Lending Circles build credit, community, and help make dreams a reality

By Lisa Dyas February 27, 2017

After completing Rubicon's intensive two-week Foundations Workshop, and Financial Boot Camp, Angela was committed to building her assets to better support her family. She had already found employment at a local food company, but she still lacked the cash and credit score necessary to secure stable, permanent housing for her family. 

In October 2015, Angela decided to enroll in Lending Circles to help build her credit through a no-interest loan that would help her achieve her housing goals. Angela and seven other Rubicon participants each agreed to contribute $50 a month over the course of seven months and in turn, each would receive a $350 disbursement. Lending Circles at Rubicon are a partnership with Mission Asset Fund (MAF) to help people who do not have access to mainstream banking products build their credit. As with a credit card or traditional installment loans, payments to the circles are reported to the credit bureaus, and can help to significantly improve or establish credit.

Angela was the first member of her group to receive the disbursement. Because she had learned to manage and monitor her money closely, Angela noticed that an extra $350 dollars had been deposited into her account before her Rubicon Financial Coach even had the chance to call her. Certain that there had been a banking error, she said, "there was no way I was touching that money, I'm trying to build my credit!"

The disbursement made an immediate impact on Angela and her family. Working with Rubicon's Senior Housing Coach, she was able to find an apartment she could afford, and thanks to her Lending Circles loan, she had enough cash on-hand to cover her moving expenses. She and her family have now been stably housed for over a year. "To look at where I am now is a delightful feeling," she said. "I was running from my credit for so long, but now I just want to see it grow." Angela's long-term goals now include becoming a homeowner in the near future.

Angela's newfound credit stability has also opened many other doors. When her daughter enrolled in college in Los Angeles to study fashion design, she was able to co-sign the lease on an apartment that enables her daughter to live close to school in a safe environment. "Before I was always the one asking my mom or friends for help," Angela said. "To be able to do that was a pleasure." She is also passing along her knowledge of budgeting and credit building to her daughter in hopes that she will start her adult life on solid financial footing. 

Lending Circles also build community, and Angela and the other members of her group continue to stay in touch. As the first person to receive the disbursement and use it successfully to achieve her goals, she became the groups’ inspirational leader. "We were like a family," she said of her experience, "and took inspiration from each other’s successes." 

She also encourages members of her community who are struggling to try Rubicon's services and Lending Circles. One friend recently reached out to Angela to thank her for encouraging her to stick with the program. Hearing Angela's story encouraged her to stick with Rubicon's intensive two-week Foundations Workshop.  "Once I let her know my story, she stayed," Angela said. "She just told me that she is going to be joining Lending Circles soon, too." 

About Mission Asset Fund

People around the world lend and borrow with each other when bank loans aren’t an option. With technology and credit reporting, MAF’s Lending Circles transforms this traditional practice to help borrowers access affordable loans, build credit history, and set them up for a financially stable future. This unique social loan program has rapidly proved its ability to help people open bank accounts, avoid predatory lenders, and quickly and safely build their credit history.

Help us break poverty by donating today.

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Fueled by hope. Moving toward justice.

By Lisa Dyas February 17, 2017

Last year we mourned the deaths of the men, women, boys and girls who have lost their lives to gun violence, including hundreds at the hands of law enforcement. Our mission is to break poverty in East Bay communities, but progress is difficult when we exist in a state of perpetual grief.

We cannot break poverty without dismantling the systems of injustice that not only prevent the communities we serve from rising up, but also put people’s lives at risk. We honor the lives of those who were taken too soon, and dedicate our ongoing work to ending the systems of oppression that worked against them.

The story of our communities, however, remains one of hope. Our participants show up every day eager to learn, and ready to put in the work to achieve their goals. They continue to dream of a better future for themselves, their families, and friends. And when we do experience tragedy and heartache, we do not suffer in solitude, but rather face each new challenge united in community.

This is the story of Rubicon in 2016. It was the year when our participants spoke at city council meetings in support of a fair housing ordinance. They organized peaceful protests in response to violence. They are making decisions about program structure and content, and participating in hiring panels. They are organizing community events and are the faces that welcome new people to our programs.

The next year will likely bring new challenges, but our core values of hope, justice, and humility will continue to guide us. We will not sit in silence, but will work to lift up the voices of our participants and fight back against injustice wherever we find it.

Together we have the will and the strength to change the world for the better.

