NBC News recently reported that former Portland, Oregon police chief and Oakland, California native Danielle Outlaw will be the new Police Commissioner of Philadelphia. She is the first black woman to hold that position.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney addressed his new hire, according to nbcnews.com, by saying: “I am appointing Danielle Outlaw because I am convinced she has the conviction, courage and compassion needed to bring long-overdue reform to the Department,” Kenny said in a statement. “With our support, she will tackle a host of difficult issues, from racism and gender discrimination, to horrid instances of sexual assault on fellow officers.”
To further quote the article:
Kenny added that such violence often disproportionately “impact women, especially women of color within the Department.”
Beyond addressing issues within the Philadelphia Police Department, Kenny said Outlaw will also work to curtail violent crime and gun violence. The city is currently experiencing a gun violence epidemic; more people were shot in Philadelphia this year than in any other year since 2010, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Outlaw herself is quoted saying: “I am convinced there can be humanity in authority; they are not mutually exclusive.”
Kenzie Smith, one of two men who had police called on him by the woman the internet dubbed #BBQBecky, is running for a City Council seat in Oakland, California.
Back in April, as you may recall, “Becky”—since identified as Jennifer Schulte—called the police to report that two African American men were barbecuing with a charcoal grill in a lakeside area designated for gas grilling only.
The #BBQBecky affair—which went viral thanks to a video posted by Smith’s wife—was part of a recent string of “doing X while black” incidents that lit up the internet. The Oakland encounter prompted memes and local protests, as well as #BBQingWhileBlack events—organized, in part, by Smith—in the very spot where Schulte sought to shoo the men away.
Not long after Smith’s run-in with Schulte, an Oakland council member nominated him to a position on Oakland’s Park and Recreation Advisory Committee. Smith, 37, now says he has also filed the paperwork to vie for council in District 2, where he’ll face an uphill battle against incumbent Abel Guillen and local housing activist Nikki Bas Fortunato.
But Smith, the brother of Bay Area rap legend Mistah F.A.B., has strong local connections. He and his wife, Michelle Snider, are the co-founders and co-owners of Dope Era Magazine, a local music and culture magazine. Through Dope Era and his work with other community groups, Smith, a lifelong East Bay resident, has helped organize a range of initiatives, including resource drives for the homeless, backpack drives for Oakland schoolkids, hygiene kit drives, and STI testing events. He recently helped raise more than $14,000 for a local homeless man targeted in another viral incident—a video showed a jogger throwing the man’s belongings into the trash and the lake. (Smith told Mother Jones he is now trying to help the man find an apartment.) He and his friend from the barbecue encounter, Smith says, also hope to launch a nonprofit that will focus on youth job and leadership training.
Since announcing his council ambitions in June, Smith has officially declared his candidacy, begun collecting the signatures he needs to accept campaign donations, and started building a campaign staff. His platform, he told Mother Jones, will focus on homelessness and renters’ rights—key Bay Area issues—as well as education and jobs for youth.
Smith campaigned publicly for the first time on Sunday at the most recent #BBQingWhileBlack event in Oakland, where he shook hands and mingled with residents in a T-shirt that read, “Kenzie Smith: City Council for District 2.”
Over the years, the Black Panther Party has gained a somewhat negative image, with its detractors highlighting its revolutionary nature and some of its more violent aspects. But the University of California Berkeley wants to change all of that, and is making a conscientious effort to honoring the legacy of BPP.
News One reports that the university will be receiving a federal funding grant of $98,000 for the “Black Panther Party Research, Interpretation & Memory Project.” Per the funding announcement, the project will last from August 30, 2017 to September 30, 2019, and will include “a comprehensive collection of local BPP history through acquisition of additional materials from diverse sources including video oral history, photographs, news coverage and other media; disseminating publications that incorporate primary sources from BPP organizational records.”
The project will be led by Dr. Ula Taylor, the chair of the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. Dr. Taylor plans to involve several notable BPP members in the project, such as J. Tarika Lewis. Lewis was the first woman to join the BPP in Oakland.
The project also plans to “compile an annotated bibliography of information (oral histories, literature, art, exhibits or other media/format) as a resource for understanding the complex history of the Black Panther Party” and “will collect additional oral histories, and additionally, interviews will be conducted with people who were not yet born in 1966 but are eager to reflect on how the events affected their lives, their families and their future.”
Overall, the project hopes to “bridge generational, cultural and regional gaps in dialogue on race relations, economic inclusion and opportunity and other critical imperatives that divide diverse populations.”
In a human interest story spotlighting Students Rising Above, an organization invested in improving the lives of low-income youth through education, CBS Oakland interviewed Elexis Webster, one of SRA’s brightest stars.
