Author: lafocus

Senate Votes to Make Juneteenth A Federal Holiday

Staff

In what was a rare bi-partisan victory, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday, commemorating June 19, 1865, the day on which the last of enslaved black people learned that they had been freed.

“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognise the wrongs of the past, but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfil the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer.

Said U.S. Rep Val Demings, “Let us celebrate Juneteenth as we should, but celebrating freedom must be more than just a special day. It must be a celebration of who as a nation we say we are. One who says we believe in justice for all.” 

“Long overdue,” tweeted California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Now let’s pass it in the House.”

The bill was sponsored by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Markey, who both posted the news on social media following its passage.

“We have a long road towards racial justice in the United States and we cannot get there without acknowledging our nation’s original sin of slavery,” Markey tweeted. “It is long past time to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.”

“Happy that my bill to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday just passed the Senate,” Cornyn posted. “It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years. Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union.”

Fact is, 48 states and the District of Columbia observe Juneteenth in some form, but it is a paid holiday in just four states: Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington.

Some corporations—like Nike, Twitter and Uber— followed suit, making it a paid holiday.

Though it is not an official, paid holiday in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has said that it could happen in the future.

In the meantime, the bill, which would make Juneteenth the nation’s 12th federal holiday, will now make its way to the House of Representatives where Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a partner bill that presently has over 150 co-sponsors. Should the legislation pass in the house, it will move on to the desk of President Joe Biden.

Artists Partner with the State for “Your Actions Save Lives” Campaign

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

More than 20 California artists partnered with the state for the “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign. The effort was created to uplift and celebrate the resilience of communities and encourage safe practices that stop the spread of COVID-19 as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to reopen the state on June 15.

The 14 original art projects included in the campaign range from murals, interactive exhibits, and live performances from artists based in communities highly impacted by the COVID-19, including Oakland, Sacramento, Stockton and San Diego.

“The arts have an opportunity to be uplifting and healing to your emotions,” said Jessica Wimbley, an African American digital artist who collaborated with the state for an advertisement on an Oak Park billboard in Sacramento and a digital art display at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air to work on this campaign. There’s been so much negativity and divisiveness that’s happening in the world that is heavy on the spirit,” said Wimbley.

“It’s been transformative to work on this project,” she added.

The campaign shows us that, “we can move forward, and we are moving forward. We all have things to live for,” she said.

 

The state partnered with the Center at Sierra Health Foundation in Sacramento for the project which relies on the power of art to communicate the importance of health awareness in addition to getting vaccinated.

 

“These accomplished artists are tapping into their culture and creativity to share empowering messages with communities that have been hard hit by COVID-19,” said Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation.

“Art has incredible power, and we believe these works will spark important conversations, connections, and inspiration throughout the state,” he said.

Four female artists, including Wimbley, have used the project to tap into their respective cultures to create powerful visual artworks that empower and inform their diverse communities.

Sunroop Kaur, a classical artist, whose Spring mural is located in Stockton was inspired by her Punjabi-Sikh heritage. The interactive installation, ‘Benevolent Animals, Dangerous Animals,’ by Masako Miki located in Oakland’s Chinatown was inspired by Japanese folklore. In San Diego, the mural ‘Stop the Spread’ by Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio honors her Mexican heritage.

In addition to the art campaign, Newsom recently announced a $116.5 million incentive program that will reward people in California for getting vaccinated. The state allotted $100 million in grocery gift cards worth $50 each for the next two million people who get vaccinated. The remaining $16.5 million will be awarded as cash prizes to people who have been vaccinated across the state. More than 17 million people in California are fully vaccinated which is about 44 % of the state’s population. The incentive program aims to encourage everyone in California to get vaccinated with a goal to reopen the state by mid-June this year.

State officials say they are determined to fully reopen California schools and businesses in efforts to help the economy recover.

Black and Brown families continue to experience the brunt of the economic blow caused by COVID-19 despite the state’s efforts for community outreach to minimize hardship in their respective communities.

The artists featured in the state’s “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign hope to communicate messages of unity and solidarity through art influenced by their different cultures.

Four local artists celebrate their heritages and draw inspiration from their multicultural 

communities.

Jessica Wimbley

Wimbley, a renowned African American artist, uses her digital art to empower Black people to have agency in their own lives.

The Oak Park Billboard, which is part of a state-sponsored advertising campaign, features Wimbley’s husband as the model. The representation of dark-skinned Black men is important when there have been many incidents of people dying in the media.

 

The billboard reinforces, “This notion of a Black man living,” said Wimbley.

“It’s really important to bring humanization to the representation of Black people in media. And focus on producing an agency, and empowerment,” she said.

Wimbley’s Masking Series was inspired by the tradition of masquerade which is celebrated in many cultures across Africa. The art series features a still photo of a face with a mask modeled by her husband and a multimedia image with a mask reflecting different visuals.

“The storytelling communicates the important occurrences within the community, I was reflecting on wearing a mask within the masquerade culture and the transformative nature of both putting on a mask and wearing one,” said Wimbley.

Wimbley also wanted to humanize Black and Brown people who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The added stress of police brutality

resulting in the death of African Americans nationwide also inspired Wimbley to show that Black people have agency in their own lives.

Through her art, Wimbley said that she wants Black people, “to be in a place of empowerment, versus, a space of trauma.”

“We are a part of an interconnected story and part of each other’s stories. We have agency in how we move forward, and we can write, claim, and develop what that next phase looks like,” said Wimbley.

The symbolism of the images presented on the Oak Park billboard and the digital display at Arden Fair Mall highlight different codes that have inspired social justice movements throughout the nation. On the billboard, the model is wearing a mask with coded patterns promoting vaccinations and several rings, one with Harriet Tubman.

