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Press release announcing Miriam Wong’s support of Sullivan

 

COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION LEADERSHIP COALITION

 

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 11, 2013

 

RICHMOND RESIDENT AND COMMUNITY LEADER KATHLEEN SULLIVAN

 

ENDORSED BY MIRIAM WONG, RICHMOND LATINA LEADER, TO REPLACE

 

COUNCILMEMBER-ELECT GARY BELL

 

Coalition Spokesperson: Lloyd G. Madden

Contact: 510-691-8057

 

RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA

 

 

—On Thursday, January 10, 2013, Miriam Wong, a Latina leader in Richmond and one of the founders of the Building Bridges Between the Black and Brown Community Project, endorsed Kathleen Sullivan for appointment to the Richmond City Council seat that Gary Bell won in the most recent election but, because of a medical condition, he is unable to serve at this time.

 

Ms. Wong joins the Community Mobilization Leadership Coalition of Richmond’s most powerful African American organizations who endorsed on Wednesday, January 9, 2013,

 

Ms. Sullivan for that same City Council appointment.

 

“Kathleen Sullivan is an excellent choice to represent the leadership that would have been provided by Gary Bell,” states Ms. Wong. “I have been working with her for a few years now to unite Black and Brown women in Richmond. We have been so successful, we have now become like sisters,” Ms. Wong added. “So I strongly support Kathleen Sullivan to be appointed to our City Council.”

 

Ms. Sullivan, 57, is an African American and longtime resident of Richmond who worked, among others, side by side with Ms. Wong three years ago to create the Building Bridges Project. Their purpose was to unify Richmond across ethnic and racial lines. The ladies believed that the Black and Brown women of Richmond could—and should—provide the leadership to have the best chance of healing any wounds and ameliorating any cultural differences between Black and Brown residents of this community.

 

“I am very appreciative of the relationship that Miriam Wong and I have developed over the years,” Ms. Sullivan said. “And our work continues—now we have to get the Black and Brown men on board,” Ms. Sullivan announced with a chuckle. “I’m very pleased to have her endorsement and pledge to continue this important unity work.”

 

Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Wong began this project three years ago with a community survey and the use of focus groups to expose and then debunk the myths that both sides—Black and Brown—believed about each other. One of the participants in the focus groups who made a significant contribution was former Richmond City Councilmember John Marquez.

 

From that beginning the group last year celebrated together Juneteenth—the oldest known holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, dating back to June 19, 1865. Led by Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Wong, Black and Brown women sang and modified the famous James Brown lyrics “I’m Black and I’m Proud” to “I’m Black and I’m Brown” on what became an award-winning unity float that was part of a parade traveling up and down the streets of Richmond.

 

About Kathleen Sullivan

 

Ms. Sullivan worked for the Neighborhood House of North Richmond for eight years providing Senior Case Management services to the most at-risk Black families and mothers with young children in Richmond. She has served as Chair of the City of Richmond Human Relations and Human Rights Commission until she termed out last year. In addition, Ms. Sullivan was a member of the Board of the Brookside Community Center for the last eight years until it successfully merged with Lifelong Corporation in 2012.

Ms. Sullivan has been a successful consultant to the foster care system in Contra Costa

County and has fostered more than 42 children in her own Richmond home as well as provided leadership in West County in the redesign of its foster care system.

Currently, Ms. Sullivan is the President of the Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), which has supported local elected officials.

She also recently cofounded the ByExampleNation Project, a group of mostly Richmond women formed to support its members in learning how to make healthy choices about eating, drinking and exercising.

Ms. Sullivan obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from New College San Francisco in Human Relations and was a Master’s candidate in Community Economic Development at the National Economic Development and Law Center.

Ms. Sullivan has adopted two girls while raising two sons with her husband of 13 years, who himself was born and raised in Richmond and comes from one of the African American pioneer families of this community.

 

About the Community Mobilization Leadership Coalition

 

This coalition includes, but is not limited to, Black American Political Action Committee

(BAPAC) of Contra Costa County, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA),

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)-Richmond Branch,

1 Richmond, Men and Women of Purpose, One Accord Project, Men and Women of Valor,

Guardians of Justice, National Brotherhood Alliance (NBA) and Black Men and Women

(BMW).

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Richmond’s David v. Goliath: the sugar beverage tax

jeff ritterman felix hunziger

Jeff Ritterman, foreground, and Felix Hunziker, background, an anti-Measure N activist.

RICHMOND — Jeff Ritterman made his case for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages at American Public Health Association Conferences, to doctors at a San Francisco Medical School and the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County — all in the last week.

But perhaps his most important audience was Monday night’s, where 80 people gathered at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church for a town-hall meeting.

Trim and energetic, with his trademark ponytail pulled tight, the retired cardiologist-turned-councilman relied on local African-American sports and health advocates to do most of the talking to one of the city’s oldest African- American congregations, but he bemoaned the “polarization” that has cleaved the city over his controversial ballot measure.

“We have to keep the focus on our children and how to make the city a better place for them,” Ritterman said.

Erick Avery, coach of the Richmond Half-Steppers, a youth track club, had just finished speaking on the need for recreation funding from Measure N, the penny-per-ounce tax Ritterman has devoted nearly all his energies to.

