2018 is off to an inspiring start: here in Richmond we are resisting the pernicious spread of charters and defending our neighborhood public schools. In January we became the latest city to sue oil majors such as Chevron for the local climate impacts they are causing. And although our residents are suffering from coal dust, we are fighting back.
Our work is done through the energy, passion and contributions of volunteers and activists like yourself. Please renew your membership today (at the last membership meeting, we voted to raise dues to $5/month). And if you can afford more please support us. THANK YOU!
Steve Early’s book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money and the Remaking of an American City is now out in paperback! Many of you probably have purchased the hardback when it originally came out, but the affordable $18 version means that you can gift more of them to friends.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein, a Senior Fellow at the Hass Institute discusses the impact of government policies that created racially explicit inequalities in the development of housing communities in Richmond, the Bay Area and nationally.
On New Terrain: How Capital is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War by Kim Moody analyzes how changes in global capitalism have altered both the composition of the working class and the economic and political ground on which it struggles. Mentions the RPA as an example of how local unions can be critical to local level, third-party candidates.
When I look back at how progressives won so many races last November, one victory particularly stands out: Danica Roem, who became the first transgender woman to win state-wide office in the U.S. Roem's victory was not only striking because of the barriers she broke, but because she had defeated longtime incumbent Robert G. Marshall.
Marshall, who authored the Virginia bathroom bill, proudly referred to himself as the state’s "chief homophobe,” and ran a campaign filled with bigoted personal attacks. After she won, dozens of news outlets rushed to interview Roem and ask her about her what it was like to emerge victorious after such a hostile campaign. She simply said, "I don't attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now."
It was a beautiful, moving, and gracious gesture which reminded me that in politics, vitriol does not have to be answered in kind. And that reminder came just in time. A month before, Mayor Tom Butt politically attacked my friends and neighbors Eli and Claudia.
I don’t know what Mayor Butt thought when he received that menacing email about Moore and Jimenez “deserving the death penalty or worse.” Hopefully he was shocked (because hopefully that message was out of the ordinary). And I don’t know what he did in response – whether he ignored it, or replied in an effort to tamp down that kind of talk.
But I do know that in October, he crossed a line. Mayor Butt had already started tearing down individuals in an effort to tear down the RPA. But this time, he went from going after someone’s character to going after their employment. He went from creating online controversy to creating risks for people’s personal security.
It was not election season negativity, nor was it a rant against a public official (e.g. part of openly criticizing our government). It was an attack against a constituent.
Claudia Jimenez puts it well: “As we repudiate this kind of hateful leadership at the federal level, we must not allow it in Richmond. Richmond residents cannot be in fear that their private conversations, their home address or other private information would be blasted out publicly by their mayor. We need a mayor who focuses on Richmond’s real issues, not attacking constituents for disagreeing with him.”
We could all do well to learn from Danica Roem.
Who is the RPA? It’s made up of volunteers with passion, progressive values, and who love Richmond. In this series, we get to know the new faces on the RPA Steering Committee. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Porschea Brown. In her day job, she works as a financial coach and social worker with Rubicon programs, a nationally recognized non-profit that helps people break the cycle of poverty.
Please tell us about your involvement in the RPA and in progressive causes.
In 2014 I had the pleasure of meeting Melvin Willis and Juan Reardon out in the community and they introduced me to Richmond Progressive Alliance. During this time my grandmother like many home owners in the city had issues with Bank of America regarding their home loans and Melvin introduced us to a program called NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America). Juan also introduced me to Jovanka Beckles and BMOER (Black Mobilization Organization Education Richmond.) Over the years, I have been a supporter of BMOER, RPA and I have supported a few members at the polls in addition to many of the campaigns and initiatives. I am responsible for leading a restorative healing circle, a women's empowerment group and for overseeing a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program where we returned over $700,000 in federal and state refunds back to the community.
What are your ideas about how change and progress occur?
My idea of change and progress begins with an awareness of self and systems. Change and progress requires a desire to want to experience something new. When new ideas begin to surface for me I have to set a goal(s), create a plan, followed by action.
What are you interested in bringing to the RPA?
It is my understanding that RPA is seeking to include more African American women and men. I would like to bring that diversity to RPA and collectively build an alliance with other promising young women and men of color, create mentorship opportunities, and opportunities for upward social mobility.
What would you like the RPA to accomplish? What is your vision of where the RPA is headed?
I would like to see RPA tackle race relations issues and develop county-wide activities for our youth and young adults. I would also like to see RPA develop a social enterprise that the residents can benefit from.
