Author: lafocus

Dream Fund: Entrepreneurs Can Apply for $10,000 Grants Through $35M State Program Tanu Henry | California Black Media

Tanu Henry | California Black Media

Since 2017, there has been a 9.8% increase of new small businesses – firms with less than 500 employees — in the United States. Over the past two years alone, over 10 million applications were submitted to start new small businesses across the country, according to the Small Business Administration.

That growth trend is true for California, too, where there are about 4.1 million small businesses, the most in the country. Those companies make up 99.8% of all business in California and employ about 7.2 million people.

But for Black-owned and other minority owned small businesses across the country, there was a steep decline in numbers, almost 41%, due to the pandemic, a Census Population Survey found in 2020. During that same time, nearly 44% of minority-owned small businesses were at risk of shutting down, a Small Business Majority report found.

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

Recognizing the outsized contribution small businesses make to the health of the California economy and the hit many of the smallest of small business have taken during the pandemic, the California Office of the Small Business Advocate(CalOSBA) has been making grants of up to $25,000 to small business in the state.

In its latest round of funding called the Dream Fund, which is now accepting applications on a rolling basis, CalOSBA has partnered with Lendistry, a Los Angeles-based, minority-led small business and commercial real estate lender to administer the $35 million grant portion of its program. The fund provides $10,000 to each small business that qualifies.

To become eligible, California-based small businessowners will have to complete training at one of the centers run by the state’s Technical Assistance Expansion Program (TAEP) and receive a certificate.

“For the millions of Californians that have dreams of owning their own business, this grant coupled with one-on-one counseling and business expertise from hundreds of counselors at our eighty-seven Technical Assistance Centers, has the power to jumpstart their dreams,” says Tara Lynn Gray, Director of CalOSBA.

Jay King, President and CEO of the Sacramento-based California Black Chamber of Commerce, says he applauds Gov. Newsom for understanding the historic systemic challenges minority businesses face and for “doing something about it.”

But giving Black businesses grants are not a “cure-all,” he says.

“It is like putting a band aid on a bullet wound, if we don’t do more to really fix the problems small businesses face,” King explains. “Ninety six percent of Black businesses are mini or micro that means they make less than $100,000 or less than $35,000 a year, respectively,” King continued. “Only 4 % of our business earn more than $100,000 annually. We have to put more resources and technical support around these businesses.”

King says informing Black businessowners about opportunities like the Dream Fund and making sure they know how to apply for or access the funding is critical to making sure the people who need the help gets it.

“You have to get down into our communities,” he said. “You have to reach people through groups that are plugged into our communities to get the word out. We do not hear about these kinds of programs enough. We definitely don’t benefit from them enough.”

Everett K. Sands, the CEO of Lendistry, says he is excited to help California new businesses access the capital they need to “begin on their journeys.

“Over the past two years, almost 10 million new businesses have been created in the U.S.,” he says. “With record numbers of new small businesses entering the marketplace, many of which are owned by women and minorities, programs like California Dream Fund pave the way for a more robust and equitable economy as these new businesses make the leap from employing just their founders to employing their communities.”



California Gas Prices to Spike Even More with July 1 Tax Increase

Tanu Henry | California Black Media

“I really don’t understand how the price of gas can rise so drastically in California,” said a Black woman and 55-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident who agreed to be interviewed for this article but asked to not be identified.

“Unfortunately, we need to purchase it regardless of the prices and that’s one of reasons, I believe, it continues to increase,” she complained. “Weekly, it is costing me approximately $75 to commute to and from work, which is $35 more than I used to pay.”

The woman, who is a collections officer with a lead abatement company, said filling her tank often means she has to forgo another obligation.

As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.

Now, news that the state is tacking an extra 3 cent tax on every gallon purchased – which will not be a significant increase – is still absurd, says the woman, considering that California already has the highest gas prices in the nation.

Because Gov. Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature missed the May 1 deadline to suspend an inflationary gas tax increase that is scheduled for July 1, it will still take effect.

