Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bicycle Advocates Decry Arrest of Najari “Naj” Smith

After the arrest of the popular Richmond bicycle advocate at Oakland’s First Friday, supporters organize ‘Biking While Black.’

by John Geluardi
Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Najari “Naj” Smith was leading a group of about 40 young riders when he was arrested by Oakland police.
  • Najari “Naj” Smith was leading a group of about 40 young riders when he was arrested by Oakland police.

When a popular youth organizer and bicycle advocate was arrested by an Oakland police officer during the group’s regular First Friday bicycle ride, news spread rapidly through Richmond, causing at first concern and then outrage.

Najari “Naj” Smith spent the first weekend in August in jail after being arrested during a regular group bicycle ride in Oakland that included three bicycle organizations that have primarily African American members. The arresting officer charged Smith with creating excessive noise.

Smith is a member of the Richmond Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the founder and executive director of Rich City Rides, a nonprofit bicycle organization that teaches young people bicycle mechanics, gives them opportunities to work for their own bicycles, and offers guidance on healthy lifestyles and positive social interactions through group bike rides, public path maintenance, and civic advocacy on transportation issues.

“Naj is a well-known and well-respected person in Richmond,” said Mayor Tom Butt, who plans to contact Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf about the arrest once he learns more about the circumstances. “It looks like this is a case of ‘Bicycling While Black.’”

Rich City Rides has organized an event on Aug. 31 in support of Smith called “Biking While Black.” Smith is scheduled for a court appearance on the same day. There is also a petition being circulated calling for the charges against him to be dropped.

Richmond Councilmember Melvin Willis said he intends to participate in the Aug. 31 event to call for justice. “This is something the entire Oakland City Council needs to take a stand on,” he said.

At the Aug. 3 bicycle ride, participants formed a “bonding and healing circle,” a tradition started by the bicycle organization Red, Bike and Green in 2008.

Smith said that during the circle ritual, an Oakland police officer broke through the line and stopped Smith, without any warning, by grabbing the handlebars of his bicycle. The officer said he was being detained for excessive noise coming from the stereo trailing on a small cart behind Smith’s bicycle. Smith said he immediately complied with the officer’s request and turned off the stereo. The officer then ordered Smith to stay put and momentarily walked away.

Smith, who was leading a group of about 40 young riders, thought the officer was going to write a citation, but when he returned, he put Smith in handcuffs, confiscated his bicycle and stereo equipment, and took Smith away to spend the weekend at Santa Rita Jail. Smith made the $5,000 bail two days later and has a court date set for Aug. 31 on charges of creating excessive noise.

“I cooperated with the officer as much as possible,” Smith said. “Everyone in the group was upset and I was trying to put the best example forward. There is a lot of tension with the Oakland Police Department and I didn’t want the arrest to turn into a mess.”

Oakland Police Department spokesperson Felicia Aisthrope said Smith was detained for interfering with traffic and playing music too loudly, and that he did not have proper identification. Aisthrope added that the department has reached out to East Bay bicycle organizations in order to start a constructive conversation about the circumstances of Smith’s arrest. “It is important that our community concerns be heard, and that discussions and future solutions be shared,” she wrote in an email.

Oakland attorney Walter Riley is representing Smith pro bono. Riley said the police department’s claims are insufficient. He said the Oakland Police Department is well aware of these bicycle organizations and their emphasis on creating positive interactions with the community. Furthermore, Riley said the police showed poor judgment in arresting Smith, who was leading a large group of young people.

He added that Smith, 39, has never had any contact with police or the justice system before this incident and that Smith has devoted his life to making healthy changes in the lives of young people. He also pointed out that Oakland police officers disproportionally stop African Americans.

“This is not a case of an individual racist officer,” Riley said. “This is the police department as a whole. No matter how well intended you are there’s something in this system that wants to bring you down.”

Friday, August 10, 2018

Oakland's BayTech Charter School Violated Multiple State Laws

School administrators forced students to buy uniforms, graduation caps and gowns, and made parents buy tickets to attend ceremonies. BayTech's board also repeatedly violated the Brown Act.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 12:51 PM

  • Bay Area Technology School

The Bay Area Technology School violated state education laws when it required students and their families to purchase uniforms, graduation tickets, and caps and gowns, according to the Oakland Unified School District. All students were made to purchase uniforms from the Oakland charter school only, a violation of the education code.

Graduating 8th and 12th graders were made to purchase caps and gowns from the school, and their family members were required to buy $10 tickets to attend the ceremony.

These practices went on for several years, according to school staff who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. BayTech even warned parents on its website that students would only be allowed to wear BayTech branded jackets, sweaters, and shirts, and that students could face discipline if they didn't don the clothing.

The proceeds BayTech collected from these illegal activities amounted to thousands of dollars, said several sources. It's unclear what the school's administration did with the money.

OUSD authorities ordered BayTech to put a stop to these practices on June 8, according to a notice of concern sent to the charter school's board and interim co-principals by Leslie Jimenez, OUSD's charter school coordinator.

