Author: lafocus

Cali-Born Steelers Rookie Joins Gov. Newsom’s Efforts Against Homelessness and Hunger

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

Rookie Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, who was born in Martinez and attended high school in the East Bay town of Antioch, came home last week to join Gov. Newsom in Santa Clara as he announced his efforts to address the state’s ongoing homelessness crisis and a new COVID-19-related rental relief program.

Harris, who was picked in the first round of the NFL draft about a month ago, is using his celebrity and resources to support low-income families experiencing homelessness and hunger through his nonprofit Da’ Bigger Picture Foundation.

At the press conference with the governor, Harris shared his personal experience with homelessness and how that has inspired him to help others in similar situations.

“Me my family we were all once homeless, moving around the Bay Area,” said Harris at the press conference. “San Francisco, Richmond. I lived in Pinole, Sacramento.”

“We were evicted numerous times and had to stay in homeless shelters, friends’ houses, cars. But as a family, we stuck together and made it through these tough times,” he said.

“Now I’m in a position to help out people. But a problem with no answer is just a problem,” Harris said referring to the state’s homelessness crisis.

Harris has dedicated personal time and resources to address poverty focused on education, homelessness, and food insecurity. He has also collaborated with Oakland native and former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to address similar issues through fundraising initiatives and events.

The state created Project Homekey, a California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) grant program that funded programs and institutions in cities and counties to secure shelter for unhoused people.

It was a state initiative created to expand the scope of its programmatic predecessor, Project Roomkey. That effort was a temporary housing program implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the state, it was created to comply with the state’s shelter-in-place orders, provide spaces for people affected by COVID to recover and to serve as a first stop on a pathway to more permanent housing.

Through Roomkey, hotels and motels in California offered shelter for homeless people who were exposed to COVID-19 to recover and properly quarantine in an effort to minimize the strain on the healthcare system. Although Homekey provides interim housing, the state has secured over 6,000 additional housing units and bills that project as a pathway to permanent housing for homeless people.

Gov. Newsom said that the state acknowledges that homeless people are unable to live, “a good life in an unjust society.”

“You can sit there and point fingers or abdicate responsibility, but we have agency, we can shape the future decisions,” he said.

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

Calif. Atty Gen. Bonta Was Leading Force in Fight That Saved Obamacare

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of keeping the core of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, intact.

That decision resolved more-than-a-decade-long Democrat-versus-Republican legal tug-of-war about the federal government’s role in health care coverage.

At the end of that grueling battle, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a former Assemblymember from Oakland, emerged a quiet victor.

In March, when Gov. Newsom appointed Bonta California’s 34th Attorney General, he stepped into a respected and carefully built legacy of successful legal advocacy and litigation against Conservative foes that his predecessor Xavier Becerra left behind. Pres. Biden appointed Becerra Health and Human Services Secretary.

Bonta said the Supreme Court’s decision, “affirms, once again and hopefully for the last time, that the ACA is the law of the land.”

“Americans know health coverage can mean the difference between life and death, so families across the country should rest easy tonight knowing their healthcare is safe,” said Bonta.

Bonta led a coalition of more than 20 states challenging Republican efforts to undo the Obama-Era health care act. He was joined by governor of Kentucky as well as the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The coalition successfully pushed back a lawsuit spearheaded by more than a dozen Republican states led by Texas and upheld benefits of the ACA including patient protections, affordability measures, and coverage expansions.

In the court case California versus Texas, Republican attorney generals tried to overturn a monetary penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum health insurance. The ACA, enacted in 2010, required individuals to get minimum health essential health insurance coverage and individuals who failed to do so would have to pay a penalty.

However, the requirement was amended in 2017 to cost $0 which voided the penalty fee.

Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that the amendments were unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court’s decision upheld the ACA provisions after Republicans were unsuccessful in making their case.

“No one should live in fear of being denied the lifesaving care they are entitled to, especially as our nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bonta.

According to the California Health Care Foundation, 3.7 million out of the 12.5 million people covered by Medi-Cal have health insurance through the ACA.

Health Advocates from community-based organizations across California say they are relieved by the Supreme Court’s ruling to keep the ACA but say that there is still room to make the law better.

Leaders from the California Black Health Network (CBHN), urged the state to focus on equity in healthcare.

Rhonda Smith, the executive director of CBHN highlighted that the court’s ruling helps reduce the lack of access to health care now that people get to keep their health care.