Policymakers would have had to act 60 days in advance to avert the increase.

Democratic lawmakers, backed by environmentalists, are digging their heels in, defending their decision not to suspend the inflationary tax increase that they fought hard to approve when they voted to pass Senate Bill 1 in 2017.

“As we’ve said before, suspending the gas tax would reduce critical funds available for road repair and improvement projects,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood said in a joint statement.

“Additionally, as oil companies continue to rake in record-high profits, there is no guarantee this relief would be passed onto consumers,” Atkins and Rendon continued.

With the tax hike, the average excise tax price per gallon in the state will go from about 51cents per gallon to 54 cents per gallon.

Last month, with the May 1 deadline looming, Newsom’s office acknowledged that it would not be able to convince lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly to suspend the tax increase.

Instead, Newsom’s spokesperson Alex Stack released a statement suggesting that the Governor’s office was turning its attention to providing relief to Californians as the cost of gas, food and other commodities continue to skyrocket.

“We look forward to working with lawmakers on the governor’s proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices,” Stack said in a statement. “Helping offset the impact of inflation on California residents remains a top priority for the governor.”

Legislative Republicans blasted their Democratic colleagues for their “inaction” on the gas tax increase.

“Californians are desperate for any relief at the pump while paying the highest gas prices in the nation, but Democrats have decided to run out the clock and increase the state’s gas tax instead,” read a statement the state Republican Party released earlier this month.

Gov. Newsom and lawmakers in both chambers of the Legislature have still not agreed on how to address the excessive cost of gas in the state.

Candace Owens Makes ‘Unacceptable and Dangerous’ Visit to Patrisse Cullors Home

Stacy M. Brown / NNPA Newswire

In a tearful Instagram Live post, Black Lives Matter Founder Patrisse Cullors described feeling threatened after Candace Owens arrived with a news crew outside the leader’s home in Los Angeles on May 7.

“She was demanding that I come outside,” said Cullors as she addressed many of her 367,000 Instagram followers who joined her.

“It’s really unacceptable, dangerous,” Cullors stated.

“When Candace Owens, another Black woman, who is actually working as a part of the right-wing agenda, comes outside my house with cameras.”

Owens, a conservative known for her fangirl obsession with former President Donald Trump and other white conservatives and the rhetoric she often spews online and on television, has led the charge against the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Owens has seized on unsubstantiated reports by right-wing media that Cullors used foundation money to purchase a $6 million home in California and purchased other property.
However, foundation officials and Cullors have pointed out that the California home represents a space for Black creators.

As for the other properties, Cullors has publicly stated that she purchased those from the proceeds of book sales and other personal earnings.

Owens claimed she watched Cullors live.

While claiming Cullors lied, Owens admitted to going to the home and ringing the doorbell.
“The truth shall set you free, or Candace Owens shall set you free, girl. Because I’m about to tell the truth,” Owens remarked in her own video.

Supporters of Cullors have stated that she indeed purchased a Los Angeles home for the foundation. However, the home Owens visited was not the property owned by the foundation. It was Cullors’ private residence.

Supporters have argued that the purported $6 million foundation home stands as an office and community workshop, like the one in Toronto that acts as a cultural center with offices for activists and no bedrooms.

Officials have stated that the primary purpose of purchasing the properties remains to build equity for the movement to continue.

“It’s been a hard few weeks,” Cullors remarked. “I really need to be safe. I need my family to be safe. I need my child to be safe.”

Cullors further described the threat to her security following Owens’ unannounced visit.
“It’s not safety. It’s not what I deserve, or any of us deserve,” she insisted.

She urged her friends and followers to remain diligent and reserve judgment.
“When you see [stuff] in the media being talked about, be diligent because they are purposely building a wedge between Black people,” Cullors asserted.

“They know that when we are together, we are stronger. They’ve seen what we’ve done over the last decade, and they are literally trying to destroy us; destroy me; destroy the movement.”

