Author: lafocus

One Down, Three to Go: How Will Chauvin Verdict Factor in Trials of Three Remaining Officers Charged in Death of George Floyd

Staff

As most in the nation applauded the verdict handed down by a Minneapolis jury finding former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter, one lingering question remains: how will the Chauvin verdict factor in the trial of the three officers also charged in the death of George Floyd last May.

Now free on $750,000 bail, the fates of former officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane—still hang in the balance. All three were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder which carries a maximum sentence of not more than 40 years, and second-degree manslaughter which could result in imprisonment of not more than 10 years or payment of not more than $20,000 or both.

“No doubt the guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial are bad news for the other three officers,” said L.A.-based civil rights attorney and CNN commentator Areva Martin. “Lang and Keung assisted Chauvin in putting George Floyd in the prone position and restraining him for nearly 10 minutes without providing medical assistance in violation of the department’s policies. Thao stood by in what can best be described as the “lookout.” position while the assault on George Floyd was carried out. The jury has made it clear this conduct is unreasonable excessive force and that the force caused Mr. Floyd’s death. They deemed this conduct murder. This leaves very few, if any, defenses for the remaining three defendants. I expect they are already talking to their lawyers about plea deals.”

Attorney Ricky Ivie of Ivie McNeill Wyatt agreed.

“The handwriting is on the wall. The pathway for how to obtain a conviction has already been established,” Ivie said. “The three officers are charged with aiding and abetting an unintentional murder. Now that the murder has been proven I predict the remaining defendants will make a plea bargain with the prosecution in exchange for a lesser sentence.”

Thao, a seven year veteran, was Chauvin’s partner. Thao stood bay between the crowd and the officers restraining Floyd. While the 35-year old was the only one of the remaining three former officers to have not participated in physically restraining Floyd, he was charged equally.

Thomas Lane was the first officer to approach Floyd, pointing a gun to his head and giving him a profanity laced order to get out of the car before handcuffing him. Lane would later be seen kneeling on—and holding down—his legs. The 38-year old rookie, who at one point was concerned about the possibility of “excited delirium”, is reported to have asked Chauvin if they shouldn’t roll Floyd on his side.

Alexander Kueng, also a rookie—having been on the Minneapolis police force for just a matter of days, kneeled on Floyd’s back for the more than nine minutes. He would subsequently check for a pulse after Floyd lost consciousness, and remark that he didn’t find one.

Kueng, who is bi-racial, was said to have joined the force to change the narrative between police and the Black community. His sister told the New York Times that as a Black man, her brother should have intervened. “I don’t care if it was his third day at work or not,” she said. “He knows right from wrong.”

While all three have been scheduled to stand trial together on August 23, their defenses will hardly be united as revealed in a legal motion by one of the defense attorneys.

“There are very likely going to be antagonistic defenses presented at the trial,” reported a lawyer for Thomas K. Lane. “It is plausible that all officers have a different version of what happened and officers place blame on one another.”

Lawyers for Lane and Keung say that they expressed concerns about Chavin’s actions, but did nothing to stop him even as in accordance with a 2016 Minneapolis police department policy, officers are required to “either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.”

The Lookout: Cal Bill Aims to End Homelessness; Make Housing a Basic Human Right

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

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

While some might debate if shelter is a basic human right, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that it isn’t essential to an individual’s quality of life. And in California, where just about every aspect of the nation’s housing crisis is on full display, housing laws become all the more consequential. Especially during a global pandemic.

In the California Legislature, there are a few bills being proposed to curtail – if not finally end — some of the most pressing housing issues over the course of the next few years.

For those in need of immediate shelter, Assembly Bill (AB) 1372 would “require every city, or every county in the case of unincorporated areas, to provide every person who is homeless, as defined, with temporary shelter, mental health treatment, resources for job placement, and job training — until the person obtains permanent housing, if the person has actively sought temporary shelter in the jurisdiction for at least three consecutive days and has been unable to gain entry into all temporary shelters they sought for specified reasons,” according to the language of the bill.