Sunroop Kaur

Kaur, an artist of South Asian descent, aims to decolonize classical art by using people of color as the center of attention in her paintings.

The large population of Punjabi Sikh immigrants in Stockton is a major influence in Kaur’s artwork. Kaur is intentional about using people of color as the focal point in her ‘Spring’ mural located at JMP Restaurant Supply.

“This mural is a visual celebration of my community and its resilience to not only survive in a foreign land but to thrive,” said Kaur.

The mural draws from the idea of, “decentering whiteness within my work by using people of color is my main fitters,” she said.

“The appropriation of Western classical art canons as a way to decolonize my own body and my culture,” she said.

The artwork includes two people socially distancing and wearing masks depicted through the Italian Baroque portraiture, a 17th-century art style associated with grandeur, movement, and drama.

The body language from the figures symbolizes, “the universal longing and yearning we feel for one another, but also acknowledging the fact that to keep our loved ones safe,” said Kaur.

The mural also includes pastel-colored floral patterns in reference to Spring which represents the reemergence of life following the pandemic. The mural includes royal blue arches as well as pink and malachite with historical pastel pigments that are part of Persian culture.

Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio

In her ‘Stop the Spread’ mural located at Bread & Salt Gallery in Chicano Park, Mexican-American visual artist Ortiz-Rubio used the image of a Latina woman to raise awareness on COVID-19 safety precautions in her community.

According to national data, Latinos make up about 30 % of San Diego’s population. They were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 because a disproportionate number are essential workers or undocumented people.

“This is truly a message for anyone in the world because a pandemic has affected us all. But it hasn’t affected us equally,” said Ortiz-Rubio.

“In the United States, minorities have been affected because of their race and economic status,” she said.

Muralism was a social movement which helped foster systematic change in Mexico. Ortiz-Rubio said that the Black Lives Movement also inspired her to challenge racism and inequality through her artwork.

“It speaks to everyone, and the fact that it is a Latin American woman speaking to anyone, is also important because usually generalized images are of a White person,” she said.

Being a woman is an integral part of Ortiz-Rubio’s experience creating the mural. She recalled young girls and their mothers witnessing her paint the mural from their backyards which reaffirmed her desire to use a Latina as the centerpiece of her mural.

“It’s very empowering to be celebrated,” said Ortiz-Rubio.

“This will be a message that will take that stigma away,” she said.

The visual artist said that she wants Latin Americans to be represented and celebrated in her art especially when they are the target audience.

Masako Miki

The interactive art installation ‘Benevolent Animals, Dangerous Animals’ by Miki was inspired by the idea of a treasure hunt throughout Chinatown in Oakland. The pandemic forced people to stay indoors, but the public art installation encourages people to explore different shops and restaurants while admiring the art.

The artwork was inspired by shapeshifting animals in Japanese mythology.

“I wanted to make this positive and uplifting because when things are dark and difficult, we need to have more positive images,” said Miki.

The current reality of the pandemic is, “so dark and difficult that we need to have imagery that gives us the ability to envision something positive,” she said.

In Japanese culture the tiger is a majestic animal that is fearless, she says. The cultural message in the artwork echoes notions of toughness.

“Resiliency is our strength,” and the benevolent animals featured in the art are meant to encourage people to, “respect each other and have empathy to get through this difficult time together,” said Miki.

Recent incidents of violence against Asians have fueled racial tension in America, in addition to the violence toward African Americans nationwide. Miki aspires to use her artwork to dispel stigmas related to COVID-19 about the Asian community.

“We have to have this dialogue so that I can introduce my cultures in such a way that it becomes familiar and it’s not something that they’re afraid of because they don’t know about it,” said Miki.

Artistic performances and visual displays created by all the artists in the “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign have been exhibited since April and will continue until June this year.

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

Black Educators Discuss Education Equity Ahead of School Re-Opening This Fall

Joe W. Bowers Jr.| California Black Media

The California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) held their 13th annual professional development summit May 26 – 28th in San Diego. The theme for this year’s conference was, “Achieving an Equity Driven Education.”

Co-hosted by the San Diego County Office of Education and Moreno Valley Unified School District, the conference was held in-person and virtually. For their safety, in-person participants were required to have been vaccinated or to have tested negative for COVID-19.

According to Dr. Daryl Camp, President, CAAASA and Superintendent, San Lorenzo Unified School District, “CAAASA was one of the last organizations to host an in-person conference in 2020 and will be the first organization to host an in-person conference in 2021.”

CAAASA welcomed about 150 in-person attendees. About 600 other participants joined the conference online. Those attending were education practitioners, including school administrators, teachers, and staff; education researchers; policymakers; and community members inspired and motivated to learn ways to improve the educational experiences and outcomes for African American and other students of color by promoting equity and social justice and improved school climates.

The conference theme, “Achieving an Equity Driven Education” acknowledges the need, “to ensure the next normal will achieve an equity driven education for students,” says Camp. “While the pandemic has presented many challenges, it has also provided an opportunity to re-envision what an equity driven education may look like for underserved students.”

 

The conference was organized around seven goals: Align strategies that promote access to excellence for boys and girls of color; Utilize Social Emotional Learning (SEL) supports to address the impact of trauma and poverty on learning and academic achievement; Use assessment data (Single Plan for Student Achievement – SPSAs) and Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) as strategic and equity-driven tools to positively impact academic achievement; Increase meaningful family engagement and identify strategies and resources to improve graduation rates and increase college readiness and access for students of color; Provide strategies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of youth in school and the community, including issues such as violence, social justice concerns, bullying and human trafficking; Address school climate, including student discipline, suspension, expulsion, truancy and chronic absenteeism; and increase awareness about the advantages and values of early childhood education.

