|A historic Black newspaper, the San Francisco Bay View, needs our help or may be lost to us. RootsAction has relied on the Bay View as a source of reporting and an ally in the struggle to defend the most vulnerable in society, including prisoners. This valuable resource, serving the United States and the world, needs funding to continue. And now, at the time of this writing, we’ve just been informed that Mary Ratcliff, the editor for the past 29 years, and in her eighties, is fighting breast cancer and needs to pass the torch. Please help out.
The SF Bay View National Black Newspaper, published daily online and monthly in print, is the only newspaper widely read both inside and outside prison. It is Black-led and prisoner-led, covering issues and events from a Black radical perspective, with the goal of Black liberation through coverage of worldwide racial inequality and political repression.
The SF Bay View, currently published by volunteers, has always struggled to make ends meet. Printing the paper is expensive but essential because the Bay View’s core readers live in the hood and in prison with little or no internet access.
All donations will be used to keep the paper in print and to pay the salary of Keith Washington, fondly known as Comrade Malik, the Bay View’s new assistant editor. Malik is a journalist, freedom fighter and a prisoner at USP Pollock in Louisiana. He plans to move to the Bay and transition into the role of editor when he is released in September 2020.
Can you pitch in $3 or more to keep this vital resource alive for the people?
The Bay View is bolder than most media, breaking taboos that inhibit freedom. Few if any newspapers in the country covered police brutality, especially from a Black perspective, 25 years ago when the Bay View began intensive reporting. SF Bay View showed the world new fightback strategies in response to the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant on a BART platform in Oakland that culminated in the conviction of a killer cop. Those strategies, picked up in Ferguson, Missouri, have grown to fill the streets worldwide with marchers protesting the murder of George Floyd with demands to defund police and prisons.
For almost 45 years, the SF Bay View has been unapologetic in calling out injustice and repression that targets Black and Brown people and communities. In the early ‘90s, in the Bay View’s own hood, the paper launched a campaign to shut down the oldest and largest power plant in California, located at the foot of a hill crowded with public housing, that poured its toxic smoke right into the lungs of thousands of children. That victory ultimately won, attention moved to the radiation-soaked Hunters Point Shipyard, the dirtiest Superfund site in the country. The Bay View’s coverage of a community’s struggle against environmental racism spanned over a decade before the mainstream media dared to acknowledge what is now called the biggest ever eco-fraud scandal with billions at stake in court.
In 2011-2013, the SF Bay View, mailed to thousands of prisoners, was blamed by corrections department top brass for the success of the historic California hunger strikes against solitary confinement that drew a world record 30,000 participants at their peak. The paper enables prisoners to share stories and strategies, organizing from the inside out, helps to keep prisoners informed of their impact on the political landscape and fuels prisoners to keep fighting by highlighting the nationwide solidarity against violations to their human and civil rights, including the use of solitary confinement.
“The strikes succeeded partly because the Bay View is a network of freedom fighters connecting prisoners with each other and allies in the outside world.”
- Comrade Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
Undaunted, the Bay View continues to report on injustices like police violence, the disparate impact of COVID-19 on prisoners and the poor, and stories of Black resilience. At a time when so much of the media landscape is owned by corporate interests, we ask that you donate to keep this independent lifeline open for prisoners, Black communities and everyone who believes in freedom. We ask you to invest in Black futures. We ask you to invest in people returning home.
Click here to contribute.
Below is a message from Comrade Malik, the soon-to-be editor of the SF Bay View:
Please help save the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. The Bay View’s current editor Mary Ratcliff and her husband and publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff are both in their 80s and have volunteered 30 years of their lives and hard-earned money to sustain and preserve this historic national Black newspaper. They have chosen me, Keith “Malik” Washington, a regular contributor to the paper, to continue the legacy of the Bay View. I accept this gift with honor and respect for what has been laid before me. As a very soon to be returning community member, who will have spent 13 years caged within both the state and federal prison systems, I look forward to the opportunity and platform to center and link the issues of currently and formerly incarcerated people with the Bay Area community through the lens of my lived experience.
There are a few things that set the Bay View apart from other newspapers. First and foremost, we seek to serve the people and set the captives free! The Bay View has always amplified prisoners’ call for decarceration. The Bay View also provides a unique opportunity and platform for incarcerated people to share their stories, insights and commentary on their experiences inside, and their relationship to the free-world community. Finally, I’d like to illuminate the Bay View’s commitment to reporting on environmental racism and political repression. It is my intention to expand the readership as well as the breadth and scope of our work.
At this time, the Bay View desperately needs financial assistance in order to support operating expenses and to provide me a modest salary. We currently have no money to pay additional staff and rely on a cadre of dedicated community volunteers to get our paper out. Still, the Bay View continues to squeeze out issue after issue, to provide voice to the voiceless.
We humbly request that you visit our website, sfbayview.com, in order to see exactly what kind of journalism and activism we are engaged in. We are confident that you will agree that it is absolutely necessary to help us save this one-of-a-kind newspaper. I encourage everyone to donate generously to this cause. Too many people returning to their communities are faced with thousands of barriers to a successful start to their new life. Helping to fund the Bay View also helps me to overcome one of those barriers -- meaningful employment. I truly hope you will aid us in our fundraising efforts.
--- The RootsAction.org Team
P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.