Biden Appoints More Black Women to Key Roles in His Administration

Staff

President-elect Joe Biden is making more announcements regarding his administration, recently announcing that two prominent Black women will serve in key roles. Veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be the U.N. ambassador and Shuwanza Goff will be deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs Shuwanza. 

“My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet.

Thomas-Greenfield served as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs under the Obama-Biden administration from 2013-2017 and has served in diplomatic positions for the U.S. in Liberia, Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica.

Goff was previously the floor director for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and was the first Black woman to serve in that role. She played a key role in helping democrats set their agenda.

“Over 12 years of working for Leader Hoyer, Shuwanza has distinguished herself as effective and experienced and has earned the bipartisan respect of Members and staff across the aisle and across the Capitol.  In the White House, she will continue to be an effective force, as she coordinates and strengthens the work of the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to deliver For The People,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Biden released a statement expressing his eagerness to get to work and set America back on track.

“The American people are eager for our Administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” Biden stated. “In a Biden administration, we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”

Ventura County Board of Supervisors Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

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Racism has been declared a “public health crisis” by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in a new resolution.

“Over this past year, the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others have caused many people to unite in efforts to raise awareness and push for meaningful action that will lead to equitable treatment among all communities,” the board said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought into sharp focus systemic institutional and structural racism that inequitably impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.”

The board’s recently approved resolution includes a pledge to promote equity, inclusion, and diversity in housing, employment, economic development, health care, and public safety.

“By approving and adopting this resolution Ventura County is taking the first necessary step of acknowledging we have a problem,” said Rabiah Rahman, vice president of Black Lawyers of Ventura County. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that there are members of our community who are traumatized every time we leave our homes.” 

The resolution comes as a result of several discussions between the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and community organizations, as well as a forum with panelists from the group Black Lawyers of Ventura County, the NAACP, the county’s public defender, district attorney and executive officer and members of an Inclusion Task Force.

Damon Jenkins, the president of Black Lawyers of Ventura County, was inspired to prioritize discussions surrounding racism and police brutality after the uptick in Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

“Many of us noticed we had common stories of mistreatment. It reminded us that even as attorneys we are often mistreated based on the color of our skin,” said Jenkins.

His group has also called for the creation of an independent advisory board to oversee matters of law enforcement training, hiring and misconduct.

Public Health Director Rigo Vargas and local physician, Dr. Stanley Patterson, explained to the board how racism and discrimination can lead to a lack of safety for people of color within the healthcare system. People of color are less likely to have insurance and also have a lack of trust within the healthcare delivery system that can lead to late diagnoses and other complications.

Rahman, while acknowledging that the county still has a long way to go, is hopeful that this resolution will lead to lasting change.

“This resolution demonstrates Ventura County’s commitment to the continuation of having difficult and uncomfortable conversations around race, justice and inequities,” Rahman said. “While it is not perfect, it is without a doubt a step in the right direction.”

Robert Smith, the Richest Black Person in America, to Pay Almost $140 Million Back to IRS 

Christal Mims, Staff

Robert F. Smith, a billionaire philanthropist and tech investor who founded and serves as CEO of Vista Equity Partners, will have to pay back almost $140 million in back taxes, interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) after admitting to using tax evasion tactics. This news comes after a four-year U.S. tax investigation by The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Services. 

The 57-year-old avoided prosecution by cooperating in a case against Robert Brockman, a Houston businessman accused of using several Caribbean entities to hide $2 billion in income in what prosecutors called the largest U.S. tax case ever against an individual.

“Smith committed serious crimes, but he also agreed to cooperate,” said David Anderson, a U.S. attorney in San Francisco. “Smith’s agreement to cooperate has put him on a path away from indictment.”

Smith was celebrated for his accomplishments as a successful, Black businessman in America and is worth an estimated $7.05 billion. He even paid off the student debt of Morehouse College’s entire graduating class in 2019, as well as their parents’ loans.

Smith has admitted to his wrongdoing and is cooperating with investigators, saying that he failed to file accurate reports of foreign bank and financial accounts over a three-year period. Federal prosecutors revealed that he concealed income and evaded taxes for 15 years by using foreign trusts, corporations and bank accounts.

Smith admitted that he used $2.5 million in untaxed funds to buy and renovate a vacation home in Sonoma, California. He admitted to paying for it in 2005 with private equity funds deposited into accounts in the British Virgin Islands and Banque Bonhote in Switzerland. Smith also moved to Switzerland in 2010 for a brief period and bought two ski properties and a commercial property in the French Alps with untaxed money in the Swiss account. 

Smith owns several homes throughout the U.S. and now lives in Austin, Texas.

Two Pastors Merge Churches in Hopes of Healing Racial Divides

Staff

A white pastor and a Black pastor in North Carolina have decided to merge their congregations in an attempt to lessen racial divides and create a stronger community on Sundays regardless of racial background. The two pastors, Derrick Hawkins and Jay Stewart recently released a book titled, “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last” chronicling their relationship and their goals as a team.

“We are living in a time where there still is much division, anger, and confusion in our nation especially as it relates to racial unity,” Pastor Stewart said. “The bottom line is that we have a very unique story and God has chosen to write a better narrative in the midst of all the confusion and anger.”

Pastor Hawkins hopes that their story can inspire citizens to have hope in the possibility of change and not feed into the narrative spun by the media.

“I think there are so many different narratives going on across the media,” Pastor Hawkins stated. “There are so many things that the enemy is trying to spread. We wanted a better narrative and not just a better story and to let people know that there are amazing things happening with the body of Christ that are positive.”

The two pastors met in 2014 and decided to merge churches a few years later after noticing how divided congregations tend to be on Sundays. Their congregation, now The Refuge Church, has three campuses in North Carolina- Kannapolis, NC (main campus), Salisbury, and Greensboro. Plus, which is an international location in Brazil. While they often lead together, Pastor Stewart heads the main campus, while Pastor Hawkins leads the Greensboro location.

“I live by the motto in Ephesians 4:3, just making unity a priority. We know that we don’t have the ability to create unity, but it is our job to project unity. Pastor Jay always said we want to take every opportunity to make unity a priority but also preserve it,” Pastor Hawkins explained. “Unity doesn’t mean there’s an absence of disagreement, but we have the ability to protect unity at all costs. And there’s a way to look at your own echo chamber to see what you can do to make sure you are building healthy relationships with people who don’t look the same as you.”

The pastors’ new book contains guidelines for beginning the process of racial healing that include getting out of your comfort zone, learning how to understand others, respecting others’ opinions and committing to unity.

Stay Home for the Holidays: Gov Tightens COVID-19 Rules 

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

As COVID-19 case numbers climb, California has imposed tighter restrictions and ordered a ordered a statewide mask mandate, while advising residents to stay home. Out of the 58 California counties, 41 are now at the state’s most restrictive, or purple, tier, including Alameda, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. 

On Friday, the governor announced a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in 41 counties. It will affect more than 90 % of Californians, but he stopped short of reissuing a statewide shelter-in-place order. 

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges.” 

Earlier in the week, Gov. Newsom announced a stricter mandate that requires mask wearing “statewide at all times when outside of the home” by everyone over age two. The new restrictions are in response to the recent COVID-19 case surge, the “fastest increase we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic,” according to Newsom. 

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases hit 12 million on Nov. 21, an increase of nearly 1 million over the previous week. More than 250,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 so far. 

“Every age group, every racial demographic, in every part of the state we are seeing case rates increase and positivity rates increase as well. It is no longer concentrated in just a handful of counties. We are seeing community spread broadly throughout the state of California,” Newsom said during a news briefing Monday. 

Public health and government officials have recently shifted their messaging to warning the public about the spread of COVID-19 in the winter months, as families consider whether to gather for the holidays. On Nov. 13, Newsom issued a travel advisory warning to California residents discouraging travel out of the state for any nonessential reason, including the Thanksgiving holiday, and recommending a 14-day quarantine for anyone who does travel. 

Newsom also shared the number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations in California, which has climbed 48 % over the past two weeks to reach 3,800 as of Nov. 15. Of those, more than 1,000 people were in intensive care. 

Black and Brown communities including East Oakland and East Los Angeles are still hotspots – and the case numbers are climbing. 

Dr. Beverly Tambe is a primary doctor at Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles who recently appeared in a USA Facts Ad to talk about the realities of treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a conversation with California Black Media, Tambe spoke about the struggles of treating a virus whose full impact healthcare professionals have yet to determine. 

Over the past nine months of treating COVID-19 patients, Tambe has seen a variety of situations with her patients. They range from those who recover in a couple of days, to those who were previously admitted to the hospital at the beginning of the pandemic and still come in for outpatient treatment for decreased lung or heart function. She emphasizes that the effects of COVID-19 vary from patient to patient. 

“We have a standardized treatment regimen for patients that come into the hospital, depending on the severity. We’ve got a whole algorithm that we follow, but even with the algorithm and these treatments, some patients get better and some just don’t. We have patients that we’re doing everything for and they’re not getting better,” she said. 

Tambe also shared her concerns about the upcoming winter and whether case numbers will continue to increase. She recommended against gathering in large groups. She also emphasized that people at least take the basic safety precautions, including wearing a mask and washing their hands regularly, to protect themselves and those around them. 

“There’s a 14-day incubation period with the disease. So even though you feel fine, one day you could travel or meet in a large group, and still be carrying the disease. So, you carry the disease, spread it to everybody and eventually your symptoms might come up, but you’ve already gotten others sick. That’s why it’s so important to take care, to be cautious,” she warned.

Women Leaders on Sen. Harris Replacement: “One Is Not Enough, Zero Is Unacceptable.” 

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

The California Democratic Party Black Caucus (CDP Black Caucus) joined hands with other women organizations this past weekend. Their goal: to turn up the pressure on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a Black woman to replace outgoing Sen. Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate. 

During the virtual “Keep the Seat” news conference, which representatives from the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Black Women United (BWU) attended, the organizers explained why Gov. Newsom should appoint a Black woman. They also gave reasons why he should narrow his options to U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and Barbara Lee (D-CA-13). 

“This is a pivotal time in California history. I hope together we can bend the moral arc of history towards justice, together, by ensuring that the most underrepresented and marginalized community retain a significant representation in California by appointing a Black woman to replace Kamala Harris,” said Taisha Brown, chairperson of the CDP Black Caucus. 

Brown continued, “Our call is for all of you to join us in saying to Gavin Newsom, our governor, that we are not going to accept anything but a Black woman. I think it’s critical that we emphasize that.” 

Currently there are three African Americans serving in the United States Senate. Two of them are men (Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina). Harris, the junior Senator from California, is the only African American woman with a seat in the upper house of the United States Congress. 

But with Harris’s imminent ascendency to the Vice Presidency of the United States, there will be no African American woman in the US Senate after Jan. 20, 2021. 

In response, the CDP Black Caucus has put out a call to action under the slogan “One is not enough, and zero is unacceptable.” 

“We have a Thanksgiving message for Gov. Gavin Newsom. Our goal is to have 250 every day until Thanksgiving. We need you to speak up. Make a call and let Gov. Newsom know that Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party as voters, organizers, and we deserve representation in the United States Senate,” said Kendra Lewis, a representative for the CDP Black Caucus. 

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University Long Beach, was also one of the “Keep the Seat” speakers. Karenga, who is also the founder of the annual spiritual and cultural celebration Kwanzaa, said he “stands strong” with the CDP Black Caucus’s push to keep a Black woman from California in the U.S. Senate. 

“First of all, no one is more qualified than the two women mentioned — Bass and Lee. It’s not a gift. It’s recognition overdue. It’s also a service to the Democratic party. Black women have been the backbone of this party. So, it is debt owed to them,” he said. 

Over the weekend, several top women Democratic Party donors in California also urged Newsom to select a woman of color. About 150 of them have placed a letter in full-page ads in two newspapers — the LA Times in Southern California and the San Francisco Chronicle in Northern California — making their request known to Newsom. 

“Women of color are the core drivers of electoral progress in our country, and their voices should be heard in the nation’s highest governing body. California is fortunate to have a strong pipeline of women of color in elected office who are prepared to serve; as Californians and political supporters, we look forward to you selecting one of them,” the letter read. 

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) and other Black leaders in the state have also called on Gov. Newsom to fill the seat with an African American woman. 

The CLBC members also sent a letter to Gov. Newsom making their case for why Bass and Lee should be at the top of his shortlist of candidates. They cited the women’s lengthy legislative experience coupled with their broad foreign policy knowledge. 

Before the election on Nov. 3, Newsom said that he was getting pressure from different groups in the state about who he should appoint to replace Harris. He also acknowledged that he feels the weight of making that important decision and predicted that his choice would not please everyone. 

“The stress of having to choose between a lot of friends, to choose between quality candidates, and the fact that whoever you pick, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be upset, disappointed, that it wasn’t this or that, I don’t even want to get my arms around that until I have the privilege of having to make that decision,” Newsom said in an interview with Los Angeles’ FOX 11. 

Gov. Newsom can either decide to make an appointment to complete Harris’s term or he can call a special election.

Briefly: “Black Panther 2” is Set to Begin Filming Next Summer; L.A. Clippers Star Kawhi Leonard Partners with…

“Black Panther 2” is Set to Begin Filming Next Summer

After losing its star Chadwick Boseman to a four-year long battle with colon cancer, the “Black Panther” franchise has finally made an official step to move forward. It was recently announced that filming of the sequel will begin next year in July 2021.

Details regarding the sequel are still being kept from the public but word that Letitia Wright, who plays Black Panther’s sister Shuri in the series, could take up the lead role.

Executive producer Victoria Alonso has also verified that the sequel will not use a digital double for the late actor.

“No. There’s only one Chadwick, and he’s no longer with us. Sadly, our king has died in real life, not only in fiction, and we’re taking a little time to see how we continue the story and how to honor this chapter of what has unexpectedly happened to us, so painful and terrible to be honest,” Alonso said. “Chadwick wasn’t only a wonderful human being, every day of the five years we spent together, but also, I believe, that what he did as a character elevated us as a company, and has left his moment in history.”

Marvel also hopes to somehow pay tribute to the award-winning actor in the upcoming film.

L.A. Clippers Star Kawhi Leonard Partners with X2 Performance Energy Drinks in Equity Deal

NBA star Kawhi Leonard recently entered a partnership with X2 Performance energy drinks. The Clippers player will now sit on the company’s board of directors and has agreed to an equity stakes deal.

“I have been approached by many beverage and supplement brands, but I decided to join X2 because it is natural with clean ingredients. I love the products, and the impact it’s had on my training and performance,” said Leonard in a written statement. “I’m really inspired by our X2 team and the momentum we are building.”

The line of drinks is sold exclusively at CVS and Leonard plans to be involved with the marketing of the products as well as product innovation. The brand’s focus is on clean, natural ingredients for sustained energy. 

X2 CEO and board member Mark French is looking forward to working with the four-time all-star, as the drinks are used by professional teams in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL.

“He will be the face of the brand. He’s perfect for us because he’s serious and not flashy. There isn’t a more perfect partner for this than Kawhi,” French said. 

The exact terms of Leonard’s equity stake were not made available, but French said that Leonard is a “significant shareholder.”

As You Renew Your Health Care Coverage, Don’t Expect New Restrictions 

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

Californians can rest easy. With a little over two months to go until the state’s open enrollment period for 2021 ends on Jan. 31, 2021, expect no new restrictions to your health care coverage options. 

It is not likely that the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, will be successful. It occurred Nov. 10, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments against the national health care law passed under the Obama administration in the case California v. Texas, No. 19-840. 

Although some Obamacare supporters, including California Attorney General Xavier Beccera – who led the Democratic defense of the ACA — expressed some caution about the nation’s highest court’s 6-3 conservative majority, they largely remained confident. 

After the hearing, a majority of Justices indicated that the ACA is still safe. 