 

The three-day conference was divided into morning and afternoon plenary lectures followed by seminars and workshops. There were six plenary lectures and attendees had access to their choice of fifty-five seminars and workshops that supported the conference goals.

 

The opening plenary was titled “National Health & Educational Concerns Due to the Impact of COVID-19.” The speakers were Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO, The California

Endowment; Dr. Theopia Jackson, President, Association of Black Psychologists; and Dr. Nana Efua B. Afoh-Manin, founder of myCovidMD. They spoke about depression, anxiety, stress, isolation and the increasing number of Black students contemplating and committing suicide due to impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, among other factors.

 

The afternoon plenary was “Black Girls Institute: Challenges & Crises Faced by Black Girls in Public Schools & Society.” Participating in an all-female panel were Cara McClellan, Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Dr. Angela Clark Louque, Professor, California State University San Bernardino; and Dr. Kimberly Hendricks-Brown, Principal On Special Assignment, Fresno Unified School District. They addressed issues related to how girls of color are bearing the brunt of policies and practices that diminish their opportunities and harm their potential. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sonjhia Lowery, Superintendent, Old Adobe Union School District.

 

On day two, the morning plenary was “Addressing Education and Economic Empowerment for African Americans and Other Communities of Color.” Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13); Marc Morial, President and CEO National Urban League; and Dr. Michael Drake, President, University of California; spoke about the financial wealth gap and the resultant challenges to education and life in the African American and other communities of color. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, President, California State Board of Education, spoke on the state of education in California, representing Gov. Gavin Newsom.

 

The afternoon of day two plenary was the “Research Institute Panel Discussion: Achieving An Equity-Driven Education – Post COVID.” This is CAAASA’s annual research institute panel and it was led by Darling-Hammond and Dr. Travis Bristol, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, Berkeley. The panel provided views on what an equity-driven education looks like once the COVID pandemic ends. Also speaking were Dr. Justin A. Coles, Assistant Professor, Fordham University; Dr. Maria E. Hyler, Director of the Learning Policy Institute’s Washington, DC Office and Ms. Kimberly Young, Ethnic Studies Teacher, Culver City High School.

 

On day three, the morning plenary session was titled “Shared Educational Inequities, Discrimination, Disparities and Commonalities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).” This panel featured members of the BIPOC community, and it addressed common disparities that each community has faced within the educational system. Topics discussed included inequity and discrimination within the school systems.

 

The Closing Plenary was called “Ensuring, Increasing and Providing Digital Equity in Schools, Homes and Communities.” This panel discussed ways to enhance capabilities to close the divide and ensure that African American and other students of color are able to stay connected and up-to-date. The Digital Divide was brought to the spotlight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelist included Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Paul Gothold, Superintendent, San Diego County Office of Education; Toby Boyd, President, California Teacher Association; and Dr. Martinrex Kedziora, Superintendent, Moreno Valley Unified School District. The panel was moderated by Superintendent L. K. Monroe, Alameda County Office of Education.

 

CAAASA was founded in 1993 but was called the California Association of African American Superintendents. In 2007, it was reorganized and took on its current name. When CAAASA started, there were just 13 African- American school district superintendents out of approximately 1,100 statewide. Today there are 35 district and county superintendents. CAAASA is committed to identifying and addressing the critical issues in education through public policy relative to the status and performance of African-American students in California.

 

A complete description of the conference workshops and list of presenters can be found at https://www.caaasa.org/

California Awards Ceremony Celebrates the Best of Ethnic Journalism

Jenny Manrique | Ethnic Media Services

Some 30 ethnic media journalists were honored for their coverage of the epic events of 2020 at a virtual California Ethnic Media Awards ceremony, which took place June 3.

 

Selected from 235 submissions from reporters working in print, digital, TV and radio (in eight languages), the winners were chosen by judges with language and cultural fluency who know the challenges of working in the sector.

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

“You have worked against enormous odds to make sure our communities were informed about historic news events of the year. You are key to sustaining an inclusive communications infrastructure that knits our communities together when so many forces, as you know well, threaten to drive us apart,” the governor added.

The multilingual awards were sponsored by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media. Each winner received $1000 in cash. Entries were submitted in nine categories: the 2020 census, the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on ethnic communities, the economic crisis that exacerbated racial and economic fault lines in California, the rights of immigrants, and the movement for racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, exceptional reporting on the impact of climate change, the 2020 elections, commentary that serves as a call to action for ethnic audiences, and community media innovation and resilience to survive the pandemic.

“Thank you to all the journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and publishers who work long hours without recognition every day. You are committed to telling stories and covering underreported stories that we would otherwise never hear,” said Regina Brown Wilson, Executive Director of California Black Media.

In their acceptance speeches, the awardees recognized the support of their editors, publishers and families, as well as the challenges of covering ethnic communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, racist policies, and hate crimes.

“Words can be deadly, or they can be life affirming. While the idle intellectual elite strive to cancel culture, we are tasked with removing the knee out of the throat of truth and reaffirming and defining journalism in our own image,” said Rose Davis of Indian Voices, awarded for her landmark essay: “The Census and the Fourth Estate,” which advocates for the participation of Native Americans in the census despite centuries of being excluded.

Danny Morrison, winner in the category of English language broadcast TV for his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement in Bakersfield said that “as an African American man in central California, I’ve always known that we have a lot of work to do regarding the inequities within our ethnicity. That is the reason why my team and I went to prisons, schools, churches, youth groups and more to speak to the underserved and the forgotten because we understand the struggle that in most cases we have lived through.”

