Author: lafocus

Destination Crenshaw: Poised to Revitalize Crenshaw Corridor & Boost Black Businesses

Sean Carmichael

Destination Crenshaw, a community-driven cultural infrastructure project that recently broke ground along its namesake legendary South L.A. boulevard, was originally conceived as a way to respond to the devastating impacts of the Metro LAX line construction project along Crenshaw and gentrification concerns around transit development by permanently stamping one of the City’s most historic neighborhoods as the cradle of Black American culture with spaces devoted to Black creativity, ingenuity, artistry and architectural excellence.

Created after years of community input, Destination Crenshaw is poised to revitalize the Crenshaw corridor with its efforts squarely focused on providing support for small businesses and creating a pipeline of workers in the construction trades. When completed, the project also will have added 10, beautifully designed community spaces and architectural features to a 1.3-mile stretch of Crenshaw, becoming a local and international standard for public works projects in Black communities. It is an ode to Black Los Angeles’ past, present and future. Although art and design are key parts of Destination Crenshaw, today, even as construction begins, it has evolved and expanded into an entirely different project.

As COVID-19 threatened to ravage Black-owned businesses, Destination Crenshaw recognized both the necessity and opportunity to ensure local businesses’ ability to survive. Out of this was born a targeted strategy, DC THRIVE, that has evolved this cultural infrastructure project into one focused not only on culture but also on creating one of the area’s most effective and robust businesses support networks.

It began with an effort by City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Last Spring, with no end in sight to the COVID-19 lockdowns, the councilmember — who represents parts of the Crenshaw District — began an innovative senior meals program that linked area businesses with seniors in need. The program was designed to ensure seniors in Council District 8 had their nutritional needs met as the pandemic made it unsafe for them to be outside their homes; it was also designed to provide economic opportunity to businesses along the corridor, many of whom are located on Crenshaw.

“Our senior meals program was about taking care of our neighbors and elders first and foremost,” says Councilmember Harris-Dawson. “But also, about ensuring that our businesses can survive the economic fallout of this pandemic and eventually thrive again. We learned that we have what we need to support each other and build economic security in our communities.”

The program has sustained struggling Black-owned restaurants, some of which were in danger of going under, in an economic crisis that an estimated 40% of Black businesses would not be able to survive. The effort also birthed a new model for economic uplift – targeted small business support that enables home-grown businesses on the corridor to not only survive, but to thrive.

In the Spring of 2020, Destination Crenshaw used the momentum created by the council member’s meal program to launch the DC Thrive initiative to provide additional technical support and access to capital to ensure recovery efforts met the needs of the business community.

“The DC Thrive vision and its related services are critical to economic stability and growth in our community,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Executive Director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation Los Angeles (LISC LA). Tunua, a South LA native and formerly executive director of the West Angeles Community Development Corporation further stated: “Jason Foster has done something remarkable — Councilmember Harris-Dawson created a platform for unprecedented business support, and Jason has built upon it with intention and purpose. He understands that Destination Crenshaw, above all, must be an economic asset to the community.”

DC Thrive facilitates business support by connecting Crenshaw businesses to funding opportunities such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), private grants, and technical assistance to help businesses market themselves and pivot toward being competitive in a digital and in-person marketplace.

Jordan’s Hot Dogs is one of more than 80 Black-owned businesses along the corridor that has engaged with Destination Crenshaw and is benefiting from DC Thrive.

“We funded placement of an intern from TEC Leimert, another one of our outstanding businesses, with Jordan’s Hot Dogs, providing them with social media marketing support at a time when business was moving almost entirely to the digital space because of COVID-19,” Foster said. “The result was a success for Jordan’s, for TEC Leimert, and for DC Thrive — it’s a model we plan to scale.”

Jordan’s experience is an encouraging response to critics who once worried about the Destination Crenshaw project — a community-driven response to the extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line being built at street-level along the neighborhood’s main corridor — would displace Black families and businesses.

