Jovanka Beckles for Richmond City Council
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Local government isn't the most welcoming place for LGBT politicians...
Four to Nine
August 20, 2014
Chevron’s Richmond Refinery expansion permitted with no funds for Doctors Hospital
August 5, 2014
Using City Power to Prevent Foreclosure
by Jovanka Beckles
September 17, 2013
Supreme Court says YES to Gay Marriage and NO to Voting Rights
by Jovanka Beckles
September 15, 2013

Richmond councilwoman perseveres through hate speech
By Carolyn Jones
SFGate - August 5, 2014

Think Globally,
Act Locally

by Jovanka Beckles
July 23, 2014

The human cost of rising rents in Richmond
June 10, 2014
Fight The Power In Richmond
Eye on The Bay
July 7, 2014
Celebrating Juneteenth: There's Room For Us All!
by Jovanka Beckles
June 27, 2014

Courage in the Face of Adversity; Pushing past fear in Richmond
by Jovanka Beckles
April 28, 2014
It Takes a Village To Raise Healthy Children
by Jovanka Beckles
April 7, 2014
Making Room for All Voices To Speak/ Promoting Civil Discourse
by Jovanka Beckles
June 15, 2014
We Must Restore Decorum In The Council Chambers
by Jovanka Beckles
July 10, 2014
Chevron's Latest Attack Mailer
by Jovanka Beckles
September 11, 2014
Chevron Greases Local Election with Gusher . . .
Moyers & Company
October 21, 2014

Chevron: Global Bandit, Local Bully
Daily Kos
October 23, 2014

Truth and Integrity Prevailed!
by Jovanka Beckles
November 7, 2014

FIGHT THE POWER IN RICHMOND: The Eye never misses a Juneteenth festival in Richmond, a city with a well-deserved reputation as host to some of the best ethnic festivals and parades in the Bay Area. This year was no exception, as thousands flocked to Nicholl Park for an outdoor concert featuring artists such as former En Vogue singer Dawn Robinson and the funk band Slave. The food was great too, and local favorite CJ's Barbecue and Fish was a hit with partygoers as usual.

What the Eye did miss was a powerful entrance to the parade by Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles (the Eye sleeps late on Saturdays), but videos and photos posted to Facebook captured the scene for those who got up late.

Beckles, who is of African descent and is the first openly gay councilwoman in the city's history, rode in the bed of a pick-up truck decorated with wood panels to look like a locomotive. With the title "Freedom Train to Progress," Beckles stood tall and pumped her fist to the incendiary rhythms of Public Enemy's iconic "Fight the Power," the theme song of the 1989 Spike Lee film "Do the Right Thing."

Yellow flags with the words "freedom" and "progress" jutted from the faux smokestacks and whipped in the wind.

It was quite a scene, and the clarion rapping bellow of Chuck D rang timeless:

"Cause I'm Black and I'm proud, I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped, Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps," Chuck D rapped.

Powerful song and powerful imagery. Well-played, councilwoman.

Staff writers Paul Burgarino and Robert Rogers contributed to this column.


Juneteenth Freedom Train

With some of Richmond's Future; with Teacher of the Year Wendy Gonzalez; and with Mayor Gayle McLaughlin
L. to R. Jovanka with some of Richmond's Future; with Teacher of the Year Wendy Gonzalez; and with Mayor Gayle McLaughlin

Jovanka with Representative Barbara Lee; with Gonzalo Rucobo, Peace Activist; and with a young supporter
L. to R. Jovanka with Representative Barbara Lee; with Gonzalo Rucobo, Peace Activist; and with a young supporter

Margarita - Unyielding Courage
          L. Jovanka with Margarita - Unyielding Courage                            R. Civic Center Grand Opening on Saturday, September 12, 2009

jobvanka beckles
L. With Mary Peace Head at the July Point Richmond Music Festival  R. Contra Costa College Woman of the Year, Outstanding Civic Organizer

L. BAJI (Black Alliance for Just Immigration) Members R. Jovanka with Bobby Seale and Family and Nicole Valentino
L. BAJI (Black Alliance for Just Immigration) Members               R. Jovanka with Bobby Seale and Family  and Nicole Valentino

Antonio Medrano (Faith Works & Concilio Latino); Andres Soto, and with the Concilio Latino Folks
L. to R. Jovanka with Antonio Medrano (Faith Works & Concilio Latino); with Andrés Soto, and with the Concilio Latino Folks

Celebrating Community
Celebrating Community

November 10, 2014

Truth and Integrity Prevailed!

Greetings good people,

As I've been saying for a long time: there is so much good going on in Richmond! Tuesday's election victory is yet another good thing to add to Richmond's pride and purpose.

Tuesday's victory is a victory for the people of Richmond in a big way. Truth and integrity prevailed. Team Richmond (Gayle McLaughlin, Eduardo Martinez and I) won the 4-year City Council seats. Tom Butt won the seat for Mayor and Jael Myrick won the 2-year City Council seat.

We were faced with more than a $3 million dollar war chest that Chevron had at its disposal and utilized to defeat the people of Richmond, but it did not succeed in buying our election and our government. The people of Richmond mobilized and united to defeat a giant of a corporation, sending a loud message that our government is not for sale!

