Author: lafocus

Bill to End “Slavery” in Prisons Advances in Cal Legislature

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

April Grayson, a policy associate for the Young Women’s Freedom Center and a formerly incarcerated Black woman, who spent 17 years behind bars, said she can’t wait to see the day when the language in Article 1, Section 6 of California’s Constitution is off the books.

It says, “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime,” California’s Constitution states.

Grayson, who was imprisoned at Central California’s Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, spoke recently at a Juneteenth rally at the state Capitol in Sacramento in support of Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3.

“Today, can we abolish a system that was only created to keep Black people incarcerated?” Grayson said.

“I am not free,” she continued, “as long as my best friends (inmates) in Chowchilla are working for free. We’re just asking to abolish slavery in California, which is a state that voted to abolish slavery.”

The legislation authored by Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) would strike out all conditional language and prohibit involuntary servitude for all purposes in the California penal system.

“Slavery has no place in our state constitution. Full stop. And yet, that’s where we are. I’m excited ACA 3, which aims to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude without exception, continues to progress and is currently in Assembly Appropriations,” said Kamlager in a statement to California Black Media. “There’s no time like the present to dissolve the vestiges of racial inequality and modern-day slavery.”

On June 15, ACA 3 – also known as the California Abolition Act — went before the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. It passed 7-0 and has since been referred to the Assembly’s appropriations Committee for review.

After a hearing June 30, the appropriations committee referred ACA 3 to the “suspense file,” where it is undergoing a review to determine its impact on the state budget.

Shay Franco-Clausen is a prison reform advocate and was a co-organizer of the rally in Sacramento. She told California Black Media it is “crazy that current language is still in the California Constitution in 2021.”

“If we don’t see it as Californians to have this immoral, barbaric, Jim-Crow language, that is still oppressive by way of forced labor, still there in our state’s constitution, we have a problem,” said Franco-Clausen, who was incarcerated for nearly two years as a juvenile.

“ACA 3 removing this discriminatory language is one step in the right direction to a California that represents everyone,” she continued.

Inmates earned between 8 and 37 cents per hour on average for regular prison jobs, according to an April 2017 report released by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a nonprofit research and advocacy campaign that addresses criminal justice reform and mass criminalization.

These jobs, PPI stated, on average, require seven-hour workdays for 22 days per month. California inmates averaged about $12.00 to $56.00 per month for part-time and full-time positions, the PPI report reveals.

The prison system’s “regular jobs” include all work provided and paid for by state correctional agencies, except for industry jobs. Those jobs directly support the correctional institutions operations with custodial, maintenance, sanitation, grounds keeping and food service work.

Working in jobs providing labor to institutions outside of the prison system, California inmates averaged between 30 and 95 cents per hour. Known as the “Correctional Industries,” those jobs include assignments producing goods and services that are sold to government and non-profit agencies.

“Making it hard for incarcerated people to earn real money hurts their chances of success when they are released, too,” Wendy Sawyer, a PPI policy analyst wrote in a 2017 report. “With little to no savings, how can they possibly afford the immediate costs of food, housing, healthcare, transportation, child support, and supervision fees?”

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonprofit think tank dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California, reported that the total number of Black inmates is disproportional to the state’s total population of African Americans, which is 6%.

In 2017, 28.5% of the state’s male prisoners were African American — compared to just 5.6% of the state’s adult male residents, According to PPIC.

African American women are also overrepresented. Of the state’s 5,849 female prisoners, 25.9% are African American. Black women account for 5.7% of the state’s adult female residents.

ACA 3 has already garnered significant support from legislators and community organizations, including Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Sen. Steven Bradford, (D-Gardena), chair of the CLBC.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee yes vote last week was the first step in the legislative process to ACA 3 becoming law in California. If both the Assembly and the Senate approve the proposal, it would be placed on the ballot in 2022 for all California voters to approve or reject it.

“We should not be privatizing any labor in our prison system because (prisoners) have committed a crime,” Franco-Clausen said. “We already know that Black and Brown people are criminalized at the highest level. The book is thrown at us. I still don’t understand why we still use forced labor.”

Cali’s Push to Let Student Athletes Get Paid Gets Big Assists From SCOTUS, NCAA

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) represents the sports programs at over 1,260 academic institutions, 102 athletic conferences, and more than 480,000 student athletes who have not been allowed, until recently, to make a dime from their athletic abilities or the marketing of their names, images or likenesses.

But last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) unanimously ruled that the NCAA policy must fall in line with the country’s antitrust laws and that the organization does not have the authority to deny student athletes the right to receive compensation for their athleticism or fame.

“I’m excited about this ruling. It’s long overdue and I am happy that California had a small role in moving that tide, that marker,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who, along with Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 206 or the Fair Pay to Play Act in California.

SB 206, which Gov. Newsom signed into law in 2019 – and which is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023 – paved the way for athletes in the Golden State to cash in on apparel endorsements, autograph signing, jersey licensing, social media commerce, ticket sales or other for-profit ventures.

