California becomes a “sanctuary state”

The hard work and prayers of OCO/PICO California families, congregations and schools throughout the state paid off on October 5 when Governor Brown signed SB 54, the California Values Act, into law. The act takes effect in January 2018 and will protect thousands of vulnerable immigrant families from deportations.

Among the law’s key provisions: strict limits on who state and local law enforcement agencies can hold, question and transfer at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency officials. It also prevents local law enforcement officers from being deputized as immigration law enforcers, prohibits local law enforcement officers from asking for the legal status of detained individuals, and ensures immigrants are notified about their civil rights before ICE can interview them.

WHAT WE CAN DO: PICO California urges OCO and other of its federations to:

1.  Educate families in our congregations and communities about the new protections and rights SB 54 provides.

2.  Protect SB 54 by ensuring local law enforcement agencies fully implement the law.

3.  Prepare ourselves for legal attacks from the Trump administration and a potential 2018 ballot measure by the CA Sheriffs Association to repeal SB 54.

Click here for more details and info in the complete text of this article.


A comprehensive $1 million pilot program has been approved

Thanks to vocal community support—including from OCO organizers—the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, foundations and other organizations have approved a $1 million pilot program to provide legal assistance to undocumented immigrants in Contra Costa County who face threats of deportation. The program is called Stand Together Contra Costa and its funds will be used to provide Know Your Rights forums, free legal consultations, no-cost representation, a rapid response network and an emergency hotline. Selection of organizations to provide services in the new program is a work in progress. “The demand is great and the need is urgent,” says OCO organizer Emma Paulino.

OCO already participates in an Alameda County emergency hotline (510-241-4011) and rapid response network, which was launched by  ACILEP (Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership). Other ACILEP organizations include Centro Legal de la Raza, Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, CIYJA, Causa Justa/Just Cause, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Street Level Health, and Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Attend or pass the word about upcoming Know Your Rights events:

•   Saturday, October 21, 2017, 10:30 a.m.–3:30 pm: Forum on Immigration, Church of the Good Shepherd, 3200 Harbor St., Pittsburg 94565


East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods off to a great start

Hundreds of East Oakland residents—including OCO leaders and organizers—gathered to improve their plight, unite their efforts and boost their power at the First Annual Community Assembly convened by the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods on September 30. The Congress’ founding members include OCO, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Causa Justa : Just Cause (CJJC), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), EBAYC, and East Oakland Building Healthy Communities (EOBHC). Based on results of its door-to-door canvassing and outreach to its members, the Congress will focus on immigration, housing, jobs, schools, fair share of city services, community peace and safety, healthy environment, big development, and holding elected officials accountable.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Come to the press conference/rally on Nov. 7, 5:30 p.m., outside City Hall when the Congress announces its East Oakland Community Agenda. For info about working with the Congress on its issue areas, contact Rev. Damita Davis-Howard at


We’re active on many fronts—from hardworking local organizing committees to powerful citywide coalitions. Here are a few highlights.

Proposition 47: Congratulations and thanks to St. Columba for hosting a successful record-clearing event on Sept. 16, as part of the Justice Zone at the Creating Commons Festival. The free record-clearing clinic was presented by the Justice Reinvestment Coalition (OCO is a founding member organization) and the East Bay Community Law Center. All costs for applicants was underwritten by the office of Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. (Just to know: The amount and allocation of Alameda County’s savings as a result of Prop 47 are still being contested. OCO will continue to engage these issues via our coalition work in Alameda County Justice Reinvestment Coalition.) Other activities in the Justice Zone include Immigration Know Your Rights training and tabling, sponsored by St. Columba’s LOC. Oakland Police Commission: We can celebrate important milestones that voters and OCO leaders helped to achieve: the new Measure LL–authorized police commission and governing ordinance are in place. Terri McWilliams and Bruce Schmiechen have been “unofficial” OCO reps to the Coalition for Police Accountability, which closely monitored the ordinance and selection process; OCO is now an organization member of the coalition. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office: On Oct. 4, Live Free leaders conducted a research meeting with David Muhammad, who is the former Chief Probation Officer of the Alameda County Probation Department and a leader in the fields of criminal justice, violence prevention and youth development. He currently directs Justice Programs at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). He also provides leadership and technical assistance to the Ceasefire Violence Reduction Strategy in the cities of Oakland, Richmond and Stockton, California. The research meeting was one in a series that OCO’s Live Free group is conducting on practices of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. It was also meant to gain insight into mass incarceration in Alameda County, pathways that exist for impacted people as well as those that need to be created to reverse the damage caused by over-incarceration in Alameda County and the disproportionate impact on communities of color.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Attend OCO’s next Live Free meeting on Oct. 30, 6 p.m., at the Urban Strategies office, 1720 Broadway, 2nd floor, Oakland 94612. For more info, email Rev. Damita Davis-Howard at ddavis-howard@oaklandcommunity.org.


Show us the money: OUSD and Oakland families are facing hard decisions about cuts in this year’s budget and in the future. Join OCO’s campaign and be part of the process—and part of the solution!

