Khalid’s Corner: Where to Put Your Energy

Wisdom from Community Leader, Khalid Elahi

What you spend your time doing is what you get good at. We are consistent every day and this is why we are where we are in life, good or bad, positive or negative. It takes the same effort to get an “F” as it does to get an “A.” Since we are being consistent with our energy anyway, we might as well put our energy into our best shot at life.

I use to be on the block by 7 am consistently and I wouldn’t leave until 2 or 3 pm. I wasn’t out there playing or joking. It was what I did for my living. I was on time every day, I didn’t take breaks, I had marketing skills and I was a people person and these are all the tools that college graduates and successful businessmen possess, but still I had to look over my shoulder because, after all, I was breaking the law.

One day I was headed out to the block and something popped in my mind and said, “Fool, you might as well go get a real job because you are doing what it takes to be successful legally anyway.”

Since you are being consistent anyway, you might as well put your energy to your best shot at life to see something new and something greater.

Mumia Case Highlights Lack of Health Care in Prison

Commentary, Asani Shakur

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s recent trip to the hospital should make us take a second look at the way we provide health care to those who need it most.

Abu-Jamal, who has spent over 30 years incarcerated, made news on March 30, 2015, when he was rushed from Mahanoy State Prison in Pennsylvania to a nearby hospital. He arrived at the hospital in a diabetic shock with his blood sugar level at staggering 779. Medical officials said that if his levels reached 800, Abu-Jamal would have gone into a diabetic coma. His sodium level was also reportedly at 168.

Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 for the murder of a police officer, has become a worldwide figure. Many of his supporters have followed his case closely and believe the former Black Panther and radio journalist is innocent.

As soon as the news of his health broke, his supporters and family spread the word through social media, press conferences, and street protests, urging people to call the hospital and prison to demand that Abu-Jamal receive adequate health care. On April 1, Abu-Jamal was transferred back to prison, but his family says he is still in need of a diabetes specialist, dermatologist and nutritionist.

But with an estimated 80,000 prisoners with diabetes in the United States, how many more inmates – who don’t have the international recognition of Mumia Abu-Jamal — are not receiving sufficient health care?

As a former prisoner myself, I witnessed the medical neglect inside prison. Guys had to suffer for hours and over the weekend because medical officials were unwilling or unable to see to all of the inmates’ requests, from allergies to high blood pressure and more severe health problems.

Much of the neglect that I saw was the result of the medical team being understaffed. Inmates would not be seen for small (but painful) health problems from a bad toothache to a broken hand or shoulder. In this case, guys would make a support sling out of a shirt and sock.

It would take weeks to be seen. The waiting list seemed to be as long as the list for Section 8 housing.

When the prison medical staff yelled, “Pill line,” guys would race to the line and hope they could get their pills before the medical staff closed their shop. (The pills would be taken in front of the staff who made sure you swallowed them.)

On weekends we were on our own. Unless someone fainted or drew blood, you wouldn’t be seen because there was no medical staff on the weekends. As if people don’t get sick from 5:00 pm on Friday to Monday morning. Many guards could care less if you were sick. Some would just say, “Don’t come to prison.”

A 2009 study by the American Journal of Public Health found that access to health care in federal, state, and local jails is poor.

This raises the question: With all the debate about Obamacare, did either party ever really include inmates when they talked about equity of health care for all Americans?

Health care should be available to Mumia Abu-Jamal and every other American, regardless of their wealth or status or whether or not they are behind bars.

Walking the Line: Reporting on Protests and Police Response

Video, Ann Bassette

EDITOR”S NOTE:The Bay Area Black Journalists Association hosted “Walking the Line: Reporting on Protests and Police Response,” on April 4 at the UC Berkeley Journalism School.

The conversation featured professional journalists, citizen journalists and law enforcement officials weighing in on the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the Bay Area and the media coverage surrounding the protests.

The Most Ignorant Among Us? Sometimes It’s College Students

Commentary, Sean Shavers

Last month, a video surfaced online of University of Oklahoma fraternity members singing a racist song that joked about lynching black people. In the video, white members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity rode on a bus while chanting, “There will never be a n—– SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n—– SAE.”

When I first saw frat brothers laughing and joking about lynching African Americans, I actually wasn’t offended. My first thought? They must be ignorant of American history.