Speaking during a Juneteenth celebration at the Secretary of State office in Sacramento, Bradford said, “It’s really what we were talking about here today. College athletics is an extension of the chattel system. Those athletes are people of color — African American men and women — who have never been fully compensated.”

About a week after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, the NCAA, based on recommendations from the organization’s Division 1 Board of Directors, announced that it would lift its restrictions on student earnings and allow students to profit off of their athleticism and fame.

That organization’s decision came a day before laws lifting the NCAA ban in eight states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas – took effect July 1.

According to the NCAA, the temporary action would remain in place until federal legislation or new NCAA rules are adopted.

After the NCAA decision, Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and co-lead attorney for a class action suit, Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc., that helped shift the ground on the student athlete pay issue, shared his thoughts.

Berman told California Black Media, “this set of rules argues that the fate of college sports is not seriously in jeopardy if the NCAA were to get out of the business of fixing NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) prices entirely.”

“The NCAA is admitting what we’ve known all along: that consumer demand is not tied to athletes’ earnings, and for many

reasons, college sports can have a future that is both fair and sustainable for athletes,” he continued.

In the Supreme Court case, the National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (No. 20-512), U.S. Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered an opinion in the 9-0 unanimous ruling.

Gorsuch wrote, “Colleges and universities across the country have leveraged sports to bring in revenue, attract attention, boost enrollment, and raise money from alumni. That profitable enterprise relies on ‘amateur’ student-athletes who compete under horizontal restraints that restrict how the schools may compensate them for their play.”

The NCAA, he continued, “issues and enforces these rules, which restrict compensation for student-athletes in various ways. These rules depress compensation for at least some student-athletes below what a competitive market would yield.”

The lead plaintiff in the case the Supreme Court decided, Alston v. NCAA, is African American Shawne Alston, a former University of West Virginia (UVW) running back. Alston played for the Mountaineers from 2009 to 2012.

Alston’s landmark ruling may have led to the biggest rewriting of NCAA rules in the organization’s 115-year history, but it was Ed O’Bannon, who first brought a legal complaint against the NCAA, over the compensation of former and current student-athletes.

O’Bannon, who won a NCAA Men’s Basketball title with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1995 filed the federal class-action lawsuit, O’Bannon v. NCAA, 12 years ago. He and 19 others athletes sued the NCAA for violating federal antitrust laws.

National Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Robertson affixed his name to O’Bannon’s suit in 2011 when he learned that the NCAA used his image in licensing deals with trading card companies without his knowledge.

The distribution of trading cards displayed Robertson wearing his University of Cincinnati uniform, where he played for the Bearcats from 1957 to 1960. The NCAA claimed it could use his likeness in perpetuity, Yahoo! Sports reported in January 2011.

“Today, the Supreme Court said, ‘no’ to the NCAA’s monopolistic practices,” Skinner said of the NCAA v. Alston ruling. “For far too long, the NCAA has pocketed billions off the hard work and talent of student-athletes while limiting the support colleges can provide and denying athletes any of that wealth.”

In 2009, Sam Keller, a former starting quarterback at Arizona State University and the University of Nebraska, brought a putative class action lawsuit (along with other former college football players) against Electronic Arts (EA), the digital interactive company, alleging that its use of his likeness in the NCAA Football series of video games violated his right of publicity under California statutory and common law.

On July 31, 2013, California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, ruled EA was not protected by the First Amendment free speech in portraying the likeness of a college football player. The ruling effectively ended the NCAA Football video series run of 17 years.

Although the SCOTUS and NCAA decisions affirm California’s law on student athlete pay, the U.S. Congress has not yet created a national legal standard on the issue.

Bradford said he was surprised by the decision coming from a Supreme Court bench with a conservative majority.

“Yes, I was surprised the ruling was unanimous. That fact impressed me far more than anything else,” Bradford told California Black Media. “Regardless of it being a conservative court, I think when the facts are just laid out so obvious — Nick Saban (Alabama head football coach) getting paid $9 million a year and many college athletes still hungry before they go to sleep.”

Now, Bradford and Skinner are working to move up the effective date of the legislation with another bill the duo introduced in December of 2020, SB 26.

“As an author of Fair Play To Play, SB 206, now SB 26, we’ll move up that date,” Bradford said. “Just because you have a scholarship, it doesn’t come close to covering your living expenses” he said. “(Student athletes) should be able to monetize their likeness just like any other student and any other American under the First Amendment.”

“We Have His Back”: Dem Leaders Throw Support Behind Gov. Newsom in $276M “Republican Recall”

Tanu Henry | California Black Media

A group of influential California Democratic leaders held a press conference July 2 to pledge their support for Gov. Gavin Newsom against what they are calling the “Republican Recall,” and to remind Californians, from their point of view, what the state will lose if that effort succeeds.

“This recall is a partisan power grab – nothing more, nothing less — a cynical attempt by national Republicans to force an election, and to try to seize control in California,” said U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, former California Secretary of State and California’s first Latino U.S. Senator.

Stating that the recall threatens advances California’s Democratic leadership has made, Padilla continued, “This Republican recall effort is powered by the same forces who still refuse to accept the results of the presidential election in 2020. They are pushing voter suppression efforts in statehouse after statehouse across the country.”

