Author: lafocus

Leaders Push Pardons, Payouts for “Port Chicago 50” Black Sailors U.S. Navy “Unjustly” Punished 

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

A growing chorus of Black leaders and activists in California is calling on the federal government to pardon 50 Black sailors they allege the U.S. Navy wrongfully punished nearly 80 years ago. 

Advocates are pushing for payments to the families of sailors who died in the 1944 explosion that was the underlying cause for the Navy taking action against the servicemen. 

Others say the sailors’ families deserve more than an apology or posthumous pardon. They should get monetary compensation as well. 

“The 50 African American sailors at Port Chicago who took a stand against discrimination should be remembered as heroes,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13).  

In July of 1944, Port Chicago Naval Magazine was the scene of the largest explosion on the mainland of the United States. The blast shook the San Francisco Bay Area and the disturbance was felt as far away as Nevada. 

About 320 sailors were killed instantly in the explosion. More than 200 of the midshipmen and commissioned officers were young African Americans.

Another 390 military and civilian personnel were injured, including 226 African American enlisted men. Only Black sailors were assigned the dangerous job of loading ammunition with no prior training in weapons handling.

“The Port Chicago tragedy is another painful reminder of how our nation must confront its history of systemic racism,” Lee said. 

The people killed or injured in the disaster were loading highly-explosive bombs, anti-submarine weapons, torpedoes, shells, and naval mines totaling 4,606 tons of ammunition onto the merchant ships SS Quinault Victory and SS E.A. Bryant.

According to a 2009 California Senate Joint Resolution (SJR-21), authored by former state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), on the night of July 17, 1944, two transport vessels loading ammunition bound for the war in the Pacific at the Port Chicago naval base on the Sacramento River in California were suddenly engulfed in a gigantic explosion.

“What I am pushing for is that everything of public record where Black folks were wronged needs to be righted,” Rev. Amos Brown, vice-chair of California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, told California Black Media (CBM). Brown is the pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of the city’s NAACP branch. 

“We must do our due diligence and get all the facts on this explosion. It’s definitely a case where Black folks had been wronged and injured. There was a culture of negligence here and was prevalent when it came to Black folks,” Brown added. 

The exact cause of the Port Chicago explosion is still unknown.

People familiar with the explosion say incidents leading up to the disaster unfolded in a culture rife with negligence and racism. 

A string of injustices followed it, too. After the explosion, the Black sailors working at Port Chicago were ordered to continue loading ships under the supervision of an all-White crew of officers. Many of the surviving Black sailors felt that their commanders had not addressed the safety problems that triggered the blast but still asked them to continue loading ammunition.

Soon, the Black sailors, who were trained for U.S Navy combat, decided to stage a protest. Afraid their lives were at risk, they stopped working. In September 1944, the Navy charged 50 of the Port Chicago sailors with disobeying orders and initiating a mutiny.

A court-martial was convened to try the men who staged what was called “the largest mutiny in the history of the Navy.” It was held for several weeks on Treasure Island outside of San Francisco. 

The Black sailors were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in prison. Forty-seven of the 50 sailors were released in January 1946 while the remaining three served additional months in incarceration.

Only one member of the Port Chicago 50, Freddie Meeks, received a Presidential pardon from Bill Clinton in December 1999. Meeks, who was discharged in 1946, passed away in 2003 in Los Angeles.

“I knew we had a good president and I figured he would do the right thing, and he did the right thing with this pardon,” Meeks, 80, said in an Associated Press article published Dec. 24, 1999. “I’m not bitter because it’s something happened so long ago, you just outlive it, that’s all.”

Brown, 80, says the Port Chicago disaster was the result of carelessness, disregard for humans’ safety, and racism.

“All of the evidence is there,” Brown told CBM, speaking via phone from his San Francisco home.

People’s World, a publication that provides news and analysis of labor and democratic movements, reported that discrimination even played out in the compensation awarded to the families of those killed.

The Navy paid out $5,000 to White families but only $3,000 to Black families, the 2009 article reported.

