Author: lafocus

Family of Victim in Horrific Windsor Hills Crash Needs Help, Reckless Driver Faces Up to 90 Years

D.T. Carson

Nicole Linton, the 37-year old traveling nurse, charged with six counts of murder and five counts of gross vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of four adults—including an eight and a half month pregnant woman—and an 11-month old toddler, faces up to 90 years in prison, if convicted.

None of that however is comforting to 23-year old Dala Guy, whose brother, Reynold Lester was behind the wheel of the car carrying 23-year old Asherey Ryan and her 11-month old son, Alonzo Quintero, that burst into flames before splitting apart ejecting both Lester’s pregnant girlfriend and her young son.

“A young family was destroyed in the blink of an eye,” Gascón said in announcing the charges against Linton, who is being held at the Century Detention Center. “This incredible tragedy has sent shockwaves throughout Los Angeles and the loss of so many precious lives will have a lasting impact on those that are closest to them.

“Words cannot express the pain I am feeling right now having lost my world,” said Guy.

“At the ages of 3 and 4, Reynold and I were placed in foster care and left to handle this world alone. Growing up Reynold was the most intelligent person I knew, always getting good grades, always tucked away under his covers reading all of the latest Percy Jackson books, and just always being his authentic self. He was always my protector when I needed him the most and I couldn’t have thanked him more for that.”

Lester, who has had a tough time as a foster child, wasn’t as fortunate as his sister to have been adopted. Just before the deadly accident he had been staying with the family of his girlfriend, Asherey.

“He had just contacted me to express how happy he was about becoming a dad,” Guy reported of their conversation a couple of days before the fatal accident.  “He was so excited about the family he was building and the child he had on the way.”

Initially, Lester had been included in the gofundme set up by Asherey Ryan’s family which has now raised upwards of $165,000, with its donors including actress Issa Rae. But Lester’s name has since been removed from the page, leaving Guy once again to fend for herself and her brother.  Thus far, she has raised $9757, but more is needed to cover burial costs.

If you want to help, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/our-beloved-reynold-lester.

Linton, who has been denied bail ahead of her next court appearance on August 15, sped through a red light at upwards of 80-90 miles per hour slamming into multiple vehicles and sending eight people to the hospital. Two women found dead in a second vehicle that was engulfed in the flames have yet to be formally identified.

The toxicology report performed on the ICU nurse came up negative for drugs or for alcohol, but her attorney, Halim Dhanidina reported that Linton suffered from “profound mental health issues” that may be linked to the case.

The California Highway Patrol reported that she had at least 13 previous crashes — including a 2020 injury accident that totaled two cars

Said District Attorney George Gascón, “This is a case that will always be remembered for the senseless loss of so many innocent lives as they simply went about their daily routines.”

 

California Legislative Black Caucus Hosts Leadership Program for High Schoolers

Austin Gage | California Black Media

After a 3-year hiatus, the 12-member California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) held its “African American Leaders for Tomorrow Program” (AALT) on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills CSUDH.

From July 20 to 23, the CLBC brought together high school students from throughout California for a series of workshops and social activities aimed at preparing the next generation of leaders in African American communities in fields such as business, government and non-profit advocacy.

According to the CLBC website, the primary goal of the program “is to “build a bench” of young leaders who will lead California in solving issues of protecting voter rights, increasing access to higher education and career training through dual enrollment, reducing poverty rates, increasing living-wage employment, participating in criminal justice evolution, increasing quality and equity in healthcare, and reducing high infant mortality rates, in the lower-socioeconomic communities.”

Sixty high school students whose applications were chosen to participate in the program were provided an on-campus immersion experience. They lived in the CSUDH dorms and ate in the campus dining common.

State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and CLBC Chairman welcomed the students to the program and reiterated the reasoning for the program’s existence.

“I learned long ago that your education is the most important investment you make in yourself,” said Bradford, “We hope that our students learn and evolve from this opportunity. That they leave with skills and knowledge that they find useful in their educational and future endeavors. Our commitment is to prepare the next generation of African American leaders for whatever the future holds.”

Also welcoming the students were CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham and California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber. Los Angeles mayoral candidate and Congresswoman Karen Bass, who represents California’s 37th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and actress and comedian Kim Whitley provided video messages to the students.

Actress and dancer Debbie Allen and retired professional basketball player Norm Nixon gave the opening remarks at the program’s dinner to the students.

Six major workshops were held where the students interacted with CLBC members and experienced professionals from corporations such as The Education Trust-West, Snap Inc. and J.S. Held. The workshop topics were civic engagement, dual enrollment, STEM/technology as a career, leadership development, financial education and college knowledge.