Other Democratic leaders participating in the press conference were Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party; Robert Garcia, mayor of Long Beach: Holly Mitchell, Supervisor, Los Angeles County; and Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco).

“When you think about what he has been able to do around protecting the environment, education, expanding opportunity for our low income and working families – and middle-income Californians – as well as justice for all Californians, its crystal clear to me that Gov. Newsom is the kind of leader we need at a time like this,” said Mitchell.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announced Sept. 14 as the date for the recall election after the state verified Newsom’s opponents had

collected the1,495,709 signature they needed (12 % of the total votes in the last gubernatorial election) to officially trigger the recall process.

“In just a few weeks, every Californian is going to get a ballot in the mail. And you have to fill out the ballot. Mark ‘no” and return it by September 14. If you prefer to go in person, you can do that at your local polling place on September 14. You can find information about that on our Secretary of State website,” said Chiu, urging Californians to support Newsom.

The effort to recall Newsom began in 2020 led by a former Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy, Orrin Heatlie, with the support of a group called the California Patriot Coalition. They criticized the governor for high taxes, what they perceived as inaction on the drought, pro-illegal immigrant policies and other grievances. The movement gained traction during the COVID-19 global pandemic when larger numbers of Californians became resistant to the governor’s pandemic-related business closures and other restrictions.

To recall Newsom, more than 50 % of voters would have to check yes on that option, which will be the first question on the ballot. If more than 50 % of voters agree to Newsom’s recall, the candidate on the ballot (the governor will not be included as a choice) with the highest number of votes will qualify as Newsom’s replacement.

Tom Del Beccaro, a vocal supporter of the recall and chair of RescueCalifornia.org, a political action committee galvanizing Newsom’s opponents across the state, said removing the governor from office is “every American’s business.”

Del Beccaro wrote in a Fox News op-ed last month, “California is beset with problems. For years, California’s policies have led to crisis after crisis. There is a perennial water crisis, a wildfire crisis, an electricity crisis, a crime problem, business and job flight from the state, homelessness and poverty.”

Expressing the opposite view, according to Chiu, what the governor has achieved in the two and a half years since he was sworn into office, is nothing short of remarkable.

“Our governor has led our state and invested in truly bold investments,” Chiu said. “He led the passage of unprecedented legislation to protect civil rights, to reform our criminal justice system; to double down on our fight against climate change; to create more housing for the unhoused than any governor in history; to expand access to health care; to make record investments in education; to support immigrant communities; and truly deliver big for working families. He has launched the biggest economic recovery plan in our state’s history.”

At the press conference the high cost of holding an off-cycle special election was discussed. The California Department of Finance estimates that the election will cost taxpayers $276 million.

Advertising and organizing on both sides of the recall effort could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more.

“I was blown away – not in a good way – when the Los Angeles Country registrar’s office told us what it would cost us locally to hold this election,” said Mitchell. “From the operational aspects of an election at this time of year to what it is going to cost statewide. All of us as taxpayers are going to have to pay when our dollars need to be going to the California Comeback plan to help us recover.”

In California, Democrats dominate. Of the 20.9 million registered voters in the state, an estimated 46.3 % are Democrats, about 24 % are Republican and roughly 24% consider themselves independent or having “no party preference,” according to 2020 numbers compiled by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Hicks said with the recall election officially happening in less than three months, he is paying close attention to the lessons of 2003 when a successful recall effort against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis led to his ousting and the election of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Every poll shows that Democrats overwhelmingly reject this Republican recall and we as a party our prepared to put forth the effort to ensure that the 10 million California Democrats get to the polls to defeat this,” said Hicks, adding that this election has national implications for Democrats.

Hicks said low voter turnout is a concern. But he assured supporters that the California Democratic Party has the technology, strategies and infrastructure in place to successfully push back on the recall.

Garcia says he’s confident, too, that the recall will fail in September.

“Let’s not forget, Democrats didn’t want this recall in the first place.

This is a state that supports the governor, and we expect to defeat the recall.”

Mitchell says the two options voters’ have couldn’t be clearer.

“What side of this do you want to be on? Do you want to be on the side of someone who stood in the gap, understood vulnerable communities, and the needs of vulnerable communities, and did all that he could to protect us?” asked Mitchell. “Or do we want to stand with the people who never stand with working families on any other issue ever?”

Mitchell says that Democrats have to work hard to inform ethnic communities across California about what is at stake for them if Newsom is recalled.

“I know where I’m going to stand, and the people I represent are clear as well,” she said.

Gov Taps Two African American Judges for State Diversity Mentoring Program

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

Three African American judges are among 10 new members of the California Judiciary Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped last week to join the Trial Court Mentor Program, an initiative created to promote diversity and inclusion in the state’s executive and judicial branches.

The program is designed to make the Appellate Court and Trial Court application process more transparent and accessible for those interested and to develop a qualified and diverse pool of judicial applicants across California, the governor office says,

Gov. Newsom emphasized that diversity is one of California’s greatest strengths and that the state is committed to ensuring that various communities are represented at every level of government.