Brown made the statement about the Port Chicago incident after learning that a group of Democratic lawmakers is attempting to revive an effort to pay the families of Black service members who fought on behalf of the nation during World War II for benefits they were denied or barred from receiving.

The federal legislative effort would compensatesurviving spouses and all living descendants of Black WWII veterans whose families were denied the opportunity to build wealth with housing and educational benefits through the Government Issue (GI) Bill.

The site of the disaster is now called the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, dedicated in 1994 to recognize the sailors that perished in the deadly blast. The memorial, managed by the National Park Service, is located at the Concord Naval Weapons Station near Concord.

Last summer, in honor of the 77th anniversary of the Port Chicago Disaster, U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11-Walnut Creek) introduced a House Resolution, recognizing the victims of the explosion.

The resolution called for the exoneration of the 50 African American sailors they say were unjustly court-martialed by the Navy.

“By calling for the exoneration of the Port Chicago 50, our resolution would bring justice to these sailors and recognize their courage as well as honor the service and sacrifice of the victims of this disaster,” DeSaulnier said. 

Analysts: California Is Moving Into Next Budget Year With a $31 Billion Surplus 

Tanu Henry | California Black Media 

California is expected to move into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022, with a whopping $31 billion surplus, according to estimates from the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). 

The LAO announced the anticipated surplus during a news briefing last week.  

“Under our current law and policy approach, we estimate the general fund revenue will reach $202 billion in the budget year and result in a surplus of about $31 billion for that budget year,” said Gabriel Petek, Legislative Analyst of the State of California, referring to LAO’s projections for fiscal year 2022-23. 

Petek said the large surplus reflects a number of trends. Among them are surpluses in the state current operating budget, money left in the economic reserve from the last fiscal year, higher revenues than projected for the last two years, etc. 

“Revenue collections have grown rapidly in recent months, coming in over $10 billion ahead of budget act expectations so far this year. Underlying this growth is a meteoric rise in several measures of economic activity,” LAO report reads. 

That windfall in the state reserve could mean a rebate for taxpayers or more money for education and other public spending. 

State spending is expected to reach a cap set by California voters through a ballot measure in 1979 called the Gann Limit. When that happens, the state is compelled to return money to taxpayers by lowering taxes, sending out rebates or spending money on education. 

Salena Pryor, president of the California Black Small Business Association (BSBA) says she is encouraged by the investments the state has made to aid small businesses and to improve the overall economic outlook for Californians most impacted by the pandemic. 

She hopes the state will use monies from the surplus to sustain some of its initial investments. 

“There is still a lot more work to do. 41% of Black small businesses have closed permanently due to COVID-19, so further investments into start-ups and restarts would greatly benefit our community,” she said. 

California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the 5th largest economy in the world. 

“California has no peers – continues to have no peers. We are world beating in terms of our economic growth,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking at the California Economic Summit earlier this month. 

“In the last five years, no western democracy has outperformed the state of California. The United States has not … Germany, Japan, the U.K. … no other western democracy has outperformed this state in our economic output of 21% GDP over the last five years.”

New California “Strike Force” Gives Teeth to State Housing Laws 


Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

To advance housing access, affordability, and equity, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced earlier this month the creation of a Housing Strike Force. The team, housed within the California Department of Justice (Cal DOJ) has been tasked with enforcing California housing laws that cities across the state have been evading or ignoring. 

The strike force will conduct a series of roundtables across the state to educate and involve tenants and homeowners as the state puts pressure on municipalities failing to follow housing rules and falling short of housing production goals set by state. 

“California is facing a housing shortage and affordability crisis of epic proportion,” Bonta said. “Every day, millions of Californians worry about keeping a roof over their heads, and there are too many across this state who lack housing altogether. This is a top priority and a fight we won’t back down from. As Attorney General, I am committed to using all the tools my office has available to advance Californians’ fundamental right to housing.”