She continued: “I just us to be stronger, more diligent, and more present. I want us to be more clear and accountable. I love ya’ll so much. Pray for my family, check on Black organizers. This backlash is real and is impacting our personal and everyday life.

“I’m going to keep doing my work to be accountable and be in a right relationship with the people I love and those who love and trust me. I’ll continue to show up. Please take care of each other.”

California Offers $10k to College Students for a Year of Public Service

Peter Schurmann / Ethnic Media Services

SAN FRANCISCO – Fernando Martinez never owned a computer until he left high school. Today the 22-year-old Kansas native is teaching computer programming to Bay Area youth while he studies applied mathematics at San Jose State University.

Martinez is among the 6,500 college students across California expected to participate in a pioneering program that awards $10,000 towards college costs in return for completing community service work.

“This opportunity gave me the funding I needed to focus on my classes,” says Martinez, who spoke at a media briefing on Wednesday at San Francisco State University highlighting the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps program. “It’s also allowed me to work with and help young people who were like me.”

Launched by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps provides participating students $7000 stipends along with a $3000 education grant that can be used to pay for tuition and related costs upon completion of one year of service with a select non-profit. Students will also receive credits toward graduation for their service.

Students will be required to work in one of three areas: climate action, K-12 education, and COVID-19 recovery. The program is also open to undocumented AB 540 eligible students — known as Dreamers — those brought to the country as children who have access to in-state tuition under California law.

Some 48 colleges and universities across the state have joined in the initiative, including the University of California school system, California State University, as well as community colleges and private universities.

“We need more Fernandos in this world,” said California Chief Service Officer and program head Josh Fryday, who called the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps a “win, win, win… making this state better for everyone.”

A military veteran, Fryday said the 6,500 students that will make up the program’s initial cohort over the coming two years is “the size of the entire Peace Corps.”

He also stressed the “transformative power of service” in his remarks, noting students who participate in the program will “come back and change our campuses and our communities.”

Fryday continued, “It’s been generations where we have not invested in creating the infrastructure necessary to truly engage all of our people in service… This is the first time the state is investing state dollars into creating service opportunities.”

The program comes as the topic of student debt is front and center in state and national politics, with pressure mounting on President Biden to forgive more than $1 trillion in student loan debt nationwide. Nearly four million Californians owe $147 billion in student debt, with Blacks and Latinos facing the highest rates of default and delinquency.

San Francisco State University President Lynn Mahoney pointed to the nearby shopping mall that sits adjacent to the university campus, noting many of the employees in the mall are students working to cover the costs of their education. The financial pressure on students often precludes them from engaging in opportunities like this one, she said.

“Experience teaches,” said Mahoney, adding, “The more we provide opportunities like this to our least-served students, the stronger our state will be.”

Speakers at Wednesday’s event stressed the program will focus on admitting low-income students as well as undocumented students, adding that if successful it could be expanded and serve as a model for other states.

Kim Greer is the interim provost at Cal State East Bay. She said more than 90% of the available slots for the program at her school have already been filled for this year, an indication of its popularity.

She also echoed Fryday, saying participating students will bring their experiences “back to the classroom, so that all students will become aware of the issues impacting communities.”

The deadline to apply for the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps program varies depending on which university a student is attending. Participating non-profits will be selected in part based on established working relationships with area colleges and universities.

Interested students and their families are advised to visit the program’s website to learn more about eligibility criteria and the application process.

“I knew what I wanted to do in terms of helping people, I just didn’t know to what degree I would be able to do that,” said Martinez of his experience with the program. “And that was the most eye-opening thing for me. I think it’s awesome that instead of just helping one or two students, I’m helping whole classes.”

According to Fryday, that kind of civic engagement is what this moment of multiple crises demands.

“For democracy to thrive, and for us to actually solve our problems… we need to mobilize our most important asset, which is our people,” he said. “We have to create opportunities for people to step up and engage locally, and the College Corps is a huge step toward that vision.”

