Freedom is in the Eye of the Beholder

By Jasmine Williams, Staff Writer

What is Freedom? Some common definitions include the following:

the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.

By these definitions, have Black people in this country ever truly known freedom? Although our bodies are no longer property, collectively Black people still disproportionately encounter hardships that our counterparts do not endure at the same intensity. The 13th amendment literally creates a legal loophole that allows those convicted of a crime or entangled in the criminal system,  to be treated as slaves– based on socially constructed laws that are disproportionately enforced leading to mass  incarceration of Black men and women. Neighborhoods and schools are policed and surveilled. Black youth are criminalized and left uninvested in by their communities. Although our bodies are no longer property,  anti blackness shows its ugly face not only through public attitudes–but when upheld through laws and policies that further discriminate huge groups of marginalized folks.

But still we resist. We gather at churches, in community, at family reunions and cookouts. We share stories, resources and build relationships. We discuss and strategize for solutions. We learn to love each other and ourselves in a world full of confusion and hate. We work together to follow the steps of freedom fighters before to achieve liberation. We create our own freedom.

Although our bodies are no longer property in the form of chattel slavery, just over 150 years ago they still were. Freedom at that time looked like opportunity. The concrete legal decision that lead to emancipation of slaves in the United States in 1865 marked the beginning of […]

June 21st, 2017|

Black Love = Black Liberation

by Jasmine Williams, Staff Writer
March 2, 2017

As we wrap up the month of love we must pay homage to a type of love that serves as a foundation of hope and strength for millions of people. A love that is unrelenting, unconditional, and eternal: Black Love. Black people are born into the world with a target on our backs. We are the target of exploitation, of public ridicule and hate. We are the targets of a system that was designed to teach that same hate to ourselves about our history and each other.  Despite this, we still still exist. We still create. We still live. We still love. That strength speaks volumes over the screams of a society saying  otherwise: You aren’t good enough, You will never amount to anything, you are destined to fail.  

Black And Beautiful by Dame Drummer  (Feat. Zion I Crew, Kev Choice and One TruthThePoet), Is a reminder of that love. The video featuring BOP member Juanita Taylor and youth members, Dame and Demi Taylor, Treston Rawlins and Imani Snodgrass, beautifully captures Black love in one of its earliest and most innocent forms: within the Black youth.  Watch “Black And Beautiful” at www.damedrummer.com and may it serve as reminder that–in a political climate that is thriving off of hate and fear–  love is always the foundation, and as we grow to love ourselves, we must also remember to share that love out to our loved ones, our community, and eventually, even our enemies. It is the extension of unconditional love that will support and protect us in hard times to come.

In Unity Yall. 

February 28th, 2017|

5 Reasons Why the OUSD Superintendent Search is Extremely Problematic

by Shani Ealey, Staff Writer
March 2, 2017

The search for the next superintendent for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is well underway. Since former OUSD superintendent, Antwan Wilson announced that he would be leaving his role and taking on a new position as chancellor of Washington D.C’s public schools, Oakland community members and leaders have been left wondering where is the true investment in Oakland youth? The search for a new OUSD superintendent brings to light a growing pattern of inefficient and poor city management amongst Oakland’s leaders. And, what appears to be a lack of interest in the future of Oakland which rests in Black and Brown youth. We’ve decided to break down 5 reasons why this search is extremely problematic and harmful to Oakland students.

1. There have been 9 superintendents in the last 16 years.

Yes. That’s right, 9 superintendents in the last 16 years.1 Former OUSD superintendent Antwan Wilson left after serving only 2 ½ years in this role. He has now been replaced by interim OUSD superintendent Devin Dillon. Before Wilson, Gary Yee served as interim superintendent for one year. And in 2013, Tony Smith abruptly left his position as OUSD superintendent after four years.2 What exactly does this mean? It means for the last 16 years OUSD has not had a dedicated superintendent who is truly invested in the improvement and empowerment of Oakland youth, or creating healthy, supportive school climates. Superintendents are responsible for carrying out a vision that empowers and uplifts students throughout their academic career. From hiring quality and diverse educators, counselors, and mentors– to allocating funds for programs and services that directly serve students and parents. This requires planning. This requires follow through. This requires dedication. This […]

February 28th, 2017|

Black organizing is Not Just Important, But Essential to Our Survival

by Ni’Keah Manning, Staff Writer
March 2, 2017

I can vividly recount the pivotal existential moment in my life that happened four years ago back in college– I was on my bed sitting across from my roommate, crying. But this was a different cry for me; one that was unexpected and troubling but ironically just on time. It was a type of cry that forced me to later recognize and identify what many of us know as the Yin-Yang Chinese philosophy– which describes how opposite or contrary forces might actually be complementary and interdependent to feed one another. Simply put, I remember feeling both happy and sad at the same time and the confusion associated with it. In this moment of despair that had been brewing for some time, I knew I needed something or someone– answers; a mentor; like-minded friends/people ready for action; community; freedom. In that moment, I knew I was crying because of the conditions my community and I face daily on multiple levels; but also because I could feel the answers I was looking for coming somewhere, somehow. Today, I realize that “the happy” and “the sad” both had to be present; otherwise, it would not have been the clarifying moment it was meant to be.

