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On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the first day of the historic National Prison Strike, Democracy Now interviewed Amani Sawari. The segment began with an excellent interview with Cole Dorsey of IWOC and then suddenly the bright, brilliant, radiant face of 23-year-old Amani filled the screen and a voice of eloquence, inspiration and power filled the room. All it took was host Amy Goodman saying she’s a journalist, and, involuntarily, spontaneously, I pointed at the screen and shouted, “There’s the new Bay View editor!” Amani and I have been talking ever since, and she came to visit Oct. 8-12. What fun we had.
On Sept. 24, our San Francisco Bay View newspaper was recognized as a Legacy Business by the San Francisco Historical Preservation Commission and Small Business Commission. This is quite significant! This status, which honors enterprises with 30 or more years of community service, means additional city and county support, education and promotional assistance to maintain their neighborhood’s traditions and excellence.
A grand sunny day dawned in San Francisco’s Hunters Point Bayvew District for the naming of “Sam Jordan Way,” formerly Galvez Avenue between Phelps and Third Street. Over 150 people gathered for the celebration on Aug. 18. It is fitting that his two sons, Allen and Sam Jr., and baby girl Ruth with other family members were on hand. They pointed out that their father was the first African American to make a serious run for mayor and now we have a Black woman, Mayor London Breed.
I recently finished reading David Barton Smith’s book, “The Power to Heal, Civil Rights, Medicare, and the Struggle to Transform America’s Health Care System.” It is an excellent history of healthcare in the United States, particularly in the 1950s and ‘60s. For me, as a longtime Medicare for All advocate, the book also provided insight about our continuing struggle to achieve better healthcare in the U.S. at a lower cost for everyone.
His name is Veronza Bowers Jr., a former member and captain of the original Black Panther Party. After more than 44 years in prison, 14 years beyond his mandatory release date, Veronza has faith that with his Freedom Team of top lawyers and the love of multitudes of supporters around the world, he will win his freedom soon. Political prisoners are kept in prison when the “law enforcers” they opposed decades ago carry grudges they pass down the generations, vowing those prisoners will die in prison. But the words of little Pharoah Dawson, who wrote, “Veronza, don’t die in prison!” are more powerful.
The most elegant event we’ve ever attended was the San Francisco Housing Development Corp.’s 30th Anniversary Gala at the wondrous California Academy of Sciences – yes, guests could see the exhibits! – on Friday, May 11. We, Dr. Willlie and Mary Ratcliff, were invited to accept the Power of Words award, and we were thrilled to be presented it by SFHDC Board Member Dorris Vincent, an old friend and a pillar of the Bayview Hunters Point community. These are her remarks:
In our grand traditions of African Liberation Day/Month – and May First/International Workers’ Day – WE remember and honor our Beloved Ancients and Ancestors from yesteryears and yesterday. Recently, super-(s)heroes such as freedom fighters Mama WINNIE MADIKIZELA-MANDELA and KIILU NYASHA made their Spiritual Transformations. Warrior Kiilu is a great inspiration and uncompromising advocate for Power to the People, freeing our political prisoners and abolishing prisons.
I’m writing this editorial because I want to brag on my husband, Bay View publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff, and tell you why he and I have faith that a benefactor, someone with deep pockets who cares, will step forward in time to save the Bay View and keep it in print – an angel who understands how much the Bay View means to a prisoner being tortured and a youngster in the hood being framed. Dr. Ratcliff was that angel, that benefactor, to Gladys Knight in 1975, when she ran out of money in the midst of producing a major film in Valdez, Alaska called “Pipe Dreams.”
Prisons are corporate entities. We can make the calls to End Prison Slavery and Amend the 13th all we want, but the fact remains that if we don’t organize around defunding the enterprise, nothing is going to change. The Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 is more than just a boycott against prison contractors. It is more than just a call for the next salvo in the struggle to end slavery. It is, among other things, the next step in the process to forge our struggle into a national movement.
In an amazing and quite shocking turn of events, federal Judge Keith P. Ellison from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, has ORDERED the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to install air conditioning at the Wallace Pack Unit, located in Navasota, Texas. The prison agency has 180 days to comply. Most of this ongoing struggle for human rights has been published right here in the San Francisco Bay View, but please allow me to refresh your memory.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has had its eye on the City College Southeast Campus for quite some time and has stressed that they will take into account the needs of the surrounding community, Bayview Hunters Point. However, it now appears that the SFPUC has not been open about what plans they have for the Southeast Campus.
Greetings and solidarity to each other and all who participated in our initial hunger strike to end the arbitrary use of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment in Santa Clara County jails. We would like to extend our respect and appreciation to all who participated and sacrificed to provoke change. Although we came from diverse backgrounds – be it race, religion, color or creed – we set our differences aside and interlocked arms, forming a formidable force through civil disobedience in solidarity.
City College of San Francisco today announced that its accreditation was reaffirmed for seven years by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). “This is a great day for City College, for San Francisco and for the California community college system,” said Rafael Mandelman, president of the City College Board of Trustees. “So many people at the college have done such incredible work to achieve this result. San Franciscans should be very proud.” Before ACCJC threatened its accreditation, City College was renowned as the nation’s largest community college, with 95,000 students.
James Curtis Ratcliff was born on April 29, 1934, in East Liberty in “Deep East” Texas, a community of farmers and ranchers founded over 200 years ago by ancestors of the Ratcliffs and several other families, who still live there. For more than 50 years, he was a driver for Sunset Scavenger and then went to work for his brother, Dr. Willie Ratcliff, who had a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Co. James made his transition on Nov. 30, 2016, after a long illness. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.
Prisons in some states are withholding newspapers from inmates amid a strike against prison conditions and billions of dollars worth of prison labor. The passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865 formally abolished slavery, but with a stipulation that enabled plantation owners to use prisoners as a replacement for the lost labor. As a group called the Free Alabama Movement rallied for a Sept. 9 labor strike in spring, prison authorities across the country began clamping down on news and information in ways that the ACLU says may be in violation of the First Amendment.
I celebrated my 100th birthday on June 11, 2016, with family members, friends and community members at the brand new Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center. On June 12, my church, Jones Memorial United Methodist Church, honored me with a wonderful birthday celebration after the church service. And at our June meeting of the Network for Elders in the Bayview, Network members had a very special birthday party for me!
I spend countless hours reading and scanning alternative newspapers, journals and magazines that provide a platform for prisoners who write. I don’t see many revolutionary essays or articles being written by female Texas prisoners. I know you all can’t be content with the conditions you are being housed under, and I know for a fact you are not being given the dignity and respect you deserve. So I must ask: “Why aren’t we hearing from you?”
Muhammad al-Kareem founded the New Bayview newspaper, later renamed San Francisco Bay View, in 1976 and turned it over to the Ratcliffs in late 1991. So in 2016, we’re excited to be celebrating the newspaper’s 40th anniversary, beginning on Sunday, Feb. 21, 1-5 p.m., at the Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco. You’ll hear Muhammad, a panel consisting of writers associated with the Bay View in different eras, a fashion show and musicians reminding us of the beauty and talent within our community. We’ll serve food, too – and it’s all FREE. Spread the word!
Regina Douglas was an active participant in her community, and served as a fierce advocate for social change and justice. She passionately championed causes for the elderly as well as for the youth of the Bayview Hunters Point community through a number of organizations. St. James Baptist Church was filled with Regina’s family, friends and fellow activists for her homegoing celebration on Nov. 6.
Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll. By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo “Yogi” Pinell was assassinated Aug. 12. Prison guards celebrated on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.