APPLICATION DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL 2/2/18
RPA is now recruiting for Steering Committee (SC) members to serve a two year term between April 2018-March 2020. This is an exciting leadership opportunity and a chance to work alongside other Richmond activists committed to progressive and corporate-free politics. The RPA is growing and can also use expertise of those knowledgeable in organizational development and operations, including finance, fundraising, human resources, technology and the law. Please review the documents below and consider applying yourself or nominating someone else. Due date for nominations is 1/15/18; applications are now due 2/2/18 (extended from 1/26/17). Thanks so much and please email email@example.com with any questions.
Good bye, 2017. You were a real doozy. And we know that with an unhinged President and a Republican-controlled Congress bent on shredding the social safety net, there’s more drama and trauma ahead in 2018.
But here in Richmond, we have been long tilling the fertile fields of bottom-up, people-centered, progressive activism. And with five corporate-free city council members on the dais this year, our efforts continue to bear fruit.
As Melvin Willis pointed out when he announced he was running for mayor, in 2017 RPA-backed councilmembers:
- Passed a $15 minimum wage
- Established a ban on small pack cigarettes, menthols and flavored tobacco paraphernalia
- After twenty years, got a 1 percent tax on development to support the arts in Richmond
- Passed a balanced budget, and set up more transparency for budget setting in the future
- Saw the successful implementation of Measure L, which is allowing renters to stay in their homes, instead of being forced out by excessive rent hikes
Looking ahead 2018, I see more exciting policy achievements in 2018. And I see the election of a young, hope-filled, African American mayor to lead our city – someone who will inspire, serve and work side by side with our diverse and dynamic residents.
Throughout California, I see us taking our positive vision of corporate-free progressive politics to the next level, with candidates like Jovanka Beckles running for Assembly District 15, and Gayle McLaughlin running for California Lt. Governor. If in 2017 #MeToo was the courageous rallying cry of women stepping out from the shadows of sexual harassment, next year I hope it represents the empowerment of more and more women as they run for political office – and win.
Nationally, I expect to see the progressive revolution continue to build as we head towards this fall. As Collier Meyerson pointed out in The Nation, this past November Bernie Sanders/ Our Revolution candidates won 27 of 59 races in which the organization made endorsements. So although one might say the Democrats did well during the off-year election, it’s more accurate to say that progressives did well.
And that makes me inspired and ready to fight in 2018.
Thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with me me in the struggle! This is the year to step it up: to join an RPA Action Team, make a (more generous) donation, come to our upcoming membership meeting, or apply to serve on the Steering Committee. Together as one, we are making another Richmond possible!
A reflection one year after Trump.
I remember it clearly: it was a year ago, but it seems like a lifetime.
November 8, 2016 -- I had spent my day handing out progressive voting guides at a couple of polling stations. In the company of kind people, soaking up the November sun, talking with neighbors, and excited about the candidates and causes I was supporting. Afterwards, I gathered among friends at the RPA office to watch the returns on the big screen. My excitement gave way to horror, and sense that I was spiraling away from reality.
The next morning at work, we called an emergency staff meeting at Friends of the Earth; people were in shock and tears. I was able to offer some encouragement to my colleagues: We will get through this, we will resist, and I do have hope. I draw my from hope from Richmond.
It is all too easy to read the 2016 election as the triumph of a brutish, dangerous, reality television egomaniac. But that would be conferring far too much importance on Trump. The story of the 2016 election was equally about the meteoric rise of a social democrat and the blossoming of a inspiring, progressive movement. It was the story of grassroots change, and the story of Richmond.
In Richmond, we had just won a progressive majority on the City Council. Relying on the sweat of hundreds of volunteers, we had elected two first-time candidates who represented the future of progressive politics – young, diverse, and embedded in the movements for clean energy and the rights of poor and working class people. And that gives me hope.
It is all too easy to reflect on the past year as a series of hateful, racist policies – from a proposed Muslim ban to a border wall – and the emergence of white supremacists from the shadows. But this past year was equally about the spontaneous gathering of thousands at airports across the county, where Muslim faithful prayed between baggage carousels and parking lots. It was the story of tolerance and love, and the story of Richmond.
In Richmond, a local man was arrested a few years ago after making threats to a mosque in my neighborhood. What followed was an outpouring of fellowship, as people posted notes of solidarity and well-wishes on the mosque doors and gathered in the courtyard to support the congregation. That night still gives me hope.