This focus on economic stabilization now and revitalization in the long-term, has been shepherded by Destination Crenshaw’s new President and Chief Operating Officer, Jason Foster. It is, he says, “proof-positive of the kind of economic engine” Destination Crenshaw could become in South Los Angeles.

Foster, 37, who earned his degree in finance at Howard University took the helm six months ago. He says he was drawn to the role because of the project’s potential to not only be a catalyst for Black economic development along the boulevard, but a model for urban place keeping across the country “Here’s this opportunity to engage the community around a Black-led project that’s squarely focused on uplifting our community,” Foster said. “I had to be a part of that.”

Foster says a focus on helping Black people thrive is rooted in his family experiences, “I started my career by studying finance at Howard University. I wanted to understand how we as Black people can have a better relationship with money. How we can have our community pride and intrinsic value match our community aesthetic.”

Motivated to make a difference after watching his doctor father and engineer mother lose their home during the 2007 Great Recession, Foster had stints working across the country at non-profits, studying affordability in American cities, eventually working for River LA — the project that brought him to Los Angeles with his wife, Janelle. “Destination Crenshaw is the summation of all that work for me. It’s our community being engaged at the infrastructure level on how the city can serve our economic needs, while improving our quality of life.”

Even before responding to COVID-19, Destination Crenshaw was designed to foster economic opportunity in every aspect of its development. To that end, it established a 70% local hire goal for the construction phase, concentrating employment opportunities in a community that has long needed access to good paying jobs. “It makes us an industry leader,” says Foster.

“This is for us, and by us and unapologetically so,” says Karen Mack, a Destination Crenshaw Advisory Council Member and Executive Director of LA Commons in Leimert Park. “You can see in the assembly of community members at the table and the team that is doing the work this project is culturally competent, which we rarely if ever see these types of public infrastructure and community development projects.”

Mack is one of more than two dozen community members advising Destination Crenshaw, a group brought together by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Thanks to his (Harris Dawson’s) leadership, significant community engagement had already begun when I came onto the project.” Foster sees his role as, “driving it forward to completion. “My north star is creating the best project possible for the Crenshaw community. Achieving equity at the neighborhood level is huge.”

Destination Crenshaw’s leadership team includes Black urban planners, construction firms, advisors for planned digital integrations, fundraisers, communicators and of course artists — more on that in a bit. Perhaps most notably so far, is its history making architectural team, led by Zena Howard — the Black woman who led the architectural design and development of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Howard is Principal and Managing Director of the North Carolina practice of Perkins + Will, which is a firm known for its work alongside the late Phil Freelon; Freelon’s legendary accomplishments are well noted among Black and non-Black architects alike.

“She gets this community, and she understands this project and that shows up throughout its design elements with guidance and input from the Advisory Council,” Foster said. Howard’s architectural elements for Destination Crenshaw are breathtaking. For example, she conceived of a design element inspired by the African Star Grass — vegetation used for bedding on slave ships that crossed the Atlantic, survived relocation and eventually took root in the Americas — that acts as connective tissue along the corridor. The elegant, visually stunning design captures the unifying experience of the African Diaspora. “It is resilient from an environmental standpoint and is really, truly symbolic of our resilience as a people. We grow where we are planted despite the obstacles,” Howard said.

Eventually, artists and architects with intimate knowledge of the design plans say, along Crenshaw Boulevard there will be markers representing this sense of Black resilience. “It’s a powerful representation of the Black experience in America and in Los Angeles,” notes Foster. “The crux of this design is specific to the Black experience of our community.”

Given its focus on economic development long before any art is installed it’s easy to forget that once complete, Destination Crenshaw will include more than 100 commissioned works of art, architecturally stunning community spaces and pocket parks, and hundreds of newly planted trees boosted by what could become a thriving commercial corridor.

This is a welcome development for many business owners who have suffered months of construction, on top of the impact of the pandemic. Development for the Crenshaw/LAX Line took away hundreds of parking spaces and trees that provided shaded areas

“It’s been extremely challenging for businesses, but Destination Crenshaw is proving that it is creating something that will have a lasting economic impact for this community and for our young people, says Cary Jordan, co-owner of Jordan’s Hot Dogs.

