Author: lafocus

Domestic Violence Orgs: Gov, Lawmakers Must Add Prevention Funding to Final Budget

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom released his May Revise of the state budget. Included in the whopping $300.6 billion budget proposal are generous allocations to fund initiatives in health, higher education, public safety, and other areas.

However, California-based domestic and sexual violence prevention organizations say they are “disappointed” that Newsom did not honor their request for $40.5 million in funding for domestic and sexual violence prevention.

Now, as the Governor’s office and Legislature hammer out details of the final budget, The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (The Partnership) sent out a press release critical of Newsom’s budget plan.

“Domestic and sexual violence are not inevitable and can be prevented with long-term initiatives that educate and equip Californians to change unacceptable social norms and systems that perpetuate violence,” The Partnership’s statement read.

The domestic violence advocates say their plan includes $15 million that would go towards ongoing funding for prevention programs and an additional $25.5 million for “under-resourced and over-represented communities to support culturally specific responses, innovations, and holistic approaches to end violence for future generations.”

The advocates are now calling on leadership and members of the Legislature to ensure a comprehensive approach to addressing sexual violence and domestic violence is included in the final budget that will be released June 15.

Eric Morrison-Smith, Executive Director of the ‘Alliance for Boys and Men of Color,’ is part of a network of organizations coming together to fight for funding to keep preventative programming initiatives alive.

“Everyone deserves healthy and safe relationships and that builds healthy and safe communities,” said Morison-Smith. “We believe it is necessary to move towards restorative justice, community-based healing and accountability when it comes to cases of sexual and domestic violence. Funding organizations that represent the communities these individuals come from helps end the cycle of abuse that often stems from what they’ve seen hat home into their adult lives.”

A recent study conducted by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that over one million Californians have committed either physical or sexual violence (or both) against an intimate partner within the last year. CDC data also shows that more than 1 in every 20 California adults are victims of these violent acts perpetrated by an intimate partner each year.

According to The Partnership, 55 new prevention initiatives have been created in California this year and existing funding has fueled their progress in aiding communities.

Carolyn Russell, Executive Director of ‘A Safe Place’ in Oakland, heads an organization that would benefit from the funding The Partnership and other advocates are proposing.

Russell says ‘A Safe Place’ works with teenaged youth to “understand, overcome and prevent” intimate partner abuse among their peer group.

“Through our mental health program, we provide therapy for teens,” she said. “We recognize that outreach is great, but until you see intervention with direct services, you’re missing the mark with teens. We’re trying to re-educate youth and provide Cognitive Behavior Therapy to reshape their behaviors. This funding is crucial to educate potential perpetrators to unlearn behaviors that lead to this type of violence.”

The Partnership is also highlighting that the cost of sexual violence to the state of California far outweighs the amount of funding they are asking for to help prevent it.

Sexual violence costs California $140 billion annually, and the running tally of the economic burden of domestic violence is nearly $400 billion, according to The American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The Legislature has until June 15 to propose amendments to the budget and vote on its approval.

“Prevention programs establish new belief systems and behaviors that promote emotional healing and mental well-being. Without ongoing funding to galvanize communities to offer healthy and safe alternatives, cycles of violence will persist throughout the state,” The Partnership emphasized in its reaction to the state budget.

Ward Connerly Resurfaces to Oppose Reparations for Black Californians

 

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

During the early 1990s, Ward Connerly, then-President of the California Civil Rights Initiative Campaign, was the leading African American supporting Proposition (Prop) 209, the ballot initiative that outlawed Affirmative Action in California in 1996.

Well, he’s back.

This time, Connerly, now 82, he is speaking up in opposition to reparations for Black Californians. He is making his objection as the state moves closer than any government in United States history has ever come to providing comprehensive restitution for slavery to Black Americans who are descendants of enslaved people in the American South.

On June 4, Connerly tweeted that Prop 209 could stop any form of reparations for Black Californians from happening.

“It is (Prop) 209 that will prevent our Legislature and Governor from doing something so ridiculous as to compensate some of us based on the color of our skin or being the ancestors of slaves,” Connerly posted.

Last week, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans submitted its first “interim report” to the State Legislature. The 492-page, 13-chapter report details the committee’s findings thus far covering a range of historical injustices against Black Americans in general with specific citations of systemic discrimination in California.

There are chapters dedicated to examining enslavement, housing segregation, unequal education, racial terror, political disenfranchisement, among other wrongs.