In a separate notice of concern sent a week earlier, OUSD officials warned BayTech leaders that they repeatedly violated California's Brown Act, which requires that charter schools provide public access to meetings because they receive public funding.

According to OUSD, BayTech's board convened meetings in February that were essentially secret because no notices or agendas were posted to inform the public.

The school board also convened meetings via email without notifying the public. The purpose of one of these online meetings was to recruit a new board member. The potential replacement was a Richmond resident originally from Turkey.

In March, BayTech's school board failed to post agendas for two separate board meetings on BayTech's website. And in May, the board posted an incorrect date for a board meeting and then issued an agenda after a mandatory deadline, thereby hampering the public's ability to participate.

Furthermore, OUSD found that three of the school's board members withheld documents from two board members. The recent notice of concern sent by OUSD to BayTech didn't identify which board members were prevented from accessing the records, or what specifically the records pertained to.

The numerous financial and transparency violations came to light after OUSD announced that it was investigating BayTech for mismanagement.

The district's investigation was initiated after BayTech's principal, Hayri Hatipolgu, suddenly resigned at the end of the past school year. Several other senior staff also quit the school, and two board members, Alretta Tolbert and Gina Miller resigned, as well. The sudden departure of the board members and staff have thrown the school into chaos.

The three remaining board members, Fatih Dagdelen, Kairat Sabyrov, and Volkan Ulukoylu, are now accusing Hatipoglu of defrauding the school by surreptitiously changing his employment contract to give himself a three-year payout worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if he resigned, instead of a six-month payout worth much less.

Hatipoglu has fired back at the three remaining board members by accusing them of being part of a "shady network" that is trying to "take over" BayTech. But since he resigned, the Express has been unable to contact Hatipoglu.

Looming over the school's management crisis is its relationship to a larger network of charter schools that were established by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who has been accused of plotting the 2016 coup against the Turkish government. Gulen resides in Pennsylvania.

BayTech's three current board members are all Turkish. When asked at the school's board meeting earlier this week if the school is linked to the Gulen movement, both Dagdelen and Ulukoylu declined to answer.

According to OUSD records, the district is reviewing BayTech's finances to see if any money was misappropriated. Hatipoglu's employment contract is also being examined to determine if the allegations against him are true.

BayTech's first day of school is August 13 and the school has hired an interim CEO to assist with reconstituting the board and getting the organization's affairs in order. OUSD is also considering appointing a board member to BayTech.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Proposal to Build a Vast BART Surveillance System to Be Decided at Suburban 'East of the Hills' Board Meeting Next Month

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 5:00 PM


At a lengthy and sometimes confusing board meeting in Oakland today, BART's board of directors decided to delay approval of various security measures while allowing several others to move forward.

The most controversial proposal that was delayed involves building a powerful surveillance system that will use video analytic software to review digital footage from thousands of cameras on trains, in stations, and around parking lots. If approved, the multi-million dollar project would be one of the largest surveillance systems of its kind in the Bay Area, watching over several hundred thousand people who move about BART each week.

Most directors wanted to delay voting on the surveillance system in order to first bring forward a privacy policy that's been in the works for over two years. The privacy policy will create a framework for evaluating potential surveillance technologies and establish rules to protect people's civil liberties.

But other board members were more concerned about giving suburban communities a greater voice about whether to move ahead with the project, especially since most members of the public who spoke at today's Oakland meeting were strongly opposed.

The district already has over 4,500 cameras, most of which are old analog models that don't easily lend themselves to being incorporated into a surveillance system that uses computer programs to automatically analyze footage.

Directors gave the go-ahead today for staff to work on a plan to replace many of these old cameras with new digital types, but the board must vote again on whether to allow spending money on the replacement project.

At the Lake Merritt Station, BART is already testing software that can, without any human assistance, identify suspicious packages or alert police when someone jumps a turnstile without paying. The district's police and administration insisted at today's meeting that they do not intend to pursue controversial capabilities like facial recognition or audio collection at this point in time, but so far they've declined to provide specific details about the capabilities of the technology being considered.

A letter sent to the BART board by several civil liberties groups yesterday criticized the proposed surveillance system as a "sweeping expansion" based on little information. The groups, including the ACLU of Northern California, Oakland Privacy, Council on American-Islamic Relations California, and Anti Police-Terror Project wrote that BART should first approve the surveillance ordinance and privacy policy before starting a debate about whether or not to move ahead with the surveillance system.

Many speakers at today's meeting accused the BART police and management of trying to "exploit" the Nia Wilson tragedy to push through the controversial surveillance project. They said increasing surveillance and policing will likely lead to the further criminalizing of people of color and the homeless.

But BART directors from suburban areas in Contra Costa and Alameda County were very supportive of the surveillance proposal and other measures to increase police presence.