 

Jorge Macias, awarded for his digital coverage of climate change for Univision, recalled how in the last four years, “we all suffered from the denial of climate change, and even in moments of terror in California with these devastating fires, the former president (Donald) Trump said that science didn’t know. This prize means a lot because as human beings we have to battle with that absurd view denying climate change.”

 

Hosts for the evening were Odette Alcazaren-Keeley and Pilar Marrero, both distinguished veterans of the ethnic media industry. Some 20 elected officials, community leaders, scholars and writers paid tribute to the sector in videotaped remarks. Sandip Roy, once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, now an award winning author and journalist in India, said if it weren’t for ethnic media giving him a platform, he wouldn’t be a writer today.

 

After presenting awards to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese reporters for stories on issues impacting Black and Latinx communities, Alcazaren-Keeley announced a special judge’s award for cross-cultural reporting. The winner, Jeanne Ferris of News from Native California, documented how the destinies of two groups of people converged when Japanese Americans were incarcerated in World War II on reservation lands.

 

At the closing of the ceremony, Sandy Close, executive director of Ethnic Media Services, said the coming together of reporters from so many racial and ethnic groups to celebrate not just their own but each other’s work was the real takeaway for the night. “Ethnic media are like fingers on a hand,” she said, quoting

 

Chauncey Bailey, a veteran of Black media killed in 2007 for investigating wrongdoing in his own community. “When we work together, we’re a fist.”

California Awards Ceremony Celebrates the Best of Ethnic Journalism

Jenny Manrique | Ethnic Media Services

Some 30 ethnic media journalists were honored for their coverage of the epic events of 2020 at a virtual California Ethnic Media Awards ceremony, which took place June 3.

Selected from 235 submissions from reporters working in print, digital, TV and radio (in eight languages), the winners were chosen by judges with language and cultural fluency who know the challenges of working in the sector.

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

“You have worked against enormous odds to make sure our communities were informed about historic news events of the year. You are key to sustaining an inclusive communications infrastructure that knits our communities together when so many forces, as you know well, threaten to drive us apart,” the governor added.

The multilingual awards were sponsored by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media. Each winner received $1000 in cash. Entries were submitted in nine categories: the 2020 census, the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on ethnic communities, the economic crisis that exacerbated racial and economic fault lines in California, the rights of immigrants, and the movement for racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, exceptional reporting on the impact of climate change, the 2020 elections, commentary that serves as a call to action for ethnic audiences, and community media innovation and resilience to survive the pandemic.

“Thank you to all the journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and publishers who work long hours without recognition every day. You are committed to telling stories and covering underreported stories that we would otherwise never hear,” said Regina Brown Wilson, Executive Director of California Black Media.

In their acceptance speeches, the awardees recognized the support of their editors, publishers and families, as well as the challenges of covering ethnic communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, racist policies, and hate crimes.

“Words can be deadly, or they can be life affirming. While the idle intellectual elite strive to cancel culture, we are tasked with removing the knee out of the throat of truth and reaffirming and defining journalism in our own image,” said Rose Davis of Indian Voices, awarded for her landmark essay: “The Census and the Fourth Estate,” which advocates for the participation of Native Americans in the census despite centuries of being excluded.

Danny Morrison, winner in the category of English language broadcast TV for his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement in Bakersfield said that “as an African American man in central California, I’ve always known that we have a lot of work to do regarding the inequities within our ethnicity. That is the reason why my team and I went to prisons, schools, churches, youth groups and more to speak to the underserved and the forgotten because we understand the struggle that in most cases we have lived through.”

 

Jorge Macias, awarded for his digital coverage of climate change for Univision, recalled how in the last four years, “we all suffered from the denial of climate change, and even in moments of terror in California with these devastating fires, the former president (Donald) Trump said that science didn’t know. This prize means a lot because as human beings we have to battle with that absurd view denying climate change.”

 

Hosts for the evening were Odette Alcazaren-Keeley and Pilar Marrero, both distinguished veterans of the ethnic media industry. Some 20 elected officials, community leaders, scholars and writers paid tribute to the sector in videotaped remarks. Sandip Roy, once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, now an award winning author and journalist in India, said if it weren’t for ethnic media giving him a platform, he wouldn’t be a writer today.

 

After presenting awards to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese reporters for stories on issues impacting Black and Latinx communities, Alcazaren-Keeley announced a special judge’s award for cross-cultural reporting. The winner, Jeanne Ferris of News from Native California, documented how the destinies of two groups of people converged when Japanese Americans were incarcerated in World War II on reservation lands.

 

At the closing of the ceremony, Sandy Close, executive director of Ethnic Media Services, said the coming together of reporters from so many racial and ethnic groups to celebrate not just their own but each other’s work was the real takeaway for the night. “Ethnic media are like fingers on a hand,” she said, quoting

 

Chauncey Bailey, a veteran of Black media killed in 2007 for investigating wrongdoing in his own community. “When we work together, we’re a fist.”

Advocates to Gov. Newsom: Racial Disparities Are a Public Health Crisis

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

Some health advocates are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to treat health inequity in California as a public health crisis – one that is complicated by racism.

Their appeal to the governor comes as California state officials propose a $115 million investment in the state’s budget for the next fiscal year to address health disparities. If approved, some of the money would fund programs administered by community-based organizations.

“The biggest hardship that we’re facing right now is really getting the governor to support investments to community-based organizations to focus on health equity and racial justice interventions within healthcare,” said Ron Coleman, the managing director of policy for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN).