“One of the reasons why we have health disparities is because of the lack of access to healthcare services,” said Smith.

“It definitely plays a key role in trying to minimize health disparities, especially the impact of COVID on black and brown communities,” she said.

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

New Study Reveals Depth of Police Violence and its Effect on Communities of Color

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA @StacyBrownMedia

A new investigation by the nonprofit The Marshall Project and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal the depth of police brutality and unpunished violence that continues to rock the nation, particularly communities of color.

Since 2015, more than 400,000 people have been treated in emergency rooms because of a violent interaction with police or security guards, according to the report that The Marshall Project published in conjunction with NBC News. “But there’s almost no nationwide data on the nature or circumstances of their injuries,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Many of the country’s roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies don’t tally or make public the number of people who need medical care after officers break their arms, bruise their faces, or shock them with Tasers.”

The researchers noted the national conversation about policing over the past year, where public attention has focused on those like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tamir Rice, who die at the hands of officers.

“Few know that tens of thousands of people like Eliel Paulino end up in emergency rooms after run-ins with police,” the researchers penned in the study.

Paulino was less than a block from his apartment complex late one night in 2015 when “red police lights flashed in his SUV’s rearview mirror,” the researchers continued.

Officers told Paulino that lights on his license plates were out, and “within minutes, a routine traffic stop became a beatdown.”

An emergency room doctor needed four staples to close the wounds in Paulino’s battered right arm after officers mercilessly slammed him to the ground and viciously beat him with their batons.

The officers claimed that Paulino resisted arrest, but video from a security camera proved them wrong. The city of San Jose, California, paid Paulino a $700,000 civil settlement after a jury found the cops violated his constitutional rights.

According to a 2020 analysis, when police use force, more than half of the incidents end with a suspect or civilian getting hurt. The report authors also noted that “most experts agree that injuries at the hands of cops remain underreported.”

“This data depends on the discretion of police, who get to decide who is worthy or unworthy of an ambulance,” Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, an associate professor of sociology at Brown University who has researched the Chicago Police Department, told researchers.

“It is absolutely an undercount.”

In an email to the Black Press of America, Tulane University professor Andrea Boyles said police officers are the most visible arm of the government.

Officers are protectors of state, representing and enforcing immense state power, added Dr. Boyles, a sociologist, and criminologist in the university’s Africana Studies Program.

“This includes violence, which in turn, becomes akin to professional or occupational hazards,” asserted Dr. Boyles, who also serves on the faculty of Tulane’s Violence Prevention Institute.

“And since law enforcement acts as their master status, police violence is treated as inherently warranted and undeserving of prosecution regardless of exchanges across time and places.”

Dr. Boyles continued:

“The bigger concern are the numbers of unreported and uncharged violent crimes committed by police daily. I argue that violent crimes committed by the police largely are not occurring as one-offs or in insolation. Rather, many are happening as build-ups of problems that manifest as dangerous and anticipatorily vindicated escalations. Thus, they become lead-ins to the more series cases like murder.”

San Jose, which has just over one million residents, tracks injuries and hospitalizations as part of reducing violent interactions between residents and the police.

However, researchers noted that about 1,300 people over the three years ending in 2020 still landed in the emergency room after an altercation with police.

Most of the ER visits involved officers using their hands on people, the analysis found.

“Control holds” — twisting arms or holding people down — played a role in 60% of the cases, The Marshall Project found.

Almost 20% of people who went to the ER were shot with stun guns.

Police hit 10% with an “impact weapon” such as a baton.

“In those four years, city data shows, encounters with San Jose police left 72 people’ seriously injured,’ which includes broken bones, dog bites, and internal injuries. Nine more people died, all from gunshot wounds,” the researchers continued.

They said rough arrests had cost the city more than $26 million in lawsuit payouts for civil rights violations since 2010.

The Marshall Project found that police in San Jose, Denver, and Chicago has strict rules about seeking medical attention when someone complains of an injury.

“If [the victim] is not complaining of an injury,” Chicago Police Spokesman Sgt. Rocco Alioto told researchers, “And there’s no visible sign of injury, then there’s nothing that says that we have to call or take them to the hospital for clearance.”

Governor Signs Bill to Improve Police Officer Accountability Into Law

This week, legislation authored by Senator Sydney K. Kamlager aimed at reducing barriers to police accountability, was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Kamlager views the signing of AB 127— which will allow a prosecutor’s office to go directly to the judge in securing an arrest warrant when the subject is a peace officer— as a milestone in California’s work to reform the criminal justice legal system.