The final report is due July 2023.

Connerly, who has established himself as a national crusader against race-based preference rules, is one of the first high-profile figures in California to speak out against the task force’s efforts to make amends for historical harms committed against Black Americans.

Chris Lodgson, a member of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), one of seven “Anchor Organizations” sanctioned by the task force to host “listening sessions,” organized to engage the public, responded to Connerly’s post, stating “a conservative businessman from Northern California made an unjust comment.”

“In my gut, I believe you’re wrong. You underestimate the people of California. Also, just because someone might be resentful of something doesn’t mean you don’t do it (to correct) the harms,” Lodgson tweeted on June 6.

“You make a good point that we should carefully consider, and I will,” Connerly replied to Lodgson.

The task force is currently considering five forms of reparation awards: compensatory damages, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition.

The five remedies for human rights violations were pioneered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR is an “autonomous judicial institution” whose focus is the application and interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights, the organization states on the Organization of American States (OAS) website.

On March 30, the task force decided in a 5-4 decision that lineage will determine who will be eligible for compensation. The panel then quickly moved to approve a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States.

An expert team of economists was appointed to calculate the damages listed in the interim report and determine what constitutes harm and atrocities for the descendants of enslaved and free Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century.

The expert team includes Williams Spriggs (former Chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. He currently serves as chief economist for the AFL-CIO), Dr. Kaycea Campbell (Chief Executive Officer for Ventana Capital Advisors and Associate Professor of Economics, Los Angeles Pierce College) and Thomas Craemer (Public Policy Professor at the University of Connecticut).

William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and Kirsten Mullen, a writer, and lecturer whose work focuses on race, art, history, and politics, are also members of the panel of experts.

The panel recently reported that a “conservative estimate” of two million African Americans in California have ancestors who were enslaved in the United States. According to the US 2020, there are about 2.6 million Black Californians in a state that has a total population of nearly 40 million residents.

During a task force meeting on Feb. 23, Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of

California Berkeley’s law school suggested that the panel establish lineage-based criteria instead of a race-based standard because it could be easily challenged and overturned in court because of Prop. 209.

“If reparations are given on the basis of race that anyone who meets the definition of being Black is entitled to reparations because all have suffered from the legacy…I don’t think it could survive a challenge under Proposition 209,” Chemerinsky told the task force.

Chemerinsky continued, saying, “If it is in education, if it’s in contracting, or if it’s employment, then anything that is deemed as preference on the basis of race is, per se, impermissible.”

Since it first convened on June 1, 2021, the task force was aware of the challenges it would face during its two-year journey and after its charge is completed. Task force member and attorney Don Tamaki brought this to the panel’s attention in December 2021.

“The report is going to get criticized, scrutinized, and really taken apart,” Tamaki said then.

“It just doesn’t make sense that someone should benefit for something that happened to their great, great grandfather or great, great grandmother. I don’t feel responsible for intergenerational debts,” Connerly’s tweeted on June 4. “Now, the CA Legislature wants to rewrite history & have us believe that CA was a northern representation of Mississippi.”

Green Thumb Industries Opens Good Green Grant Applications

For decades, the War on Drugs has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities. Despite cannabis use being almost equal between Black and white users, Black users are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession. These kinds of injustices impact lives and take away opportunities that could possibly improve people’s families, housings, careers, mental and physical wellbeing. One national cannabis company is doing the work to reverse the effect of the War on Drugs at the ground level.

This week, Green Thumb Industries—a leading national cannabis consumer packaged goods company and owner of RISE Dispensaries—opened applications for the Good Green Nonprofit Grant Program. Through this program, nonprofits doing the groundwork will receive financial support to create positive change in Black and Brown communities.

“The Good Green Grant Program was born out of the desire to reinvest cannabis funds back into the community and create opportunities for nonprofit organizations who are doing the groundwork to create real and sustained progress against the War on Drugs,” said Green Thumb Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ben Kovler. “Through this program, we are supporting nonprofits to help create opportunity and change in impacted communities.”

First launched in the fall of 2021, Good Green offers affordable mixed bud flower products. Sales from Good Green products fund grants awarded to nonprofit organizations that give back to communities of color disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. Since the brand’s launch, Good Green has awarded more than $500,000 in grant money to eight organizations who encompass the brand’s three core pillars: education, employment and expungement. Good Green is on track to give more than $1 million by the end of year.