 

Coleman said the state needs to make new investments in public health that will remedy the social determinants that worsen health disparities in the healthcare system.

In the revised May budget, Newsom proposed a $115 million annual grant program for health equity and $200 million for local health infrastructure. He also included $15 million in funds to support underprivileged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.

Despite the plan to increase spending on leveling the playing field in health care, a dozen community-based organizations want Gov. Newsom to do more. In addition to CPENH, other organizations include the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL), Black Women for Wellness Action Project, California Black Health Network, California Black Women’s Health Project, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Public Health Advocates, Public Health Institute, Roots Community Health Center, and Roots of Change.

The leaders of these organizations are asking the state to expand support for health programs with funds from California’s budget surplus that are targeted to addressing health disparities that impact vulnerable populations, including low-income Black and Brown families.

In the May budget revisions, “There was absolutely no new investment in the budget for public health, whether it’s the infrastructure, workforce, health equity racial justice, or prevention,” said Coleman.

Coleman specified that the money Newsom is allotting for health equity should go to community-based organizations, particularly for racial justice interventions in the healthcare system.

“We need Governor Newsom to begin treating racism as a public health crisis and make the investments in the community that will help us reduce healthcare disparities and improve health outcomes,” said Coleman.

Gov. Newsom said that the state has partnered with multiple community-based organizations for public outreach and vaccine pop-up sites. The state has also collaborated with “influencers” to implement earned and paid media strategies to counter misinformation related to COVID-19.

“This has been a historic year advancing our collective goals and values. In real-time, we’ve been making historic investments in the budget process,” said Newsom.

The state’s partnerships are important in, “advancing to address real vaccine issues in the state,” he said.

The state has also expanded public messaging to local clinics in ethnic communities to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“We’ve been significantly increasing those efforts with community-based organizations in language outreach and more pop-up sites,” said Newsom.

The state also set up information sites and phone operations with people “answering those stubborn questions that people have about the safety and efficacy of our vaccine efforts,” he continued.

However, health advocates are wary about the efficacy of the state’s public health messaging campaigns as a means to reduce health disparities in ethnic communities that were the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coleman said that public health messaging is a promising start. But ethnic communities still need better access to health care.

“It’s great that they’re utilizing trusted messengers to disseminate information, but the state should actually be making an investment to support these organizations in helping to advance the improvements of health outcomes,” said Coleman.

Community-based organizations have been trusted messengers for the government through the pandemic. Although COVID-19 exposed health inequity, health disparities existed in ethnic communities prior to the pandemic.

A public proposal to the governor health advocates from a dozen community-based organizations stated that receiving government funds is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can dismantle structural racism in California’s healthcare system.

Health advocates stressed that social determinants are major contributors to health disparities that widen the gap of inequality in healthcare. The advocates encouraged the state to prioritize social determinants including, food and housing security, childcare, and environmental justice, as defined by the California Department of Public Health.

According to the recommendations provided by the dozen organizations, the state should implement innovative approaches to achieving health inequity. They include:

1. Partnerships between cities and community advocates to develop community participatory budgeting processes.

2. Disaggregation of data on race/ethnicity to better understand variation in health risks and outcomes.

3. Creating and cultivating racial justice training for government leaders and policy makers so that decisions and program implementation reflect community priorities and advance racial equity.

The recommendations proposed by leaders of the dozen organizations, aim to secure adequate funding for initiatives led by community-based organizations, local clinics, and tribal organizations. The leaders say they plan to use the funds to implement, monitor, and evaluate programs that promote racial justice and health.

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

Culver City Middle School Launches “Just Say Hello Week”

Week-Long Effort Launched to Help Bridge Racial Divisions & Bringing Students Together

Culver City Middle School launched their successful “Just Say Hello Week” during the week of May 24 to bridge racial divisions, explore our differences, and bring students together. The week-long effort at the Culver City Middle School campus was designed to encourage students to speak to, play with, and hang out with students who don’t look like them. 

The Just Say Hello campaign coincided with the celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Month on campus. Teachers and students wore “Just Say Hello” t-shirts, handed out “Just Say Hello” masks and stickers to students as they arrived on campus in the morning. In addition, the students chalked “Just Say Hello” messages in multiple languages on the Culver City Middle School campus. 

“Seeing students actively participate in the “Just Say Hello” initiative is exactly what we want this campaign to do,” said Kerman Maddox, founder of Just Say Hello. “These young people can lead the way towards a future where we can better communicate our differences and bridge divisions.” 

T-Shirts, masks, and stickers are available at the Just Say Hello webstore at www.justsayhello.org with profits supporting the non-profit organization. The program is supported by major funding from both corporate and private sponsors including Amazon, USC, Jamie Montgomery, and Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. Just Say Hello is also endorsed by Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute and The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). 

“Just Say Hello” is a campaign for small gestures with a big message: Say hello to somebody who doesn’t look like you. The campaign is inspired in part by the overwhelming movement to bridge the racial divide after the murder of George Floyd and countless others before him. For more information, visit www.JustSayHello.org 

Getting Back to Church (& What Church Will Look Like Post-Pandemic)

Lisa Collins

A week before their May 23 service—marking Greater Zion Church Family’s first return to in-person worship in more than a year—Pastor Michael J.T. Fisher released 150 tickets (representing the church’s newly configured, socially distanced seating plan) on Eventbrite. Within an hour, 150 tickets had been snapped up and 30 requests for additional tickets were placed in a waiting queue and eventually accommodated. 

“I was good with that,” said Fisher. “But you’re talking to someone who normally saw 1200 people on a Sunday morning” 

And while 180 was a far cry from the 1000-plus members Greater Zion averaged in the four Sunday services he regularly managed before the pandemic, it confirmed for Fisher that his members were ready to get back to church. 