Fed Gov’t Is Investing $145 Million in Re-Entry Programs for Formerly Incarcerated People

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

After serving a 22-year sentence in a California prison, James Morgan, 51, found himself facing a world of opportunities that he did not imagine he would have as an ex-convict once sentenced to life for attempted murder.

Morgan, a Carson Native, says he is grateful for a second chance at life, and he has taken full advantage of   opportunities presented him through California state reentry and rehabilitation programs.

After completing mental health care for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Morgan was released from prison and granted parole in 2018.

“I did not expect what I found when I got out,” Morgan told California Black Media (CBM), explaining that he was fortunate to participate in a program for the formerly incarcerated in San Francisco.

“I was mandated by the courts to spend a year in transitional housing,” said Morgan. “Those guys walked us through everything. They made it really easy. It was all people I could relate to, and they knew how to talk to me because they used to be in the prison population — and they were from where we were from.”

Morgan says he also took lessons on anger management and time management.

Now, he is currently an apprentice in Local 300 Laborers Union, specializing in construction, after he participated in a pre-apprenticeship program through ARC (the Anti-Recidivism Coalition).

“Right now, I’m supporting my family,” Morgan said. “I’d say I’m doing pretty good because I hooked up with the right people.”

Supporters of criminal justice reform say Morgan’s success story in California is particularly encouraging.

Black men in the Golden State are imprisoned nearly 10 times the rate of their White counterparts, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. And just a little over a decade ago in 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ordered California to reduce the number of inmates in its overcrowded prison system by 33,000. Of that population, nearly 30% were Black men even though they account for about 5 % of the state’s population.

To help more formerly incarcerated people like Morgan get back on their feet after paying their debt to society, last month, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the federal government is investing $145 million over the course of the next fiscal year to support reentry programs across the country.

The Biden-Harris Administration also announced plans to expand federal job opportunities and loan programs, expand access to health care and housing, and develop and amplify educational opportunities for the formerly and currently incarcerated.

“It’s not enough to just send someone home, it’s not enough to only help them with a job. There’s got to be a holistic approach,” said Chiraag Bains, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council on Racial Justice and Equity.

Bains told CBM that that reentry programs help establish an “incarceration-to-employment pipeline.”

The White House announced the programs late last month as President Joe Biden commuted the sentences of 75 people and granted pardons to another three, including Abraham Bolden, the first Black Secret Service agent on White House detail.

Bolden was sentenced to 39 months in prison in 1964 for allegedly attempting to sell classified Secret Service documents. He has always maintained his innocence.

“Today, I granted pardons to three people and commuted the sentences of 75 people. America is a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden tweeted April 26.

According to Bains, about half of the people the President pardoned are Black or Brown.

“The president has spoken repeatedly about the fact that we have too many people serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses and too many of those people are Black and Brown,” said Bains. “This is a racial equity issue.”

Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have faced sharp criticisms in the past for supporting tough-on-crime policies as U.S. Senator and California Attorney General, respectively, that have had disproportionately targeted Blacks and other minorities.

According to a 2021 Stanford University Study, reentry programs in California have contributed to a 37 % decrease in the average re-arrest rate over the period of a year and a 92 % decrease during the same time.

Over the last decade, California has funded a number of initiatives supporting reentry and rehabilitation. In 2015, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation launched the Male Community Re-Entry Program (MCRP) that provides community-based rehabilitative services in Butte, Kern, Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. The Butte program services Tehama, Nevada, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Placer and Yuba counties.

A year later, Gov. Newsom’s office introduced the California Community Reinvestment Grant Program. The initiative funds community groups providing services like job placement, mental health treatment, housing and more to people, including the formerly incarcerated, who were impacted by the War on the Drugs.

Morgan spoke highly of programs that helped him reintegrate into society – both in prison and after he was released.

“In hindsight, I look back at it and I’m blown away by all of the ways that they’ve helped me,” Morgan said.