Faculty at CSUDH and the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute also played key roles a huge role in the execution the program. Parham along with Dr. Justin Gammage, and other members of the university lectured the students on topics such as mental wellness and selfcare in addition to the workshops and panels. On the last day of the program, students participated in a mock committee hearing about AB3121, the bill that established California’s Reparations Task Force.

CLBC members Assemblymembers Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) and Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) helped wrap up the program and handed out certificates of recognition to participants in the program.

CLBC member Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D- San Diego), reflecting on the program said “For three days, high school students get to stay on a college campus and get immersed in a unique learning environment that will prepare them for successful transition to higher education, job seeking, budgeting and leadership.”

The AALT serves as a cultivating ground for the youth and helps them understand what they may want to focus on for their future careers. Another CLBC member attending the program, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), shared Weber’s perspective.

“The African American Leaders of Tomorrow program was created to prepare the youth of today for their careers by exposing them to legislative process, encouraging critical thinking and helping them discover their passions,” Holden said.

COVID Vaccines Available for Children Under 4 Years Old as the Start of School Year Nears

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

As parents across California focus on purchasing new clothes, school supplies and technological aids for their children for the coming school year, public health officials and healthcare professionals are asking them to consider the COVID-19 vaccine a back-to-school essential.

In June, COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for children 6 months through 4 years. Consequently about 2.2 million children in California and nearly 20 million children in the United States less than 5 years of age are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Although data from the trials involving thousands of infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months show that the vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to prevent serious health issues for youth and their families, many parents are hesitant to have their young children vaccinated.

Pfizer vaccine trials enlisted roughly 4,500 infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months. They proved the vaccine effective against COVID-19 and showed a strong antibody response in children receiving the vaccine.

Moderna vaccine trials involved over 6,500 infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months. They also proved the vaccine effective against COVID-19 and showed a strong antibody response in children who received it.

Dr. Jennifer Miller, a pediatrician with East Bay Pediatrics, spoke about her experiences with parents in her practice regarding the vaccine during a virtual press conference hosted by The California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

“For those families that are hesitant and questioning, I try to understand what their fears and questions are. I try to remind them that we are in this together. I care about the health and wellbeing of their children, and I will always suggest the best possible course for them,” she said. “I let them know that ultimately it is their decision to make, and I am here as a resource. It is normal to be afraid of the unknown and to want to protect your child. With that in mind, vaccination is the best protection around.”

COVID-19 vaccines were only authorized for use in the US after three phases of clinical trials that show the vaccines are effective at protecting against the virus. For the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials with children under 5 years old, infants and toddlers of different ethnicities were enrolled to ensure that the vaccine is consistently effective. Once the trials were completed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined after rigorous analysis that the data meets their high standards of safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality.

Since the vaccines were authorized for emergency use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been using platforms like V-safe and VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) to monitor safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Children 3 and above are eligible to receive the vaccination at pharmacies, while children under 3 will need to see their pediatrician or small community clinics due to federal regulations. The state has purchased enough vaccines for every child in California with the first shipment of 500,000 doses arrived last month.

The Moderna vaccine for children under four is a two-dose vaccine like the dosage for adults, however there will be one month in between doses. The Pfizer vaccine is three doses. The first dose is followed by the second 21 days later and the final dose comes 60 days after that. The Moderna dose is 1/4 of an adult dose, and the Pfizer vaccine is 1/10 of the adult dose. Tests show the side effects of minor fever and pain at the injection site can be stronger for children who receive the Moderna vaccine.

Protecting everyone in the household is a top priority as the new school year approaches. For the first time since the pandemic, vaccines are available for the entire family. Age is no longer a factor. Data has also shown that the vaccine is effective for pregnant women and safe for their unborn children. Additional protections can also be given to them while they are still in the womb.

Dr. Sarah Takekawa, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, is currently raising 3 children under 5. She spoke during the California Department of Public Health’s virtual press conference on concerns pregnant woman may have with the vaccine and its effect on children. Dr. Takekawa was fully vaccinated before conceiving her third child and received her booster while pregnant.

“I have seen first-hand what the COVID-19 infection can do to otherwise extremely healthy young women during their pregnancies. Watching firsthand adults otherwise healthy succumb to the disease, it seems easy to us to make this decision about wanting to get vaccinated and encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated. But we also understand that it is a discussion that needs to be had.”

You can view the entire Department of Public Health’s digital press conference discussion here and learn more about the youth vaccine. You can also visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about safe and effective vaccines available for all Californians aged 6 months and older.

The Monkeypox Health Crisis: How California Is Responding

Tanu Henry | California Black Media

As the monkeypox virus outbreak spreads across the globe, Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will need to galvanize “forces” across regions and relax some state regulations and statutes to combat a disease that poses a threat greater than local authorities may be able to respond to effectively.

