health and peace and freedom for all. Let today mark a turning point in our coming together to meet our common goal of building our city into a caring community ever-working towards greater health, opportunity, freedom and promise for everyone.
RPA Steering Committee Statement
Pride Month Proclamation Marred by Hate
Seven young people form RYSE youth center were at the Richmond City Council on May 22 to accept a proclamation from Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Council Member Jovanka Beckles. The proclamation recognized Pride Month in the City of Richmond and the RYSE Youth Center's PRYDE Initiative to create an inclusive community for LGBT youth and their straight allies.
Pride month is celebrated nationally in June. For the past several years President Obama has issued a Proclamation designating June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender month (See Obama 2011 proclamation). President Obama and the NAACP recently took public positions in support of same sex marriage, as a matter of basic civil rights.
While many in the audience enthusiastically applauded the youth who received this proclamation, the mood that should have been a celebration of diversity and a recognition of their valuable work was shattered by viciously hateful and blatantly homophobic remarks from some of the public speakers. These speakers, with a few supporters, repeatedly disrupted from the floor and applauded each other. While we vigorously support the right of free speech we denounce the message of this spectacle, as it is not reflective of the respect and acceptance that we believe most people in Richmond demonstrate for people of other races, ethnicities, and sexual orientation.
After this disgusting display of hate toward a group of African-American youth that had courageously stood before the city council, the Mayor and every Councilmember except Bates and Booze made it clear that these public comments did not represent themselves or the city. Booze and Bates, who are quick to jump to the defense of Chevron whenever a member of the public criticizes it, chose to remain silent rather than criticize their regular supporters. It is extremely important that the Richmond community and its elected officials take a stand against all forms of homophobia and racism and not remain silent.
Several members of the public (some of whom regularly attack the Mayor, Councilmembers Beckles, Ritterman and the RPA) spoke on the Pride resolution to suggest that the selection of June as Pride month undermines Juneteenth, celebrating the freeing of African-American slaves. Sadly, these statements diminished the courageous presence of RYSE Center youth who came to receive the Pride Month proclamation. As the Mayor and others pointed out, Pride Month is celebrated nationally and not selected by the Council and we often have multiple events and causes to celebrate in any given month. Juneteenth is a very important occasion in Richmond. The Council officially recognizes it and devotes funds and staff time to making it a success. A Juneteenth proclamation will be presented at a City Council meeting in June, along with the Juneteenth parade and festival on June 16.
At the May 22 City Council meeting, however, the proclamation at hand was designed to express support to our LGBT community and show that Richmond residents who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and all of their straight allies can live together as One Richmond.
Come to the council meeting on June 5 at 6:30 to express your views on this in Open Forum.
RPA Steering Committee Statement
You can read the proclamation by
|Richmond City Council Gay Pride Proclamation
A Healing Retreat
Building Bridges Between Black and Brown Communities
Black and Brown Richmond women have started a series of dialogues to address the tensions that exist between the Black and Latino Communities. The first, called Building Bridges was sponsored BAJI (Black Alliance for Just immigration) The Latina Center, BWOPA (Black Women Organized for Political Actions), the City of Richmond Human Rights/Human Relations Commission, and the Neighborhood House of North Richmond and was held at the Booker T Anderson Center on June 25.
The RPA was represented by Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles and Nicole Valentino, Community Advocate in the Office of Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, at the first of its kind event in Richmond. The event was designed to provide a safe retreat space for the healing and empowerment of Black and Brown women in the Richmond and West County community.
Building Bridges began as a concept at a table discussion at Sisters in Solidarity, an annual Richmond Mayor’s Office commemoration of Women's International Day. Members of BAJI, BWOPA and the Latina Center shared a table and began the early discussion of building bridges to heal the divides across communities. Originally the conversation centered on immigration reform, but gradually it began to focus on how black and brown women can heal the tension between the two groups in Richmond.
The women agreed that there was too much at stake for the groups to senselessly fight one another rather than to collaborate. As the primary care givers in the family, it was up to women to begin the healing process in their individual and collective communities. The group took responsibility for working across differences and collaborating around common struggles, particularly the struggle against oppression that hurts both groups.