Currently, prosecutors need the cooperation of a peace officer when seeking an arrest warrant for a peace or police officer involved in misconduct or an officer shooting. Oftentimes, prosecutors are met with an unwillingness to cooperate, thus significantly hindering the prosecutor’s ability to fight for justice.

“We can’t let a ‘snitches get stitches’ policy strong-arm our criminal legal system. AB 127 fights against this practice and will dramatically help in holding police officers accountable in California,” said Kamlager, whose district ranges from Century City to South Los Angeles and parts of West L.A. “By signing AB 127 into law, we’re showing that procedural barriers or an officer’s unwillingness to speak out do not override the due process a victim of police violence or misconduct is entitled to.

“Thank you to Governor Newsom, my legislative colleagues, and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin for recognizing the bureaucratic hurdles that have been used to shield law enforcement and for all your work that led to this momentous occasion.”

Signing the bill into law will now allow district attorneys to more fully prosecute peace officers when there is probable cause. 

“I am thrilled that Governor Newsom has signed AB 127 into law to ensure that California is eliminating obstacles to police accountability,” said San Francisco District Attorney Boudin, who sponsored AB 127 and testified in support of the bill. “The murder of George Floyd and so many others around the state of California and the nation has reminded us of the need to promote justice for victims of police violence and police misconduct. AB 127 remedies the problem that exists when law enforcement officers refuse to assist in the prosecution of a fellow officer—which can leave prosecutors unable to pursue charges against police who break the law. I am so proud to have sponsored this bill and thank Senator Kamlager for her authorship and leadership on this important issue.”

Family of Mikeona Johnson Calls on D.A. George Gascon to Open Independent Investigation

At every turn, Shalissa Collier is reminded that she can expect no help from local law enforcement to provide answers into her daughter’s death. September will mark one year since the body of her daughter, Mikeona Johnson, was found partially clothed in the backseat of her 2003 silver Mercedes-Benz. 

She went missing during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Her family had been told by the father of Johnson’s children that she went to a burger stand to get food for the family and never returned. 

A week after her disappearance, Johnson’s car suddenly appeared on a residential street, parked in front of Manhattan Place Elementary School near 94th and Western Avenue. Not only was it alarming that her body was recovered near an elementary school–Collier says it was an area her family had searched before she was found.

Six months later, LAPD Detectives visited Collier’s home to tell her some troubling news. They were closing the investigation into Johnson’s death, due to what they say were a lack of leads in her case. 

Johnson’s disappearance and mysterious death has left her family stunned. She leaves behind two young daughters who are almost two and six-years old. Although no one has officially been named a suspect in Johnson’s case, Collier says she provided police information early on that she hoped would have pointed to what happened to her daughter.

“I feel like LAPD didn’t do their job. They had information to assist—as soon as she hit the system they should have been working her case,” Collier expressed. 

Collier is now calling on newly elected District Attorney George Gascon to launch an independent investigation into her daughter’s case. LAPD reiterated their lack of interest in Johnson’s case to her grandmother recently, who reached out to detectives inquiring on any updates.

“They say they are not going to reopen her case because the Coroner has not declared her case a homicide, which is confusing to me,” Collier said.

Johnson’s cause of death is currently listed as “undetermined pending an investigation.” 

“Whatever we have to do, whatever doors we have to knock on, that’s what we’re going to do. Again, we are asking for D.A George Gascon to open my daughter’s case up and help us fill in the missing pieces,” Collier said at a press conference outside Los Angeles City Hall last week. 

Allisha Tillman, Johnson’s older sister also spoke during the press conference. She hoped to appeal not only to Gascon but also those in the community whose code of silence usually comes at the expense of justice for victim’s families.

“We get it, but when it comes down to something like this, we need answers. My sister did not deserve for any of this to happen, she has two kids that are asking for their mother. It’s not fair,” Tillman expressed. “So, we are asking for Gascon to at least open her case back up,” she declared.

Kenesha Greer is the Co-director of the Mikeona Johnson Foundation along with Collier. Greer says she wants to see Johnson’s case highlighted as much as possible, as well as her achievements. 

Johnson had just completed her certification for fingerprints at Southwest College according to Greer.

“I don’t chase rumors. I just want to debunk any myths surrounding her disappearance. She was not on drugs, she was not a prostitute, etc,” said Greer. “She was ultimately trying to figure it out. I know that she wanted to build a better life for her and her children and that she knew that her purpose was to help people,” Greer outlined.

