From porters to postal carriers, teachers to truck drivers, Oakland is a city built by hardworking men and women who have fought – not only for their own success – but also for the respectful and equitable treatment of our brothers and sisters everywhere.
As we celebrated black history month, we renewed our faith and commitment to movements for positive social change and justice. We remembered the teachings of James 2:26, that “faith is dead without good works.”
I think often of the Prophet Isaiah (Chapter 58), who interrupted a prayer service to tell the people that God is impressed not by fasting and wailing, but by their actions to house the homeless and clothe the shivering.
When the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life, he was working for human rights of all kinds, racial justice and fair access to quality jobs.
During the Civil Rights Movement, the famous ‘March on Washington’ was actually called the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.’
“We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation,” Dr. King told us as he organized the ‘Poor Person’s Campaign.’ He proposed the ‘The Freedom Budget’ to support public works, public health and job training – and other priorities to level the playing field.
When I served on AC Transit’s elected board of directors, I attended a conference of transit officials from throughout the country. I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and got to meet Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles – who worked closely with Dr. King.
Rev. Kyles shared the story of his experience with the bus boycotts in the 1960s, and told me that many people haven’t fully understood the boycotts: they weren’t just about the mistreatment of black bus riders – they were also about jobs, he said. Back then, transit agencies weren’t hiring African Americans.
As an elected leader representing all of Oakland, I believe fair access to local jobs is one of our most critical issues. Eliminating poverty and empowering people to achieve economic success is vital to our community’s long-term health. These are goals I’ve committed my career to advancing.
I’ve worked for the right of minority-owned businesses to access the city’s many job-generating projects. We’ve succeeded, not only in passing that legislation, but also in creating thousands of jobs in Oakland.
I’m working to help build Coliseum City, which will support our sports arenas and ex-Unfinished Work for Jobs & Freedom Continued from page 1 pand jobs in East Oakland. And it’s why I co-authored Measure BB, a transportation plan that’ll provide quality jobs while improving public transit and pedestrian safety.
Dr. King’s focus on economic justice was right on.
Last June, I proudly co-authored Oakland’s budget – the “All In” budget – with Councilmembers McElhaney and Kalb. Our budget succeeded in funded critical improvements – not just for police, parks and potholes – to stop illegal dumping, blight and graffiti. Our constituents – in every corner of our city – deserve clean streets and safe neighborhoods. They deserve fully-funded libraries, senior centers and Head Start child care centers.
During the Great Recession, officials in Sacramento in Washington cut services – a convenient but shortsighted way to address budget deficits. The cuts hurt some of our poorest – and that was a travesty. Whether you’re a government official or a grassroots organizer, a member of the clergy or the owner of a small business – economic justice is something we can create.
In Oakland and everywhere – today and every day – we must work for equality in everything we do. By organizing effectively, leading with conscience and creating jobs – we’ll forge new progress on racial equality, economic equity and human rights. And we’ll do it together.