California v. Texas mainly focused on the ACA’s mandate requiring insurance. It was filed by 18 Republican attorneys general backed by the Trump administration. They argued that the mandate became unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance in Congress’s 2017 tax reform bill. They also argued that since the mandate was a crucial feature of the law, and they deemed it unconstitutional, the entire law should have been thrown out. 

Although an official decision in the case will not come until the middle of next year, at least five Supreme Court justices have indicated that they would reject the attempt to kill the ACA. Two members of the Court’s current Republican majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, noted that striking down the individual mandate portion of the ACA did not require overturning the rest of the law. 

“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place — the provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and the rest,” Justice Kavanaugh said. 

The Court’s inferred support of the ACA comes at a time when unemployment across the United States is still at record highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Covered California healthcare marketplace began open enrollment Nov. 1, and many newly unemployed or self-employed Californians will need to apply for either subsidized insurance, Medi-Cal or an individual medical plan. 

In a virtual conference Nov. 9, the day before his Supreme Court oral arguments, Becerra spoke about the importance of the ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he called a national health crisis. 

“We need the ACA more than ever now. COVID-19 has infected more than 10 million Americans, it has cost 12 million American workers their healthcare, and it’s disproportionately 

hurting communities of color. Because of the ACA, in states with expanded Medicaid, workers who have lost their jobs and with that their employer-based health insurance, are still able to get healthcare and support that they need,” said Becerra. 

California has supported the ACA since its inception in 2013, expanding the Medi-Cal program for low-income residents, and creating the state-based Covered California marketplace, which offers both federal subsidies and state-based aid. According to Census records, the rate of uninsured Californians dropped from 17.2 % in 2013 to 7.7 % in 2019. 

According to Covered California, 271,820 people signed up for health care coverage through the marketplace during its special open enrollment period between March 20 and Aug. 20 this year, more than twice the number of people who signed up during the same period last year. 

Dr. Jamila Perritt, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, spoke about the importance of the ACA for the community she treats as an OB-GYN. 

“I take care of people, real people who deserve to have access to the healthcare they will want and need access to — provided by the Affordable Care Act. The health of my patients has improved. The health of our communities has improved. I know that the Affordable Care Act has been a safety net for many communities and undermining or eliminating it will disproportionately impact those who need care,” said Perritt. 

After presenting the arguments for keeping the Affordable Care Act, Becerra was optimistic. 

“The ACA has withstood numerous legal and political challenges. It’s been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional twice before. And we are optimistic that it will withstand this challenge as well,” said Becerra.

Cal NAACP Announces New Leader to Replace Outgoing Pres. Alice Huffman

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

 Effective Dec. 1, Alice Huffman will no longer be the president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) due to “health concerns,” she tells California Black Media.  

Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP and current CEO of the Santa Clara Water District, has been appointed to the position and will assume duties the day Huffman’s term expires. 

In a written statement, Huffman first alerted the organization’s executive members of her intentions to vacate the office she has led for over two decades.    

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president since 1999. It has been a pleasure to serve with you, but all good things must come to an end. Due to health concerns, I tender my resignation as president effective December 1, 2020,” Huffman stated in her letter to members of the executive committee.  

Huffman, who isn’t shy about sharing trials she has overcome in her life — including that she is a high school dropout — leaves the position of president after most recently being an outspoken supporter of multiple California 2020 election ballot initiatives, among them: Prop 15, Prop 21, Prop 22, and Prop 25.  

The initiatives, most of them avidly backed or hotly contested by voters and policy makers, focused on a range of issues. From amending the state’s property tax system (Prop 15) and rent control (Prop 21) to the reclassification, under the state’s labor law, of app-based drivers and an increase to the minimum wage (Prop 22), the initiatives put Huffman in the crosshairs of groups that opposed her positions.  

She sometimes found herself at odds with powerful African American political organizations, including the California Democratic Party Black Caucus on some of her positions.  

In a written statement issued Nov. 20, Callender said he looks forward to filling the position left by his mentor, Huffman. 

“Huffman has been one of the strongest NAACP leaders in the country and has truly accomplished a lot for African Americans and people of color in California, Hawaii, and across the nation,” Callender stated. “She leaves very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to leading the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP starting December 1.  It has been a true honor to serve as her vice president on her leadership team for 19 years.” 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. There are more than 2,200 units and branches across the nation. 

The NAACP states that its mission is to “secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in an effort to eliminate race-based discrimination.” It also works to ensure the health and well-being of all persons of color, its website says.  

Huffman was elected president of the California-Hawaii NAACP Conference in 1999 and has won eight-consecutive elections. She is also a member of the National Board of the NAACP as well.  

In Sacramento, Huffman runs her own consulting firm she founded in 1988 called AC Public Affairs, Inc. 

On the morning of Nov. 20, Huffman submitted a written statement in full detail to California Black Media explaining her decision.   

“After serving the African-American community as State president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP for nearly 20 years, I will be resigning and turning the reins over to the next generation of leadership,” she wrote.  

Huffman says stepping down is a decision that she has been grappling with for over a year now.  

“With the victory at the top of the ticket to securing our African American leaders in the state of California, I can say ‘mission accomplished’ and now take a well-deserved rest,” she concluded. 

As You Renew Your Health Care Coverage, Don’t Expect New Restrictions 

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

Californians can rest easy. With a little over two months to go until the state’s open enrollment period for 2021 ends on Jan. 31, 2021, expect no new restrictions to your health care coverage options. 

It is not likely that the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, will be successful. It occurred Nov. 10, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments against the national health care law passed under the Obama administration in the case California v. Texas, No. 19-840. 

Although some Obamacare supporters, including California Attorney General Xavier Beccera – who led the Democratic defense of the ACA — expressed some caution about the nation’s highest court’s 6-3 conservative majority, they largely remained confident. 

After the hearing, a majority of Justices indicated that the ACA is still safe. 

California v. Texas mainly focused on the ACA’s mandate requiring insurance. It was filed by 18 Republican attorneys general backed by the Trump administration. They argued that the mandate became unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance in Congress’s 2017 tax reform bill. They also argued that since the mandate was a crucial feature of the law, and they deemed it unconstitutional, the entire law should have been thrown out. 

Although an official decision in the case will not come until the middle of next year, at least five Supreme Court justices have indicated that they would reject the attempt to kill the ACA. Two members of the Court’s current Republican majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, noted that striking down the individual mandate portion of the ACA did not require overturning the rest of the law. 

“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place — the provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and the rest,” Justice Kavanaugh said. 

The Court’s inferred support of the ACA comes at a time when unemployment across the United States is still at record highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Covered California healthcare marketplace began open enrollment Nov. 1, and many newly unemployed or self-employed Californians will need to apply for either subsidized insurance, Medi-Cal or an individual medical plan. 

In a virtual conference Nov. 9, the day before his Supreme Court oral arguments, Becerra spoke about the importance of the ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he called a national health crisis. 

“We need the ACA more than ever now. COVID-19 has infected more than 10 million Americans, it has cost 12 million American workers their healthcare, and it’s disproportionately 

hurting communities of color. Because of the ACA, in states with expanded Medicaid, workers who have lost their jobs and with that their employer-based health insurance, are still able to get healthcare and support that they need,” said Becerra. 

California has supported the ACA since its inception in 2013, expanding the Medi-Cal program for low-income residents, and creating the state-based Covered California marketplace, which offers both federal subsidies and state-based aid. According to Census records, the rate of uninsured Californians dropped from 17.2 % in 2013 to 7.7 % in 2019. 

According to Covered California, 271,820 people signed up for health care coverage through the marketplace during its special open enrollment period between March 20 and Aug. 20 this year, more than twice the number of people who signed up during the same period last year. 

Dr. Jamila Perritt, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, spoke about the importance of the ACA for the community she treats as an OB-GYN. 

“I take care of people, real people who deserve to have access to the healthcare they will want and need access to — provided by the Affordable Care Act. The health of my patients has improved. The health of our communities has improved. I know that the Affordable Care Act has been a safety net for many communities and undermining or eliminating it will disproportionately impact those who need care,” said Perritt. 

After presenting the arguments for keeping the Affordable Care Act, Becerra was optimistic. 

“The ACA has withstood numerous legal and political challenges. It’s been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional twice before. And we are optimistic that it will withstand this challenge as well,” said Becerra.

Cal NAACP Announces New Leader to Replace Outgoing Pres. Alice Huffman

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

 Effective Dec. 1, Alice Huffman will no longer be the president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) due to “health concerns,” she tells California Black Media.  

Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP and current CEO of the Santa Clara Water District, has been appointed to the position and will assume duties the day Huffman’s term expires. 

In a written statement, Huffman first alerted the organization’s executive members of her intentions to vacate the office she has led for over two decades.    

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president since 1999. It has been a pleasure to serve with you, but all good things must come to an end. Due to health concerns, I tender my resignation as president effective December 1, 2020,” Huffman stated in her letter to members of the executive committee.  

Huffman, who isn’t shy about sharing trials she has overcome in her life — including that she is a high school dropout — leaves the position of president after most recently being an outspoken supporter of multiple California 2020 election ballot initiatives, among them: Prop 15, Prop 21, Prop 22, and Prop 25.  

The initiatives, most of them avidly backed or hotly contested by voters and policy makers, focused on a range of issues. From amending the state’s property tax system (Prop 15) and rent control (Prop 21) to the reclassification, under the state’s labor law, of app-based drivers and an increase to the minimum wage (Prop 22), the initiatives put Huffman in the crosshairs of groups that opposed her positions.  

She sometimes found herself at odds with powerful African American political organizations, including the California Democratic Party Black Caucus on some of her positions.  

In a written statement issued Nov. 20, Callender said he looks forward to filling the position left by his mentor, Huffman. 

“Huffman has been one of the strongest NAACP leaders in the country and has truly accomplished a lot for African Americans and people of color in California, Hawaii, and across the nation,” Callender stated. “She leaves very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to leading the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP starting December 1.  It has been a true honor to serve as her vice president on her leadership team for 19 years.” 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. There are more than 2,200 units and branches across the nation. 

The NAACP states that its mission is to “secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in an effort to eliminate race-based discrimination.” It also works to ensure the health and well-being of all persons of color, its website says.  

Huffman was elected president of the California-Hawaii NAACP Conference in 1999 and has won eight-consecutive elections. She is also a member of the National Board of the NAACP as well.  

In Sacramento, Huffman runs her own consulting firm she founded in 1988 called AC Public Affairs, Inc. 

On the morning of Nov. 20, Huffman submitted a written statement in full detail to California Black Media explaining her decision.   

“After serving the African-American community as State president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP for nearly 20 years, I will be resigning and turning the reins over to the next generation of leadership,” she wrote.  

Huffman says stepping down is a decision that she has been grappling with for over a year now.  

“With the victory at the top of the ticket to securing our African American leaders in the state of California, I can say ‘mission accomplished’ and now take a well-deserved rest,” she concluded. 

Willowbrook Community Doubt the District Attorney Will File Charges Against the Deputy Who Fatally Shot a Black Man in the Back

Mother and father of Fred Williams at a press conference.

Stephen Oduntan, Staff

Mid October, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Fred Williams in Willowbrook, prompting days of protests and conflicting accounts of the moment that led to his death. Amid the demonstrations, one notable chant rippled through the crowds: “Release the bodycam.”

Now, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has done just that.

Sheriff’s officials released an 11-minute briefing late last Friday that included body camera footage, security video and radio communications from the incident. The disclosure came after the Williams family privately reviewed the footage with the captain of the Century station, where the deputy was assigned.

The newly released video from Oct. 16 shows Williams, 25, fleeing the sheriff’s deputy up a driveway and then jumping over a fence with a gun in his hand before he was shot. During the incident, the deputy broadcasted over the radio that Williams “pointed 417 at me,” referring to the firearm.

Toni Jaramilla, a civil rights activist and attorney, said the video revealed that Black lives don’t matter to the deputy who was chasing Williams on foot.

“The video shows that Fred was unjustly shot at by the deputy,” Jaramilla told L.A. Focus in a telephone interview on Monday. “From looking at the camera footage, Fred was not pointing a weapon at the deputy. He was jumping over the fence when he was shot. And it’s consistent with the autopsy report that says he was shot in the back.”

The Sheriff’s Department said homicide investigators recovered a semiautomatic handgun at the scene.

A day after the incident, the Sheriff’s Department said Williams “engaged the deputy by pointing his firearm at him.”

But a summary of the incident posted on the Sheriff’s Department’s website Friday appeared to walk that back, saying “the deputy rounded the corner and encountered [Williams], gun in hand and a deputy involved shooting occurred.”

The coroner’s office has not yet completed the full autopsy report but has determined that Williams died by a “gunshot wound of the back,” according to its online records.

The slain man’s father Fred Williams Jr. said he was angry.

“We all know what’s going on in these streets. We’ve been watching it on the news every day. It’s coldblooded. They murdered my son. I can’t fathom the words to explain it other than it’s heartbreaking,” said Williams Jr., struggling to suppress raw emotions. 

The Williams family and activists are demanding that criminal charges be filed. Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, called on Jackie Lacey, the district attorney to charge the deputy involved in the fatal shooting with murder “just as any [civilian] would’ve been charged for shooting someone in the back.”

Still, activists and the Willowbrook community remain more pessimistic than optimistic about the District Attorney’s Office filing criminal charges against the deputy. Lacey, say critics, has a long history of not prosecuting police officers who kill civilians.

“We have no confidence in Jackie Lacey, and we have no confidence in the criminal justice system. But it is our job to organize and bring pressure on the system to the extent that we get justice,” Smith said.

Smith explained that he wanted to see a more robust civilian control of law enforcement agencies and officers, who he says abuse their authority and answer to no one but themselves.

“We want community control. We want the sheriff’s department under the democratic control of the community. An all civilian control board with absolute authority over the sheriff’s department. Only democracy will bring accountability,” Smith said.

Senior Citizens Targeted in South L.A. Voting Scam

Christal Mims, Staff

L.A. County is assembling a special investigative team to enforce search warrants at the Westminster Arms apartments and surrounding areas after an unidentified woman targeted senior citizens in a voting scam. The woman allegedly told residents that she would assist them in filling out their ballot and then either had them sign it or signed it herself before taking them.

The Los Angeles bureau of the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) reported that seniors involved in the incident planned to report it.

“Many seniors were suspicious, but after hearing that the woman will help them with the election, they gave her the mail ballots. The senior apartment has 54 units and only three households are non-Korean and many Korean American seniors plan to report the incident to the police,” the SBS report said.

The SBS also reported that the suspect asked the victims to vote for a particular candidate before signing and collecting them.

The Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder is now involved in attempting to identify the suspect.

“We take reports of this type of activity very seriously, as even the appearance of interference can erode trust in the elections process,” said L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan.

Rev. William Smart, CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California (SCLC), expressed his disappointment with any individual attempting to illegally influence the election and manipulate citizens.

“It’s unfortunate that something like this has happened with all that we have done to ensure people the right to vote and the SCLC’s work on voter representation. We just hope that the county, as they do their investigation, can find out what happened and that whoever’s responsible, they can be dealt with accordingly,” Rev. Smart said. “I want justice. One vote for everybody is something that we advocate for. People shouldn’t be desperate and do wrong.”

Voters are being encouraged to drop off their ballots at official ballot drop-off locations.

“You can still register to vote in person at any Vote Center through Election Day,” tweeted L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday. “Vote Centers are open today. Make your voice heard.”

A new online reporting tool has also been created to manage cases of potential voter fraud.

“Voter integrity is at stake and consequences for this kind of alleged fraud must be swift and certain,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in a statement. “It is particularly deplorable that anyone would take advantage of a vulnerable population in order to swing the outcome of an election.”

In an effort to ensure more awareness and transparency, the L.A. County Registrar announced a new resident tool to help protect ballots and alert their office to any attempts to damage or mislead voters.

Said Logan, “The swift nature in which the Department of Consumers and Business Affairs assisted in this effort speaks to the commitment across the County to protect and provide great customer service to our voters.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident that took place at the Westminster Arms apartments is being encouraged to contact the L.A. County Registrar Recorder at (800) 815-2666.