I send you my sincere appreciation and deep gratitude for all the ways so many of you showed up and dedicated time energy and resources to help bring about this victory. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for volunteering by walking precincts, phone banking and reaching out through social media. Thank you for organizing precincts, using your artistic talents to fix vandalized signs, helping to create mailers and billboards and greeting voters at the poll. Thank you for all that I am aware that you did as well as that of which I am unaware. There was simply so much happening by so many of you so much of the time! It was our united effort that helped defeat $3 million dollars of false ads and propaganda. Together, as with our efforts during WW11, we did it!

As Mayor McLaughlin stated so eloquently:

"This historic election marks the culmination of a decade of hard work by so many in our grassroots movement. At a time when our nation's democracy is in peril due to the outsized influence of corporate money, grassroots democracy has prevailed in Richmond. What an awesome accomplishment we have achieved together!"

I am incredibly proud and honored to be part of our ongoing transformation in Richmond. I am so proud of Richmond!

Gayle was invited to the Bill Moyers Show this week, along with the Richmond Confidential reporter who broke the story that caused a chain reaction throughout the country.
You can see it here: Facing Down Corporate Greed,

Another great article:

Peace and blessings,



Chevron's most recent attack mailer

Greetings good people!

In a previous Real Talk, I stated that I cannot be distracted by the lies and distortions being told about me in my re-election campaign. I meant what I said, but it is apparent to me that I do not have the luxury of simply campaigning by putting forth a platform and a substantive honest message. On the contrary, I have heard from certain constituents that the negative mailers are giving them pause. For that reason, I feel compelled to set the record straight. Out of respect for those who have placed their confidence in me, I am providing an explanation of the most recent attack mailer funded by Chevron to disparage me.

Richmond is rising. We have beautiful parks once again! We have good lighting, once again! We have public art once again! We have gardens once again! Our young people are beginning to feel loved again! We are experiencing increased peace in our community and we have the lowest crime rate in 33 years! All this is the sign of the healthy community we are re-creating together. Richmond is healing, and what could be more beautiful than that?

It is no secret that in this election there have been and continue to be ongoing attempts by the Chevron Corporation and their candidates, that are designed specifically to distract both progressive candidates and the voters. These desperate attempts distract from the real Richmond; the Richmond that is rich in history, drive, innovation and resourcefulness. These distractions are designed to keep me from staying focused on the vision I have for our city of Pride and Purpose. We are moving in an innovative, progressive direction and it's incredibly exciting!

The fact is that all members of the Council are paid $14,030.55 per year and $5500 for use on travel and expenses. As with all public agencies and many private businesses, business trips cover meals.The recommended daily amount for travel meal expenditures is $71 per day for Fort Lauderdale.

The fact is that although it was available to me, as a newly elected councilmember, I did not initially have much need to use a city credit card and I didn't use one for the first 2 1/2 years of my term. I did use my City credit card on my only trip on City business to attend a conference on Health Disparities in Communities of Color and how to close the gap. I was proud to attend the conference to learn how to be an even more effective public official, and to represent Richmond. I was even more proud of our city when people from all over the nation praised Richmond for our collective innovative solutions.

In terms of the allegations levied against me, if you look at the receipts
supplied, you will find that I charged on average $30 or less per day - much less than the standard per diem allowances. In addition, if you take a close look at the receipts, a significant amount of the money went to generous tips to hard working individuals who earned it. I believe that those earning minimum wage deserve to be fairly compensated for the work they do. I've always believed that, and that has been my practice all my adult life. Upon closer look you will also find that one meal receipt was printed twice in the mailer to make it appear that I spent twice as much as I did.

The creator of the mailer also conveniently neglects to tell the public how I spent the rest of my "expense budget." Given their resources and the thorough review, it's doubtful that they did not see the full records. The record reflects the reality that the rest of my "travel money" was spent on sponsoring Richmond's youth events such as Little League, CLOUD's Dare To Dream conference for immigrant youth desiring to go to college, Homeless Conferences, and a host of other community-oriented events.

In contrast to my modest and legitimate spending, my colleagues' indiscriminate spending on multiple lavish trips taken by Corky Booze and Nat Bates to China at the city's expense (going well above their allotted expenses) is largely ignored. Council members Bates and Booze rationalize their expenses with the claim that the money was well spent as they were able to make the deal with the Chinese Terminal One developer. A claim that is both ludicrous and doubtful.

If Team Richmond, had the resources to do the kind of investigation that Chevron pays big bucks for, we would find far worse transgressions than the purchase of reasonable meals to which I am entitled while traveling on City business, all while staying within my total meal allowance. Council member Booze on the other hand, takes delight in bragging about eating at the extremely expensive Ruth Chris Steak House in Walnut Creek while on "city business".

Regarding the absences the mailer references, I've never missed a council meeting, although occasionally I might have not been seated for roll call.

Given Chevron's financial resources and their ability to scour the city credit card records, I would say their "revelations" are pretty shameful. In over 4 years the company could not come up with any other expenditures to "expose." I'm proud of that.

From the SF Bayview, September 3, 2014

Keeping My Eyes on The Prize

I have recently been the target of attacks from the Chevron-run, Richmond Standard, and BAPAC (Black American Political Action Committee - a conservative Black organization in Richmond, California that historically sides with Corporate and developer interest
over the best interest of the people. As an elected official who accepts no corporate contributions, I serve and am beholden only to the People of Richmond. As a public official who is running for re-election in order to continue the groundbreaking progressive work we have begun in our community, I must dedicate my time and energy
to what is most important. Our critical transformational work to bring about equity and social justice for those who call Richmond home, threatens the people who have made a living selling Richmond's interests off to the highest bidder, often with tragic consequences. I cannot and will not respond to every lie and intentional distortion that is published and promoted by my adversaries to disparage me. My
positions and policy record must be my focus. I trust the voters are paying attention.

