Author: lafocus

Helping Women Win: Catching Up With EMILY’s List First Black President Laphonza Butler

Tanu Henry | California Black Media

When she was just 30 years old, more than 400,0000 members of California’s largest labor union, SEIU Local 2015, elected Laphonza Butler to be their president. Known for her outspoken, straight-shooting style as she is for her poise and even temper, Butler has a reputation for being a leader capable of building bridges and driving consensus.

As the head of the largest union of health care workers in the country, Butler led the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 in California.

A respected and trusted political strategist, prominent women in California politics have relied on her advice and understanding of the political ground game to get them elected. Among them are Vice President Kamala Harris, Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and state Assemblymember Wendy Carillo (D-Boyle Heights).

Now, at 42, Butler was recently named the President of EMILY’s List, a move that will take her from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to head the organization that bills itself as “the country’s largest resource for women in politics.”

She is the first African American CEO of the organization that says its mission is “to elect democratic pro-choice women to office and to add diversity to our political leadership.”

California Black Media spoke with Butler recently about her vision and top priorities for EMILY’s List, her thoughts on how to assist Black and other women of color who feel unsupported by their political parties, and more.

Congrats. How does it feel taking over an organization that has done so much to move the needle for women involved in politics?

I’m very excited. I am only the third president of EMILY’s List in our organization’s 36-year history. It is a real point of pride for sure as well as an incredible responsibility.

When I think about my role at EMILY’s List, I think about my 7-year-old daughter and the kind of community she wants to be a part of, and I see this role as an opportunity to make that possible.

What are some of your short-term goals?

It’s still early. This is just day nine for me, but I can tell you conceptually what I want to accomplish.

I want to build power for women voters and women candidates, ensuring that we are first-in-class as it relates to creating an example of an organization with diversity at its center. I want us to win.

Immediately, I am focused on making sure that we are able to win in Virginia in 2021.

We must hold the Democratic majority and grow the number of Democratic pro-choice women that are in the Virginia statehouse. We have fantastic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Hala Ayala. She will be the first Afro-Latina to hold that office if we are successful.

Also, there is anti-abortion legislation moving forward in states across the country. We are doing the work to engage the electorate at the state and local levels. It is important for us to push back on restrictions on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.

What’s your longer-term vision?

Building partners. From working with unions in California, I realize the importance of partnerships, of forming coalitions.

When we worked to raise the minimum wage, we included small business partners. We included workers.

What I would like to do with EMILY’s List is to make sure that we are throwing the doors open for every woman – no matter what her financial background may be. If she wants to serve, she can find the resources, training and support that she needs at EMILY’s List. I want to do that in partnership with organizations like Higher Heights, Emerge, Voto Latino and #VoteProChoice.

What do you want EMILY’s List to represent for women and girls across America?

I want it to mean that every woman can belong anywhere she chooses and at any decision-making table where she wants to be, assured that her voice will be heard.

I also want the organization to be able to communicate clearly that whether you are a woman of color, or from a working-class background, or immigrant woman, your place in electoral politics is normal. You’re not a groundbreaker, not a celling breaker. You belong at those tables.

What’s your message for men?

I want men to know that they, too, have a place and a role in ensuring that their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts are capable of being strong leaders, not just in their families, but in the halls of government.

I want men to know that their resources are welcome in supporting organizations like EMILY’s list to help make the dreams their family members’ dreams come true.

Black women overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates. They are leaders and grassroots organizers, and they are the most loyal voting bloc in the party. Yet, Black women candidates often point out that they are not always supported with the levels of enthusiasm, endorsements or funding they deserve. 

What are your thoughts about this problem?

They are legitimate concerns for Black women, specifically, and women of color, generally. Their voices are the last heard if heard at all. Their experiences are the least valued if valued at all.

I can surely appreciate and attest to their leadership.

As it relates to EMILYs list, I want to hear those concerns and I want to understand them. I want to continue to support Black woman, women of color and all women.

At the same time, I would invite people to take a look at EMILY’s List and the work we have done to support Black women like U.S. Congresswomen Lucy McBath, Lauren Underwood or Jahana Hayes. These Black women, who ran and won in majority White districts — White Republican districts. They all had the support of EMILY’s List.