“This mentoring program supports our efforts to identify the best and brightest judicial candidates from throughout the state, contributing to a stronger, more inclusive bench to better serve all Californians,” said Newsom.

A seven-judge executive committee is responsible for facilitating the Judicial Officer Mentorship Program, including African American Justices Teri L. Jackson of California’s First District Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court Associate Justice Martin Jenkins. The executive committee, co-chaired by Jenkins, will spearhead actions that will identify and provide judicial mentors for lawyers and judges interested in serving on the appellate and trial courts.

The ten judges appointed by the executive committee to the trial court mentor program include African American judges from Northern California, San Diego, and Los Angeles. They are joining other judges from the Bay Area, Central Coast, Central Valley, Inland Empire and greater Los Angeles area of California.

The African American judges are Judge Monique Langhorne of the Napa County Superior Court; Judge Roderick Shelton of the San Diego County Superior Court; and Presiding Judge Eric Taylor of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to the governor’s office.

The co-chair of the executive committee, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bacigalupo, highlighted the importance of transparency and accessibility on the state’s judicial benches.

“In making justices and judges accessible to prospective judicial applicants, we hope to demystify the application process and recruit a wide array of qualified candidates to serve our courts and administer justice fairly, equitably, and honorably,” said Bacigalupo.

Prior to the Trial Court Mentor Program, the state implemented the Appellate Court Mentor Program as a pilot in the First District Court of Appeal.

Retired Judge Jenkins said that he looks forward to working with the executive committee, “to build a mentor program throughout our great state to meet the Governor’s goal of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our judiciary.”

Administrative Presiding Justice Jim Humes of the First District Court of Appeal said that the pilot program will be expanded across the state of California.

“We plan to conduct outreach events and provide mentors for those interested in an appellate court appointment,” said Humes.

The state’s judicial initiatives were implemented following the creation of the Opens Judicial Selection Advisory Committees in 2019. That year, Newsom announced eight selection committees that are responsible for providing preliminary and non-partisan feedback on candidates nominated for California’s judiciary. The selection committee is made up of judges and attorneys chosen by the retired Justice Martin Jenkins who serves as California’s Judicial Appointments Secretary.

“Judges make decisions every day that affect every Californian,” said Gov. Newsom.

“The people of our state have little insight on the process by which judges are chosen, it is only fair that the public knows who is helping to select the people who will serve them,” he said.

Candidates for the selection committee also included nominations from affinity groups across the state’s judiciary. Among those that participated in the candidate selection process were the Association of African American California Judicial Officers, Judicial Council of the California Association of Black Lawyers, California Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Judges Association, and the California Women Lawyers.

Gov. Newsom said that the state implemented the initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in the judicial process, which is an, “essential function of our democracy.”

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

When Ed Buck Goes on Trial, So Does White Privilege

Jasmyne Cannick

It’s hard to believe that nearly four years have passed since the first Black death at Ed Buck’s home, but Buck and his white privilege are finally set to go on trial on July 13.

It was no surprise when the first Black lifeless body lay dead in Ed Buck’s living room that L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies believed every word he said about how it happened. I mean, why wouldn’t they?

Ed Buck, a one-time celebrated and sought-after donor to the Democratic candidates and elected officials in California, faces nine felonies, including two counts of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. Black death, to be exact. One count for the 2017 death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore and one for the death of 55-year-old Timothy Dean in 2019.

Your garden variety middle-aged white gay man, Ed Buck, was privileged and entitled with the “complexion for protection.” A West Hollywood City Hall gadfly with a checkbook he wasn’t afraid to use, aside from giving the max allowed to political candidates, Buck’s claim to fame was championing a local ban on the sale of fur apparel.

A real Jekyll and Hyde, Ed Buck was also that neighbor who everyone noticed had a considerable amount of Black men going in and out of his West Hollywood apartment at all hours of the day and night. It was soon discovered after the death of Gemmel Moore that Buck was known in certain circles as the white man in West Hollywood who had a Tuskegee Experiment-like fetish that included shooting crystal meth into conscious or unconscious young Black men that he picked up off the street or via dating hookup websites.

If you are not white, ask yourself what would happen to you if you had a dead body of any color in your living room that had overdosed on illegal drugs, and you yourself had a smorgasbord of drugs in plain view of the cops. Do you think you would have been able to talk your way out of it? Because, unlike white folks who have the privilege of generally having a positive relationship with the police, the same can’t be said for everyone else. Would the police take one look at the dead Black body and immediately itself for dying? Do you think that your friends and associates would look the other way because hey–it’s you?

It would take another Black death and the near-death of another within two years before Ed Buck was arrested. Two years, another Black death. White privilege at its finest.

Buck has given more than half a million dollars to political candidates and causes, almost all of them linked to the Democratic Party. And those recipients–including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. mayoral candidates Mike Feuer and Kevin de Leon, and councilmember Paul Koretz were all too eager to ignore Black death and look the other way. Some even continued to take money from him after the first Black death. Because, white privilege.

I can still remember news reporters telling me they couldn’t report the story of the death of Gemmel Moore or Timothy Dean because their network’s attorney advised them that Ed Buck could sue them.