“She was just starting to put the pieces together for her and her girls. And she never lost her faith in the Lord. She loved God and wanted to honor him with her endeavors. That I do know.”

Keyana is a community activist in Los Angeles originally from the Bay Area. For the last ten years she has been organizing around the issues of police brutality through Community Control of The Police, a group she co-founded. 

The issues of Black femicide are especially important to Keyana, which is why she joined Johnson’s family in pushing for Gascon’s involvement.

“This past Monday, LAPD captain Al Neil told the family they refused to reopen the case and they were not going to look into it any further. Black women are leading in cold cases in Los Angeles County,” Keyena outlined.

Keyana understands that violence against Black women and the lack of interest by law enforcement only leaves other women in the community vulnerable.  

“The L.A.P.D did not give this case due justice to determine the cause of death in Mikeona’s case,” Keyana said during the press conference. “If there is anywhere our elected officials need to show up, it is right here in L.A.”

Collier said her message to authorities regarding missing and murdered Black women in L.A is, “Work the case as if it was your loved one.”

Bill Cosby Released from Prison, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Overturns Conviction

Staff

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ruled that Bill Cosby was denied a fair trial and after spending over two years of a three-to-10-year sentence in a state prison, the comedian is now free.

The ruling overturns Cosby’s 2018 conviction for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand, a former Temple University employee who testified that she was assaulted by the entertainer in his Pennsylvania mansion, was one of over 50 women who accused Cosby of sexual assault. 

The court found in favor of Cosby’s attorneys who’d argued that the now 83-year old entertainer had relied on an agreement made with prior prosecutor, Bruce Castor, that would have prevented him from being criminally charged in the case and was led to believe that the testimony he’d originally given at the time was immune from prosecution. It was Castor who had originally declined to charge Cosby in 2005.  

“In accordance with the advice his attorneys, Cosby relied upon D.A. Castor’s public announcement that he would not be prosecuted,” the ruling read. “His reliance was reasonable, and it resulted in the deprivation of a fundamental constitutional right when he was compelled to furnished self-incriminating testimony. Cosby reasonably relied upon the Commonwealth’s decision for approximately ten years. When he announced his declination decision on behalf of the Commonwealth, District Attorney Castor knew that Cosby would be forced to testify based upon the Commonwealth’s assurances. Knowing that he induced Cosby’s reliance, and that his decision not to prosecute was designed to do just that, D.A. Castor made no attempt in 2005 or in any of the ten years that followed to remedy any misperception or to stop Cosby from openly and detrimentally relying upon that decision. In light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D.A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights. No other conclusion comports with the principles of due process and fundamental fairness to which all aspects of our criminal justice system must adhere.” 

Having identified a due process violation, the judges ruled that the remedy must match the impact and have barred Cosby from being retried in the case.

Civil Case Against Former D.A. Jackie Lacey and Her Husband Allowed to Move Forward

Last month, a judge ruled that David Lacey, the husband of former Los Angeles County D.A. Jackie Lacey, would avoid jail time in the three misdemeanor charges of assault with a firearm when on March 2, 2020, he pulled a gun on—and threatened—Black Lives Matters protesters just days before his wife’s election primary.
      The 67-year old will instead enter a diversion program and be required to perform 100 hours of community service, attend gun safety courses and anger management as well to have the criminal case against him dismissed.
      However, he will not entirely be off the hook. Still pending is a civil lawsuit filed by Black Lives Matter activists Dr. Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito, and Justin Marks against both the former D.A. and her husband in connection with the incident. The 16-page lawsuit alleges assault, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.
      This week, that case was allowed to move an L.A. Superior Court judge allowed the case to move forward.
      “Dr. Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito, and Justin Marks are thrilled that we have now overcome all of the procedural challenges and can turn the spotlight of this matter back on David Lacey’s outrageous use of force against three peaceful protesters,” said Attorney Carl Douglas, who was retained by BLM.
      “Jackie Lacey and her army of lawyers have thrown every procedural hurdle known to man against us, and today, finally, Judge Theresa M. Traber said enough is enough, let’s move this case towards a jury trial. That process begins now with us placing Jackie and David Lacey under oath forcing them to answer for their outrageous transgressions.”

