Richmond Progressive Alliance

The Activist

Issue #223, 5-1-2017

In this issue:
Single Payer in CA gets to the next round!
Coming soon: Greater East Bay Progressive Roundtable
Serra Adult School fights eviction notice
Essay: Say 'No' to Privatizing Public Education
Earth Day Present for Richmond Shoreline
Dr. Maryse Narcisse, Recent Haitian Presidential Candidate Visits Richmond
New RPA website!
A conversation with Brenda Williams

Single Payer in CA gets to the next round!


On Wednesday, California’s single payer health care bill cleared its first hurdle, moving out of the Senate Health Committee with a 5-2 vote. The Healthy California Act (SB 562) would establish a publicly run healthcare system that would cover all Californians regardless of immigration status.

The bill has significant public support and is endorsed by dozens of organizations who are part of the Healthy California Coalition (the RPA joined in January 2017); as well as California cities such as Richmond, whose City Council unanimously voted on April 18 to adopt a resolution supporting SB 562.

Among Senate and Assembly members, there is support for the single payer concept but significant reservations around how to pay for such a program. Currently economist Robert Pollin of University of Massachusetts - Amherst is preparing a financial study which should be completed in May.

Wednesday’s Committee vote was preceded by a large rally, where Senator Ricardo Lara, one of the bill’s co-authors, stated: “We want to insure that everyone has care, because this is who we are as a society. California has the courage to say it’s finally time to remove the insurance companies from the decision-making on how we get care in this country.  It is time to say once and for all, that healthcare is a right, not a privilege only for those who can afford it.”
Senator Toni Atkins, co-author of SB 562, said, “California will not go back. We are not standing still. We are going forward.”

Forward and onward!

Coming soon: Greater East Bay Progressive Roundtable fishgraphic.png

In this post-Trump era, the story of Richmond’s grassroots progressive activism continues to inspire people far and wide. The RPA Outreach Action Team has been busy responding to numerous requests to help fledging, volunteer-based grassroots organizations take off across the state and country. The team has already made some 35 presentations to local activists, and have another 30 talks lined up, including several in the Bay Area cities (Pacifica, Albany, San Pablo and Sonoma). In May, the RPA will be hosting around 75 local progressive activists from around the region to launch a Greater East Bay Progressive Round Table. This network will unite emerging progressive grassroots organizations to share experiences and collaborate.

And speaking of capacity building, in June the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center will be hosting a day-long training session as part of the “Movement Schools for Revolutionaries” series, put on by David Cobb, one-time Green Party Presidential candidate. Many of us know David from his long-standing work to end corporate personhood. The RPA Outreach Team will be sharing Richmond’s experience. Contact Luci Riley on Facebook for more info.

The team welcomes new members who can help further the work of the group, in particular people who can edit video and do internet research. Please contact if you can help.

Serra Adult School fights eviction notice


When the WCCUSD Board of Education voted last month to evict adult education classes from their long-established Serra Adult School campus, the abrupt decision stunned the teachers, students, and staff of Serra Adult School.

The Serra Adult School serves a mostly low income and immigrant population, though classes are open to anyone.  The site is home to four ESL classes, and High School Diploma, GED and Adult Basic Education (the adult version of an elementary school education) programs during the day; and at night there are job training classes.

The Board made the decision to evict the Adult School with no input from teachers or students, and now district staff is fast-tracking the process. Superintendent Duffy says the Serra site will house a new elementary school slated to supplant the adult school “only temporarily”; after four years, the school will need to move to a larger location. Then presumably the district will sell the site to a charter school.

Serra’s central location, near the San Pablo/Richmond border, conveniently serves students from Central Richmond, San Pablo or points north. District staff has proposed to move ESL classes to Alvarado Adult School, at the furthest southern edge of the school district, but a recent student survey of ESL students showed that only 8% would be able to attend classes there. With this dramatic loss in attendance, the adult school would lose a large chunk of its funding.

Lead Teacher Kristen Pursley maintains that the eviction is immoral, calling it "a social justice issue.” Other adult school teachers argue that the district is taking a valuable resource from West County’s most vulnerable residents. But teachers and student are going to the mat for Serra; last week the El Cerrito Democratic Club passed a resolution condemning the eviction, and similar resolutions from three West County city councils and the county Democratic Party are pending.