Imagine that.

Let it be someone Black. We’re still sitting in the back of the squad car handcuffed at the scene, and our face, name, and alleged crime is already on the news. And even if it’s proven that we are innocent, they’re not going to report that. Why? Because we don’t have the privilege of having the media blatantly biased in our favor. White privilege. White privilege. White privilege.

Even though it’s white people who have the unspeakable history of atrocities against people of color, including genocide and lynching, it’s Black people who have the negative violent and racial stereotypes. So much so that even in our deaths, we’re not only blamed but in the case of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, called “disadvantaged Black hustlers” by L.A. councilmember Paul Koretz who also opined in the same breath that Ed Buck was a guy who spent most of his time and money trying to help kittens and puppies.

So as much as Ed Buck is going on trial, so is white privilege and justice for Black death. From how the trial is reported in the news, to the culture vultures on standby ready to ready to descend upon the courthouse in an effort to monetize this story (for themselves), to the jury’s verdict, USA v. Edward Buck is not just about getting a fraction of justice for Gemmel Moore, Timothy Dean, and all of Ed Buck’s victims.

It’s about sending a message to the other Ed Bucks hiding in plain view that Black lives do matter —even the Black lives they wrongly think we don’t care about—and perhaps more importantly that they can end up in the jail cell next to Buck. It’s also about sending a message to the community of men that Ed Buck preyed on that their lives matter enough to fight for justice for them–no matter how long it takes and who the predator is.

Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning journalist who worked to call attention to Ed Buck and the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean and the founder of the advocacy group Justice 4 Gemmel and All of Ed Buck’s Victims.

Delta Variant Poses Serious Risk to Communities With Low Vaccination Rates

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire in communities with low vaccination rates, there is renewed concern for serious risk in L.A.’s African American communities.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation report finds that continued lower vaccination rates put minority groups at a greater risk for the coronavirus as new variants—like the Delta variant— spread.

While recent trends suggest a narrowing of racial gaps in vaccinations at the national level, particularly for Hispanic people, who have received a larger share of vaccinations compared to their share of the total population, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department reported 275 new Covid-19 cases among Blacks in the last week of June (which was up by 77).

It marks the third consecutive week of rising numbers for new cases of COVID-19 among blacks in L.A. county, where the total number of diagnosed Black cases are 47,653 with 1,919 deaths.

The White House has said it would send out special teams to hot spots around the United States to combat the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant amid rising case counts in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain low.

“It is clear that communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable,” said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky.

The easily transmitted Delta variant is believed to have become the second most prevalent coronavirus variant in the United States according Walensky. County officials were so concerned about the variant that they recommended that vaccinated residents resume wearing face coverings indoors after detecting that about half of all recent cases were the delta variant.

In the week ending June 12, Delta variants comprised of nearly half of all variants sequenced in Los Angeles County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that Delta variants are now responsible for about one in every five new infections across the country, up from approximately one in every 10 the week before.

“While COVID-19 vaccine provides very effective protection preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the Delta variant, the strain is proving to be more transmissible and is expected to become more prevalent,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of L.A. County Public Health. “Mask wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission, especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person.”

President Joe Biden had set a goal of 70 percent of all adults getting at least one shot by July 4. CDC data show that as of June 30, 66.5 percent of adults age 18 and older had received at least one shot. At the same time, the data show that 87.9 percent of adults age 65 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

“We still have to be careful and cautious,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham of Kedren Health. 

Abraham—dubbed by some as “South L.A.’s Dr. Fauci’—also pointed out that the national hospitalization and death rates are just as high as they were two months ago. 

“It’s been a difficult 17 months now, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over,” Abraham continued. “The faster we all get vaccinated, the faster we all get back to life.”

“The Power of Possibility: Cynthia McClain Hill’s Rise to Lead the Largest Municipal Utility in the Nation & How She’ll Transform the DWP and the City of Los Angeles

Lisa Collins

Perhaps it is LADWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill’s law firm motto that best encapsulates her meteoric rise on L.A.’s civic and political landscape.

“There are forces beyond economic at work in today’s marketplace,” it reads. “We know how to use them.”

It is a bold statement from a woman who is known for making them and most importantly can back them up. 

Says McClain-Hill, “There are not that many people that look like me who have been willing to get in the arena and fight it out and have learned how to navigate in a way that can move an agenda forward”.

Her prowess at moving an agenda forward has landed her at the helm of the nation’s largest municipal utility—the L.A. Department of Water & Power (DWP) with more than 9,000 employees and an annual budget of $6 billion.

In a statement announcing her nomination, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “Cynthia never stops fighting to move L.A. forward — and I know that she will bring those same values to the job of overseeing a DWP that powers our households, empowers ratepayers, and leads the charge toward a sustainable, clean energy future.”

In an L.A. Daily News op-ed entitled, “Who Should Be the Next Mayor of Los Angeles?”, her name was mentioned among the civic leaders who would make an extremely effective steward.

