Happy Black History/Present/Future Month!
by Allyssa Victory, ESQ
Oakland is a bastion for Black Civil Rights Movements and liberatory politics. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, founded in Oakland by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in the late 1960s, launched a Black power era of politics and a demand for liberation, united with subjugated communities across the world.
Newton’s birthday is Feb. 17 and celebrated as part of Oakland’s Black History/Future. Panthers, including Elaine Brown and Bobby Seale, even ran for political office in Oakland. Since their founding, countless organizations have developed from the mentorship and leadership example of the Panthers.
We must remember where we come from as we forge a path to a thriving Black future in Oakland. Black Oakland is negatively ranked on every issue affecting quality of life as confirmed by numerous disparity studies conducted over the last electoral cycle.
We’ve witnessed new Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao terminate several Black City staff including Chief of Police LeRonne Armstrong and Homeless Administrator Daryel Dunston. Chief of the Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) Guillermo Cespedes has resigned to take a position in another city. The termination of former Chief Armstrong continues to prompt rallies and demands to the new Mayor from groups like the NAACP Oakland.
As Oakland is still under a declared local emergency due to homelessness and in its 20th year of our federal police department settlement, we are waiting on who Mayor Thao will choose to replace these key leadership positions and what the plans are to progress us forward. Community organizations and leaders are beginning to mobilize around the annual budget process to advocate for a moral budget that will provide comprehensive public safety and violence prevention investments to departments other than the police.
Residents are also awaiting more information and updates on the emergency declared this month due to a cyberattack affecting city operations and digital security. In the age of technology and remote-only city meetings, stability and security is a paramount concern.
Furthermore, thousands of residents spent their Memorial Day weekends without power due to a fire at a PG&E substation in East Oakland. The outage spread to the Oakland Airport causing flight delays and to the city of Alameda, which controls its own power grid but relies on transmission from PG&E.
PG&E first estimated that restoration would take a couple hours but residents in deep East Oakland were without power for over twenty-four hours. Many reported food and medications expiring as well as being unable to charge tech devices to access information and updates.
On the heels of a tumultuous Memorial weekend, First African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) suffered a three-alarm fire and will be unsafe to use until repaired. First AME is the oldest Black Church in Oakland. You can support their repair efforts by donating to their GoFundMe.
Despite some of the hurdles and strife of the month, Oakland is forging its own Black History and our community has much to celebrate. We now have a majority of Black, independently elected delegates to the CA Democratic Party representing Oakland, Alameda and Emeryville (Assembly District 18). All 12 members of my People’s Slate, within the Democratic Party, won our election and I will personally serve on the Executive Board of the party as the highest vote-getter. We will now begin preparing to represent our district at the annual convention in May.
Less than 1 percent of delegates statewide are Black and our slate’s win is critical to shifting this representation and the dialogue on who the Party supports. This will be even more critical as the 2024 U.S. Senate race ramps up with Oakland’s congresswoman, Barbara Lee, officially joining the race. Lee will have a public event in Oakland at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater on Feb. 25 at 12 p.m.
I had the honor of speaking at a special Black History Month program held at Rosemary Jane cannabusiness in Oakland. The program featured local artists and speakers with Oakland’s only cannabis consumption business as the backdrop. We heard from Rosemary Jane’s Black woman equity owner on why natural plant medicine is important to Black history and futures.
I gave remarks in the form of an interview discussing my historic run to be the first Black woman Mayor of Oakland, issues of public safety and economic justice, and how our community can better engage in our democracy and hold our elected officials accountable.
Closing out this special month will be several more Black history/futures celebrations including NAACP Oakland’s annual Black History Month event on Feb. 20 at 11 a.m.; the East OaklandYouth Development Center’s Black History Month Celebration on Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m.; No Name Book Club meet at 81st Ave library on Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.; and the 5th annual Black Joy Parade + festival Sunday Feb. 26 in downtown Oakland.
Follow Allyssa @VictoryforOakland and VictoryforOakland.com. Allyssa hosts the featured “Victory Corner” segment on the Black Business Roundtable bi-monthly Thursdays at 4:30pm livestream on YouTube with @BlackUSANews. This is a column for local readers about Oakland politics by civil rights attorney, former Oakland Mayor candidate and community leader Allyssa Victory, Esq.