San Leandro Experiences

Bernard Ashcraft
Bernard moved to San Leandro in 1995, immediately forming African Americans for a Better San Leandro. As the Founder and CEO of the Bay Area Business Roundtable, he is a drum major for Social and Economic Justice. In 2016 he formed Unity in the Community - a grassroots group of San Leandrans in support of diversity and standing united against racism and bigotry.

You can view an extended version of this conversation here.


Brian Copeland
Brian is a person of many talents. In 2004, Copeland debuted his play, Not a Genuine Black Man in San Francisco. The play explored his childhood experiences as a member of one of the only African American families living in the San Leandro. In 2006, he published a book based on the play that is now required reading in several high schools and colleges across the country.

Ivan Cornelius
Ivan graduated from San Leandro High in 1957 and entered the real estate business in San Leandro at a pivotal moment in history. He was President of The East Bay Association of Realtors (formerly Southern Alameda County Board of Realtors), retiring in 2005. Ivan has served on the board of many local organizations and is currently a member of the San Leandro Boys and Girls Club.

Alexandria Johnson
Alexandria was born and raised in San Leandro. As a new mother, she reflects on her childhood experiences in San Leandro, the changes she has seen take place over the years and the changes that still need to happen. “I’m really happy that San Leandro is honoring and holding space for black people. I hope that this will be a catalyst in change for the future.” 

You can view an extended version of this conversation here. 

Surlene Grant
Surlene ushered in change as the first African American to serve as a City Councilmember in San Leandro. She became an advocate for many who had been historically excluded in San Leandro. She represented her district, local businesses, and the range in demographics from young to old with housing, transportation, economic development, and other community programs.

Luther Manning
Luther’s employment with Great American Music Hall and San Francisco Municipal Railway paved the way for him to buy a home in his beloved San Leandro in 1998. Even with San Leandro’s negative past, he has a great affection for the city as it still has a smalltown feel that reminds him of growing up in Louisiana and Texas.

Catharine "Cathy" Ralph - Racial Covenants
Cathy moved from San Francisco to San Leandro in 1991. It was then that she became aware of the racist restrictions in home deeds. Cathy spent several years working to remove the language from deeds in the Bay-O-Vista neighborhood. 

You can view an extended version of this conversation here.

Catharine "Cathy" Ralph - Alicia Fields
Cathy shares the story of her childhood friend, Alicia Fields, who tried to bring race-integration busing to San Leandro’s Pacific High as a student there in 1969. 

James “Rocke” Earl Rockefeller
James grew up in San Francisco and became acquainted with San Leandro as a comedian performing at clubs in the area in the 1980s. He recalls the nickname “Klan Leandro” and how he, and friends felt coming into town. James currently lives in San Leandro. He is a local, media legend and the founder of VJTV The Visual Radio NETWORK in Oakland.

You can view an extended version of this conversation here.

Samuel Taylor
Samuel was born and raised in Oakland aware of the racism that existed in San Leandro. In 1994 Sam bought a house in San Leandro in the same neighborhood as his UPS route. In spite of the racism and discrimination Samuel experienced over decades of living, working, and raising a family in San Leandro, his determination to embrace San Leandro as home, along with countless others, has brought significant changes to the community.

You can view an extended version of this conversation here.