The Good Green Grant Program’s third round of applications is open to local 501(c)3 organizations through 11:59 p.m. EST on August 19. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Green Thumb has 17 manufacturing facilities, 77 open retaillocations and operations across 15 U.S. markets. For more information, visit www.good.green.

California Primary ’22: Black Candidates Advancing to the Nov. General Elections

Joe W. Bowers Jr.| California Black Media

Polls closed for in-person voting at 8 p.m. on June 7, the final day of the Statewide Direct Primary Election. The top two vote-getters in the primaries regardless of political affiliation advance to the November Election — whether one candidate receives the majority of the votes cast in the primary election.

(Only candidates running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction or candidates for voter-nominated offices in special elections can win outright by getting a majority of the vote —over 50 %—in the primary election).

California Black Media (CBM) reports that 68 Black candidates were running in 45 of the elections. Provided below is a partial list of statewide races and unofficial results of Black candidates running.

Governor – Gavin Newsom (D) is projected to advance to the November General election and will face Brian Dahle (R).  Black candidates failing to advance were Shawn Collins (R) in 6th place, Major Williams (R) in 8th place, Woodrow “Woody” Sanders III  (No Party Preference) in 23rd place and Serge Fiankan (No Party Preference) in 26th place.

Lt. Governor – Angela E. Underwood Jacobs (R) is in second place and should advance to face incumbent Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis in November.

Secretary of State – Incumbent Dr. Shirley Weber (D) the only Black candidate in the contest is leading by a wide margin over six opponents.

State Controller – Malia Cohen (D) the first African American woman to serve on the board of Equalization is running in second place behind Lanhee Chen (R).

Superintendent of Public Instruction –  Incumbent Tony Thurmond has an overwhelming lead over his six opponents. He is below the 50% majority to win outright. Ainye E. Long, the other Black candidate is in second place but has a very narrow lead over the 3rd place and 4th place candidates.

California Insurance Commissioner – Incumbent Ricardo Lara (D) leads his eight challengers. His Black opponents are Vinson Eugene Allen (D) in 5th place,  Jasper “Jay” Jackson (D) in 7th place and Veronika Fimbres (Green Party) running 8th.

US Senator – Two separate US Senate contests are on the ballot. One is the regular election for the full six-year term beginning January 3, 2023. The other is a special vacancy election, to complete the unexpired Senate term of Vice President Kamala Harris. Sen. Alex Padilla (D) who was chosen by Gov. Newsom to replace Harris leads the vote in both contests.

In the full-term contest, Padilla is ahead of 22 opponents. Black candidates not advancing to the November ballot are John Thompson Parker, (Peace and Freedom Party) running in 9th place,  Akinyemi Agbede (D) in 11th place, Myron L. Hall (R) running 12th, Daphne Bradford, (No Party Preference) is 23rd and Deon D. Jenkins (No Party Preference) is 26th.

The Black candidates running for 17 US House seats are:

District 3 (Yuba) - Kermit Jones  (D) is ahead of three other opponents and will advance to the General Election. This district leans Republican.

District 12 (Oakland) – Barbara Lee (D) a current member of Congress representing District 13 (Oakland) is leading. Democrat Eric Wilson (D) is in 4th place.

District 25 (Riverside) – Brian E. Hawkins (R) is running second to Rep. Raul Ruiz (D). This is a solid Democratic district.

District 30 (Burbank) - Ronda Kennedy (R) is in second place with a narrow lead over G “Maebe A. Girl” Pudio. Rep. Adam Schiff (D) is leading in this race.

District 32 (Sherman Oaks) – Aarika Samone Rhodes (D) is in 5th place. Rep. Brad Sherman (D) is leading in this race.

District 36 (Torrance) – Joe E. Collins III (R) is running second to. Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D). This is a solid Democratic district

District 37 (Los Angeles) – Sydney Kamlager  (D) is in the lead. Jan C. Perry  (D) is in second place and  Daniel W. Lee  (D) is running 3rd. Rep. Karen Bass (D) currently represents this district.

District 39 (Moreno Valley) – Aja Smith (R) is running second to Rep. Mark Takano (D). This is a solid Democratic district.

District 42 (Long Beach) – William Moses Summerville  (D) is in 7th place. No current member of Congress was on the ballot for this race.

District 43 (Los Angeles) – Incumbent Maxine Waters (D) is in the lead. Allison Pratt (R) is in 3rd place and Jean M. Monestime (D) is running in fourth place.