AB 1372, which Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced, has been submitted to both the Judiciary and the Human and Community Development committees for review. No hearing has been announced yet.

On March 25, a number of unhoused individuals were cleared out of Echo Park in Los Angeles as the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) put a fence around the area where many of them had set up tents. The action by law enforcement was met with spirited protests from community members looking to protect the homeless population seeking shelter in the area.

“The biggest pandemic in years actually turned out to be a blessing for us,” the Echo Park Tent Community said in a statement. “Without the constant LAPD and city harassment uprooting our lives we’ve been able to grow… to come together as a community, not just unhoused but housed as well and work together for the mutual aid and benefit of each other.”

AB 1372 will also require counties and cities to put forth a plan to temporarily shelter unhoused individuals.

“This bill would require every city, county, and city and county to adopt a plan, subject to approval by the Department of Housing and Community Development, to provide for temporary shelter for persons who are homeless in its jurisdiction, as specified,” the bill reads. “By imposing additional duties on cities and counties, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”

Speaking of putting forth plans, another bill being proposed to tackle the state’s homelessness crisis is Assembly Bill (AB) 816. This legislation would require the state to put together an analysis in order to build a financial plan to meet certain annual benchmarks with the end goal of reducing homelessness by 90% by the year 2029.

Proposed by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), this ambitious bill would, if passed, go into effect on or before Jan. 1, 2023. In February, the legislation was referred to the Assembly committee on Homelessness and Community Development for review.

“We need everyone to pull their weight,” Chiu told the Sacramento Bee. “We want to make the system very clear that there is accountability.”

According to a federal report by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Community Planning and Development, California accounted for 51% of the entire nation’s homeless population in 2020. The study also found that almost 40% percent of the nation’s homeless population in January of 2020 were Black or African American.

AB 816 would also provide a governor-appointed homelessness inspector general.

Transitioning from homelessness to another housing-related issue, transportation, Assembly Bill (AB) 1401 would prohibit local governments from imposing or enforcing minimum parking requirements on residential developments if said development is within walking distance of public transit.

As it currently stands, there are cities where the law mandates there be a certain amount of parking spaces for housing units or other residential properties.

These parking space requirements take up space that some experts believe could be utilized for affordable housing.

For example, in San Diego, there must be at least one parking space per bedroom or housing unit by law, which could cost up to $90,000 per space. That was until the San Diego City Council voted to remove these parking requirements on March 4.

AB 1401, which Assemblymembers Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Alex Lee (D-San Jose), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) co-sponsored, would take that mandate statewide.

In the upper house of the State Legislature, Senate Bill (SB) 15 would incentivize local governments, by way of grants, to rezone idle building sites intended for retail or commercial projects to instead be used for housing.

The bill also goes into detail about how cities would qualify for the grants.

“In order to be eligible for a grant, the bill would require a local government, among other things, to apply to the department for an allocation of grant funds and provide documentation that it has met specified requirements, including certain labor-related requirements,” the bill reads. “The bill would make the allocation of these grants subject to appropriation by the Legislature in the annual Budget Act or other statute.”

There is no doubt that California’s housing crisis is dire, justifying these bills, and the many others, being presented to handle this behemoth. While a house is not always a home, a roof is always a blessing, and it is the hope of many that sweeping legislation might go a long way in securing that blessing for more Californians.

Final Round: Cal Small Businesses Can Apply for Up to $25,000 in New COVID Grants

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Lendistry, a Black-led-and-operated Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), will be accepting applications April 28 through May 4 for a fifth round of funding in the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program.

Late last year, the state selected the Los Angeles-based company to administer $2.075 billion in grants to small businesses, nonprofits, and cultural institutions impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

This round of funding reflects an increase in the grants made available through the program. Like previous cycles, individual payments will range from $5,000 to $25,000.

According to Lendistry, new applicants must meet eligibility criteria found at CAReliefGrant.com. Eligible small businesses and nonprofits not selected in Rounds 1, 2, or 3 that have been waitlisted do not need to re-apply.

