City Council approves renaming grove after Black Panther member, hears from Mayor Schaaf

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At the Oakland City Council meeting on Tuesday night, the council approved the renaming of a grove of trees in West Oakland after a prominent member of the Black Panther Party and heard remarks from Mayor Libby Schaaf about her upcoming State of the City address.

A group of former Black Panther members sat in the back of the council chambers waiting to express gratitude to the council for their adoption of a resolution to name a grove in deFremery Park in West Oakland “Bobby Hutton Grove” in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party.

Hutton was the treasurer and first recruit to join the Black Panther Party, an organization that formed to advance the rights of African Americans during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In April, 1968, Hutton was killed by Oakland police officers near deFremery Park, which marked a turning point “in the history of Oakland and for the Black Panther Party,” according to the proposal language. In remembrance of his role in the party, people have commemorated his passing with “Lil Bobby Hutton Day,” which has been held annually on the day of his death since 1998.

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney (District 3) and President Pro Tempore Larry Reid (District 7) recommend the adoption to the council.

“I want to add to sentiments made by the Oakland community that the Black Panther Party has often been mis-portrayed, so I am so grateful that we are naming this grove of trees,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (At-Large).

“Along with a number of people from the city of Oakland, we the former members of the Black Panther Party honor the heroism of Bobby Hutton annually at deFremery park,” said Fredrika Newton, a former Black Panther Party member. “We are grateful for the recommendation and urge the council to approve it.”

The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to approve the renaming of the grove, with McElhaney absent.

Additionally, councilmembers heard an update on the State of the City report by the mayor, which she will present to the city on October 14 at Oakland City Hall. Schaaf gave a brief glimpse into what her upcoming address will cover, including her promise to launch the solutions her office crafted in her first year as mayor.

Schaaf specifically named Oakland Promise (an initiative to triple college enrollment in the next 10 years), My Brother’s Keeper (an initiative to help improve the outcomes and life trajectories of men and boys of color), Keep Up Oakland (an initiative to help keep the city clean and free of illegal dumping) and the opening of new neighborhood job centers as examples of initiatives that have been implemented in her term.

“Last year I laid out our challenge to make sure that Oakland’s increasing prosperity and success lifts up, rather than pushes out, our longtime and most vulnerable residents,” said Schaaf, “as well as lifts up rather than pushes out the unique ethos that makes Oakland, Oakland.”

The State of the City address is open to the public, but to ensure there is space for everyone, the mayor’s office is requesting attendees visit oaklandnet.com to register for the event. Schaaf’s remarks will be followed by a large community gathering on Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.

The final item of the agenda was tabled until the board’s next meeting on October 18: an adoption of a resolution to confirm the mayor’s appointment of Jose A. Dorado to the Citizens’ Police Review Board.

The Citizens’ Police Review Board, adopted by the city in 2002, was created to investigate and review complaints about the conduct of Oakland police officers and park rangers. The board is responsible for delivering timely reports to Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth regarding the facts of these complaints as well as any disciplinary recommendations.

Councilmember Dan Kalb (District 1) recused himself from the discussion and vote on the agenda item, citing a personal conflict of interest, leaving the council without the required number of members to vote. McElhaney was absent because of a illness and Councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6) left the meeting early.

Dorado was allowed to address the council briefly regarding his potential appointment, but members of the public were not allowed to speak on the matter because the council had to postpone it until another meeting.

In other council business, the council adopted a resolution proclaiming October to be Children with Incarcerated Parents Month. “We are trying to raise awareness of the issue of children that are affected by having parents that have been incarcerated or are currently incarcerated,” said Tailani Wilson, a member of Project WHAT, a group that works to raise awareness of parental incarceration on children. “There are currently 2.7 million children that are affected in the U.S. and we are trying to give them a voice.”

The council also tabled an adoption of a resolution confirming the mayor’s appointment of Tracie Mason to the Housing, Residential Rent and Relocation Board.

The board is expected to meet again on October 18.

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