Changes are already visible along the corridor, last month fencing began going up around what will become the largest pocket park along the boulevard at Vernon and Crenshaw — Sankofa Park. Local artists have already begun submitting proposals to design artwork that will beautify the construction fencing over the next several months.

“My first priority is to complete the construction of the Destination Crenshaw project that the community envisioned. That’s my first job,” Foster said. “But more than that, I want kids in South L.A. to grow up in a healthy and prosperous environment, seeing beauty in their own neighborhoods — and know that this equitable investment provided hope for their futures.”

Garcetti Unveils Guaranteed Income Plan for Low Income Families in New Budget

Staff

As part of his annual “State of the City” address, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the launch of what may be the largest guaranteed basic income pilot in the nation, budgeting $24 million to provide 2,000 Los Angeles households with $1,000 monthly for one year.

Said Garcetti, “We’re betting that one small but steady investment for Angeleno households will pay large dividends for health and stability across our city and light a fire across our nation.”

The $24 million does not include the $6 million Councilmember Curren Price earmarked for a guaranteed income pilot focused on single parents in his 9th council district, which includes South L.A.

“Thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Curren Price, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and other councilmembers, these funds will grow to more than $30 million in direct help to begin to tear away at poverty in our city and show this nation a way to fulfill Dr. King’s call for a basic income once and for all,” Garcetti added.

Candidates for the one-year program would be selected from the city’s 15 districts, based on each area’s share of those living below federal poverty guidelines which is $12,780 for a single household and $31,040 for a family of five. While the qualifications have not been fully determined, they will likely include households with at least one minor, those who have suffered some hardship relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city of Compton recently launched a similar program, providing 800 low income residents with $300 to $600 month using prepaid debit cards or through Venmo for two years.

“This is a great opportunity to address inequalities for Black and brown people and also additional opportunities for upward mobility,” said Mayor Aja Brown.

Brown is part of a coalition called the Mayors for Guaranteed Income, sponsored by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and led by Michael Tubbs, the former Stockton mayor who championed the first such program in California when in 2019 he provided 125 residents living in areas with a median income at or below $46,033 with $500 per month for 24 months with no restrictions.

Researchers found that the program did not discourage people from working as some feared it might. Instead, preliminary statistics showed that the two year program worked to increase employment prospects, create financial stability and reduce stress and depression among its participants.

As a result, fifty mayors have signed on and a number of California cities—including Oakland, San Francisco and now Los Angeles have followed suit.

“For families who can’t think past the next bill, the next shift or the next health problem that they have, we can give them the space to not only dream of a better life, but to actualize it,” Garcetti said in an interview with LAist.

Kobe Bryant Estate and Nike Fail to Come to Terms

J.T. Torbit

A beautiful business partnership has come to an end as the Kobe Bryant estate and Nike executives have failed to come to terms on a contract extension after a partnership that has lasted two decades.

“Kobe and Nike have made some of the most beautiful basketball shoes of all time, worn and adored by fans and athletes in all sports across the globe,” Vanessa Bryant said in a released statement. “It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband’s product than any other signature shoe. My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products. I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything. I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”

Reports were that Bryant—frustrated by the limited releases of Kobe shoes after his retirement and the lack of availability of children’s sizes—was looking for a lifetime contract similar to that of LeBron James with Nike.

“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in a statement that was issued on Monday. “He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family.”

The move is likely to include the demand—and price— of Kobe shoes given that Nike will halt the manufacturing of his products.

Demonstrators Take Their Protest of Tigrayan Genocide to Little Ethiopia

Chez Hadley

In what is the latest in a series of demonstrations against the ongoing genocide in Tigray, Tigrayans took to the streets in Little Ethiopia —both on foot and in automobiles— to protest the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region where government forces have reportedly been executing civilians.

A caravan of cars filled with protestors paraded up and down Fairfax Boulevard which is lined with Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles known as Little Ethiopia— between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive— as sidewalk diners, pedestrians and shoppers looked on.