Report Shows America’s Major Cities are Pricing Out Black Residents

Stacy M. Brown / NNPA Newswire

At the onset of the pandemic, there wasn’t a single state, region, or county in America where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could afford a two-bedroom rental home, and nearly half of Black and Latinx renters (and more than a third of all renters) were paying unaffordable rent, a new report has revealed.

The National Equity Alliance released “The Shrinking Geography of Opportunity in Metro America,” this week, and found that the coronavirus pandemic continues to both illuminate and deepen the challenges of structural racism and housing inequity in the United States.
“While rent relief programs are sunsetting and rents are skyrocketing, millions of renters negatively impacted by the pandemic’s economic fallout face crushing rent debt, eviction, and homelessness,” the report’s authors wrote.

“And the renters who have been hit the hardest are disproportionately people of color and people living on low incomes. This extreme precarity stems from a housing crisis that has plagued communities for decades.”

Thai Le, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute; Edward Muña, project manager at the institute; Sarah Treuhaft, vice president of Research at PolicyLink, and Rasheedah Phillips, director of housing at PolicyLink; joined to author the study.

They revealed that working-class households face a shrinking geography of opportunity in metro America.

Across the 100 most populous metropolitan areas, the number of zip codes where the median market rents are affordable to low-income households declined 50 percent between 2013 and 2019 (from 17 percent of zip codes to 8 percent), according to the report.

The authors noted that the trend of declining affordability was widespread.

The number of neighborhoods with affordable median market rents shrunk in 81 metropolitan regions, remained approximately the same in 16 of them, and increased in only three regions.
Further, Black and Latinx households have the fewest choices when it comes to affordable neighborhoods.

In 2019, only 7 percent of zip codes in the top 100 metros had median market rents affordable to Black households at the median income for all Black households in the metro.
For Latinx households at the median income, just 16 percent of zip codes had affordable median market rents.

Black households experienced the steepest declines in affordable neighborhoods in the years preceding the pandemic.

Between 2013 and 2019 — even as the economy was recovering and median incomes increased for households of all races and ethnicities — the number of zip codes with median market rents affordable to median-income Black households decreased by 14 percent.

The majority of neighborhoods affordable for Black, Latinx, and low-income households are lower opportunity neighborhoods.

Among the zip codes with affordable rental housing for the median-income Black household, 82 percent were either “low” or “very low” — the bottom two quintiles on the Child Opportunity Index — while only 38 percent of zip codes affordable for the median-income white household were “low” or “very low” opportunity.

“Although this analysis is based on pre-pandemic data, all signs indicate that the trend of shrinking housing opportunity continues, and, if anything, conditions have worsened,” the authors determined.

They noted that in 2021, rents increased by at least 10 percent in 149 metropolitan regions, whereas only three metros experienced that level of rent growth in 2019.

Lower income renters, low-wage workers, and small businesses serving communities of color were hardest hit by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

The report highlighted that nearly six million renter households are currently behind on rent — about double the pre-pandemic baseline.

“Achieving racial equity and a just economy requires changing this paradigm and ensuring that households living on low incomes can live in affordable homes in neighborhoods that support their health and economic success,” the authors determined.

They concluded: “The crisis of housing affordability remains an urgent challenge for communities across the country, and it is being driven by both national and local forces.

“As our analysis shows, there is a growing gap in access to affordable housing and high-quality neighborhoods for working-class renters and renters of color.

“Protecting renters at risk of eviction and ensuring all households have access to safe and affordable housing is key to an equitable recovery and a strong economy built on shared prosperity.”

Bad Blood, Sad Memories: The Tuskegee Experiment and COVID-19 Connection

Eric Patterson, Contributor

      The Tuskegee Experiment is often cited by some African Americans, as a reason to be hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine. But the record needs to be set straight.