District 44 (San Pedro) – Morris Falls Griffin  (D) is in third place. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D), a current member of congress, is leading in this race.

District 49 (Carlsbad) – Nadia Bahia Smalley  (D) is in 6th place. Mike Levin (D), a current member of Congress, is leading in this race.

Black candidates running for two State Senate seats are:

Senate District 16 (Bakersfield) – Gregory Tatum (R) is in 4th place. This a new district predicted to be a tossup for the Republicans and Democrats on the ballot.

Senate District 28 (Los Angeles) – Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D) is in the lead. Cheryl C. Turner (D) is in second place. Kamilah Victoria Moore (D) is running 4th and Jamaal A. Gulledge (D) is in 5th place.

Black candidates running for 19 State Assembly seats are:

Assembly District 18 (Oakland) – Incumbent Mia Bonta (D) ran unopposed for re-election.

Assembly District 20 (Alameda) – Jennifer Esteen (D) is in 4th place. Her opponents are two Democrats and a Republican. No incumbent was on the ballot.

Assembly District 39 (Palmdale) – Andrea Rosenthal (D) is in 3rd place. She had one Republican and two Democratic rivals. This is a solid Democratic district. No incumbent was on the ballot.

 

Assembly District 41 (Pasadena) – Incumbent Chris Holden (D) ran for re-election unopposed.

Assembly District 47 (Palm Springs) – Jamie Swain (D) is in 4th place.  She is unlikely to advance to the November ballot.

Assembly District 55 (Los Angeles) – Incumbent Isaac G. Bryan (D) is in the lead. He will advance to the November General Election.

Assembly District 57 (Los Angeles) – Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D) ran unopposed for re-election.

Assembly District 60 (Moreno Valley) – Corey A Jackson (D) is in second place. He has three opponents. This is a solid Democratic district. No incumbent was on the ballot.

Assembly District 61 (Inglewood) – Robert Pullen-Miles (D) is leading this race. Tina Simone McKinnor (D) is in second place and James Arlandus Spencer (R) is running 3rd. This is a solid Democratic district. No incumbent was on the ballot.

In a special election to fill Assembly District 62 seat opened when Autumn Burke (D) resigned, McKinnor is leading Pullen-Miles.

Assembly District 65 (Compton) – Incumbent Mike Anthony Gipson (D) is leading in his re-election bid.

Assembly District 69 (Long Beach) – Al Austin II (D) is running in 2nd place and Janet Denise Foster(D) is in 3rd place. Four Democratic candidates are running for the seat. No incumbent was on the ballot.

Assembly District 79 (La Mesa) – Incumbent Akilah Weber (D) is leading in her bid for re-election against two Republican opponents. This is a solid Democratic district.

Mellody Hobson to Become First Black Woman with Equity Stake in NFL Team

 

Mellody Hobson

All but a done deal is what is being said of a bid to buy the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion by a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton—that includes finance industry leader Mellody Hobson. The deal would make the 53-year old influential business leader and philanthropist—who is married to billionaire filmmaker and Star Wars creator George Lucas—the first Black woman with an equity stake in an NFL team.

The deal comes after a bidding war that included competing offers from Byron Allen, billionaire Robert F. Smith and a group that included Magic Johnson. The winning bid is higher than expected and represents the highest sum ever paid for a professional sports franchise. It had been valued by Forbes at $3.75 billion last year.

Diversity was a factor stressed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the sale process.

“Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation,” Walton said.

“Mellody currently serves as Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team.”

The size of Hobson’s stake in the deal was not disclosed.

Bass to Face Caruso in November in “Fight for the Soul of Our City”

 

“We’re in a fight for the soul of our city and we are going to win the fight,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass on the eve of the primary that makes her the first Black woman to compete in a November runoff for a Los Angeles mayoral race.

“Going forward means that we have to bring together all of the people around the city and have the type of very diverse grassroots campaign that we always planned to have,” Bass added. “We started the first phase of it and now we’ll be able to become much bigger. It’s time for unity.”

Ballots are still being counted with the final tally certified by July 7, but the stage is set for a runoff between the veteran lawmaker and billionaire developer.

That the two will be facing off in November comes as little surprise given her political capital, track record and popularity, and his rising name ID and billions. Should she win, Bass would make history the first Black woman to be elected mayor of L.A., and just the second Black hold the post.

First, however, she will have to defeat a billionaire who spent over a record $40-plus million (12 times what she spent) to rise from 6% in the polls—when he entered the race—to 42.14% of the primary vote, placing him a little more than five percentage points ahead of the veteran lawmaker’s 36.95% heading into the runoff.