“The demand for funding has been immense, with small businesses and nonprofits reaching out for relief and support as they endure through this pandemic,” said Everett K. Sands, Lendistry’s founder and CEO. “During the initial funding rounds, we successfully connected small businesses and nonprofits with grants across all 58 counties in California, and we’re eager to use our platform to swiftly deploy this critical, additional funding so business owners can keep their lights on and serve their communities during this trying time.”

The California legislature recently approved this latest round of funding in the relief program administered by the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), part of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).

Since the initial launch of the funding rounds more than 40,000 grantees in all areas of the state have been awarded funding. More than 350,000 grant applications have been successfully submitted, and 87% of selected applicants represent underserved and disadvantaged small businesses. According to the governor’s office, demand for grant funding has far surpassed supply, and this latest round of financing presents one more opportunity for eligible companies to receive relief that will help keep their doors open.

“I was so glad to finally see that our company had been selected for a business grant in the third round of the CA Relief grant program,” said Pleshette Robertson, founder, CEO and Chief Editor of Sac Cultural Hub, a print and digital magazine that serves a largely African American readership across Northern California.

“I was getting so discouraged but was jumping for joy when I received the email notification,” Robertson continued. “My business was hit hard by this COVID-19 pandemic and the grant was a huge help for contributing towards meeting payroll and our monthly office lease. As a Black-owned, woman-owned business, it has been difficult meeting all operating expenses and keeping the business going.”

Grants, the state says, will not be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, the selection of grantees will be based on the “program’s priorities.”

For application assistance and more information on application deadlines, grant requirements, eligibility criteria, instructional videos, and more, visit CAReliefGrant.com.

California Elected Officials, Civic Leaders React to George Floyd Verdict

Antonio Ray Harvey, Bo Tefu & Tanu Henry | California Black Media

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

The jury convicted Chauvin on two counts of murder, homicide and one of manslaughter, for pinning his knee on the neck of Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020.

The California governor joined other Golden State officials to speak out about the verdict and the enduring problems of police violence against unarmed citizens, particularly African American suspects.

“No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today’s verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society,” the governor continued. “We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism and excessive use of force. It’s why I signed some of the nation’s most progressive police reform legislation into law. I will continue working with community leaders across the state to hear concerns and support peaceful expression.”

Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, took to Twitter to comment on the verdict.

“I’m overwhelmed to tears over this verdict: Guilty. #GeorgeFloyd did not have to die that day. His family is still healing from this trauma. We must continue to fight for justice in this country, for all of us,” he tweeted.

Earlier in the day, the California Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to address police brutality and lethal force by peace officers in California and across the country.

“There may be calls about a crisis. There may be calls about an emergency, but they are not calls intended to initiate death. They are not calls for lethal force. They are calls for issuing de-escalation and resolution.” said Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles).

Kamlager, along with her colleagues – including Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) appointed Chair of the Select Committee on Police Reform – for the briefing. They called on their peers to pass the C.R.I.S.I.S. Act, or Assembly Bill (AB) 2054, legislation that proposes that communities rely on social worker be relied on to intervene in some public safety incidents instead of police officers.

The bill was first introduced last year, but it died in committee.

California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber was also attended the CLBC press conference.

“You know it’s really hard after 410 years in this country to continue to raise the same issues over and over again,” Dr. Weber said. “When I look and begin to analyze it, I realize that all we’re asking is to have what everybody else has…to be treated fairly. To be treated as a human being. To be treated just.”

President of the NAACP California-Hawaii Conference, Rick L. Callender, said justice was served in the Chauvin case.

“It was very clear that our very right to breath was on trial,” Callender told California Black Media. “For too long African Americans have been subjected to the knee of injustice choking us out – in so many different ways. This verdict demonstrates that a badge is never a shield for accountability.”

Speaking from San Diego, Shane Harris, founder and president of the People’s Association of Justice, a national civil rights alliance that started in California, said the Floyd verdict represents a starting point for reimagining policing in America through federal legislation.