Click here to see the Beverage Association spending report: BEVERAGEGROUPREPORT pdf pdf

Keenly aware of the $2.5 million spent so far against the measure, Ritterman did what he seldom does — acknowledged the possibility of defeat on Nov. 6. As of Oct. 20, the pro-Measure N “Fit for Life” campaign had spent less than $50,000 from mostly small donors.

“Win or lose, we have to figure out a way to support (the Half Steppers),” Ritterman said.

The pro-Measure N “Fit for Life” campaign has spent less than $50,000 from mostly small donors, a total dwarfed by the $2.5 million in soda industry funding the opposition.

The underdogs have relied on volunteers and creativity to get their message out to local voters.

Youth artists spray-paint anti-soda, “Yes on N” murals on street corner buildings, with the owners’ permission. Ritterman has done hundreds of interviews with media from all over the world, and has spent thousands of hours campaigning. He pulls a wagon carrying 40-pounds of sugar — a prop meant to personify the amount the average child consumes in a year — and spends late nights pecking rhetoric into his keyboard, jousting with critics and naysayers on social media platforms. He’s been shouted down at parks and in church parking lots.

It’s in Richmond’s working-class neighborhoods where the ballot battle will be won or lost, and skeptics say the pro-tax activists can’t overcome the money and the blunt “no on new taxes” message against them.

“Our campaign spending is still considerably less than what Measure N would cost Richmond families in higher grocery bills and Richmond businesses in lost sales and customers,” said Chuck Finnie, a spokesman for the anti-tax group.

Otheree Christian, president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Association, said he liked much of what he heard Monday night, but that his mostly African- American and Latino neighborhood is leaning against the ballot measure and can’t be persuaded.

“In this economy, with people struggling, putting in a new tax is not going to work, no matter how you try to dress it up,” Christian said.

Several speakers on Monday appealed directly to the city’s working class African-American and Latino communities, calling sugar-sweetened beverages “poisons” that are fueling obesity, diabetes and other health maladies.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and other elected leaders joined Ritterman at the church and pushed hard for the measure. McLaughlin pledged to pass postelection legislation requiring that every dollar from Measure N goes to youth health and recreation programs, another in a long line of tweaks to the message that the pro-N side has made over months of campaigning to tamp down critics.

The keynote speaker Monday was Maya Rockeymoore, a Washington D.C.-based scholar.

Rockeymoore called on the African American community to look critically at the beverage industry, its products and its marketing tactics toward ethnic groups.

She called the obesity crisis – 52 percent of children in Richmond are overweight — a ”systemic” problem.

“We are surrounded all the time by an environment in which unhealthy drinks are advertised,” Rockeymoore said.

McLaughlin echoed many of Rockeymoore’s theme, at one point noting acerbically that obesity and diabetes has been a bitter fruit of the “Pepsi Generation” marketing campaign.

Doria Robinson, a community advocate for better nutrition and urban farming, said residents needed to come together to tax sugary-drinks and reduce consumption.

“It’s not food,” she said. “It’s hurting us.”

With its unlimited budget, The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes counts hundreds of local businesses and influential community groups, including the NAACP and Black Women of Political Action (BWOPA) among its members. The city’s streets and its airwaves are awash in “No on N” ads, funded by the Washington D.C.-based American Beverage Association’s support. The coalition has also provided thousands in direct payments to influential community leaders, including the treasurer of the Black American Polical Action Committee (BAPAC).

“Without Big Soda’s money, there would be no organized opposition against the soda tax,” Ritterman said.

The dynamic has played out elsewhere to the same notes. El Monte, a Los Angeles County suburb with a nearly 20 percent larger population than Richmond, is the other major California battleground over beverage taxes.

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, the leading proponent of Measure H — which is virtually identical to Richmond’s ordinance — has acknowledged that his measure has little chance in the face of the beverage industry’s sophisticated and well-funded campaign.

Yet in El Monte, the battle is being tipped with far fewer resources. The “No on H” committee has spent about $1.3 million, barely half its spending in Richmond, the smaller city. El Monte’s pro-beverage tax forces have spent about $7,000 more than those in Richmond.

“The comparison shows how strong Richmond’s progressive movement is,” said Andres Soto, a founding member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. “We can win here against all the corporate money.”

In both cities, slick campaign strategists have focused on appealing to key ethnic groups.

In Richmond, the campaigns have focused on appealing to African Americans and Latinos. In El Monte, advertising aims at Asians and Latinos.

Critics have complained that Ritterman and his allies initially overlooked the support of local churches and leaders, opening the door for the beverage industry to make inroads. Ritterman disagrees.

“No regrets,” Ritterman said. “We have worked hard. We have run an honest campaign.”

Observers close to the campaigns on both sides say N has a slim chance at passage, but still marvel at the spirited, crafty, bare-bones campaign that has pushed Richmond into the national limelight on issues of public health and sugar-sweetened beverages. The battle in Richmond may be lost this year, they say, but the larger war changing the beverage industry is still in their favor.

“This really advanced the cause no matter how the vote turns out,” said Councilman Tom Butt. “A lot of people have been watching this, learning what to do and what not to do, and I am sure there will be other cities that will take this up.”

Asked if he has ever felt down against the seemingly overwhelming odds, Ritterman brushed that aside.

“I’ve been working on this more than full time for many months. I don’t feel demoralized at all, I feel energized.”