"Unless I'm mistaken, there is no expectation of privacy in a public conveyance," said BART Director Joel Keller, who represents North Concord, Antioch, Pittsburg, and Bay Point. Keller said he wants action fast on the surveillance system and is frustrated at delays.

Keller said the attendees at today's board meeting were only presenting half the story. He insisted that BART should hold an evening board meeting in a suburban city to gather input from riders who will support the surveillance plan, in addition to hiring more police, cracking down on fare evasion, and banning panhandling.

"We haven't heard from the frightened riders who are reluctant to use our system," he said. "We have heard the concerns of people who live in the urban core."

Director John McPartland, who represents Castro Valley, Dublin, Pleasanton, and Hayward, echoed Keller, saying he has constituents who "don't feel safe," and that he's heard from mothers who won't let their kids right BART at anytime.

"Nia's killer wouldn't have been caught if he wasn't caught on camera," said McPartland as he pushed for an immediate approval of the surveillance system.

Debora Allen, who represents Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, and Concord, said she supports the surveillance system also, but felt it could be delayed until a privacy policy is in place. She voiced strong support for other controversial measures though, like a ban on panhandling inside the paid areas of stations. She said she's always approached by people begging for money in Oakland when she leaves board meetings for her home in suburban Contra Costa.

Allen also took opportunity to defend the BART police. "The whole attacking of the police force saddens me," she said.

The board voted to convene a special evening meeting next month somewhere "east of the hills" in a suburb where the surveillance system can be discussed further and possibly voted on.

The board plans to receive and vote on a final draft of the surveillance technology and privacy ordinance at its next regular board meeting, likely after the suburban forum.

Monday, August 6, 2018

BART Is Planning a System-Wide Surveillance Network

The technology will use 'video analytics' to pinpoint crime and alert cops.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Aug 6, 2018 at 4:12 PM

ALPR cameras the BART police installed in the MacArthur Station Parking Garage. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • ALPR cameras the BART police installed in the MacArthur Station Parking Garage.

Following several high-profile crimes in recent weeks, including the horrific killing of Nia Wilson, the Bay Area Rapid Transit district is under intense pressure to ensure passenger safety.

In response, BART officials have revealed preexisting plans to build out a massive surveillance system that would closely monitor all of the district's stations, trains, and other property.

The district's general manager and police want to upgrade BART's 1,500 existing analog video cameras to a digital format, which would then be linked to computers that analyze video feeds in real time to detect possible criminal activity. The computers would then automatically notify officers to respond to the scenes of crimes and other disturbances.

The proposal is mentioned in a report that will be heard at this Thursday's meeting of the BART board of directors. But the proposal isn't really new. BART officials said they've been testing various powerful surveillance technologies since long before Wilson's death and other recent violent incidents.

According to an "Executive Decision Document" prepared by BART General Manager Grace Crunican in advance of this Thursday's board meeting, the district's Physical Security Information System, or PSIM, was "originally designed to monitor physical alarms and fixed sensors," but it can be "enhanced to include cutting edge video analytics to generate automated alerts based on defined criteria and BART Police Response Plans."

The cost of rolling out the system-wide PSIM network would be about $4.9 million, plus an additional $1.3 million for personnel to operate it. But first, BART would need to spend $15 million to upgrade all of its security cameras to digital format.

BART records show that a test project of the PSIM is already "in process" at the Lake Merritt Station. Lake Merritt was chosen due to its proximity to BART's existing data center and police station.

The test project at Lake Merritt doesn't require approval by the BART board, but an expansion of the surveillance system throughout the rest of BART's stations would require board hearings and a vote, according to BART records.

Surveillance video analytics are computer programs that review footage without human assistance and automatically flag incidents and create alerts. Thousands of hours of recordings can also be searched using queries through a search engine interface. For example, police can search videos for people wearing certain colors of clothing and other visible features. Some video analytics software can include highly controversial features like facial recognition, in which computers use biometrics to identify and track people.

BART spokesperson Jim Allison told the Express that the technologies being tested at Lake Merritt Station do not include facial recognition. "We are not currently considering any audio or phone tracking technology," he added.

BART is testing a feature that can automatically flag fare evasion and alert police officers, however.

"The testing began at Lake Merritt Station well before the Nia Wilson murder," Allison wrote in an email. He said BART can't provide details on how many cameras are in use and what specific types of video analytics are being tested.

BART has long sought to use technologies to secure its trains and stations, but this hasn't necessarily made the system safer, and many worry about the loss of privacy and civil liberties, or fear surveillance tools could be used in harmful ways.

For example, in 2011 BART turned off cell phone services at a downtown San Francisco station in order to thwart a planned protest against its police department. Earlier that year, a BART officer shot and killed Charles Blair Hill in the same station.

In 2014, BART started urging passengers to download and use a security reporting app, but many passengers used the cell phone app to report Black people and homeless people.