The Housing Strike Force will take “an innovative and intersectional approach” to addressing the housing crisis, focusing on tenant protections, housing availability and environmental sustainability, housing affordability, and equitable and fair housing opportunity for tenants and owners.

Bonta also launched a Housing Portal on the Cal DOJ’s website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants. 

The strike force will enlist the expertise of attorneys from the Cal DOJ’s Land Use and Conservation Section, the Consumer Protection Section, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, and the Environment Section’s Bureau of Environmental Justice in its enforcement efforts.

“California has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address its housing crisis. Thanks to the historic $22 billion housing and homelessness investments in this year’s budget. But it’ll only work if local governments do their part to zone and permit new housing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “The Attorney General’s emphasis on holding cities and counties accountable for fair housing, equity, and housing production is an important component to the state’s efforts to tackle the affordability crisis and create greater opportunities for all Californians to have an affordable place to call home.”

According to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the level of Black ownership nationally has decreased below levels achieved during the decades when housing discrimination was legal. 

The 2020 census reports that there was a 29.6 % gap between homeownership rates for African Americans and Whites. Homeowners accounted for 44.6% of the Black population as compared to 74.2% for Whites. 

“Blacks have made little, if any, strides at closing the homeownership gap. Systemic discriminatory regulations and policies continue to thwart any meaningful effort at increasing Black homeownership,” said Lydia Pope, NAREB’s president. 

In California, the DOJ reports that, over the last four decades, housing needs have outpaced housing production. It has caused a crisis that stretches from homelessness to unaffordable homes.

Despite significant effort, the DOJ stated that California continues to host a disproportionate share of people experiencing homelessness in the United States, with an estimated 150,000 Californians sleeping in shelters, in their cars, or on the street.

Bonta said that California’s 17 million renters spend a significant portion of their paychecks on rent, with an estimated 700,000 Californians at risk of eviction. High home purchase costs — the median price of a single-family home in California is more than $800,000 — have led to the lowest homeownership rates since the 1940s.

Due to decades of systemic racism, these challenges have continuously and disproportionately impacted communities of color. For example, Bonta said, almost half of Black households in California spend more than 30% of their income on housing, compared with only a third of White families.

In addition, less than one in five Black California households could afford to purchase the $659,380 statewide median-priced home in 2020, compared to two in five White California households that could afford to purchase the same median-priced home, the California Association Realtors (CAR) said in a February 2021 statement.

The percentage of Black home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in 2020 was 19 %, compared to 38 %for white households, CAR stated.

“Just as the price for a single-median home reaches a new record of more than $800,000 in California, everywhere you look, we are in a housing crisis,” Bonta said during the virtual news conference on Nov. 3. “Among all households, one in four renters pays more than half of their income on rent.”

The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the Attorney General’s independent capacity and on behalf of DOJ’s client agencies.

Earlier this year, Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 215, enhancing the Attorney General’s concurrent role in enforcing state housing laws. AB 215 was designed for reforms, facilitating housing development, and combating the current housing crisis.

Newsom also signed Senate Bill (SB) 9 and SB 10 in September, legislation designed to help increase the supply of affordable housing and speed up the production of multi-family housing units statewide.

Authored by Senate President pro Tem Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), SB 9 allows a homeowner to subdivide an existing single-family residential lot to create a duplex, triplex, or fourplex. 

In response to SB 9, homeowner groups have formed across the state to oppose it. The groups are citing challenges they anticipate the law will bring to their communities, from garbage collection to increase risk of fires. 

Livable California, a San Francisco-based non-profit that focuses on housing, is one of the groups that opposes the new laws. 

“Senate Bill 9 ends single-family zoning to allow four homes where one now stands. It was signed by Gov. Newsom, backed by 73 of 120 legislators and praised by many media. Yet a respected pollster found 71% of California voters oppose SB 9,” the Livable California website points out. 

“It opens 1.12 million homes in severe fire zones to unmanaged density — one-sixth of single-family homes in California,” the message continues. “SB 9 could reshape, in unwanted ways, hundreds of high-risk fire zones that sprawl across California’s urban and rural areas.”