“Leimert Park Rising” is Fast Becoming L.A.’s Largest Juneteenth Celebration

Tina Sampay
The Leimert Park Rising Festival is estimated to have doubled in size from last year’s 10,000 attendees. Black people of all shades, shapes and across a broad spectrum of careers, connected in Leimert Park this past weekend for what is quickly becoming one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in Los Angeles.
      This year, the theme of Leimert Park Rising was stronger together, as the planning committee envisioned ways to establish a stronger, cohesive, cooperative model in Leimert Park that was equitable for everyone in the village.
      “We have always done the Juneteenth Heritage Festival, but the interest is shaping and shifting the energy in Leimert Park, creating a model that can be duplicated in other cultural hubs,” said Fred McNeill.
      McNeill served as project manager and art director for LPR, overseeing the festival’s branding and marketing.
      “There are other Black neighborhoods that can create power through collectivism and collaboration to show that culture and commerce can work together and be equitable and balanced,” McNeill continued.
      Media, logistics, city and food compliance, scheduling of artists and vendors, as well as raising the capital necessary to fund a festival of this magnitude were just some of the planning committee’s tasks.
      Then, there was what Kaya Dantzler of the non-profit We Love Leimert, referred to as the ‘buy in’ of various stakeholders in the Leimert Park Village and surrounding community.
      “From business owners, to vendors, to community organizations like Africa Town and getting everyone to work together across ideological and political differences. That was a huge thing that we had to do,” said Dantzler.
      She notes the small victories such as the gates to Leimert Park finally being open after two years and petitions circulated for access to be granted.
      City Councilman Mark-Ridley Thomas is one of the officials who pushed for the gates to be reopened, especially in anticipation of LPR.
      “We want policy changes and investment in the community for long-term development. We want more structural changes–not just symbolic changes. I see things are moving in a good direction, but I am waiting to see more,” Dantzler expressed.
      When the tasks of planning LPR seemed overwhelming at times, Khrissy Briscoe learned to lean on her peers in the planning committee. She trusted the collective talents and expertise of the team and knew that if they stayed on the same page, they would be able to make LPR a success.
      “It was long nights and meetings after meetings and always checking in with the team to make sure we were all on the same page,” observed Briscoe, who worked as the media liaison for LPR. 
      “When you think of Camille and Qwess, we’re talking NO sleep. They worked endless nights just making sure everything was in order,” she said of MC Ill Camille and DJ Qwess, familiar faces in Leimert Park who are artists and creatives dedicated to uplifting the artistic vibrations of Leimert Park and Black Los Angeles.
      “When we were planning this, we had no idea how many people in the community were going to show up, the imprint of Leimert Park Rising was huge,” said Dorothy Pirtle who served on the vendor and compliance team.
      Pirtle says it was a tall glass to fill, creating a space where 20,000 people were all satisfied, happy and felt welcomed.
      “One of the activity areas we had carved out was the park for kids and families,” Pirtle detailed. “So, to see a bunch of Black children enjoying themselves with one another, in large numbers, we had not seen that in a long time.”
      For many, Juneteenth is more symbolic than it is literal.
      “When I think of Juneteenth, I think of the power of information. When the information did get to them in Texas that they were finally free, their whole mindset shifted,” said Paris McCoy who provided tech support through T.E.C Leimert.
      “I think about what that moment was like—when your whole world changes based on information,” she continued. “When I think of Juneteenth, I think of physical and mental freedom.”
      “Having a Juneteenth celebration in Leimert Park for the second year for me was a marvelous experience,” said Akil West, co-founder of Sole Folks. “For me, the multiple art installations were the star of the festival, thanks to Foster the Millions, The Lion, The Art Dpt and Sole Folks Art Lab.”
      Dantzler says she is pleased with the outcome of LPR, although she notes that more resources would have allowed them the opportunity to operate the festival at a higher capacity.
      “We live in such a hostile society, so knowing we can create a space where Black people can just be free, that’s motivating for me.”
Photo Credit: USC Student Dante Bailey

The Lookout: Black LGBTQ+ Leaders and Allies Applaud Three California Bills

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

June is Pride Month and lawmakers in California are advancing a number of bills to make life safer and less difficult for people who are LGBTQ+.

Some of the proposed laws aim to address challenges that impact various segments of the African American LGBTQ+ community — either directly or circumstantially.

