The latest volume of Race, Poverty, and the Environment: the National Journal for Social and Environmental Justice published by Urban Habitat is an important must-read of the month. It includes a wealth of information on some of the most pressing issues affecting communities of color locally and nationally.
In this issue you will find discussions on the changing landscape of race and class within Bay Area cities and suburbs, the increasing wealth gap, local job creation and redevelopment plans, and what all of this means for social justice organizing in the Bay Area.
Many Kapor Foundation grant recipients contributed to the journal, including: María Poblet of Causa Justa :: Just Cause who writes Challenging the Wealth Gap with New Majority Organizing; and Andrew Dadko and Rui Bing Zheng of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) who write The Fight for Good Jobs and Clean Air at the Port of Oakland.
If you have grown up or at least lived in the Bay Area over several years, then you have witnessed the changing face of inner cities like San Francisco, Oakland, and East Palo Alto, which were once heavily populated by low-income families of color. As a result of economic recession, housing market failures, and gentrification, these cities have seen increasing migration of communities of color to suburbs like Antioch and Pittsburg, as well as, southern states, in the case of African Americans.
The shift of communities of color from inner cities to suburbs presents new issues and challenges in organizing for social justice. Some questions that come up are: How can organizers shift their efforts from inner cities to suburbs where there are increasing needs and a growing struggle for resources, services, and development?
Also, what do these shifts in communities mean in terms of voting power? With communities of color spreading beyond central city districts, will their voting power be weakened? This is a pressing concern considering that states are redistributing and redrawing political districts based on the Census.
Furthermore, what impact will local job creation plans like San Francisco’s Local Hiring Policy and the plan to redevelop Oakland’s Army Base in West Oakland have on communities of color? It is important that the public funds invested in these projects create good jobs for local residents who have been locked out of the economy. Elected officials and companies must be held accountable. In a place like San Francisco which boasts the highest number of billionaires per capita, according to Forbes magazine, it is clear that the wealthy must also be taxed.
So what is being done locally? Major coalitions like Oakland Rising and San Francisco Rising, both Kapor Foundation grant partners, are organizing on each side of the Bay to build a cogent and politicized electorate that will be able to shift the balance of power in the East Bay and San Francisco. In only a year of working as a coalition, San Francisco Rising has organized its Spanish-, English-, Tagalog-, and Cantonese-speaking membership to help pass a new tax on the transfer of properties worth $5 million or more. They have also helped improve voter turnout in communities of color.
San Francisco and Oakland Rising show us that the Bay Area cannot move forward as a community unless there is a well-established progressive platform from which communities of color can speak from and call for a taxation on wealth. We need more equitable cities now.