Two years ago, BART quietly installed automated license plate reader cameras at its stations, and according to records obtained by the researcher Mike Katz-Lacabe, the cameras have been sending license plate data to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center since January 2017. Federal immigration agents have access to NCRIC data.

BART's growing surveillance system has been likened by some to the Domain Awareness Center, a now defunct proposal from the city of Oakland that would have tied together cameras and other sensors throughout the city and fed this information into a central police monitoring station.

Brian Hofer, the chair of the city of Oakland's privacy commission and a member of the group Oakland Privacy, said there are many ways to make BART safer that don't necessarily involve mass surveillance.

"Hastily made decisions often have negative consequences," said Hofer. "BART has in the past ran trials with video analytics, and discontinued such trials because the benefits didn't outweigh the costs. BART's Board should not approve the PSIM proposal or the Lake Merritt analytics trial without a careful vetting of the impact of such projects."

Hofer said Oakland Privacy and other civil liberties groups have been working with BART to draft rules that would govern the acquisition and use of powerful surveillance technologies, but the board hasn't voted on the ordinance yet.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Oakland Mayor Schaaf Sitting on $315,000 in Campaign Cash Heading Into November Elections

D6 candidate Loren Taylor raised 3.5 times more than incumbent Desley Brooks.

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 9:48 AM

  • File Photo by D. Ross Cameron
Last night was the deadline for candidates running for Oakland mayor, city council, and other offices to file disclosure statements showing how much money they've raised in the past six months. Here are the candidates by the numbers.


Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was able to raise $116,739 so far this year and she has about $315,000 in cash in her committee account to pay for her re-election campaign. No other candidate has close to that amount of funds, and the mayor is also benefitting from her high-profile feud with the Trump administration.

Cat Brooks is considered a top contender in the mayor's race. Brooks was able to raise $49,932 over the same span of time.

But it was actually Saied Karamooz who raised the most money. His $181,000 came in the form of a self-loan, however. Karamooz reported no contributions from any other source.

Marchon Tatmon was the only other candidate in the field of 16 who are running for mayor who reported raising money. He received $7,409 in contributions.

District 4

In the city's hotly contested District 4 race, one of the frontrunners dropped out. Chris Young was fast outpacing his rivals in terms of fundraising, with $113,207 contributed to his campaign this year. But he cited personal reasons when he declared the end to his campaign last week.

The Express previously reported that Young claimed to be the in-house attorney for GoFundMe even though his status with the state bar was "ineligible" to practice law due to a failure to pay his bar fees and complete mandatory legal education. Schaaf and outgoing D4 Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington both endorsed Young before he quit the race.

Among the candidates still in the race (there are 11), only five others reported raising money. Charlie Michelson led the group with $47,330, followed by Nayeli Maxson, Joseph Tanios, Sheng Thao, and Joseph Simmons.

District 6

In District 6, several candidates are trying to unseat Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks raised $33,497 so far this year and has $57,353 in cash in her account.

Loren Taylor, who has Schaaf's endorsement, outpaced Brooks in fundraising. He reported receiving $119,476, or three and a half times more than Brooks. Some of his contributors include Schaaf's longtime supporters.

Natasha Middleton and Marlo Rodriguez reported raising $28,900 and $20,630, respectively.

District 2

Abel Guillen is facing two opponents this November. The incumbent councilmember reported $97,342 in contributions since January 1, including support from Schaaf and several real estate developers who are building large housing and hotel projects in his district.

Nikki Bas raised $36,934. Many of her contributions are from nonprofit staffers, activists, and others who have been critical of Oakland's development politics and gentrification.

Carlos "Kenzie" Smith, who was the target of the woman known as BBQ Becky, did not report raising money in the past six months. He launched his campaign after being approached by many in the community who are concerned about rising anti-Black racism and gentrification.

While money isn't everything, it's also virtually impossible for a candidate without considerable funds to successfully run in Oakland.

But at the same time, the candidate with the most money doesn't always win. Incumbency counts for a lot. In 2016, At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan beat challenger Peggy Moore (who had Schaaf's support), even though Moore raised $316,000 to Kaplan's $169,000.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Courtney Ruby Returns to Run for Oakland Auditor

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 4:13 PM

Courtney Ruby
  • Courtney Ruby
Oakland's former city auditor, Courtney Ruby, is returning to challenge current City Auditor Brenda Roberts in this November's election.

Ruby said her decision is very much in response to Roberts' track record of producing few impactful audits over the past four years.

"The oversight function hasn’t been well served," said Ruby, who is currently the director of administration and facilities at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

"This is a really critical time when we don’t want to squander our resources. We need an effective oversight function," she said.

Ruby was city auditor from 2007 to 2014 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2014. Under her leadership the auditor's office carried out several major investigations, including an examination of the city's Fox Theater renovation project, interference in administrative affairs by city councilmembers, and mismanagement of the public works agency.

According to an investigation by reporter Gabrielle Canon, morale in the auditor's office plummeted under Roberts, as did productivity. Several of Roberts' former employees have become outspoken critics.

