Bay Area leaders, community members discuss Obama town hall on ABC7

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Saturday, July 16, 2016
Bay Area leaders, community members discuss Obama town hall
The conversation continued online following President Obama's historic town hall on ABC7. We gathered Bay Area leaders and community members for perspective where you live.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The conversation continued online following President Barack Obama's historic town hall on ABC7. We gathered Bay Area leaders and community members for perspective where you live. Watch the video player above for a look at the full conversation.

VIDEO: Bay Area leaders, community members discuss race relations, policing at ABC7 forum

Our guests included:

Allwyn Brown - Richmond Police Chief

Chief Allwyn Brown has been a sworn member of the Richmond Police Department for over 30 years, serving as assistant police chief between July 2015 and January 2016, and then he was appointed interim police chief. He was promoted to sergeant in 1994 - then later served as acting lieutenant for one year helping to institute a new policing system before being promoted to captain in January 2008. He served as one of two deputy chiefs in the Department between 2010 and 2015. Chief Brown attended POST's Supervisory Leadership Institute (Class 86), and he is a graduate of Police Executive Research Forum's Senior Management Institute for Police (SMIP). He holds a Master's Degree in HR Management and an undergraduate degree in Business/HR Management.

Antwan Wilson - Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District

Before serving as Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District, Antwan Wilson was the Assistant Superintendent for Post Secondary Readiness in Denver Public Schools for six years where he led Denver's Middle, High, and Intensive Pathway Schools.

Under his leadership in Denver, there were significant improvements in graduation rates, reductions in drop-out rates, increases in students entering college, a doubling of enrollment and qualifying score rates in Advanced Placement courses, tripling of Concurrent Enrollment college-level courses, and a revamping of the district's Intensive Pathway Options.

Prior to this role, Antwan served as a high school principal in a high poverty neighborhood and as a middle school principal in Denver Public Schools and Wichita Public Schools respectively. Antwan has also worked as an assistant high school principal and as a middle and high school classroom teacher in Wichita, KS, Lincoln, NE, and Raleigh, NC.

Antwan graduated with Distinction from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a Degree in History-Social Science Education with Minors in Women's Studies and Minority Studies. In addition to an advanced degree in School Leadership Degree from Friends University, Antwan is a graduate of The Broad Academy class of 2014.

Antwan and his wife - a career educator - have been married for 18 years and have three children - a middle school student, and two elementary school students who attend public schools.

Arash Daneshzadeh - Communities United For Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ)

Dr. Arash Daneshzadeh is a scholar-activist, and former war-displaced refugee, whose research in the UC Davis School of Education, centers around the decriminalization of historically dehumanized youth of color. He is the author of scholarly articles, books, and op-eds that focus on youth incarceration including: How Whiteness Stole Justice, Dismantling The School To Prison Pipeline: An Anthology of Solutions, Unhooking From Whiteness: Volume 3, Hip Hop & Dismantling The School To Prison Pipeline. He is the editor for the Journal of Peace Studies, and serves as an editor for the Journal of Culture and Education. The crux of his praxis converges on the intersections between youth incarceration, indigenous incarnations restorative justice, hip hop pedagogy, identity formation, and organizational theory. Dr. Daneshzadeh is a faculty member at the University of San Francisco-- School of Education, as well as faculty for the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Penitentiary. He currently serves as the Director of Programs at CURYJ (Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice) in Oakland, California. Learn more about his work at: and

Carroll Fife - Oakland Alliance

Carroll Fife is an organizer, educator and mother who has lived and worked in Oakland for the past 30 years. As founder and co-chair of Oakland Alliance, Carroll works to increase access to jobs, housing, and quality education for disenfranchised Oakland residents. As an educator, Carroll focuses on the impacts of race and income inequality on student achievement, developing holistic, culturally affirming curriculum to engage urban students in life saving education. As an activist, Carroll is a leader in the Oakland Alliance, OaklandWORKS, Oakland Justice Coalition, the State of Black Oakland Central Coordinating Committee, and the Post Salon Community Assembly, just to name a few. In 2014, Carroll served as the Campaign Coordinator for Dan Siegel for Mayor of Oakland, which ultimately became the moral compass for all other mayoral candidates that year. She was also a delegate to the DNC's 2016 Platform Committee where she held the line for radical, grassroots values. Carroll is currently employed as a legal assistant and apprentice at Siegel & Yee, a prestigious Oakland civil rights law firm that primarily represents whistleblowers and victims of police violence and employment discrimination.

Casey Griffin - Parent Activist from The Village Method (Union City)

I am a career public servant for 25 plus years and enjoy serving others through leadership. I am happily married with a blended family of five children and five grandchildren. In my spare time, I support my local community in a few ways. I serve as President of a local actors guild and, serve as a Parent Ambassador for The Village Method (TVM) initiative.

