by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Jason Anderson has been a staunch activist in the Oakland area for about half a decade and has been working very hard on keeping the historic Liberty Hall building, the original Oakland home to Marcus Garvey’s UNIA in West Oakland, in the hands of the Black community. It has been an uphill battle, but this veteran of Occupy Oakland is up for the challenge.
Supporters of Liberty Hall have to raise $200,000 by August of next year, or we will be remembering Liberty Hall in the same way that we remember the last Black-owned book store in San Francisco, which was also, in name, a monument to the work of the great man Marcus Garvey: Marcus Book Store.
Jason Anderson is also a mayoral candidate, but what I respect about him is that he uses his creativity and skills not just for his own career but for the good of the community. Check him out in his own words.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the history of Marcus Garvey and the Marcus Garvey building in West Oakland?
Jason Anderson: Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican-born political leader. He was a publisher, journalist and entrepreneur and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.
He founded the Black Star Line, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands. Also, he was considered to be a prophet in the Rastafarian belief system.
Liberty Hall is a historic meeting hall used by African-American organizations in Oakland, California. Local 188 of the United Negro Improvement Association, the African-American fraternal organization founded by Marcus Garvey, purchased the building for its headquarters in 1925. Founded in 1920, Local 188 was the largest chapter of the UNIA in Northern California.
The chapter renamed the building Liberty Hall, the name used by all of the UNIA’s meeting halls. During its time in the building, the UNIA used it for its meetings, activities and holidays, such as Lincoln’s Birthday and Garvey Day. A fire burnt the building’s roof in 1931, and the UNIA’s activism in Oakland declined afterward. The organization sold the building in 1933.
After the UNIA left the building, one of Oakland’s chapters of the International Peace Mission movement took over the building. The International Peace Mission was a religious movement led by Father Divine, an African-American preacher from New York. Father Divine, who was considered the Second Coming by his followers, was known for hosting free banquets at his home during the Great Depression. The International Peace Mission continued to operate in the building until the 1950s, though its activities declined after the early 1940s.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 30, 1989.
M.O.I. JR: A few years ago you were involved in a campaign to save the building. What is the status of that process?
Jason Anderson: In February 2012, I was informed by William Hammond, the executive director of Overcomers With Hope (OWH), that the building could be facing Citibank foreclosure. At the time I was working with the Occupy Oakland Media Committee and my time was limited.
At around November 2012, I saw a petition to save the building online. I knew the organizer, Ayori Se of Pitch Mixer Entrepreneur Forum, contacted her and requested to come to a meeting. Having experience with the Occupy Oakland media, I had built connections with independent, local and national news affiliates and taken part in several press conferences.
Once I met with team, I quickly laid out the media strategy and took on the responsibility of communications director for the Save the Liberty Hall project. After building the team and maintaining local interest in the project and dedicating a year of my life to focus on the project, we as a team were able to successfully save the building from Citibank foreclosure Aug. 7, 2013.
Although that was a great victory, the building is still in jeopardy of being lost. In order to close the deal, the investors had to take out a hard money loan for $200,000. If this loan isn’t paid in full by August 2015, the building will be lost to the community.
Liberty Hall belongs to the community but is still in jeopardy of being lost. In order to close the deal, the investors had to take out a hard money loan for $200,000. If this loan isn’t paid in full by August 2015, the building will be lost to the community.
M.O.I. JR: What can people do to help you in this process?
Jason Anderson: Contact the Town Mayor Campaign and, as a community, build a coalition to raise the money to permanently put the building in the communities hands, where it belongs.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about your position on Net Neutrality as a candidate for Oakland mayor?
Jason Anderson: I believe the internet is one of the greatest technology advances of the 21st century, and like all things that benefit humanity, it must be protected and remain an open resource. Capitalism is profit driven, but at what cost?
The freedom of information the internet provides is invaluable, if we want an informed, aware society capable of making decisions that will benefit all of mankind. But I see the push by corporations to limit the speed of the internet as a play to slow down the public’s awareness.
I am not for limitations on information, and I stand behind the movement to keep the net neutral and available for all.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about your history with the Occupy Oakland movement now that the anniversary is coming up?
Jason Anderson: Oct. 10, 2011, is when Occupy Oakland began. I spent most of time during the movement on the ground, in the media tent, which was the hub of the Media Committee meetings. I also helped with security, conflict resolution and as media liaison for incoming press inquiries.
As the movement progressed and spread outside of Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza, I continued to support by collaborating on several proposals for the Occupy Oakland General Assembly process, one of which was the controversial 19th and Telegraph building, where there was an occupation of the space in response to being violently attacked and evicted from Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza.
Later, I was voted by the Finance Committee to function as the UA (unincorporated association) signer, which held all legal responsibility over the Occupy Oakland bank account, which I formally resigned from in November 2012.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about some of the other positions that your campaign has taken?
Jason Anderson: Creating an exit strategy from the failed War on Drugs, creating guaranteed jobs for Oakland residents, especially youth jobs, and building culture through arts to curb violence within the city, with events like Oakland’s First Fridays, which could provide a platform for local artists to showcase skills and talents.
M.O.I. JR: How can people stay up with you?
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.