“The reality is that there is a Derek Chauvin in a police department near you and the question is whether our local, state and federal governments will step up to protect the next George Floyd from being killed in our country,” he said. Chauvin had multiple complaints against him during his career on the Minneapolis Police force, but the city and the department failed to act. We will not have an Attorney General like Keith Ellison in every state going forward to press for justice like he did which is why I call on the U.S. Senate to urgently bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 to the Senate floor now, pass the legislation and send it to the President’s desk to sign immediately.”

After 12 hours of deliberations – as people across the country and around the globe waited in anticipation – for the jury returned with the verdict that held Chauvin responsible for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

The jury consisted of six Black or multiracial people along with six White individuals. Chauvin’s attorney requested bail, but the presiding judge revoked their proposal, and he was taken into custody.

Under Minnesota laws, Chauvin could get a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

California Congresswoman and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) drew some criticism on social media for a statement she made regarding the verdict. Her critics chided the Speaker for thanking Floyd for his “sacrifice,” a man who they point out was unwittingly murdered by a police officer.

Standing with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in front of the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi said, “Thank you George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. Because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice,” the Speaker said.

GALA

Photo by: Antonio Ray Harvey Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-LA), Tecoy Porter, President of National Action Network Sacramento, Western Region, Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), vice-chair of the CLBC, Senator Steven Bradford (D-LA ), chair CLBC, Assemblymember Chris Holden ( D-Pasadena) Assemblymember Kevin McCarty ( D-Sacramento) and Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

Destination Crenshaw: Poised to Revitalize Crenshaw Corridor & Boost Black Businesses

Sean Carmichael

Destination Crenshaw, a community-driven cultural infrastructure project that recently broke ground along its namesake legendary South L.A. boulevard, was originally conceived as a way to respond to the devastating impacts of the Metro LAX line construction project along Crenshaw and gentrification concerns around transit development by permanently stamping one of the City’s most historic neighborhoods as the cradle of Black American culture with spaces devoted to Black creativity, ingenuity, artistry and architectural excellence.

Created after years of community input, Destination Crenshaw is poised to revitalize the Crenshaw corridor with its efforts squarely focused on providing support for small businesses and creating a pipeline of workers in the construction trades. When completed, the project also will have added 10, beautifully designed community spaces and architectural features to a 1.3-mile stretch of Crenshaw, becoming a local and international standard for public works projects in Black communities. It is an ode to Black Los Angeles’ past, present and future. Although art and design are key parts of Destination Crenshaw, today, even as construction begins, it has evolved and expanded into an entirely different project.

As COVID-19 threatened to ravage Black-owned businesses, Destination Crenshaw recognized both the necessity and opportunity to ensure local businesses’ ability to survive. Out of this was born a targeted strategy, DC THRIVE, that has evolved this cultural infrastructure project into one focused not only on culture but also on creating one of the area’s most effective and robust businesses support networks.

It began with an effort by City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Last Spring, with no end in sight to the COVID-19 lockdowns, the councilmember — who represents parts of the Crenshaw District — began an innovative senior meals program that linked area businesses with seniors in need. The program was designed to ensure seniors in Council District 8 had their nutritional needs met as the pandemic made it unsafe for them to be outside their homes; it was also designed to provide economic opportunity to businesses along the corridor, many of whom are located on Crenshaw.

“Our senior meals program was about taking care of our neighbors and elders first and foremost,” says Councilmember Harris-Dawson. “But also, about ensuring that our businesses can survive the economic fallout of this pandemic and eventually thrive again. We learned that we have what we need to support each other and build economic security in our communities.”

The program has sustained struggling Black-owned restaurants, some of which were in danger of going under, in an economic crisis that an estimated 40% of Black businesses would not be able to survive. The effort also birthed a new model for economic uplift – targeted small business support that enables home-grown businesses on the corridor to not only survive, but to thrive.

In the Spring of 2020, Destination Crenshaw used the momentum created by the council member’s meal program to launch the DC Thrive initiative to provide additional technical support and access to capital to ensure recovery efforts met the needs of the business community.