But Newsom says the laws are urgent and overdue. 

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” Newsom said in a statement Sept. 16.

SB 10 was designed for jurisdictions that want to opt-in and up-zone urbanized areas close to transit, allowing up to 10 units per parcel without the oversight of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“Passing strong housing laws is only the first step. To tackle our severe housing shortage, those laws must be consistently and vigorously enforced,” said California State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), chair of the Senate Housing Committee. “I applaud Attorney General Bonta’s commitment to strong enforcement of California’s housing laws.”

The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to  [email protected]. Information on legal aid in your area is available at

Malcolm X Daughter, Malikah Shabazz, Found Dead in New York


Stacy M. Brown/NNPA Newswire 

Malikah Shabazz, the daughter of cultural and civil rights icon Malcolm X, was found dead inside her Brooklyn home on Monday, November 22.

Authorities said they found Shabazz, 56, unconscious and unresponsive inside her home on East 28th Street in the Midwood section of the borough just before 4:30 p.m. Medical officials pronounced her dead a short time later.Reportedly, officials aren’t suspecting foul play.

One of five daughters to Malcolm X and the late Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malikah shares a twin sister named Maalka. The twins are the youngest of the Shabazz children.
Dr. Shabazz died in 1997.

The sad news comes only days after investigators and a New York judge cleared the men convicted in the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan.
Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam were both exonerated after serving decades in prison for the fatal shooting of Malcolm X.

The state granted Aziz parole in 1983, and authorities released Islam in 1987.
He later died in 2009. Mujahid Abdul Halim, who police arrested along with Aziz and Islam, confessed to the shooting, and in 2010, Halim was paroled.

“I’m deeply saddened by the death of Malikah Shabazz,” Bernice King, the daughter of the late civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote on Twitter. “My heart goes out to her family, the descendants of Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X. Dr. Shabazz was pregnant with Malikah and her twin sister, Malaak, when Brother Malcolm was assassinated. Be at peace, Malikah.”

In a conversation in New York last month with the Black Press of America, Ilyasah Shabazz, the third daughter in the family, remarked about the closeness of her family.

“We talk and get together as much as we can,” Ilyasah Shabazz said.“We are close, and we love each other. We always look

Over 300 Lawsuits Filed in Aftermath of Astroworld Tragedy



The lawsuits just keep piling up against Travis Scott, Drake, the NRG Stadium, Live Nation and others in the aftermath of the November 5 tragedy at Astroworld that injured scores of fans and killed ten people, the youngest of which was just ten years old. Over 300 lawsuits have been filed thus far totaling upwards of $3 billion. 

Just who will end up getting stuck with the tab is yet to be decided, but legal experts don’t believe it will be Scott or Drake, though a case is being made for past behavior on the part of Scott that may have made the crowd surge predictable.

More than likely insurers and Live Nation will foot most of the billl. However, Scott won’t be getting off scot-free, no pun intended. Given the risk now associated with the 30-year old artist, he’d be hard-pressed to headline any big concerts any time soon,

His endorsement deals are also taking a hit. Out of respect for the victims of what has been labeled as “one of the deadliest crowd control disasters at a concert in the U.S.”, Nike has postponed the launch of Scott’s shoe collaboration, and Dior may be reconsidering the Travis Scott menswear collection that had been slated for release in spring/summer 2022.

Experts say it could be a long time before major brands look to align themselves with Scott, who has offered to cover the funeral costs for the victims.

Of course, being one of the highest paid and popular rappers in the world, Scott has a net worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million and his girlfriend, Kylie Jenner, reportedly has a net worth of $700 million, so he’s far from being hard-up for cash.   

The artist has offered to cover the funeral costs of the victims.

Harris-Dawson Comes Up Short in Latest Attempt to Move Key Assets Back into District 8


In what was the last required public meeting on the L.A. City Council’s draft redistricting map,

District 8 Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson made another impassioned motion to have USC and Expo Park back into the Eighth District. 

