With Liberty and Justice for Some
We Still Need Real Justice for Trayvon Martin
The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial demonstrates that People of Color cannot live free in the United States.
Whatever the reasons for the jury’s verdict – a racist law, a racist community, or ineffective prosecution lawyers, the facts are clear. Trayvon Martin was walking where he had a right to be. He was minding his own business, and he was shot dead. His only crime was being a young Black male.
We remember that simply electing a Black President, does not change the fact that racism still grips everyday life in the United States. It produces and promotes economic deprivation, poor schools and unequal educational opportunities, blatant and subtle discrimination and, as in this case, death.
The pain in the African-American community from this decision is intense. And although it is experienced differently among non-black allies in the struggle to eliminate racism, we all share the outrage of the injustice. We all understand the destructive impact racism has every day. Every day and every time the “pledge of allegiance” is recited, we must recommit ourselves to the struggle of justice for all.
First everyone can sign the NAACP petition. Click here. http://www.naacp.org/ (The website has been crashing because so many people are trying to sign it. If you have trouble, try later.)
Then begins the real work.
Disruption of Council Meeting on 7/23/13
We want to be clear.
Civil disobedience and demonstrations, including disruption, have a proud history. The civil rights movement, labor struggles, and the movements of opposition to apartheid, unjust wars, and dictatorship have all used these methods.
These movements also understood that these tactics must be used selectively and carefully. They must have a point by which they can be judged. They must have a clear message so that innocent folks know it is not directed against them.
Last Tuesday night's disruption had no discernible message and did not meet these standards. Instead it was intended to create chaos, to stop the City Council from functioning --and done simply as an exercise of power.
This is an escalation of a strategy that Council members Booze and Bates have been pursuing since the last election. Since they have no positive program of their own to put forward in the city, they hope to build their political careers by defending Chevron and other corporate interests. They seek to tear down the work that progressives have done and are doing to advance the city.
One element of this strategy is to try to discredit Mayor McLaughlin by making City Council meetings chaotic and uncomfortable. First, they tried overtalking the Mayor at council meetings and tried to prevent her from carrying out her responsibilities as the presiding officer of the meetings. Then there were pointless filibusters to prevent important business from coming up and intimidating questions to members of the public who spoke. As the Mayor developed techniques to handle these tactics, such as rulings on order and recessing the meeting, Booze and Bates relied more on the antics of their small band of followers in the audience to create an insulting and chaotic atmosphere.
Last Tuesday's disruption was just the logical continuation of that process.
It has to stop. It will stop when citizens of Richmond demand that it stop. It won't stop by repeating "The Council needs to work together" as though the responsibility lies equally with all members of the Council or by repeating Bates' line that "the Council is dysfunctional."
In fact the Council is not dysfunctional. It has accomplished a lot despite the disruption and ugly behavior of two of its members and their supporters.
The disruption will stop when people shine a light on and condemn the actions or lack of action by the few, including Bates and Booze, whose interests are served by disruption and chaos at the meetings. Richmond residents need to stand up and be counted by writing letters to editors, posting comments on blogs, and coming to city council meetings.
One result of this kind of public outrage already is that Councilmember Booze finally issued a statement distancing him from the hate speech (Click here for Booze statement.). His statement is more than a year late. Also his actions speak louder than and different from his words. For the last two years he has led this group of hate-promoters. During recesses that he creates by not following the rules of order and trying to overtalk the Mayor, Booze goes into the audience and shakes the hands and puts his arm around the makers of the statements from which he supposedly dissociates himself. And Councilman Bates covers for the hate-promoters by declaring that their speech is just another point of view.
---RPA Steering Committee 7/28/13
Real Leadership Required
Drawing the Line between Hate and Free Speech
Hate speech is one of the most difficult issues for those of us who strongly defend the right of free speech. The problem is that hate speech, by creating a climate of fear, discourages other people from participating and deprives them of their rights of free speech. The hate and vulgar speech and atmosphere at the council have already driven away many who would otherwise attend.
It is tough to set rules setting the line between hate and free speech. Moreover, this method rarely works in the long run although it may be necessary in the short-run.
The most effective way to end the hate speech and atmosphere at Council meetings is for all council members to take individual responsibility to exercise leadership and make it clear that they personally will not tolerate such behaviors at Council Meetings. The problem is that two Councilmembers, Bates and Booze give these hateful behaviors legitimacy by seeming to encourage them from their followers.
See this clip from recent Council meetings where Nat Bates could hear no hate!
In calling what is obviously hate speech, a "point of view" he legitimizes it and promotes it.
What is Booze's contribution to the atmosphere? After a proclamation honoring the LGBTQQIS-2 community, the Mayor asked everyone who supported Pride month to stand. The video of the Council meeting shows Corky sitting, looking around, and then at the very last moment when he saw he was isolated, standing. But it is not his delay in standing that concerns us most.
When it was his turn to speak he did not criticize his supporters' hate speech. He did not support the proclamation. Instead he made up a story to answer members of the community who criticized his staying seated, claiming he was absorbed in reading materials. He then went on to attack his critics including questioning whether Police Chief Magnus could be fair. (The City Council session of 6/25 can be viewed here --the Proclamation is about 20 minutes from the beginning.)
It's time for the community to demand that these two so-called leaders help lead Richmond into a proud future and stop encouraging behaviors which drag it into the dirt. Those who no longer attend Council meetings have left the field to the hate promoters. We need people who have good things to say about Richmond and its progressive polices to show up and set the tone for these meetings.
It's time for the community to demand that the hate promoters end their shameless behavior.
Tell the HATE PROMOTERS to STOP
Council Honors Pride Month
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.
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
You can see the proclamation and the RYSE youth comments by clicking on the video.
We don't recommend watching the remainder of the session because it was so ugly but if you need evidence for what was stated above you can see the offensive public comment by clicking here
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.
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
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."
The Latino Caucus of the RPA jump-started the effort this year building on great work done previously. The coalition has:
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.
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.
Bay Area Immigration Rights Rally March 24
--March photos: Mike Parker