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Jakada Imani
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Jakada Imani is working to help bring an end to the cycle of violence that plagues much of urban America and promote reinvestment in our cities using smart solutions and uplifting alternatives to violence and incarceration.

A long-time community activist, Jakada led the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in successful efforts to stop the construction of one of the nation's largest (per capita) juvenile halls -- an enormous "Super Jail for Kids." He also played a lead role in the landmark defeat of California Proposition 6, a dangerous and ineffective "tough on crime" ballot measure that would have forced the state to spend more than a billion dollars annually on failed programs.

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Jakada is also the father of four powerful and creative young girls.

Entries by Jakada Imani

How the Drug War Destroyed My Community and Why It Must End

(11) Comments | Posted April 4, 2013 | 7:05 PM

Our nation is making a treacherous tradeoff: wasteful spending on an ineffective "War on Drugs" at the expense of the youth, families, and working folks who are the engine of a thriving economy.

It's a timely topic on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, given his...

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Don't Follow the Loser on Immigration Reform

(4) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 10:54 AM

Remind me again: who lost the past election? Oh... yes, it was Mitt Romney, failing to recognize the contributions of millions of Americans, discarding 47 percent of the population as victims, and proposing that self-deportation was the cure for our broken immigration system.

"Self-deportation" is the notion...

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How the President Can Save the Holidays

(3) Comments | Posted November 16, 2012 | 1:45 PM

We are coming up on one of my favorite times of year. The holiday season is time for family, food, laughter and love. This year, however, my heart is heavy when I think about the holidays.

As a son, husband and father, I value the importance of family deeply....

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Enough Is Enough: Put People Before Profits

(2) Comments | Posted August 15, 2012 | 11:21 AM

Last Monday night, we watched in horror as a huge explosion and fire erupted at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, CA. Richmond is a city where more than a quarter of the residents live below the federal poverty line, and more than 85 percent of the...

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I Am an Oakland-American

(1) Comments | Posted July 24, 2012 | 6:52 PM

Dear President Obama,

The people of Oakland would like to welcome you back to our town.

You may have heard about a few things happening in Oakland since your last visit: hundreds of families pushed out of their homes by foreclosure; the still-too-high incarceration rate for young people and the...

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A Glimmer of Hope in the CA Budget

(0) Comments | Posted June 29, 2012 | 6:20 PM

Finally, there was a silver lining amid the bad news of the California budget. With the Governor's signing of the new budget, the controversial practice of time adds in our youth prisons will finally end bringing a sliver of justice and hope to California youth and families.

I...

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Private Prisons Profit From Pain

(8) Comments | Posted February 23, 2012 | 11:18 AM

I've been working on issues of police accountability, locked-up youth, violence, and community investment for a long time. Sometimes I think that no example of injustice could still surprise me. I was recently proved wrong.

It happened when I was sent a Huffington Post article about the...

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Seize the Moment -- Shut the Youth Prisons Down

(19) Comments | Posted January 26, 2012 | 5:41 PM

Governor Brown has done it again. He has proposed in the state budget to close the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) once and for all. The DJJ drains much-needed funds from our schools and vital community programs that would help California thrive. The youth prison system promotes violence...

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I was a Poor Black Kid

(10) Comments | Posted December 19, 2011 | 4:05 PM

Jakada Imani as a poor black kid

When I was in the third grade, I had trouble reading. I mixed up letters and couldn't spell to save my life. I soon found myself in special education courses. Most of the other students who were tracked...

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From the Sit-ins to the Occupy Camps

(24) Comments | Posted November 12, 2011 | 2:26 PM

Watching the developments of the Occupy Oakland camp and activism over the past month has been at turns inspiring, complicated, challenging, and powerful. At times, it seems like finally the world is waking up to say people and our planet are more important than profits. And to demand that we...

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All Eyes on Occupy Oakland: Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail

(1556) Comments | Posted October 26, 2011 | 7:44 PM

"If #occupyoakland was in Damascus, U.S. State department would be telling Wolf Blitzer how unacceptable it was to teargas peaceful marchers." @techsoc

As two activists who have called Oakland home, we are appalled at the events of our city in the last 36 hours. Last night...

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An Opportunity We Can't Afford To Miss

(2) Comments | Posted September 2, 2011 | 7:01 PM

We've heard it before -- "the green economy is here" and "green jobs are on the way!" At the Ella Baker Center, we put time, energy, and money into building training programs and promoting the idea of the "new," green economy. Just a few years later, the economy crashed and...

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It's Time For a New Approach to Violence

(20) Comments | Posted August 4, 2011 | 6:48 PM

Levi was a kid I knew from my street. We were the same age, about the same height, and lived in the same neighborhood. I remember when he started skipping school to hang out on the corner of 64th and MacArthur in our East Oakland neighborhood. I would pass him...

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What It Takes to Preserve Environmental Justice in California

(0) Comments | Posted June 8, 2011 | 6:27 PM

For those of us who believe that the health of people and the planet should come before profits, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the cornerstone of our state's environmental policy. CEQA states that business and government must protect the environment and communities when developing land. This...

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California's Turning Tide on Youth Prisons

(11) Comments | Posted January 13, 2011 | 3:40 PM

Seven years ago, the Ella Baker Center's Books Not Bars Campaign started calling for closing California's youth prisons. People laughed in our faces. Literally. Even reformers who agreed in private, thought we were foolish to call for shuttering the largest set of youth prisons in the country.

Monday, Governor Jerry...

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More than One Man, More than One Sentence

(0) Comments | Posted November 4, 2010 | 3:01 PM

For many years before becoming the Executive Director at the Ella Baker Center, I worked with our Books Not Bars campaign which transforms our juvenile justice system to invest in young people, their families, and our communities. Since its inception, the campaign has helped close four of the notoriously abusive...

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Poisonous Pals- Props 26 & 23

(2) Comments | Posted October 25, 2010 | 4:08 PM

The California Ballot Measure process has become a roulette game for big corporations to gamble with the health of our citizens. Perfect examples of how this plays out are Proposition 26 and Proposition 23, deceptive initiatives bankrolled by major polluters, both would result in more pollution in our state, hurting...

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Profits Take All: Why We Need to Move Toward a Shared Prosperity

(4) Comments | Posted October 6, 2010 | 3:47 PM

In September, the United States Census Bureau reported 2009 that 14.3% Americans were toiling below the poverty line. The number is the highest recorded since 1994.

With the country in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009,...

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Honoring the Dream

(4) Comments | Posted August 27, 2010 | 9:22 PM

This Saturday, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream Speech, conservatives will gather for a "Restoring Honor" rally at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. For the Tea Party crowd to connect themselves to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement can't be...

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Sentenced to Prison, NOT to Sexual Abuse

(1) Comments | Posted June 17, 2010 | 6:57 PM

Last week, a jury in Rancho Cucamonga condemned sexual abuse for children in prison as wrong and unjustifiable. The jury unanimously decided that the civil rights of Guillermo, Oscar, Alejandro, and Martin * had been violated by James Shelby, a former guard of the Heman G. Stark Youth...

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