Read our 2016 Annual Report>>

Black people killed by law enforcement in 2015 & 2016 

The following list represents only a fraction of the people who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement in 2015 and 2016. We highlight the deaths of Black Americans because of the impact of these lives in our communities. 


Leslie Sapp III \Ron Sneed Hashim Hanif Ibn Abdul-Rasheed \Omarr Julian Maximillian Jackson \Artago Damon Howard\Marcus Golden\Mario Jordan\Donte Sowell\Kavonda Earl Payton\Terence Walker\Dewayne Carr\Isaac Holmes\Tiano Meton\Demaris Turner\Darin Hutchins\Jermonte Fletcher\Edward Donnell Bright\Ledarius D. Williams\Yuvette Henderson\Dewayne Deshawn Ward\Jeremy Lett\Jimmy Ray Robinson Jr.\Markell Atkins\Herbert Hill\James Allen\Desmond Luster\Anthony Bess\Phillip Watkins\Lavall Hall\Janisha Fonville\Stanley Lamar Grant\Douglas Harris\A'Donte Washington\Glenn Lewis\Thomas Allen\Cornelius J. Parker\Ian Sherrod\Charly Leundeu Keunang\Shaquille Barrow\Fednel Rhinvil\Tyrone Ryerson Lawrence\Naeschylus  Vinzant\Andrew Anthony Williams\Tony Robinson\Monique Jenee Deckard\Cedrick Lamont Bishop\Anthony Hill\Jamie Croom\Theodore Johnson\Terry Garnett Jr.\Bobby Gross\Kendre Alston\Brandon Jones\Richard White\Denzel Brown\Devin Gates\Walter J. Brown III\Nicholas Thomas\Jeremy Lorenza Kelly\Jamalis Hall\Megan Hockaday\Angelo West\Byron Herbert\Mya Hall\Robert Washington\Darrin Langford\Eric Harris\Justus Howell\Walter Scott\Paul Anderson\Desmond Willis\Dexter Pernell Bethea\Don Smith\Mack Long\Colby Robinson\Tevin Barkley\Dante Noble\Frank Shephard\Jeffrey Kemp\Thaddeus McCarroll\Daniel Wolfe\William Chapman\Reginald McGregor\Todd Jamal Dye\David Felix\Terrance  Kellom\Jared Johnson\Alexia Christian\Jeffrey Adkins\Elton Simpson\Brendon Glenn\Nephi Arriguin\Dedrick Marshall\Sam Holmes\Lionel Lorenzo Young\Kelvin Goldston\D'Angelo Stallworth\Ronell Wade\Anthony Gomez\Chrislon Talbott\Marcus Wheeler\Javoris Washington\Jerome Caldwell\Caso Jackson\Anthony Briggs\Dalton Branch\James Strong\Kenneth Dothard\Kevin Allen\Usaamah Rahim\Demouria Hogg\QuanDavier Hicks\Isiah Hampton\Charles Ziegler\Fritz Severe\Deng Manyoun\Kris Jackson\Trepierre Hummons\Alfontish Cockerham\Tyrone Harris\Damien A. Harrell\Spencer McCain\Kevin Lamont Judson\Victor Emanuel Larosa\Robert Elando Malone\Kawanza Beaty\Jason Hendley\Marcellus Jamarcus Burley\Tremaine Dantzler\Martice Milliner\Javon Hawkins\Freddie Blue\Eugene McSwain\Salvado Ellswood\Frederick Farmer\Chacarion Avant\Anthonie Smith\Edward Foster III\Albert Joseph Davis\Darrius Stewart\Samuel DuBose\Andre Dontrell Williams\Devon Guisherd\Dontae L. Martin\Bryan Keith  Day\Earl Jackson\Khari Westly\Antonio Clements\Darius D. Graves\Raymond Hodge\Keshawn Dominique Hargrove\Charles Bertram\Christian Taylor\Tsombe Clark\Derrick Lee Hunt\Shamir Terrel Palmer\Andre Green\Nathaniel Wilks\Redel Jones\Reginald Marshall\Garland Tyree\Asshams Pharoah Manley\Allen Matthew Baker\Benjamin Peter Ashley\Frederick Roy\Mansur Ball-Bey\Deviere Ernel Ransom\Thaddeus Faison\Bobby Troledge Norris\Curtis Smith\Bertrand Davis\Yonas Alehegne\Felix Kumi\James Marcus Brown\Cedric Maurice Williams\La'vante Trevon Biggs\Angelo Delano Perry\India Kager\Mohamed Ibrahim\Tyrone Holman\Brandon Foy\Clifford Butler\Joseph Thompson Johnson-Shanks\Tyrone Bass\Bobby R. Anderson\Dante Osborne\Keith Harrison McLeod\Jeremy McDole\James Anderson\Anthony McKinney\Junior Prosper\Brandon Lamar Johnson\Jeffery McCallum\Charles A. Pettit\Gary Carmona Boitano\Bernard Brandon Powers\Jason Day\Leslie Portis\Kaleb Alexander\Martin  Ryans Jr.\Ricky Javenta Ball\Dequan Williams\Corey Jones\Dion Lamont Ramirez\Lamontez Jones\Lawrence Green\Adriene Jamarr Ludd\Rolly Thomas\Dominic Hutchinson\Kevin Brunson\Marquesha McMillan\Tyrie Cuyler\Anthony Ashford\Jerry Michael Graham Jr.\Deaunte Lamar Bell\Tony Berry\Bennie Lee Tignor\James Covington\John Allen\Delvin Simmons\Ryan Quinn Martin\Moises Nero\Richard Perkins\Shane Whitehead\Jamar Clark\Yohans Leon\Demetrius Bryant\Jeray Chatham\Cornelius Brown\Marcus Meridy\Randy Allen Smith\Steve Dormil\Darick Napper\Nathaniel Harris Pickett\Freddy Baez\Darius Smith\Mario Woods\Raymone M. Davis\Carlumandarlo Zaramo\Miguel Espinal\Derek Stokes\Charles Edward Rosemond\Christopher Goodlow\Javario Shante Eagle\Nicholas Robertson\Calvin McKinni\Ronnie Dubose Carter\Trayvon Scruggs\Leroy Browning\Bobby Daniels\Michael Noel\Chan Leith\Kevin Matthews\Terrozza Tyree Griffin\Daquan Antonio Westbrook\Bettie Jones\Quintonio LeGrier\Keith Childress