      My grandfather’s name was Doll Brown – an unusual handle for sure, but that wasn’t his given birth name. Granddaddy was born in 1904 to a family with four girls.  Everybody said he was so pretty “he looked like a doll the girls could play with.” So that’s what folks started calling him, Doll. The name and his good looks stuck with him well into adulthood. That’s when he made “Doll Brown” his legal government name, the name on his driver’s license as well as his death certificate.

      By the 1930s, when Granddaddy was in his prime, approximately one out of every 10 Americans was suffering from syphilis, according to an article by John H. Stokes. The illness was called “The 3rd Great Plague” due to its significant effect on the worldwide population. That ratio was even higher in the rural south, where Granddaddy was reared. Then, in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service, Syphilis Study was initiated in Tuskegee, Alabama (misleadingly remembered as “The Tuskegee Experiment”). The government came to town to study (experiment on) Negroes who had contracted this fast-spreading disease. Good looking, ladies’ man, Doll Brown, was one of them. The men were promised prime treatment and healthcare to further study and help eradicate this plague they called “Bad Blood.” The study included men with and without syphilis. None were treated. All were given placebos.

      Elsewhere in the world, Stokes’ article states that “the effective use of penicillin was discovered and in 1943 the first patient was treated.” Within 12 months, over 10,000 early syphilis patients had been treated. The widespread use of penicillin was a major force behind historic decreases in reported syphilis cases. There was a 95 percent reduction in new UK syphilis cases between 1946 and 1955. Physicians ascribed this decrease to the direct effect of penicillins curative powers. Swift proactive implementation of this new medical treatment made all the difference. Meanwhile, Negroes involved in the government study in Tuskegee would go untreated for another thirty years. Additionally, their names were placed on a national “Do not treat” list, and they were denied military service and job opportunities. Families were devastated. Granddaddy ultimately died from gangrene.

      Granddaddy’s story is why I got involved in California’s “Vaccinate All 58” initiative. I recognize the global importance of setting the record straight concerning the so-called, “Tuskegee Experiment.” When African Americans today cite that study as justification for not receiving the potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine, I’m baffled and perturbed. The quote “my people perish for lack of knowledge” still rings true today.  My family, friends and their families have lived with the specter of that shocking study for over 90 years. We only wish that granddaddy and other victims would have, could have “taken the shot.” Unfortunately, they were denied that opportunity. Not making treatment available to those Negro men was the core of the government’s racist conspiracy. These men weren’t injected with anything.

      And here we are today, the ill-fated “Tuskegee Experiment” still victimizing African Americans, ironically, for an entirely different reason. This time, we are our own worst enemies.

      Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionally impacted Black lives, loud speaking, ill-informed individuals have emerged, claiming that the government is attempting to perpetrate another “Tuskegee Experiment” on our community.  The scariest thing about that argument is that many of these people are highly intelligent, educated professionals who sound like they know what they’re talking about. It’s said that “everybody’s ignorant, just on different subjects.” Sadly, this group’s unhealthy, aggressive ignorance is killing our people due to the blinding influence they wield over the naive.

      Historically, vaccinations and new medicines have been proven safe and effective. This explains why Negroes in Tuskegee’s Jim Crow South, weren’t offered the effective, healing benefits of penicillin, the newly discovered medical remedy at the time.

      When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, it was initially administered to medical first responders. Once it was made widely available in our community, non-Black outsiders aggressively filled up appointment slots and steadily raised their community’s vaccination rates, while Black vaccination rates lagged behind. Something for naysayers to ponder.

      During this current COVID-19 pandemic, if we fail to respond to the urgent call to help ourselves by getting vaccinated, instead relying on harmful misinformation, then the legacy of the dreaded “Tuskegee Experiment” will claim countless more Black lives – all of which should matter.

