Although I’m politically active, albeit in peace and justice issues rather than electoral politics, it’s been a while since I attended an election after-party away from someone’s home. And I had never covered such an event as a reporter. I was looking forward to it. A chance to meet and talk with candidates campaigning against incumbents. An opportunity to talk with people who supported and worked hard for them. A chance to get to know more about issues that affect and concern people in a part of East Oakland that I’m not so familiar with.
There were very few people at the after-party at the Level 13 Ultra Lounge in downtown Oakland, at least until 9:30 p.m., when I left. I wondered if this was disappointing for the three candidates for office, Nehanda Imara and Noni Session (both for city council) and Kharyshi Wiginton (for school board), and their campaign manager, Carroll Fife. They are active in the progressive Oakland Justice Coalition and their campaigns began quite recently, on July 17. I learned later that evening that they had all lost, but what rang strong and clear on Tuesday evening was how united these young Black women are in making a change in Oakland. This was uplifting.
I was lucky to be able to have a long conversation with the campaign manager, Fife. She is an articulate, thoughtful, knowledgeable woman who embraced the opportunity to bring to the public’s attention some serious issues facing Oakland and its residents—the appalling unemployment rate among African Americans and the discrimination they face when applying for trade jobs; the rush amongst elected officials to support development at all costs, regardless of the harm it is doing or might do to neighborhoods; and the high levels of racism throughout the country.
It was also very interesting to speak at length with an activist, Kitty Kelly Epstein, who shares a similar vision to that of the candidates and their campaign manager. I had only a short interview with Imara, who commented on how amazing it was to be part of this grassroots effort; our interview was cut short when Fife called everyone together to give thanks and to reiterate her vision for Oakland. I was sorry to miss hearing Session speak—she hadn’t spoken by the time I left.
I had been planning to go to the after-party for a friend who was running for city council in Berkeley, Cheryl Davila. However, as I was leaving downtown Oakland, I turned on my car radio and heard the depressing national election results. I changed direction and went home because I was so overwhelmed by how discouraging the news was.
How is it possible to elect a racist, ignorant, and self-absorbed person like Donald Trump to the presidency? What is going to happen with Congress, the presidency, and most likely the Supreme Court being in the control of far right-wing Republicans? I began to think about the 1930s in Germany, when the Nazis came into power through elections, and I was even more disturbed.
At first, I thought that I should turn off the TV and go to bed and wait to hear the final results in the morning, but I was unable to. First, my sons called and we had long conversations about the election and what it means for all of us. I also wanted to hear the results of other elections, including those of two friends who were running for city council in Berkeley and San Francisco respectively.
So I stayed up, tried to absorb the national results being talked about on the screen, while also sifting through the local results that were appearing in the scroll on the bottom of the screen. I became increasingly more concerned as Trump’s win became clearer and clearer.
I was disappointed to see that my friend, musician and activist, Francisco Herrera, lost his race in San Francisco, but I was buoyed by the numbers that showed my friend and activist, Davila, was ahead of the incumbent in Berkeley, Darryl Moore. (At the moment, the race is still too close to call, but Davila is ahead and it looks like she will join the newly-elected progressive mayor for Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, on the council).
It was a mixed night of emotions. Exciting to hear Black activist women ready to take on the status quo (and possibly win a council seat in Berkeley). Disheartening to see how and for what many in this country have voted.