Chris Copeland - Retiree

I spent my childhood moving around the world (Turkey and Germany, and many US stations) with my family, being an Air Force brat.

I spent 38 years in the insurance industry, and retired five years ago as a Vice President and Executive General Adjuster in the claim department of a Major insurance company. My father was an officer in the USAF, and he taught me to shoot, from the age of seven. I have been a competitive shooter in various disciplines for all of my adult life. I am now 66 years old, and still competing.

I am an alumnus of the FBI Citizens Academy, and have been a volunteer role player for SF FBI SWAT on many occasions. I have also been a role player for FEMA training, including being trapped in a collapsed building for two hours. The fire fighters who tried to rescue me were finally told to "black Tag" ,me on the grounds that it was unlikely that I would survive for the additional two hours it would have taken to get me out. Black Tag, means administer a large dose of morphine and leave to die. This was all simulated in the actual collapsed building located at the FEMA training site at Moffett Field.

I have been the photographer for more than a dozen Community Theatre productions, and acted in one, playing Wiley Post in "The Will Rodgers Follies". I have one magazine cover, and dozens of published photos .I live on two acres of redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Christopher (Chris) Bridges - Equal Justice Society

Chris is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, where he served as an active member of the Black Law Students Association, the Asian Pacific Law Students Association, and the Latin American Law Students Association. He also holds an MS in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and a BS in Political Science and BA in Criminal Justice, both from North Carolina Central University. Chris began his legal career in 2012 with the ACLU of Northern California as the Racial Justice Project Fellow, where he worked on school to prison pipeline issues as a member of the Education Equity team. Chris began his work at the Equal Justice Society in Oakland as the Butler Koshland Fellow and is currently focusing on school discipline and education issues as well as inequities within the criminal justice system. To aid in these efforts, Chris is using social science, structural analysis, and real life experiences to help broaden conceptions of present-day discrimination to include implicit bias.

John Dennis - Republican Party

John Dennis is Nancy Pelosi's 3-time former opponent for Congress. He is the former chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California, currently serves on the national board of the RLC, is a member of the San Francisco Republican Central Committee and is a California Republican Party delegate.

Joseph Jackson - Richmond Youth Council

I am a native of Richmond, CA and product of my environment, I am a community leader, advocate and believer in change in our communities. I am a Police Explorer with a local police department and what many called an endangered race with having the status of being a young black man.

Kamau Walton - Black Lives Matter

Kamau Walton is a member of Black Lives Matter Bay Area and Critical Resistance. Since the Black Friday 2014 BART Shutdown they have supported and participated in several Black-led direct actions across the Bay Area. In 2014 they were the lead coordinator in the fight to stop Urban Shied and increased militarization in communities of color in the Bay Area. Kamau has also worked against the violence of policing as one of many leaders in the successful fight to stop civil gang injunctions in Oakland, as well as worked to abolish solitary confinement during and following the historic prisoner hunger strikes in California in 2011 and 2013.

Reverend Kurt Kuhwald - Bay Area SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)

Rev. Kurt A. Kuhwald is a Unitarian Universalist Community minister and a member of the Coordinating Committee of Bay Area SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). He has served as an anti-racist trainer and workshop leader for the national Unitarian Universalist Association and within a California-wide Community College Counseling professional group. Trained as a psychotherapist, mediator, Special Ed. teacher and liberal minister, his passion is racial and climate justice and Conscious Eldering.

Laurie Valdez - Concerned Parent from Silicon Valley DeBug

  • Partner Antonio Guzman Lopez shot and killed by police two years ago, and she has since become a powerful and compelling voice around police and race issues in San Jose.
  • Son Josiah suffers in the shadows of trauma and aftermath

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge - Kapor Capital

A former public school teacher, education policy researcher, and PhD candidate, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge began her career in tech as startup founder. After raising funds from Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12, Mandela's company, Tioki, went on to build technology that helped hundreds of schools across the country secure great teachers for their students. Thereafter, she was recruited to Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU). In just two years, Mandela and her team successfully scaled the organization from three to six continents, officially establishing it as the largest initiative in the world focused on teaching people how to use entrepreneurship to improve education.

In October 2015, Mandela joined Kapor Capital as its founding Portfolio Services Director. At the Oakland-based venture capital firm, Mandela oversees a portfolio of 114 tech startups, helping them make progress on their business, social impact, and diversity goals. Most recently, Mandela helped launch a first-of-its-kind venture-backed diversity pledge titled the Founders' Commitment. 77 companies in the Kapor Capital portfolio have already signed on, and over the next year, Mandela will work alongside acclaimed diversity expert and Kapor Capital Partner, Dr. Freada Kapor Klein, to develop diversity workshops and resources to help founders make progress on their Commitment.

Over the past five years, Mandela has advised hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs and her writings on Medium and Forbes are a reflection of those lived experiences. To-date, Mandela has presented on over 50 stages and has received several recognitions, including being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education list, presenting at TEDx, and publishing three Top 20 Medium articles.