One of the proudest moments in serving our community has been raising the minimum wage in Richmond. If you are minimum wage worker in California, you may have noticed that you've been making a dollar more an hour. In Richmond, you'll receive another raise come January first. Over the next four years, you'll actually be getting $4
an hour more than you do today! And, every year after that, you'll get a raise to keep up with the cost of living!

A May 2014 Richmond City Council meeting agenda staff report tells us something we already know. Richmond workers are struggling to make a livable wage. It also suggests we will see millions in increased revenue as the their wages increase. But most important , we are taking concrete steps to move working people out
of poverty. To put things in perspective, in just 4 years, the local minimum wage
will move full time workers with a family size of 3 out of poverty. This is a significant reality for those families currently living below the poverty line.

In addition to improving our economy by raising the minimum wage, I sponsored our Ban the Box ordinance to fight discrimination of the formerly incarcerated who must be given opportunities to earn a living. I fought to keep Doctor's Hospital open. I help build new playgrounds for our children and families and I advocated for improved lighting to increase our public safety. For those with a serious interest
in reviewing my record, one only need review my web site, Facebook, Twitter, or review the public record.

My opponents who vociferously attack me with fabrications and distortions, have no program and no vision, of their own. They attack me regardless of the issue, occasionally even when we agree and vote the same way! Recently having nothing of substance to use, they chose to distort a Facebook post that I wrote about the Richmond Police Officer's Association (RPOA). The RPOA is an organization that has taken every opportunity in each election in which I have been a candidate, to take pot shots at me. My response then was simple and I repeat it here: "The writer of the article knowingly takes quotes and actions out of context. I have been a strong supporter of the Richmond Police who have done a great job with community policing. The Richmond Police Officers Association however, does not reflect the views of most of the great police officers in Richmond. The RPOA is famous for its dirty hit pieces in every election."

As the elections approach, I imagine there will be more attacks over manufactured controversies. As always, I continue to keep my eye on the prize and work for the people and a better Richmond.

Peace and blessings,


  Making Room for All Voices To
Speak/ Promoting Civil Discourse

My day job for the past 14 years has been that of a mental health clinician specializing in work with children and adolescents and their families. Perhaps the most important aspect of my work beyond keeping the child safe, has to do with examining and shifting behaviors that do not serve them. When there is an identified problem within the family, it is critical to look at the behaviors - especially behaviors that are tied to agreements families make. When the agreements do not serve the family in a healthy way, an unhealthy system is established. The whole family is affected and everyone must look at the behaviors that result in the identified crisis that brought the family to seek assistance.

In my work as a City council member it is my imperative as an elected official voted in to represent the people of Richmond, to create and maintain a safe space within the forum of a city council meeting so that all may participate and be heard. I believe this to be true for my colleagues and all elected officials. If we truly want to have an informed and engaged community, we cannot allow the verbally aggressive few to intimidate the many into silence for fear that they will be victimized by hate speech or unable to effectively communicate because of outbursts and other disruptions in the council chamber. For far too long that is exactly what has happened. On more than one occasion, those who might otherwise attend council meetings and participate in the public process, have told me that they do not feel heard or respected in the space designed for them to be a part of the process of conducting City business. Far from being a homogeneous or select small group of people, this diverse group of individuals spans the spectrum of socio-economic, class, race and ethnicity, age, education levels and other distinguishing factors - including gender, orientation and political parties. What they all have in common is that rather than feeling invited into the process; they feel pushed out and unwelcome.

If the process of governing does not reflect how to manage conflicting opinions in a thoughtful, law abiding manner, how can we expect citizens to have confidence that their civic leaders have the capacity and will to enact laws protecting them from a variety of abuses? Certainly, there is plenty of room to share the blame. Elected officials and the public alike must take responsibility for our actions. We must agree that any disruption of the proceedings creates a distraction from important issues. Orchestrated disruptions are especially distracting, and are designed to be exactly that. Rules currently in place dictate how we participate in meetings, including how we engage with one another. The Richmond City Council operates with a set of rules that are enforced by the Chair of the body, our Mayor. Rules are intended to enforce the behaviors necessary to manage the business at hand. They are designed to reflect a certain value of respect and to provide consequences for those actions that are willfully disrespectful and interfere with the business of the council. Essentially, rules are agreements, and they only work when we adhere to them.

I have placed an item on the June 17 City Council agenda, (K-1 DIRECT the city manager to work with the city attorney and the police chief to draft a resolution to establish rules and procedures regarding repeated willful disruptions during the City Council meetings) to direct staff to develop consequences for the rules we currently have in place. The hope is that with consequences in place for repeated violations, it will reduce the amount of willful disregard for our rules and increase the opportunity for the public to engage in civil discourse with the council.

I have heard repeatedly from many Richmond residents that they will not attend council meetings because of what they experience as intense hostility and disregard directed toward both councilmembers and the public. None of these individuals believe that their ideas, comments or suggestions would be taken seriously at a meeting that makes a mockery out of the process. I was prompted to take action once again, when I received the following e-mail from an outraged and thoughtful constituent.

