I’ve been thinking about Tyre Nichols for weeks. I’m guessing you have too. It’s been a little over a month since the video of Tyre’s murder was released, and we are still waiting for real accountability. In my mind, full accountability looks like a complete transformation of the system that killed him.
This is a system I know intimately, having grown up in Alabama as a young Black man who needed care and compassion and instead was criminalized from an early age. I spent most of my youth in and out of jail.
I eventually moved to Oakland and when I was 24, I decided to settle down and start a family. I was wrongly accused of a crime in Alameda County and because of my past record, the District Attorney decided to still press charges. I was wrongly incarcerated for months. When I was released, I decided I would make it a point to go back to school, where I graduated with a degree in criminal justice. I was going to change the system inside-out, whatever it took.
I began organizing with Causa Justa:: Just Cause and Urban Peace Movement and noticed that mine was not a singular experience – that the system is set up to incarcerate Black people at a higher rate than our Brown and white counterparts.
Just like Tyre Nichols’ death is not a singular incident – but a result of white supremacy and police terror that reigns this country every single day for all of us but particularly for Black people.
Nichols’ death was another painful reminder that no matter how much we try to change the system, reform is not and will never be the solution.
The real solution hides behind a whole paradigm and cultural shift – one where Black lives are valued, safe, and loved. Here at Oakland Rising, we’re working towards this future. And this year we have a number of opportunities to create the change we want to see in the world.
If we are to transform these harmful ideologies and culture, we need to demand more from those in positions of power. As Oakland Rising embarks on a new year of campaigns, we continue calling on our leaders to divest from those damaging structures of power that keep us living in constant threat and terror, and start shifting money towards programs that keep us safe, living and thriving.
We’ll be inviting you to join us at City Council and community meetings soon. Here’s what you need to know about our work this year:
The New District Attorney’s First 100 Days
In Alameda County, we won an opportunity to create new approaches to public safety at the countywide level by electing a new District Attorney, Pamela Price.
Oakland Rising is part of the Alameda County District Attorney Accountability Table, a coalition of local community organizations committed to ending mass incarceration, eliminating racism from the criminal legal system, and holding police accountable. The ACDA Table created The People’s Priorities for the DA’s first 100 Days agenda, a community plan that provides recommendations for DA Price to help reduce mass incarceration and provide real solutions to public safety. We are urging DA Price to:
- Hold police officers accountable for illegal conduct
- End youth criminalization and transfers to adult court
- Decline to charge low-level offenses, such as trespassing, loitering, and driving with a suspended license
- Increase the use of diversion programs
- End the use of sentencing enhancements
- Review all requests for resentencing & reentry
- Be sensitive to immigration consequences when reviewing cases
- Provide data transparency to the public
Our goal is to eliminate punitive and carceral approaches by working together with the District Attorney to ensure that preventative, transformative, and rehabilitative approaches and solutions to public safety are implemented in the first 100 days of office. With this new direction for community safety, we can prioritize care for our communities over punishment and ensure public funds are used for resources and programs that support our neighbors’ economic and educational opportunities.
We are working hard to influence the budgets for Oakland’s fiscal year 2023-25 and Alameda County’s fiscal year 2023-24. In May and June, the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors will host public budget forums. This is a major opportunity to push for a shift in funding from bloated police and sheriff budgets back to our communities for housing for all, living wage jobs, healthcare, city services, education, and other programming.
With Oakland spending more than half of the City’s Budget on the police department – and with Black men eight times more likely to be stopped by police than white men here in our own backyard – the Town is literally funding the salaries of the officers who do the maiming and killing of our Black brothers and neighbors. We have a lot of work to do to prevent racial injustice from prevailing in our community and that change can start this year with the right progressive leadership, vision, and priorities. By addressing root issues, reinvesting in real solutions, and prioritizing people over prisons, our communities are safer and stronger.
The safety, health and livelihood of our communities depend on it. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you – I hope this inspires you to continue to work alongside us to transform Oakland and Alameda County and make it a home where everyone feels seen and heard. Stay tuned to learn how you can get involved in the upcoming weeks.
Voter Engagement Director
P.S. liz discussed Accountability with Oakland Police Department at this week’s Monday Meals with Deanne Liu, Oakland Political Coordinator of APEN Action, George Galvis, Executive Director of CURYJ, and Davey D, Professor and Journalist. Learn more about Mayor Thao’s decision to part ways with Police Chief Leronne Armstrong, years of corruption at OPD, how we all can hold OPD accountable, and more!