A phone call and email to Roberts' campaign committee treasurer Carlos Hickerson wasn't immediately returned. But Roberts has defended her record and told the Express last year that she has several important audits currently underway, which have yet to be released. One of them, a review of the city's 911 system, was issued in November 2017.

Native Americans Push Schools to Include Their Story in California History Classes

“Our story has never been present. It’s often sidestepped because it’s inconvenient. But it’s the truth, and students should learn it.”

by Carolyn Jones of EdSource
Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 10:07 AM

Native American teachers and activists meet regularly to create K-12 curriculum about California's indigenous inhabitants. - COURTESY OF SACRAMENTO STATE UNIVERSITY
  • Courtesy of Sacramento State University
  • Native American teachers and activists meet regularly to create K-12 curriculum about California's indigenous inhabitants.

For decades, California 4th-graders have studied the Golden State: its geography, people and history. Now, historians and Native American teachers are pushing to broaden that curriculum to include more on the culture and history of the state’s original inhabitants.

“For so many years, the story of California Indians has never really been part of classrooms,” said Rose Borunda, an education professor at Sacramento State University and a coordinator of the California Indian History Curriculum Coalition. “Our story has never been present. It’s often sidestepped because it’s inconvenient. But it’s the truth, and students should learn it.”

Borunda, who is Native American, and her colleagues are working to educate teachers statewide on the history of California’s indigenous people, who were among the most populous and diverse Native Americans in North America. Their curriculum would complement the state’s History-Social Science framework, which was updated two years ago.

The changes are part of a broader effort to expand Native California curriculum in the state’s K-12 schools. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 738, which requires the state’s Instructional Quality Commission — which advises the State Board of Education on curriculum — to create a Native American studies class curriculum for high schools that will satisfy the elective course requirements for admission to the University of California and California State University. Earlier this year, Brown signed AB 2016, which creates an elective high school ethnic studies course that could also include Native American history and culture. The State Board of Education is required to adopt the ethnic studies curriculum by March 2020.

The story of Native Californians begins at least 10,000 years ago when people first began settling along the West Coast. Before the arrival of Spanish colonists in the 1700s, Native Californians numbered more than 300,000 and lived more than 200 tribes, dwelling in almost every part of the state. Because tribes in California were geographically isolated from the rest of the continent, many tribes had no contact with Native Americans outside California, and some tribes — especially those in remote areas — were among the last in North America to encounter Europeans.

All California public school students, for at least 50 years, have spent time during 4th grade learning the state’s history, with a focus on the Spanish missions — the 21 outposts established by Father Junipero Serra, soldiers and settlers in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Students created missions out of sugar cubes and popsicle sticks, visited missions and sometimes learned a version of the mission story that emphasized the Spanish perspective, rather than that of native people.

While the missions marked the beginning of colonization in California, they were also the beginning of the end for most tribes, as thousands were enslaved by missionaries, killed by settlers over the next few decades or died of diseases introduced by Europeans. Within 70 years of the Spanish arrival, the native population dropped to fewer than 70,000, according to the state’s Native American Heritage Commission.

In 2016, when the state updated its History-Social Studies framework, the mission chapter was broadened to include more information about Native Californians, how they lived before colonization and how they were affected by the arrival of settlers. Now, missions are taught as “sites of conflict, conquest and forced labor,” according to the standards. “It is clear that even though missionaries brought agriculture, the Spanish language and culture, and Christianity to the native population, American Indians suffered in many California missions.”

The standards now emphasize broader themes in the mission era, such as immigration and how cultures change when they come together and colonization’s impact on the environment, such as the introduction of farming, livestock and invasive species.

“We changed it because it was the right thing to do,” said Nancy McTygue, executive director of the California History-Social Science Project at UC Davis, which oversaw the framework revisions.

“It’s better history teaching. It’s more responsible. Whatever the topic, we wanted students to have a more nuanced understanding of the past, so they can make more informed interpretations.”

Attempts to bring more native perspectives to public school history curriculum began with the Native American rights movement of the 1970s, said Gregg Castro, a consultant on Native American site preservation and member of the California Indian History Curriculum Coalition.

Those efforts have progressed in fits and starts, he said. Some tribes have worked closely with local elementary schools for years, providing lesson plans and guest speakers to supplement the 4th-grade California history curriculum. Other schools have done less, and in fact some still teach popsicle-stick mission projects despite the framework overhaul, McTygue said.

Separately, Assemblyman Phil Ting successfully advocated for a $5 million grant in the 2017-18 state budget for the California Historical Society and McTygue’s group to create free online materials, such as original documents and photos, for K-12 teachers to implement the new history-social science framework, including the history and culture of Native Californians.

“This $5 million investment by the state will provide students and their teachers with the resources to learn about — and from — the people, places and events that have shaped California for thousands of years,” Ting said.