The new mayor of St. Louis, Tishaura Jones, for example, has also benefitted from the work of EMILY’s List.

Emily’s list has a strong history of being an organization created to diversify women holding elected office. And we can do more to work inside a system that wasn’t built for us. A system that we forced our way into and want to continue to be a part of.

I’ve heard you say in other interviews ‘when women win, we all win.’ What do you mean?

What we know about women is that when they go to the ballot box, they carry their whole families. They carry their children, their husbands, their mothers, their fathers. They do not only carry those persons as individuals; they also carry their concerns. I made that statement and I believe that when women are in elected office, the choices that they make are representative of entire communities. That is the way that we lead our families. That is the way we lead our civic organizations and churches.

Do you have any advice for women who are interested in running for elected office but don’t know how to get started?

I would say reach out to EMILY’s list if she is looking for a way to get started. We actually have an online community called Run to Win that is made up of tens of thousands of women who are contemplating this very question. Our staff gives them advice and I think the most powerful part is that they give advice to each other based on real-life experiences.

Even if they have doubts, those women should run anyway. Our Congress and state legislatures are filled with women who didn’t win the first time.

You went to an HBCU, Jackson State. Does that experience play a role in shaping who you are as an organizer, visionary and person?

I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today but for my experience at Jackson State. My fellow Tigers and the professors that I had who were SNCC or CORE organizers, who may have spent their young adulthoods going to jail fighting to expand the right to vote. They took those experiences and poured them into us in the classroom. They provided the intellectual rigor of higher education and combined it with the civic responsibility to continue to push for better, to fight when there is struggle and to lead when no one else will stand.

It is more than just an institution of higher learning. It is a space where you really do come into the fullness and beauty of all that it means to be a Black person in this nation.

Black Biz Owners Push for Equal Access to Trillions in Upcoming Fed Spending

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Black-owned businesses in California and around the country are closely watching as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi decides when she has enough support from the congressional Democratic caucus to call a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan federal infrastructure spending bill.

Dubbed the “American Jobs Plan” by the Biden administration, the spending bill finances construction projects, airports, roads, bridges, education initiatives, and more. As a component of Biden’s broader “Build Back Better plan,” the legislation includes spending to combat climate change and support expanding the country’s social service and safety net programs for lower income families.

The infrastructure bill is expected to expand opportunities for small businesses, including minority-owned ones, who procure contracts to implement various parts plan, hopefully accelerating racial equity, minority business owners say.

Some Black business owners are concerned that, as has often been the case with large government spending programs, they will be overlooked.

“Here is an opportunity for Black businesses to profit from unprecedented taxpayer spending that will help build all of our communities across America. But we also know, from the past, that inclusion of Black-owned and other minority-owned businesses is not always automatic in situations like this,” said Gene Hale, President of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce.

“Even informing us that these opportunities exist – letting us know how we can grow and secure our businesses – is never a priority,” added Hale. “That has to change.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-37) said the infrastructure plan reflects the agenda that helped Democrats reclaim the White House.

“The needs in our communities, especially for Black and Brown people, are too great to be put on hold,” said Lee in a statement issued on Sept. 22. “This is an opportunity for Democrats to be unified in our goal of realizing the vision and promise of this nation.”

United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said the financial investment by the federal government is “historic in nature” and should allow California Black businesses to utilize goods and services represented the plan’s vision.

“It’s making sure that Black-owned businesses have the opportunities, that for decades, missed out on,” Graves told California Black Media in a one-on-one interview by telephone. “We’re going to make certain that Black businesses have a seat at the table because the President has required that every agency have a plan for how Black businesses are going to be included in every single investment decision.”

The Senate passed the infrastructure bill on Aug. 10 and a budget reconciliation bill that calls for an additional $3.5 trillion more in spending is being debated. Now the House of Representatives has to approve the legislation and forward it to Biden for his signature.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) has yet to set a date for a floor vote on the bill as a battle continues between liberal and moderate Democrats on the package’s price tag.