The following semester, as an undergrad student, I would find myself enrolled in a course at San Francisco State University (SFSU) entitled “Organizing for Change in Communities of Color.” The class was assigned to find an organization or agency that did organizing work in specific communities of color. With the expectation for students to spend 30-40 hours with their agency of choice over the course of a semester, we were all required to produced an organizational analysis that followed […]

February 28th, 2017|

There Are No Sanctuaries

by Kesi Foster, Urban Youth Collaborative (NYC)
December 16, 2016

Black and Brown youth have never received sanctuary in this country, its cities, our communities, or in the institutions that are supposed to provide a safe, nurturing and supportive environment, including our schools. Despite Mayor’s and municipal governments from New York to Philadelphia and Los Angeles to the Bay Area cities, reaffirming their commitments to be “Sanctuary Cities,” Black and Brown youth are entangled in a web of oppressive, discriminatory, and dehumanizing policing and criminal justice systems weaved on the local level around their communities and schools.

The Sanctuary Cities movement emerged in the 1980’s when communities worked with churches to provide sanctuary for people leaving Central America due to political instability fostered by US involvement. The churches promised a safe haven free from the clutches of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As the Obama Administration aggressively moved to break-up immigrant families, deporting more people than the 2.5 million people, the Sanctuary City movement began to redefine sanctuary to address the new conditions. This has included varying levels of commitment by Municipal governments to not cooperate with ICE. Some Sanctuary Cities have passed policies to not share local law enforcement information with ICE and not to detain individuals for minor crimes based on their status. Other districts have passed mostly symbolic commitments to limit interactions between local law enforcement and ICE. Certain districts provide legal and social supports for undocumented communities. Today, close to 50 cities across the country claim to be sanctuaries by providing protections from an unjust, unforgiving, and discriminatory federal criminal legal system.

Unfortunately, Black and Brown young people and their families in these same cities are not protected from unjust, unforgiving and discriminatory local criminal […]

December 16th, 2016|

#NoDAPL: “Water is Life” is more than a phrase

By: Anthony Williams, Staff Writer
December 16, 2016

Our material reality as Black folks is rooted in this country’s traumatic origins, and it still shows today. Given the recent victory in North Dakota, we must extend gratitude to Indigenous water protectors and allies for obstructing the damaging Dakota Access Pipeline. After seeing such a show of grassroots strength and resilience against environmental racism and corporate interests, we also have to challenge ourselves to ask: why do the mainly-Black residents of Flint still not have water and how do we get people to mobilize? It has almost been a year since Flint, Michigan was named a state of emergency and yet, where is the progress? Genocide for Indigenous people and Black Americans is not new, and we need to acknowledge how we move to stop these intertwined assaults on our people.

As a reminder, the founding of the United States of America began with the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the labor of enslaved Africans. The cute turkeys that first graders create by tracing their hands or  the “adorable” pilgrim or “Indian” costumes that we encourage them to wear are actually ways to normalize the unnecessarily violent massacre of Indigenous people.

Whether we are discussing our sitting president on the incoming fascist regime, the original American values of pilgrimage and global colonialism are strengthening with each year. In other words, it’s 2016 and we’re still robbing and stealing from other countries, killing Black folks, living on land that was never ours, and acting like nothing is wrong.

We need to remember that #BlackLivesMatter and the current iteration of the Movement for Black Lives sprung up during the last eight years under a Black president. The rerouting of the Dakota Access […]

December 6th, 2016|

A Look at BOP’s Integrated Voter Engagement Program

By Jasmine Williams, Staff Writer
December 16, 2016
“IVE was amazing. The door-knocking just brought us together as a community and reminded us why we value face to face interactions with the community,” “The work we did with IVE was very unique. It was work by Black people for Black people. you could feel the energy, it was different–intentional. We noticed a lot of gratitude and appreciation from our community which affirmed the very important work that we set ourselves out to do.” -Mirishae McDonald
The Black Organizing Project has always been invested in outreach and listening to our community. Through door knocking, street outreach and listening sessions we have been able to hear the concerns of our community and strategize together around solutions. Through consistent outreach we are able  to create transformational  change  that is rooted in the power of community . Civic engagement  can be another  vehicle to  leverage that  power, especially around local and statewide propositions. This year, along with other groups across the state, we chose to launch our first Integrated Voter Engagement Program. We believe that creating practices that encourage civic engagement as well developing leaders in the community can support the long-term change that we are invested in as an organization.