The first is Senate Bill (SB) 357. If the Legislature approves it, the law will repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, which penalizes loitering with the intent to engage in sex work. This particular bill, if approved, supporters say will significantly reduce the risks and dangers many LGBTQ+ people at the lowest ends of the socioeconomic ladder face. Many of them are young people who turn to sex work because of a number of reasons, including being unsupported by their families or the social structure because of their sexuality; trauma brought about by sexual or physical abuse; drug addiction; unemployment, among other factors.

Based on English Elizabethan “poor laws,” loitering laws in America were developed as a part of the Black Codes in the late 1800s as a means to arrest Black people in order to sell their labor in a practice called convict leasing.

“These laws were created to eradicate us,” said Dr. Jon Paul Higgins, a California-based social justice advocate and writer who is African American.

“So, when you talk about the importance of repealing these laws, it’s not even just about the law, it’s about getting to the root of what’s creating these laws,” Higgins explained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “many persons who exchange sex may have a history of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental health issues, violence, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, and drug use.”

In California – and across the United States — a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by those challenges — all of them considered social determinants of good health by Public Health professionals.

Because of the vagueness of these loitering laws, many critics have noted that they gave police a wide range of arresting powers to target “undesirables” like Black people and people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Higgins explained.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), author of this bill, says it would help make the streets safer for sex workers who are a part of a marginalized community.

“Sex workers are workers, and they deserve respect and safety,” Wiener said. “We must work toward a future where people — especially the most marginalized — aren’t criminalized because of who they are and what they look like. Anti-sex workers loitering laws are deeply pernicious, and they need to be repealed.”

SB 357 also allows those convicted of California Penal Code Section 653.22 to seal their records.

SB 357 was passed by the Senate Public Safety Committee 4-1 and has now been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Another bill concerned with safety is Assembly Bill (AB) 1094 which would require the State Department of Public Health to establish a 3-year pilot program in up to 6 participating counties to collect gender identity and sexual orientation data in violent death cases in order to get more accurate data about hate crimes.

According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 2019 Hate Crime Report, Black people accounted for 9% of the county’s population but 47% of the total racial hate crimes.

The report also stated that 2019 saw a 64% increase in hate crimes targeting trans people, many of which were Black or Brown, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“Yet another year with alarming levels of bias-motivated crimes underscores just how urgent it is to address this hate crimes epidemic,” said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President. David is the first African American to lead the organization, the largest advocacy body for LGBTQ+ people and issues in the United States.

“This year, we saw a tragic new record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in this country, particularly against Black and Brown transgender women,” he said.

Following the Stonewall riots in New York, Black trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy became influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights at the time when discrimination and hate crimes against people like them were much more commonplace.

Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), author of AB 1094, explained why he feels the bill is crucial.

“I deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that my Assembly colleagues gave today to AB 1094,” Arambula said in a statement. “This legislation may be centered on data, but its purpose encompasses compassion and empathy to better understand what is happening in our LGTBQ+ community — particularly among the youth — when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths.”

AB 1094 has passed in the Assembly and is now on its way to the State Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill (SB) 379, which has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, would ensure the University of California Health System [UC Health] only contracts with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services, such as gender-affirming and reproductive care.

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Black mothers have a 3 times higher maternal mortality rate and a 2 times higher morbidity rate than white mothers while Black men are 70% more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic White men.

People in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to have access to competent healthcare, largely due to issues with discrimination, according to Cigna.

Higgins spoke from personal experience about the intersectional nature of being both Black and in the LGBTQ+ community.

“For me, being a Black nonbinary person and meeting a provider who has all of these bias ideologies or stereotypes about Black people… there are all of these preconceived notions about who I am as a Black person and then you add on the nonbinary-slash-trans part of it, there’s just a lot of underlying stereotypes and bias,” Higgins said.

Jasmyne Cannick, founder and CEO of Empowerment Justice Strategies, praised this bill for moving with the tides of progress.

“In 2021, it makes absolute sense for UC Health to contract with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services given the population that it serves,” Cannick said.

“We are moving towards a more inclusive society and these are the types of bills that will ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community can receive healthcare they need,” she continued.

Higgins, Cannick and other advocates say it means a great deal that California lawmakers are making an effort to ensure that these “warriors” can continue to do so safely, and that those who just wish to live their lives without fear for being who they are may do so more boldly.

The Lookout: Black LGBTQ+ Leaders and Allies Applaud Three California Bills

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

June is Pride Month and lawmakers in California are advancing a number of bills to make life safer and less difficult for people who are LGBTQ+.