“Let’s be clear: for months, progressives have been open, honest, and transparent with House leadership and the administration about our focus on passing both bills,” Lee stated. “We all proudly support the President’s entire Build Back Better package, which is why, from the inception of these negotiations, my colleagues and I advocated for the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework alongside the reconciliation package.”

The Senate infrastructure bill includes an amendment that would allow the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to become a permanent fixture of the federal government.

The amendment will expand the agency’s ability to open regional offices and rural business centers. The outreach facilities would be managed through historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), according to the office of Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, who co-sponsored the measure with Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Minority business owners have historically been systematically excluded from securing often lucrative federal contracts for infrastructure work, such as building bridges and highways, Graves said.

According to a 2016 MBDA report, public contracting data indicated that disparities exist in contracting activity between minority and non-minority business enterprises.

Specifically, the report revealed that minority business enterprises (MBEs) typically secure a lower number and dollar amount of contracts in proportion to the number of MBEs that are available in the marketplace to bid on and perform contract work.

Graves told CBM as the federal government “deploys” infrastructure funding the old way of bidding on contracts will be eliminated.

“(MBDA) is the single agency across the federal government that is focused solely on supporting the growth and long-term success of minority businesses,” Graves said. “(MBDA) is working with every single federal agency to make sure that as we deploy these dollars, make these investments, minority businesses are right there at the table.”

Under the guidance of Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Graves is tasked with administering increased job opportunities, establishing economic policies to shore up small businesses and train workers for in-demand jobs.

Graves, the 19th deputy Secretary of Commerce, is also African American and comes from a family of successful businesspeople.

Graves’s four-times great grandparents operated a successful horse and buggy taxi business in Washington, D.C., that once stood at the site of the Department of Commerce’s headquarters. Their son went on to be a proprietor of a widely-regarded hotel nearby and become one of our nation’s first Black patent-holders through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In California, voters rejected the 2020 general election Proposition (Prop.) 16, a ballot measure that would have reinstated affirmative action in California. Over 56% of the state’s 11 million voters checked “no” on the measure.

What appears to be a barrier on the state level, at the federal level, Graves said “the door is open for all of us.” The federal government is asking states and localities to develop plans to make sure no minority business is dissuaded from participating in the plan.

“We want to see how they play to use these dollars effectively in an inclusive and equitable way to make certain that opportunities exist for every minority business out there (in California) that have capabilities,” Graves said. “We do want to make sure they don’t get discouraged or turned away.”

The infrastructure plan, Graves listed, would also eliminate lead pipes in drinking water systems, provide high-speed broadband, upgrade schools and federal buildings, replace buses and rail cars, and more.

“It’s also the single-largest public investment in history and the most important investment in ensuring that every American has access to reliable, affordable broadband,” he said.

Black Educators Take on Hesitancy as Gov. Newsom Issues COVID Vaccination Mandate

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on with Black Californians still lagging behind on getting fully vaccinated, leaders in the state, including Gov. Newsom, are taking steps to push more people to get the shot. It is the most effective way, public health experts say, we will end the global public health crisis.

Across California’s 58 counties, about 60% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated. Black people account for about 5.8% of California’s population and 4% of those who have been vaccinated.

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Newsom signed an executive order late last month to extend telehealth services. Then, last week, the governor also made vaccines mandatory for all students at public and private schools.

California’s school vaccination mandate will take effect for students enrolled in grades 7 through 12 one semester after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccine for children 12 and older. The mandate will also apply to children under 12 after a vaccine is approved for that age group.

“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19. Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom,” Newsom said. “Vaccines work.”

It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Last month, Black educators from around the state met at the Reef Restaurant in Long Beach. One of their items on their agenda was getting to the bottom of why some Black Californians remain reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The event, themed “Vaccine Hesitancy: Understanding the Science and Getting people to Trust It,” was a presentation held during a meeting co-hosted by the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAASA), along with along with the Los Angeles County Alliance of Black School Educators and the National Coalition.

In the process, participants said they wanted to provide some historical context.

Lillie Tyson Head, daughter of a survivor of the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study in Tuskegee, talked about the far-reaching damage caused by the controversial and unethical research project.

“The men were told that they had ‘bad blood’ and that they would receive treatment,” Head said. “They were never told they were in a study and the intent of the study.”