Black and Latinx Voters Are Being Targeted by Potential Russian Social Media Campaigns

Dianne Lugo, Staff

Four years ago, the Russian government used Twitter bots, Facebook pages and Instagram posts to launch a massive misinformation campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S election. These Russian operatives, working for the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency specifically targeted African Americans according to the final Senate committee report released earlier this year.

“No single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African Americans. By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016,” the report said.

Now, it appears someone is employing similar tactics to mislead Latino and Black voters this election.

Once again Black voters have become the primary target of disinformation efforts, although it’s not as clear if the Russians are to blame.

In a report from NPR, it appears messages are hoping to encourage apathy among Black voters in an effort to dissuade them from heading to the polls.

“Democrats and Republicans are the same. There’s no point in voting,” one post read.

This year, Latinos have also become a massive target as they become the largest non-white voting block in 2020. There will be 32 million eligible Latino voters this year, just slightly more than the 30 million voters who are Black. And unfortunately, some of the more harmful messages spread on social media appear to be trying to pit Latino and Black voters against one another, according to the New York Times.

“They feed into real fears, about the pandemic, about socialism and exploiting potential gaps within communities, between the Black community and the Latino community,” said Jacobo Licona to the New York Times. Licona studies misinformation for Equis Labs, a liberal-leaning Latino research group.

To combat this, both Latino and Black activists have launched campaigns to protect and spread awareness about misinformation being spread online, warning voters about the more obvious signs of fake accounts and groups and about being more careful about what they share online. 

Briefly: Businesses Around L.A. Board Up Their Shops in Preparation for Election Results; Tyler Perry to Hire Writers and Filmmakers after Facing Criticism…

Businesses Around L.A. Board Up Their Shops in Preparation for Election Results

Several businesses around L.A. and the nation are taking precautions ahead of Election 

Day results by boarding up their stores in case of any rioting or looting that may follow. Plywood window panels can now be seen covering multiple shops in cities like L.A., New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington DC.        

Rodeo Drive will be closed starting at 11:59 p.m. on Monday for two days and several businesses on Rodeo and the surrounding areas have boarded up their shops. Many shops in Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica are also boarding up ahead of Tuesday’s election night.

“As a Police Department, we cannot tell businesses what to do when it comes to boarding up,” a Santa Monica Police Department statement read. “However, we understand the need to feel secure and we respect your decisions on how to handle your day to day operations.”

Businesses down Sunset Blvd. and La Brea Ave. have also made the decision to board up their shops.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Michel Moore have stated that preparations are in place to deal with unrest on election day or the following days.

“We are very prepared for the election, but at the same time I don’t want to buy into a narrative that there’s going to be chaos during our election,” Garcetti said. “We prepare for the worst, but we are hoping and expect generally the best. There may be individual instances, we’ll see some stuff around the country, but don’t let any of that change the narrative of you, your right to vote.”

The Insurance Information Institute reported that businesses in the U.S. have faced upwards of $900 million in insured losses from vandalism during protests this year.

                                                                 

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry to Hire Writers and Filmmakers after Facing Criticism for Writing All of His Content 

Tyler Perry is set to begin hiring a new team of filmmakers and writers for his multiple TV shows and upcoming movies. The new billionaire faced criticism earlier this year after revealing that he did not have a “writer’s room” and did all of the writing for his TV shows and movies himself. Perry is now saying that he wants to fill his Tyler Perry Studios with young creatives.

“We’re super excited about the young, up-and-coming filmmakers and new writers that we’re working with,” said Michael Sneed, president of production and development for Tyler Perry Studios. “Tyler has solidified his place in the industry, his brand is amazing, and we’ll continue to grow that. Then on the other side, we’re working on promoting, providing a platform and advocating for this new talent, both in front of and behind the camera.”

Perry is reportedly very excited to begin working with new talent on fresh ideas, a change in tone from his response to earlier criticism, in which he said, “When I hear that kind of stuff, I’m thinking, ‘Are y’all looking at the ratings? Do you understand that the audience is in love with this? Because if you’re complaining about my writing, you’re not the audience. My audience loves the way that it’s done and the way the stories are told. And from the beginning, it’s always been about being true to them.” 

The 50-year-old is now willing to expand the vision of his catalogue by hiring promising talent.

Gospel Mourns the Passing of Grammy-Nominated Vocalist, Rance Allen

      The gospel world is reeling from the death of legendary vocalist Rance Allen, award winning gospel vocalist, lead singer of the Rance Allen Group quartet; pastor of the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in Toledo and bishop for the Michigan Northwestern Harvest Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ. “While recovering from a medical procedure at Heartland ProMedica [in Sylvania, OH], Bishop Rance Allen passed away around 3 AM this morning,” said Allen’s wife of 49 years, Ellen Allen, and his manager, Toby Jackson, in a joint statement. He was 71.

      Credited with being the first traditional gospel group to incorporate rock, jazz, and soul into their music, the Grammy-nominated vocalist is known for such classic hits as “Miracle Worker”, “I Give Myself To You”, “Do Your Will,” “Closest Friend,”  and “Something About The Name Jesus” which he recorded with Marvin Winans, John P. Kee, Isaac Carree and Kirk Franklin, who was in shock over the news.

      “I just woke up to some of the worst news ever,” Franklin wrote on Instagram. “You guys remember that song God gave me several years ago called ‘Something About the Name Jesus?’ That had the incredible Rance Allen?” he asked in an Instagram video. “Man, we lost Rance Allen. I just wrote and produced his first single.”

      “My whole gospel Male vocal #generation was students of this amazing #icon,” Fred Hammond posted. “We all wanted to sing like Rance. #marvinwinans @keetwit , #commissioned and countless others. Almost every single song I’ve sung has a moment where I’ve put his flavor in.”

      But as Tosha Cobbs Leonard stated of Rance Allen in her post, “Your gift can never be duplicated!” 

      One of 12 children, Allen has been preaching and singing since he was five as “Little Rance Allen—the Boy Preacher”. He founded the group (including brothers Thomas and Steve) in the 60’s, scoring a Top 30 R&B hit in 1979 with “I Belong to You”.  They began recording for Stax Records in 1971 where they made a string of gritty, R&B-flavored gospel and message songs for the Gospel Truth imprint. They toured with the big R&B artists of the day such as Isaac Hayes and Barry White. From there, the group recorded for a variety of labels, scoring their first #1 gospel album in 1991 with the “Phenomenon” CD featuring the crossover R&B smash, “Miracle Worker,” with Allen closed out the 1990s performing in a variety of gospel-oriented touring play productions

      Their nearly six decades in gospel yielded over 20 albums including their first #1 gospel album, Phenomenon (1991), five Grammy nominations, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a performance for President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015.

      “Bishop Allen’s unique vocal ministry was an indispensable sound within the Church of God in Christ and Christendom,” wrote Bishop Robert Rudolph in the COGIC’s official notice of transition. “His gift transcended the boundaries of musical genre as he remained a sought-after personality called to perform on global venues.”

      Noting that the family would hold a private memorial, Rudolph added, “When the restrictions are lifted, a date will be set for a Jurisdictional memorial service that will appropriately recognize the godly life and notable achievements of Bishop Rance Allen.”

                                                                       

Judge: People in Prison Can Receive $1,200 Stimulus Payments

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

The first round of economic impact payments funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, has been opened to a new group of Americans. 

Incarcerated individuals can now apply to receive their stimulus payments of up to $1200. 

According to a June report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS initially sent nearly 85,000 payments, totaling about $100 million, to incarcerated individuals. After the report raised concerns about the payments, the IRS decided that payments to incarcerated people were not allowed under the CARES Act and ordered that the payments sent should be returned. 

Then a class-action lawsuit was filed. Lawyers argued that denying the payments solely based on an individual’s incarcerated status was against the law. The language of the CARES Act does not explicitly say that incarcerated individuals cannot receive payments. 

On Sept. 24, Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Treasury Department and the IRS to reverse the decision. The previously rescinded stimulus payments now have to be returned to the incarcerated individuals. 

On Oct. 14, Hamilton also ordered the IRS to extend the deadline for incarcerated individuals covered by the lawsuit to file paperwork to receive the money to Nov. 4. People covered by the lawsuit who did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return will have to submit a postmarked simplified Form 1040 paper return by Nov. 4 to receive the stimulus payment. 

The IRS also extended the online deadline to register for a stimulus payment for people who don’t typically file a tax return to Nov. 21. 

According to the IRS website, the government is working on an appeal to the decision. “The government has filed an appeal and request to stay the preliminary injunction. Any updates regarding the appeal will be posted on this webpage,” the IRS states. 

Under the CARES Act, stimulus payments must be made by Dec. 31. People will still have an opportunity to get the stimulus funds next year, but they won’t receive the money until they file their 2020 tax return. 

Information on how to help an incarcerated person file for a stimulus payment is available at caresactprisoncase.org. The website includes directions on where to mail the simplified return, as well as a sample Form 1040 with instructions on where to add the incarcerated individual’s personal corrections number to ensure payment is sent to the right place.

Black Employees Say Racism is Rife at Cal Air Resources Board

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

Mary Nichols, an influential California attorney known and respected in environmental policy circles across the United States, is finding herself at the center of racial storm brewing at home.  

Black employees say racism is widespread at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the organization Nichols chairs.  

In September, African American employees hit CARB with a 13-page letter alleging that they have been experiencing racism – widespread, routine and systemic, they point out – at the air-pollution and climate agency.  

The “Concerned Black Employees at CARB (CBE CARB),” the Black group that submitted the letter, says its members have been the target of cynical comments at the organization and that they have been excluded from promotions, and have had to face other atrocities because of the color of their skin. 

The letter details discriminatory hiring practices, incidents of intimidation, low representation of Black employees, and a general lack of support. CARB, the letter alleges, has a total of 1627 employees and only 73 of them are Black. Only one African American has held an executive position with the organization.  

“You will find a compilation of Black stories about our experiences at CARB along with messages we received from those experiences,” CBE CARB stated in the introduction of the document. Although these stories are first person accounts of experiences, we believe that most of them apply (or have applied) to all Black employees at some point and time at CARB.” 

The state of California charges CARB with protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution and developing programs and actions to fight climate change. Founded in 1967, the Sacramento-based organization also sets air quality standards, oversee automakers’ emissions compliance, conducts research on air pollution, measures reductions of air pollutants and promotes public health, among other functions.  

In July, Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento), who is African American, called out Nichols online after she posted a message that drew parallels between the lack of clean air the death of George Floyd.

“How dare you use a dying man’s plea for help as a way to discuss your agenda. Have you no shame?” Cooper reacted to Nichols’ tweet.  

Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee on the unarmed Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes in late May. The shocking incident caught on video a bystander caught was shared millions of time, sparking anti-Black racism protests across the globe.  

On June 1, Nichols posted, “‘I can’t breathe’ speaks to police violence, but it also applies to the struggle for clean air. Environmental racism is just one form of racism. It’s all toxic. Government needs to clean it up in word and deed.” 

Nichols later issued an apology via Twitter, stating “I apologize for speaking at the wrong time about the wrong topic. Racism comes in many forms and I believe we must fight every instance of it in our society.” 

Nichols has served on the CARB Board under Gov. Jerry Brown (1975–82 and 2010–18), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (2007–2010), and Gov. Gavin Newsom (2019–present).  

She also served as California’s Secretary for Natural Resources (1999–2003), appointed by Gov. Gray Davis. Her term under Newsom ends Dec. 31. There is speculation in Sacramento political circles that Nichols, 75, could be in line for a job as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency should Joe Biden win the presidency. 

Published reports say CARB’s Executive Director Richard Corey forwarded CBE CARB’s letter to the air CARB’s staff about a week after he obtained it. The 13-page document is dated Sept. 4. 

CARB’s board, which the governor appoints and the Senate confirms, consists of 14 voting members with two lawmakers in non-voting roles. The board does not have any Asian American or African American members.  

“There is no doubt the letter eloquently describes a history of poor treatment, lost potential, and deep-seated pain,” Corey wrote in a memo to his staff, according to Politico. “But, when I consider the courage it took to write and submit the letter, I have a sense of optimism as I know that change begins with the ability to openly acknowledge and discuss issues.” 

CBE CARB also stated that its only intent is to “shine a light on areas where CARB can improve” and asked the air pollution and climate agency to move forward and be “part of the solution.”  

“Our intent in sharing this Letter and Action Plan is not to shame or belittle CARB, or to assign blame. We enjoy the work we do at CARB and want to do all we can to improve CARB for the future, and our future careers with the agency,” CBE CARB stated in conclusion of the letter.  

For the First Time in a General Election, You Can Vote Anywhere in the County

The 2020 presidential election ends on November 3rd. Americans from across the country are already voting and millions have submitted their ballots. Due to COVID-19, Counties and states from across the country have been working hard to ensure a safe and efficient voting system that would allow every voter to make their voice count. Now more than ever, voting by mail and utilizing LA County registrar early voting systems is more important and safer than ever before.

AltaMed, one of the nation’s largest community health networks has partnered with the Los Angeles County Registrar to host 15 vote centers at their health centers. These vote centers are spread throughout East Los Angeles and South East Los Angeles. Any Los Angeles County resident can vote at any of the vote centers throughout the county.

Vote centers are just one of the many convenient options for voting early in the election. The pandemic created a need for early voting centers for people that prefer to vote in person. The Los Angeles County Registrar has partnered with public locations to offer these options. Voters will be able to visit one of the centers if they need extra assistance to cast their ballot.

With infection rates on the rise throughout the country, it is necessary to create additional options for all communities to avoid further risk of COVID-19. These vote centers allow our communities to avoid further risk of infection. They must adhere to public health guidelines to ensure a safe voting experience for all.

Over 100 vote centers have opened across Los Angeles County since October 24th, including schools, stadiums, and community centers.

Voter Resources: Vote Centers will remain open every day from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Additional Vote Centers will be open beginning October 30.

What is a flex vote center?

LA County flex vote centers are sites that offer voting at a scheduled time and can accommodate voters who may need extra assistance. You do not need to be an AltaMed patient or employee to vote in person or drop off your ballot. Below are just some of the centers you can visit locally. To find more centers near you, visit locator.lavote.net.

DATE: Friday, October 30 –– 8:00am – 5:00pm

LOCATIONS:

AltaMed PACE — South Los Angeles (1776 E. Century Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90002)

AltaMed PACE — Covina (535 S. 2nd Ave. Covina, CA 91723)

AltaMed PACE — East Los Angeles (5425 E. Pomona Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90022)

DATE: Monday, November 2  –– 8:00am – 5:00pm

LOCATIONS:

AltaMed PACE — Downey (12130 Paramount Blvd. Downey, CA 90242)

AltaMed PACE — Lynwood (3820 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Lynwood, CA 90262)

AltaMed PACE — El Monte (10418 Valley Blvd. El Monte, CA 9173)

Op-Ed: Prop 21 Threatens African American Generational Wealth

Diane Robertson, attorney and small property owner 

The primary path to the middle class for American families is through property ownership. However, for many African Americans, Latinos and other minorities, the opportunity has been out of reach because of discriminatory housing laws and economic inequality.

It’s alarming that a measure on the November ballot would make this lack of access worse, and simultaneously threaten relatively recent gains made by others in these groups. Proposition 21 would make it more difficult to build the affordable housing we need, and make it harder to enter the middle class through home ownership — the central pillar of the American Dream.

As we come to grips with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, those of us who have spent years saving and sacrificing to purchase a house or condo find our investment and financial security in jeopardy. The failure of our leaders to pass protections for small landlords like me endangers our livelihoods, and puts our tenants at risk.

Proposition 21 would exacerbate the already dire situation facing mom and pop property owners, and could hasten foreclosure and short sales of our properties. Like the last housing crisis, this economic upheaval will lead to large corporate landlords and hedge funds swooping in to purchase these properties at distressed prices, devastating small landlords and forcing tenants out of their homes.