All across the city, county, state and nation, churches are gearing up for a return to physical worship services after being shuttered in March of 2020 by a pandemic that killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States, including a host of both local and well-known faith leaders while becoming the third leading cause of death. 

Some churches have already re-opened their doors. Most are gearing up for a return sometime this summer. Many like megachurch pastor, Bishop T.D. Jakes are re-opening in phases, while three of L.A.’s largest megachurches—West Angeles COGIC, City of Refuge and Faithful Central Bible Church—have set July 4th for their coordinated re-entrance. 

It is the culmination of a year that has irrevocably changed the way churches operate. The question is just how quickly parishioners will feel safe enough to return and what will the church look like post-pandemic. 

“Those humongous numbers we saw pre-pandemic, it’s going to be a long while before we see them again in one setting and the days of long Pentecostal slain in the spirit services is going to be for a very small few and forget about in person mid-week services,” Fisher observed. “Before, churches would sometimes have up to three services or as many as five services on a Sunday—even smaller churches might have two services, now it’s like one service—shortened to 60- 70 minutes.” 

From shorter and less frequent in person worship services to less live music, more innovative ways of gathering and accelerated social media platforms, going to church post pandemic will hardly be business as usual. Evening services are going to be more scarce, mid-week services—for the most part—will be online and people will be able to join a church electronically without walking down the aisles. 

“A third of our churches are back,” said Rev. E. Wayne Gaddis, senior pastor of the Greater St. Augustine Missionary Baptist Church and president of the 225-church strong California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Inc. “The rest will be back between now and our annual session in October. 

“We have a lot of churches with quite a few seniors who are not ready to come back. They want to see if there is going to be another spike.” 

To that end when Gaddis does open his church in July, he will place speakers in the parking lot for those seniors who prefer to listen to services from inside their parked cars feet away from the sanctuary. 

“I don’t believe it will ever be the same,” Gaddis continues. “We are going to cut the fat. It’s going to be a more streamline presentation with our services being cut anywhere from 30 -45 minutes every Sunday. People will see that a lot that we did before was unnecessary–the announcements, presentations. Even with the offering, you can place it on your way in and on your way out. We are going to allow room for the Holy Spirit, but a lot of stuff we are were doing was not led by the Holy Spirit. 

“I do not believe that God wants us to go back into our churches the same, but I do believe in being in church,” Gaddis continues. “I believe virtual had its time and place, now I believe it is time to get back to the unity of fellowship. I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.” 

A very small number of churches Gaddis’ oversees will not be coming back and have permanently shuttered, but such instances, for the most part, have been scarce. 

Both Pastor K.W. Tulloss, who leads the Baptist Minister’s Fellowship of Southern California and Pastor Welton Pleasant, who presides over the 300-member strong, California State Baptist Convention, say that none of their churches have been permanently closed. 

“Many of the small churches,” said Pleasant, “were still able to meet. I was out of the building for 59 Sundays and my church never missed a beat. COVID has made the building virtually obsolete. We always said that the building is not the church, the people are the church and COVID proved it. 

“Personally, I believe Sunday morning in person worship is the only thing we will be doing in the building,” Pleasant continued. “I don’t see us going back during the week for Bible studies, church meetings and auxiliary boards. All of that now can be done on zoom.” 

It is one of the first major changes expressed by a majority of churches. 

“For my congregation, we will always have a zoom Bible study and a virtual option,” said Pastor Eddie Anderson of McCarty Memorial Christian Church. “Being in person on a Tuesday or Wednesday night is not most important as it is just being together in community and that means it more people can join virtually.” 

“This is going to be our new normal,” said Tulloss. “People will gradually come into God’s house as they feel safe, because a lot of people still don’t feel safe. At least 50% of my membership—mostly those 40 and up— have been vaccinated, but some of our younger members remain hesitant.” 

Who is and who isn’t vaccinated is a concern that’s personal for many. 

“Unless we don’t leave our house at all, that’s the world we’re living in,” said Pastor Nissan Stewart of the Lynwood-based, Greater Emmanuel Temple Church. “It’s tough but we have to take precautions. I’m an advocate for the vaccine, but a lot of people aren’t. I’ve taken the vaccine. My wife hasn’t, and for me, losing the churches lead deacon at 46, it’s personal, because we don’t want anyone else to die.” 

Those like Stewart–who has hosted pop up vaccine clinics–are not even sure about asking.
“I’m trying to see is it okay to see who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t and I’m following the lead of the county and the state for which way to go.” 

Antioch of Long Beach pastor Wayne Chaney’s June 27 launch is part grand opening and part re-opening. 

“This is not a return for us,” Chaney said. “It’s going into a place we’ve never been. COVID hit one month before the grand opening of our facility and we wanted to make sure our celebration was impactful.” 

Chaney and his staff conducted a survey of their thriving 1,000+ membership–the largest group of which is millennials– to see how parishioners felt about coming back. 

“We found that 80% are comfortable with coming back to worship. 70% are vaccinated. 15% are in the process of being vaccinated. Still, most of them would like some level of precaution. And while the vaccinated people have not expressed any challenge being around unvaccinated people, we have a section in our balcony that is socially distanced with a separate entrance. 

“While we know gathering is significant and Biblical,” Chaney adds, “we’re processing through inviting people who’ve been out of church for a year and a half and reframing or revisiting their theology around in-person gathering is going to be important. Broadcast never replaced the in-person worship. It’s intangible. We’re just going to have to put a little more effort into the why.” 

“Your message,” says Pleasant, “has to be substantive. 