“The DC Thrive vision and its related services are critical to economic stability and growth in our community,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Executive Director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation Los Angeles (LISC LA). Tunua, a South LA native and formerly executive director of the West Angeles Community Development Corporation further stated: “Jason Foster has done something remarkable — Councilmember Harris-Dawson created a platform for unprecedented business support, and Jason has built upon it with intention and purpose. He understands that Destination Crenshaw, above all, must be an economic asset to the community.”

DC Thrive facilitates business support by connecting Crenshaw businesses to funding opportunities such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), private grants, and technical assistance to help businesses market themselves and pivot toward being competitive in a digital and in-person marketplace.

Jordan’s Hot Dogs is one of more than 80 Black-owned businesses along the corridor that has engaged with Destination Crenshaw and is benefiting from DC Thrive.

“We funded placement of an intern from TEC Leimert, another one of our outstanding businesses, with Jordan’s Hot Dogs, providing them with social media marketing support at a time when business was moving almost entirely to the digital space because of COVID-19,” Foster said. “The result was a success for Jordan’s, for TEC Leimert, and for DC Thrive — it’s a model we plan to scale.”

Jordan’s experience is an encouraging response to critics who once worried about the Destination Crenshaw project — a community-driven response to the extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line being built at street-level along the neighborhood’s main corridor — would displace Black families and businesses.

This focus on economic stabilization now and revitalization in the long-term, has been shepherded by Destination Crenshaw’s new President and Chief Operating Officer, Jason Foster. It is, he says, “proof-positive of the kind of economic engine” Destination Crenshaw could become in South Los Angeles.

Foster, 37, who earned his degree in finance at Howard University took the helm six months ago. He says he was drawn to the role because of the project’s potential to not only be a catalyst for Black economic development along the boulevard, but a model for urban place keeping across the country “Here’s this opportunity to engage the community around a Black-led project that’s squarely focused on uplifting our community,” Foster said. “I had to be a part of that.”

Foster says a focus on helping Black people thrive is rooted in his family experiences, “I started my career by studying finance at Howard University. I wanted to understand how we as Black people can have a better relationship with money. How we can have our community pride and intrinsic value match our community aesthetic.”

Motivated to make a difference after watching his doctor father and engineer mother lose their home during the 2007 Great Recession, Foster had stints working across the country at non-profits, studying affordability in American cities, eventually working for River LA — the project that brought him to Los Angeles with his wife, Janelle. “Destination Crenshaw is the summation of all that work for me. It’s our community being engaged at the infrastructure level on how the city can serve our economic needs, while improving our quality of life.”

Even before responding to COVID-19, Destination Crenshaw was designed to foster economic opportunity in every aspect of its development. To that end, it established a 70% local hire goal for the construction phase, concentrating employment opportunities in a community that has long needed access to good paying jobs. “It makes us an industry leader,” says Foster.

“This is for us, and by us and unapologetically so,” says Karen Mack, a Destination Crenshaw Advisory Council Member and Executive Director of LA Commons in Leimert Park. “You can see in the assembly of community members at the table and the team that is doing the work this project is culturally competent, which we rarely if ever see these types of public infrastructure and community development projects.”

Mack is one of more than two dozen community members advising Destination Crenshaw, a group brought together by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Thanks to his (Harris Dawson’s) leadership, significant community engagement had already begun when I came onto the project.” Foster sees his role as, “driving it forward to completion. “My north star is creating the best project possible for the Crenshaw community. Achieving equity at the neighborhood level is huge.”

Destination Crenshaw’s leadership team includes Black urban planners, construction firms, advisors for planned digital integrations, fundraisers, communicators and of course artists — more on that in a bit. Perhaps most notably so far, is its history making architectural team, led by Zena Howard — the Black woman who led the architectural design and development of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Howard is Principal and Managing Director of the North Carolina practice of Perkins + Will, which is a firm known for its work alongside the late Phil Freelon; Freelon’s legendary accomplishments are well noted among Black and non-Black architects alike.