Civility for civil servants

Merriam Webster's definition of government is "the group of people who control and make decisions for a country, state, etc." It is commonly accepted that government is necessary to the existence of civilized society. Add to this the definition of "civilized", which is "marked by well-organized laws and rules about how people behave with each other; polite, reasonable, and respectful" and we come to an understanding that laws and rules are meant to enforce the behaviors enacting the value of respect and to provide consequences for those actions that are willfully disrespectful.

Recently there have been vulgar remarks that have been repeated despite the offender being removed from various meetings. This behavior has continued, resulting in a disruption of the proceedings and a distraction from important issues. If the process of governing does not reflect how to manage conflicting opinions in a thoughtful, law abiding manner, how can we expect citizens to have confidence that their civic leaders have the capacity and will to enact laws protecting people from the disrespect inherent in all acts of bigotry- racism, sexism, and religious intolerance? We expect our elected officials to have the courage to insist that discourse within the government, especially within a group legislating for a community in need of healing, be observant of the rules of civility and self-control, with the hope that showing respect and consideration at the local level will generalize to the community as a whole and be an example to our young people.

In an ideal world, we would not need rules or laws to provide consequences for behavior that is hurtful to others; an individual would act in a just and ethical way because it was consistent with his/her character. I choose to believe this is the case for most, but for those who would decide to hurt others in word or deed, I urge the city council to hold in place the existing boundaries for rules of appropriate behavior, providing consequences if necessary, in order to maintain the order and decorum that is due the civil office, its servants and, indeed, all who give their time and effort to the legislative process.
A concerned constituent and mental health provider

Many readers of Real Talk know that there have been numerous thwarted attempts to bring civility and respect back into the council chamber. This is one more effort that I hope will highlight the voice of the now silenced community members who would like to come forward to participate beyond simply casting their votes at election time. They deserve to be heard throughout the year on issues that are important to them. I hope that you will join me in supporting this item.

Videos of Jovanka  

Courage in the Face of Adversity
It has been said that "Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life." In Richmond, some of us have been preventing life for too long. It's time that we face our fears. When we avoid facing our fears, nothing changes. When we face our fears, we make a fundamental change within that has powerful ramifications all around us.

Our future in Richmond is bright and full of promise, as long as we face our fear of change. Unless and until we do, we cannot realize our individual and collective potential. We will remain vulnerable to those who have the power and resources to impact change (or fight against it) in ways that exploit, rather than benefit us.

We move forward building a thriving, healthy Richmond when we do it together moving in the faith that something better than we have now is possible and even inevitable.

It is too well kept a secret that Richmond is at the forefront of a number of positive forces for change in the areas of innovative policy making, environmental awareness and activism, social justice and technological advances - to name a few.

We are fortunate in Richmond, that in addition to the names that make it into the press for their courageous stands and forward thinking, there are many local unsung heroes who have made, and continue to make exceptionally valuable contributions. Many of these individuals are often the children and the grandchildren of migrants and immigrants who chose Richmond as a settling place. Some of them are likely members of some of your families. The ones who came before us know something about struggle and sacrifice.

When African Americans migrated north from the south, they faced their fears of leaving the unfamiliar and coming to a new place called Richmond, California. They had no idea how their lives would turn out, but they faced their fears. Many endured hardships, and many succeeded in creating better lives for themselves and their families as they co-created new communities. Years earlier, their forefathers and foremothers faced their fears when they either dared to run away from slavery, or were later emancipated. A "free" life was full of its own set of dangers, and these ancestors were forced to face their fears head-on.

This is the Richmond story. This is the immigrant/migrant story. This is the laborer story. Sometimes desperate, always courageous people of all races and a great number of ethnic backgrounds leave one place to go to another in search of a "better" life. This "better" life always requires some sacrifice and an adaptation to a new environment. Many are successful, where others fail. The courageous know that failure never need be an end in itself; rather it can be a stepping stone to success.

Some Latino members of our community have faced the horror of crossing the dessert into California. They were willing to face their fears in order to have a better life. Others more fortunate have made less grueling crossings, yet all have had to find the courage to endure adapting to a new environment that has not always been welcoming.

It is up to each and every one of us to create hope for one another as we show our young people what real courage is. It isn't bullying. It isn't carrying a gun. They don't have to live in fear. They don't have to be afraid to grow up feeling hopeless. They don't have to pretend to be fearless, when fear is a legitimate response. We must create an environment in which they no longer have reason to fear a hostile present or an uncertain future.

As Gandhi is so often quoted saying "We must be the change we wish to see".

In a year with a homicide rate that continues to come down, on April 15th, two young people were shot in the Target parking lot on Macdonald Avenue. On Tuesday April 8th, another youth was shot in Crescent Park.

We must change the conditions in which young people live in fear of violence. The lives and well being of our residents are far more precious than anything else. Although we've reduced the number of homicides dramatically, one lost life is too much.

What more needs to change to continue to reduce our homicide rate? What do we need to do? There are a number of actions and solutions to facilitate that effort. There is always room for more.

One simple thing that each of us can do today, is to emphatically express the value we have for life to our children. Not your children. Not my children. OUR children. Each of us is responsible for all of the children of Richmond. They are all OURS to take care of.