“People have become more intentional about the time they’re spending in church,” he explained. “They want to leave learning something. The pandemic–especially with all the racial upheaval and the election– made people start thinking and asking questions.” 

McCarty Memorial Christian Church Pastor Edward Anderson agrees. 

“Some of what has drawn people to church has been superficial. COVID has taken that away. 

Church can no longer be a show or about the music. People are no longer coming because they have a legacy in the church. 

“What brings people in the door has changed. Now, you have to actually have a real sense of not only community, but something they can’t get anywhere else that’s unique to their experience. 

“That may mean how are you engaging with community in a different way —helping people find recovery— be it healthcare, justice or financial, in light of the fact that people have lost so much during the pandemic. So, part of coming back to church is going to be the church serving as that safety net for folk on a wider scale.” 

Of course, the biggest change in church ministry is the pivoting of the church to a hybrid model that is both online and in-person Sunday worship. 

“The church has always been behind the times,” Pleasant states. “COVID put the church where it needed to be. I have a saying, if your church is not dot com, it’s dot dead. Pre-COVID, many senior pastors were resist- ant to tech and social media, but they embraced it because they understood that without it, they wouldn’t have a church. 

“Many of our seniors were not tech literate,” he notes. “We brought in a media person, showed them how to use a smart phone, and in some cases brought them computers. Now, we are reaching more people via social media. We were all challenged getting the millennials and Gen z throughout the week, now they are able to participate.” 

While it is different for every ministry, most churches have enjoyed a greater reach through their online broadcasts. 

Said Tulloss, “We’ve invested quite a bit in our online ministry, and it has literally broadened our ministry beyond California. The BMC [Baptist Minister’s Conference] has focused in on pastors being prepared and understanding the guidelines. I was very surprised at how quickly many of our churches pivoted online.” 

Two terms have come to define an emerging trend in what is this new era of ministry–electronic evangelism and digital discipleship. 

“Those things are going to be key,” said Stewart. “Every church has the obligation to create and put intention into that online space. It’s just as equivalent as if you have a building, how you must cut the grass and clean the bathrooms. 

“To me, being a musician and in the entertainment field, it’s an easier transition,” said the pastor who is also a renowned drummer and gospel artist who has served as a musical director to the likes of Jamie Foxx. “It’s getting used to it and learning to be better.” 

What’s more, most churches that transitioned to online found their parishioners to be financially supportive, which alleviated a critical concern for the viability of churches. 

“People found that they could experience church by themselves,” adds Fisher, “but there’s nothing like experiencing church with a community. Greater Zion came back with a stronger appreciation for community and worshipping together. 

“The other thing that has changed is now that people have been used to watching online and having a different schedule on Sundays, they’re not going to want to alter that every Sunday to come to church. Pastors also now get to spend time at home with their families. This new schedule will prevent burnout.

“How the church evangelizes moving forward is how they supply the community with resources,” Fisher maintains. “That is what kept a lot of churches alive. The church that during the pandemic fed and clothed people, and provided other social services and or resources. They are the ones that remained relevant. 

“So, it’s not just Sunday Morning service that’s going to draw people to your church. It’s going to be all the above–are you involved in the culture, social justice, how are you responding to the economic needs of your community. To that end, it’s not just about counting your congregants, it’s about counting your constituents. So, you’re pastoring not only the people who come to church on Sunday but the people you fed all week long even if you never see them. 

“It’s not so much about the megachurch, it’s about mega reach. How many people can you reach versus how many people can you seat.” 

Two challenges remain. The challenge for most will be creating opportunities for intimacy and fellowship. 

“To be sure, there is no substitute for the intimacy of fellowship and the touching of people,” Pleasant affirms. “Every first Sunday I have fellowship with the pastor online. It’s a social conversation for an hour and a half where we just converse and my members get to ask me whatever they want, and it’s hilarious.” 

 

At McCarty Memorial, Anderson is hosting an outside workout class that will double as a worship service for those who can’t come to church on a Sunday or on zoom. 

“We will always be more cognizant of both audiences,” Anderson reports. “Before it was more focused on taking care of the folks who were in the room. But now, our church services have been rearranged to make sure that folks who are virtual and may never return to church, remain engaged. Or members who have joined from other states–making sure that there is a way for them to connect with the church is going to be a part of how church is done moving forward.” 

The biggest challenge remains how to disciple those you can now reach and for Faithful Central, that virtual reach has granted them an audience in upwards of 30 countries including South Africa, Canada and parts of Europe. 

“I’m reaching people in London, in Europe. Those peo- ple will never come to 333 W. Florence,” says Senior Pastor, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer. “The challenge is how do we continue to do ministry and turn those viewers into disciples. No one knows how to do that digitally, because it hasn’t been done. Especially when our model for 2000 years has been gathering and what we do know is that the old model by definition, cannot work, because the old model focused in on people coming into a building.” 

As they venture into that unchartered territory, churches are doing the best they can to make the best of both worlds 

“We have our online platforms and on Sundays we’re back in church,” states Tulloss. “We’re going to continue in our singing while understanding that we can’t control the shouting. There will however be no high fives to your neighbor and the fellowship might be limited after service as people remain very aware that we are still living in the midst of a pandemic.”

Emma Sharif Holds On To Narrow Lead in Compton Mayoral Race

Keith DeLawder

As the results of Compton’s June 1st’s general election continue to be counted, Compton City Councilwoman Emma Sharif has managed to hold on to a narrow lead in her bid to become the city’s next mayor. So far, the 70-year- old Sharif has received 51.31% of the vote against her opponent, the 26-year-old real estate agent Christian Reynaga’s who appears to be closing the gap with 48.69%.  As the results of Compton’s General Municipal Election are expected to be certified on June 14th, Sharif is still waiting to declare victory while remaining cautiously optimistic. 