“She gets this community, and she understands this project and that shows up throughout its design elements with guidance and input from the Advisory Council,” Foster said. Howard’s architectural elements for Destination Crenshaw are breathtaking. For example, she conceived of a design element inspired by the African Star Grass — vegetation used for bedding on slave ships that crossed the Atlantic, survived relocation and eventually took root in the Americas — that acts as connective tissue along the corridor. The elegant, visually stunning design captures the unifying experience of the African Diaspora. “It is resilient from an environmental standpoint and is really, truly symbolic of our resilience as a people. We grow where we are planted despite the obstacles,” Howard said.

Eventually, artists and architects with intimate knowledge of the design plans say, along Crenshaw Boulevard there will be markers representing this sense of Black resilience. “It’s a powerful representation of the Black experience in America and in Los Angeles,” notes Foster. “The crux of this design is specific to the Black experience of our community.”

Given its focus on economic development long before any art is installed it’s easy to forget that once complete, Destination Crenshaw will include more than 100 commissioned works of art, architecturally stunning community spaces and pocket parks, and hundreds of newly planted trees boosted by what could become a thriving commercial corridor.

This is a welcome development for many business owners who have suffered months of construction, on top of the impact of the pandemic. Development for the Crenshaw/LAX Line took away hundreds of parking spaces and trees that provided shaded areas

“It’s been extremely challenging for businesses, but Destination Crenshaw is proving that it is creating something that will have a lasting economic impact for this community and for our young people, says Cary Jordan, co-owner of Jordan’s Hot Dogs.

Changes are already visible along the corridor, last month fencing began going up around what will become the largest pocket park along the boulevard at Vernon and Crenshaw — Sankofa Park. Local artists have already begun submitting proposals to design artwork that will beautify the construction fencing over the next several months.

“My first priority is to complete the construction of the Destination Crenshaw project that the community envisioned. That’s my first job,” Foster said. “But more than that, I want kids in South L.A. to grow up in a healthy and prosperous environment, seeing beauty in their own neighborhoods — and know that this equitable investment provided hope for their futures.”

Garcetti Unveils Guaranteed Income Plan for Low Income Families in New Budget

Staff

As part of his annual “State of the City” address, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the launch of what may be the largest guaranteed basic income pilot in the nation, budgeting $24 million to provide 2,000 Los Angeles households with $1,000 monthly for one year.

Said Garcetti, “We’re betting that one small but steady investment for Angeleno households will pay large dividends for health and stability across our city and light a fire across our nation.”

The $24 million does not include the $6 million Councilmember Curren Price earmarked for a guaranteed income pilot focused on single parents in his 9th council district, which includes South L.A.

“Thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Curren Price, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and other councilmembers, these funds will grow to more than $30 million in direct help to begin to tear away at poverty in our city and show this nation a way to fulfill Dr. King’s call for a basic income once and for all,” Garcetti added.

Candidates for the one-year program would be selected from the city’s 15 districts, based on each area’s share of those living below federal poverty guidelines which is $12,780 for a single household and $31,040 for a family of five. While the qualifications have not been fully determined, they will likely include households with at least one minor, those who have suffered some hardship relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city of Compton recently launched a similar program, providing 800 low income residents with $300 to $600 month using prepaid debit cards or through Venmo for two years.

“This is a great opportunity to address inequalities for Black and brown people and also additional opportunities for upward mobility,” said Mayor Aja Brown.

Brown is part of a coalition called the Mayors for Guaranteed Income, sponsored by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and led by Michael Tubbs, the former Stockton mayor who championed the first such program in California when in 2019 he provided 125 residents living in areas with a median income at or below $46,033 with $500 per month for 24 months with no restrictions.

Researchers found that the program did not discourage people from working as some feared it might. Instead, preliminary statistics showed that the two year program worked to increase employment prospects, create financial stability and reduce stress and depression among its participants.

As a result, fifty mayors have signed on and a number of California cities—including Oakland, San Francisco and now Los Angeles have followed suit.