Protesters—who have started a petition on change.org—are asking that the U.S. government take “a deeper look at this act of domestic terrorism and its possible connection to the Ethiopian government that continues to blame every Tigrayan diaspora for the country’s tarnished global image as a “genocidal and brutal regime.” 

“The federal government declared war on the people of Tigray on November 3rd, said Abbi, a Tigrayan Ethiopian, who was one of nearly 100 protesters. “For more than five months, they’ve been killing people. Over 70,000 people have fled to the neighboring country, Sudan. 4.5 million people are starving and then 2.5 million have been displaced. They’ve been committing atrocities and crimes against humanity…and war crimes. So the Ethiopian government and another neighboring country, Eritrea…they’ve been killing our people and some of the people here (pointing to local restaurants and shop owners) have been supporting that.

One man was arrested after having brandished a gun at the peaceful protesters. The suspect was believed to be an ardent supporter of the Ethiopian government and the war in Tigray—had spewed hate speech at the protesters.

Over the last month, reports of executions and mass rapes have surfaced in the mainstream news. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described acts carried out in the region as ethnic cleansing and the top United Nations officials have called for a stop to indiscriminate and targeted attacks against civilians in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, particularly calling out reports of rape and “other horrific forms of sexual violence.”

Ethiopian government troops have been accused of joining forces with soldiers from neighboring Eritrea to brutalize and gang rape Tigrayan women. In one case, a woman’s private parts were stuffed with nails, stones and plastic.

“It is essential that an independent investigation into conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray be initiated, with the involvement of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” the officials said in a statement.

“The United States is gravely concerned by reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,” Blinken said. “The immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps.  They should be accompanied by unilateral declarations of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict and a commitment to permit unhindered delivery of assistance to those in Tigray.  The United States is committed to working with the international community to achieve these goals.  To that end, USAID will deploy a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Ethiopia to continue delivering life-saving assistance.”

L.A. Faith & Community Leaders Respond to Chauvin Verdict

L.A. Faith & Community Leaders Respond to Chauvin Verdict
Lisa Collins

Los Angeles faith and community leaders let out a collective sigh of relief and elation as twelve jurors found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last year.

“Today’s verdict is a powerful reminder that no one is above the law. A jury of Mr. Chauvin’s peers validated the life experience of all of us who attempt to survive our Blackness each and every day,” said L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell. “We know this verdict doesn’t ease the pain felt by those who continue to mourn George Floyd’s life and we know it will not erase the horrific video of his murder that sparked a global uprising to end police brutality and reimagine public safety. However, this is the only acceptable verdict for justice and healing. Black Lives Matter and this verdict sends an important message that law enforcement officers must be held accountable when they murder people in our communities.” 

“I believe that this verdict is showing us that the judicial system can do the right thing and that it is possible that we can have justice for all,” said Pastor Michael J.T. Fisher of the Greater Zion Church Family.

In anticipation of the verdict, Pastor Shep Crawford of ECM Ministries had organized a large group of prominent and influential faith in joining forces to proactively inform and instruct the community in an effort to discourage harsh and harmful reaction to the possible outcome.

“I’m elated,” said Crawford of the verdict. “Yesterday, I was tensed. I had a headache last night and when the verdict came in, I got this feeling in the pit of my stomach and had to pull my car over to hear it. Then when I heard guilty three times—one for the father, one for the son and one for the Holy Ghost—I was very excited. But we need to work hard so we won’t be excited by a verdict like this. That it becomes normal for police to be held accountable. So, while that was a moment, this is a movement, and we have a lot of work to do.”

Geremy Dixon, senior pastor of the First Church of God Center of Hope, concurred.

“Obviously, we are far from rooting out the deep entrenchment of systemic racism in the American criminal justice system. However, this moment does breathe much needed wind into the sails of hope in communities of color. Today, as we released a collective sigh of relief, we exhaled only as a precursor to the drawing of breath so that we might with courage continue the fight.”