She said the federal government study fostered distrust among African Americans of the health care system.

“Forty-nine years after the study was exposed and 89 years after the study began, people, particularly in the African American communities, distrust certain medical treatment and medical research. And they are using this study as reasons for hesitating getting vaccinated or refusing to get vaccinated at all,” Head said.

Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer at the Watts Healthcare Center, said there are built-in biases in the medical system that contribute to African American skepticism.

“There are studies showing that African Americans are less likely to get cardiac studies and procedures, stents versus just medication. They get less treatment for pain when they come in with sickle cell and other injuries like femur fractures,” he said., “The mistrust with the medical system is valid. It is a decision based on primarily mistrust of the vaccine and mistrust with the healthcare system.”

Head also encouraged people to get vaccinated although she acknowledged that she understood why some Black people remain hesitant.

“How fortunate and blessed we are to know about the types of COVID vaccines that are available today,” Head said. “Why then should we deny ourselves getting vaccinated? We all have the opportunity to be informed, receive advice from professionals we trust and understand how we can protect ourselves by getting vaccinated.”

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

Newsom Signs ‘George Floyd Law’ 

Staff

The nation watched in horror the video of three police officers doing nothing to stop former Minneapolis police officer (now convicted felon) Derek Chauvin from snuffing the life out of George Floyd with a knee to his neck.

Thanks to Assemblyman Chris Holden’s police reform legislation, AB 26, such actions—or better put, inaction— will not be tolerated in California.

AB 26 establishes clear guidelines for police responsibility and accountability when witnessing excessive force by another member of law enforcement.

“Derek Chauvin was charged for killing of George Floyd, but justice for George Floyd doesn’t rest in Chauvin’s conviction alone – there were three additional officers simply stood by and watched him die,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “I thank Governor Newsom and everyone who supported AB 26 that will make it crystal clear in our state law what is a peace officer’s duty to intervene when witnessing excessive force.”

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 26, dubbed the ‘George Floyd’ Law.

To be clear, California law required police officers to intercede when observing another officer using force that is beyond that which is necessary, but there were no universal measures used to determine that am’s Policing Advisors released their recommendations which included legislation to “Require officers to intervene to prevent or stop other officers from engaging in excessive force, false arrest, or other inappropriate conduct.”

“Today’s signing is a big step forward for police responsibility and accountability. Instituting these core values are paramount to building public trust that has eroded between law enforcement and communities across California,” said Holden.n officer has in fact interceded. 

With AB 26, police officers would be required to intercede when witnessing excessive force —including physically stopping the excessive use of force, when in a position to do so —under updated guidelines and to report the incident in real time to dispatch or the watch commander. The officer’s due process will be protected as the employing agency would review evidence and determine if the offending officer met the standard for intervention. Retaliation against officers that report violations of law or regulation of another officer to a supervisor is prohibited.

Last year, Governor Newsom’s Policing Advisors released their recommendations which included legislation to “Require officers to intervene to prevent or stop other officers from engaging in excessive force, false arrest, or other inappropriate conduct.”

“Today’s signing is a big step forward for police responsibility and accountability. Instituting these core values are paramount to building public trust that has eroded between law enforcement and communities across California,” said Holden.

Bruce’s Beach Returned to Black Family, So What’s Next?

Tina Samepay

With the stroke of a pen on September 30, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 796 into law returning prime beachfront property in Manhattan Beach to the descendants of a black family that had it wrongfully been seized from nearly a century ago.

“As we move to remedy this nearly century-old injustice, California takes another step furthering our commitment to making the California Dream a reality for communities that were shamefully shut out by a history of racist exclusion,” Newsom said.

In 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce, bought two beachfront parcels for $1,225 and established a resort serving Black residents. After years of racist harassment and violence by white neighbors and the KKK, Manhattan Beach city officials ultimately seized the property through eminent domain in 1924.

Eventually, the land became property of Los Angeles County after transfers between Manhattan Beach and the State of California. 

In April, L.A. County Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Janice Hahn authored a motion to return the property to descendants of the Bruce Family. State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) then introduced SB 794 as the first step in returning Bruce’s Beach—now worth an estimated $75 million— to its rightful owners.