Around the same time the history-social studies framework was being updated, Borunda began to get involved. She became interested when the subject of Native American curriculum in general came up at a meeting of the California Indian Conference, an annual meeting of Native Californians to network and discuss issues affecting their communities.

“A man was at one of these meetings who’s a teacher. He started crying because he was told he had to teach the California mission project,” Borunda said. “It stuck with me. I thought, well, here I am, an education professor. Maybe I can change this.”

Working with her colleagues at Sacramento State, as well as tribal members, teachers and historians, Borunda began compiling free online lesson plans for elementary teachers to supplement what’s already in the framework. The coalition has also hosted several statewide teacher forums to share curriculum and strategies for teaching Native Californian history and culture.

The topic is complicated, Castro said. California tribes are as diverse as the state’s geography, so no single lesson plan fits all tribes, she said. California tribes spoke hundreds of languages and dialects and each had a culture adapted to the areas in which they lived: the desert, the mountains, the Central Valley or the coast.

But perhaps the more challenging aspect of the curriculum is teaching about the enslavement, disease and slaughter that befell native people after the Spanish arrival, McTygue and Castro said.

“It’s a difficult period in American history, and it’s especially hard to teach to 9-year-olds,” McTygue said, referring to the age of students when they study California history in 4th grade. The difficulties are in part due to a lack of materials about the pre-Spanish era, she said, and in part because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

Even the terminology poses challenges. For example, using the word “genocide” can be problematic, because thousands of Native Americans still live in California and have thriving cultures. “Genocide” implies that the native culture was completely erased, Castro said. In fact, California has more Native Americans — 362,801 — than any other state, according to the most recent Census data.

Focusing on the mission period can also detract from 10,000 years of Native Californian history and culture, he said. After all, there’s a lot more to native people than the colonization story, he said.

“A lot of it comes down to terminology,” he said. “Instead of using the word ‘genocide,’ you can say, ‘We were forced to work at the missions. We didn’t want to be there and we suffered for it.’ ”

Castro suggests that elementary teachers look at broad topic areas, such as salmon or fire, and incorporate multiple academic subjects into their lessons. For example, a unit on salmon would include native traditions and lore about salmon, as well as lessons on the fish biology, river ecosystems and seasons. A unit on fire would cover how native people burned fields to enrich the soil, manage vegetation to attract wildlife and prevent larger wildfires. This unit would include lessons on ecology, land management and how humans alter their environment.

“It can be done quite well, in a non-traumatizing way, without shading the truth,” he said. “Right now there is abysmal ignorance out there because people just weren’t taught about Native Californians in school. But people need to know this. They need to know what happened, that we’re still here, that there’s still things to be saved.”

This story was originally published by

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Protesters March to KTVU, Demand Justice and Accountability for ‘Dehumanizing’ Use of Nia Wilson Photo

“This isn’t going to be another day where you get to say you’re sorry and walk away.”

by Josh Slowiczek
Thu, Jul 26, 2018 at 5:57 PM

Protesters marched through downtown Oakland chanting "Justice for Nia" as they made their way to the offices of KTVU, demanding accountability for the local news station’s use of what they called a "dehumanizing" photo. - JOSH SLOWICZEK
  • Josh Slowiczek
  • Protesters marched through downtown Oakland chanting "Justice for Nia" as they made their way to the offices of KTVU, demanding accountability for the local news station’s use of what they called a "dehumanizing" photo.

Roughly 50 protesters marched through the streets of Oakland today to demand accountability from local television news station KTVU for the airing of a photo that appeared to show Nia Wilson, the 18-year-old Black woman stabbed to death Sunday night at the MacArthur BART station, holding a gun.

It was actually a cellphone case. And for the community members, activists, and artists who rallied, the use of the photo represented a completely unacceptable act that perpetuated false and harmful stereotypes of Black Oaklanders.

“We have to send a message to Channel 2 [KTVU] and everyone else,” said Theo Williams, a concerned community member and the artistic director of SambaFunk, a local collective for African Diaspora culture. “This isn’t going to be another day where you get to say you’re sorry and walk away.”

KTVU, a Fox affiliate, aired the photo on July 23 during a noon newscast, less than 24 hours after Wilson and her sister were attacked by John Lee Cowell, a white man with a history of criminal activity and mental illness. Though police have not yet released a motive for the killing, community members say that the attack was most likely a hate crime, and that KTVU’s use of the image must be seen in the broader context of the historic and growing racism in the United States.

“It’s not just KTVU. It’s the media,” said Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks. “We have got to demand that they start treating African American communities, and people of color communities, with respect.”

Brooks, Williams, and several other prominent Black community members spoke to a growing crowd at the Alice Street Mural this morning, addressing not only the death of Wilson and KTVU’s actions, but also the structural violence that communities of color face. They also spoke of the need to respect and protect Black women.