And she has the credentials to prove it, from National President of the National Association of Women Business Owners to appointments on the California Coastal Commission and California Fair Practice Commissions to the Board of the L.A. Police Commission and as founder of Strategic Counsel, a land use law firm that is well-versed on public policy and government regulations.

Many feel, however, that it is at the helm of the L.A. Department of Water & Power, that McClain-Hill will make the most impact and at the top of her list of priorities is racial equity.

“When I joined the department, I knew that it was a coveted place to work in the city of Los Angeles,” states McClain-Hill. “I also knew that there were people that called it ‘the department of white people.’”

The latter was something she set out to change, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

In the wake of social unrest in the summer of 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued Executive Director No. 27.  This Directive instructed all City departments to create a Racial Equity Action Plan to foster efforts to promote equity throughout Los Angeles.  

“That caused the walls to come crashing down at DWP,” McClain-Hill recalls. “Not only did the board get seriously engaged in these issues, but we literally went into the department and surveyed our entire department about racial equity.”

Determined not to just perform the perfunctory check the box report, McClain-Hill convinced her board colleagues, the LADWP General Manager, senior leadership, as well as union leaders that the department needed to have an outside entity perform a comprehensive analysis on the culture and operations of DWP.

A team of minority consultants from Dakota Communications and Cordoba Corporation led the effort to produce the top to bottom analysis, which included focus groups, interviews, and an employee survey.  The report—which was responded to by an unprecedented 3,400 DWP employees, about one third of the entire workforce— revealed that DWP had no real enforcement policies to punish rogue managers, supervisors, or employees for discriminatory behavior.  Thus, harassment and retaliation of whistle blowers persisted.  Focus groups revealed that 53% of staff and 50% of supervisors felt DWP management did not take appropriate action in response to incidents of discrimination.  

African Americans fared much worse than other ethnic groups. Nearly 40% of Black survey participants felt they had been discriminated against for career opportunities.  Fifty-nine (59%) of Black survey participants witnessed discrimination compared to only 36% of total survey participants witnessing discrimination.  Additionally, there were currently no Black executives in management.

“On the day the mayor issued his racial equity directive, I was the only African-American that sat on the senior executive board and noted that was an issue the department needed to change,” McClain Hill adds. 

“The mayor ordered that every department create a racial equity officer, but what we’ve done is to create an office of diversity, equity and inclusion with significant resources and as many as 30 people reporting to it.” She pauses for a moment. “We’ve got to change institutions and that takes resources, and it takes focus. This new office will embody the transformative change that is needed to advance diversity and inclusion efforts for all stakeholders.”   

And it is a commitment she says that is not just top down, but bottom up.

“The department’s work around racial equity since Mayor Garcetti issued Executive Directive 27 has been nothing short of breathtaking and it’s something that I am very proud of,” said McClain-Hill of an action plan that includes a workforce development initiative that creates good paying jobs and career opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities, and spearheading LA100 Equity Strategies – a comprehensive study to ensure all Angelenos, especially residents in communities of color benefit from a just transition to 100% renewable energy. 

She is just as clear that her presence is part of that impact.

“I am unapologetically a black woman and have no difficulty being very clear about what I’m looking for in part because I don’t take no for an answer and I can be very blunt; and it’s easier to speak truth to power when you see someone modeling that and you think you’re going to be heard.” 

The L.A. native concedes that navigating the challenges haven’t been easy.

“We’re now in a place where we’re demanding that everybody squarely face the impact of systemic racism and stop pretending they haven’t benefited from it and that it has improved other groups,” McClain-Hill observes. “It’s sometimes difficult to take that in when you think, ‘oh, but I’m a good person’. I have to hear that, be patient with it and then get people on board and move them forward. We’ve been successful at doing that, but it’s a work in progress.”

She is just as determined about DWP’s transition to 100% renewable energy and the city’s climate change efforts in a way that is equitable, understanding underserved communities aren’t there yet.

“You can’t talk about solar rooftops and not talk about housing, because not everybody lives in a single family home and not everybody can afford or has access to the ability to put solar on their rooftops,” McClain-Hill explains. “You have to realize that communities that are underserved are filled with renters. You’ve also got to figure out who’s going to pay for all this stuff and what’s it going to cost? 

“People are not talking about renewable energy, because they’re talking about how they pay the rent or how to get and keep a good paying job,” she continues. So rather than talking about renewable energy, we’re really talking about what the climate change future of Los Angeles is going to be and that’s been decided. 

“We’ve got a governor saying that California is going to stop allowing the sale of gas combustion cars by a date certain. If that’s what’s going to happen, then we’ve got to start approaching communities with strategies about how they get connected to that. They might [instead] be interested in a conversation about the industries that will be recruiting and hiring and growing as a result of that transition.”

She is sensitive enough to weigh the impact of that transition through the lens and interests of those who that will have to pay for it. 

“Everyone that lives in the city of LA, pays a bill to DWP. You have no choice, so since you have no choice, this affects you and the department is committed to understanding how it affects you and making sure that it is done in a way that it enhances the community, not detracts from it.”

And she is fortunate enough to work in tandem with a board and executives like LADWP General Manager and Chief Engineer Martin L. Adams who agree.