“California is working urgently across all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure that those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach,” the Governor said Monday night as he declared a State of Emergency in California.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has begun to collect and report racial and other demographic data, tracking how the disease is impacting various groups across the state.

The Governor’s State of Emergency follows similar actions taken in San Francisco, New York City and Illinois. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency.”

Last Thursday, the federal government also declared monkeypox a national public health emergency.

“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary and former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón says he welcomes the federal health emergency because it opens up channels for California to get more access to resources to slow the spread the disease.

“We hope today’s action injects additional federal funding and resources into our collective response efforts. The state remains focused on slowing the spread of the virus in impacted communities, administering the limited number of vaccine doses we have, and raising awareness about prevention measures and access to treatment,” Aragón said, before adding that California is “well-positioned” to tackle the outbreak.

Although monkeypox is not considered deadly, the disease can be fatal for some categories of people, according to public health authorities. Symptoms of the disease, lesions and blisters, can be extremely painful in some cases as well.

“Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die,” the CDC reports.

According to the governor’s office, CDPH has taken a number of steps to expand access to vaccinations and the state has launched a public information campaign, mostly relying on webinars and town hall meetings to get information about Monkeypox out to people across the state.

“CDPH is also expanding treatment options. Access to the antiviral prescription drug tecovirimat  (Tpoxx) used to treat monkeypox is limited, but the treatment can now be administered at more than 30 facilities and providers across the state,” a press release issued by Newsom’s office states.

As of August 2, the state had distributed nearly 1,713 treatment courses and 168 IV doses of Tecovirimat to health centers in various locations across the state.

So far, the CDPH has received a little over 109,000 monkeypox vaccines – of which 51,000 doses have been distributed to local health departments across the state.

Among Black Californians, there have been 129 cases reported so far, accounting for about 11% of all confirmed cases in the state. African Americans make up about 6.5% of the state’s total population.

As of Aug. 5, CDPH reports that there have been 1,310 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the state with the most confirmed cases being reported in Los Angeles (431) followed by San Francisco (398) and Alameda County (83). There have been 7,509 confirmed cases in the United States and 28,220 across the world.

Shortly after the Governor declared a State of Emergency, Shane Harris of the Peoples Association of Justice Activists, a San Diego-based advocacy group, called on San Diego County to release demographic data on monkeypox cases in that county.

“The governor has declared a State of Emergency as of last night and constituents deserve to know the truth about this virus in our region,” said Harris speaking at a press conference. “My office led this argument during COVID that we needed more demographic data, and the county’s response is that we did not have enough cases at that time. I want them to know that response will not work this time. There is never too few of cases.”

At the state level, the CDPH has begun to disaggregate the Monkeypox data it is collecting by race, city, hospitalizations, gender, age and sexual orientation.

The age group with the highest number of reported monkeypox cases (482) are 25-to-34-year-olds, who make up about 36.8 % of all confirmed infections in California.

“We’ll continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risk, and stand with the LGBTQ community fighting stigmatization,” Newsom added.

Aragón echoed the governor’s statement.

“Our team is also committed to reducing stigma among the LGBTQ community, which has been singled out and treated unfairly because of this outbreak. No single individual or community is to blame for the spread of any virus,” Aragón reinforced.

When it comes to race, Harris said it is important to approach the containment and treatment of monkeypox with the same “perspective and passion” that characterized the state government’s response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Race and ethnicity were very important during COVID because we studied the very impact of cultural competency pertaining to COVID – how different communities dealt with it. It is still significantly important today,” Harris emphasized.

‘The Mandela Act’ Aims to Set Clear Definition of Solitary Confinement in CA Prisons

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus and Chair of theAssembly Appropriations Committee, has proposed legislation that would restrict prisons from holding people in solitary confinement, or all-day isolation for more than 15 consecutive days and no more than 45 days total, in a 6-month period.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2632, a.k.a ‘The California Mandela Act’, would prohibit the practice entirely for persons belonging to a “special population,” including pregnant women, persons with a developmental disability or a serious mental disorder, and individuals under 25 and over 60. It would also establish the procedures and reporting requirements for segregated confinement.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations committee sent AB 2632 to the suspense file.

Bills meeting the committee’s suspense threshold, i.e., the cost of a bill is determined to be $50,000 or more to thestate’s General Fund or $150,000 or more to a special fund, are often placed on the suspense file after committee testimony is taken and not passed directly to the Senate for a vote.  Instead, a vote-only suspense hearing will be held prior to the deadlines for fiscal committees to hear and report bills to the Senate Floor.  The bill will either move on to the Senate Floor for further consideration or be held in committee.

If the bill passes the Legislature, California would be the first state to ban the practice in private immigration facilities. Since 2017, 14 other states have limited or ceased the practice for certain groups.