      Dedicated to the memory of Granddaddy,

      Doll Brown, 1904 -1976

      Tuskegee, Alabama

Eric Patterson is a Free Mason who holds a BS Degree in Sociology and an MBA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. A former Captain in the 82nd Airborne Division, he served eight years in the army with separate tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan

Poll Finds Ongoing Concern from Tenth District Residents Regarding Inclusivity and Transparency in Determining Representation


In the results of an independent poll released this week, taken by over 120 residents, respondents articulated a significant degree of concern with the Los Angeles City Council’s lack of transparency and inclusivity in voting to appoint a “temporary” Councilmember to represent the 10th Council District following its suspension of Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas.

      The poll followed a virtual meeting conducted last March, where nearly 100 residents gathered to discuss and outline what a more transparent, constituent-driven selection process would look like after the Council, at the direction of the Council President, appointed former Councilmember Herb Wesson to Ridley-Thomas’ seat with little opportunity for input or public notice.

      The diverse group of virtual meeting attendees overwhelmingly expressed their disappointment and frustration regarding the Council’s actions to suspend Councilmember Ridley-Thomas without any public hearings where CD10 constituents could weigh in and before he could enter a “not guilty” plea, just six days after he was indicted by a federal grand jury.

      In order to ensure recommendations to the Council on this matter were developed in a robust and inclusive manner, a follow-up poll was conducted. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73.4%) felt not, or very not satisfied with the general leadership of the Council, and two-thirds (65.9%) described the appointment process as not fair, inclusive or transparent.

      Despite having expressed misgivings on the legality of Wesson’s appointment, on March 17, 2022, Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel lifted a temporary restraining order won by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California and CD10 voters to halt the appointment, thereby allowing Wesson to represent the Council District, despite the fact that he had previously served three terms in the office, the maximum allowed by the City Charter.  Judge Strobel justified this based on a legal procedure whereby the plaintiffs who had challenged his appointment were first required to seek approval from California Attorney General Rob Bonta. That process is currently underway.

      Given the potential that Wesson may likely be found to be illegally appointed, respondents were asked to provide feedback on what a new process to fairly appoint someone should look like.

      Over eight out of ten (82.1%) of respondents called for a constituent-driven, transparent process. Specifically, respondents recommended that there be solicitation of applications for those interested in being appointimage3.pnged, and that there be open hearings with the ability to publicly question candidates about their views.

      Respondents also suggested that there be a district wide mailer sent to residents, direct outreach to civic organizations that work in the district, and that the process be promoted through virtual and physical billboards and local radio and internet ads.

      “The findings from this poll make one thing clear – CD10 constituents will not be deterred,” said Harry McElroy, a co-organizer of the March community meeting and survey facilitator. “We have clearly seen that we cannot trust the LA City Council to create a process that allows constituents to be included in a conversation about our representation, so we have taken it upon ourselves to seek community feedback and provide specific recommendations on a just and suitable path forward. This is not over and will not be until the Council listens to the community.”

Loretta Devine, Cookie Johnson, Cynthia McClain-Hill and Dr. Jerry Abraham Honored at 24th Annual First Ladies High Tea

A group of people posing for a photo Description automatically generatedEdna Sims 

Lisa Collins, publisher of L.A. Focus and founder of the First Ladies High Tea hosted the L.A. Focus 24th Annual First Ladies High Tea with presenting sponsor the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the County of Los Angeles, on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

      Emmy Award-Winning Actress Loretta Devine received the Legacy Award; Cookie Johnson, NY Times bestselling author, founder of CJ, a premium denim line, and wife to Earvin “Magic” Johnson received the Spirit Award; renowned Dr. Jerry Abraham, a visionary leader in increasing vaccination rates for the most vulnerable received the CDPH Community Award; and LADWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill received the Corporate Award.

A picture containing person, green Description automatically generated      L.A. Focus First Ladies High Tea proudly saluted the 2022 first ladies’ honorees: Karen Brown of Liberty Baptist Church & Judson Baptist Church, Adrienne Dixon of Center of Hope L.A., Wendy Howlett of Blessed Family Covenant, and Teresa Pleasant of Christ Second Baptist Church for their service to the community and the work they do in their respective churches.