“As LADWP expands these programs and adds many more, we must ensure that customers who are impacted by poor air quality and have the least ability to afford higher electric bills, are able to benefit from the clean energy transformation,” Adams said.

McClain-Hill’s success is equal parts strategy, opportunity and hard work.

“My firm is called strategic counsel, but in terms of my own career, I’ve worked hard and been really clear about what was important to me,” she reflects. “I just had my first grandchild, so I am very connected to the fact that opportunity for me was created by people that marched and died and that took advantage of the law and politics to open doors. My own devotion to politics and engagement in civic affairs has been to do my bit to keep those doors open and to open them a little wider. To that extent, I’ve been strategic.”

As the eldest of three daughters, McClain-Hill had no idea what was possible in the world, except that her parents told her that anything was possible. Thanks to them, she’s never questioned her capabilities, her self-worth or her place in the world and because of that she took advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.

Learning to redefine failure, she says, was critical to her success. 

“It didn’t happen until my probably early 40s when I figured out that there’s no such thing as perfect,” the UCLA alumnus recounts. “I’ve learned over the years to push the envelope and not care what other people think, but I didn’t start out that way. [Instead it was] being cautious, being in the background, supporting other people, pushing them forward, letting them take credit. 

“Been there done that. Being resilient is probably my greatest gift and I’ve had to lean on it a lot. You don’t regret the things that you try and fail. You regret the things you don’t try.”

Always fueling her passion and drive was the desire to make a difference. So much so, she recalls, “When I was a young lawyer, my goal was to get a front page obituary in my hometown newspaper to know that I made a difference. 

“In my law practice, I make money, which helps fuel my life, but in my other areas of work, I make a difference and I always have time for that.”

It’s as if she owes it to the people who made her life possible, not just her parents, but her grandmother who was a domestic and an uncle who was a black panther. And she adds, “All of those people I don’t know who marched and died. 

“The fact that we, as Black people, survive all we have is what causes me to do what I do. In the face of that, I can’t be afraid of anything.” 

Ironically, of all the positions and appointments she’s received, it was her appointment to chair the LADWP that brought the 63-year old, once recognized among California’s “Super Lawyers” to tears.

“I thought about my mother and my beginnings,” she says. “My dad got his GED in the Navy and my mother had me when she was 19 and made it her mission to send me to college. So, the day I got that appointment, I thought about how hard my parents worked, how much they wanted for me and what an awesome responsibility and a pretty incredible amount of power came with this position.”

With that power, McClain-Hill intends to not only lead the LADWP in modeling what effective structural change in in a major municipal utility looks like, but to set a new standard of equity that can be replicated in the city and across the nation. 

“In the next two years, DWP will complete a study on equity strategies that will be the first of its kind in the nation,” she states of the Racial Equity Action Plan that can be freely assessed on the DWP website. “A study that will define and quantify what is necessary in order to have an equitable climate change transition in the city of Los Angeles and it will be a model for the rest of the country to follow. Over the next five years, the DWP, I expect to see people of color at every single level of our department. DWP will not only be a pipeline for jobs into the department in the city, but we’ll also have a pipeline for jobs with our third party contractors and that will change the game in terms of numbers of jobs people can aspire to. 

“We’re intending to lead the way, not just in terms of climate change, renewable energy, but we’re determined to lead the way in terms of how you engage with your community in a way that is equitable, that is inclusive, and that lifts all boats at the same time. So, DWP is going to be a model agency, and it’s going to model the best in terms of technology, opportunities, service and workforce development. We’re going to build a stronger L.A.” 

Phylicia Rashad Apologizes; Howard Students Launch #ByePhylicia Campaign

Staff

After setting off a firestorm of controversy with a tweet supporting her former co-star and longtime friend, Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad—who was appointed dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University in May—has apologized in a letter to students and their parents for her words.

The celebratory tweet read: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”

  Backlash from the public was swift including from former “Fresh Prince of Belair Actress” Janet Hubert, who tweeted: Phylicia what are you thinking!!! I don’t know you but to say this was terribly wrong. Everyone knew what he was doing back then. How could you NOT! Get your umbrella sista, here comes the s**t shower.”

At Howard University, the controversy reached fever pitch as there were calls for the University to fire her as a hashtag #ByePhylicia began trending on social media 

Campaign.

“Hold her ass accountable,” one student posted. “I’d take a non-famous dean who believes SA victims over a celebrity dean who does shit like this… Don’t get me wrong, I know she was his professor and all, but I don’t think she deserves to lead the Chadwick A. Boseman School of Fine Arts. Not anymore.”

In her letter to students, parents and fellow staff, the 73-year old actress wrote, “My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault.I vehemently oppose sexual violence, find no excuse for such behaviour, and I know that Howard University has a zero-tolerance policy toward interpersonal violence…

“My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth. Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing.” 

She added that she would engage in “active listening” and participate in trainings to not only reinforce University protocol and conduct, but also to learn how to become a stronger ally to sexual assault survivors “and everyone who has suffered at the hands of an abuser.”