Protesters marched to the offices of KTVU in Jack London, demanding accountability for the local news station’s use of what they called a "dehumanizing" photo. - JOSH SLOWICZEK
  • Josh Slowiczek
  • Protesters marched to the offices of KTVU in Jack London, demanding accountability for the local news station’s use of what they called a "dehumanizing" photo.

Public outrage spread quickly over social media shortly after KTVU’s noon newscast. Frank Somerville, one of the station’s anchors, quickly issued an apology for the action over social media, and then during a later evening newscast. But many at the protest saw the apology as being tepid and in poor taste.

The day after, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Bay Area Black Journalists Association, and the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education issued a press release condemning the news station.

“The use of the photo can be seen as an attempt to dismiss her [Wilson’s] humanity and silence those who view her death as a racially-motivated attack,” the press release states. “Such depictions reinforce unconscious bias, particularly against people of color, who are over-represented in stories about crime and violence.”

But some, such as Bay Area reporter JR Valrey, see the station’s use of the photo as something much worse. “This was a hate crime,” he said. “They made the victim look like an aggressor.”

This is not the first time that KTVU has come under fire for questionable content. In 2010, protesters rallied against the station for a sympathetic jailhouse interview with Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant. Then, in 2013, the station aired four fake and racially insensitive names of Asiana Airlines pilots one day after a crash that killed three passengers and injured dozens of others at San Francisco International Airport.

Both incidents were referenced by speakers and demonstrators as further evidence that the station not only has a history of racism, but is part of a larger, systemic problem.

As protesters marched from the Alice Street Mural to the television station, they chanted “Justice for Nia Wilson,” and “What are we for? Why are we here? Nia Wilson,” to the beating of drums by members of SambaFunk. When the demonstrators arrived at KTVU’s property shortly after noon, they began chanting, chalking the entrance, and setting up an altar in memory of Wilson while they waited for Amber Eikel, the news director of KTVU, to come out and hear their demands. Wilson’s sister, Latifah, watched from a chair, surrounded by community members standing solemnly behind her.

As a helicopter from the Oakland Police Department circled overhead, protesters paid their respects at the altar. Libations, in the form of bottled water poured into small, potted plants, were also offered, as the names of Black youths taken before their time were shouted out: “Oscar Grant,” “Trayvon Martin,” and “Nia Wilson.”

Eikel did not make an appearance, but almost two hours later, Paul Chambers, one of the station’s reporters, came out of the gated parking lot with a camera crew to speak with the protesters and record their demands.

Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. speaks with KTVU reporter Paul Chambers about the station’s use of a photo pulled from one of Nia Wilson’s social media accounts. - JOSH SLOWICZEK
  • Josh Slowiczek
  • Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. speaks with KTVU reporter Paul Chambers about the station’s use of a photo pulled from one of Nia Wilson’s social media accounts.

There were six: demonstrate accountability by firing those responsible, create a committee of Black Oaklanders to explore how and why the photo was aired, create a policy ensuring that similar incidents never happen again, distribute the policy through various local media organizations, start a Nia Wilson scholarship fund for students at Oakland High, and develop new internships at the news station for students of color.

Local Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B., surrounded by protesters, spoke with Chambers in front of the altar, a large portrait of Wilson’s face. Delivering the demands pragmatically, he spoke of the need for respect and dignity in this moment of hardship for the Black community.

“The criminalization of us as a people has gone on for far too long, and for us to be criminalized when we’re hurting is wrong,” Mistah F.A.B. said. “For years, we’ve been fighting for civil rights. What does that mean? It means we need someone to be civil with us.”

OP-ED: It’s Time for Oakland City Council to Change Its Schedule

by Andrea L. Dooley
Thu, Jul 26, 2018 at 10:29 AM


Democracy can be messy, but does it have to be this messy?

The last Oakland City Council meeting was a demonstration of just how messy democracy can get. The minutes haven’t been published yet, but the KTOP video recording of the July 24 meeting is 10 hours, 52 minutes, and 25 seconds long. The meeting was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., which means that the party broke up around 4:22 a.m.

That isn’t democracy, that’s a raging party. Or, in the case of the city council, a raging wildfire.

Like most Oakland residents, I was asleep for most of that, even though there were several issues on the agenda about which I feel strongly enough to express my opinions to my city councilmember. The city council literally meets under cover of darkness while the people sleep. The Washington Post is right: Democracy Dies In Darkness. No one should be expected to stay up that long to find out what our elected officials are doing. The only people who stay are the chronic insomniacs and the people who are paid to be there: council staff and lobbyists for real estate developers.

Marathon city council meetings are a huge disservice to this city. Here’s how bad it is. Oakland is currently supposed to meet the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month. If there’s a 5th Tuesday, it’s a special meeting. The meeting on July 10 was more than six hours long and adjourned at midnight because a majority of the council wouldn’t agree to extend the meeting, so quite a few agenda items were moved to that epic July 24 meeting. The July 3 meeting was canceled. The June 19 meeting was convened at 5:38 p.m. and adjourned at 2:05 a.m. That’s an 8.5-hour meeting. The June 5 meeting was canceled, as were all the June 12 and 14 committee meetings.