Fewer rental properties on the market and more corporate ownership of California housing will not only hurt independent property owners, it will hurt tenants as well. According to the group Tenants Together, approximately 200,000 tenants were displaced from their homes in California during the housing crash that began in 2008.

We must protect small property owners who, in contrast to corporate landlords, often are natural affordable housing providers, operate on small margins, give applicants a chance if they don’t meet all of the rental qualifications, and help maintain the integrity of a community. 

As the COVID-19 crisis hit, a neighbor and I talked about the impact it could have on landlords and tenants. We reached out to a handful of other independent landlords of color to share information and ideas. From there, the Coalition of Small Rental Property Owners was born and has been growing ever since. Our goal is to ensure that our voice is not drowned out in the fight between tenants’ groups and large property owners.

Small landlords are an integral part of communities like mine in South Los Angeles.  I have been fortunate enough to save and invest in a duplex and fourplex here. I have made it a point to be flexible with my tenants when needed. I have a personal relationship with my tenants. I understand that having stable tenants is good for my bottom line and my community.

I want to see our community thrive, and the door to property ownership open up for African American and Latino families who desire it, but for whom this dream remains deferred because of bad public policy like Proposition 21. California’s housing market was in crisis before COVID-19, due in large part to a failure to build enough supply to meet demand, and how costly and difficult it is to build new housing in our state.  These factors have caused prices to soar, making it that much harder for the average family to buy property.

We cannot slam the door to the middle class on those who are working to get ahead. Proposition 21 will diminish opportunities to own property for people who look like me, and will worsen our problems of racial and economic inequality.

The state of California is facing a new economic challenge, and families across our state are struggling. What we need most is new investment in our housing market, not an extreme measure like Proposition 21 that will further destabilize it.

Board of Supervisors Developing Plan to Impeach Sheriff Villanueva

Christal Mims, Staff

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is in the midst of developing a plan to oust Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Spearheaded by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the proposal, and co-author Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the plan reportedly consists of rounding up the board’s lawyers, inspector general, civilian oversight commissioners and acting CEO to consider options for removing or impeaching the sheriff.

“We stand firm in terms of the issue of transparency and accountability and I think it’s reasonable for the board to have the opportunity to look at this matter,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The motion, titled, “Report Regarding Options for Removing the Sheriff” expresses a lack of faith in Villanueva.

“Under the current sheriff, hard-fought vital progress is being undone, and community trust is rapidly eroding,” the motion states. “While the board has been able to navigate challenging times with previous sheriffs, this sheriff’s actions demonstrate the dire need to explore options for removing a sheriff who refuses oversight or, at a minimum, mitigating damages caused by unacceptable behavior.”

This motion comes after the civilian oversight commission called for Villanueva’s resignation earlier this month. The sheriff disregarded the call and accused the group of punishing him for investigating potential corruption.

Sheriff Villanueva has been criticized in recent months for his handling of the LASD budget, deputy-involved shootings of unarmed Black and brown residents and the unearthed information regarding deputy gangs.

“Given the recent but persistent refusal to provide the transparency and accountability that the community rightly demands, the County should consider whether the status of the Sheriff’s office should be reexamined in order to better serve the more than 10 million residents of the County,” the motion continues. “The need for mechanisms to hold an elected Sheriff accountable is painfully obvious today, at a time when communities across the County are reeling from violence – including much-too-frequent deputy involved shootings.”

The board’s motion also calls for an amendment that would allow the L.A. County sheriff to be appointed rather than elected.

“With an elected sheriff, the county has had to maneuver different ways to create checks and balances on the sheriff,” the motion states.

County officials postponed a vote to consider impeaching Villanueva that was supposed to take place on Tuesday to Nov. 10.

Villanueva responded to the motion by suggesting that the board has been reluctant to provide him with an adequate budget or the resources to do better, but that he is willing to sit down and hash things out.

“I’m reaching out. I’m reaching out across the aisle and tell them let’s sit down, let’s resolve our differences, let’s work out a memorandum of agreement with the inspector general and my office in terms of sharing information,” Villanueva said.

America on Edge: Officials Prep for Possible Post Election Civil Unrest

Staff

Ballot boxes being burned. Americans loading up on guns. Government and police agencies preparing for riots and the FBI investigating threatening emails to Democratic voters instructing them to cast their ballots to Trump “or else”.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Xavier Becerra petitioned the Sacramento Superior Court to order the Republican party to provide details about the location of private ballot boxes it set up, and the voters who left ballots in them. Some boxes were placed at gun stores, churches, and GOP party offices.

“Our work to ensure that all voters have confidence that their vote will count moves forward,” Becerra said in a statement. “To the extent that unauthorized ballot drop boxes are redeployed, our investigation is ongoing, and we will act where necessary.”

All just a snapshot of the confusion and heightened anxiety surrounding the November 3ed election as Americans line up in droves to cast their ballot early and ensure their votes are counted and their voices heard. To say that America is on edge pending the outcome of the November 3 election is an understatement. Gun stores have reported all-time spikes in sales. The demand for tactical apparel is also up and gas masks have experienced a 20-fold jump in sales.

Fifty-six percent of voters (as published in Breitbart) say they expect to see “an increase in violence as a result of the election”. Another poll found that 61 percent of Americans are concerned that the nation was on the verge of another civil war.

The heightened tensions surrounding the election are expected to come to a boiling point in the days following the election, though fearing an uptick in disputes between voters at the polls–and or voter intimidation, some local election authorities will be adding armed security, particularly as President Trump –in an unprecedented move– urged supporters to go to the polls and watch very carefully for voter fraud. Thus, setting up a recipe for possible outbreaks of violence.

And as the campaigns of President Trump and Joe Biden are prepping for legal challenges to election results and the counting of ballots which is sure to further inflame tensions, pro and anti-Trump groups around the country are already making plans to protest.

Police departments around the country are taking extra precautions. The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. purchased more than $100,000 worth of less lethal weapons, including tear gas canisters in preparation for protests and potentially violent demonstrations after the election. The New York Police Department has told its officers to prepare for the possibility of protests that could last into 2021. The Justice Department is planning to station officials in a command center at FBI headquarters to coordinate a federal response to any disturbances that may arise around the nation.

Federal authorities have reportedly thwarted several right-wing terrorist plots across the country in recent months – from an alleged conspiracy in June to firebomb buildings and Black Lives Matter protests in Las Vegas by members of the “boogaloo” movement, to the arrest of 14 men linked to two anti-government groups that allegedly conspired to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer.

In the months leading up to the election, People’s Rights– a paramilitary group founded by an anti-government activist with chapters in at least 15 states and a professed membership upwards of 37,000 who, angered by COVID-19 restrictions, have staged rallies– and are telling their members to prepare to stock up for scenarios that may include chaos, riots and looting and that may lead to basic shortages of food and goods, power outages and supply chain interruptions.

In fact, across the country, Americans are stocking up to hunker down for a possible wave of sustained election-related unrest and according to one analyst, the violence will occur no matter who wins.

“If Biden wins, it will be an excuse to try to delegitimize the results and to go after perceived enemies on the left, and of course, that means labeling pretty much anyone that you disagree as Antifa. If Trump wins, this will be a signal to these far-right groups that have supported him, extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, that they will see this as open season to go after people that have been opponents of Trump.”

Given how Trump has already framed the election as being rigged, officials also fear a possible threat in a loose coalition of vigilantes and other armed extremists who think that their election is going to–or has been – taken away.

Should Trump hesitate to accept the election outcome, the Protect the Results coalition has already set in motion over 200 non-violent rallies in cities across the United States slated to begin a 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 4. Many of the groups have been planning “war game simulations” of how to prepare for various election scenarios.

Under one such simulation of a narrow Biden win that Trump contested; the Transition Integrity Project war game saw more than 4 million Americans take to the streets for the Democratic nominee.

Stephanie Owens, the NAACP’s national grassroots election protection project manager, says the challenges of COVID-19 and the racial protests following Floyd’s death have heightened the organization’s normal concerns about violence. In some cases, the NAACP has been talking to voters about removing their yard signs and bumper stickers to avoid post-election violence.

“The symbolism of who you’re supporting is a very large component of our election tradition. But there is almost nothing traditional about this election,” says Owens. “People are already being targeted based on the candidates they are supporting.”

The NAACP’s Detroit chapter announced that its members and area attorneys will monitor polls across the city and state on Election Day for instances of voter intimidation or voter suppression.

“We’re not police officers, but we have eyes and we have ears,” said Chui Karega, a lawyer and general counsel for the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “We will stand tall and we will be present to assist in the enforcing of the law.”

The NAACP has also trained thousands of volunteers in de-escalation tactics, hoping to reduce violence before it even starts.

Political insiders believe that a close race would make for the worst scenario for civil unrest and a landslide win for Biden would be the best scenario. Even then experts say there is no playbook for what will happen on November 3rd and in the weeks following the election. The Bush/Gore Florida debacle that had poll workers counting chads lasted 36 days.

Here in California, Secretary of State Alex Padilla is projecting a safe election while conceding that counties need to be ready for potential trouble, including any efforts to threaten or harass voters.

LAPD Police Chief Michael Moore is assuring Angelenos that they will be safe, given that armed militia groups are not as predominant in Los Angeles as they are in other areas of the country. He has, reportedly, asked officers to reschedule any vacations or time off around election day in the event of any unrest.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Invests $335 Million in New Behavioral Health Center

Staff

The original Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital building is now the Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Health Center, a new and innovative healthcare facility. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in collaboration with county partners to celebrate the state’s first ever licensed Behavioral Health Center (BHC) that will provide “fully-integrated inpatient, outpatient, and supportive services for some of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable populations.”

“Over the last decade, we have transformed the MLK Medical Campus into a center of excellence that provides holistic care for our community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “With the opening of the Behavioral Health Center, we are bringing to life our intent to establish a cutting-edge continuum of care that promotes mental health, recovery, trauma prevention, rehabilitation, and many other essential wrap-around services that foster long-term wellness for our patients and the community at large. I am tremendously proud of this milestone.”

The Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Center is part of more than one billion dollars invested into the medical campus to transform and support the wellness of surrounding communities. 

Attendees of the ceremony were able to explore the 500,000-square-foot building that includes a new peer resource center, upgraded conference rooms, innovative examination rooms, a new canopy extension, exterior site improvements and more.

“With the County’s $300M plus investment, the BHC will serve the residents of LA County for many years to come with a range of services not found elsewhere. The decision to transform rather than demolish this building has proven to be a very efficient investment of County resources,” said Fesia Davenport, Los Angeles County Acting Chief Executive Officer. 

The center will house more than a half dozen County departments and partners, including clinical and behavioral staff from the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health, Public Works and Health Services. The Departments of Probation and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, along with the Office of Diversion and Reentry, will sponsor rehabilitative, vocational and training opportunities to equip those in need with the tools necessary to reintegrate into society. 

“The Department of Health Services is excited to collaborate with our mental health partners along with other departments to innovate delivery of care. The BHC will provide care for the body and mind, and it is our goal that when someone walks into those doors, they know they are on their way to healing and restoration,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

The new center is set to officially open in 2021.

Trump’s Latest Executive Orders Seen as Attempts to Sabotage a Biden Administration and Eliminate Diversity and Inclusion Programs

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

With record early voting numbers heavily pointing to a potential landslide by Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, President Donald Trump is working behind the scenes to undermine a new administration and further divide the country.

The President this week quietly signed an executive order that strips civil service protections from a large number of career federal workers if Trump determines that they are in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.”

He also was called out by members of Congress for another executive order that removes diversity and inclusion programs both at the federal and private sector levels.

As first reported by the U.K. Independent, the most recent executive order creates a new category “Schedule F” for such federal positions that do not turn over from administration to administration and reclassifying them.

The Office of Personnel Management — essentially the executive branch’s human resources department — has been charged with implementing the order by publishing a “preliminary” list of positions to be moved into a new category on what could be President Donald Trump’s last full day in office: January 19, 2021.

The range of workers who could be stripped of protections and placed in a new category is vast, experts told the Independent.

The list could include most non-partisan experts — scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists — whose work to advise and inform policymakers is supposed to be fact-driven and devoid of politics.

For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, would be among those terminated by Trump.

In a nutshell, the Independent reported that the executive order could give Trump the power to “mount a scorched-earth campaign which would cripple a future Biden administration.”

“In the event the incumbent president loses his re-election bid, this order could give him largely unfettered authority to fire experts … while leaving behind a corps of embedded loyalists to undermine his successor, according to federal employment law experts,” the newspaper noted.

Creating the new category — known as “Schedule F” — and moving current civil servants into it “could allow a lame-duck President Trump to cripple his successor’s administration by firing any career federal employees who’ve been included on the list,” Journalist Andrew Feinberg wrote for the Independent.

“It also could allow Trump administration officials to skirt prohibitions against “burrowing in” — the heavily restricted practice of converting political appointees (known as “Schedule C” employees) into career civil servants — by hiring them under the new category for positions which would not end with Trump’s term.

“Another provision orders agencies to take steps to prohibit removing “Schedule F” appointees from their jobs on the grounds of “political affiliation,” which could potentially prevent a future administration from firing unqualified appointees because of their association with President Trump.”

Spokespeople for both the President and Biden did not return emails to Black Press USA.

“Yes, if Biden wins, he will undo all of these Executive Orders,” tweeted Beth Noveck, the first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and director of the White House Open Government Initiative under President Barack Obama.

“However, if they fire people on their way out the door, it will wreak considerable havoc. And if he doesn’t win, then this disaster is another one of many but a serious one for democracy and the rule of law.”

Noveck added:

“It’s unclear whether this becomes… a blunt instrument…to do some surgical removal of people they don’t like, or whether they’re going to actually attempt some sort of bloodletting or purge.”

Charlie Reeves, who describes himself as an anti-Trump moderate, said the implications of the executive order is far-reaching.

“I understand as an executive order it can be reversed, but you can do a lot of damage in two months and make for a big mess for Biden to clean up early,” Reeves tweeted.

“Clear effort for petty revenge and to hinder a smooth transition.”

The President’s latest act marked another in a string of recent controversial executive orders.

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Chair of the House Financial Services Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, recently introduced a bill (H.R. 8595) to invalidate Executive Order 13950 and preserve diversity and inclusion training programs at federal departments and agencies as well as in the private sector.

Beatty’s bill, which has the backing of 23 members of Congress, noted that Trump’s order rolls back diversity and inclusion training programs within all federal departments and agencies, the U.S. uniformed services, federal contractors, subcontractors, and specific federal grant recipients.

The order also established a hotline within the Department of Labor for the investigation of complaints.

It required the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to craft a request for seeking information from federal contractors, subcontractors, and their employees regarding the training, workshops, or similar programming provided to employees, under the threat of termination of any existing contract and preclusion of future contracting opportunities.

“As the first-ever Chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, I have focused our bipartisan work on highlighting the tremendous impact of a more inclusive U.S. economy and workforce,” Beatty said.

“In hearings throughout the 116th Congress, the Subcommittee has received testimony from industry leaders and experts acknowledging the correlation between diversity performance and the bottom line. Diverse organizations are more profitable, pose less regulatory risk, and strengthen our economy.”

She added:

“That is why I strongly oppose Trump’s divisive attempt to cement racism as the practice and policy of the federal government and call on all Americans to join me in this effort because this Executive Order is antithetical to the values we hold so dear as a nation.”

A Single Dose of Remdesivir Costs Uninsured Two Months of Income

Sunita Sohrabji, Ethnic Media Studies

Essential workers, who must continue to work even as COVID rates spike and shelter in place orders are reissued, largely lack health insurance coverage despite the Affordable Care Act, and thus would not be able to access treatment if they become ill from an infection.

David Hayes-Bautista, Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA Health released a study a day earlier which highlighted that just a single $3,120 dose of Remdesivir, a therapeutic approved earlier this month for treatment of hospitalized COVID patients, would amount to two months of a farmworker’s salary.