One of the things that we adults can do for our children, is to face our own fears. In fact, it is critical if we are to help our children face theirs.


Celebrating Juneteenth: There's Room For Us All!
We are fortunate in Richmond to have an annual Juneteenth parade and family festival that is supported by the City of Richmond leadership in partnership with the NBA (National Brotherhood Alliance) and a number of groups and community volunteers. As we come together to celebrate tomorrow, it is important to remember that Juneteenth is not simply about a parade or a festival. It is about remembering that our ancestors who were enslaved people of African descent, were freed from bondage on June 19th, 1865. We their descendants, are a powerful and resilient people today.

See: .

Juneteenth provides an opportunity to remember that we stand on the shoulders of those who endured horrific and often unspeakable oppression and exploitation. We stand on the shoulders of those who banded together in solidarity to survive and to create a world in which we have opportunities that were unheard of in their lifetimes. On Juneteenth we honor our ancestors and those who share their legacy. Juneteenth is a day in which we can mindfully bridge the past, the present and the future.

At the June 3rd Richmond City Council meeting, Mayor McLaughlin and I co-sponsored the annual City Council acknowledgement of Juneteenth by honoring the NBA planners who have taken the lead in organizing the Juneteenth parade and festival for the past several years. We also honored two members of BMOER (Black Mobilization Organization Education Richmond) a collaboration of progressive Black individuals, who, as the name suggests, mobilize organize and educate through a variety of ongoing local projects and activities. For more information see this article in the SF Bayview ( A National Black Liberation Newspaper):

Sadly, at the June 24th Richmond City Council Meeting, a member of the audience expressed her displeasure with including BMOER in the Juneteenth recognition and challenged the authenticity of the group. She accused BMOER of being a sham organization. This saddens me deeply because in the resilient community spirit of our people, the next generation is demonstrating leadership and love of community. Rather than be respected and appreciated they are be publicly attacked. Rather than being asked to engage in a dialogue about their work and contributions, they are ridiculed. The audience member expressed her anger that the organization had no right to accept a proclamation in honor of Juneteenth because they had not participated in the planning of the Juneteenth parade and festival. I publicly reminded the speaker that the group was chosen to accept the proclamation, not because they helped plan the event, but because of the work this generation is doing. BMOER members remind us of the great and significant contributions that we, as Black people, have made and continue to make in the history of the U.S. As a local leader, I am pleased and proud to say that some of the most significant of the transformative work is being done right here in Richmond, and BMOER is playing a critical role in it. I am truly sorry that this remains a well-kept secret in some circles.

If one were to look, BMOER members can be seen all over Richmond actively involved in a variety of projects including: working for sustainability; organizing around environmental justice and mobilizing for economic and social justice. Members can be seen promoting bicycling for clean transportation and healthy lifestyle, fighting to keep homeowners in their homes, building and sustaining urban farms, advocating for our formerly incarcerated residents to have equal opportunity at employment, helping to build community playgrounds, standing up for immigrant rights and embracing all aspects of our diverse community including LGBTQ residents and much more.

I'm very proud of the work the BMOER collaborative is doing in Richmond. I am very grateful and inspired by the tremendous work BMOER collaborative members do to raise consciousness and educate our people of our history; a history that we must never forget. It pleases me that at our June BMOER monthly meeting, we were joined by a Richmond native and elder who was active with the Black Panthers in Richmond. This gentleman listened carefully before imparting his wisdom to the group. We listened thoughtfully to his impressions, and honest critique of our process. We were pleased when he said he appreciated how positive and caring BMOER members are, and that he would be back.

This kind of inter generational exchange that allows for differences of opinion to be constructively shared, has not been happening enough in the Black community for a long time. BMOER members take the conversation wherever they go.

I look forward to a Juneteenth celebration in which there is room for all of us to show up and celebrate our culture, our heritage, our diversity, our community, our music, our creativity, our resilience and our solidarity as a people with the whole community of Richmond. There is room and enough for us all.

If you agree, I ask that you share this newsletter.


Kudos to Eye on the Bay for putting some positive info out. Juneteenth was a success, mostly because of the positive energy the community brought forward. Let's continue to lead with good and more and more good will come.

FIGHT THE POWER IN RICHMOND: The Eye never misses a Juneteenth festival in Richmond, a city with a well-deserved reputation as host to some of the best ethnic festivals and parades in the Bay Area. This year was no exception, as thousands flocked to Nicholl Park for an outdoor concert featuring artists such as former En Vogue singer Dawn Robinson and the funk band Slave. The food was great too, and local favorite CJ's Barbecue and Fish was a hit with partygoers as usual.

What the Eye did miss was a powerful entrance to the parade by Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles (the Eye sleeps late on Saturdays), but videos and photos posted to Facebook captured the scene for those who got up late.

Beckles, who is of African descent and is the first openly gay councilwoman in the city's history, rode in the bed of a pick-up truck decorated with wood panels to look like a locomotive. With the title "Freedom Train to Progress," Beckles stood tall and pumped her fist to the incendiary rhythms of Public Enemy's iconic "Fight the Power," the theme song of the 1989 Spike Lee film "Do the Right Thing."

Yellow flags with the words "freedom" and "progress" jutted from the faux smokestacks and whipped in the wind.

It was quite a scene, and the clarion rapping bellow of Chuck D rang timeless:

"Cause I'm Black and I'm proud, I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped, Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps," Chuck D rapped.