Africans Americans were part of the founding of America. Our blood, sweat and toil helped build this nation. So when they sing, “There will never be a n—– at SAE,” it’s just ignorance, trickled down through generations. It’s just a remix of the same racism that has always existed in this country.

It’s a shame to realize that it actually exists, but I’m glad it’s exposed, and now other groups can see our struggle. I’d rather see it than have it hide in the shadows.

Social media might deter people from openly expressing racism, but it won’t change the mentality of the individual. It may just make it more secretive, with people finding more creative ways to express their racial hatred anonymously. It won’t dismantle the actual idea.

As a child, I heard the expression that to kill something, it must be killed at the source. That’s the same for an idea or opinion: we have to kill racial prejudice at the source, and that begins with the way that someone learns racism. No child is born racist; it takes someone to instill those views. So, to change that, we must influence children to look at humanity, not race — to look beyond race and gender.

In my opinion, the hate that racists have towards blacks today has a lot to do with President Barack Obama. They hated to see a black man in an office that no other group but white men have held. They were afraid of such an achievement, and maybe didn’t think it was even possible. By saying, “There will never be a n—– in SAE,” these college students were really saying: “Y’all might have let a n—– in the White House, but one will never join our fraternity.”

Just seeing how comfortable these students seemed singing this song shows the culture of leniency within that fraternity, along with the lack of authority and supervision within the national organization. After the video went viral on social media, SAE’s national headquarters closed its chapter at the school and University President David Boren expelled two of the students. I’m glad they took action, since black students on campus may have felt unsafe after seeing this video, and if the video hadn’t gone viral, something like this might have been swept under the rug. It would be interesting to see if an internal investigation of the school would show similar cases in the past.

College is about groups, and a fraternity can sometimes become just a big gang with school colors and a mascot. If you aren’t there to learn and remain cordial with other students, then what’s your purpose there? Because this is more than just a case of college kids gone wild. It seems to be more of an institutional issue of the fraternity.

Since the news of the fraternity scandal broke, two of the frat’s leaders have apologized for their role in the racist chants. They seem to realize that this kind of behavior is disrespectful and ignites violence. I think it took guts to admit to being wrong and accepting the consequences for it.

The Bible says a fool is counted wise when he holdeth his peace but a foolish man uttereth all his lips. This means if you’re quiet, then no one knows how foolish you are, unless you open your mouth. You can think whatever you want, but when you express it, you will become subject to scrutiny and backlash.

That’s something the fraternity members are now learning the hard way. I’ve read that some of them have been threatened online and are now afraid to go out in public.

Hopefully it will be a lesson learned, to leave negative stereotypes and racial prejudices in your head. But how do you dismantle the idea and stop racism at the source?

I think the first step is to have open conversations about it.

Just not at Starbucks.

Egg Hunt Offers Fun for Kids and Families

Photo Essay, Richmond Pulse Editors

On a sunny Saturday morning last month, hundreds of people came out to the Spring Egg Hunt and Recreation Day at Civic Center Plaza for some springtime fun.

Sponsored by the city’s Recreation Department, the free event on March 28 was well attended by grownups and kids alike.

The day started with a roughly half mile parade led by the Easter Bunny from the Richmond Recreation Complex to Civic Center Plaza. Once at the plaza, parents walked around information tables describing the many exciting programs that Richmond Recreation Department has to offer, like upcoming summer programs for youth.

“We especially want parents to know about our two summer camp programs,” said Kris Lofthus, the department’s project manager, before describing the offerings. “‘Achieve,’ which has a learning component to it and the other program is called ‘Activate,’ which is a recreation and sports based program.” Both programs begin June 8.

The children had two chances to take part in the age-old tradition of hunting colored eggs scattered throughout the plaza lawn. But, the hunt didn’t last for long, as children rushed around scooping up eggs. Then kids had another the chance to meet and take their picture with Easter Bunny.

Also taking part in the festivities were community organizations representing a number of services, including YES Nature to Neighborhoods, which takes kids and their families on educational trips in the outdoors; Rising Sun Energy Center, a non-profit organization that develops eco-friendly workforces and retrofit services; and Lifelong Medical, a health center that provide high-quality health and social services to underserved people of all ages.

“It was great to be able to display what we have for the community,” Lofthus said. “The highlight was watching the kids running around getting eggs and having a great time.”

