Geoffrey Pete and Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney. Photo by Ken Epstein.
The Oakland City Council this week recognized Geoffrey Pete, owner of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. as a “a historic institution in the city’s Black Arts & Business District.”
The resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Council President Larry Reid, honored Pete as a small business advocate, founder of several prominent Democratic clubs, a philanthropist donating to youth and as a mentor playing a significant role in assisting other small businesses.
“We are delighted to honor him for 25 years of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, which serves as a gathering place for entertainment, social connection and community engagement,” said McElhaney at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Thanking McElhaney and the council for the commendation, Pete said, “I am taking this brief time I have to speak because if you are going to give me an award, you need to know who I am.”
He talked about how his mother, Dorothy Pete, integrated the Oakland YWCA, and his father, Herman Pete, who was a Communist and a labor leader, fought for jobs for Black workers, working with the Steelworkers Union and the ILWU.
“It should be a lesson to the City of Oakland because we are conspicuously absent from job sites around here,” he said. “There is a greater chance of you getting struck by lightning than to get to work here if you are African American.”
He said the Black Business District may exist in name but does not receive “a dime” of city support and that police do not respond when Black businesses make calls.
“I don’t know who’s in charge. We haven’t gotten any response,” he said.
“If we’re going to talk about sanctuary cities and PLA’s (Project Labor Agreements) with unions, make it a condition that Black folks are included.”
He added, “I am vigorously endorsing Desley Brooks for City Council reelection.”
Praising Pete, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said, “I appreciate you speaking truth in this moment and your advocacy and fight throughout the years, that the growing economic opportunity should not leave out the African American community.”
District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo said, “All of us sometimes needed an attitude adjustment. (and) you were always there. I appreciate your directness, your support and your leadership.”
“You’ve been there when the community needs you,” said Councilmember Abel Guillén.