Powerful song and powerful imagery. Well-played, councilwoman.

Staff writers Paul Burgarino and Robert Rogers contributed to this column.


We Must Restore Decorum In The Council Chambers

Recently, after the Richmond City Council meeting of July 1st, I experienced one of the most intense and hostile encounters I have had to endure as a public official and my entire life for that matter. Since then, there has been at least one news report and a series of deliberate misrepresentations of what took place that night.
It is not my intention to respond to false accusations raised or dignify the insults with a response. They are politically motivated and come from people who have made clear that there is no low they will not sink to in order to get their way. This is evident in their attacks on me as a progressive, as an African American Latina, and as a queer identified woman.

When I discuss issues of substance, I am interrupted. I am attacked personally with racial and homophobic slurs by individuals and groups who are threatened by a progressive agenda to provide opportunities for building and enhancing a community that can and will transform Richmond for the better for everyone.
They attack because they have no program for Richmond.
It saddens me that a handful of people and two council members would, through their actions, sabotage programs to help the formerly incarcerated, youth, immigrants, and public health.
It is common knowledge that Richmond Council meetings have gotten so bad that many people have stopped attending or watching. Or worse, some see them as entertaining melodrama in the way of reality TV shows.
I regularly hear from constituents that they will not come to council meetings because of what has become an accepted pattern of harassment and insults both from the dais as well as in the audience. They no longer see council meetings as a place where their concerns can be voiced. Some people have even said they were fearful of leaving the chambers alone after having been verbally attacked for statements they made. I am especially concerned for all of our young people. When LGBTQ youth came to be honored by the Council, they were taunted, disrespected and made to feel unwelcome.
I am intent on doing something to change that poisonous atmosphere.
On July 1st, I had an item on the agenda to direct staff to explore how to bring order and decorum back into the council chambers. The item is designed to explore how to most effectively create a space in which more of the public can feel welcome to come to meetings to express their concerns.
I believe passionately in the hard won right of free speech, and I would never propose something that would limit the right to speak based on an individual's point of view. But, free speech does not cover acts of disruption of meetings that prevent public members from participating. Neither does it cover actions of bullying, threats, and personal intimidation. In fact, the First Amendment does not protect these "fighting words". The U.S. Supreme Court has held that "insulting or 'fighting words,' those that by their very utterance inflict injury personally or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are among the "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech the prevention and punishment of [which] ... have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem".

The only way to reclaim the city council and the chambers is to demand that the elected officials and residents who participate in the public process be accountable.
So, I need you to tell your stories. I can continue to speak on your behalf. But, when you don't speak up for yourselves, it just gets written off as politics. I invite you to let us know that you expect and insist that the attacks and abuse of both public officials and audience members end, and that respectful decorum is reinstated.

You can write the council members at:
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin - -
Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles-
Councilmember Nathaniel Bates -
Councilmember Courtland "Corky" Booze
Councilmember Tom Butt -
Councilmember Myrick -
Councilmember Rogers -
Additionally, Contra Costa Times Letters to the Editor can be sent to:

Peace and blessings,



Think Globally, Act Locally

There is so much good going on in Richmond. Though some try to distract us from that truth, many of us know and see with our eyes, the many good improvements to our city. We maintain our vision despite mounting distractions.

There have been many distractions, this year in particular. What we know to be true, however, is that during the last 10 years of progressive and innovative measures, Richmond has seen significant and positive changes. Richmond has been and continues to gain national recognition for innovative strategies for improving the quality of life of residents. Some of these include leading the way to increase the minimum wage, banning the box (fairness in hiring where we have taken off the question of people's former incarceration), fighting to keep our homeowners in their homes. We have improved our parks, created more parks and fixed more streets in the last 10 years than past years. We are leading the way in sustainability and we are seeing the lowest crime rate in 66 years.

We have the unique opportunity to lead the way where environmental, economic and social justice issues are concerned. You can help improve our world by first helping to improve conditions on a local level.

Please help carry our progressive vision into the future. Donate as generously as you can to my campaign for re-election to help me reach my fundraising goal of $50,000. We need to raise $10,000 by July 31st in order to qualify for matching funds, which would make your contributions go farther.

You can donate securely online at:

Or, by sending a check to:
Jovanka Beckles for RCC 2014
PO Box 5061, Richmond CA 94805

This is a critical election year in Richmond, with 10 years of progressive, positive advances in Richmond at stake.
As you are likely aware, Chevron and big business has decided to buy the 2014 elections again by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars behind candidates who will do their bidding - and that is just what we see. The RPA, BMOER and other grassroots allies are doing our best to keep pace with volunteer people power, but we will simply never match them dollar-for-dollar.

A victory for me at the polls (and the progressive team of candidates), means equity for working people. Equity for working people in Richmond empowers working people all over the U.S. who are watching. A victory for homeowners in Richmond, will empower homeowners all over the U.S.

A defeat at the polls for me and the progressive team means going back to times where corporations and developers come first and the people second.

Your help in helping me get re-elected is the ONLY way to stop this regressive and opportunistic/destructive agenda and to continue a move in the direction of fairness, equity and sustainability.

Thank you for your support!