It is all too easy to look at this past year and view it as the epitome of corrupt politics and the corporate capture of our government. After all, Trump literally handed his pen to the CEO of Dow Chemical after signing an Executive Order to eliminate regulations. But to dwell on that is to miss the fact that an unprecedented number of people are now stepping up to run for public office. Galvanized by the injustices perpetrated by this Administration, women’s groups, environmental organizations, and others are offering candidate trainings. It is the story of empowerment, and the story of Richmond.
In Richmond, it is said that Chevron once had its own desk at City Hall. But for the last ten years, a grassroots progressive movement has successfully thrown Chevron out of our government and elected City Council candidates who have refused a dime of corporate money. And that gives me hope.
In Richmond, our city is committed to environmental sustainability, even while Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.
In Richmond, we are cultivating worker-owned cooperatives and raising the minimum wage, even while the Republican-controlled Congress tries to pass tax reform on the backs of the poor and middle class.
In Richmond, we have a new law to help people to stay in their homes, even while rents skyrocket astronomically in the Bay Area and cities around the country.
In Richmond, we are gradually creating a future that is more just, and doing it from the bottom up. And since that is the only way to ensure durable social change in our country, what we are doing in Richmond gives me hope far beyond.
Feeling hopeful? Keep it going through supporting the Richmond Progressive Alliance.
The RPA is thrilled to welcome Jon Gilgoff as our Organizational Development Consultant. Jon is a veteran of progressive politics and has spent many years in youth and family services, including founding Brothers on the Rise, which works with boys of color in Oakland. Many of you know him from his political activism, including doing outreach with the Gayle McLaughlin for Lt. Governor campaign, and his work with the RPA and the Oakland Justice Coalition. Jon will be with us through the end of the year.
He will support the Steering Committee with administration, strategic planning, fundraising, and other important duties. Please feel free to come by the office in the afternoon (2450 Macdonald Avenue, Richmond) and say hello!
Who is the RPA? It’s made up of volunteers with passion, progressive values, and who love Richmond. In this series, we get to know the new faces on the RPA Steering Committee. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Peter Chau, who also co-chairs the RPA Education Action Team.
TA: Tell us about your involvement in the RPA and in progressive causes.
PC: I campaigned for Ben Choi and Melvin Willis in the last election and worked with the RPA on the half-cent sales tax in 2011. I am currently a member of the RPA Education Action Team.
I am passionate about public education. I have particular knowledge and experience with the West Contra Costa Unified School District, including13 years of volunteer experiences launching new programs like the Mock Trial program; running multiple bond and parcel tax campaigns; serving on bond and budget oversight committees; and running for the school board in 2014.
TA: What are your ideas about how change and progress occur?
PC: Change and progress occur when a group of like minded individuals rally behind a comprehensive, cohesive vision. In Richmond, that meant creating an independent progressive organization and executing campaign strategies to get progressive councils members elected.
TA: What would you like the RPA to accomplish? What is your vision of where the RPA is headed?
PC: I would like the RPA to become more active in public education causes in Richmond. Public education is one of the last frontiers that Wall Street and billionaire bullies are trying to privatize. I believe that until we focus on improving our public schools, we will not be able to stop privatization efforts, nor improve the City of Richmond. Let's work together to improve our neighborhood schools!
Our beloved compañero, Maximo Rivera, passed away on August 16. He lived in North Richmond and was an active member of RPA and ACCE for many years, advocating on housing, environmental justice and immigration issues. He brought to our events and actions his soft spoken and kind, yet persistent demeanor. He lifted our spirits with his humor and the music of his band.
In 2015, Maximo and I were both members of a delegation to his home country of El Salvador, organized by School of the Americas Watch. We visited grassroots organizations and officials who are working to build a just society in El Salvador, following the brutal war against the people there a few decades ago that was backed by the U.S. military, and in the ongoing context of harmful neoliberal policies the U.S. is pushing throughout Latin America.
Our group was moved to witness Maximo’s emotional response to visiting his home town of Cinquera in Cabañas province -- now recovering from the destruction of the war -- for the first time since his childhood. He shared memories of sitting behind his father on a horse before roads or cars arrived. His family left Cinquera in 1953 when he was 10 after his uncle was killed by the National Guard because someone said he was a communist. Maximo was inspired to meet and interact with young Salvadorans who honor the martyrs of the past and are striving for a peaceful and socially just future.
Maximo’s son, José, is also a longtime RPA activist and musician who coordinated Richmond’s Municipal ID program. He expressed that the family is urgently requesting assistance to cover funeral expenses. Donations can be made online; anything helps and will be greatly appreciated.
Maximo Rivera was part of Richmond’s progressive transformation and he will be sorely missed.