One month earlier, members of Manhattan Beach’s mostly white community had expressed disapproval of the city offering the Bruce family a public apology at a contentious city council meeting.

“Concerned Residents of MB” paid for two full-page advertisements fighting back against what they referred to as a “woke” mob,” arguing Manhattan Beach did not deserve to be tied to a legacy of racism.

On Manhattan Beach council member even said the Bruce’s had been reasonably compensated, failing to mention that only a fraction of what little compensation the family requested was paid.

But activists pushed back, determined to right the wrong.

“It was clear that this was wrong. The way it caught fire and people were attentive was very uplifting. We had a lot of support, said Patricia Bruce-Carter. 

“Even though there were a handful of prejudices, other than that for the most part, the process has been positive.”

Bruce-Carter was quick to add that in fighting for something of this magnitude, public support was critical.

“It felt good to know that you are not alone in trying to fight for what is right,” said Bruce-Carter in her appreciation for the group, Justice For Bruce’s Beach, and all the supporters who rallyied behind her family.

“Kevon Ward, who started the group Justice For Bruce’s Beach, was very instrumental with boots on the ground,” says Bruce-Carter. They were very, very active. I believe their presence is a strong reason we were able to have a victory.”

Ward, co-founder of Where is My Land, works with numerous families, who are also seeking rightful ownership of their families land and legacy.

Also playing a key role was Demarco Smith, an inspiring filmmaker and local historian who shared the story of Bruce’s Beach online through his research. 

It was Smith who uncovered that in 1924, while a member of the City Council, Frank Doherty voted to condemn the two blocks where Black businesses were beginning to thrive along the Beach’s shore.

In 1945, the then former Manhattan Beach City Councilmember wrote an article in the Redondo Reflex newspaper entitled, “The Negro Problem,” where he described the meanest thing he ever did. 

“There were several families in the blocks between 26th and 27th streets and between Strand and Highland,” Doherty wrote. “We had to acquire these two blocks to solve the problem, so we voted to condemn them and make a city park there. Our attorney advised members of the council never to admit the real purpose and establishment of the park, especially during the council meetings.”  

Smith says he feels joy for the family and the victory of Bruce’s Beach, should spark a movement to find all the evidence needed to bring forth reparations for African-Americans.

“L.A is one of the most segregated and economically divided cities in America, it’s good to know that no matter how hard they fought to get rid of Black families, what’s done in the dark will come to light.”

Anthony Bruce, who is the great-great-grandson of Charles and Wila Bruce, tells news outlets that his family is not “rushing back” to set up business in Manhattan Beach. 

In fact, according to L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, the work is far from done. 

“Now that LA County officially has the authority to transfer this property, my goal these next several months will be to transfer this property in a way that not only works for the Bruce family, but is a model that other local governments can follow,” Hahn said. “Returning Bruce’s Beach can and should set a precedent for this nation and I know that all eyes will be on Los Angeles County as this work gets underway.”

The county is now working to confirm the rightful heirs of Willa and Charles Bruce. Once that is accomplished, they will determine through discussions if the Bruce heirs want the exact parcels on which the lifeguard training center sits, or would they accept two equivalent parcels in the same block. They also would now have the option of being the county’s landlords after determining how much rent the county would then have to pay them on the oceanfront property.

“It is never too late to address the injustices of the past,” said Senator Bradford. “As a member of the California Reparations Task Force, this is an example of what real reparations can look like.”

Jay-Z Makes A Giant Move in Cannabis Industry

It is often said that Jay-Z does nothing small. Proof of that is his latest business move in the Cannabis market. The billionaire rap mogul and his cannabis company, The Parent Company, have acquired the Coastal Dispensary for a reported $56.2 million, with the additional option of equity in other stores bumping the deal up $9 million to a total price tag of $65 million.

Headquartered in Santa Barbara, the three-year old company—which operates five of six licensed locations spanning from West Los Angeles to Vallejo—has been a dominant player in the cannabis industry and is credited as being the second-largest operating retail dispensary in the state with an expanded reach to over 80% of its population.