You can listen to my recent 10:00 minute interview on KPFA here. It starts around 34:00 and ends around 45:25.

peace and blessings


Using City Power to Prevent Foreclosure

B y Jovanka Beckles  09/17/13

Supreme Court says YES to Gay Marriage and NO to Voting Rights Richmond is leading the way in helping stop foreclosures and helping homeowners reduce unreasonably high mortgage payments.

Here is the problem.
Before the 2007 economic collapse, many people had good- paying jobs and could afford to buy homes with large mortgage payments. After the collapse their homes were 'underwater" and were worth less than what they owed. Many people who lost jobs can't keep up with the high mortgage payments. Other people have abandoned their homes as economic losses. Banks that own the mortgages have foreclosed the houses and sold them for much less than the owners still owed or have let them decay and add to neighborhood blight. About half of Richmond's mortgages are underwater.

This doesn't make sense. If the banks would reduce the mortgage to one based on current market value before people gave up, then the people living in the house could afford to pay the new mortgage. Everybody wins. The people get to stay in their house with affordable payments, the banks don't have to go through foreclosure proceedings, and neighborhoods stay stable with reduced blight. A few banks have made these adjustments. Other banks can be forced by community action. But a lot of people are still facing impossible mortgage payments.

A new solution.
The City of Richmond is working with a group called Mortgage Resolution Partners. This company looks at underwater mortgages and offers the current lenders (banks, mortgage companies) to take the property off their hands at its current lower value and then lower the mortgage payments for the family living in the house. If the lender refuses, then the city uses its power of "eminent domain (its legal right to buy land at current market value for public purposes) and restructures the loan for the current homeowner at the current market value. The city uses its power of eminent domain to help people keep the house they bought! Right now it is a pilot program targeting a certain kind of mortgage (PLS). There are about 1700 homes in this category.

While the process seems complicated, the result is simple. If your house has lost value and you owe more than its current worth, the amount you owe is lowered and your mortgage payments could be reduced by up to $1000/month. If you want more information contact ACCE at 415-377-9037 or 925-437-9570.

This is a big deal for Richmond. Latino and African-American families are hit the hardest by this current financial crisis. A recent report shows that communities of color lost a total of $4,700 per household while white communities lost $2,800 per household. See the Wasted Wealth; Richmond CA report.

We in Richmond are getting national coverage for our daring and progressive policies in fighting foreclosures to keep people in their homes. See The Nation magazine. Of course the banks don't like these progressive programs and are now putting pressure on Richmond to drop them.

The group that has taken the leadership in fighting foreclosures in Richmond and working with the City to make it successful is the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). I am proud of ACCE and have supported it in this and its other activities including picketing major banks that prey on our communities. I urge you to join them.

Jovanka Beckles


It Takes a Village To Raise Healthy Children
On April 19th, there will be a Youth Summit that the Mayor has organized to bring young people together to talk about forming a "Youth Council" to advise the City Council, as well as discussing other important subjects like Participatory Budgeting ( The summit is from 10am to 3pm at the Richmond auditorium. For more information, contact Jeff or 510-620-6502.

As we continue developing policies that improve the quality of life for our residents, we must be mindful that our children are our future and if that future is to be healthy, then we must all do our part to raise healthy children and make certain that they feel supported in their community. Ghandi is often quoted as saying, "be the change you want to see." It's up to the adults to demonstrate the positive behaviors that we expect and want to see in our young people.

Richmond native Asani Shakur is well aware of the need young people have for guidance, education, compassion and mentoring. He seems to understand that everyone in the community, including policy makers, are responsible creating a healthy, supportive envrironment that's conducive to their healthy development. In a recent article in the Richmond Pulse, he encourages young men to think hard about their decisions, and to take heed not to make the mistakes he did. "I'm not sure what you may have been told about prison life, but allow me to provide you with some facts about this caged world." Follow the link below to read his spiritual plea.

by Asani Shakur

Editor's Note: Asani Shakur, from Richmond, spent four years in prison. He wrote this letter to the youth while incarcerated.

Dear young kings and queens,

You do not know me personally, but you know me by way of a hood movie character or better yet, through the eyes of your favorite rapper. Of what they speak, I have lived.

I am currently writing you from a federal prison cell - because I care about you and your future. I'm not sure what you may have been told about prison life, but allow me to provide you with some facts about this caged world:

You are told when to sleep, what and when to eat, what your occupation behind bars will be (which is worth roughly 10 cents per hour on average), and you wear the same clothing for the duration of your prison term. The hurtful part is being locked away from your family and loved ones. Envision yourself not being able to hold, hug, or kiss them - all you have to hold are pictures. The guards (not all, but many) will speak to you in any manner they feel or see fit. The most degrading part is having to strip off all your clothing so your naked body can be examined and searched. You must bend over, lifting and holding your private parts, in the presence of other men. Now tell me, does this sound like an environment you want to be in?

To my young kings, trust me when I say that street life - be it the drugs, pimpin', murder or jackin' game, is nothing more than carnage itself. It is a self-destructive life because you either die at a young age or go to prison - which is like death - because your so-called "ride or die" partners soon forget about you when you're gone. You will be reduced to a memory, like when you did or said this or that. You soon realize that you're doing your time by yourself. The outside world is still moving, while yours is at a standstill. Life is a game and we all go through different stages, but the question I ask you is: are you setting yourself up to win or lose?