A UC Berkeley poll had ranked the six-term, battle-tested congressmember as slightly ahead of Caruso just days before the election despite a relentless avalanche of TV ads attacking her with the goal of getting to 51% of the vote and winning outright on June 7.

“I would have preferred to come in first place, but given the millions Caruso spent attacking Karen Bass, it’s surprising he didn’t get more votes,” said political analyst Kerman Maddox, who served as Bass’ campaign finance manager.  “He spent over $40 million and the runoff results are relatively close. A $40 million television barrage would have destroyed most campaigns, but Karen Bass remains in striking distance.”

Some political analysts suggest that more time for Bass could spell trouble for Caruso and could swing the election in her favor. Others maintain that a backlash against career lawmakers in favor of change is what drove a growing number of Latino and Black men to support Caruso.

“I’m not a career politician,” Caruso told a KNBC reporter. “This is new to me and that’s the great thing about it. I’m not saddled with these old rules, I’m not saddled with excuses. I’m used to getting things done because I have to in business…and I’m going to bring that leadership to City Hall and we’re going to fix the problems.”

Both will have distinct advantages going into the November election, but Maddox remains confident.

Explains Maddox, “The November General election—with all of the important initiatives —will generate a considerably larger turnout which will include a younger, larger and more diverse electorate that favors legitimate Democratic candidates like Karen Bass.”

In the meantime, Bass is looking ahead, stating on primary election eve, “We’re going to bring together all of the neighborhoods, all of the people, all of the grassroots organizations, all of the leaders and we are going to build the Los Angeles of the future.”

Generation Z Sparking the ‘Great Resignation’ as Employers Realize Shortages

Stacy M. Brown/ NNPA Newswire

The pandemic has spurred the Great Resignation phenomenon, and it is still on.
Many workers have continued to resign and switch jobs, and the pandemic reportedly has changed what matters to employees and what they want from their jobs – leading to a disconnect between leaders and workers.

GenZ and younger Millennials are speaking up about what they want their workplace to look like – and feel like – something that no other generation has done.

“Many GenZ workers got their first job during the pandemic, so they expect flexibility and remote work as the standard option. In addition, they view jobs as ‘experiences’ that they can end if they no longer need or feel connected to them,” said Dr. Ximena Hartsock, founder of BuildWithin.

This D.C.-based company identifies, trains, and manages tech-related apprentices.
“And, they have always been presented with a ‘buyers’ market,’ in terms of jobs which has led to job-hopping, which is unlikely to go away and puts pressure on employers to lead with an employee-centric and value-driven culture,” Hartsock insisted.

“This new generation is putting needed pressure on employers to make the workplace more empathetic. Perhaps the Great Resignation will transition to the Great Enlightenment.”
Mark Pierce, CEO of Cloud Peak Law Group, said he believes that employees aren’t feeling valued or that their working location puts them at a disadvantage. He said that’s a primary contributor to the Great Resignation.

“Whether employees are working in-person, fully remote, or hybrid, it’s important to ensure that everyone feels welcome and valued in their roles,” Pierce stated.

He noted that focusing on company culture and giving employees autonomy are solutions.
“It can be easier to focus on employees who work in the same way that you as a leader do most often. If you’re in the office a lot, you’ll likely be more in touch with employees who work in-office frequently, and vice versa if you work remotely,” Pierce observed.

He added that micromanagement becomes amplified when performed remotely, making it even more bothersome for employees than when they worked in the office where employers did so in person.

“Giving employees autonomy shows that you as a leader trust them to do their work without needing to intervene,” Pierce insisted.

“It also frees you to focus on the most important tasks at hand, rather than simply monitoring employees.”

Pew Research Center survey found that low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons Americans quit their jobs last year.
Released in March 2022, the survey also found that those who quit and are now employed elsewhere are more likely than not to say their current job has better pay, more opportunities for advancement, and more work-life balance and flexibility.

“A few factors are driving the Great Resignation, but one that stands out is that most workplaces simply aren’t doing as much as they could to support the health and wellness of their employees,” advised Logan Mallory, vice president at Motivosity.

This company helps employees remain engaged remotely and in the office.
“This means offering support for mental health and workplace options that support overall health and wellness, such as flexible working hours or the ability to work remotely,” Mallory stated.