“USC and Expo Park, which has been in the Eighth District for longer than most of the council has been alive, got taken out of the Eighth District and put in the Ninth District,” said Harris-Dawson of the L.A. Council’s 2010 vote to move the assets into the Ninth District.

“I cannot walk out of here not having put this before each and every one of you. At least the African American Museum ought to be in the one Black district.” 

The California African American Museum is located in Exposition Park, which also includes the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Natural History Museum and Banc of California Stadium and the now under construction Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

The councilman was backed in his plea by members of the community. For one caller it was a matter of black equity. For another, it was a majority Black district retaining those key financial assets. A representative from the Community Coalition, who noted that this was the time “to undo the harm done 10 years ago and do justice.”

But just as many called to support those assets staying in the Ninth District, a position Councilman Curren Price vehemently defended.

“The fact is, CD9 is still the most impoverished district in the city … of both Black and Brown folks, but still the most impoverished,” Price said, adding “it certainly doesn’t make sense to take assets from a district that’s showing some process, some development.” 

Harris-Dawson’s motion—garnering just three votes—did not pass. On December 10, the L.A. City Council will vote to finalize the new redistricting map.

Elder Charles Blake II Named Co-Pastor of West Angeles COGIC 


Presiding Bishop Emeritus Charles E. Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ has announced the elevation of his son, Elder Charles Blake II, to co-pastor of the mega-ministry. Bishop Blake announced that the appointment— a joint collaboration between Bishop Blake, Jurisdictional Bishop Joe Louis Ealy, and the West Angeles Board of Directors will play a critical role in helping to guide the future of West Angeles in the 21st century as the church completes several monumental projects, including its Family Life Center, which is under construction.

“Elder Blake II has greatly contributed to the success of West Angeles by working in senior executive and administrative positions for nearly 20 years. His keen intellect and business acumen are only overshadowed by his deep love of Christ and His people,” said Bishop Blake. 

“We are blessed that he is willing to assume added responsibilities in directing the growth and management of our great church and I believe God, as well as the congregation, will be highly pleased with the multitude of gifts and talents that he will bring as the co-pastor.” 

Born and raised in the church, Elder Blake II previously served as the assistant pastor and director of community relations at West Angeles. A graduate of Oral Robert University, he received his Master of Divinity degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center, which is also the alma mater of Bishop Blake. 

As the son of Bishop and Lady Mae Blake, he is well acquainted with the commitment and sacrifice required of ministers and their families. Reflecting on the godly example that his parents set, he said, “Bishop and Lady Mae are not only gifts to our family and the church, but also to the entire world. His legacy has little to do with attaining a large edifice and membership. He has stated, ‘If you meet the needs of God’s people, they will come to your church.’ He is, and will continue to be, a great pastor and role model for all.” 

Elder Charles is married to Lady DeAndra Blake. They are the parents of two sons, Charles III and Julian. 

West Angeles COGIC is the one of the largest ministries in the nation, with a membership exceeding 20,000. In October 2019, Bishop Blake announced that West Angeles had sold several properties to construct its Family Life Center, pay off the mortgage on the Cathedral, establish a financial reserve and contribute to the improvement and development of the Crenshaw Corridor. 

“Paying off the Cathedral’s mortgage ensures that the Crenshaw Corridor will forever have a house of worship that cares about its community,” Bishop Blake said. 

Caption: From left are Presiding Bishop Emeritus Charles E. Blake, Elder Charles Blake II and Jurisdictional Bishop Joe Louis Ealy. (Photo credit: Nathan Brown/West Angeles COGIC) 

Faith Leaders, Elected Officials and Celebrities Respond to Guilty Verdicts in Ahmaud Arbery Case


Kisha Smith

A Brunswick, Georgia jury of eleven whites and one black returned guilty verdicts in the cases of three men— Travis McMicheal, Greg McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan — for hunting down and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who had been jogging through the Satilla Shores area in coastal Georgia. 