Please join Serra Adult School teachers, student and supporters at a rally on Wednesday, May 10 at LaVonya DeJean Middle School. The rally will start at 5:30, and is scheduled before the school board meeting, which will begin at 6:30.

¡Si se puede!

Say "No!" To Privatizing Public Education, Let’s Strengthen it!


We know that corporate charter school chains are having a serious negative impact on public education by draining resources, creaming the student crop, and counseling out the difficult and "less profitable" students.

All parents want the best schools possible for their kids, but charter school chains are damaging the ability of local districts to fairly distribute limited resources. Charter schools are funded with taxpayer money but governed by millionaires and billionaires outside the public school system without much oversight.

A large part of the problem is that local school districts have no true enforcement power regarding these schools. A poorly performing charter school can simply jump over a local school board and ask the County or State Board of Education to approve a charter application. All this is done with legal help provided by the California Charter School Association.

Problems also occur when school board candidates declare, "I am not for charter schools!" when, in fact, they are sponsored by the California Charter School Association and their supporters' dark money.

We need to:

-          Keep the local school district in the hands of elected representatives who truly believe in the promise of free, quality public education for all. Every child deserves access to a public education that stirs their curiosity and intellect. We need corporate-free representatives with the backbone to stop the advancement of charter schools and review appropriately the performance of those already established.

-          Develop support for legislation like California Senate Bill 808 (Mendoza) requiring that all petitions to start or renew a charter school be approved exclusively by the local school board of the district in which the school will reside.

Let’s elect school board members that are corporate-free and committed to strengthening the public education system for every child, and who support legislation making local school boards the sole agent to grant and evaluate charter school applications. November 2018 is just around the corner!

-          Gayle McLaughlin

[Photo credit: Oppose Betsy Devos protest, Washington DC, 1/29/2017 by Ted Eytan via Flickr]

EARTH DAY present for Richmond Shoreline from US EPA  Region IX


Environmental justice activists are celebrating a small victory in the long-standing struggle to clean up toxic pollution along the south Richmond shoreline: Last week, the US EPA called on the California Department of Toxic Substances to holistically manage numerous contaminated sites along the Richmond shoreline, and urged “an effective remediation of the area that would be fully protective of human health and the environment.”

The area, which stretches from the Marina Bay to Hoffman Marsh/ Central Avenue suffers from the toxic legacy of shipyards (Marina Bay), chemical manufacturing (by Stauffer Chemical, subsequently Zeneca), a mercury fulminate plant (on UC’s Richmond Bay Campus), a battery recycling plant (Liquid Gold), and a former industrial dump (Blair Landfill). The Blair Landfill site even has radioactive hot spots, which are also legacy of Stauffer/Zeneca pesticide manufacturing.

For over a decade, a group of tenacious volunteers, under the auspices of the Richmond South Shoreline Citizen’s Advisory Group, has been working to ensure the comprehensive clean up of the area. The toxic chemicals, vapors, and heavy metals chemistry is too complicated for most to understand, but the contamination affects everything from the mudskippers that live in Stege Marsh, to the crayfish in Baxter Creek, the offshore fish which locals eat, and the birds who use the former Stauffer Chemical evaporation ponds (“fresh water lagoons” of HA 2).

EPA’s letter is a welcome response to a community which has fought this legacy of environmental racism. The Citizens Advisory Group meets with the DTSC, the Responsible Party/s at 6:30 p.m. on the Second Thursday of the month (except June and December) in the basement meeting room of the Community Services Building  at Civic Center.  The public is welcome.

-          Tarnel Abbot

RPA Steering Committee member Tarnel Abbott lives less than ¼ mile from the site in the Panhandle Annex neighborhood, she is a member of the Richmond South Shoreline Citizen’s Advisory Group  along with City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin.

[Photo: a turkey vulture flies above Baxter Creek. Credit: TJ Gehling via Flickr.]

Dr. Maryse Narcisse, Recent Haitian Presidential Candidate Visits Richmond

Narcisse.jpgDuring her recent visit to California, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, Haiti's elegant and humble presidential candidate of the Fanmi Lavalas party (the party of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide), was welcomed to Richmond by progressive councilmember and former mayor Gayle McLaughlin and guests. Dr. Narcisse shared some of her experiences as a Haitian doctor and presidential candidate.

Dr. Narcisse advocates for community-based health care and education in a country where government is notorious for not working for the people, and economic conditions are the worst in the region.