Elexis says she struggled with devastating circumstances as a young child. “I grew up on the streets with an abusive drug addict for a mother, along with an older brother who molested me countless times, plus constant sickness. My life wasn’t a life, it was a war zone,” she wrote in her application to SRA.
Her family lived on the Oakland streets, including stints in hotels and a dug out car, while they searched for shelter. Due to the stressful environment, Elexis said she developed a low immune system and fell ill, severely impacting her school attendance. She missed three years of school due to the circumstances.
One afternoon at the age of 14, police found Elexis and her sister sitting inside a car unattended. Her mother was arrested. The two sisters were placed in foster care under the tutelage of a woman Elexis affectionately calls “Mema.”
She says under the care of Mema, her life made a dramatic turn for the better. With Mema, Elexis feels safe and empowered.
Elexis is now a junior in high school with a 4.1 GPA and has her sights set on collegiate success thanks to mentoring and support from SRA.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris made history Tuesday night when she won the Senate race and became the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Harris, an Oakland native, will replace Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who intends to retire 23 years as a California senator. The last African-American woman elected to the senate was Carol Moseley Braun (D, Illinois) who served one term, from 1993-1999.
The Howard University graduate’s platforms included criminal justice, abortion rights and immigration reform. She beat out fellow Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez for the hotly contested race.
A career prosecutor, Harris, whose mother is Indian and father is Jamaican, not only becomes the second Black woman in the senate, she’s also the first Indian woman in the position. For her run, Harris won endorsements from President Barack Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown.
In an interview with ESSENCE earlier this year, Harris, 52, pledged “to ensure our children have a fair shot in school and in life by passing universal prekindergarten legislation.”
“This issue is important to all, but for Black women, poor women, working women, it’s about economic empowerment,” she added.
Harris joins two African-American men in the 100-member Senate: Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey). “Kamala is one of the most exciting leaders in the country right now,” Booker told ESSENCE. “She brings an incredible combination of life experiences and skills that are sorely needed on issues like prison reform, empowering victims, addiction and violence. And she has actually run [and managed] something, and shown herself to be a creative problem solver.”
In the days since the death of music legend Prince, stories of his secret, wide-ranging philanthropy efforts are finally being told. Two of Prince’s major charitable endeavors were centered in the Bay Area: bringing solar panels to Oakland and helping young people of color learn how to code.
In an interview with CNN, political activist Van Jones revealed that, while he was the face of environmental group Green For All, Prince was the driving force and checkbook.
“There are people who have solar panels right now on their houses in Oakland, California that don’t know Prince paid for them,” Jones said.
But that wasn’t all. Prince also helped found #YesWeCode, an initiative to help young people from “low opportunity backgrounds” learn the necessary skills for jobs in the tech sector. “He insisted we create ‘Yes We Code,'” Jones told USA Today, “so that kids in hoodies could be mistaken for kids in Silicon Valley.”
In fact, Jones says that concerts in Oakland (and other cities) were a “cover” so he could visit and check in on charitable organizations and local community groups.
“He did not want it be known publicly, and he did not want us to say it. But I’m gonna say it because the world needs to know that it wasn’t just the music,” Jones said. “The music was just one way he tried to help the world, but he was helping every day of his life.”
As the internet continues to streamline itself down to an increasingly uniform, minimalist aesthetic, many young people are pushing back against all that sans serif black on white. One of those young people is Cat Frazier, a graphic designer from Oakland who just might be the patron saint of this retro-maximalist aesthetic movement.
You might not know Cat Frazier by name, but I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen her work. The 24-year-old is the creative genius behind theAnimated Text Tumblr, where she creates intentionally tacky-looking gifs of rotating text that occupy some tonal void between “Feeling Myself” and “Teenage Dirtbag.” Aesthetically, the gifs—each one requested by a follower—look similar to the kind of animated welcome banners you might have seen on someone’s personal web site circa Y2K. (Maybe your own?) According to Cat, that GeoCities feel is totally intentional.
“My background is in graphic design, where you’re told to make it clean, make it pretty, make it legible, and make it generic so it appeals to a lot of different people,” Frazier told me over the phone. “But the internet I grew up with—like GeoCities and Myspace and Blingee—was always really personal, as tacky as it was. You didn’t need a degree in design,” to claim ownership over your corner of the web, she explained, and that empowerment-through-DIY is something she wants to bring back with Animated Text.
Cat, who works by day as an instructional designer for California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company, says that the point of Animated Text is not so much the retro-’90s aesthetic itself, but rather her “relationship with the followers.” Every gif was specifically requested by one of her fans, so she sees each post as a collaborative process, rather than one where she’s the “keeper of the keys” or whatever.
Thinking back on that “Rihanna/Azealia Banks stole seapunk!” moment from 2012, I asked Cat if she was worried about being cool-hunted out of commission by larger brands. “I see a lot of clothing sites [use my gifs without attribution],” she told me. “But it doesn’t upset me… It’s, like, more power to them! Someday, I hope to see an entire internet of animated text.”