“I am thrilled to add Coastal to our expanding retail network,” said Troy Datcher, chief executive officer of The Parent Company. “With strategically positioned locations in high-traffic, densely populated regions, Coastal enables us to significantly increase our reach to a broader potential audience of consumers with both in-person retail and delivery options. In just over four months, we have more than tripled our operating retail stores in California.”

The deal—pending approvals—is expected to be finalized in 2022 and would boost the company’s current retail store and delivery footprints to eleven and six, respectively.

Earlier this year, The Parent Company signed a $17 million deal to acquire four acres of licensed high-quality outdoor cannabis cultivation located in Sonoma County, California from a consortium of experienced cannabis farmers.

Over 30 Past & Present Elected Officials Throw Their Support Behind Bass

Kisha Smith

With a tweet at 9:02am on September 27, Congresswoman Karen Bass made it official that she was running for mayor of Los Angeles, and since the endorsements have been rolling in.

More than 30 current and former elected leaders have thrown their support behind the Congresswoman, including California State Senators Steve Bradford and Sydney Kamlager, L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“I’m honored to earn the endorsement of these esteemed leaders throughout Southern California at such an important time for our city, Bass said. “Their vocal and legislative advocacy on behalf of their constituents is the hallmark of strong leadership. It will take all of us, together, to address the crises at hand — but I believe with a strong coalition, we can bring about the change that we need to put this city on the right track as we recover from this pandemic. 

Bass’ entry into the race was welcome news for a growing list of supporters that included a cadre of local and statewide coalitions, block clubs, city officials like Councilman Mark Ridley Thomas and Supervisor Holly Mitchell, faith leaders and celebrities. 

“I love Karen Bass and it’s going to be a very exciting race”, said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I think los Angeles is going to have great choices.”

Those choices include City Councilmen Kevin de Leon and Joe Buscaino; City Attorney Mike Feuer, African American businessman Mel Wilson and businesswoman Jessica Lall, while among those rumored to be considering a bid include billionaire mall developer Rick Caruso and former LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner.

A recent poll indicated that Bass had the advantage of being the best known among the candidates and led with Black Angelenos and people on the Westside and South Los Angeles.

No one questions the qualifications of the L.A. native whose national profile rose with her chairmanship of the Congressional Black Caucus; her consideration as a vice presidential candidate by Joe Biden; and her current leadership in the legislative reckoning over race and police violence. 

“Our city is facing a public health, safety and economic crisis in homelessness that has evolved into a humanitarian emergency,” Bass said in her tweet. “I’ve spent my entire life bringing groups of people together in coalitions to solve complex problems and produce concrete change — especially in times of crisis. Los Angeles is my home. With my whole heart, I’m ready.”

Observed public policy expert Kerman Maddox, “Karen Bass is a uniquely talented elected official who has the ability to work with and connect with supporters and critics to get things done because everybody respects her, and people really like her and in electoral politics likeability is priceless.   

The six-term lawmaker, who founded the social justice non-profit, the Community Coalition—has since 2011—represented California’s 37th Congressional district, which stretches from Inglewood to Century City and includes Leimert Park, Culver City, Mid-City, West Adams, Mar Vista, Westwood, Ladera Heights and University Park.

If elected, Bass would make history as the first woman to serve as L.A. mayor. The primary election is set for June 7, 2021.

City Council Approves New Ordinance Requiring Proof of Vaccination for Indoor Venues

In an 11-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council has voted to approve a new ordinance requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before entering a host of indoor venues, including—but not limited to—restaurants, movie theaters, shopping centers, gyms and beauty salons.

Under the new ordinance—which Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he will sign into law— businesses must require proof of vaccination when customers enter indoor facilities starting on November 4.

The ordinance will also apply to city facilities, though alternate arrangements for access to government services, including online access or a recent negative test to gain entry to an indoor facility.

The new rule will allow for written exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but in those cases, businesses will have to require that those customers use outdoor facilities or show evidence of a recent negative COVID-19 test if outdoor facilities are not available. Customers may be allowed to enter briefly to pick up takeout orders or use the restroom. 

Those businesses opting to ignore the ordinance will face escalating penalties ranging from a warning for the first violation and $1000 for a second violation to $5000 for a fourth violation, with enforcement of the penalties slated to begin on November 29.