“For families who can’t think past the next bill, the next shift or the next health problem that they have, we can give them the space to not only dream of a better life, but to actualize it,” Garcetti said in an interview with LAist.

Kobe Bryant Estate and Nike Fail to Come to Terms

J.T. Torbit

A beautiful business partnership has come to an end as the Kobe Bryant estate and Nike executives have failed to come to terms on a contract extension after a partnership that has lasted two decades.

“Kobe and Nike have made some of the most beautiful basketball shoes of all time, worn and adored by fans and athletes in all sports across the globe,” Vanessa Bryant said in a released statement. “It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband’s product than any other signature shoe. My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products. I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything. I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”

Reports were that Bryant—frustrated by the limited releases of Kobe shoes after his retirement and the lack of availability of children’s sizes—was looking for a lifetime contract similar to that of LeBron James with Nike.

“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in a statement that was issued on Monday. “He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family.”

The move is likely to include the demand—and price— of Kobe shoes given that Nike will halt the manufacturing of his products.

Demonstrators Take Their Protest of Tigrayan Genocide to Little Ethiopia

Chez Hadley

In what is the latest in a series of demonstrations against the ongoing genocide in Tigray, Tigrayans took to the streets in Little Ethiopia —both on foot and in automobiles— to protest the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region where government forces have reportedly been executing civilians.

A caravan of cars filled with protestors paraded up and down Fairfax Boulevard which is lined with Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles known as Little Ethiopia— between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive— as sidewalk diners, pedestrians and shoppers looked on.

Protesters—who have started a petition on change.org—are asking that the U.S. government take “a deeper look at this act of domestic terrorism and its possible connection to the Ethiopian government that continues to blame every Tigrayan diaspora for the country’s tarnished global image as a “genocidal and brutal regime.” 

“The federal government declared war on the people of Tigray on November 3rd, said Abbi, a Tigrayan Ethiopian, who was one of nearly 100 protesters. “For more than five months, they’ve been killing people. Over 70,000 people have fled to the neighboring country, Sudan. 4.5 million people are starving and then 2.5 million have been displaced. They’ve been committing atrocities and crimes against humanity…and war crimes. So the Ethiopian government and another neighboring country, Eritrea…they’ve been killing our people and some of the people here (pointing to local restaurants and shop owners) have been supporting that.

One man was arrested after having brandished a gun at the peaceful protesters. The suspect was believed to be an ardent supporter of the Ethiopian government and the war in Tigray—had spewed hate speech at the protesters.

Over the last month, reports of executions and mass rapes have surfaced in the mainstream news. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described acts carried out in the region as ethnic cleansing and the top United Nations officials have called for a stop to indiscriminate and targeted attacks against civilians in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, particularly calling out reports of rape and “other horrific forms of sexual violence.”

Ethiopian government troops have been accused of joining forces with soldiers from neighboring Eritrea to brutalize and gang rape Tigrayan women. In one case, a woman’s private parts were stuffed with nails, stones and plastic.

“It is essential that an independent investigation into conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray be initiated, with the involvement of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” the officials said in a statement.

“The United States is gravely concerned by reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,” Blinken said. “The immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps.  They should be accompanied by unilateral declarations of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict and a commitment to permit unhindered delivery of assistance to those in Tigray.  The United States is committed to working with the international community to achieve these goals.  To that end, USAID will deploy a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Ethiopia to continue delivering life-saving assistance.”

L.A. Faith & Community Leaders Respond to Chauvin Verdict

L.A. Faith & Community Leaders Respond to Chauvin Verdict
Lisa Collins

Los Angeles faith and community leaders let out a collective sigh of relief and elation as twelve jurors found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last year.

“Today’s verdict is a powerful reminder that no one is above the law. A jury of Mr. Chauvin’s peers validated the life experience of all of us who attempt to survive our Blackness each and every day,” said L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell. “We know this verdict doesn’t ease the pain felt by those who continue to mourn George Floyd’s life and we know it will not erase the horrific video of his murder that sparked a global uprising to end police brutality and reimagine public safety. However, this is the only acceptable verdict for justice and healing. Black Lives Matter and this verdict sends an important message that law enforcement officers must be held accountable when they murder people in our communities.” 