In the wake of the media uproar, Howard University issued their own statement citing that personal positions of University leadership did not reflect Howard University’s policies.

“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority,” it read. “While Dean Rashad has acknowledged in her follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, her initial tweet lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault… We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard. Howard will stand with survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have full confidence that our faculty and school leadership will live up to this sacred commitment.”

At press, it was not known if any further action would be taken by the university.

Advertorial: A Message Sponsored by Los Angeles County

A Message Sponsored by Los Angeles County

A DOCTOR’S NOTE ON VACCINES 

 Dr. Tasha Dixon, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

  1. 1.What are the chances the vaccine has any long-term side effects on my health?

There are no known long-term negative effects of the vaccine. After you receive your COVID-19 vaccine, you may feel some slight side effects, just like you would after the flu vaccine. Some of the most common side effects include arm soreness, a mild fever or a headache. But these symptoms will subside after 24 hours. If you do feel any of these side effects, there’s no need to worry. This is your body’s way of telling you it is building immunity and protecting you against COVID-19. In the end, the only lasting side-effect is protection. The vaccine protects you from getting extremely sick, possibly needing hospitalization or worse.

 

  1. 2.How do I know if my vaccines will protect me from new variants that begin to circulate that may be more infections and dangerous?

Scientists are working around the clock to test the COVID-19 vaccines against the new variants that may be more infectious or dangerous. So far, all three of the vaccines have proven to be effective against the variants—keeping you and your loved ones safe and protected against the virus.

 

  1. 3.Will I need to get a booster shot and if so, how many months after I have been fully vaccinated?

We don’t know yet if we’ll need booster shots or annual vaccines, but scientists are studying this now. What we do know is that whether it is a booster shot, an annual vaccine or just the initial vaccine, it is important that we all do our part to stop COVID-19 from taking over our lives, our jobs, and our communities.

 

  1. 4.What should parents know about the vaccines for those younger than 16 years of age?

If we want to protect all of our loved ones from this deadly virus, we all need to be vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines, like other vaccines your children get, are safe and effective and help us eradicate disease in our community. Remember that only the Pfizer vaccine is available for those who are 12-17 years old.

Visit Vaccinatelacounty.com to make your vaccination appointment.

Winners and Winners: Big Takeaways From New Rent Law Benefitting Landlords and Tenants

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 832, which updates California’s eviction moratorium rules and extends it.

“California is coming roaring back from the pandemic, but the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to disproportionately impact so many low-income Californians, tenants and small landlords alike,” Newsom said last week after reaching a deal on the moratorium with lawmakers.

The governor said the agreement he reached with the Legislature also gives the state more time to provide the over $5 billion in federal rent relief funds for eligible tenants and landlords.

According to a spokesperson with the Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH), over 85,907 Californians have submitted rent relief applications to the state-run program and 37,189 of them are already being processed as of June 22.

15.79% of those applicants are identified as Black or African American.

According to the BCSH, $660 million in rental assistance has been requested and the state has paid a total of $61.6 million in back rent so far through the program.

“Our housing situation in California was a crisis before COVID, and the pandemic has only made it worse — this extension is key to making sure that more people don’t lose the safety net helping them keep their home. While our state may be emerging from the pandemic, in many ways, the lingering financial impact still weighs heavily on California families,” Senate President pro Tem Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) stated. “People are trying to find jobs and make ends meet and one of the greatest needs is to extend the eviction moratorium—which includes maximizing the federal funds available to help the most tenants and landlords possible—so that they can count on a roof over their heads while their finances rebound.”

AB 832 also prioritizes cities and counties with “unmet needs.”

Kendra Lewis, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, said the law will benefit families impacted by the pandemic that are still struggling.

“The pandemic showed us all how unequal housing is and how many renters are vulnerable,” Lewis said. “We need to do a better job at outreach and education because if you’re in a vulnerable community, or any situation regardless of your race or whatever, and the government has a program where it’s going to help you pay your rent, there’s going to be some apprehension.”

Lewis praised the eviction moratorium extension, claiming that many families will benefit from it.

“Imagine being in a vulnerable community, worried about losing your job or you’re a frontline worker with kids at home. The last thing you need is to be evicted,” Lewis said.

How Tenants Will Benefit From AB 832

· Allows a tenant to receive full amount due if the landlord doesn’t participate in the program so that they are not carrying it as consumer debt.

· Permanently masks COVID rental debt civil cases, thus protecting tenants from having these cases impact their consumer credit.

· Extends current eviction moratorium.

How Landlords Will Benefit From AB 832

· Increases rental assistance payments to give 100% of rent owed for eligible landlords and tenants.

· Allows a longer timeframe for rental assistance funds, so more unpaid rent can be covered.

· Authorizes rental assistance payments to be provided to landlords in situations where the tenant has moved out and now lives in a new place, but still owes rent payments to their prior landlord.

· Requires a tenant to fill out the necessary paperwork for the rental assistance program within 15 business days of receiving notice of their landlord filling out its portion when a three-day eviction notice has been served.

· These eviction protections do not apply to new tenancies beginning on or after October 1, 2021


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