Those in opposition to the new ordinance argued that the restrictions would put many L.A. businesses at a competitive disadvantage, while also pointing to the confusion that might be caused by L.A. County’s vaccination mandates.

The ordinance does not apply to grocery stores and pharmacy. Below is a list what establishments the ordinance would apply to: 

  • Restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, breweries, wineries, distilleries banquet halls and hotel ballrooms.
  • Gyms and fitness venues, including recreation facilities, fitness studios (including for yoga, Pilates, dance, and barre), boxing gyms, fitness boot camps and facilities that hold indoor group fitness classes.
  • Entertainment and recreation venues including movie theaters, shopping centers, concert venues, performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, convention centers, exhibition halls, museums, malls, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, pool and billiard halls, play areas and game centers.
  • Personal care establishments, including spas, nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, tanning salons, estheticians, skin care, tattoo shops, piercing shops and massage therapy locations, unless medically required.

California Could Decriminalize Drug “Magic Mushrooms” as Early as Next Year

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

The seeds have been planted for another California law that could loosen restrictions on the use of recreational drugs in the United States.

Last week, Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber announced that a new initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, — also known by its street name “shrooms” — has been cleared by her office. Proponents of the legislation can begin collecting signatures to qualify it as a statewide ballot measure in 2022.

The initiative calls for the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms under California’s penal code. It also calls for the legalization of cultivation, manufacture, processing, distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, and retail sale of the hallucinogenic fungi and chemical compounds it contains – as well as products and extracts derived from it.

Currently, under federal law, mushrooms are classified as a Schedule 1 drug. That designation indicates that a drug has a high potential for abuse, and it has no clear medical benefits.

If the initiative is qualified and approved by California voters, it would also authorize the research and use of psilocybin mushrooms for treatment by qualified healthcare practitioners. The requirement for an “independent professional certifying body” would exist to establish qualifications for healthcare practitioners who provide psilocybin mushroom-assisted therapy and to create protocols for such therapy.

“As Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and as a Black man in America, I have come to know what justice is or is not for people that look like me,” Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) told California Black Media.

“The War on Drugs had drastic consequences and a disproportionate impact on people of color, urban communities, and poor people despite studies showing drug usage being equal across various landscapes. That is one of the reasons why I support the decriminalization of certain drugs, including psilocybin. The effects of the war on drugs, however, is not the only reason for my position. Data and science have proven psilocybin’s potential to help people in a myriad of therapeutic applications. We gain nothing by continuing to live in the wreckage of the war on drugs, it is time to move on.”

The Attorney General prepares the legal title and summary that is required to appear on initiative petitions. When the official language is complete, the Attorney General forwards it to the proponent and to the Secretary of State, and the initiative may be circulated for signatures. The Secretary of State then provides calendar deadlines to the proponent and to county elections officials.

California was a trailblazer in the national movement to legalize marijuana when it first overturned prohibitions against medical uses of cannabis 25 years ago. Marijuana for recreational use is now legal in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

The proponent of the measure, Ryan Munevar, must collect signatures of 623,212 registered voters (five percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the November 2018 general election) for the measure to become eligible for the November 2022 ballot.

“I’m not an optimistic person at all, I’m more of a mathematician when it comes to these things, we have this down to a science” said Munevar. “But the reception has been phenomenal.”

Kevin Sabet, drug policy adviser to President Obama and author of the book, “Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know,” has been an outspoken critic of legalization of marijuana, mushrooms and other drugs.

Sabet warns that profit motives, not public health imperatives, drive political legalization efforts.

“I worry that given the precedent we have set with tobacco, alcohol and now marijuana, we are setting up a new addictive industry that wants to deal with all kinds of drugs that have never been commercialized before, like mushrooms,” he said before Oregon decriminalized “shrooms” in 2019.

In August, Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) requested the cancelation of a hearing for a similar bill he authored SB 519. That legislation proposes removing criminal penalties for the using and sharing of psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline, LSD, ketamine and MDMA for people over age 21.

Munevar has 180 days to circulate petitions for the measure, meaning the signatures must be submitted to county elections officials no later than March 15, 2022.