“Rehabilitation is lost once you put someone in a solitary confinement setting,” said Holden in a press release.  “Our constitution prohibits torture, and I believe that the use of prolonged solitary is wrong, both morally, and also with respect to the rehabilitation of individuals in jails and prisons.”

The bill is named after Nelson Mandela who was famously detained in solitary confinement for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa. In 2015, the United Nations also named its standards of imprisonment after Mandela and deemed any period of isolation beyond 15 days torture.

Opponents of AB 2632 argue that suspending solitary confinement would complicate housing decisions and lead to dangerous living conditions for detainees and staff.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reports the bill would necessitate a one-time cost of $775 million to double the programming space at each institution and a one-time cost of up to $512 million to expand exercise yards by approximately 50%. CDCR also reported the increase in custody staffing required to implement the bill across its 31 institutions would cost about $200 million annually.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports ongoing costs of about of $3.8 million would be incurred to establish 25 new permanent positions to assess CDCR facilities in accordance to AB 2632 and report the findings to the Legislature.

AB 2632 is estimated to add millions in operating costs to the Board of State and Community Corrections, the Department of Justice, and county jails.

However, a recent fiscal report titled “The Cost of Solitary Confinement: Why Ending Isolation in California Prisons Can Save Money and Save Lives” drafted by the Immigration Defense Advocates and Berkeley Underground Scholars highlights potential savings from implementing the Mandela Act. The report used figures from the 2016 state budget and cost estimates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It predicts savings between $60 and $300 million, while impacting more than 150 facilities in the state.

“The Mandela Act builds on the decades of work done by detained individuals, activists and organizers to shed light on the darkness that is solitary confinement and allows for constructive alternatives. This bill promotes accountability, safety, and human decency and I hope others will see that too,” said Holden.

In Defense of Voting Rights in City Council District 10

Opinion

Rev. Norman S. Johnson and Rev. Edward Anderson

      Next week the Superior Court will hear arguments as to whether it should grant a preliminary injunction barring Herb Wesson from acting in any capacity as a Councilmember for District 10. The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—Southern California (SCLC- SC) and the League of Registered Voters of District 10 after the City Council appointed Mr. Wesson — an indisputably “termed out” Councilmember — as a “temporary” replacement for Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas in violation of the City Charter. As members of a network of pastors of South L.A. churches with well over 50,000 congregants, we see this legal challenge as a continuation of the defense of voting rights and believe that the preliminary injunction should unquestionably be granted.

District 10 deserves better than being represented by a man who is not legally eligible to serve. His actions to date have caused the District significant and irreversible harm.  If the preliminary injunction is granted, as we hope it will be, the City Council and City Attorney should abandon their efforts to justify Mr. Wesson’s appointment. A trial will not take place until October.  Rather, the Council should work with the constituents of District 10 to find a suitable replacement.

In our March 25, 2022 letter signed by two dozen South Los Angeles pastors to California Attorney General Rob Bonta in support of the quo warranto application pertaining to this matter, we said “The City Council must adhere to the rule of law. The City Council must consistently abide by the City Charter. It cannot pick and choose which provisions to honor. To do otherwise is to further erode its reputation as well as to violate the voting rights of CD10 constituents….”

Failure to abide by the term limit provisions of the Charter also violate the voting rights of ALL City voters.  Charter provisions are voter enacted. A violation of a provision constitutes nullification of the voter majority that supported its adoption. This work follows a long tradition of working to perfect our democracy.  When we defend our voting rights, we protect the voting rights of everyone.

The resort to the court is consistent with the historical practice of SCLC and African American communities to seek judicial relief when confronted by local elected officials who fail to adhere to the rule of law in violation of their statutory obligations and administrative procedures.

At a moment in our nation’s history when the rule of law and voting rights are under threat and fundamental democratic norms and values are being challenged, it is critical that District 10 be represented by a council member who is lawfully eligible to temporarily fill (presumptively innocent) Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas’ seat.

In our May 5 letter to Wesson memorializing a discussion about the agenda for a proposed meeting with our group, we pointed out that “one of your first official acts was to permit the ‘Caretaker’ (Mark Ridley-Thomas’ chief of staff) to be terminated without cause, and without meeting with her. This action came without an update on budget, land use or project priorities, or the status of representational or constituent activity.”

This destabilizing personnel action prompted a rapid exodus of District 10 staff and compounded the harm done to the district constituents.  By dismantling the team that had remained largely in place prior to the Wesson appointment, constituents and stakeholders were deprived of a highly credentialed and dedicated staff of public servants that managed to remain intact for four tumultuous months following the Ridley-Thomas suspension.

Our May 27 letter memorializes “temporary” Councilmember Wesson’s inability to meet with SLACPA on advice of the City Attorney. Despite our suggestion that a representative of the City Attorney’s office be present during the proposed meeting to advise him in real time about matters that could arise and may impact pending litigation, Councilmember Wesson has refused to meet with us. This inability or unwillingness to meet with constituent stakeholder groups such as ours and represents tens of thousands, is another example of the harm being done to CD10 constituents.