Germonta Wallace\Eric John Senegal\Rodney Turner\Carlton Antonio Murphy\Rakeem Bentley\Henry Bennett\Crayton West\Timothy Albert\Cedric Norris\Johnathan Bratcher\Janet Wilson\Christopher Kalonji\Randolph McClain\Christopher Michael Dew\Charles M. Smith\Bruce Kelley\Peter John\Antronie Scott\Marese V. Collins\Shalamar Longer\David Joseph\Eric Harris\Mohamed Barry\Peter Fanfan\Sahlah Ridgeway\Calvin Smith\Ali Eisa Abdalla Yahi\Calin Roquemore\Dyzhawn L. Perkins\Paul Gaston\Marcos Perea\Che Taylor\Kisha Michael\Marquintan Sandlin\Travis Stevenson\Christopher J. Davis\Greg Gunn\Cedric Ford\Kionte Desean Spencer\Akiel Denkins\Arteair Porter Jr.\Tyre Privott\Peter Gaines\Marco Loud\Keith Montgomery Jr.\Jacai Colson\Lamar Harris\Scott Bennett\Christopher Nelms\India Beaty\Thurman Reynolds\Robert Dentmond\Alexio Allen\Dominique Silva\Jermon Seals\Deriante Deon Miller\James Craig Simpson\Kimani Johnson\Matthew Vincent Wood\James Brown III\Cameron Gover\Kevin Hicks\Laronda Sweatt\Dazion Flenaugh\Lamont Gulley\Diahlo Grant\Quron Williams\Pierre Loury\Rodney Watts\Kisha Arrone\Richard Bard Jr.\George Tillman\Edson Thevenin\Rico Don Rae Johnson\Demetrius Dorsey\Jorevis Scruggs\Demarcus Semer\Willie Tillman\Joshua Brooks\Kendar del Rosario\Ashtian Barnes\Charlin Charles\Reginald Darnell Dogan\Burt Johnson\Deresha Armstrong\Ronald D. Williams\Alton Fitzgerald Witchard\Lionel Gibson\Jaffort Smith\Arthur DaRosa\Sean Ryan Mondragon\Jabril Robinson\Jessica Nelson-Williams\Kentrill William Carraway\Joshua Beebee\Michael Eugene Wilson Jr.\Vernell Bing\Doll Pierre-Louis\Devonte Gates\Dennis Hudson\Osee Calix\Michael Johnson\Willie Demetrius James\Rodney Rodriguez Smith\Demarco Rhymes\Henry Green\Willis N. Walker\John Michael Brisco\Keith Bursey\Lyndarius Cortez Witherspoon\John Williams\Michael Moore\Antwun Shumpert\Rashaun Lloyd\Raufeal M. Bostick\Isaiah Core\Quencezola Maurice Splunge\Deravis Caine Rogers\Jay Anderson\Angelo Brown\Ismael Miranda\Germichael Kennedy\Donte L. Johnson\Sherman Evans\Tyrone Reado\Lafayette Evans\Kawme Dejuan Patrick\Jai Lateef Solveig Williams\Sidney Washington\Alton Sterling\Philando Castile\Earnest Fells\Andre Johnson\Alva Burnett Braziel\Joseph Mann\Jason Brooks\Orville Edwards\Dayten Ernest Harper\Jermaine Johnson\Gavin Eugene Long\Derek Love\Austin Jerry Lee Howard\Bernard Wells\Jeff Cornell Tyson\Richard Risher\Devon Martes\Dalvin Hollins\Paul O'Neal\Donnell Thompson\Korryn Gaines\DeMarco Newman\Jamarion Rashad Robinson\Jawari Porter\Earl Pinckney\Darnell Wicker\Sylville Smith\Kenney Watkins\Colby Friday\Omer Ismail Ali\Kelley Brandon Forte\Donta Taylor\Jaqwan Julius Terry\Levonia Riggins\Michael Thompson\Jerome Damon\Moses Ruben\Robert Lee Brown\Sadiq Bishara-Abaker Idris\Gregory Frazier\Terrence Sterling\Markell Bivins\Tyre King\Terence Crutcher\Nicholas Glenn\Philip Hasan\Keith Lamont Scott\Oddis Bernard Colvin\Alfred Olango\Christopher Sowell\George Richards-Meyers\Douglas\Marrickus Rainey\Najier Salaam\Jacquarius M. Robinson\Carnell Snell\Donte T. Jones\Larry Daniel Matthews\Christopher Darnell Shackleford\Deric J. Brown\Deborah Danner\Demetrius Mac Moore (as of 10/25/16)