Said Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of the Faithful Central Bible Church, “Today the justice journey began anew in the slow but significant trek toward realization. Pushed by faith, justice began to roll; a long slow rolling journey down the hill of inequity to the valley of joy after receiving prophetic marching orders: “… roll down like waters” in the path of righteousness forging the way like an ever-flowing stream”.  It is a day of hope in response to generational echoes down the corridors of time: “how long, Lord, how long?”  

“It is a day of hope ordained and made by God before the foundation of the world.More mountains to climb, more battles to wage, more victories to be won.  But today – let us rejoice in it.” 

While citing the verdict as a victory for justice, accountability, and common sense, L.A. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ heart remained heavy for the loved ones of George Floyd. 

“Though his life was senselessly cut short, Mr. Floyd’s legacy lives on through our collective work and advocacy to reimagine policing across this country.  So, while today’s verdict will not bring George Floyd back, my hope is that his family will know that he has forever changed this nation for the better.”

Derek Chauvin Chooses Not to Testify in His Defense [Video]

AP

Derek Chauvin chose not to take the stand during his murder trial on Thursday morning (April 15). In what marked the 14th day of his trial, the former Minneapolis police officer told Judge Peter Cahill that he would instead exercise his Fifth Amendment right and decline to testify in his defense.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” he said on Thursday.

After Chauvin declined to testify, the defense rested their case. However, prosecutors were allowed to call Dr. Martin Tobin, the pulmonologist who testified last week, back to the stand.

On April 8, Tobin testified that a “low level of oxygen” killed George Floyd, which he said was caused by Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, the prone position, the positioning of his handcuffs and more.

This statement was challenged yesterday by forensic pathologist Dr. David Fowler, who claimed carbon monoxide from the police car’s exhaust could have contributed to Floyd’s death, among other factors.

However, after Fowler made the claim, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the judge they had new evidence regarding the presence of carbon monoxide in Floyd’s blood. Chauvin’s defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, argued that prosecutors should not be allowed to introduce the new evidence at this late stage, and judge Cahill agreed.

Therefore, the judge said Dr. Tobin could return as a witness to refute Fowler’s claims, but ordered him not to discuss the new evidence. If Tobin even mentioned the test results, Cahill said, it would lead to a mistrial.

Tobin rejected Fowler’s claims without discussing the test results and said Fowler’s opinion about carbon monoxide contributing to Floyd’s death was “simply wrong.” The prosecution and defense both rested their cases after Tobin’s testimony and the court adjourned for the day.

The jury is expected to return on Monday (April 19) morning at 10 a.m. EST to hear closing arguments.

Black Leaders: J&J Vaccine Pause Takes State Vaccine Efforts “Three Steps Back”

LA Focus Staff Report

Some Black leaders in faith communities across California are expressing concerns after the U.S. Centers of Disease Control issued an urgent recommendation to health care providers across the country this week, directing them to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is alarming. We cannot continue to emphasize enough that the Black Community and the Brown community are scarred from decades of getting the short end of the stick when it comes to vaccines — the Tuskegee experiment; when it comes to vaccines that rolled out in the ‘70s; when it comes to the three-in-one shot that some scientists say causes an autistic reaction in our young Black boys,” said the Rev. Michael Fisher, pastor of the Greater Zion Church in Compton.

Fisher, who said he took the J&J vaccine, said just as his congregants were beginning to trust the COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC announced the pause.

“We just took three steps back,” he said. “Immediately when this broke our phones just lit up. I started getting phone calls. They started DM’ing me on Instagram and Facebook.

Officials say they came to the decision after six reports surfaced of “rare and severe blood clots” occurring in people who had received the only FDA-approved vaccine in the country that has a one-shot dose. The other two vaccines the feds have greenlighted, Pfizer and Moderna, require an initial vaccination followed by a booster shot three or four weeks later.

One of the women has died.

“In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia),” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, in a statement.

“All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the doctors continued.

Fisher and other Black clergymen who jumped on a call after they heard the news to discuss their concerns. The biggest concern, he said, the congregants shared is that officials seemed to be downplaying the death of the one fatality among the women with blood clots.