In the absence of transparency, the effectiveness of a Council-appointed representative is compromised by the perception of a “back room” deal of dubious legality and legitimacy.  The process leading to Wesson’s “temporary” appointment degraded support for representative democracy and undermined public trust. In our June 29, 2022 letter to Martinez, SLACPA wrote, “We wish to avoid another secretive, selective appointment process that fails to place legitimacy, transparency and accountability at the forefront of the effort. We implore the City Council to engage CD10 constituents and stakeholders in a more inclusive, open, transparent process of selecting a Tenth District representative accountable to Tenth District voters.”.

In short, Herb Wesson should be barred from unlawfully serving as CD10’s temporary representative in violation of the Charter’s term limits provision and a more transparent and accountable selection process must be used if a new appointee is selected.

Norman S. Johnson is the convener of South LA Clergy for Public Accountabilty and serves as pastor of the First New Christian Fellowshp Baptist Church. Edward Anderson represented District Ten on the City LA Redistricting Commission and serves as pastor of the McCarty Memeorial Christian Church.

Faith to Fitness: What Ernestine Shepherd—The World’s Oldest Competitive Body Builder—Can Teach Us All About Aging

D.T. Carson

         At 86, Ernestine Shepherd is in better shape than most half her age and for anyone who meets or sees her and does the typical double take upon hearing her age, she is a walking, breathing example of how staying fit can also be age-defying.

“When people see me at class, the first thing they ask is how old I am,” Shepherd says. Then someone will tell them, and they say, no, she can’t be 85. Maybe about 60. Just yesterday, a woman who came to my class asked one of the other ladies how old that I was. When the woman told her, she said, tell her to show me some proof, because I don’t believe it.”

But it’s what happens next that both tickles and inspires Shepherd the most: both men and women alike rethink how much more they should be doing to get and stay fit.

“I just didn’t know it was possible for a woman over 60 to have a six pack and at 80—unbelievable,” is another standard observation.

Ironically, Shepherd was dubbed “6-pack Granny” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not and in 2010 at the age of 71, she was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest competitive bodybuilder in the world.

Her celebrity has landed her in everything from a cameo appearance in Beyonce’s “Black Is King” and an original documentary short from Prevention to a guest spot on CNN with Anderson Cooper. But the woman who starts every day off with prayer and lives by a “three -D” mantra of “determined, dedicated, disciplined to be fit” (also the title of her book), believes that she is better defined by her journey than her six-pack, and freely shares it during a robust schedule of speaking engagements and public appearances across the nation where she inspires women that at almost any age, they too, can be fit—and fabulous.

For Shepherd, affectionately dubbed as “Miss Ernie”, getting fit was a small part health and large part ego fueled by the love of a sister for whom getting and staying fit was a top priority.

Shepherd—who had done some modeling in the past—and her sister, Velvet, had been invited to go to a church picnic where they were supposed to wear bathing suits, but they hated what they saw as they tried on swimsuit after swimsuit in a local clothing store.

“I was 56 and she was 57, and neither of us liked the way we looked in the bathing suits we tried on and decided that we would start exercising,” recalls Shepherd, who described herself at the time as a sedentary, well-padded school secretary and “slug” who had never worked out a day in her life.

“We found an aerobics class,” she continued. “Now, I didn’t know anything about aerobics because at the age of 12, I’d broken my ankle and was told I wouldn’t ever be able to do any exercise on it. But my sister said it that’s been a many a day ago, so we’re going to take this class.

“Well, I wasn’t working as hard as my sister was because I was still afraid of my ankle, and because I was prissy. I didn’t want to break my nails or mess up my hair. But when I saw the changes in my sister’s body, I had the audacity to get angry.”

She also got serious and before long began to see a change in her own body.

“After we had taken aerobics for a while, the instructor said, ‘I want you ladies to lift weights because it will really make a change in your body’,” Shepherd picked up the story. “Again, I didn’t want to do it, but I followed my sister Velvet. I started lifting weights and began to notice the definition in my body.”

Just as the two began to weigh the possibilities of going even further, her sister Velvet—who had by then set her sights on becoming a bodybuilder— suffered a brain aneurysm and would subsequently pass away, but not before making Shepherd promise that if something were to happen to her, that she would continue what they’d started together.

“What we want to do,” she told Ernestine “is to motivate other seniors to the importance of exercising. To let them know they can get fit. That age is nothing but a number. And we want to teach them to live a healthy, happy, positive, confident lifestyle.”

However, instead of moving forward, Ernestine fell to pieces following the death of her beloved sister.