“To pay for just that one item, you would basically have to forgo all food, all housing, all clothing, and all transportation for two months,” he said.

Patients using the drug must receive daily infusions for 10 days for a total cost of more than $31,000.

Simply getting a COVID test can cost upwards of $100 to $2,000 if you’re uninsured, he said, adding that for a family, testing costs can add up pretty quickly.

At the briefing, the scholar said President Donald Trump’s fourday sojourn at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital after he tested positive for COVID cost the nation $320,000.

Federally Qualified Health Centers — FQHCs — do offer health care to low-income people, regardless of immigration status, but Hayes-Bautista said this was an imperfect solution to the crisis of access to health care, as such facilities are chronically underfunded and often overwhelmed by large numbers of patients.

A conservative Supreme Court could well do away with the Affordable Care Act, which offers subsidized health coverage to 22 million people. If it is repealed, 55 million people in the U.S. would lack any form of health coverage. “In the midst of a pandemic, this is a recipe for absolute disaster,” said Hayes-Bautista.

Denise Octavia-Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers (CHW), said that health workers are providing services such as contact tracing, testing and education in under-served communities, but largely without financial help from federal or state resources.

CHWs are overwhelmingly women of color and the most underpaid among frontline health care workers. Many of them live in homes without basic facilities, Smith said. In the first wave of the pandemic, many were furloughed, even though they were badly needed in their communities, because of a lack of funding.

“It is my hope that some of the tens of millions or even billions of dollars coming through the federal government will be invested in community health workers’ centers and lead organizations so that we can come through and out of this pandemic with enhanced capacity, not reduced capacity,” stated Octavia Smith.

When a vaccine becomes available, Octavia Smith said CHWs, who are trusted messengers within a community, can help to dispel myths and fears about getting vaccinated, ensuring that more people of color and low-income people are inoculated against COVID.

Taraji P. Henson Will Host Mental Health Talk Show on Facebook

Staff

Actress Taraji P. Henson is set to host a new talk show centered around mental health. The series, “Peace of Mind with Taraji,” is scheduled to go into production later this year and will be on Facebook Watch. Henson will host the show along with her best friend Tracie Jade Watkins.

“I’ve long been a mental health advocate for the Black community and created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 that has provided resources to thousands of people who are struggling,” said Henson. “I’m looking forward to bringing this new talk series to Facebook Watch, where I can continue to create conversation around an issue that is near and dear to my heart.”

Henson and Watkins will interview celebrities, experts and everyday people about mental-health issues, highlighting those in the Black community. The show will attempt to erase the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Henson’s Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is named after her late father, who dealt with mental health challenges as a result of his tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

“The work Taraji has done in the mental health space is inspiring, and we’re thrilled to have her come to our platform to educate and entertain around this  incredibly important topic,” said Mina Lefevre, Head of Development & Programing for Facebook Watch. “One of our strengths at Facebook Watch is building community and conversation around topics people care about, and we’re looking forward to taking this journey together.”

The new show will be a part of Facebook’s mental health initiative that will also include a resource center on the Facebook app called, Emotional Health that will contain tips and information from experts and new mental wellbeing guides on Instagram. 

Executives are reportedly hoping that Henson’s show will find the same success that Jada Pinkett-Smith’s, “Red Table Talk” has – a series that hosts an official Facebook group with over 2.8 million members.

Briefly: Dave Roberts Becomes Second Black Manager to Win the World Series; Iyanla Vanzant’s, ‘Fix My Life’ Series on OWN is Coming to an End; Netflix Set to Premiere New Gospel Series Executively Produced by Pharrell Williams…

Dave Roberts Becomes Second Black Manager to Win the World Series

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the champions of baseball in large part because of a masterful managerial job by Dave Roberts, who becomes just the second African American skipper to win the World Series.

The Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, the first-time Major League Baseball held the Fall Classic at a neutral site.

“It feels great,” proclaimed Roberts, who joined Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays as the only Black managers to lead their team to a world championship.

Gaston’s Blue Jays won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.

The title is the seventh in franchise history for the Dodgers and first since 1988.

Since he took over the Dodgers in 2016, Roberts’ has guided the team to three National League Championships. He also has compiled an impressive 436-273 won-loss record for a Hall-of-Fame like .615 winning percentage.

It means a lot for me personally, of course,” Roberts exclaimed as his players doused him and each other with champagne.

“But for the Dodgers organization, the franchise where they’ve always been forward-thinking and groundbreaking as far as race and color barriers,” Roberts continued.

“So, for the Dodgers and for me to be the manager of this ball club to bring a championship back to Los Angeles, I think it’s well beyond bigger than me.”

Iyanla Vanzant’s, ‘Fix My Life’ Series on OWN is Coming to an End

Iyanla Vanzant’s popular and long-running series, “Fix My Life” will be leaving OWN. Vanzant revealed that the series’ upcoming seventh season will be its last.

“This is my last season. This is my legacy season, I’m out. We out. 2020,” she announced during a virtual press conference. “This season we deal with the massive breakdowns that have occurred in families and relationships as a result of the pandemic, (and) as a result of the shutdown. We’re dealing with some very compelling issues,” Vanzant said.

Vaanzant said that she is honored to have aided her guests through some of their toughest moments.

“I salute and honor each and every guest that comes forward to tell their story out loud. Imagine, most people sleep with people they don’t tell the truth to,” Vanzant said, laughing. “These people are coming to me, a stranger in front of a national audience to tell the deepest darkest most intimate issues of their life and they had to have a swab stuck up their nose to be able to do it.”

Season seven kicks off with a 2-hour premiere on Oct. 31.

Netflix Set to Premiere New Gospel Series Executively Produced by Pharrell Williams

A new gospel show being tapped as the “American Idol for Gospel Music” is heading to Netflix. The show boasts music icon Pharrell Williams as its executive producer. The show, “Voices of Fire” will follow Williams as he aims to build one of the world’s most inspiring gospel choirs.

The show was filmed in his hometown of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Along with Williams will be religious leader and musician Bishop Ezekiel Williams, who is Pharrell’s uncle.

Netflix describes the show as a search for some of the world’s most talented musicians with the belief that “diverse backstories can give their collective voice a greater meaning, the bishop and his team will search for people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.”

The series will have six episodes and is set to premiere on Nov. 20.

Pastor Jawane Hilton

Church News: Jawane Hilton Seeks Second Term

Lauding the development of new affordable housing, improved budget reserves, and attracting a $65 mil-lion athletic and academic facility to his city, Pastor Jawane Hilton is seeking a second term on the Carson City Council board.
Hilton, a native of Carson, insist he has work that must be continued and completed on his watch. Having already established the Carson Arts Apartments, Veterans Village of Carson, and a reported all-time low crime rate, Hilton claims, “Carson has moved from a being a bedroom city to a destination city.”

The fact that more restaurants are setting up shop in Carson and a new high-end retail outlet center is on deck, a second term for Hilton would offer him the chance to finish what he started. As senior pastor of City on The Hill Church, Hilton points out that serving as a council board person and leading his congregation are not a conflict but a complement to each other. “I tell my members all the time we don’t have seats at tables, we’re on the table. If you’re on the table,
you’re definitely on the menu,” Hilton said. “They know the role of the church in the twenty first century as it was in the civil rights era. The church was the most powerful place on the planet and what their pastor is doing is reclaiming that role.”
Hilton his hoping to head off an expected increase in homelessness in Carson. He says housing is going to be critical in the next four years and it will also be “important to address the food desert that is in north Carson.”
“We’re looking forward to how we can increase the budget and try to bounce back after COVID,” Hilton adds.
“We’re going to have to stretch and we’re gonna have to come together as a community. In order to get through COVID-19, in order to change systematic racism, it’s going to require us all being together. Even though we are socially distant we cannot be socially disconnected.”
Hilton is endorsed by the likes of Los Angeles’ Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Councilman Herb Wesson, and the LA County Federation of Labor respectively.
Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church Food Program Offers stimulus to Black Restaurants been distributing some 300 meals per Sunday, and recently decided to expand the program to 4-days a week. Therefore, from 12 noon to 1:00 PM designated meals and food are available for pick up as scheduled; Tuesdays is Pizza, Wednesdays is Chicken, Fridays are boxed groceries, and Sundays are Grab and Go dinners.
Local food vendors D’s Original Takeout, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Woody’s Bar-B-Que, Papa John’s Pizza franchisees, and others are on board with the food distribution mission which is helping their businesses thrive.

Mt. Sinai Food Program Helps Black Restaurants

Pastor Jawane Hilton

“We started realizing how the pandemic was going to affect small businesses and could lead to restaurants shutting down,” say Hurtt. “We all know that restaurants in our community is critical to the economy.”
Participating restaurants have testified that the feeding initiative is working like a stimulus package enabling them to stay open and to keep their team members employed.

Mt. Sinai Church has been picking up the tab on all the meals, and the entire program is staffed by church-based volunteers.
“This is everything our vision is which is to see our church, community and our city develop not just spiritually but socially,” Hurtt said. “We are unable to meet as a congregation at this time…but I keep encouraging our people to do everything you can do and then trust God to fill in the rest because our victory is in the struggle.”

Mary J. Blige

Saving Grace

An entertainer with a lasting career like Mary J. Blige must have the ingredients to success.
“I stay grateful, I stay thankful, and I work really, really hard. I’m always trying to figure out new ways to be better, spiritually and personally. It’s not just about all of the accolades I have coming. I couldn’t have them if I wasn’t spiritually aligned and if I wasn’t strong in my mind,” Blige explained. “It’s really about staying healthy in spirit and believing the best in myself and everyone else. Good things come with prayer and meditation. Blessings come, jobs come, by the grace of God.”

The grace of God has catapulted Blige’s career to great heights. Blige has released 13 studio albums, won nine Grammy awards and sold 50 million albums in the United States and 80 million records worldwide.
But her talent doesn’t stop with music. The 49-

Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige

year-old received three Golden Globe nominations, one for a supporting role in the 2017 historical drama, “Mudbound.” She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for the film, making her the first person to be

nominated for both acting and songwriting in the same year. “I caught the acting bug when I was seven. My music teacher put me and this guy in a school play, and word went around the school about how great we did,” Blige recalled. “I took that with me. It was in my heart but I was scared to dream big or let people see that I was optimistic. When I got into the music business, it came back.”
Even with praise and awe coming from all areas of the entertainment industry, she says the key to success is simple.
“My formula to success is being healthy from the inside out. Learning how to love myself, honestly.”
Learning to love herself didn’t come easily.
Born in the Bronx and raised primarily by a single mother, Blige had an admittedly difficult upbringing. She was sexually abused as a child; it was singing that got her through her lowest and most difficult moments.
Her love for music is also what changed her life. In 1989, Blige became the first woman, and the youngest artist, that Uptown Records had ever signed at only 18 years old. She released her now-platinum album, “What’s the 411?” in 1992 and from then on, Blige continued to stun the world with her empowering lyrics, heartfelt storytelling and honesty.


“I don’t believe that we go through things to keep them a secret and then one day die of a heart attack because we have secrets festering inside of us. I think that we go through stuff to speak about it so we can help someone else heal,” Blige said. “That’s the gift God gave me as an artist, to be able to be trans-parent and say: ‘You know what? It happened to me, too.’ I don’t have any of the answers. That’s why I keep having to do so much work.”
Doing the work is something that Blige continues to do despite the incredible hardships she has faced, but this is how she knows that sharing her pain through art is her purpose.
“I went through it myself. It’s a whole other level for me. The higher the lever, the bigger the Devil. The more you try to work on pulling yourself away from the comfort zone, the negative stuff, you get attacked. Especially when you try to do better, you get attacked.”

“I don’t believe that we go through things to keep them a secret and then one day die of a heart attack because we have secrets festering inside of us. I think that we go through stuff to speak about it so we can help someone else heal. That’s the gift God gave me as an artist, to be able to be transparent and say: ‘You know what? It happened to me, too.’ I don’t have any of the answers. That’s why I keep having to do so much work.”

– Mary J. Blige


Blige went through a very messy and public divorce from her hus-band of 13 years, Martin “Kendu” Isaacs, who also happened to be her manager. Rumors of infidelity and private, finance information was splashed all over the tabloids. The divorce was finalized in 2018.
“The breaking point was when I kept asking over and over and over again for respect and to be respected. And it just seemed like I was beating a dead horse and it seemed like I was talking to a wall,” Blige expressed. “I just wasn’t getting it back so if I can’t get respect in the relationship, then I have to move on and save myself. That was the point where I was like, ‘I’m done. I just can’t do it any-more.’”
She has also been very open about substance abuse and described her 1994 album, “My Life” as “a dark, sui-cidal testimony.”
“We numb ourselves with drugs and alcohol and people and shopping and s***, to cover up what’s really going on inside,” she said. “You’re taking drugs so you can go out and feel courageous, or go out and feel beautiful or whatever. You’re doing it to cover up something.”
“My Life” went triple platinum and has not only helped people around the world cope with their difficulties, but Blige as well.
“I started listening to my own words, my own lyrics back. I was just crying listening to it like, wow, all those horrible, dark places I was in, going through all the hell that I was going through, these words are helping me to feel better and be okay in life,” Blige said, admitting that she’s been listening to her own music during the COVID-19 lockdown. “I wrote the lyrics to ‘My Life’ when I didn’t even want to live.”
Through self-love and spirituality, Blige has been able to completely turn her life around and keep herself hope-ful even while the world goes through an undeniably bleak year.
“I sit quietly. I’ll turn everything off and I’ll breathe and start thanking God and be grateful for everything. It’s a time when you get to reflect on your character, who you are, what rules you, what you’re grateful for,” Blige said. “I wake up in the morning happy to live my life, even though we’re in quarantine. I’m alive. Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I’m alive. My mother’s alive.”
She’s also not slowing down in terms of taking on projects.
Blige is currently starring in the hit series, “Power Book II: Ghost” on Starz and she recently released her very own wine label, Sun Goddess Wines. Blige also created a production company, Blue Butterfly, for which she’s excited to begin producing content.
“Our goal is to produce content that is for the culture.
For us, by us. Create stories about great people. Heroes, women, that people don’t even know about. How there’s a Brady Bunch or Partridge Family, have something like that for us. Actually G-Unit and Mary J Blige … there’s something really big. I can’t talk about it too much but the team is amazing.”
Blige’s goal now is to continue giving her fans the authentic and groundbreaking art that they’ve come to know her for.
“I get in where I fit in and if I don’t fit in, I don’t want it because it’s a disaster for me. And my fans do know me, they’re going to notice it too. If I go against that gut feeling of, ‘don’t do that’ it’s a disaster. I don’t know how to do anything else but be Mary J. Blige.”

Bishop Charles Blake Cover

People: “Bishop Charles Blake Says He Won’t Pursue Another Term”

For the last 13 years, he has led the nation’s largest African-American denomination and has been viewed as one of the country’s most powerful Black religious lead-ers. Last week, Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) announced that he would be stepping down from the role at the next election, the date of which is still being determined by board members.
“I have made the decision to not seek re-election as a member of the General Board or as Presiding Bishop. I have requested that the General Board grant me emeritus status,” Blake said in a video on the Church’s web-site.
The Church of God in Christ is the fifth largest Pro-testant denomination in the U.S., the largest Pentecostal group in the country and the second largest Pentecostal organization in the world with churches in 60 countries and an estimated membership of nearly 6.5 million.