 

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Uncle Sam Wants DACA Recipients to Avoid Tax Scams

DACA recipient Ana Alcantara, 22, was misinformed by her tax preparer and ended up paying an unnecessary penalty.

DACA recipient Ana Alcantara, 22, was misinformed by her tax preparer and ended up paying an unnecessary penalty.

A new scam targeting immigrants has gotten the attention of Uncle Sam.

Health advocates are concerned that tax preparers have been misinforming, and some even outright scamming, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries by making them pay a penalty for not having health insurance. On Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a statement clarifying that there is no such penalty for undocumented immigrants or for DACA recipients. DACA is a program announced by President Obama in 2012 that gives temporary protection against deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children.

“Advocates have been asking [the Obama administration] for a month to provide [tax preparers] some clarity,” said Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the Washington, D.C. office of the National Immigration Law Center. Up until now, he said, “there was not something official we [had that we] could point to from IRS that makes this clear. Now we do.”

The IRS website now reflects the clarity that advocates have been pressuring it to spell out:Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or nationals and are not lawfully present in the United States are exempt from the individual shared responsibility provision. For this purpose, an immigrant with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status is considered not lawfully present and therefore is eligible for this exemption. An individual may qualify for this exemption even if he or she has a social security number (SSN).

The confusion arises from a policy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires nearly all Americans to have some form of health insurance, or face a penalty. That coverage could come from job-based insurance; an individual health plan bought through government-run health care exchanges or elsewhere; Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California), a government-funded health insurance program for low-income people; or Medicare, a health insurance program for those who are over 65 or have a disability.

For 2014, the first year the policy went into effect, the penalty for failing to get such coverage was $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of taxable household income, whichever was greater. The penalty will increase in subsequent years.

But the requirement to have health insurance does not extend to undocumented immigrants or DACA beneficiaries. That’s because they are not lawful residents. DACA is only a benefit eligibility category, not an immigration status.

It is a distinction that neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor the Internal Revenue Service made clear on their websites until now, Padilla said.

“That lack of clarity trickled down to tax preparers,” he said.

Brenda Ordaz, a representative of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and a health navigator for the state’s health insurance marketplace, has seen the confusion first hand. A DACA recipient herself, Ordaz says other DACA recipients have been coming to her, asking why their tax preparers were making them pay penalties for not having health insurance.

She said one tax preparer asked a DACA client to pay her the penalty directly and in cash, rather than asking the IRS to deduct it from his refund.

“I’m sure some preparers are doing this to undocumented people as well,” Ordaz said.

Los Angeles resident and DACA beneficiary Ana Alcantara, 22, says her tax preparer told her she had to pay the penalty when he discovered she didn’t have health insurance. She reluctantly agreed to have the $95 deducted from her nearly $850 tax refund.

Alcantara didn’t know she was exempt from the requirement. She also didn’t know that she could have enrolled in California’s state-funded Medi-Cal program as soon as she received DACA in 2013. Even though DACA recipients are banned from accessing any federal programs, they qualify for state-funded Medi-Cal – something that many aren’t aware of.

Meanwhile, tax preparers themselves say they don’t always know if their client is a DACA recipient. One tax preparer acknowledged that she had filed tax returns for a number of clients that included the penalty because they had failed to tell her that they were DACA beneficiaries.

“It’s hard to know because a lot of clients don’t open up,” explained Azucena Lopez, co-owner of Gonzales Tax Services in Madera, Calif. She said she had assumed they were lawful residents when they told her they had a work permit and social security number.

Since she became aware that her clients were DACA recipients — and were exempt from the penalty — Lopez says she has been filing amended tax returns. Alcantara’s tax preparer also has agreed to file an amendment so Alcantara can get her $95 back.

Read more about health care and DACA on the National Immigration Law Center’s website, 
www.nilc.org

Young, Brown and ‘Looking Unsafe’

Commentary • David Meza  | Photo •  Sara Lafleur Vetter, Richmond Confidential

Photo •  Sara Lafleur Vetter, Richmond Confidential“When was the last time you were you in jail?”

A young white police officer asked me this question after he pulled me over while I rode my bike in Pinole, CA, close to Richmond, where I live. It was Feb. 20, and I had just left the China House restaurant. If you know me, you know I ride my bike everywhere, all over the bay. It’s my main mode of transportation.