This can’t be normal, right? I checked the city council minutes at four cities of comparable size in California. Fresno meets every Thursday at 9 a.m. The last three meetings for which there were published minutes were all under eight hours, ending in time for everyone to have dinner with their families. Sacramento meets every Tuesday at 5 p.m., and the last three meetings adjourned before 10 p.m. Long Beach is a little more all over the map. Their meetings start at 4 p.m. in closed session, with open session starting roughly at 5 p.m. Of their last six meetings, one was canceled, one ended at 12:42 a.m., one ended at 9:39 p.m., and the other three were finished by 7:40 p.m. The canceled meeting came after the one that lasted more than seven hours. In other words, they got their work done before they canceled, not after.

Santa Ana, the next smallest city after Oakland, also has its meetings on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month, starting at 5 with closed session and moving to open session right afterward. They list the times of their meetings on their website and none of the last four were longer than 4 hours and 53 minutes.

Oakland is out of the ordinary in many ways. It might be that we have a different style of government, or we have more problems. Maybe we have more active, engaged citizens, who are more likely to show up at council meetings. I doubt those are the reasons why our meetings are so torturous.

This data suggests several things that the Oakland City Council could do to be more sane, manageable, and accessible.
  • The city has reached a size where we need to have city council meetings every week. That alone might improve things, particularly if the agenda is actively managed to keep similar items together.
  • City council meetings should be moved to start earlier. Long Beach does closed session at 4 p.m. If Oakland isn’t prepared to meet during the day the way that larger cities do. Like Fresno, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors meets once a week at 9:30 a.m. San Francisco Board of Supervisors meets at 2 p.m. once a week.
  • Committee meetings should not be canceled. The agenda items that make it to the regular meeting should already be fully worked out and ready for a vote.
  • Special recognition of staff and citizens and special proclamations should be moved to their own special meeting once a month, held for this purpose. The first hour of every regular meeting does not need to be spent recognizing one or two individuals when housing and police reform issues go unaddressed.
  • Individual city council members must acknowledge their constituents who reach out before the meeting with comment, so that people do not feel like they must come to speak again and again, fearing that their opinions have gone unheard.
The current state of city council meetings excludes a huge portion of the Oakland community. The council’s insistence on holding infrequent meetings, late at night, disadvantages those of us who want to have our voice heard but can’t stay up all night to make sure we are able to do so. It’s time to update the process to make the city more democratic.

Andrea L. Dooley is an 18-year Oakland resident, labor arbitrator, and writer. She also serves as an alternate commissioner on the Oakland Police Commission.

Complaint Spurs Bay Area District to Provide Parents with More Timely Accountability Data

by Theresa Harrington
Thu, Jul 26, 2018 at 7:42 AM

West Contra Costa Unified community members lobby school board to release accountability data. - THERESA HARRINGTON FOR EDSOURCE
  • Theresa Harrington for EdSource
  • West Contra Costa Unified community members lobby school board to release accountability data.

The West Contra Costa school district, in response to a complaint, has agreed to provide data by November on student performance and spending to parents who help create its annual accountability plan.

The district agreed to settle a complaint filed last April on behalf of two parents and a student by Public Advocates, Inc. and pro bono counsel Mayer Brown LLP. The district includes Richmond and surrounding communities.

Parent Wendy Lopez, one of the complainants, said she is excited to know that the district will give her committee the data it needs to help create the next accountability plan months earlier than it did for the 2018-19 plan.

  • Yuxuan Xie
“It was like we finally achieved something,” she said. “Now, we’ll be able to work with the right tools and with the right data.”

District spokesman Marcus Walton said West Contra Costa Unified is working closely with the community to improve its process for creating and updating its accountability plan.

“This settlement reaffirms our commitment to provide data to our parents so they can make informed decisions about the education their children receive,” he said.

The complaint came after updated information crucial to evaluating how effective the district had been at meeting its annual accountability goals was not released — after several requests — to a committee working on its 2018-19 Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP.

Districts are legally required to adopt these plans annually, laying out specific goals for students and schools and showing how they will spend state funds to achieve them. The requirement is part of the California’s Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, which gives school districts greater authority over the use of state funds and gives them extra money to educate low-income students, English learners, foster youth and homeless children.

According to the settlement agreement signed July 20 by district Superintendent Matthew Duffy, the district will report available data in its draft accountability plan before the school board approves it in June. All data for the prior school year will be reported to the community by November.

“We are pushing for the community to have more time to review information,” said Hans Moore, senior staff attorney for Public Advocates. “The reflection process the community needs to go through was delayed by some time.”

The district distributed updated data to the committee of parents and students working on the accountability plan in early May, just weeks before the draft was completed, Moore said.

If the district delays its reporting of information about whether it is meeting its goals, the community is unable to hold it accountable, he said.

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