With a population of 10.5 million people, 1% of the Haitian population has 45% of its wealth.  Unemployment is reported at 45%, (more likely closer to 80%) and a continuous stream of Haitians flee out of the country on a path to Mexico headed to the US in search of employment.

To be a political organizer in Haiti comes at a price; no one hires you. Dr Narcisse, a highly trained public health medical doctor and a political organizer and coordinator of the Fanmi Lavalas party is excluded from working at medical institutions run by the corrupt government and the international charity organizations.

The healthcare structure of Haiti is inadequate to address the many compounded problems exacerbated by poverty, earthquakes, hurricanes, and high mortality rates due to AIDS. Disabilities and mental illness are simply not dressed. Only 36% of childbirths take place in medical facilities. Abortions are punishable under law and therefore not performed by professionals resulting in a 20 to 30% rate of mortality.

Dr. Narcisse ran for president to bring change to Haiti and address these problems. The presidential election of 2015-2016 was rigged, fraudulent and corrupt and still the results were endorsed by the US Department of State. Many persons known to be dead were shown as registered voters.

Dr. Narcisse, political organizer and activist, does not give up and fights with her people for  free and fair elections which will result in her being free to bring change and progress to Haiti.

- Brenda Williams

New RPA website!

The RPA finally has a new website! I know, right?!

Many thanks to our new RPA Communications Chair Sue Williams and her team for bringing us into 2017 with a spiffy new mobile-friendly site.

While it is still a work in progress, we invite you to check it out. Soon you’ll be able to peruse a handy calendar of events, get up to date on various policy issues which impact Richmond, and find links to important actions. You also join or renew your membership, and sign up to volunteer with one of our many action teams (which, of course, is where all the action is).

A Conversation with Brenda Williams

Who is the RPA? It’s made up of volunteers with passion, progressive values, and who love Richmond. In this new series, we get to know new faces on the RPA Steering Committee. We begin with Brenda Williams, a newly-elected Steering Committee member who is the organizational representative for Richmond Rainbow Pride. Her recent film Beyond Hate explored themes of free speech, including Chevron’s involvement in Richmond’s 2014 elections and the experiences of Councilmember Jovanka Beckles as she faced homophobia and racism.


TA: What are your ideas about how change and progress occur?

BW: Fortunately, there is no one way to create change and progress.  But with certainty action is required.  Ted Kennedy said once that he just kept showing up. Eventually, people would say, “What about that guy over there? Let him do this. He's always around.”  So he kept showing up and doing what he could... I learned the same lesson from my dad. It's great to dream big, but somebody has to be willing to show up and actually do the work.

When there is work being done simultaneously all over and you string all of that work together, you have the potential for a major shift and that shift is the change. The small changes are fantastic because they allow people to see the possibilities of what can be. But it is with concerted effort and action that the big shifts occur. Inspiration allows people to step out of their comfort zone and ensure more change. For myself, I want to be part of what inspires people to work towards changing what we know needs to be changed and creating what we want in its place.

TA: How does the RPA fit in?

BW: My idea is essentially when you find someone or a group who gets it right; join them to make it happen.  And if no one is making happen what you know needs to be happening, be the catalyst to get it started.  I think RPA gets it right, so joining their efforts makes sense.

TA: As  filmmaker, you particularly believe in dialogue as an avenue for change

BW: Talking out loud creates an atmosphere for change. It's a great way to stimulate people and bring about better and stronger discussions and ideas. Closed doors are more frightening because of the lack of transparency. So I love the idea of town hall style meetings and open dialogues but I also believe in capturing those dialogues so action items can be uncovered and initiated.

A great example of continuously being open to discussions with all types of people is that this year I received an editorial grant for my recent film “Against Hate.”  I selected a filmmaker who in reviewing the footage got a chance to look closely at Richmond politics and engage in dialog with me about the salient points made in the film. She saw the grace and poise Jovanka displayed, but also we talked candidly about the success of RPA and how groups like this have to exist all over the country so we can locally affect the outcome of our future and our politics; we all have to be involved.  I received an email today from the filmmaker -- who already was a social justice activist -- and she is running for an Assembly District seat and we inspired her to do this!  That’s change. And to survive the next four years, we need this change over and over happening all across America.

Signed articles are the opinion of the author. Official RPA positions are noted as Steering Committee decisions. Other content created by Michelle Chan, editor.

Richmond Progressive Alliance · Richmond, CA, United States
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