This seemed to make the officer anxious. When I asked why he stopped me, he answered: “You look unsafe.” Not unsafe, as in I might hurt myself bicycling; but unsafe, as in, to somebody else. I know this, because the next thing he asked was: “Why are you in Pinole?”

I told him I had been eating at a restaurant.

“I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong, you just look unsafe,” he repeated. He wouldn’t explain what that meant, but instead asked for my identification — which he then ran through his computer.

After a few minutes, when nothing came back on me, he warned: “I will be watching out for you the next time you come into Pinole.”

Then he let me go.

I biked home as fast as I could. I didn’t know how to feel about being called “unsafe” — I was confused about what he was implying. I felt less than a person at that moment, like it was all about the color of my skin and my age. I was racially profiled, a young brown male with a rasta-colored bike.

When I got home, I posted my experience on social media. I wanted an outlet for how I felt. Here is a bit of what I wrote:

“It really sucks that just because I’m young and brown that some people will always think I’m doing something wrong.”

Within a few hours, more than 60 people weighed in on my experience, many giving tips on how to get this officer fired or asking for his name and badge number so they could do it themselves. (I refused to give out his details.) To my surprise, a former Richmond city councilman even shared my post in the popular RealRich group on Facebook, tagging city council members and local police.

But, after reading all the comments from friends and people who I didn’t even know, I felt disappointed and sad. Nothing anyone said seemed like a long-term solution, and most of it was just more hate.

It stayed on my mind all night and the whole next day, and I had no idea what to do about it. But at that point I did feel like something had to be done.

So, the next day, I rode my bike back into Pinole. I looked for the officer near the street where he pulled me over. I had decided to have a conversation with him to see if we could find some common ground. Maybe I could open his eyes to what he had done.

As I looked for him, I felt scared, like every cop in the area watched me as they drove past. When I finally found him, he seemed upset and defensive — I think he thought I wanted to pick a fight — but I told him I just wanted to talk.

We spoke for about 20 minutes. I told him how I felt about what happened, and what I saw as an abuse of power. We agreed that nobody’s perfect, and that we can’t push all the world’s problems onto any one group. He also apologized, said he’d work on being better, and that he’d try not to do it again.

That felt good. But part of me still feels as if nothing will change in people like that. I don’t feel any different about police as a whole, but I do worry now about other officers who find out that I posted my story online — because it seems there will always be someone who could become upset and take things into their own hands.

Community Gathers for a Summit on Peace

By Ann Bassette

Miracle Temple Apostolic Church on the south side of Richmond was the site of the “Get the Hell Outta Richmond and Put More Love Into It,” peace summit on Feb. 7. The gathering, organized by community advocates Rodney “Alamo” Brown and Steven Parker, brought concerned residents together to talk about remedies to violence, due to spate of violence (or “hell”) in this New Year.

The summit featured a number of speakers including Landrin Kelly of the Terrance Kelly Youth Foundation; Khalid Elahi, a youth advocate; and Pastor Patrick Weaver of Greater Abundant Life Ministries.

Information about social service providers, mentors for youth and the criminal judicial system was handed out to attendees.

richmond_brown_2At the start of the event, Brown greeted every single person in the church with a smile and a handshake as the pews filled up. “We wanted to bring out the community to talk about the issues that are concerning our community,” he said.

“We want to make sure we can show them that we have their back,” he said of the need to support youth in the community, “to make sure that they get all the fortified information they need to uphold this legacy we call Richmond, California.”

IMG_7302Around the room, a grandfather captivated his grandson by teaching him new Spanish words as they waited for the session to begin. A mother watched her son suck on his pacifier and practice standing while holding onto her fingers.

Co-moderator Redge Dwayne Green, who acted in the movie “Boyz in the Hood,” commanded the room with a bold smile, strong voice and friendly nature as he introduced each speaker.

“I’m participating in this event as a community member to project more hope and healing,” said speaker Dameion King. King was formerly incarcerated and said he understands how he was once a part of what helped to keep the community down. Now, working with local non-profit Rubicon, he has spent the last 15 years being a part of the solution and actively promotes violence-prevention.