“When employees see that their employers truly care about them as individuals, they’ll be much happier, more engaged, and less likely to resign.”

Pavel Stepanov, the CEO of Virtudesk, added that COVID confronted many workers with the question of what it means to have meaning in their lives.

Stepanov said Generation Z, a group with a different mindset and culture, has entered the workforce.

Further, the cost of living increases and housing and homeownership are becoming more unattainable for young people.

“So many factors are contributing to the Great Resignation. However, this isn’t just a brief trend anymore. What’s looking to be a long-lasting shift is changing culture and economic environment,” Stepanov stated.

“Also, the culture of Gen Z has also proven to be very different from Gen X and Millennials, where they strive to attach more meaning to what they do and strive to have a strong impact on the world.”

He continued: “This, coupled with the hardship of COVID in the last two years, is having people demand greater job fulfillment when they enter or participate in the workforce. People want to stand out, be different, and make change where they are, and many jobs have been designed not to deliver that feeling of purpose.”

Bill That Would Allow Calif. Parents to Sue Social Media Companies Moves Forward

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

Last week, the State Assembly voted 51-0 to pass a bill that, if the State Senate approves, would open the door for parents whose children are addicted to social media to sue companies like Tik Tok and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

Assemblymembers Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo County) and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) co-authored the legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 2408.

The bill’s language defines ‘addiction’ as children under 18 who are “both harmed – either physically, mentally, emotionally, developmentally or materially – and who want to stop or reduce how much time they spend on social media but can’t because they are preoccupied or obsessed with it.”

Cunningham says evidence of social media addiction affecting children is well documented and it’s time to hold social media companies accountable.

“According to whistleblowers, certain social media companies have been designing their products to get children addicted. The results have been calamitous for our youth: anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression, and loneliness,” he said.

“It’s time we treat the dangers of youth social media addiction with the level of seriousness it warrants,” Cunningham continued.

Wicks says as the mother of two daughters, the bill is particularly relevant for her.

“For every parent like me who is anxiously watching their children grow older in the digital world, there are millions of others whose teens (and often, even younger kids) are already experiencing the mental health impacts of a system that has a moral responsibility to protect them,” she said.  “Our number one job as legislators is to protect the health and safety of Californians — especially our kids and teens — and I’m proud to jointly author this bill that takes that responsibility as seriously as it deserves.”

The bill permits parents to sue for up to $25,000 per violation. If proven that a company intentionally created products that were meant to be addictive to children, they could face an additional $250,000 civil penalty.

Only social media companies that have had at least $100 million in gross revenue would be liable under the proposal. It would not apply to streaming companies like Netflix and Disney Plus.

If passed, AB 2408 will also allow guardians and the California Attorney General to sue social media companies.

The bill has drawn opposition from several business groups including the California Chamber of Commerce and TechNet, a network of tech CEOs and executives.

They argue that the bill would impose an “unimaginable civil liability” on social media platforms and “interferes with the expressive rights of both the minors who will be banned from social media services and the service providers themselves.”

TechNet alleges that the bill is unfair and extra-legal.

“There is no social media company, let alone any business that could tolerate that legal risk, especially considering how much this bill puts the thumb on the scales of justice for plaintiffs,” TechNet wrote in opposition.

If the bill becomes law, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Then, social media companies would have until April 1 to remove features deemed addictive to children to not be held liable.

Also, companies that conduct regular audits of their practices and features to identify products or offerings that could be addictive to children would be immune from lawsuits.

AB 2408 is now head to the State Senate for review.

Pres. Biden, V.P. Harris Praise Rep. Bass for Leadership on George Floyd Policing Act

Aldon Thomas Stiles | CA Black Media

Last week on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, President Joe Biden signed an executive orderinspired by police reform legislation introduced in Congress called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37), who is running for Mayor of Los Angeles, introduced the legislation that passed in the House of Representatives but has stalled in the Senate.

“When the Senate failed to act, [Sen. Cory Booker] and I went to the President and asked him to act,” Bass tweeted the day Biden signed the order.

“We worked closely with the White House and came up with an executive order that will help bring transparency and accountability to law enforcement,” she said.

The executive order establishes a new database for federal law enforcement officers, such as FBI or DEA agents, who have been fired for misconduct.

While state and local law enforcement agencies are not required to contribute to this database, there will be an avenue for them to participate in this process if they decide to do so.