“Until that one death, or those six women happen in your local congregation, you don’t know the pain. I just lost my mother a month ago. That’s just one person, but to my family that’s my mama. I have a right to be concerned.

The same day the CDC announced the pause, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), announced that it is adhering to the CDC’s advice. The agency is also conducting an investigation of its own into the information the federal government is providing regarding the safety of the vaccine.

“The state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup (WSSRW) to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” said Dr. Erica Pan, a California epidemiologist whose work has been focused on the pandemic.

The governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington created the committee made up of public health experts, immunologists and scientists to do independent analyses and reviews of vaccine-related information and federal approval process for the three shots.

So far, 6.8 million J&J vaccines have been administered across the United States. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has not yet provided details on how many Californians have received the shot — or the exact number of the treatments the state has in its inventory. But the vaccine, state officials say, accounts for only 4 % of the shots the state gives to people each week.

According to the CDC statement, using drugs that are typically used to treat blood clots might be dangerous in patients after they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given,” the doctors said.

On April 14, Gov. Newsom said he does not expect the pause to “materially” impact the state’s vaccination goals or its plans to reopen the economy on June 15.
“It has no side effect whatsoever,” Gov. Newsom said, speaking about his experience after taking the J&J shot. In fact, someone asked me which arm I got the shot in the next day, and I honestly couldn’t remember.”

Fisher says he met with the governor and his staff and asked important questions that he feels are still unanswered.

“As leaders, gatekeepers in our community, we need to be brought to the table – not as errand boys – but with full disclosure. Then we can rightfully be able to make the decision about whether or not vaccines like Johnson & Johnson are right for our particular community,” he said. recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot. Gov. Gavin Newsom says

SACRAMENTO – Today the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statement from Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist, regarding the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
“Today, the CDC and FDA have recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution. Of over 6.8 million doses administered nationally, there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination.

“California is following the FDA and CDC’s recommendation and has directed health care providers to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until we receive further direction from health and safety experts. Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue. As the federal government has said, we do not expect a significant impact to our vaccination allocations. In California, less than 4% of our vaccine allocation this week is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” 
For more information about the adverse effects, and what to do if you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider. We will provide additional details on what this means for our state efforts as they become available.


The joint CDC and FDA statement can be found here.

Cleaning House: California Black Business Spotlight

Linnea Willis-Smith, a small, woman-owned-minority proprietor, is a prime example of how some businesses have thrived under the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Willis-Smith, a licensed attorney by trade, is the owner of Quality Cleaning Professionals (QCP). QCP specializes in cleaning, janitorial services, day porters, and other services for businesses.
 
The California Department of General Services (DGS) small business certification has been vital in facilitating Willis-Smith’s ability to obtain contracts with various state departments and other government municipalities.
 
“I have responded to a lot of invitations for bids (IFBs) in the state of California,” Willis-Smith said in a video produced by the California Department of General Services. “My advice to small businesses is to go to local small development centers and procure technical assistance centers. Those different agencies will help you get started, give you resources on how to have the right foundation, financial support, and everything else you need to have a successful business.”
 
QCP is a certified small business with the state of California and has a lot of contracts with various government agencies and departments in the State of California. It continues to be awarded contracts because of its stellar reputation for providing quality services and being responsive and communicative.

 
Willis-Smith learned about DGS’s certification program by using local small business development centers and procurement technical assistance centers to assist her with establishing her business.
 
DGS’s Office of Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Services (OSDS) administers the state’s Small Business, Small Business for the Purpose of Public Works, Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE), Nonprofit Veteran Service Agency certifications, and Nonprofit recognition programs.
 
The purpose of the certification program is to promote and increase participation in state contracting for small and DVBE businesses.
 

The DGS OSDS supports the state of California’s goal to spend 25 percent of contract dollars with small businesses and 3 percent of contract dollars with DVBEs through targeted outreach events, workshops, webinars, instructional videos, personal assistance, and working groups.