“I didn’t want to do anything because I couldn’t understand why God took her away. I just couldn’t get over it,” Shepherd explained.

Then one night her sister came to her in a dream.

“She said, ‘Teenie, you aren’t doing what I asked you to do. Get up and do what I asked you to do.’ I sat up in the bed and looked around. I didn’t see anyone, but I know that’s what she said to me.

“I got myself together, went to a gym and at this gym, I met a trainer named Raymond Day and asked if he help me with my workout, and he did.”

The results were so transformative that Day submitted the then 60-plus year old’s picture to Essence Magazine for an issue featuring women over 50. So impressed were magazine editors that they flew her to New York City for a photo shoot that was included in the magazine.

A call from “The View” followed and she was back in New York to take the show and demonstrate her exercises. And the calls kept coming. Oprah Winfrey. The 700 Club. AARP.

Following the dream of her sister, she accompanied her trainer to a body building contest where she met former Mr. Universe, Yohnnie Shambourger.

“I asked Yohnnie would he train me, and he said, yes, but it will be a long journey and you’ll have to promise to do everything I tell you,” she recalled. Of course, when I started training with him, I told him, I do not want to look like a man. I want to remain looking feminine and he said, ‘You don’t have to concern yourself about that because you don’t have that testosterone and I know how to train you.”

Over the next months, she meticulously followed the workout program he’d designed for her, sending him a picture every month to let him see how her body was changing before he would finally invite her to Fort Washington to train directly with him.

“Sometimes the workouts were so difficult that I would say, I’m old and I can’t do this,” Shepherd said. “Then he’d say, ‘No, you are not old, you are an athlete.”

A year would pass before he said she was ready to do her first show where she would be judged not only on her physique but her athletic abilities, including strength and flexibility. And at 71, she would have to purchase a posing suit, similar to a 2-piece string bikini.

“My husband was very religious, and I hadn’t told him I was going to have on this skimpy suit,” Shepherd chuckles. “So, when the music started playing, I peeked from behind the curtain and there he was sitting with his hands folded and I said, ‘Oh Lord, I can’t go out there in this suit because he’ll have a fit.’ But Yohnnie said, ‘It’s now or never.’ So, I walked out on that stage and did all of my poses. Then I got carried away. I did pushups. I did dips…

“I was the oldest one in the contest and when the time came for the winners, well Lord here I came out in first place. I couldn’t believe it and my husband was very proud.”

In addition to first place in her class at the Natural East Coast Tournament of Champions Bodybuilding Competition, Shambourger and Shepherd’s collective efforts paid off with a call from the from Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 inviting her to Rome, and subsequently documenting her as the oldest living, competitive body builder in the world. A call from Ripley’s Believe it or Not followed as did TV shows like Good Morning America. Neither did her accomplishments go unnoticed by the likes of United Healthcare and AARP with whom she has continued to partner with on events and speaking engagements to inspire other seniors.

Five years would pass before Shepherd retired from competition at 76 and became a personal trainer, utilizing all she’d learned from her own journey. But she was hardly done. Once off the competition cycle, the woman who could at her peak bench press 150 pounds, started walking and then eventually running—and winning— marathons in her age category.

At her peak, she was running up to 80 miles a week. However, in 2019, everything came to a screeching halt with the death of her husband of 60 years.

“Everything went to pieces. I ended up with anxiety and depression,” Shepherd said. “My husband had worked hard with me. For everything that I wanted to do, he was in my corner. He would prepare five days-worth of food for me, so that all I would have to do, is place it in the microwave and heat it up.”

Getting back on track took both time and medication. When she did return to the gym, she found that her nerves didn’t bother her. However, a side effect of the medication was a slight weight gain.

“I still look nice, but I’m not as small as I was,” says the 5’4” dynamo, whose average weight had been 125. “Now I’m up to 135. I still wear my same clothes. They fit, but there’s some spots I really need to work on because I know how it’s supposed to look [though] nobody notices but me.”

Though her bodybuilding days are behind her, Shepherd’s daily schedule would give the average adult of any age pause.

She begins every day with every morning prayer and devotional messages on Instagram, stating, “I cannot do anything without prayer.” She is at the gym by six for a personal workout. From 7-9am, she walks and jogs with Ernie’s Foot Patrollers. At nine, she teaches a “Sweat and Sculpt” Class for women, averaging in age from 50-84. She takes a break mid-day and returns to teach an afternoon class or do some personal training. Once a month there is her community walking group, and the schedule is frequently modified for out-of-town engagements at churches or with groups like the AARP and Prevention.

She follows her three D’s “determined, dedicated, disciplined to being fit” religiously—a discipline that has come to include a diet of egg whites, chicken, tuna, sweet and white potatoes, vegetables, brown rice, plenty of water and no preservatives.