The IVE program is part of a new initiative launched by California Calls that supported groups across the state like Youth Uprising, PANA, LA CAN, Safe Returns, among other groups that are working for social justice.  It is a strategy sought to get Oakland residents informed on local and state ballot measures and increase the number of African American voters.BOP’s  program launched officially October 20th of this year and entailed 13 days of street outreach, door-knocking, surveying and phone-banking to reach […]

December 6th, 2016|

Post-Election Thoughts: What’s Changed?

By: Shani Ealey, Staff Writer 
December 16, 2016

Knots and twists.

What are they? It’s that feeling you get when something is fundamentally in direct opposition with your spirit, heart, and mind. That uncomfortable turning in your stomach signaling that something is incredibly off. Not right. Your body’s internal alarm letting you know that something is up.

Knots and twists.

It is the feeling that gripped many of us as we watched the electoral college elect a misogynistic, xenophobic, white-supremacist as the nation’s leader, confirming that little has changed regarding attitudes about Black lives. The mask has been completely lifted, revealing the ugly truth that many of us had come to terms with years ago when George Zimmerman was acquitted from killing a young Trayvon Martin for eating skittles and tea– or when we saw Oscar Grant get murdered in cold blood. The ruling hand of white supremacy is alive and well. But let’s not get it twisted, our hope has never lied in the white house.

On November 8, 2016 Donald Trump was named president-elect of the United States of America. This is the same man with zero political experience, who has publicly ridiculed and mocked disabled people, has sexually assaulted women, called Latino people rapists, and has called Black people inherently lazy and thugs. Trump’s racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic beliefs are now being turned into policy as is outlined in Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office.1 What’s top priority for Trump? Well, apparently to restore security and the constitutional rule of law. Sounds familiar right? If you are familiar with the “law and order” rhetoric of former U.S presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, then you know how this goes down. Of the many attacks on our […]

December 6th, 2016|

The Militarization of Police: An Extension of the COINTELPRO

A few weeks ago the news showed a quick glimpse of a scene and there were 4 or 5 police officers hanging on to a tank.  This was not somewhere across the world.  It could have been South LA or Sacramento or San Leandro or Ferguson Missouri, but it wasn’t. This was in East Oakland.

We barely noticed.

This September, the San Leandro Police Department, a city just outside Oakland,  accepted a BearCat which is an armoured military vehicle. In an effort to explain the need for such drastic “security” equipment,  San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor called the military vehicles “a critical resource” for “times of emergency.”

As we learn more and more about advanced surveillance technology and the regular presence of drones and military vehicles in police departments; We are forced to ask the question–  What would inspire the federal government to give free access to military equipment to local police forces?

Last month, the Black Panther Party celebrated its 50th anniversary. Considered the Vanguard of the Movement, the Panther’s revolutionary spirit was rooted in self-determination and Black empowerment.  It was because of this courageous and unshakeable faith that the Panthers were targeted, harassed, surveilled, thrown in jail, and murdered. Led by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the COINTELPRO program was created to “investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States.” 1 In other words, the government under COINTELPRO, used tactics to monitor, dismantle and ultimately destroy the Panthers that caused chaos and violence across the country. For what exactly? To prevent Black unity, to prevent coalitions, to stop the rise of a “messiah” who could unite and inspire the Black movement. 2

When leaders of the Party tried to point out the infiltration […]

November 3rd, 2016|

Black Panthers’ Oakland Community School: A Model for Liberation

by Shani Ealey, Staff Writer
November 3, 2016

Community. It is all about community.

This was the common theme repeated at the Oakland Community School panel discussion with Ericka Huggins at the Black Panther Party’s 50th Anniversary Conference.  This October the Black Panther Party for Self Defense celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. The four day anniversary conference was one of the many events that was held throughout the Bay in honor of the  Party’s work and legacy. Founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale–two students at Merritt College at the time– the Black Panther Party was created to empower the Black community and to challenge the injustices going on globally. Known as the ‘Vanguard of the Movement’, the Black Panther Party put into practice a vision that has forever changed Oakland’s Black community and continues to inspire and politicize Black people throughout the nation.

From monitoring the excessive violence of police, to providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner to Black youth in need of food, the Black Panther Party was truly about the empowerment and upliftment of Black people. Furthermore, the importance of self-determination was present throughout everything the Black Panther Party touched. Yes, the Black Panther Party was about calling out white supremacy and the way in which it continues to exploit and oppress Black women and men for capital gain; But let’s be clear, the Party was rooted in community.  That commitment to community can be seen in the 60 plus survival programs that emerged from the Black Panther Party–one of those being the Oakland Community School.

The longest standing program of all the survival programs, the Oakland Community School (OCS) was established in 1973 in East Oakland, with the underlying principle being, “We serve the people […]

November 3rd, 2016|