The nation had been watching and waiting for the outcome in the trial of the men who had committed what was viewed in the eyes of many as a “modern day lynching”, sparking national outrage and protests. That coupled with the racist dog whistle tactics employed by the defense and the recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse only added to the tension surrounding the case and a national outcry for justice.

The chorus of unanimous verdicts in all but four of the 27 counts, led to an outpouring of reactions from faith leaders, elected officials and celebrities. Here are just some of them.

Al Sharpton: “Let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 white people and one Black person in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said that Black lives do matter.”

Kamala Harris: “These verdicts send an important message, but the fact remains that we still have work to do. The defense counsel chose to set a tone that cast the attendance of ministers at the trial as intimidation and dehumanized a young Black man with racist tropes. The jury arrived at its verdicts despite these tactics. Ahmaud Arbery was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. His life had meaning. We will not forget him. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice.”

Stacy Abrams: “A jury believed the evidence of their eyes and saw the meanness in the killers’ hearts. May this verdict bring a small measure of peace to #AhmaudArbery’s family and loved ones.

Rev. Jesse Jackson: Thank you, God. Remember him #AhmaudArbery. Sending prayers to the family of #AhmaudArbery. Thank you God for their courage and strength. Honored to stand with them while in GA.

Actress Viola Davis: “As it should be. To Wanda….Ahmaud Arbery’s mother….. your son mattered. His life mattered. I pray this brings you a tiny shred of peace. To the jurors…..huge gratitude for doing right. The pendulum of justice swung in the right direction!!!!!!!”

Pastor K.W. Tulloss (President, Baptist Minister’s Conference): “It’s a beautiful day when justice is given to a family whose child has been tragically taken for unjust reasons.  Anything less than guilty would have been a miscarriage of justice. I’m so happy that an majority white jury —with the exception of one black— got it right and hopefully this sends a message across America that justice has to be equitable to all.”

Pastor Michael J.T. Fisher (Greater Zion Church Family): “This could be the beginning of an awakening within our judicial system that maybe we are moving away from a model that protects the privileged and disrespects the marginalized.”

Pastor Geremy Dixon (Center of Hope LA): “A victory for justice anywhere is hope for justice everywhere. This moment is is much larger than this individual victory. It embodies the long argued notion that people of color also share in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This jury rightly determined that these self appointed vigilantes must be held accountable for the malicious way in which they robbed Mr. Aubury of that right…and to this, we say Amen!”

D.L. Hughley: “Thankful for the verdict! But let’s not forget 3 prosecutors saw that same video and thought #AhmaudArbery’s murder was justified!”

Pastor Eddie Anderson (McCarty Memorial Church): “Today’s decision is accountability for the modern day lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. It is a result of prayers and organizing by families and advocates and gets us one step closer to justice, although justice would be our brother Ahmaud Arbery being with us and black men not fearing for their lives while doing everyday tasks.”

The Democratic National Convention: “While this verdict does not make Ahmaud Arbery’s loved ones whole again, his killers have been held accountable and healing can begin. No American should be afraid to go for a jog or for a walk in the United States because of the color of their skin…

“While today we applaud the justice system working for Ahmaud Arbery, we know it has too often failed so many, and so we must continue to act to dismantle systemic racism and ensure equity and accountability for all under the law.”

And from Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery: “It’s been a long fight, it’s been a hard fight, but God is good. To tell you the truth I never saw this day in 2020, I did not think this day would come … Thank you for those who marched. Thank you to those who prayed. He [Ahmaud Arbery] will now rest in peace.”

Commentary: Vaccination Protects Children From the Dangers of COVID-19

Nadine Burke Harris, MD, MPH | Special to California Black Media Partner 

Our state experienced the most devastating point of the pandemic last winter. More than 21,000 Californians were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the last week of December, and we lost 18,518 mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to this deadly virus in January. The light at the end of the tunnel felt out of reach.

Today, we have the tools to help protect against another winter surge and avoid preventable hospitalizations and deaths: vaccines. More than 87 % of eligible Californians have received at least one dose, and the FDA’s recent authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11 is a game changer. For the first time, whole families, from our young kids to our grandparents, can have protection against COVID-19.

