By BK Williams, RPA Co-Chair
A few weeks ago, I logged onto a Zoom call with RPA colleagues and when I looked at the grid of friendly faces, something dawned on me. To my delight, I saw so much more than just the “old white retired people” that the classic stereotype might suggest.
Oh, they were there. Our veteran RPA members continue to fight the important battles they are bound to and believe in: the battle against Chevron, for Doctors’ Hospital, for the Richmond Municipal Identification program, for the Ban the Box ordinance and for the overturn of Costa Hawkins. Yes, our older members were still in the room. But all around them were fresh young faces that represent the next generation of progressives in Richmond.
Over the past several weeks, I took some time to connect one-on-one with these newer members. I wanted to understand what motivated them to get involved with our community and what would keep them motivated to stay involved.
What I found was that I myself was motivated by their vision, their boldness and their social awareness. They are the bright future of the RPA, and that future will be rooted in social justice.
Here are a few things I noticed about this next generation:Read more
The Richmond Rainbow Pride community is putting the final touches on a pride celebration which will be held online on Sunday, June 6 at noon.
From RRP: "We’re not quite ready for in person events, but we wouldn’t miss a chance to gather together in PRIDE. Join us as we broadcast from the city of pride and purpose: Richmond, California. We’ll be updating you as we go and we want to get our community involved."
In the biennial elections held at the February membership meeting, Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) members re-elected twelve members to the Steering Committee (SC) and added four newcomers.
Both the returning Steering Committee members and the newly elected can be characterized as bridge-builders. Collectively, the SC members actively engage with at least 24 city and/or community organizations on top of their work with RPA. Going beyond our core group of members to cultivate relationships with more people and organizations is a shared goal of this Steering Committee. That’s how political power grows.Read more
All RPA members are encouraged to attend the online General Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 27th at 2 pm. A full agenda and links to the meeting will be emailed to members on Tuesday February 23rd. Participants will be given the opportunity to vote for members of the Steering Committee, the leadership body of the RPA.
If you are not currently a member, join or renew your membership with the RPA today to receive an invitation.
A former member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance has released a batch of private emails exchanged between RPA members in 2017. Richmond’s mayor considered that exchange worthy of publicizing in his email forum this week. Most of the material had been previously released by the same former member during last year's election. The former member is engaged in similar conflicts with other organizations in the area.
As an organization, we know that we will face opposition from those who do not want to share Richmond's rise with everyone. That's what we are seeing now. We will stand up to the challenge, and hope others will join us.
The Richmond Progressive Alliance will continue to move forward with its agenda, which includes:
- protecting the environment including the shoreline
- the expansion of rent control
- the construction of truly affordable housing
- investment in public schools
- protecting immigrants
- better police oversight
- dismantling the prison pipeline
- acknowledging and working to end racism in all its forms
In January we held a full-day retreat that was attended by more than 40 people who are interested in working together to move Richmond forward. The next RPA Membership Meeting is on Saturday, February 23rd. Current members and those interested in joining can go to the RPA website for more information.
-RPA Co-Chairs BK Williams and Malia Everette
Our movement is in the news again!
Hot off the "presses" is a wonderful podcast from Stepping Up, titled Smackdown: City Hall v. Big Oil. Produced by Claire Schoen, this podcast focuses on “surprising stories from climate activists” and features our favorite Communities for a Better Environment rep, Andres Soto. Well worth a listen!
And if you haven’t already checked it out, read a Counterpunch article penned by Ralph Nader titled Citizen-Mayor Gayle Roars through Richmond California. It chronicles the history of the RPA and Gayle’s bid for Lt. Governor. An excerpt is below:
[In Richmond], McLaughlin found a few like-minded progressives and started the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). (Gayle had volunteered in the Green Party’s 2000 Presidential Campaign)
With very little money, but many long overdue proposals for the betterment of the city, the RPA went to work. They had three public assets—a set of progressive policy changes, support of a large silent majority of residents, and a dedicated core of thirty no-nonsense local champions for a just community.
RPA ran a slate of candidates for City Council in 2004, with some success. This was followed by a victory in 2006 that made McLaughlin mayor—a post she held until 2014 when she was termed out and then successfully ran for city council. RPA now controls five of the seven seats—overcoming the Chevron Company’s longtime political boosters…
Because of McLaughlin and the RPA, Richmond has a higher minimum wage of $15 an hour, a police department that has curbed police misconduct, a major drop in serious street crime, an increase in Chevron’s tax payments, a decrease in toxic pollution by Chevron, and Solar Richmond, a program demonstrating a greener local economy, more energy self-reliance and jobs.
In case you missed it, Richmond was recently honored by the Transnational Institute, a Dutch-based international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world.
Their Transformative Cities project stresses that the award “is not a process where we are going to judge social movements, civil society organizations, citizens platforms or other groups,” but rather a process to “extract lessons can bring unique insights about how to set up transformative political practices, from the strategic to the tactical level.”
Richmond was honored because of what it has been able to achieve in terms of environmental accountability over Chevron, raising its local minimum wage, passing rent control and “by appointing a visionary gay police chief, greatly reduced local crime rates, including homicides, through successful community policing."
The jury particularly noted that “The hybrid RPA has been central to all this. As a membership organization, a coalition of community groups, and a key coordinator of grassroots education and citizen mobilization, it works on issues such as labour, immigrant rights, environmental justice, rent, police accountability, fair taxation of business, community health and environmental protection.”
Jackson, MS was another US city that was honored for its progressive elected officials and growing network of worker-owned cooperatives. Other inspiring stories included efforts in Accra, Ghana to stop the installation of pre-paid water meters, and a successful campaign by mill workers in Mumbai, India to ensure that a portion of land slated for luxury real estate development was reserved for workers’ housing.
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.