While fully understanding that for most women, changing their diet is the biggest challenge, what she wants aging women to understand the most, however, is how important activity is.

“I want them to understand that if you just sit around and don’t move and do nothing, the more your body will deteriorate. The ladies that I train are keeping their body in good condition and look nice in their clothes. Then when they come to class, I’ll wear lipstick and fancy exercise clothes, and they come in and do the same.

Most of all, Shepherd stays true to the promise she made to her sister.

“With what time I have left, I want to spend it helping as many people as I can to live this healthy lifestyle. I go all the churches and speak and wherever I go, it makes me so very proud that I can inspire them to work out and get healthy.

“Exercise has such a positive on people’s mental attitudes. The endorphins and health benefits you get from exercising… When I go out and walk or lift weights, it really does something for me. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t out exercising and helping people because that’s my real joy.”

WHAT SHEPHERD HAS DONE TO GET AND STAY FIT

  • Realizing early on the importance of good nutrition (including sufficient protein and supplements) she sought out the services of a nutritionist
  • Keeps refrigerator stocked with her seven convenient small balanced daily meals
  • Makes sure she gets the rest her body needs
  • Drinks plenty of water
  • Tries to have a positive attitude about everything, views her workouts as fun and sees her work as being on a “long happy journey”
  • Knows where she wants to go and what she wants to accomplish
  • Never gives up
  • Believes in encouragement, inspiration and family support and lives by her mantra” Determined — Dedicated — Disciplined to Be Fit”
  • Began slowly under the guidance of an expert personal trainer to gradually condition the body

Note: “It’s very important,” says Shepherd, “because you don’t want them to get hurt. I’m a good trainer for older women because I know just what they would be capable of doing. I wouldn’t dare have an older woman come to my class for the first time and give her a 20 pound weight because she wouldn’t have the energy to do it, if she’s never lifted weights. “

Metro’s Hyde Park Station Dedicated to Nipsey Hussle

The tributes to the Nipsey Hussle continue as local elected leaders and community residents turned out over the weekend to dedicate Metro’s new Hyde Park Station to the late rapper who was laid to rest three years ago.

The station on the K line is located between the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson —where Hussle launched his Marathon Clothing store—and 59th Street.

During the ceremony, L.A. City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson spoke of Hussle’s early involvement in the Metro project.

“After he caught the vision and he understood what the train would mean to this community and his neighborhood and businesses like his, he got very involved in making sure that this train worked on behalf of our people and helped us express and live out our possibilities and our hopes and our dreams,” Harris-Dawson said.

The councilman went on to speak on how the train will highlight the cultural impact of Black Angelenos.

“From Slauson and all the way to Vernon, you will see world-class pieces of art, celebrating the history and the legacy of African American people,” he said. “Everybody who comes to L.A. and rides the train out of the airport is gonna see it”.

Monkeypox Declared A Public Health Emergency

 

Staff

Well, it’s official. Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, freeing up federal funds and a coordinated response, including boosting vaccine supply which is currently being outstripped by demand. The designation characterizes the virus—which is transmitted via close physical contact— as a significant risk to all Americans. In fact, the U.S. with upward of 7000 cases, has among the highest rates of monkeypox infection in the world.

“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” said U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra of the virus first identified in the U.S. in May.

The announcement comes 11 days after the World Health Organization declared Monkeypox a global health emergency, signalling the need for a coordinated international response as 19,000 cases have been confirmed in 78 countries.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is rapidly expanding access to hundreds of thousands of doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for prophylactic use against monkeypox in areas with the highest transmission and need, using a tiered allocation system. Jurisdictions can also request shipments of the ACAM2000 vaccine, which is in much greater supply, but due to significant side effects is not recommended for everyone.

Some experts, however, are not convinced that containment of the outbreak— now reported in every state but two—is possible, though they concede that monkeypox does not spread like COVID.

More than 99 percent of the cases reported have been among men who have sex with men, with sexual contact being the most probable transmission, with cases noticeably spiking in Los Angeles and San Francisco after Pride weekends. However, on Tuesday, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services confirmed a presumptive case of monkeypox infection in a pediatric resident of Long Beach. Preliminary test results indicate that the child has tested positive for orthopoxvirus. Additional testing will be performed at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to confirm monkeypox.

“This is a reminder,” a city press release stated, “that everyone regardless of age or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox if they come into contact with the virus.

Not only can Monkeypox be spread through sexual intimacy, but health experts say other physical contact can include hugging, kissing, cuddling, holding and feeding, adding that the virus can also spread through contaminated materials, such as cups, bedding, clothing, towels, and utensils.

The most common symptom is a rash, though fever, headaches and lethargy have also been cited. Young children and immunocompromised people, including those living with HIV infection, are at increased risk of severe monkeypox illness.