“Although I am not ready to claim victory, I am extremely proud of our lead after the initial votes have been counted,” Sharif said in a statement. “We will wait for updates from the County Registrar after the vast majority of votes are counted. I am thankful that our message resonated with the voters of Compton and they believed in our vision to create a better quality of life for all residents. I look forward to working with the City Council, staff and community to unify our city and serve all of the residents of Compton once elected. Lastly, thank you to all those who supported me throughout the campaign.” 

In January when the popular incumbent mayor Aja Brown– who at the age of 31 became Compton’s youngest mayor- – announced that she will not run for a third term, the people of Compton had to decide who was right to lead the city out of the pandemic. Despite Christian Reynaga receiving Mayor Brown’s endorsement, a strong showing in the primaries, and vying to become the first Latino mayor in a city that is about 68% Latino, voters so far have favored Sharif’s years of experience. 

Sharif, who has represented Compton’s 4th District on the City Council since 2015 has built her platform on the five key areas of tackling home- lessness, finishing street repairs, eco- nomic development through new business, increasing funding to expand senior citizen programs and increasing public safety by improving the city’s relationship with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. 

“To me this is a new beginning for this city and this community,” Sharif tells L.A. Focus. “We have a lot of things that we’re looking to accomplish but we need to start with our street repair program, and we also need to address the homeless population in our community, so we are working on and moving forward with our efforts there.” 

If elected, Sharif will be focusing her efforts on projects that will improve the quality of life for residents of Compton while making it attractive for businesses that will spur economic development. 

“We want to get a lot of the things done that the community has been asking for a while now, things like keeping the trees maintained,” says Sharif. “We will be continuing with economic development plans so that people still want to come to our city, and to make sure we’re cleaning up our city. If we focus on cleaning up our city, people will come, businesses will come, and people will move here. We will stay focused on building relationships here so that we can keep crime down in our city and make sure our community is safe.” 

A Compton resident for over 20 years, Sharif raised her children in the city working as a public school teacher and Youth Development Director. As a result of her passion and advocacy for her students Sharif was appointed to the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) in 2001 and would go on to serve as Trustee of the CUSD Board of Directors for fourteen years before joining the City Council in 2015. 

When asked what motivates her to continue serving the people of Compton in the city’s highest seat, her answer is simple. 

“I don’t have any hidden agendas, I’m just here to be of service to the people,” says Sharif. “When I see that I’ve done something to really help this community, that’s what gives me motivation and hope that we can make positive change. And when people see things getting done, that gives everyone hope.”

Dominique Di Prima Exits KJLH for Tavis Smiley’s New Talk Radio Station

Staff

On June 19, Tavis Smiley is set to launch KBLA Talk 1580, L.A.’s first and only “Unapologetically Progressive” Black owned and operated, talk radio station in Southern California. But Smiley won’t be the only one making history.

Dominique DiPrima, long time host of KJLH’s highly popular Front Page, will also make history as the first black woman to host a morning drive talk radio show. The three-hour long show, dubbed First Things First, will air from 6am to 9am weekdays and tackle issues of interest and urgency in the African American community.

“There’s not been a black talk radio station in la and there’s never been a black woman with her own morning drive talk radio show in Los Angeles as far as commercial radio and I’m really excited to be the first one to do it,” said DiPrima.

 

“We all want the opportunity to grow and expand and make history and I think what Tavis is doing with KBLA is historical,” she continues. “When you think about Los Angeles being such a catalyst for change —whether it’s the Watts Uprising or the ‘92 civil unrest or the Black Lives Matter Movement—we are an epicenter of change and black voices and we’ve never had a talk radio station, that’s significant.”

For many of those longtime fans of DiPrima’s work with KJLH’s popular early morning one hour talker, the move is an answer to their prayers.

“For years, they’ve been asking ‘Can you be on later’ or ‘can you have a longer show?’ I would have to explain to them that KJLH is a music station”, said the New York native. “Stevie has dedicated it to the community so it feels like so much more than that, but it is a music format. So, this [opportunity] allows me to do something they’ve been asking me for years.”

Not surprisingly, saying goodbye was hard to do, for Di Prima, who has been at KJLH for 16 years.

“I love Stevie,” declares the five-time Emmy Award winning talk show host. “[He’s] one of the only celebrities I’ve ever met that lives up to his legend. KJLH is like a family. It’s been such a great opportunity.” 

She knows all too well the risk of startups in a city like Los Angeles.

“If it were easy for black people to own radio and television stations, a lot more of us would”, DiPrima says. “L.A. is very particular. These streets know who you are and you’re going to get credential checks whether you know it or not. But Tavis has a long history of educating and uplifting. He has a high standard in terms of the quality of what he does and I think he has an amazing track record.” 

And as DiPrima sees it, the timing couldn’t be better. 

“We’re in the middle of a global reckoning around diversity, equity inclusion, black life, anti-racism”, she observes. ”I feel like this is the moment for it.”

As to what DiPrima brings to the table?

“I think that God has blessed me with the ability to talk to anybody and I like talking to anybody. I like finding out what their story is. I like laughing with them, arguing with them…trying to change their minds.” 

Following DiPrima weekdays will be Tavis Smiley who will be back on the air after a four-year absence. The station lineup will also include Comic and political commentary host DL Hughley, the the season three  winner  of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” Alonzo  Bodden, former radio DJ Don Amiche and Black Lives Matter Melinda Abdullah.


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