“Bishop Charles E. Blake was to the Church of God in Christ what the Apostle Paul was to the first century church,” said Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, Senior Pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church and Presiding Bishop of the Macedonia International Bible Fellowship. “Likewise, I suggest the Lord used the man, the ministry and the message of His Grace Bishop Charles Blake to take the largest Pentecostal denomination of color in the world into the dimension where eyes had not seen, ears had not heard, of the growth, progress and global imprint that characterizes the 13 year tenure of this great Man of God.
“God used the grace and anointing on his life and transitioned the African American Pentecostal/Charis-matic family of the Body of Christ out of the margins where many so fervently attempted to relegate us, on to the front line of spiritual transformation, social change and economic advancement.”
Mother Barbara McCoo Lewis, General Supervisor of the COGIC’s International Department of Women dubbed him as “one of the greatest leaders in the history of Christendom”.
“Bishop Blake’s global mindset caused the Church of God in Christ to grow exponentially around the world,” McCoo said. “He has been a leader of impeccable integrity which is reflected in a posture of financial accountabili-ty.”
Under Blake’s leadership the denomination completed the first comprehensive financial audit of its records in more than 100 years, while completing massive renovations to its headquarters campus in Memphis along with major restorations to downtown Memphis properties and the acquisition of additional properties around our Headquarters campus, including the development of 77 apartment homes near the COGIC’s Mason campus.
Other successes include moving the Holy Convocation to the 502,000 square foot America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri, from 2010 through 2019.
The decision to not seek reelection with the national COGIC does not affect Bishop Blake’s pastoring in Los Angeles where the 80-year old Little Rock, Arkansas native will continue as Senior Pastor of the West Angeles Church, which is one of the denomination’s largest churches with upwards of 20,000 members.
“I have had many great responsibilities over my life-time but the two that have always been forefront of my mind are my family and pastoring the West Angeles Church, said Blake, who became pastor in 1969 when the church has just 50 members. “God has blessed West Angeles to enter into the next stage of the Family Life Center building project, a 25-million-dollar addition that will attach to the West Angeles Cathedral. West Angeles is soon to break ground on this project.”
Bishop Blake will continue to serve as Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle until his successor is selected. Among the names being mentioned as possible successors are Bishops Jerry Macklin, Sedgwick Daniels, George McKinney, Darrell Hines and J. Drew Sheard, all of whom also serve on the COGIC’s General Board.
“Please understand the depth of my gratitude for every opportunity that God has afforded me in serving you,” Blake said. “I pray that I have pleased Him in all I have attempted for the advancement of the Church of God in Christ and ultimately, for His Kingdom. I remain committed to the success of our church and have pledged my support and assistance in a smooth transition so that the work of the Lord will seamlessly continue.”
Bishop Blake has been a member of COGIC for his entire life and is in his 64th year of preaching, 51st year of pastoring the West Angeles Church in Los Angeles, 35th year as COGIC Bishop and 32nd year as a member of the General Board. He is the husband of Lady Mae Lawrence Blake,
“Bishop calls Lady Mae his secret weapon,” McCoo Lewis said. “I am afraid the secret is out. Lady Mae has been unwavering in serving and motivating women to embrace excellence. She is the epitome of the Proverbs 31

Maxine Waters

Fighting the Good Fight

Since Donald Trump’s arrival on the political stage, few voices have been as consistently outspoken against this President’s divisive rhetoric and policy agenda than that of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D- CA 43). Thanks in part to the internet, Water’s characteristically sharp tongue and fearless devotion to the issues that matter to her constituency have made her a national figure of resistance– from being one of the first to call for Trump’s impeachment, to the now iconic shutting down of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in his attempts to circumvent her questioning during testimony by repeatedly cutting him off saying “I reclaim my time”, to her controversial encouragement of civilians protesting Trump staffers in public.

But followers of national politics have seen her be a tenacious, thorn-in-your-side to Democratic and Republican Presidents alike for the past 30 years, as she spoke up against police brutality during the Rodney King riots of the early 90’s with the same fervor as the killing of George Floyd earlier this year.
For Waters, who was one of 13 children growing up outside of St. Louis, Missouri, the fighting spirit is something she’s had since day one.
“I was raised and educated with the understanding that we have a responsibility to know the civil rights movement and be dedicated to the proposition that we
can help our communities have people do better. I came in with that kind of attitude,” says Waters, who began her tenure in Congress in 1991 after serving in the California State legislature. “And then, coming from a family of 13 , I had to fight for everything so I have no fear of fighting. I have no fear of standing up for myself. Through my work, I’ve walked with the kind of courage that has shown truth-to-power in ways that has got me
recognized as a highly controversial figure, and as a fighter.”

“Coming from a family of 13 , I had to fight for everything so I have no fear of fighting. I have no fear of standing up for myself. Through my work, I’ve walked with the kind of courage that has shown truth-to-power in ways that has got me recognized as a highly controversial figure, and as a fighter”

– Maxine Waters


Now at the age of 82, Waters, whose supporters have lovingly dubbed “Auntie Maxine”, is running for her 16th consecutive term and is making the case that she has the leadership and policy expertise to lead our ideologically torn country through the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a more dignified political era.
While her fighting spirit is most often seen and attributed to her outspoken political stances, much of her fighting is done in her less glamorous work– namely on the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) where she sits as Chairwoman.
And the agenda of the HFSC is heavy to say the least.
Besides being an overseer of financial services agencies both in the public and private sector, Waters is looking ahead to reinstating the mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau– a public watchdog organization set up under Obama to protect consumers against predatory financial organizations– which has been undermined under the Trump administration.
“We’ve got to make sure that we continue to work on denying our big banks the opportunity to engage in predatory lending, which harmed our community so much in the 2008 crash,” says Waters. “We’ve got to pay special attention to payday loans, which are made to lure poor people who are desperate into borrowing situations where they will never get out of debt, and make sure that is outlawed.”
In addition, Waters is using the power of her position to create the first ever Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion in HFSC, creating more room at the top for money managers of color.
“We are looking at what we can do to advance asset managers of color in government agencies which is an opportunity that has not really been available to us due to exclusions and discrimination, which is something I am very excited to be engaged in.”
On top of her regularly jam-packed workload, there are the financial woes resulting from the pandemic to deal with. With millions of workers, homeowners, renters, small business, and landlords looking for some type of bailout, Waters and the Democrats are deadlocked in negotiations with Republicans on further allocations of funds.
“I’m focused, as one of the standing committees of Congress, on what is known as the HEROES Act. We passed the CARES Act which included $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 additionally to those who lost their job. But that ran out,” says Waters. “So now we’re negotiating the HEROES Act, but we have no support from Republicans– they don’t want to spend the money.”
Congressional Democrats have passed the HEROES Act twice now, first for $3.2 trillion then compromised down to $2.2 trillion, only to receive a stiff ‘no’ from Senate Republicans both times.
“They don’t want to give citizens and states the money, but we have to insist so that we don’t start laying off all of the people who provide essential services and keep our economy going,’ says Waters.
Waters also helped craft the HEROES Act to address the pandemic-induced evictions crises with $50 billion in rental assistance and up to $550 billion in relief for landlords who have been left on the hook.
“We’re in a crisis now,” says Waters. “People are desperate to put food on the table and not be put out on the street and be evicted. This president really doesn’t care about this, he interfered with negotiations and extended the moratorium on evictions with no money.”
With hospitalization rates 4.7 times higher for black people than their white counterparts due to the pandemic– Waters recognizes that, like so often is the case in America, communities of color have to fight harder to get
the same treatment. “We had to fight for more testing in [black] communities and to ensure that we had the equipment in the hospitals that serve our constituency,” says Waters. “The next thing that we have to do is be on top of the vaccine and make sure that it’s safe, we have access to them, and
they’ll be distributed fairly.
We have to fight for everything. We cannot sit back and believe that somehow we are going to be treated fairly because history tells a different story.”
Waters is also working with leaders of faith through virtual meetings on how to reinforce the directives of how to protect yourself from the virus.
“We tell people to listen and follow the advice of experts, put on your mask, wash your hands, and be involved with social distancing. You’ve got to do this in order to avoid getting infected,” says Waters.
While Waters’ work seems to be cut out for her, opponents on the right have made sure that she can’t look past her re-election bid this November. Her challenger is 34-year-old first time politician Joe Collins III, who despite only receiving 11% of the vote in March’s primary election, has received massive amounts of campaign funds largely due to his backing from Trump Republicans. Collins, who is a former sailor in the Navy, claims he left the military to run for public office which he couldn’t do while on active duty.
He is an outspoken Trump supporter who is running on an agenda of restoring the 43rd district’s economic livelihood, schools, and combating the lingering crime and homelessness issues, while painting Waters as a selfserving Washington elitist. Collins has run an aggressive campaign with a large ad budget, regularly slamming Waters on social media. In his latest video “Mansion Maxine”, Collins calls out Waters for her lavish $6 million home which is not in the 43rd district.
“Do you know where I am?” says Collins in his video. “Maxine Waters $6 million mansion. Do you know where I am not? Her district. I was born right here in South L.A. in the place Maxine Waters refuses to live. Maxine doesn’t care about our district, she only cares about herself.”
It should be noted that it is not required by law for Congressional leaders to live in their district, and also that Waters’ home was once in the district she represented, before redistricting changed the borders. Waters’ answer to Collins claiming that the woes of the 43rd district are her fault since she’s represented the area for 44 years with the same systematic problems persisting is that he doesn’t understand the general hierarchy of government.
“The young man that is running against me not only has no experience, he doesn’t even know how the government works,” says Waters. “He doesn’t know the difference between City Council, Legislatures and Congress,
and who oversees the agencies who have different responsibilities. For instance, members of Congress fund cities to deal with homelessness. City Councils the ones in charge of contracting non-profit agencies to help shelter
the unhoused. His arguments have not been substantive at all, in fact, he’s been missing arguments.’
Waters has also gone on the offensive attacking Collins character flaws, like the fact that he received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy which disallows him from referring to himself as a ‘veteran’ in any official capacity– including on the ballot where his title is ‘sailor’. Waters also brought to light the information alleging that Collins has some outstanding child support cases.
“It’s not just a lack of experience, it is a flawed character and the inability to represent that he can be a role model for the people he wants to represent, especially young people,” says Waters. “He is holding some food giveaways at his headquarters, and someone remarked to me that he talks about feeding people in Los Angeles, but he doesn’t even feed his own children.”
In coming to her defense, over 30 leaders of faith held a press conference outside the Waters campaign headquarters in Hawthorne to pledge their support for the Congresswoman’s reelection bid.
“Maxine Waters has a history of being there for her community,” said Reverend K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles. “Her opponent is someone who just popped up off the scene. We know what a wolf looks like in sheep’s clothes. We can see the handwriting on the wall. We know that narrative this GOP candidate is trying to put out there. So, we just want everyone to know that we the faith leaders are praying for the Congresswoman in all her goals and priorities.”
Pastor Shane B. Scott of Macedonia Baptist Church also said that Waters’ record speaks for itself.
“In case Mr. Collins needs to be reminded, you don’t just serve 15 terms in Congress if you’re ineffective. But rather you serve 15 terms because you have been a champion for justice, for all people whether they are Black,
White, Asian, Latino, or Native American.”
Proof of her effectiveness can be seen in Waters’ popularity amongst the much younger millennial generation, many who affectionately refer to her as ‘Auntie Maxine’. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a nickname of honor,” says Waters. “The aunt in the family is considered, oftentimes, to rise above the parents because they take up for the children and they’re able to not only criticize them, but to help direct them in ways that sometimes the parents can’t. So, the aunt is always favorably embraced, and I love it!”
It’s this affection that drive Waters’ passion to fight for her constituents and the office she is proud to hold.
“One of the reasons I fight so hard is because people believe in me and they call on me, so I really want this election. I want to be re-elected because I want to continue to be a voice they can rely on,” says Waters. “And to be someone who will actually work at this job.
“This is what I do seven days a week. So, no matter whether I’m criticized by those who don’t like the way I do it or think I’m too confrontational, it doesn’t stop me. I believe that people know I want to continue my work and to really represent and give everything I can give to my constituents.”
Besides her own re-election, the single most important thing to come from this historic election is replacing the man in the White House, who according to Waters, is the source of the divisive polarization in today’s political climate.
Her solution? “Vote him out!”
“The President of the United States has been the most divisive, most deplorable human being that I have really ever experienced in my life,” says Waters. “He has created polarization, he has dog-whistled to the white supremacists and those who have never been comfortable with the fact that they live in a country where blacks and others have a right to a decent quality of life. The solution is to get rid of those who cause the polarization, from the top of the ticket on down.”

Cal Restaurants and Bars Can Apply for Aid From $28.6 Billion Relief Fund

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is currently accepting applications to provide emergency assistance to restaurants and bars.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) was an original co-sponsor of the proposal to create the lifeline for restaurants and she advocated for its inclusion in the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

“Black and minority-owned restaurants and businesses, as well as women and veteran-owned restaurants and businesses, have been hit hardest by this pandemic,” Lee said in a written statement. “I’m pleased that the SBA will prioritize applications for restaurants in economically or socially disadvantaged communities in the first three weeks of the grant program.”

The $28.6 billion restaurant relief legislation was signed into law as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion ARP.

Just 7% of U.S. businesses before the coronavirus pandemic were Black-owned, according to data from compiled by the University of California Santa Cruz study last year. In contrast, about 13% of the United States population is Black, and about 13% of restaurant employees are Black, according to federal data.

The SBA relief fund portal began accepting applications on Friday, April 30 at 6:00 a.m., Pacific Standard Time. In preparation for the grant program’s opening, the SBA released detailed guidance for those seeking relief money through the restaurant revitalization fund.

The SBA has tapped Lendistry, a Southern California-based lending firm, to help administer the restaurant relief funds. The Black-led and operated firm is the largest minority-led firm that has been disbursing both federal and state COVID relief money in California.

The program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss — up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as the funds are used for eligible purposes no later than March 11, 2023.

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman stated that the visionary leadership of congressional Democrats “laid the groundwork” for the SBA to deliver targeted relief swiftly and efficiently to the millions of small business owners and workers in restaurants.
“We’ve designed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund program to ensure this relief is delivered with a focus on equity. America’s small businesses are the engine of our economy,” Guzman said. “If we’re going to build back better, we must ensure all of our nation’s entrepreneurs have the tools they need to bring businesses back, create jobs and grow our economy.”

Lee encouraged restaurant owners across California to submit applications.

“I encourage all business owners that need funding to cover food costs, payroll, or any other business expenses to apply for this grant,” Lee stated. “My office is here to help you through this process.”

For information about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, detailed guidance, and how to apply, visit: sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/restaurant-revitalization-fund.

The Lookout: Dems in Sacramento Take Steps to Make Voting Easier

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Watching your tax dollars, elected officials and legislation that affects you.

The electoral process is foundational to the durability of America’s democratic structure.

And as the battle for fairer voting laws rages on, politicians and activists on the political Right claim they are responding to allegations of widespread voter and election fraud. Those on the Left say they are rallying to fight a coordinated political offensive to restrict access to the polls and increasing reports of voter suppression.

Recently, in some states, most notoriously Georgia and Florida, lawmakers have taken steps to restrict voting access and rights for many Americans.

But in California, policymakers and legislators are doing the opposite, making proposals to simplify the voting process and expand access to the polls.

Invoking the violent history of voter suppression in the South that her parents endured, which sometimes involved murders — California Secretary of State Shirley Weber says it is a priority of hers to “ensure the right to vote.”

“I tell people all the time that no number is good unless it’s 100% in terms of voter participation,” Weber told the Public Policy Institute of California. “Why didn’t 5 million go to the polls? We need to figure out where they are and what stopped them from going.”
In the California Legislature, an amendment to Senate Bill (SB) 29, which passed earlier this year, was one bill in a broader legislative effort to secure the right to vote in vulnerable communities.

Before that amendment passed, California law dictated that a ballot would be mailed to all eligible voters for the Nov. 3 statewide general election in 2020 as
well as use a Secretary of State vote-by-mail tracking system to ensure votes are counted.

SB 29, which the governor signed into law in February, extended those requirements to any election “proclaimed or conducted” prior to Jan. 1, 2022.

2020 saw a record number of voter participation in California. Some political observers attribute that spike to the vote-by-mail system instituted last year.