The budget crisis that threatens the Oakland Unified School District is coming to a head in the coming days, weeks and months, so consider this a call to action: If you care about the future of education for Oakland students—especially low-income students of color—join OCO education leaders and allies from schools and congregations as we fully engage, develop proposed solutions, and directly impact pending decisions we must make as a District and as a City. The urgency of this moment requires that we participate in research meetings; organize with families, students, and educators at our schools; rally with allies in our schools and community; speak out to OUSD officials; build our power and stay active.

We believe that those closest to students—families, students, educators, and community partners—are generally best positioned to know the specific needs of students and how best to address them. Any budget cuts need to be made as far away from students in their school communities as possible. Deep relationships between young people and caring adults in schools are critical—often making the difference between students being pushed out of school or thriving.

What You Can Do: Join OCO leaders in attending research meetings and actions with OUSD leaders where budget decisions, including for the current school year, are being made. Key Meetings and Trainings:

Thursday, Oct. 19, 6:30–8:15 p.m.: Research Meeting with OUSD District 2 Board Director Aimee Eng and OUSD State Trustee Chris Learned @ Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland 94610

Wednesday, Oct. 25, starting @ 5 p.m.: OUSD Board Meeting, The Great Room, La Escuelita, 1050 2nd Ave., Oakland

Contact Katy Núñez-Adler at katy@oaklandcommunity.org or Sayuri Sakamoto at psyudi3@gmail.com to learn more or join OCO Education for Liberation Committee meetings. Regular meetings are held on the 3rd Thursdays of the month from 6–8 pm.

OCO IS 40!

A great time was had by all at our anniversary bash. Are you in these pics?

Thanks to all who attended and supported OCO’s 40th Anniversary celebration on Sept. 17, 2017 at Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland! OCO leaders and their families were there in number, as were allies and elected officials, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and OUSD School Board Director Shanthi Gonzales, and representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Senator Nancy Skinner and State Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The spirit in the packed house was joyful and committed—inspiring us to continue working together, putting our faith in action toward justice for all.

A special shout out to the Anniversary Planning Committee: Mandy Bratt, Lillian Lopez, Brittany King, Ken Johnson, Barbara Lafitte-Oluwole and Carlos Castro.

Click HERE to view pics of the event. Photos courtesy of Sam Davis.

Click below to view some highlights of the evening (courtesy of photographer Alex Madonik, OCO leader, Kehilla Community Synagogue):

REV. DR. GEORGE C.L. CUMMINGS, remarks as OCO’s incoming regional executive director

MARIA LETICIA GOMEZ, keynote address. See her bio at: OCO 40th Anniversary




Your great work and insights are getting the attention of Bay Area—and national—media. Here are links to some recent coverage of OCO.

“Congress of Neighborhoods seeks community power in East Oakland flatlands,” Oakland Post, Oct. 4–10, 2017.

“Hundreds gather for first annual East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods,” Oakland North, October 2, 2017.

“Oakland neighbors band together to fight blight,” KPIX, Sept. 30, 2017.

“Rev. Dr. George C.L. Cummings named Regional ED of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO),” Oakland Post, Sept. 22, 2017.

“As Oakland public students flee, enticing new middle school aims to reduce exodus,” East Bay Times, Sept. 21, 2017.

“Community groups seek to build East Oakland neighborhood power,” Oakland Post, Sept. 15, 2017.

“California poised to become ‘sanctuary’ state. But do such policies work?’” The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 13, 2017.

“Oakland launches new public school in effort to prevent families from fleeing,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 20, 2017.


Note: OCO Office is at 7200 Bancroft Avenue, #2 Eastmont Town Center (upper level), Oakland 94605

Oct. 19, 6:30–8:15 p.m.                                 Research Meeting with OUSD District 2 Board Director Aimee Eng and OUSD State Trustee Chris Learned, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland 94610
Oct. 21, 10 a.m.                         Forum on Immigration, Church of the Good Shepherd, 3200 Harbor St, Pittsburg 94565
Oct. 25, 5 p.m. OUSD Board Meeting, The Great Room, La Escuelita, 1050 2nd Ave., Oakland
Oct. 30, 6–8 p.m.                            Live Free leaders meeting, OCO office.
Nov. 6, 5:30–8 p.m.         Citywide Leadership Meeting, dinner 5:30–6 p.m., meeting 6–8 p.m. OCO office. Regular meetings are on first Mondays.
Nov. 7, 5:30 p.m.    East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods Press Conference, announcing Community Agenda, Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland City Hall.
Nov. 11, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.   Guatemalan Móvil Consulate, Cristo Rey de la Salle High School, 1530 34th Ave., Oakland 94601. They will provide passports and IDs.
Nov. 16, 6–8 p.m. OCO Education for Liberation Committee meetings. Meetings are held on the 3rd Thursdays of the month, OCO office.
Dec. 4, 5:30–8 p.m. OCO Biennial Meeting to approve new OCO Board of Directors. Location TBD. Dinner 5:30–6 p.m., meeting 6–8 p.m.