In an art class developed by Susan Werner at St. Mary’s Center, formerly homeless seniors create artistic works to reflect on the trials and hardships of homelessness — and to create new, hope-filled visions of a better tomorrow where all people have access to housing, food, health care, and justice.
Large real estate corporations hired New City America to establish two Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Oakland. The Downtown Oakland BID and the Lake Merritt BID are working aggressively on behalf of Oakland’s owning class, focusing on driving youth of color, activists, the poor, and houseless persons out of district boundaries.
Angela Gill’s flower sculpture is now a metaphor for her because it reminds her that with care and support, she too can blossom and grow into the best version of herself. “I put my heart into it and all my struggles. So it’s like it blossoms. Now I feel I’m blooming.”
The victory over Measure S is the first time since 1994 that a ballot measure to criminalize homeless people has been defeated anywhere in the nation. This victory is even more remarkable considering that Berkeley’s powerful business organizations vastly outspent the financially strapped homeless organizations that opposed the initiative.
Kriss Worthington denounced Measure S as immoral and a diversion from the issues of homelessness and poverty. Sales taxes have declined the most in places with a smaller concentration of homelessness. This gives the lie to the repeated efforts by some business owners to blame homeless people for declining profits.
“I really think it’s a stupid measure and it’s not going to do anything to help people on the street,” said Jesse Arreguin of the Berkeley City Council. “It’s not going to solve homelessness, it’s not going to do anything to improve the plight of small businesses in our city.”
Berkeley’s political and business leaders have ducked public scrutiny of their support for the sitting ban. But in a statement to Street Spirit, the mayor has admitted he put the sitting ban on the ballot because merchants demanded it. In Berkeley, human rights can be violated if it pleases the merchants.
“This isn’t some problem of bored kids from Oregon coming to Berkeley for the summer,” said Pattie Wall. “This is our problem, these are our kids and we have a responsibility to them — and our responsibility to them doesn’t include arresting them for not having any place to go.”
On September 1, 2012, the dedicated peace activists of Nuremberg Actions gathered with Brian Willson and Daniel Ellsberg at the Concord Naval Weapons Station to commemorate their nonviolent blockades of death trains and death trucks transporting weapons of mass murder for shipment to El Salvador and Nicaragua.
More than 5,000 protesters marched in Oakland on May Day to call for economic justice, full human rights for immigrants and poor people, and to demand an end to corporate greed and bank bail-outs. Demonstrators represented Occupy Oakland, immigrant rights organizations, anti-war activists, faith groups and labor unions.
Thousands of marchers protested the unjust gap between rich and poor by nonviolently disrupting Wells Fargo’s shareholders meeting in San Francisco. They confronted bank executives about Wells Fargo’s role in the country’s financial crisis, the high number of foreclosures that reduce families to homelessness, and the bank’s investment in private prisons.
The beautiful mural created by the young artists of Youth Spirit Artworks promotes healthy living and exposes the huge disparity between the health and lifespan of low-income and wealthier residents in Berkeley. The mural makes a strong statement about social justice by showing how poverty jeopardizes public health.