OAKLAND – Robert Antonio Romero, 29, of Oakland put his face in his hand as he was sentenced Friday to 31 years and eight months in the state penitentiary for carjacking and assault.

Four people, all family and friends, spoke on his behalf, but their pleas for leniency were not enough to soften the sentence of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jean Cartwright who was unsympathetic to their claims that the trial and the mandatory sentences for his crimes were unfair.

Cartwright interrupted Belinda Romero’s  assertion that Romero deserved leniency because she was not a good mother to him.

“Lots of people have hard lives,” Cartwright said.


Stop Black on Black Crime

It’s hard to find anyone who lives or works in Oakland who hasn’t been touched in some way by violent crime, but Roy Northington sees the crime wave’s effects more than most.

For the past 12 years Northington, 39, has been a mortician in Oakland. By his own estimate, he prepares an average of four bodies a month, using wax and cosmetics to repair the faces of people cut down by gun violence on the streets of Oakland.

“I ask myself when I will stop seeing young black men laid out on my table as their parents or grandparents are grieving,” Northington said.

He’s not the only one asking, but there are few visible signs of the community fighting back.

One big sign of resistance now hangs over the doors of the First African Methodist Episcopal church on Telegraph Avenue. A large white banner reading “Stop Black on Black Violence” lets the world know that the church is trying to put an end to the violence. And, the church is about to kick off a year of outreach events to engage neighborhood residents who’ve lost hope that the crime wave will end.


Cathy Parker and Cyrus Bradford

OAKLAND – Three years ago, Duke Johnson, didn’t know a thing about computers.

“I just started learning to turn the computer on and terminology,” said the 65-year-old, retired sheet metal worker.

These days, Johnson spends eight hours a week in an intermediate computer class for seniors at Eastmont Computing Center in the Eastmont Mall . He owns a laptop so he can practice what he and about 25 other seniors are learning.

Eastmont is one of the few computer technology centers in the country that focuses on learners of all ages. And some of its most popular programs are for those who are least likely to be part of the digital age – seniors such as Johnson. The center has been offering senior computing classes for nine years to help boost the economic and social well being of Oakland seniors.

“It’s social. It’s not computers just for the sake of computers. They become family,” said Tony Fleming, director of the center.

Sen. Clinton Campaigns at Laney College

Click image for photo slideshow.

OAKLAND – Controversy surrounding the library at Castlemont Community of Small Schools flared Sept. 26 at an Oakland Unified School District Board of Education meeting, when directors Alice Spearman and Gregory Hodges asked why the Castlemont did not have a fully functioning library.

“There are some things a school has to have. They have to have libraries,” said Spearman.

While there is a library room at Castlemont, it is less than half the size it was in 2004 when the underperforming school was split into three smaller schools that share one campus. That’s when principals at the three schools reprioritized their budgets with an eye towards improving attendance and student performance, and school librarian, Lillian Webb was laid off.

Markeshia James and Shakora Cowart testify at the Sept. 26 OUSD board meeting.

OAKLAND – Interim state administrator Vincent Matthews was greeted with a raft of bad news about Oakland schools and open hostility from the standing room crowd Sept. 26 at his first public meeting with the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education.

Markeshia James and Shakora Cowart , elected student directors for the board, presented reports from students at nine Oakland high schools of rats, leaking toilets, no heat or air conditioning , no art classes, not enough books, not enough desks, no principal at one school and no library at another.

“There are rats at every school. It’s a big problem that shouldn’t be taken lightly. We have them on my campus [EXCEL College Prep] as well,” said Cowart after her testimony.