“To maintain a healthy democracy in California, it is important to encourage eligible voters to vote and to ensure that residents of the state have the tools needed to participate in every election,” the bill reads.
Senate Bill (SB) 583, introduced by California State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) would require the Secretary of State to register or preregister eligible citizens to vote upon retrieving the necessary paperwork from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Citizens who do not wish to be registered can opt-out of the process altogether.

Newman stressed the importance of access and simplifying the voter registration process.

“In our state there are an estimated 4.6 million U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote who have not yet registered,” Newman said. “Our obligation as the people’s elected representatives is to make the process simpler and more accessible for them.”

On April 27, the Senate Transportation Committee passed SB 583 with a 13 to 3 vote. The Appropriations Committee has set a hearing for May 10.

Senate Bill (SB) 503, introduced by Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), proposes that if a signature shares enough characteristics with a previous signature from the same voter, then it would be recognized as official on voting paperwork.

Current law dictates that a signature has to match exactly for it to be considered valid.

Disability Rights California (DRC), a non-profit advocacy organization that
advances and protects the rights of Californians living with disabilities, has come out in support of SB 503.

“Studies have shown that signature matches disproportionately impact voters with disabilities,” Eric Harris, director of public policy for the DRC wrote in a letter.

“Voters with disabilities, including seniors, are more likely to vote by mail and would have to sign their name on their ballots,” Harris argued. “A voter’s signature changes over time and for people with disabilities, a signature can change nearly every other time one is written. Some people with disabilities might have conditions that make it difficult to sign your name the same way multiple times.”

For now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has tabled SB 503, placing the bill in what the Legislature calls a “suspense file,” where it awaits further action by lawmakers.

At the federal level, lawmakers have introduced two bills in the U.S. Congress to expand voting rights, the For The People Act of 2021 and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The For The People Act, or H.R.1, proposes a three pronged approach to expanding election access: Voting, campaign finance, and ethics.
Hilary Shelton, Director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy, compared the current voting rights battle to that of the Civil Rights Movement in a press conference about H.R.1 and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“If you look at some of those 1960s shots of the C.T. Vivians of the world, of the Joe Lowerys and so many others that helped lead Americans to those registration
sites, you’ll see them actually literally being beaten to the ground,” Shelton said, referring to well-known Civil Rights Movement activists.

The John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, or S.4263, would amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to restore the powers it lost after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws requiring states and local communities to first clear any changes to voting their local laws with the feds, was unlawful.

“Well, we’ve become more sophisticated in our disenfranchisement,” Shelton continued. “We want to make sure that we stop that disenfranchisement all along the way and that’s why we’re convinced that a bill named for John Lewis and a bill that speaks for the people are bills that need to pass.”

Sen. Steven Bradford Brings Strength and Reason to Police Reform Fight

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

California State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), admits that he will meet challenges along the way as he fights for police reform in California.

Last week, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing he defended a bill he introduced in the Legislature that, if passed, would decertify cops for inappropriate behavior. During that appearance, Bradford made a persuasive case for police reform that was at times forceful and thoughtful, bringing a cool head but passionate voice to a topic that has created a bitter divide in the California electorate, pitting advocates of police reform violently against people who support law enforcement.

“This is a tough issue, but it’s a righteous issue,” Bradford told his colleagues.

“And we want to be intentional about what we are doing here in California when it comes to police reform,” he continued during his passionate closing argument for police reform on April 27. “That’s what this bill does. It’s intentional in what we are trying to achieve. This is a fair measure and far better than any that exist today.”

Co-authored by Senate President pro Tem Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Senate Bill (SB) 2 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 7-2 vote that same day. Also known as the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021, the legislation aims to increase accountability for law enforcement officers that commit serious misconduct and illegally violate a person’s civil rights.

SB 2 will create a statewide process to revoke the certification of a peace officer following the conviction of serious crimes or termination from employment due to misconduct.

Bradford praised the judiciary committee’s majority vote, describing it as progress that would put California on the “right side of history.”

Atkins agrees.

“The passage of SB 2 yesterday is another step toward the goal of achieving much-needed accountability in policing, and I thank Senator Bradford for his steadfast commitment to achieve critical and necessary reforms,” said Atkins. “As with anything this big, there is a lot of work ahead, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to get this bill in the position to cross the finish line.”

The California Peace Officer Association (CPOA) believes that Bradford’s bill would turn the California Committee on Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) into an investigative agency. A sticking point for the group is that the people who would be given the authority to probe police misconduct would primarily be non-peace officers.

“We of course know that not all reform is good reform, and CPOA among others is open to ‘reimagining public safety’ in California,” Shaun Rundle, CPOA’s deputy director said in a written statement about several police reform and public safety bills scheduled for hearings. “What we didn’t imagine, however, was the continued attacks against a noble profession who have proven to improve and drive down crime in this state year after year.”

With the passage of SB 2 out of committee, the legislation will move on to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. If it advances out of that committee, SB2 could head to a Senate floor vote.

During the Judiciary Committee hearing, which lasted for nearly three hours, a few senators expressed their support, but asked Bradford to modify language pertaining to the Bane Act.

SB 2 would strengthen the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. Enacted in 1987, that legislation prevents law enforcement abuses and other civil rights violations. Authored by California State Assemblymember Tom Bane, the legislation was created to allow victims to seek compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties.

Supporters of police reform in California say the Bane Act has been undercut by bad court decisions over the years. Thy argue that it was once an effective law intended to protect the civil rights of people in the state but has since been weakened as an effective check against police excessive use of force.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association views SB2 as problematic, too, in terms of hiring, recruiting, and maintaining employees.

“We are concerned that the language removing employee immunity from state civil liability will result in individual peace officers hesitating or failing to act out of fear that actions they believe to be lawful may result in litigation and damages. In so doing, SB 2 will very likely jeopardize public safety and diminish our ability to recruit, hire, and retain qualified individuals,” the California State Sheriffs’ Association said in a written statement.

But Bradford’s says his bill essentially addresses rogue policing and hinders the ability of fired officers to find employment at other agencies even when they have a record of misconduct that got them terminated.

Among states that do not have a process to decertify cops for criminal behavior are Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California.

“We lead in technology, we lead in environment, we lead in all those things that are important except for criminal justice reform,” Bradford said, referring to California’s reputation as a political trailblazer on several fronts.

People of color live in the communities where the majority of police misconduct incidents take place, Bradford said, adding that SB 2 will save Black and Brown lives.

“How many more people, regardless of color need to lose their lives because of the callous acts of law enforcement?” Bradford asked his colleagues. “There are two systems of justice in this country. But you’ll never know, and really understand. Its far different than anything any of you guys have encountered or will encounter.”

Many Black Renters, Hit Worst By COVID, Remain in Dark About Billions in Relief Funds

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

California is in the process of rolling out a massive billion-dollar rental relief program. It is designed to help people who fell behind on their rent due the global coronavirus pandemic recover.

But many renters, including Black Californians who lease residential property, may not know about the state’s new CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program or they may not have details on how to apply for the available assistance. Other advocates say some renters could simply be confused because there are multiple rental relief programs at the county or city level to help renters.

One of the many factors that may complicate the confusion and low awareness in communities about the state’s rental relief program is the fact that the state is under-investing in the public awareness campaign, say some critics who have been following the state’s rollout of rental assistance. Typically, they say, state-run awareness campaigns are executed by public relations and advertising agencies. They then create and deploy campaigns to let state residents know about taxpayer-funded, government-administered programs created to benefit the target audience.

A number of people watching the state process that awarded Prosio Communications, a Roseville firm, the $3.2 million contract to get the word out to Californians about rental relief, say the winning firm slashed its media budget by more than half to submit the lowest bid to win the contract.

A total of eight companies applied that is scheduled to begin in June and end in December. All of them proposed budgets of about $4 million, unlike the wining contractor.

“The bidding process was troubling on several fronts, but here are some examples,” said one source who spoke to California Black Media but asked to remain anonymous. “First, the company that won the bid did not cut their own fees. Instead, they slashed the money that the federal government provided – that’s taxpayer money — to inform people of this critical help.”

The source said even though the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) allotted $6 million for public awareness, Prosio’s budget for outreach to Californians has been dwindled down to a mere $2 million.

“There is no way on earth, $2 million could successfully inform Californians about this program. There’s just no way in a state of 40 million residents,” the source said.

The federal government has so far authorized $25 Billion to support rental assistance programs in states across the country. Of that money, California is expected to receive $2.6 billion.

A total of $1.5 billion will go directly to the state and another $1.1 billion will be allocated to counties and cities with populations of 200,000 people or more.

Black renters accounted for the highest number of Californians — about 23 %, of Golden State residents last July — who could not pay their rent on time, according to a UCLA report.

Black renters also had the highest rates (29%) of being behind on housing payments in general due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among homeowners with a mortgage, Black households also had the highest rates of missed or partial payments at 22 %, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS).

“An estimated 1.5 million California families, front-line workers and low-wage earners are behind on their rent due to the economic fallout of this pandemic,” said California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH) Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez.
“They have accumulated significant debt and their landlords are struggling to meet their financial obligations,” Ramirez continued. “The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program will be a lifeline to renters and landlords. It clears accumulated rental debt, keeps families hardest hit housed and will lead to a more equitable economic recovery.”

California has the highest number of people in the country who are housing insecure. According to Tenants Together, a renter advocacy organization, more than 22 million people are renters, about 55% of the population, in a state where about half of its residents live at or near the poverty line.

Among Black Californians, 3 in 5 Black people live in renter households, according to the California Budget and Policy Center. Of that number, about 6 in 10 Black individuals are classified as “housing cost-burdened” – that is households that spend 30 % or more of their income on a rent or mortgage.

According to Ramirez, since the state launched the rental assistance programs, there has been an underrepresentation of minority applicants.

Adding to the state’s housing woes, is the unavailability of affordable homes and an enduring homelessness crisis, the worst in the nation.

The average price of a home in California is more than seven times higher than the average income.

In the midst of a global pandemic, the homeless population in Los Angeles — where the twin crises of homelessness and housing affordability are worst in the state — has gone up 13% over the course of a year. Reports indicate that there have been about 41,000 homeless people in Los Angeles.

State housing officials say the rental program is designed to provide California residents in select cities with income-based financial relief by paying landlords the money owed.

“The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program will reimburse landlords up to 80 % of an eligible renter’s unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, if they agree to forgive the remaining 20 %,” said Kimberly Brown, a spokesperson for HCD. “Eligible renters whose landlords choose not to participate in the program may apply on their own and receive 25% of unpaid rent between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Paying this 25% by June 30, 2021 can help keep you in your home under the extended eviction protections in SB 91.”

During a recent HCD webinar, speakers came together to discuss various plans and proposals in the Legislature aimed at solving California’s housing crisis.
Gustavo Velasquez, director of the HCD, believes it is the duty of the California Legislature to set the standard for housing issues. However, according to Velasquez, local partners are the greatest weapon in the state’s war on homelessness.

“As elected leaders, local agency staff and local government officials, you are really the most important partners in California in addressing this unsustainable housing crisis,” Velasquez said in the webinar. “The state can set the standards but success or failure ultimately rests on the local level in communities that are struggling today to meet the housing demands of so many.”

Brown detailed some of the qualifications for rental relief through the program.

“For all applications received, the state will first review and commit funds to applicants who are eligible and meet the priority requirement having income at or below 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) to ensure those most in need receive assistance,” Brown stated.

Brown told California Black Media how many applicants have applied for the program.

“So far, there have been 48,175 applications submitted,” Brown said. Another 96,000 applications are in progress, according to the BSCH.

Get more information on the California rental assistance program.

$6.2 Billion Cal Fund Will Shield Small Businesses from COVID-Related Taxes

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

California lawmakers have approved Assembly Bill (AB) 80 legislation spearheaded by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood). The legislation will give a $6.2 billion tax cut to small businesses across the state that received loans under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

California lawmakers approved the bill, they say, to safeguard the financial future of small businesses as a supplement to the American Families Plan proposed by President Joe Biden in March this year. AB 80, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom protects small businesses that received PPP loans from the federal government by ensuring that the loans will not count as taxable income. Expenses covered by the federal funds are also tax deductible under this legislation.

State legislators passed a unanimous vote on the tax, “marking it as one of largest tax cuts in state history,” Burke said on Facebook.

“My bill will provide assistance to businesses who were financially harmed during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing them to deduct all expenses paid for using forgiven PPP loans,” she said.

Small businesses play a key role in the economic recovery of the state especially since the state plans to reopen on June 15 this year.

“California’s small businesses have been hampered and hammered by this pandemic, and we are using every tool at our disposal to help them stay afloat,” Gov. Newsom said.

Also, “This small business tax relief is exactly what is needed to keep businesses open so they can continue paying their employees,” he said.

Maria Salinas, the president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, supported the state’s efforts to allow major tax cuts for small businesses that employ people from Black and Brown communities.

“We know that small businesses are what fuels the economy not only in Los Angeles but across the state of California and across this country,” said Salinas.

Despite small businesses receiving PPP loans to soften the financial blow of the pandemic, the tax bill also aims to remedy, “the tax burden that we saw in the differences between the federal and the state,” said Salinas.

According to state officials, in addition to the tax bill, California also legislated $2.5 billion in relief funds to support small businesses across the state earlier this year. Eligible businesses can receive grants up to $25,000 to make up for financial loss incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tax relief bill comes at a critical moment in Gov. Newsom’s time in office as state officials prepare for recall efforts his Republican opponents initiated.

But the Governor remained optimistic.
“We’re going to defeat the recall,” he said.

Despite the optimism, the state has validated over 1.6 million signatures exceeding the number of signatures required for California to move forward with a re-election.

“We’re going to focus on getting people back to work,” said Gov. Newsom.

According to the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials, a bipartisan government agency, a reelection could cost the state $400 million based on previous election data and the current economic factors.

“We’re going to get this economy moving again and more important than anything else, we’re going to get vaccines in people’s arms so we can do all of that faster,” said Gov. Newsom.

Dr. Shirley Weber, the California Secretary of State, is leading efforts to prevent the projected fiscal setback expected to be triggered by the prospective re-election. According to the Secretary of State’s office, there is an allocated time period for people to withdraw their signatures from recall petitions in their respective counties.

State economic strategy for American Families Plan

State officials are combining federal and state initiatives to boost efforts to reopen by mid-June this year. The state is initiating programs to provide relief funds for individuals – some of them grants — for small businesses and organizations, including $600 stimulus checks for Californians who have low incomes.

“Right here in California, our stimulus programs have provided tax relief for small businesses and money in pockets for struggling families, and we’ve expanded childcare and made community college free,” said Gov. Newsom.

According to state officials, relief programs have helped more than 40,000 small businesses and nonprofits across California so far.

“These strategic investments, which are complemented by President Biden’s American Families Plan, will bolster California’s equitable economic recovery and bring us roaring back,” he said.

State officials are set on achieving their goal to reopen and to restore job losses for small businesses and academic setbacks for schools across California.
California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

South L.A.’s “Dr. Fauci”: Dr. Jerry Abraham Is On A Mission to Vaccinate the Community With A Shot of Faith

Keith DeLawder

Two days before Christmas of 2020, Dr. Jerry Abraham–Director of Vaccines at Kedren Community Health Center in South Los Angeles– was fed up. It had been nearly two weeks since the Pfizer vaccine had received emergency authorization from the FDA, and despite the fact that Kedren was on the verge of closing for the second time because too many of its staff had contracted COVID-19, the community health center had yet to receive a single dose of vaccine from the county.

To add insult to injury, the very day the Pfizer vaccine was authorized he saw that local health giants like Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, Cedars-Sinai, and UCLA & USC Medical Centers had the vaccine and made a big show of vaccinating their staff. It would seem the Kedren and their team of majority black and brown healthcare workers– and by extension, the people of their South L.A. community– had been overlooked and forgotten, yet again.

That’s when Dr. Abraham took action. That night he began calling county officials demanding vaccines and inquiring as to why no one had yet to even reach out to him– especially since at that point 1 in 5 residents of South L.A. had contracted the virus.