As California’s first Surgeon General, I am committed to making vaccination available to every eligible Californian. And as a mom of four boys, I am reassured that by having my children vaccinated, I am doing everything I can to keep them, our family and our community safe.

The number of infections is increasing, largely in unvaccinated people, who are 9.5 times more likely to be hospitalized and 18.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people. People of color are being hardest hit. We need all eligible Californians to get vaccinated or complete their vaccination series and get a booster as soon as they are eligible to help bring this pandemic to an end. 

As a pediatrician, I know how crucial vaccination is in protecting children against other preventable diseases like measles, mumps, and chicken pox. The COVID-19 vaccine, which is specially dosed for children ages 5-11, offers an essential layer of protection against this deadly virus.

More than 700,000 children and adolescents in California have been infected with COVID-19. There have been more than 6,500 pediatric hospitalizations in our state since July of last year, and we have lost 37 young lives since the start of the pandemic. Children can experience “long COVID” and the virus can also cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), in which a hyperactive immune system attacks the child’s body. Our state alone has seen 660 of these cases, half of whom had to be hospitalized in intensive care units.

Vaccination not only helps prevent these troubling outcomes, but also reduces spread of the virus to our loved ones, such as grandparents and others with more vulnerable immune systems.

And as the state’s leader in efforts to train providers to identify and mitigate Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and childhood trauma, I know that the pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on our young people. They’ve struggled with social isolation, attending school virtually, as well as family stressors like job loss, food or housing insecurity, COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and even the death of people they hold dear. Getting vaccinated provides kids a sense of security knowing they’re better protected and that they are protecting others from becoming infected, as well.

It’s understandable that some parents still have concerns. I can assure them that the COVID-19 vaccine was demonstrated to be safe and highly effective in comprehensive clinical trials with more than 4,500 children ages 5-11, and is held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standard as all other vaccines in the U.S. 

In fact, the COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. vaccine history. Millions of youth ages 12-18 have already received the vaccine with only mild side effects. Serious side effects are rare, and the benefits of vaccination are shown to far outweigh the risks. There is no evidence, either in clinical trial data or among the millions of women who have already received the vaccine, that it causes any fertility loss.

In contrast, vaccination is allowing more of our state’s population to safely get back to the activities they love. Thanks to the safety measures in place, combined with high vaccination rates, our schools are safer than ever. Vaccinations have allowed kids 12-17 to rejoin sports teams, drama clubs and other activities – programs that provide enrichment and help them grow into healthy adults.

Our younger children deserve the same opportunities. These valiant little ones want to fully participate in life again. With the holiday gatherings and festivities approaching, this vaccine could not come at a better time.

Protect your family. Call your pediatrician or a local health clinic to schedule your child’s vaccination appointment. You can also visit or call 833-422-4255 to find a vaccination site near you.

About the Author 

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is the Surgeon General of California. A pediatrician, she is at the forefront of the statewide campaign to reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress by half in one generation. 

Cal Reparations Task Force Looks at Long History of Racism in American Agriculture

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

Last month, Lawrence Lucas, founder of the United States Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Employees (USDA-CME), testified before the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.

Lucas said racism is the prime reason there are just a little over 400 Black farmers in California.

“The income of Black Farmers has been drastically reduced and the amount of wealth that has been taken from Black farmers is tremendous,” Lucas said. “What you would call reparations, we call justice. It is why you must do what you have to do in California to right the wrongs suffered by Black people.”

Lucas is not the only one concerned about mounting evidence that documents a long history of race-based discrimination in American agriculture. 

The United States Department of Agriculture recently created the Equity Commission (EC) to study racial discrimination and government policies that have disempowered Black farmers, depleted their wealth and nearly wiped out their presence for over 100 years.

EC will advise the Secretary of Agriculture by identifying USDA programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that created barriers to inclusion or perpetuated racial, economic, health and social disparities.