“Liking is for Facebook, respect is for community,” said Pastor Weaver, to applause from the packed house. “We are not going to change the world until we change our world, from the inside out,” he added. “If we do not start instilling what we want our children to become, we find our children not at home, but in the pen. If we keep placating, pacifying, and pretending as if this thing is going to cure itself, as if the politician is going to come in because we cry about it versus vote about it, we’re only recreating the problem.”

The crowd clapped and shouted in agreement.

“The dream is delayed because we haven’t been responsible for the vision, “ he concluded.

IMG_7372One of the days’ most powerful speakers, Elahi, shared his life story to serve as a solution. “This is where I come from,” he said, “I was a part of the problem once before.”

Elahi said he empowered over 150 young people as a football coach in Richmond, which helped them succeed on the field as well as in the classroom.

“Violence is a disease,” he added. “It’s a public health risk. It’s not these young peoples’ fault.”

Other featured speakers included Elaine Brown, a former chairwoman for the Black Panther Party, Minster Andre Bean and members of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety.

Ervin Roquemore, a Probation Counselor at Contra Costa County Juvenile Detention Center, said that he’s spent a lot of time in the community trying to ensure kids never end up needing his services.

By the time they reach the level of detention, the minors and their families are in crisis,” Roquemore said. “We’re not teaching respect, we’re not teaching love. A kid who doesn’t feel love doesn’t feel worthy and it’s hard to reach them. We have to let them know that they’re valuable to us, that they mean something to us.”

Coalition to Tackle Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

By Chanelle Ignant

With community-law enforcement relations still making headlines around the country, a group of attorneys from the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s office are organizing to see changes made on the judicial level here in Richmond.

Together with community members and organizers, the group aims to address the racial bias they believe exists in Contra Costa County’s criminal justice system.

The group first met in late January in response to District Attorney Mark A. Peterson’s public rebuke of Public Defender Robin Lipetzky for her remarks at a Black Lives Matter demonstration, where she noted instances of racial disparities witnessed every day in her work place.

“We here in the Public Defender’s office walk through these halls of justice day in and day out and we see the immediate effects of the disparate treatment on our clients,” Lipetzky said at the Dec. 18 rally.

“We see it in the fact that people of color are underrepresented on our juries and they are overrepresented in our jails,” she added.

In response, Peterson issued a four page long public statement refuting Lipetzky’s claims and adding, “We train, we teach, and practice the notion of colorblind justice, because all lives matter.”

Echoing Lipetzky’s statement, the group of attorneys formed, according to member and defense attorney Kaylie Simon, with the mission to “first and foremost educate folks and make sure that everyone is on the same page in recognizing that racism does in fact exist.”

“Community organizations have started to meet to talk about how we can work towards ending racism in the criminal system,” Simon said.

The group met again in February at RYSE Youth Center in Richmond to discuss strategies and next steps for their campaign. With about 30 members in attendance, the meeting was split into four action teams centered on: data collection, community outreach and education, local campaigns and media relations/communication.

While the exchanges between Patterson and Lipetzky were mentioned to provide context for the group’s work, meeting attendees were focused on bigger issues — awareness and change.

Eli Moore, a Richmond resident, said it was “opportunity to look at transformation in the county.”

“If it’s all about shaming the D.A., we’re shooting too short,” Moore said.

The mission to work toward systematic changes resonated with everyone present and carried over into the various task groups where, participants discussed practical solutions for getting their message to the public.

One idea on how to raise awareness while educating people, was creating a graph to illuminate the decision points that lead to the arrest and conviction of minorities but lead to less harsh penalties for non-minorities, even when the same crime is committed.

Doria Robinson, executive director of the Richmond based organization Urban Tilth, participated in the media relations/communications task group that developed the concept.

“There are a number of points before you even get charged,” she explained. “The police officer can decide to give you a ticket or a warning or to arrest you… Once in the system there’s another set of decision making points that determine how long your term is, what you’re charged with, if you’re charged as an adult or a minor.”

Robinson said highlighting patterns, such as this, supported by statistics, could foster accountability.

The group plans to develop a steering committee that will determine the next steps in making the movement sustainable, and the attorneys have already met with a coalition of public defenders from San Francisco and Alameda counties to coordinate regional efforts.

Rabbi Lynne Gottlieb, who has a background in campaigning and whose son is a public defender, says she sees a lot of enthusiasm and possibility in the group.