“The initial vaccine distribution roll-out was a complete hot mess during that time,” Dr. Abraham tells L.A. Focus. “I was incredibly frustrated that the places like South L.A. were getting the most infections but wasn’t where the vaccine was going right away. We were watching wealthy physicians and health care workers who were not even seeing patients at that point getting the shot, and we were like wait, what about the people who are actually on the front lines? So, the way they did the whole thing was botched for a lot of reasons.”

The county’s initial response was apologetic but unsatisfactory, and when a week passed and Kedren still didn’t have the vaccine, Dr. Abraham had to take matters into his own hands. Two days before the New Year’s Eve, Dr. Abraham drove down to the L.A. County Department of Public Health warehouse in person and banged on the door asking for doses of the life-saving vaccine which enabled him to get Kedren’s first fifty doses and vaccinate his staff of nurses. The next day they were able to get another 150 doses, and then 300 after that.

But the early days of Kedren vaccine effort were challenging to put it mildly. Dr. Abraham says that they were receiving such a limited supply of vaccine that they would start each day not knowing how they would get through it.

“Every day was like the miracle of loaves and fishes,” remembers Dr. Abraham. “We were only receiving a few hundred doses a week, but somehow we made it.”

To ensure that every drop of vaccine possible was administered into the arms of his community, Abraham and his team would race from one end of the county to the next picking up vaccines that were about to expire– a routine that they still do to this day. That’s why it infuriated Dr. Abraham when he found out that not all of his fellow medical professionals were handling the situation with the same sense of urgency.

“I’d be on calls with directors from other hospitals and hear them casually mention having to throw out hundreds of doses because they didn’t do what we did and open their doors to the public, because it was too difficult or wasn’t their job. It would bring me to the point of rage!”

To date, the Kedren team has administered an estimated 160,000 doses of vaccine, with a present average of 5,000 daily.

Once Kedren began receiving regular supply of vaccine, Dr. Abraham was able to mobilize his team of nurses, hundreds of volunteers, partners such as the American Red Cross, AmeriCorp, California Volunteers, the International Medical Corps, and all the resources at Kedren’s disposure to move with an urgency that has been quite literally life or death. Currently Kedren’s operation facilities are full of outdoor tents that resemble a military field hospital to optimize the number of people that can come through and receive their shot on a daily basis.

“It’s been a race against time– not a moment to lose, not a drop to spare,” says Abraham so often it has become somewhat of a catch phrase. “We need to get black and brown L.A. vaccinated yesterday. We were dying at higher rates than wealthier zip codes and other skinned people and that was not fair. That’s the disparity that we live with every day.”
Much of Kedren’s success in distributing so many vaccines so quickly is due to the commitment Dr. Abraham has made ensuring that the vaccine is accessible to everyone.

“We quickly gained a lot of attention because we took down every barrier to getting vaccinated,” says Dr. Abraham. “No appointment, no internet, no phone, no car, can’t walk, don’t speak English, no I.D.– no problem. None of those things were going to keep people from getting their vaccines at Kedren.”
Kedren was also one of the first places in the state to pilot vaccine eligibility programs based on zip code and household rather than simply by age.

“When the Governor said seniors were eligible for the vaccine, we knew that was going to be a flawed strategy from the beginning,” says Abraham. “Because now what we saw were rich grandmas and grandpas who had been socially isolated all showing up at Kedren trying to get there shot– but I had not fought to get Beverly Hills vaccinated. I fought to get the people of South L.A. vaccinated. We had told the county from the get-go that they should focus on zip codes and geographic priorities first, and then we begged them to let us pilot a household based strategy where if one person in the home was eligible for the vaccine, everyone in the home could get it. So, we fought for and achieved pilot programs that would end up being policy recommendations and led to our success of increasing the vaccination rates in the black and brown community.”

But word got out that Kedren had the vaccine and was giving it out liberally, which brought in the much reported influx of “vaccine chasers” to their facility. So-called “vaccine chasers “are folks from outside the community that lined up in front of Kedren, waiting all day long in lawn chairs with camping supplies for the chance of getting an unused vaccine at the end of the day which would otherwise expire. Oftentimes white and notably affluent, they could be seen typing away on their laptops and ordering Uber-eats while they waited for the possibility of getting a shot. Local media jumped on the story as the line of white people in front of the South L.A. medical center invoked reminders of the gentrification and vaccine distribution inequity that was happening around the county.

“But while everyone was freaking out about white people lined up outside Kedren, what some of those news stories failed to share was who was getting in and out,” notes Dr. Abraham. “It was always black and brown healthcare workers and the frail and elderly who got their shots first, every day.”

Abraham goes as far as condemning those news stories that painted a false narrative of the vaccine distribution process at Kedren.

“I don’t blame anyone waiting in any line for a lifesaving essential medicine. What I ask is that you wait your turn and help us get people who are eligible in and vaccinated, and we will get to you,” says Abraham adding, “We have from our inception done so much with so little, don’t be surprised that this historically black institution becomes the place where we care for and save all Angelenos lives.”

Founded in 1965 after the Watts riots, Kedren Community Health Center was started by a group of 22 black psychiatrists who came together to create a mental health institution that would serve the needs of the mentally ill population in South L.A. who were continuously excluded by white institutions at that time. Since then, Kedren has expanded on their psychiatric hospital to include a primary care clinic which provides for the general health care needs of the community.

“Kedren is today as it was when it was founded: a city on a hill, a beacon, and a safe harbor for everyone in the community seeking health needs,” says Dr. Abraham. “We’re ‘the little Kedren that could’. It’s ingrained in our DNA to be a go-to resource and that’s what we’ve been during the pandemic crisis when we became a city and county resource for testing and when we picked up the phone and demanded our vaccines. We take pride in being an exemplary role model for equitable vaccine distribution and a model template for the whole nation on achieving health equity.”

And “the little Kedren that could’’ has now caught the attention of the entire country. Along with the national news media coverage Dr. Abraham and Kedren have received from outlets like VICE News and CNN for their valent vaccination efforts, in March Dr. Abraham was invited to go to Washington D.C. to testify in front of the U.S. Senate to share his story about their frontline response to the pandemic.

Locally, Kedren is partnering with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office in launching their “Live, Work, Worship, Play” (LWWP) initiative which is centered around taking the vaccine mobile and integrating the vaccine effort into the community by meeting people where they’re at such as work, schools, churches and community centers. Kedren has also opened a new permanent site in Watts which, through their NiteVax program, is open until midnight daily to expand vaccine availability. The Watts site also functions as a bus terminal where busloads of people from schools, churches, workplaces and housing areas can be brought to receive their shot and conveniently returned to their lives. Kedren is also planning on throwing events for young people with music and festivities including Vaccineland for children, VaxFest for high school ages, and MAXVAX for the millennials and gen z.

“We believe what we are building here is a revitalized healthcare delivery system and we’re laying the groundwork for public health infrastructure that was lacking here in South L.A.,” says Dr. Abraham. “Connecting churches, schools, and all the places we live, work, worship and play are part of the solution so the next time there is a major public health crisis we will be better off and there will be less needless loss of life.”

In February California Governor Gavin Newsom came and toured the Kedren main facility operation and was so impressed that he asked Kedren to take over the “Shot of Faith” initiative where they hold mass vaccination events at churches around South L.A.

“The Governor knew that we would work to meet the pastors and the congregants where they’re at and not put the burden on them,” says Dr. Abraham. “We really take the time to engage, educate, vaccinate and activate their congregants, because we want people to be able to open up their churches safely, and that’s crucial to us. Churches are an important part of the public health infrastructure and will play an important role in revolutionizing health care delivery.”

For Dr. Abraham the church holds an especially important place in his heart as he was in the middle of becoming an Episcopal Priest when he was accepted into medical school.

“I knew that I’d always had a calling to faith, but then I hit this fork in the road. Do I continue my training in the priesthood or do I go on to medical school? I had to make a choice and I chose medical school because I believe in healing. I believe in healing the mind, the body, the spirit, and the soul so for me when I had to choose, I knew I could always minister regardless of whether I got my calling through the structures that exist. For me, I knew that the best way to heal was to make sure that I was competent, credible and that would practice sound, responsible, and safe medicine and being a doctor was the best way to do it,” tells Dr. Abraham.

Abraham did his residency training after medical school at USC Medical in the school of family medicine program where he became chief resident and later joined the faculty. After graduation he found his passion caring for patients experiencing homelessness and substance abuse at the community-based health center, Eisner, in downtown. In 2019 he was recruited to come to Kedren where he’s championed work surrounding chronic pain including people with opioid addiction, providing high quality care for people with psychiatric illnesses, and the care he provides for migrants. Then in 2020 the pandemic happened, and Dr. Abraham jumped into a new position—Director of Vaccines.

“This job was not really something that happened by design or something I sat around hoping to do,” says Abraham. “But we knew we had to be part of the response so this was the work needed to be done.”

According to Dr. Abraham, he hasn’t taken a day off since before Christmas, oftentimes working tireless hours in fast paced and high stakes situations. But when he’s so often asked by the media—who has historically been predominantly white—why he’s taken on such a colossal project with the relentless ferocity and dedication that he’s shown, he can’t help but scoff.

“What do you mean?” he typically answers. “We didn’t have a choice. We had to do this. It was our patients, our staff, our families that were getting infected. The Lord called and we answered.”

Social Justice Protests and Black Lives Matter Apparel Banned from Summer Olympics

Chez Hadley

The Summer Olympics—postponed from 2020— are now set to take place from July 23, 2021 through August 8, 2021 in Tokyo, against the backdrop of the COIVD-19 pandemic. Though no international fans will be allowed, millions will view the games on TV or online.

What officials are trying to ensure that they do not see on that global center stage are any social justice protests from athletes as witnessed in 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the medals ceremony. Athletes have also reportedly been warned against kneeling during the national anthem.

And yes, Black Lives Matter apparel has also been banned in accordance with a ruling from the International Olympic that any athlete donning them in risk of being punished and or sent home.

However, the words “respect”, “solidarity”, “inclusion” and “equality” are allowed on apparel.

Any athlete breaking the rules can be sanctioned by the IOC, the actual sports governing body or their country’s national Olympics committee.

As the move had been expected, some ruling bodies for individual Olympic sports—like World Athletics,  the international governing body for track and field—have indicated that they will not be punishing athletes for protesting. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has also pledged not to sanction athletes for peaceful protests.

In fact, some have promised legal support for athletes who decide to protest.

Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement, issued a statement against the suppression of an athlete’s rights to freedom of expression, writing: “The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) archaic approach to limiting athletes’ rights to freedom of expression is another sign of an outdated sport system that continues to suppress athletes’ fundamental rights. The competitors are humans first, athletes second.”

Romance Novels Written by Stacy Abrams—Under Assumed Name—Set to be Reissued

Staff

President Biden recently said she could be whatever she wanted to be, even president. But Stacey Abrams probably already knew that. Fact is, before she was an activist, attorney, former Gubernatorial candidate and one of the most powerful and influential African-American women in America, Stacy Abrams, it seems, had a whole other career as a romance novelist. And next year, three of the eight out-of-print romance novels she authored more than 20 years ago—under the assumed name of Selena Montgomery—are set to reissued.

Random House recently acquired the novels—Rules of Engagement, The Art of Desire and Power of Persuasion—and will begin releasing them in 2022. Not that she didn’t have some modicum of success with the eight novels— including such titles as Hidden Sins, Secrets and Lies, Reckless, and Deception— which altogether sold upwards of 100,000 copies, but to be sure, sales of the re-released titles are sure to soar.

(Look out Shonda Rhimes).

‘As my first novels, they remain incredibly special to me,’ Abrams said in a statement. “The characters and their adventures are what I’d wished to read as a young Black woman — stories that showcase women of color as nuanced, determined, and exciting. As Selena and as Stacey, I am proud to be a part of the romance writing community and excited that Berkley is reintroducing these stories for new readers and faithful fans.”

The 47-year old voting rights advocate and founder of Fair Fight Action, is said to be considering another run in Georgia’s 2022 gubernatorial race. In the meantime, her latest book, While Justice Sleeps, set for release on May 11, is being described as “a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court”.

“My success is tied at the most base level with the success of my people, and my people are the South,” Abrams recently posted. “My people are Americans. My people are people of color. My success can only ever be real if I’m doing it for the success of others.”

More Trouble for Inglewood Mayor James Butts

The City of Inglewood had better have some deep pockets because attorneys for the City of Los Angeles are suing for nearly $300,000 in damages stemming from automobile accident involving Mayor James Butts two years ago.

In the April 2019 incident—which was captured on video—Butts, who is riding in an SUV near USC, collided with an oncoming car and then strikes a parked motorcycle traffic officer who is thrown off of his bike and into a water fountain.

The officer, Michael Flynn, suffered extensive injuries, including broken ribs, damage to his nervous system and “permanent physical disability, impairment, scarring and disfigurement, according to legal documents.

The occupants of the other vehicle—a woman and her four year old son—also suffered injuries, though they were not disclosed.

The lawsuit seeks $290,000 in damages to offset not only the officer’s medical costs, but also damage to city property. The officer is also separately suing the City of Inglewood and Butts to cover medical expenses, loss of income and even damage to the officer and his wife’s relationship.

A third lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the woman and her son for lost wages, emotional distress as well as past and future medical fees.

Butts initially said he would take responsibility for the accident if he was found to be at fault, but in legal papers, the City of Inglewood is now reportedly suggesting he may only be partially to blame.

To that end, Inglewood’s City Council has rejected claims from all three parties, the City of Los Angeles, Officer Flynn and the occupants of the second vehicle.

Butts, who is also being sued by former assistant and ex-girlfriend, Melanie McDade, was also recently accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman, who is seeking $5 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Attorney Carl Douglas who also represents McDade, “Butts would make it known to claimant that if she did not give into his sexual advances, he would destroy her reputation and make sure she had no chance of working with the City of Inglewood.

The encounters allegedly ranged from demanding she rub his feet, to forcing her to perform sexual acts.

The claim was rejected by Inglewood’s City Council on April 12 and the Mayor has denied the allegations.

More Trouble for Inglewood Mayor James Butts

The City of Inglewood had better have some deep pockets because attorneys for the City of Los Angeles are suing for nearly $300,000 in damages stemming from automobile accident involving Mayor James Butts two years ago.

In the April 2019 incident—which was captured on video—Butts, who is riding in an SUV near USC, collided with an oncoming car and then strikes a parked motorcycle traffic officer who is thrown off of his bike and into a water fountain.

The officer, Michael Flynn, suffered extensive injuries, including broken ribs, damage to his nervous system and “permanent physical disability, impairment, scarring and disfigurement, according to legal documents.

The occupants of the other vehicle—a woman and her four year old son—also suffered injuries, though they were not disclosed.

The lawsuit seeks $290,000 in damages to offset not only the officer’s medical costs, but also damage to city property. The officer is also separately suing the City of Inglewood and Butts to cover medical expenses, loss of income and even damage to the officer and his wife’s relationship.

A third lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the woman and her son for lost wages, emotional distress as well as past and future medical fees.

Butts initially said he would take responsibility for the accident if he was found to be at fault, but in legal papers, the City of Inglewood is now reportedly suggesting he may only be partially to blame.

To that end, Inglewood’s City Council has rejected claims from all three parties, the City of Los Angeles, Officer Flynn and the occupants of the second vehicle.

Butts, who is also being sued by former assistant and ex-girlfriend, Melanie McDade, was also recently accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman, who is seeking $5 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Attorney Carl Douglas who also represents McDade, “Butts would make it known to claimant that if she did not give into his sexual advances, he would destroy her reputation and make sure she had no chance of working with the City of Inglewood.

The encounters allegedly ranged from demanding she rub his feet, to forcing her to perform sexual acts.

The claim was rejected by Inglewood’s City Council on April 12 and the Mayor has denied the allegations.


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