On Monday, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell has issued a Proclamation of a Local Emergency for Monkeypox to bolster the County’s response.

Said Mitchell, “This proclamation is critical in helping us get ahead of this virus. By declaring a local emergency, it allows us to cut through the red tape to better dedicate resources and educate residents on how to protect themselves and help stop the spread. It will also allow the County to quickly administer vaccines as more become available and to take the necessary efforts to obtain supplies and enhance outreach and awareness.”

L.A. County residents who suspect they may have monkeypox and wish to get tested can contact their health provider or call 2-1-1 if they don’t have a provider or health insurance.

With the arrival of additional JYNNEOS vaccination doses, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is expanding the criteria to include additional residents at high risk of exposure to monkeypox and launching a pop-up vaccination location in West Hollywood.

Those seeking more information are urged to visit: publichealth.lacounty.gov/monkeypox.

 

The Lookout: Newsom Takes Action to Keep Californians Safe From Gun Violence

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Last Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills focused on addressing gun violence.

“California has the toughest gun safety laws in the nation, but none of us can afford to be complacent in tackling the gun violence crisis ravaging our country,” Newsom said. “These new measures will help keep children safe at school, keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and responsibly regulate the sale of firearms in our communities. California will continue to lead on lifesaving polices that provide a model for action by other states and the nation.”

Here is a breakdown of the bills which are intended to improve school safety, restrict gun possession by people convicted of child abuse or elder abuse, and better regulate the sale of firearms.

Assembly Bill (AB) 228, authored by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino), will require the Department of Justice to inspect gun dealers at least every three years unless the jurisdiction already has an inspection program in place.

“Following the tragic events in Uvalde, Texas, last week, it is vital that our country ensures these firearms stop ending up in the hands of criminals. AB 228 will require firearm dealers to be inspected regularly, ensuring that dealers follow the laws intended to keep our communities safe,” Rodriguez said in June.

AB 1842, also authored by Rodriguez, caps firearm cancelation fees to 5% of the purchase price for licensed firearms dealers, except for special order firearms.

“Californians who make the safe and responsible decision not to complete their firearm purchase should not be penalized, especially if they never even possessed the firearm,” said Rodriguez. “AB 1842 would limit these return-related fees, so buyers are not incentivized to complete their firearm purchase, rather than paying up to half the cost to cancel such. I am dedicated to helping end gun violence by tightening up laws surrounding the purchasing, or cancellation of purchasing, firearms.”

Assemblymember Christopher Ward (D-San Diego) wrote AB 311 which prevents the sale of firearms on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“Ghost guns can bypass common sense policies created to protect our communities from senseless gun violence. AB 311 will address growing concerns over the availability of these firearms by prohibiting their sale at guns shows,” Ward tweeted last year.

“You cannot sell or manufacture illegal weapons of war in CA,” Newsom tweeted. “And if you do, there are now 40 million people that can collect $10,000 from you for engaging in that illegal activity.”

Similarly, AB 1769, from Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), prohibits gun shows at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

“Gun Violence is a massive weight on our collective conscience. When children begin to feel unsafe, anxiety, & worry about this threat while in school, we know we have a lot of work to do,” Bennet tweeted.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) is behind AB 2156. The bill that expands the limits on firearm manufacturing without a state license to slow the spread of “ghost guns.”

      “This will bring much-needed oversight & regulation to the market for ‘ghost guns.’” Wicks tweeted.

AB 2239, authored by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego), prohibits individuals who have been convicted of elder or child abuse from possessing a firearm for 10 years.

“This measure will help keep guns away from dangerous individuals, specifically those convicted of child endangerment & elder abuse,” Maienschein tweeted.

SB 906 by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), authorizes and requires local educational agencies to provide yearly reports regarding issues of firearm safety at a student’s home.

This will also require some collaboration with law enforcement regarding “any threat or perceived threat.”

SB 915 from Senator Dave Min (D-Costa Mesa) prevents the sale of firearms and firearm related material on state property.

“The gun violence we experience in this country is unacceptable and absurd,” Min tweeted.

SB 1327, authored by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-San Fernando Valley), allows Californians to sue those making, selling, transporting or distributing illegal assault weapons and ghost guns – guns made at home to avoid tracing – for damages of at least $10,000 per weapon involved. The same damages are also applicable against gun dealers who illegally sell firearms to those under 21 years of age. Some say the legislation is California’s answer to Texas’ anti-abortion bill which places $10,000 bounties on doctors, providers and others involved in providing abortion care.

“I am proud to be working with Governor Newsom and his Administration to bring accountability to gun manufacturers and others who are flooding our streets with dangerous and deadly weapons,” said Hertzberg.

“Our message to the criminals spreading illegal weapons in California is simple: you have no safe harbor here in the Golden State.” Newsom said.


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