“I see this as an opportunity for coalition building and networking, and that’s really important,” Gottlieb said.

Historic Ties: As Chicago’s Pullman Neighborhood Seeks National Park Status, Richmond’s Own Pullman Story Remains Unpreserved

By April Suwalsky

For over a century following the Civil War, African American men employed as “Pullman Porters” — railway employees who assisted passengers on Pullman company trains — were the eyes and ears of the nation.

The porters founded the first black labor union and distributed black newspapers, reaching rural communities and igniting social change. They led national movements that gave rise to improved conditions for the working class, civil rights and formal recognitions such as the creation of the Labor Day holiday.

The porters’ stories and legacies are preserved most notably in the historic Pullman neighborhood built in the 1880s in Southside Chicago. The neighborhood, which was already a city landmark, National Trust for Historic Preservation “National Treasure” and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, became the country’s newest national park when President Barack Obama officially declared Chicago’s Pullman Historic District a national monument on February 19.

While Chicago’s neighborhood gains recognition, Richmond’s rich Pullman story remains less known and in danger of crumbling away.

Beginning in 1867, industrialist and Pullman Palace Car Company founder George Pullman began hiring African Americans – many who were former slaves – as porters and train personnel in Chicago. Despite low wages, the porters delivered impeccable service, and were the primary reason long-distance rail travel was considered luxurious.

By the 1920s, more than 20,000 African Americans were employed across the country as Pullman Porters, the largest category of black labor in the U.S. and Canada at the time. Passengers called the men “George” after George Pullman — regardless of the porters’ own names — a practice that harkened back to slavery.

In 1926, Pullman company leadership was persuaded — primarily by white men named George who did not want to be associated with the porters — to display the porters’ given names on placards in the train cars. (Of 12,000 employees surveyed, only 362 were actually named George.)

In Richmond, as in the rest of the country, railroads shaped how the city was divided, socially as well as physically. Part of this division is still felt in neighborhoods like the Iron Triangle, which is defined by the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks to the east and west and by the Richmond Greenway to the south, which grows along abandoned Santa Fe tracks.

Passenger rail cars were serviced at the Richmond Pullman Shops, a large plant at Carlson Boulevard and South Street that was the line’s western end.

Black porters and workers were not allowed to stay at the “layover” Pullman Hotel nearby, on the corner of Carlson — that was intended for white-only workers. Instead they stayed at the small 20-room International Hotel at 396 South Street, built circa 1900 and located about a block away from the Pullman Hotel.

In addition to being a respite for the Pullman porters, offering live music and warm, affordable meals, the hotel was a place of social mobilization and empowerment.

The Pullman Shops in Richmond closed in 1959, and subsequently the Pullman Hotel and several other on-site buildings were demolished. However, two main buildings and the International Hotel remain.

karithiThe late environmentalist and preservationist Ethel Dotson purchased the hotel with hopes of restoring it. Dotson, a tenacious community advocate, succeeded in a collaborative effort to have the Pullman Historic District and the hotel named as city historical landmarks, but restoration efforts stalled due to lack of funding.

Since Dotson’s death in 2007, residents and stakeholders have endeavored to honor her wishes to restore the hotel, and raise awareness about its importance to Richmond and U.S. history. However, there is disagreement about the best path forward, and the needs of funding and public partnerships have proved sticking points.

“There must be some way to establish the historic value of Ethel’s building so that its worth to black history will bring the help we’ll need to get it purchased toward the goal of restoration,” wrote Richmond’s well-known historian, and national park ranger, Betty Soskin in 2007. “The Pullman Company figured powerfully in that era and (surely) in the life of the International Hotel. That history will be important now to the justification for national landmarking and eventual restoration. The International Hotel must first be saved.”

Mayor Tom Butt, a community champion and advocate for historic preservation projects for many years, said that to make the restoration a reality would require up to a million dollars, and cooperation from the Dotsons to convey it to a non-profit organization.

“This is a very important part of Richmond history, and I would like to see the building saved and made accessible to the public,” he said.

Dotson’s son, Karithi Hartman, inherited the hotel after her death and says he is not interested in giving up ownership of the property. He does, however, agree that it’s important to preserve the Pullman porter legacy in Richmond.

“It will definitely be a part up in there that will be dedicated to the Pullmans,” said Hartman. “But selling, that’s not going to happen.”