“It will enhance accountability, improve transparency, and raise policing standards in an effort to help end the horrific incidents of violence that we often witness, like the murder of George Floyd,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said in a statement. “That the families of those impacted by police violence, law enforcement groups representing our nation’s officers, and civil rights groups are standing with the administration in solidarity to embrace this executive order shows that positive change is possible.”

Los Angeles-based activist Kelli Todd Griffin, Convener of the California Black Women’s Collective, believes that this executive order is “a step in the right direction,” but that there is still more work to be done to reduce violent police encounters.

“The executive order cannot do what Congress can do, but it can still address some of the critical issues,” Griffin said. “There’s got to be change in order to progress.”

Biden made a similar assertion during the signing event at the White House, where Bass was present.

“Members of Congress, including many here today like Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Karen Bass … spent countless hours on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to find a better answer to that question [of public trust and public safety]. I sincerely thank you all for your tireless efforts. But they’re not over,” Biden said.

Bass’s work on the bill has gained support from community leaders like Griffin.

“I want to make sure that I applaud Congressmember Karen Bass who stayed committed to ensuring this sea change moment happened,” Griffin stated. “She spent countless hours working with her colleagues, civil rights organizations and the Administration to develop an executive order that had substantial, systemic actions that can be taken. We needed her leadership and vision in this work.”

On the day of the signing, Booker took to Twitter to share a message of remembrance for George Floyd.

“He was a son, a father, a brother,” Booker said. “We all bear responsibility for a system that has allowed what happened to George Floyd to happen with such frequency. Changes are coming at the local, state, and national level. But more change is needed.”

“Tony Thurmond: Overcoming the Unimaginable to Take On the Impossible”

Lisa Collins

“When I think about the way my life began, I know it is no accident and I attribute it to a higher power.”

The words are those of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, whose ascension to the post of the state’s top education official is no short of miraculous given the circumstances of his childhood, beginning with the passing of his mother when he was just six years old.

“I went from being a very young child in San Jose to moving to Philadelphia with a cousin I’d never met, who immediately became my mother figure,” Thurmond recalls. “She took me in sight unseen and my younger brother who was five and though she had no formal education, she insisted that education was the key.”

Thurmond would not only have to adapt to a new environment but to hard times as well.

“All my friends made fun of me for being on food stamps, free lunch —the whole ticket,” Thurmond recounts. “But as an adult, I realized the demographics of my neighborhood meant that everybody was on free lunch. We had government cheese delivered to my house and I remember it fondly now because we had something to eat and while we didn’t always have enough, there was never a time we didn’t have something. My great aunt Jean — who was the matriarch of our family— would often say God will provide. I didn’t understand that as a child, but God always did provide and continues to provide.”

Early on, he not only excelled at school, but was impassioned by it.

“I saw kids going to classes that looked like some kind of college prep and I’m like, I’m gonna be in that too,” he continued. “So, my cousin signs us up to be in a lottery for what they called the academic plus school— a public school where they only allow 50 kids into the program. Somehow my brother and I both ended up on that list and were bused from our all Black neighborhood into a school in a white neighborhood.

“My cousin to her credit, went to night school, got her associates degree and brought us to her graduation. Then she went to night school, got her bachelor’s and again, brought us to her graduation. I believe she was role modeling for us to have a college education.”

But his network of support expanded well beyond his cousin.

“There was the Black teacher who just said you are going to get this and stayed with me when I couldn’t figure out algebra until I got through,” he noted. “There were people in my faith community who would drive us to church and bring food to our house.”

Looking back, Thurmond believes it was the combination of education and his support network that accounted for how he was able to make it.

“I think about that in relation to today’s young people trying to overcome obstacles,” he says. “We’ve got to provide them with that education, and they need caring adults around them who support them every step of the way.

“I take this job very seriously because of my own circumstances,” he goes on. “I see it with urgency to try and help young people who are struggling and to prevent the younger kids from having to go through those struggles. That’s exactly why I chose this and it’s why I’m running for reelection because our families and kids have been through the most difficult experience ever— a pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, racial hate, —all these things we saw before our very eyes.

“We see a spike in depression for kids, suicide rates being double for Black kids. LGBTQ+ kids feel totally attacked because of what’s happening. Even with all these things happening, I still have hope for California kids. That’s what my platform for running is all about, to help kids heal from the trauma, recover academically and socially, and then allow them to thrive.”

It was in college that Thurmond first decided to run for office.

“My buddy kind of talked me into it,” Thurmond recalls, “and after getting elected, there were issues we were able to change and it’s like a light bulb went off.”