      Actress Wendy Raquel Robinson (The Game, Insecure, Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story) and Apostle Beverly “BAM” Crawford, Pastor, Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church—who served as co-hosts— kept the event moving and in a joyful mood.

      The featured performances 4x Stellar Award-winning artist Kurt Carr and gospel great Kathy Taylor transformed the packed house into a church atmosphere.  The program featured special guest appearances by actress Angela Lewis starring in FX’s hit show Snowfall, actor Richard Roundtree, Congresswoman and L.A. mayoral candidate Karen BassL.A. County Supervisor Holly J. MitchellState Senator Sydney Kamlager, and L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price

A group of people posing for a photo Description automatically generatedA group of women posing for a photo Description automatically generated with medium confidence      One of the afternoon’s highlights was the announcement of the winners of the L.A. Focus Annual Essay Contest. Open to girls 16-18, five winners received monetary awards to be used to further their education. This year’s essay theme was “Rising Above the Noise.” 

      The Afternoon Tea event hosted 700+ plus attendees that were served a traditional Afternoon Tea Menu. Other sponsors included Union Bank, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Black Leadership Aids Crisis Coalition (BLACC), and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Bass Campaign Issues Cease & Desist, L.A. Faith Leaders Decry Politics of Race Baiting and Smear Tactics on Behalf of Caruso


The Karen Bass campaign today issued a cease and desist letter in response to a wildly misleading, defamatory attack ad released by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, an independent expenditure committee opposing Karen Bass’s candidacy for Mayor of Los Angeles.

The letter points to demonstrable falsehoods in the Police Protective League’s ad, including the claim that Congresswoman Bass “repeatedly voted to give USC millions in taxpayer funds,” and demands the organization stop funding the false advertisement in violation of defamation law.

Karen Bass never voted to appropriate taxpayer funds to USC, and none of the bills cited in the ad refer to the University of Southern California or USC – unless you count the abbreviation of “United States Code”.

“A police union PAC supporting Rick Caruso is trying to distract from his USC pay-to-play admissions scandal by airing attack ads that spread misinformation about Karen Bass,” said spokesperson Anna Bahr. “Let’s be clear: While Caruso helped the wealthy and well-connected at USC, depriving working class students of an education, Karen Bass was at USC to study our broken child welfare system. This is what happens when a real estate billionaire tries to buy an election.”

Speaking at a press conference, L.A. faith leaders voiced their anger at the $2 million ad buy of the Los Angeles Police Protective League attacking Congresswoman and L.A. mayoral candidate Karen Bass and demanded a retraction.

“Our faith community has been a catalyst in bringing the police and faith community together,” said Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California. “It is a community that has had a lack of faith and trust within our police department and for them to send out this ad was a slap in the face and what our voters need to understand is that this police union is supporting Rick Caruso and spending one than $1 million to attack an elected official who is trusted within our community. Our faith community has come together to demand a retraction.”

“It an old playbook,” remarked Rev. John Cager, President of the Ministerial Alliance of the AME Church of Southern California, who— like many of the pastors present—believes such actions have the potential to set back police and community relations.

“Karen Bass is the author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and then the Police Union commits millions of dollars to get rid of her. We’ve seen it in Los Angeles before when the Police Union sided with Sam Yorty against Tom Bradley over 50 years ago.

“Los Angeles has moved on from the politics of race-baiting. Los Angeles has moved on from the time when victory was determined by dividing the white west side and the white Valley from people of color,” Cager continued. “This is a time for Los Angeles to come together and we call on all of the candidates in this race to rebuke and resist the cheap politics of race baiting. We further condemn the Police Union for continuing to fan the flames of racial politics. This is not Mississippi and Los Angeles will not stand for those tactics.”

Said Pastor E. Wayne Gaddis, President of the CA Missionary Baptist State Convention, “As crime ticks up in our city and all around the country, the Los Angeles Police Union should be focused on fighting crime, not fighting Karen Bass, who we stand together in our support of.”

© Copyright 2021 - LA Focus Newspaper