Maria Poblet - Causa Justa::Just Cause

María Poblet is Executive Director of Causa Justa :: Just Cause. She is Chicana and Argentine, with extensive experience in Latino community organizing, connecting the provision of services to organizing and leadership development. She led the merger between St. Peter's Housing Committee and Just Cause Oakland that created Causa Justa :: Just Cause, and the subsequent merger integrating POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights). This strategic growth aggregated the power of neighborhood-based Latino & African American organizing, creating a single, regional, multi-racial powerhouse for racial and economic justice. Next City named her a US Vanguard Fellow -one of 40 leaders under 40 inspiring better cities. Under her leadership, CJJC's work addressing racialized displacement has earned a number of Awards, including the Patiño-Moore Legacy Award for breaking down barriers between Latino and African American communities, and building a national movement to ensure the well-being of all America's families. Within and beyond her role at Causa Justa, María is active in social movements, serving in the leadership of the US Social Forum, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, and various progressive formations. She is a founder of the US chapter of the World March of Women. Maria had the privilege of being mentored by June Jordan, and was the Artistic Director of Poetry for the People before she fell in love with community organizing.

Michelle Meow - SF Pride Board President

Michelle Meow, host and producer of "The Michelle Meow Show," is your A-Z, covering the LGBT, LMNOP, and everyone in between. She attended San Francisco State University and received a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and shortly after, started her career in radio. Michelle's show can be heard in San Francisco and nationally on the Progressive Voices Network. The local TV show can be seen on KOFY TV, Ch 20/ Cable 713 Sunday nights at 930pm. Michelle has also been a co-host of the San Francisco Pride Parade broadcast since 2006. She is currently the President of the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors. She is a self-described LGBT history geek, information sponge, and a lover not a fighter. On the weekends, she can be found laying around with her cat and partner humming a song she's never heard of.

Rachel Williams - Yelp

Rachel Williams returned to Yelp in 2014 to assume the role of Head of Diversity and Inclusion. She is currently focused on building Yelp's diversity initiatives to accelerate action. Having grown up in San Mateo, CA, Rachel often found that she was one of only a couple faces of color in her classrooms. This early awareness of her own differences inspired her thirst for increased diversity and inclusion at a young age.

With a B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley and more than 15 years of human resources experience in a variety of industries including technology, life sciences, consumer products and retail, Rachel has honed her expertise in recruitment, organizational development, and strategic change activities. She is thrilled to be able to narrow her focus on Diversity and Inclusion, a very important element of the employee experience and a passion for Rachel. She returns to Yelp after most recently serving as the Head of Talent Acquisition for ClearSlide. She has also held talent acquisition roles at SolarCity, Peet's Coffee & Tea as well as an executive search consultant for venture capitalists.

Ronald Shaw - Richmond Youth Service Bureau

Dr. Susan DeMersseman - Child Psychologist

Susan DeMersseman, Ph.D. is a psychologist and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has worked with children and families for more than 30 years. This has given her a backstage pass to the wonderful and challenging world of parenting.

Dr. DeMersseman grew up in South Dakota and has shared that experience and the rich community of the Bay Area with her husband and her now grown children. When she appears on local media or at parent workshops she is often introduced as a "parenting expert," a label she describes as her favorite oxymoron (followed closely by sweet "sixteen").

Dr. DeMersseman's writing has appeared in many national publications and in several books. This book and her website offer a sensible and sometimes humorous approach to being a parent. Her blog includes articles on raising children, gardens, and awareness.

Tur-Ha Ak - Community READY Corps

Walter Katz - San Jose Independent Police Auditor

Walter Katz is the Independent Police Auditor for the City of San José. He is an attorney who was appointed by Mayor Sam Liccardo and the City Council in November of 2015 and he assumed his responsibilities this past January. Previously, Mr. Katz served as a Deputy Inspector General for the County of Los Angeles Office of Inspector General (OIG) which oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. In that role, he led the Inspector General's effort in monitoring the LASD's body-worn camera implementation program and developed a framework for increased transparency by the LASD to disclose use of force and civilian complaint information to the public through open data. Prior to the Inspector General, he was an attorney at its predecessor agency, the Office of Independent Review, where he monitored and reviewed the LASD's investigations of deputy-involved shootings and disciplinary investigations. Mr. Katz has also advised other police agencies and municipalities in their reform efforts.

Mr. Katz is active in the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), where he serves on the Training, Education and Standards Committee and has frequently been a panelist or moderator on open data, accountability and transparency issues. He has written about police accountability in the Harvard Law Review Forum and The New York Times. Prior to his work in civilian oversight of law enforcement, he served a deputy public defender in Southern California for seventeen years.

He received his law degree from the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento and his undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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