But it would be 20 years before he would put his name on another ballot in 2013 and launch a successful bid to represent the 15th District (Alameda County) in the California Assembly from 2014 – 2018.

“I loved serving in the California State Assembly and was reelected with 90% of the vote,” he states. “I made a choice to leave the assembly because I realized that my politics were about helping young people and that a job like state superintendent meant working on education every day, all the time.”

What he feels makes him uniquely qualified is due in part to the relationships he’s built with Governor Gavin Newsom and members of the legislature to access critical resources and what he has been able to accomplish since taking office in 2019.

Working with lawmakers in both the California Senate and Assembly, he is sponsoring and supporting a range of focused legislation that, if approved, would increase access to education opportunities and improve learning for Black, Hispanic and other children who were most affected by the pandemic.

“Our number one bill is Senate Bill (SB) 1229.” The bill, authored by Sen. Mike McGuire (D-North Coast), offers incentives to recruit 10,000 professionals to help support the growing mental health needs of students.  SB 1229 provides $25,000 grants to aspiring mental health clinicians who commit to serving a minimum of two years as a mental health professional either in a school district or youth-serving community organization in high need areas.

Approximately eight million Californians, most of them from communities of color, live in areas with a shortage of behavioral health professionals.

“There’s no question that our students need all kinds of support for academic recovery, but our students and families need to really heal from the trauma that is this pandemic.” Thurmond said. “We’ve seen a spike in suicide for Black students; we’ve seen an increase in hospitalizations for young people.”

Addressing childhood literacy and biliteracy, is another of Thurmond’s priorities. Last year, he announced his vision that by 2026 all California students will be literate by third grade. He pulled together a Statewide Literacy Task Force of experts and community partners to design a strategy for reaching that goal. Also, to support the initiative, Thurmond pledged to secure one million book donations for students in need and he exceeded his goal with more than five million free online books downloaded.

Thurmond is sponsoring three bills focused on literacy expansion working with two legislators: Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda). The first is Senate Bill (SB) 952 (Limón), written to help existing schools convert to dual-language immersion programs. The second, Assembly Bill (AB) 2498 (Bonta), would expand Freedom School programs — evidence-based Afrocentric literacy programs that have been shown to help students improve their reading by one to two grade levels in as little as six weeks. The third is AB 2465 (Bonta), which would expand literacy programs to fund home visits.

There are several other game-changing education bills Thurmond is sponsoring. Among them are SB 830, which Sen. Anthony J. Portantino (D-Thousand Oaks) introduced. The legislation calls for funding schools based on school district enrollment instead of attendance. It would also finance efforts to address chronic absenteeism and truancy.

According to Thurmond, “SB 830 gives districts predictability on how they receive funding and gives them important resources to address what has been one of our most perplexing challenges: dealing with chronic absenteeism in ways we have not yet seen before. It will put students and schools on a better path to further close opportunity and education gaps.”

With the funds included by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the state budget and passed by the Legislature, Thurmond is implementing a Universal Prekindergarten Planning & Implementation Grant program to expand prekindergarten for every four-year-old. The budget is covering a program serving two meals free of charge (breakfast and lunch) during each school day to students in grades K–12. Also budgeted is $3 Billion to establish community schools across the state that offer additional services to students and families.

Another of his priorities is Inglewood, which he has named as a partner district.

“Like Oakland, it has been saddled with debt from borrowing and sadly under Governor Pete Wilson, that debt got sold to a private entity,” Thurmond explains. “So, even if the state wanted to, it can’t excuse that debt. Instead, part of what I’m trying to do is to help Inglewood get money from the state of California to pay off that debt that is strangling the Inglewood Unified School District, a district that is trying to make the turn and show they can provide quality education.”

Presently, Thurmond is campaigning for a second term, which most believe he will win. Those campaigning against him for the post are openly critical of the 53-year-old leader of California schools for everything from prolonged classroom shutdowns and pandemic policies to hiring policies and turnover, while groups like the California Teachers Association praise him as a fierce advocate for public education.

“If people want to serve in this job, they have to understand you don’t have control over the thousand school districts in this state who are run locally with their own school boards.’ And”, he states emphatically, “they [speaking to his detractors] don’t have to like the choices I’ve made, but I would appreciate if they just recognize that we’ve been working nonstop to try and do the impossible under impossible circumstances.”

In the meantime, says Thurmond, “I’m always focusing on what’s the next level.”


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