Source: Washington Post -

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No new cells for West County

By Lisa Dyas February 15, 2017

By John Gioia, Jane Fischberg and Claudia Jimenez

Contra Costa County needs greater investment in mental health treatment, job training, affordable housing, and youth services to help keep people from becoming incarcerated, not a larger West County jail.

Approving expensive new jail construction runs counter to the more fiscally responsible and humane strategy of investing greater resources in prevention and rehabilitation services. These cost-effective measures help keep people out of jail, reduce reoffending and improve public safety.

The recent 4-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors to spend $25 million in county funds and apply for $70 million from the state to add 416 high-security beds at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond comes at a time of budgetary uncertainty, with the county facing possible federal funding cutbacks from the new presidential administration.

The Prison Law Office, a well-respected nonprofit public interest law firm specializing in jail system reform, wrote to the Board of Supervisors  that “The county would better serve its population by expanding efforts to reduce the jail population instead of expanding the capacity of its jails.”

We could not agree more.

The county’s focus should be on spending our limited tax dollars on programs that are proven to keep people out of jail and help previously incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter their communities after serving time. This approach ultimately costs less and cuts crime.

The approved jail plan calls for spending $2 million more per year to hire additional sheriff deputies to staff an expanded jail. Those dollars should instead be invested in expanding programs proven to reduce incarceration, such as substance abuse treatment and Behavioral Health Court, which provides vital mental health treatment to people with chronic mental illness.

This is a more cost-effective and humane approach.

Another way to reduce our jail population and improve public safety is to reform our bail system, which currently uses the ability to pay for bail as the primary factor in deciding who should remain incarcerated while awaiting trial.

A wiser system, gaining popularity, is to base incarceration while awaiting trial on the risk of reoffending or fleeing. Approximately 70 percent of those in county jail haven’t been convicted and are awaiting trial, many for lower level non-violent drug or property offenses.

Also, the sheriff can create capacity in the West County jail instead of building new cells. Nearly 200 individuals are being held for possible deportation at the West County jail under a sheriff’s contract with the U.S. Department of Justice to house ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainees.

That’s 20 percent of the jail’s capacity that could be used to meet the county’s needs, not the federal government’s.

Contra Costa is the only Bay Area county with such a contract. This cooperation with ICE should end. It erodes our hard-working immigrant community’s trust in local law enforcement and county government.

Health and social service community agencies report that many immigrants have cancelled appointments out of anxiety, fear of deportation, or mistrust — not getting critical care.