If you find that you have failed to create a successful life, do not despair. Seek out other ways to reach that goal. I once read that a man or woman is great not because he or she hasn't failed but because failure hasn't stopped them. Booker T. Washington said, "Start where you are with what you have, knowing that what you have is plenty enough." We too often think of ourselves in terms of what we can't do, rather then what we can do. There is no height to your ability to think. Your thoughts manifest into actions, so direct them towards where you want to be. The mind is a tool more powerful then any AK-47 or any gun you can think of.

I must stress this one last thing, young king. We have got to stop making babies if we're not willing to be there for our babies. You see, it's not fair to that little boy or girl. They didn't ask to be here without a father. Too many of us know how it feels to grow up without our dads, so why keep that going? We have to be there for our kids and when I say, "be there," I don't just meaning paying for diapers, childcare, or Jordan's for our child. We need to seek vision for our kids, provide positive guidance and pass down information and wisdom that we have learned along the way. Our kids are our spitting image but it's the image they see from us that will have an effect on how their life will materialize. Let us be conscious of this and check our own image. If we are not ready to take on such a task but still choose to indulge in sex, then use condoms.

To my young queens, you must know your own worth. You are royalty and should hold no price because your value is priceless. I used to use my reputation, status, and image to scheme on women for whatever agenda I had going. I look around this prison at my fellow inmates, as well as myself, and see how while us men are in here our kids have been left by us for you to take care of alone and yet you still accept our phone calls, you still send us money on our books, you still make time and find a way to come visit us and send pictures. The essence of a woman is beautiful. But notice how when I speak of your beauty I didn't refer to your physical make-up and body shape. While certain things may make you attractive it doesn't make you beautiful. Beautiful comes from within. I urge you to have that self-confidence and seek that beauty that lies within you. Don't allow the indoctrination through the media, music, and cosmetic entities to define for you what beauty is, causing you to question and become insecure with how God made you.

I don't have all the answers. But what I do know, I'm more than willing to share in hopes that you share with me, so we can build together. There is misinformation out there about who we are, and if we don't have honest conversations with ourselves and with one another, we will feed into the misconceptions.

Our great ancestor, brother Bob Marley, said, "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds." The Most High has blessed me with a second chance, and for that I give thanks, because I could have been put away much longer. So with my second chance I intend to be that father I spoke of to my two-year-old son, make the most out of my life in a positive way, and lead by example for others. I'm still growing, but I realize that everything I have been through was nothing more then the ingredients that The Most High used to make me into the person I'm sure to become.


Supreme Court says YES to Gay Marriage
and NO to Voting Rights

By Jovanka Beckles 09/15/13

As a human rights advocate, and a leader of our community I rejoice that a major barrier to LGBT rights has come down. I use the term LGBT to include all of those people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, 2-spirit, queer, or questioning and any others who face discrimination around the complicated issue of sexual identity.

At the same time I am enraged that the Supreme Court nullified the core of the voting rights act of 1965 passed after the magnificent struggle and significant sacrifices of African-Americans and our allies.

Of course there is not a great contradiction in the Supreme Court votes since the court is divided down the middle. Both cases highlight the conservative direction of the Court. Even in overturning the onerous so-called "Defense of Marriage Act", the Court reinforced the right of states to select which marriages are legitimate. We still have to carry on the struggle for marriage equality in 2/3 of the states and we must fight against LGBT discrimination that continues to be acceptable in every state.

The loss of the Voting Rights Act should move all of us to action. Whereas in the case of LGBT rights, the country is moving in the direction of democratic political rights, when it comes to voters' rights it is moving the opposite way. Increasingly, corporate power has more influence in our politics. This power is used to strategically and effectively to disenfranchise people of color and the poor to further tip the balance towards corporate interests.

The question of voting is truly a fundamental issue of civil rights. We have to ask ourselves why we are losing. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:

1. The fight for economic and social justice challenges powerful enemies. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X both understood that we could not win true civil rights without winning economic and social equality. Exercising the vote is an act with powerful ramifications in the struggle for equality; it is not just an end to itself. It is absolutely in the interest of those who benefit from racism and inequality to keep us from exercising our power at the polls.

2. Much of our leadership has been bought off and co-opted. Far too many of our leaders settle for their own recognition, financial gain and personal power. And when it benefits them, they conveniently call this progress.

3. We get caught in the time honored game of pitting the oppressed against each other, and find ourselves easily divided and conquered. A good example of this occurred at a recent city council meeting when some African American "leaders" complained about the Pride flag, during LGBT Pride month. Some questioned "Where was the Juneteenth flag?". If the behavior of pitting the LGBT against the African American community wasn't so harmful and offensive it would have been just silly. Every movement puts itself forward, and promotes its message in different ways. Juneteenth was a great event that the City endorsed and for which it provided money. No one from the LGBT community opposed this by saying "wait a minute you can't give $10,000 or City endorsement unless you give it to the Pride activities" Some of these African American divisive leaders made it a point to make hateful remarks about gays and lesbians, while still others claimed to hear nothing hateful in these remarks. The point is that these so called leaders perpetrate the scheme of pitting one oppressed group against the other in order to protect their corporate funding.

It's time for us all to understand that we will get rid of oppression only when we are all free from oppression. And that can only happen when we stand together.

Jovanka Beckles


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Phone: 510-698-9309       E-mail:       Write: P.O. Box 5061, Richmond, CA 94805

Sincere Design Jovanka Beckles for Richmond City Council         FPPC # 1307178
Gayle Eduardo