Cat Frazier/Animated Text
Animated Text’s follower base has grown substantially since its launch in 2012—thanks, in part, to a crucial March 2013 reblog of a “ur not gucci lol” by Frank Ocean. While more followers is obviously a good thing, Cat says that one particular problem keeps coming up.
“Literally everyone assumes I am a straight white man,” she said. That’s why Cat started posting pictures of herself along with the Animated Text gifs in recent months, to “prove I am female, that I am black, that I am gay,” and not that unholy trinity of falsely presumed neutrality: straight, white, and male.
By injecting more and more of herself into the Animated Text project, she became more and more comfortable with being vulnerable on the internet, something she did not expect when she was designing ostentatiously disaffected gif mantras like “lol nothing matters” or “blog the pain away.” That newfound comfort with being vulnerable online also inspired Frazier’s latest venture: Ask Cat, an “advice column for the smartphone age” that you can submit to by texting 510-962-9372.
Oakland will launch a citywide effort Thursday to triple the number of college graduates coming out of public schools, an ambitious and expensive “cradle to career” plan that aims to reverse cycles of poverty and hopelessness by raising expectations that all children can thrive in school.
The centerpiece of the Oakland Promise initiative is an infusion of grants, ranging from $500 college savings accounts for children born into poverty to college scholarships of up to $16,000 for low-income students. The money is intended to provide both real and symbolic support, signaling to kids and their families that there’s an investment in their future.
According to officials, who have spent six months developing the initiative and will announce the details Thursday at Oakland High School, it will cost $38 million to ramp up the program over the first four years and up to $35 million annually to sustain it. The money is coming from sources including foundations, philanthropists, the city and the school district.
The effort is something of an experiment, because no other place in the country has this kind of comprehensive, long-term strategy to send more kids to college, city officials said. But the need is great in Oakland, where 10 percent of the city’s public-school ninth graders graduate college.
“Yes, this initiative is ambitious,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. “All my life I’ve seen this as the one thing that has held Oakland back.”
Over the next 10 years, officials said, Oakland Promise plans to open 55,000 college savings accounts, provide $100 million in college scholarships and serve 200,000 students and families. Every City Council and school board member has endorsed it, as have 100 community organizations, two dozen university officials and 200 leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
$25 million raised
While sustained funding is the central challenge, Oakland officials say they raised $25 million to launch the effort. The school district is expected to cover $1 million annually, and the city has committed $150,000, a number that may increase now that the initiative has begun, officials said.
The East Bay College Fund plans to contribute $1.5 million per year, while Kaiser Permanente and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. are giving $3 million and $1 million, respectively, to start up the program. Organizers will need $18 million more to cover the costs through 2020, an amount they say is reachable.
“It will be on us to make the case that eventually this would be one of the smartest public investments that any city could make,” Schaaf said.
With news breaking of teens like Kwasi Enin and Akintunde Ahmad being accepted to several Ivy League schools, many people were proud of their success but wondered how the families would be able to afford the expensive tuition for these schools. Well Ellen may have eased those worries for the Ahmad family.
17-year-old Akintunde Ahmad defied the odds recently when he received a 2100 SAT score, maintained a GPA of 5.0 and was accepted to multiple Ivy League schools including Yale, Brown and Columbia.
Ellen Degeneres invited the Oakland teen on her show where he revealed his plans to attend Yale University. To help him with tuition and other expenses she presented him with a $15,000 check. Ahmad also told a story about how he decided to write an essay instead of attending a party where his brother was later shot at one night. His brother survived, but Ahmad basically revealed that hitting the books instead of the house party may have saved his life.
Kudos to Ellen for highlighting stories like this. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Akintunde! View his appearance on The Ellen Show below:
When most people see 17-year-old Akintunde Ahmad, they find it hard to believe he has earned a 5.0 GPA, a 2100 SAT score and acceptance into almost every Ivy League school in the nation. This is because Ahmad, who describes himself as a “street dude,” admits that he is often judged by his 6-foot-1 frame and waist-long dreads. In fact, the Oakland teen has been underestimated by his peers to the point where only cellphone images of his grades and test scores provide the most viable proof.
According to ABC, Ahmad — who attends Oakland Tech High in northern California — has been accepted into a number of prestigious schools including Yale, Brown, Columbia, Northwestern, the University of Southern California, UCLA and Howard, among others.
Aside from his exceptional academic record, Ahmad also plays three instruments and is a star athlete on his school’s baseball team. So much so, that he has even been approached by Yale about joining the university’s team. “Every school he applied to is already Division 1, so he wasn’t taking a step down as far as baseball is concerned,” baseball coach Bryan Bassette told ABC.