Sheriff David Livingston’s cooperation with ICE, and traveling to Washington D.C. and meeting with controversial Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the day of the Board of Supervisor’s jail vote have further eroded community trust.

We can do better.

The community has a chance to express its opposition to this unwise jail expansion project when the issue comes back to the Board of Supervisors after the state decides whether to support the funding request.

Please speak out in favor of policies that invest our tax dollars in effective prevention programs, not costly jail construction.

John Gioia is a Contra Costa supervisor. Jane Fischberg is CEO of Rubicon Programs. Claudia Jimenez is with the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition.

This commentary appeared in the East Bay Times on February 14, 2017

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The Crisis in Black Education | Early Disparities

By Lisa Dyas February 3, 2017

This February, we will share a series of posts examining the education system, and the crucial role education has played in the lives of African Americans. We hope these posts will increase awareness, spark conversations, encourage self-reflection and lead to deeper explorations about the education system’s responsibility to a fair and just society. We hope that you will join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

The Crisis in Black Education | Early Disparities

by Jane Fischberg

Education continues to be an important strategy to achieve economic mobility, and gain access to higher quality of life.  However, 60 years after the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision that desegregated schools, there are still gross inequities along racial lines.  Research on disparities and long-term outcomes for African American children expose the bleak truth: African Americans are disproportionately shut out of meaningful educational opportunities.

African American students are less likely than white students to have access to rigorous readiness curriculum -- and they are more likely be suspended from school for the same infractions,  and to be taught by less experienced teachers, according to comprehensive data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. 

One of the striking facts to emerge from the data is that disparities start as early as early childhood education (ECE) programs.  

African American children from low-income homes tend to be in ECE classrooms with lower ratings of instructional support.  Students of color are more likely than their peers to attend schools with a higher concentration of first-year and inexperienced teachers. Teachers in predominately black and Latino schools are paid less than their counterparts, resulting in high turnover.  As a result, too many African American children enter kindergarten a year or more behind in academic and social-emotional skills.  Starting out school from behind can trap students in a cycle of continuous catch-up in their learning.

In ECE programs, African American children are 3.6 times more likely to face suspension than their white peers.  Black boys are 19 percent of preschool boys, but represent 45 percent of male preschool children who are suspended.  Similarly, Black girls are 20 percent of female preschool enrollment, but experience 54 percent of suspensions among preschool girls. This phenomenon can send the message to children that they are “bad” and not welcomed at school.  Black boys, especially, suffer, because this feeds the dominant cultural narrative that Black men are dangerous.  This biased approach to discipline can trigger a lifetime of identity issues and disenfranchisement.

Access to high-quality ECE can boost cognitive and social skills in children, help mitigate for disparities in early learning experiences and the effects of childhood trauma, and improve long-term economic and life indicators for low-income African American children and other children of color.  These are all critical benefits that can help break the cycle of poverty and reduce inequality over the long run. 

If you would like to find out what you can do to increase access to quality ECE, connect with the National Black Child Development Institute – you can track its efforts to support federal, state and local initiatives to provide increasing numbers of children with access to quality early education and care, and learn how to add your voice.

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Celebrating Black History Month

By Lisa Dyas February 2, 2017

Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History established Negro History Week in 1926 to celebrate and elevate the achievements of African Americans. Negro History Week took root in cities across the country and by the 1960's had become a month-long celebration. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford was the first U.S. president to recognize Black History Month nationally and hailed it as an opportunity to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

From its beginnings, Dr. Woodson and his colleagues provided a theme for Negro History Week as a starting point for shared learning. Past themes have included Civilization: A World Achievement in 1928, Fulfilling America’s Promise: Black History Month in 1975, and this year's theme, The Crisis in Black Education. This February, we will share a series of posts examining the education system, and the crucial role education has played in the lives of African Americans. We hope these posts will increase awareness, spark conversations, encourage self-reflection and lead to deeper explorations about the education system’s responsibility to a fair and just society.

Rubicon intentionally affirms the struggle for social justice and parity by African Americans because it actively dismantles systemic racism.  When we invest in truth telling to change attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs; when we correct even one misrepresentation or misunderstanding of who contributed to, shaped, and built this nation;  when we shine a light on systems that contribute to and perpetuate the cycle of disparity, disenfranchisement, and unequal access; when we engage in these acts, we chip away at systemic racism -- which is inextricably tied to the root cause of poverty.

The voice of our community is invaluable, and we invite you to share your thoughts, observations, and inspirations on Black History Month with us on Facebook and Twitter

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