USDA-CME was founded in 1994 to address discrimination within the USDA, which Lucas referred to as the “Last Plantation” during his testimony. The coalition also focuses its work on the historical loss of Black land and how government policies deprived African Americans of generational wealth.

The EC is expected to issue a preliminary report and provide “actionable recommendations” within the next 12 months, and a final report to be finished within two years.

“The Equity Commission is taking important steps to dismantle barriers historically underserved communities have faced in accessing USDA programs and services,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a Sept. 24 statement.

Lucas said despite the USDA’s efforts to address decades-old discrimination practices, he does not see it “getting any better” for Black farmers. Non-Black farm producers are fighting back in the courts, Lucas said.

“You have White farmers, who own most of the land and get all the benefits from the land; they are the ones now bringing court cases around the country. They are saying that it’s discriminatory to have debt-relief for Black farmers,” Lucas said. 

The CME’s biggest accomplishment is its involvement in securing debt relief for Black farmers as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The ARP package included a multi-billion-dollar fund for socially disadvantaged farmers throughout the United States.

The coalition has worked alongside U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to create the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which will provide even more aid to socially disadvantaged farmers.

Of the approximately 70,000 farms in California, more than 90% are White-owned or White-managed and fewer than 1% are Black-owned or Black-managed, according to the 2017 federal agriculture census. 

The 2012 census reported that California had 722 Black farmers. By 2017, that number had decreased to 429. Nationally, there are 45,508 Black farmers or 1.3% of all farmers according to the 2017 agriculture census. Their properties account for 0.5% of the country’s farmlands.

In contrast, about 14% of all U.S. farmers in 1920 were Black, according to that year’s agriculture census. At the time, there were 925,708 Black farmers. Nearly all of them farmed in Deep South states. Lucas blames the USDA for the depletion of Black farmlands over the last century.

However, the USDA says it is in the process of reversing harmful policies and taking restorative action for programs that affected the progress, financial stability, and productive livelihood of Black farmers.

“We are serious about our efforts to end discrimination across all areas of the Department and to improve access to services for key stakeholders,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh in a statement.

In March, the U.S. Congress passed a $4 billion debt relief program for farmers of color to address past discrimination in USDA programs.

The debt relief program was passed as part of the ARP. It includes funding to pay off USDA loans held by 16,000 Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic and Latino farmers.

Claiming discrimination, a group of White farmers have filed a dozen lawsuits against the program including one class action suit. Preliminary injunctions by three courts have momentarily blocked the program from issuing funds from the program.

According to Khubaka Michael Harris of the California Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (CBFAA), “The debt relief was written in a way to help Black folks, but it is not just for Black folks. That’s why it’s in the courts. It was written where anybody who is a farmer can say, ‘Hey, I’ve been affected by COVID, too.’ Then, you are going to say that this money is just earmarked for Black folks? Now, the legislators have to go back to write in a language that targets underserved communities.”

Based in Sacramento, CBFAA advocates for socially disadvantaged California Black farmers, and agriculturalists of color nationwide.

Lucas said it is actions such as the lawsuits that “deny Black farmers their dignity,” “a right to farm,” and deny Black farmers the “right to the same programs and services that White farmers get in this country.”

In California, farming is classified under the term “agricultural activity.” 

The state defines it as “the harvesting of any agricultural commodity, including timber, viticulture, apiculture, or horticulture, the raising of livestock, fur bearing animals, fish, or poultry, and any practices performed by a farmer or on a farm are also agricultural activities.”

“That goes for licensed cannabis farmers too,” Harris said. “If you cultivate cannabis you are a farmer in this state.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” was a law created to investigate the history of slavery in the United States, the extent of California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the denial of Black citizens their constitutional rights.

The nine-member task force is expected to hear more testimonies from Black farmers in California, including producers from the Central Valley.

“I see what all of you in California are doing is what needs to be done across this country,” Lucas said during his testimony. “It is the courage of your governor and the courage of the people on this reparation committee to take on this dau

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