Some of the proposed laws aim to address challenges that impact various segments of the African American LGBTQ+ community — either directly or circumstantially.

The first is Senate Bill (SB) 357. If the Legislature approves it, the law will repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, which penalizes loitering with the intent to engage in sex work. This particular bill, if approved, supporters say will significantly reduce the risks and dangers many LGBTQ+ people at the lowest ends of the socioeconomic ladder face. Many of them are young people who turn to sex work because of a number of reasons, including being unsupported by their families or the social structure because of their sexuality; trauma brought about by sexual or physical abuse; drug addiction; unemployment, among other factors.

Based on English Elizabethan “poor laws,” loitering laws in America were developed as a part of the Black Codes in the late 1800s as a means to arrest Black people in order to sell their labor in a practice called convict leasing.

“These laws were created to eradicate us,” said Dr. Jon Paul Higgins, a California-based social justice advocate and writer who is African American.

“So, when you talk about the importance of repealing these laws, it’s not even just about the law, it’s about getting to the root of what’s creating these laws,” Higgins explained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “many persons who exchange sex may have a history of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental health issues, violence, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, and drug use.”

In California – and across the United States — a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by those challenges — all of them considered social determinants of good health by Public Health professionals.

Because of the vagueness of these loitering laws, many critics have noted that they gave police a wide range of arresting powers to target “undesirables” like Black people and people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Higgins explained.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), author of this bill, says it would help make the streets safer for sex workers who are a part of a marginalized community.

“Sex workers are workers, and they deserve respect and safety,” Wiener said. “We must work toward a future where people — especially the most marginalized — aren’t criminalized because of who they are and what they look like. Anti-sex workers loitering laws are deeply pernicious, and they need to be repealed.”

SB 357 also allows those convicted of California Penal Code Section 653.22 to seal their records.

SB 357 was passed by the Senate Public Safety Committee 4-1 and has now been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Another bill concerned with safety is Assembly Bill (AB) 1094 which would require the State Department of Public Health to establish a 3-year pilot program in up to 6 participating counties to collect gender identity and sexual orientation data in violent death cases in order to get more accurate data about hate crimes.

According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 2019 Hate Crime Report, Black people accounted for 9% of the county’s population but 47% of the total racial hate crimes.

The report also stated that 2019 saw a 64% increase in hate crimes targeting trans people, many of which were Black or Brown, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“Yet another year with alarming levels of bias-motivated crimes underscores just how urgent it is to address this hate crimes epidemic,” said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President. David is the first African American to lead the organization, the largest advocacy body for LGBTQ+ people and issues in the United States.

“This year, we saw a tragic new record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in this country, particularly against Black and Brown transgender women,” he said.

Following the Stonewall riots in New York, Black trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy became influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights at the time when discrimination and hate crimes against people like them were much more commonplace.

Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), author of AB 1094, explained why he feels the bill is crucial.

“I deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that my Assembly colleagues gave today to AB 1094,” Arambula said in a statement. “This legislation may be centered on data, but its purpose encompasses compassion and empathy to better understand what is happening in our LGTBQ+ community — particularly among the youth — when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths.”

AB 1094 has passed in the Assembly and is now on its way to the State Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill (SB) 379, which has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, would ensure the University of California Health System [UC Health] only contracts with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services, such as gender-affirming and reproductive care.

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Black mothers have a 3 times higher maternal mortality rate and a 2 times higher morbidity rate than white mothers while Black men are 70% more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic White men.

People in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to have access to competent healthcare, largely due to issues with discrimination, according to Cigna.

Higgins spoke from personal experience about the intersectional nature of being both Black and in the LGBTQ+ community.

“For me, being a Black nonbinary person and meeting a provider who has all of these bias ideologies or stereotypes about Black people… there are all of these preconceived notions about who I am as a Black person and then you add on the nonbinary-slash-trans part of it, there’s just a lot of underlying stereotypes and bias,” Higgins said.

Jasmyne Cannick, founder and CEO of Empowerment Justice Strategies, praised this bill for moving with the tides of progress.

“In 2021, it makes absolute sense for UC Health to contract with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services given the population that it serves,” Cannick said.

“We are moving towards a more inclusive society and these are the types of bills that will ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community can receive healthcare they need,” she continued.

Higgins, Cannick and other advocates say it means a great deal that California lawmakers are making an effort to ensure that these “warriors” can continue to do so safely, and that those who just wish to live their lives without fear for being who they are may do so more boldly.


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