Building Bridges, was designed to provide a safe retreat space for the healing and empowerment of women in the community willing to go back into the community as agents of change. Through a facilitated exchange of exercises including opportunities to speak the truth, to discover similarities, to exchange ideas and thoughts and to break bread together, women connected despite false and manufactured divides created to keep them separate. In close to equal numbers, Latina and Black women ranging in age from 20 to 70 plus years, gathered to participate in an unprecedented spirited, candid and at times volatile exchange.
Councilmember Beckles was singled out for special appreciation for having sponsored and supported the Human Rights and Human Relations Commission request for City funds to support the effort. In response, she explained that healing the tensions is critical to the well being of Richmond as we come together to work to build community. We acknowledge the need to reduce violence in order to achieve this goal. She also shared her personal experience of being a Panamanian immigrant who identifies as Black Latina. She spoke to the question of loyalty to her roots coming from both Blacks and Latinos -- a sentiment that was echoed throughout the day by many.
At the end of the retreat, there appeared to be shared enhanced understanding and compassion. There was more obvious agreement than disagreement. The 50 or so women dispersed after emotional good byes and firm commitments to continue the dialogues and to do the healing work in a variety of ways; from becoming more vocal and politically active to going home and teaching their children, family and neighbors, to taking the message back to their congregations and into their classrooms. One agreed upon next step is to solidify the collaboration and develop a program of work for at least the next three years.
For more information, please contact the following organizers: Amahra Hicks of BAJI at
(510) 758-4212; Miriam Wong of the Latina center at 233-8595;Kathleen Sullivan of the Human rights and Human relations Commission and the Neighborhood House of North Richmond at (510) 229-5000 ext. 5020.
photos: Jovanka Beckles, Rhonda Harris
A more inclusive Richmond
Council Unanimous on Municipal IDs
The city council unanimously passed a resolution strongly supporting a Richmond Municipal ID. Jovanka Beckles introduced the resolution and motivated it. Among other things she pointed out that:
The ID will make it easier for people to report crime and lift the fear associated with contact with local law enforcement. Chief Magnus is supporting the concept.
Similar ID programs have already been tried and proven successful in a number of cities.
The program would be operated by an outside vendor and would not use city funds. People with the ID could select an optional feature to use it as an ATM card.
The IDs could be used by all citizens to prevent any stigma from being attached to their use.
The resolution directs city staff to research the proposal and return with a report on possible implementation by July 5.
Approximately 400 people rallied in the Civic center square outsidC the City Hall. Since not everyone could sit in the Council chambers, as the item was being discussed, the rally paraded single file through the chambers holding signs endorsing the ID program.
While the council was unanimous there was some opposition to the ID program from the audience, showing the need for us to continue to work for "One Richmond."
Richmond Municipal IDs
The Richmond Municipal ID Cards Coalition 2011, [R-ID] is moving rapidly to make Richmond Municipal ID cards a reality.
The Latino Caucus of the RPA jump-started the effort this year building on great work done previously. The coalition has:
Produced a Power Point Presentation explaining the issue.
Click here for Power Point (Have patience--this is a very large file.)
Met with Police Chief, Chris Magnus and senior members of the Police Department. The coalition delegation included Maria E. Rivera, immigration attorney; Roberto Reyes, RPA member and Planning Commissioner; Alejandro Navarro, president of one of Richmond's. Neighborhood Councils and carpenter's union advocate; Alvin Herring and Richard Boyd,CCISCO organizers and Ramon Cardona of the Centro Latino Cuzcatlan. It was a very positive dialogue, covering anti-fraud technology, and the use of the ID with many other city departments.
Produced fliers in English and Spanish to explain the concept
English download here Spanish download here
The next meeting: Wednesday April 13, 2011 7-9 PM at the Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room Richmond Public Library 325 Civic Center, [with co-sponsorship by the Office of the Mayor.] Media and outreach for the "Cinco de Mayo" festivities will be discussed and volunteers are needed to get the word out to the communities.