“I believe that this verdict is showing us that the judicial system can do the right thing and that it is possible that we can have justice for all,” said Pastor Michael J.T. Fisher of the Greater Zion Church Family.

In anticipation of the verdict, Pastor Shep Crawford of ECM Ministries had organized a large group of prominent and influential faith in joining forces to proactively inform and instruct the community in an effort to discourage harsh and harmful reaction to the possible outcome.

“I’m elated,” said Crawford of the verdict. “Yesterday, I was tensed. I had a headache last night and when the verdict came in, I got this feeling in the pit of my stomach and had to pull my car over to hear it. Then when I heard guilty three times—one for the father, one for the son and one for the Holy Ghost—I was very excited. But we need to work hard so we won’t be excited by a verdict like this. That it becomes normal for police to be held accountable. So, while that was a moment, this is a movement, and we have a lot of work to do.”

Geremy Dixon, senior pastor of the First Church of God Center of Hope, concurred.

“Obviously, we are far from rooting out the deep entrenchment of systemic racism in the American criminal justice system. However, this moment does breathe much needed wind into the sails of hope in communities of color. Today, as we released a collective sigh of relief, we exhaled only as a precursor to the drawing of breath so that we might with courage continue the fight.”

Said Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of the Faithful Central Bible Church, “Today the justice journey began anew in the slow but significant trek toward realization. Pushed by faith, justice began to roll; a long slow rolling journey down the hill of inequity to the valley of joy after receiving prophetic marching orders: “… roll down like waters” in the path of righteousness forging the way like an ever-flowing stream”.  It is a day of hope in response to generational echoes down the corridors of time: “how long, Lord, how long?”  

“It is a day of hope ordained and made by God before the foundation of the world.More mountains to climb, more battles to wage, more victories to be won.  But today – let us rejoice in it.” 

While citing the verdict as a victory for justice, accountability, and common sense, L.A. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ heart remained heavy for the loved ones of George Floyd. 

“Though his life was senselessly cut short, Mr. Floyd’s legacy lives on through our collective work and advocacy to reimagine policing across this country.  So, while today’s verdict will not bring George Floyd back, my hope is that his family will know that he has forever changed this nation for the better.”

Derek Chauvin Chooses Not to Testify in His Defense [Video]

AP

Derek Chauvin chose not to take the stand during his murder trial on Thursday morning (April 15). In what marked the 14th day of his trial, the former Minneapolis police officer told Judge Peter Cahill that he would instead exercise his Fifth Amendment right and decline to testify in his defense.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” he said on Thursday.

After Chauvin declined to testify, the defense rested their case. However, prosecutors were allowed to call Dr. Martin Tobin, the pulmonologist who testified last week, back to the stand.

On April 8, Tobin testified that a “low level of oxygen” killed George Floyd, which he said was caused by Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, the prone position, the positioning of his handcuffs and more.

This statement was challenged yesterday by forensic pathologist Dr. David Fowler, who claimed carbon monoxide from the police car’s exhaust could have contributed to Floyd’s death, among other factors.

However, after Fowler made the claim, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the judge they had new evidence regarding the presence of carbon monoxide in Floyd’s blood. Chauvin’s defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, argued that prosecutors should not be allowed to introduce the new evidence at this late stage, and judge Cahill agreed.

Therefore, the judge said Dr. Tobin could return as a witness to refute Fowler’s claims, but ordered him not to discuss the new evidence. If Tobin even mentioned the test results, Cahill said, it would lead to a mistrial.

Tobin rejected Fowler’s claims without discussing the test results and said Fowler’s opinion about carbon monoxide contributing to Floyd’s death was “simply wrong.” The prosecution and defense both rested their cases after Tobin’s testimony and the court adjourned for the day.

The jury is expected to return on Monday (April 19) morning at 10 a.m. EST to hear closing arguments.


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