 

By 2026, Cal Education Chief Wants Every Third Grader to Know How to Read

Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond held a press conference via zoom and on Facebook last week to unveil an ambitious new education achievement plan for California. It is a campaign that has been designed to ensure, by 2026, every California third grader will know how to read.

The effort will also include a biliteracy milestone for dual-language learners.

Thurmond announced that he will be forming a task force of practitioners, advocates, researchers, foundation partners, thought leaders, students, parents, and other experts to identify key strategies that school districts and charter schools can employ to help their students achieve this bold goal.

Education researchers point out that children are expected to be able to learn about the world through reading by third and fourth grade. This is when their math lessons are taught using word problems and reasoning skills are developed through discussing text they’ve been assigned to read. Children who fall behind developing reading skills quickly find themselves struggling to keep up with their coursework.

A study by researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education reached the conclusion that during the pandemic inadequate reading instruction has contributed to students’ reading fluency in second and third grade to be approximately 30 % behind what would be expected in a typical year.

Thurmond said during his opening remarks, “We already know that when students learn to read, they can read to learn anything. This is a gateway skill that can carry them to any point in their life, in their career, and in their journey. We also know that when students don’t learn to read by third grade, they’re at greater risk to drop out of school, and they are greater risk to end up in the criminal justice system”

On the state’s Smarter Balanced tests during the 2018-19 school year only 33% of Black students in grades three through 11 tested at grade level or above in English language; only 31% of third graders tested at grade level or above in English language arts.

In addition to announcing the task force formation, Thurmond revealed that Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) has agreed to sponsor legislation that will formally be introduced in 2022 to support the task force’s recommendations.

“We will bring forward legislation in the next legislative cycle that will help us to have the resources for professional learning, and the other things that we’ll need to support our students,” he said.

Thurmond expects the legislation to consider issues of readiness, chronic absenteeism, needs of students with disabilities and multilingual learners, early education, and socio-economic factors that impact a student’s ability to learn to read.

“I look forward to working closely with you all in the coming weeks and months on improving childhood literacy and biliteracy,” said Assemblymember Bonta speaking at the press conference. “I applaud Superintendent Thurmond for this targeted campaign. It is a bold, aggressive agenda. I’m on board and willing to make sure that we have the ability to provide legislation that is going to be meaningful and focus on implementation and making this a reality for every single child in this state. Literacy is the key to equity.”

Also present at the press conference were: E. Toby Boyd, California Teachers Association; Hedy Chang, Executive Director, Attendance Works; Dr. Francisco Escobedo, Executive Director, National Center for Urban School Transformation; Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Fairfield), Liaison to Advisory Commission on Special Education; Jan Gustafson-Corea, Chief Executive Officer, California Association of Bilingual Education (CABE); Matt Navo, Executive Director, California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE); Dr. Christopher J. Nellum, Executive Director, The Education Trust—West; and Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, Chief Deputy Director, First 5 California. Keith Pace, Executive Director, California School Employees Association was invited but did not participate.

Each participant shared personal stories and encouraged statewide support for literacy and biliteracy for all of California’s students.

“This has been an incredibly challenging year for our students, our educators, and their families,” E. Toby Boyd, President of the California Teachers Association, said. “The pandemic has shined a light on the challenges that our schools and communities face in serving the six million students in our system. I, along with my 310,000 educators, are ready to work with Superintendent Thurmond, Assemblymembers Bonta and Frazier, and the members of the task force to develop thoughtful strategies and policies for our youngest learners, and also for the future of California public education.”

“We’re extremely excited about this campaign for a number of reasons, but for me and for us this campaign launches at a time when we’ve all seen how drastically our education systems can change during a crisis,” said Christopher Nellum, executive director of Education Trust-West. “And in our opinion now is the time to act with the same sort of urgency with regard to our literacy crisis in California.”

In his closing remarks Thurmond said, “I thought I’d have eight years to work on this in some way. The pandemic has upended, some of those efforts. But, I just have to say, as I feel about to borrow from the wonderful Congresswoman Maxine Waters, ‘I’m reclaiming my time’ to work on an initiative that I know is so important.”

 


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