If you want to be involved send an e-mail to : RichmondMid@gmail.com
Bay Area Immigration Rights Rally March 24
Exuberant demonsrators filled Market street and marched on Senator Diane Feinstein's office on March 24th to demand real immigration rights reform. The march was organized by many immigrant rights and community groups. CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization) was a major organizer and brought a large delegation from Richmond. See CCISCO's web site for more pictures
As has now become standard practice in politics where up is down, immigration rights that come through congress are frequently the opposite.
We are reprinting an article by David Bacon to sort out some of these issues. For more photos of the march and more information check out CCISCO's website
WE NEED A BETTER ALTERNATIVE
By David Bacon
OAKLAND, CA (3/19/09) - Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham announced Thursday their plan for immigration reform. Unfortunately, it is a retread, recycling the same bad ideas that led to the defeat of reform efforts over the last five years. In some ways, their proposal is even worse.
Schumer and Graham dramatize the lack of new ideas among Washington powerbrokers. Real immigration reform requires a real alternative. We need a different framework that embodies the goals of immigrants and working people, not the political calculations of a reluctant Congress.
What's wrong with the Schumer/Graham proposal?
- 1. It ignores trade agreement s like NAFTA and CAFTA, which produce profits for U.S. corporations, but increase poverty in Mexico and Central America. Since NAFTA went into effect, income in Mexico dropped, while millions of workers lost jobs and farmers their land. As a result, six million Mexicans had to leave home and migrate north, looking for work.
If we do not change U.S. trade policy, millions of displaced people will continue to come, no matter how many walls we build.
- 2. People working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned under their proposal, and raids will increase. Vulnerability makes it harder for people to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages. That keeps the price of immigrant labor low. Every worker will have to show a national ID card, (an idea too extreme even for the Bush administration). A problematic ID would mean getting fired, and maybe jailed.
This will not stop people from coming to the U.S. But it will produce more immigration raids, firings, and a much larger detention system. Last year over 350,000 people went through privately-run prisons for undocumented immigrants. That number will go up.
A human rights immigration bill would:
- 3. Schumer and Graham treat the flow of people coming north as a labor supply for employers. They propose new guest worker programs, where workers would have few rights, and no leverage to organize for better conditions. Current programs are already called "Close to Slavery" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
- 4. Schumer and Graham's legalization scheme imposes barriers making ineligible many of the 12 million people who need legal status. Their idea for "going to the back of the line" would have people wait many years for it.
Getting in the back of the line is like having to sit i n the back of the bus. In 1986, even President Reagan, hardly a liberal, signed a plan in which people gained legal status quickly and easily. Many are now citizens and vote, run for office, lead our unions, teach in our schools, and have made great contributions to our country.
Schumer and Graham treat legalization as a carrot, to force acceptance of a program in which the main beneficiaries are large corporations, not immigrants, nor other workers.
Instead, we need reform that unites people and protects everyone's rights and jobs, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. We need to use our ideals of rights and equality to guide us.
For several years, immigrant rights groups, community organizations and unions have called for reform based on those ideals. It's time to put those ideas into a bill that can bring our country together, not divide it.
1. Stop trade agreements that create poverty and forced migration.
- 2. Give people a quick and easy path to legal status and citizenship.
- 3. End the visa backlogs, so there's no "get in the back" line.
- 4. Protect the right of all workers in their jobs - against discrimination, or getting fired for demanding rights or for not having papers.
- 5. Bring civil rights and peace to border communities.
- 6. Dismantle the immigration prisons, end detention, and stop the raids.
- 7. Allow people to come to the U.S. with green cards - visas that afford people rights, that are not tied to employment and recruitment by labor brokers.
- 8. Use reasonable legalization fees to finance job programs in communities with high unemployment.
- 9. End guest worker programs.
Those who say no alternative is possible might remember the "go slow" advice given to young students going to jail in the South in the early 60s. If they'd heeded it, we'd still be waiting for a Voting Rights Act.
Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the students in SNCC, and Chicano civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez, Bert Corona, Dolores Huerta and Ernesto Galarza, asked the country a simple question: Do we believe in equality or not?
That's still the choice.
Reprinted from TruthOut, 3/22/10
For more articles and images, see David Bacon's website
--March photos: Mike Parker