RPA New LogoThe Activist

Issue #201, 8-5-2016


In this issue:

RPA Endorses Melvin Willis for City Council

Three things to fight for: Ben and Melvin for City Council and Rent control
Our Power Festival is back!
Interested in overturning Citizens United?
Iron Heel Theater Collective RPA benefit show
Get inspired: Excepts from Marcos Banales speech

Membership votes unanimously:
RPA Endorses Melvin Willis for City Council!

2016_08_02_16.14.48_crop.pngAt a special meeting on August 1, 2016 Richmond Progressive Alliance membership unanimously voted to endorse Melvin Willis for Richmond City Council.

Melvin, an RPA Steering Committee member since 2012, is a community organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). He is known by many in Richmond for his efforts to keep Richmond residents in their homes in light of the foreclosure epidemic caused by predatory lending and sub-prime mortgages. He also was part of the successful effort to increase the minimum wage, and a leader in the fight to save Doctor’s Medical Center.

Born and raised in Richmond, Melvin has the distinction of serving as Richmond’s youngest ever City Planning Commissioner (2012-14), and was the recipient of the prestigious 17th annual “Mario Savio Young Activist Award” (2013).

Along with the RPA, he has also received endorsements from Vice Mayor Eduardo Martinez, City Council member Jovanka Beckles and City Council member Gayle McLaughlin.

The Steering Committee is thrilled with the energy and excitement that Melvin’s candidacy adds, and believes that by running such a strong slate, we can win a progressive majority on the City Council in 2016!

Canvassing starting this weekend!
Three things to fight for: Ben and Melvin for City Council and rent control!

1st_2016_meet_5_BEN_MELVIN_cropped_(1).jpgThe RPA is excited about the potential to really make a difference this November for the future of our city and all its residents.

First up: the chance to pass meaningful protections to prevent local families from being forced out of Richmond by sky-high rent hikes and unjust evictions. The Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition, comprised of the RPA, Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment, Tenants Together and others worked hard earlier this year to collect enough signatures to put rent control on the ballot, and now it’s time to get out the vote.

Next, we have two strong, experienced, progressive City Council candidates who are running – Ben Choi and Melvin Willis. As RPA-endorsed candidates, they take no corporate contributions and are committed to continuing the progress we have seen in our city for the last ten years.

As always, the RPA has relied on people power to bring about the political transformation that has made this city shine. And as always, mobilizing volunteers – and starting our work early – is the name of the game. Please join us as we forge together, for the first time, three awesome campaigns: Fair and Affordable Richmond, Ben Choi for City Council and Melvin Willis for City Council! Meet at the new RPA office (2540 MacDonald, across from Civic Center, 510-412-2260) on Saturdays starting at 10am and Sundays starting at noon.

Saturday, August 6, 1-4pm, Nicholl Park 
Our Power Festival is back!


Richmond-Our-Power-Festival_small.jpgSponsored by Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, and many of our favorite Richmond allies, the Our Power Fest is celebrates all the ways Richmond youth make our city shine with music, food and fun. The Our Power Fest was conceived in the wake of the 2012 Chevron refinery explosion, and celebrates how far we have come four years later: how we’re growing our food, powering our own concert, and having fun with our families! The family-friendly festivities include music and dance, raffles and games, local food and more. The event runs from 1-4pm at Nicholl Park this Saturday, August 6, 2016. See you there!


Save the date: Sunday Aug 14, 12:30pm
Interested in overturning Citizens United?

MTA-550.jpgLast month, Hillary Clinton pledged that if elected President, she would introduce a Constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. This pledge was perhaps one of the most high-profile examples of how the grassroots movement to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision has moved our political discourse.

Join the Sunflower Alliance as they host David Cobb of Move to Amend. Discuss the movement for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. Also learn more about this fall’s ballot measure opposing Citizens United. The gathering starts with a potluck lunch at 12:30 on Sunday, Aug 14, followed by a meeting. Location: the new RPA office at 2540 Macdonald Ave.

Sunday, August 21 at 7pm
Iron Heel Theater Collective benefit for the RPA

iron-heel-production.jpgJoin the Iron Heel Theater Collective for its presentation of Jack London’s visionary anti-capitalist novel The Iron Heel. This “readers theater” adaptation of the novel features human sized puppetry, giant hand-painted cantastoria illustrations of the story, and live music.

Performers include members of the Signdance Collective International, a dance/ music theatre company led by deaf and physically disabled dancers and artists, and the Urban Jazz Dance Company of Oakland. Noted saxophonist Andrés Soto will accompany this performance with an original score he composed specifically for this production. The performance also features Jack London family members Tarnel Abbott, Chaney Delaire and Devin O’Keefe.

The show is a benefit for the RPA and Sunflower Alliance. Suggested donation is $20, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The performance will be on Sunday Aug 21, 7 pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. For more information, contact Tarnel Abbott at (510) 910-4510 or tarnelabbott@comcast.net.

A little inspiration from Co-chair Marcos
A new home for the RPA, a renewed commitment to the movement

marcos_words_7-9-16_by_sharron_K_Williams_xx.jpgOn July 9, the RPA held a party to celebrate its new office, located right across from Civic Center. The new space was made possible thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers who searched tirelessly for this perfect location, and put in hundreds of hours of labor to prepare the new space. An especially big thank you goes out to Tim Laidman who led the work, often toiling solo.

RPA Co-chair Marcos Banales gave a rousing talk to open the space, which was so moving, it’s worth reprinting some of it here. A copy of the full speech is on the RPA website.

Please enjoy!

Today, as members and supporters of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, we open the doors of this office with the understanding that this is our home and the home of the progressive movement in Richmond…

Twelve years ago, just across the street next to the library, the RPA was launched at the Madeline Whittlesey Community Room as a new, independent local political organization. The RPA came into the corrupt political life of Richmond as a wave of fresh air, hope, and decency. We said then: “Corporate money out of our democracy.” We said: “People over profits.” We said: “Clean air and no Chevron pollution.” We said: “We want economic, social, and environmental justice,” and we invited all Richmond to participate to make our lives better, healthier, and happier…

Today, I ask each of you to do what several RPA members already do: Show up at least once a month to the City Council meetings and speak during the Public Forum segment at the beginning of each meeting. In the few minutes that you have to bring an issue, take a moment to acknowledge publicly the good work of our progressive council members. They will really appreciate it, and the public will be educated more about their progressive work, votes, and stances.

They, the council members, are a key part of the RPA, but they are only one part of the RPA. On the contrary, the RPA is all of its members and supporters working in many grassroots campaigns and efforts throughout Richmond and beyond. The idea that council members “are” the RPA imposes on them all the weight of expectations for progressive change. This is not true, and it is not fair to put that weight on their shoulders. Moreover, this idea demobilizes the rest of us who have ownership in this process of local transformation through the many struggles in which we are involved…

So here we are in 2016. The RPA has reorganized and has a new and more diverse Steering Committee. We have moved to this new site at the heart of Richmond’s political life. We have a campaign supporting a ballot measure to defend the renters of Richmond from the greed of unfair landlords. We have a great candidate for the Richmond City Council, Ben Choi, and his campaign is up and running. We are in a good place and in a favorable time.

As always, our hands are full and our time is limited… but we must empower ourselves with our own RPA history and make ours all the battles fought over the last twelve years, whether we were involved in them directly or not. We have a record to proclaim…

On behalf of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, I am asking each of us today to invest more time and commitment in the current RPA struggles, learning from the ones of the past, and dreaming the new reality we need.