For more information on DGS’s California State Government Marketplace – Cal eProcure, where businesses can register and get certified, visit https://caleprocure.ca.gov
For further assistance, interested parties can email [email protected]

General Motors Announces 400 Percent Increase in Ad Spending with Black-Owned Media

Stacy Brown, NNPA

General Motors, a longtime corporate partner of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), announced increasing advertising spending in Black-owned media by 400 percent.

According to a news release, the company said it would grow spending from 2 percent to 8 percent of its total budget by 2023.

By that estimate, General Motors’ advertising spending would jump from about $45 million to approximately $180 million.
Several Black-owned media officials recently pressed General Motors CEO Mary Barra for a meeting after determining that the company was not doing enough to promote economic inclusion.

Reportedly, a meeting between Barra, and a contingent led by Byron Allen of Allen Media Group, was postponed.

General Motors officials said it would be more productive to host a series of meetings involving a more extensive mix of Black-owned media publishers and executives.

“To ensure that our conversations are both substantive and constructive, we are going to postpone [the originally scheduled meeting] and reschedule it into a series of smaller conversations that take place over the next few weeks,” GM global Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl told the executives.

“We also intend to expand the dialogue to invite our existing Black-owned media partners currently in the GM portfolio.”

For years, the company has been a corporate sponsor to the NNPA, the trade association representing 230 African American newspapers and media companies in markets throughout the country.

Also, General Motors’ Chevrolet brand and the NNPA have partnered since 2016 to provide deserving HBCU students with the exciting opportunity to “Discover the Unexpected” about themselves and their communities via a journalism fellowship program.

The Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship (DTU) provides six HBCU students with scholarships ($10,000 each), stipends ($5,000 each), an eight-week fellowship with the nation’s leading Black news publications, and the “road trip of a lifetime” in an all-new Chevrolet Blazer or other Chevrolet vehicle.

Each year, a selection of four NNPA Publishers provides the fellows with the opportunity to gain real-world journalism experience during the eight-week Fellowship Program.

“General Motors has been taking steps to deal with systemic racism,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. “It doesn’t happen overnight or in one year.”

LA COUNTY HELPS HOMEOWNERS HIT BY COVID COSTS – NEW PROGRAM OFFERS UP TO $20,000 RELIEF

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

Early on in the pandemic Los Angeles County put safeguards in place for tenants struggling to pay rent.  A year later, those safeguards are still in place, and new measures are being added.

At a press telebriefing on April 12, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl (3rd District) cited a UCLA study conducted in the spring of 2020 that estimated 120,000 Los Angeles County households were at risk of eviction because of income losses due the pandemic.

“We simply could not let that happen,” she said, and the five-member county board of supervisors enacted a moratorium on evictions, which it has extended several times. 
Now the county is also launching a ground-breaking program providing mortgage assistance grants of up to $20,000 to help small-scale property owners staff off foreclosures.

“The Foreclosure Prevention and Mortgage Relief Program (https://tinyurl.com/COVIDforeclosurerelief) is the first program of its kind in the state to provide relief to owners of single-family and two-to-four-unit homes,” said Rafael Carbajal, director of the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, who followed Kuehl at the news conference

The new program, which has begun accepting applications for its $4 million mortgage assistance budget, can be accessed by phone, at (888) 895-2647, or online at nhslacounty.org\mortgagereliefprogram. 

Carbajal added that counseling is available to anyone needing it, whether they qualify for the payment program or not.

“I’m proud to work with this board of supervisors that took the initiative to make this investment in homeowners,” Carbajal said, citing the lack of similar investments so far at the federal level.

“Particularly for our immigrant community and our communities of color,” he said, “this has been a traditional way for our communities to build wealth.

“We work, we toil, we invest, we cobble our money together and we buy a little property…Typically, we live in one, or maybe I move and my mother stays in that one, and it’s how we keep this wealth within our family.” 

“We’re worried about…the inability of our families to maintain this wealth because of this pandemic.
 
“We’re hoping that by leading by example, a lot of counties in the state and even at the federal level decide to pick up the mantel and provide some additional support to our homeowners.”

Dana Pratt, deputy director of the DCBA’s housing and tenant protections division, described the county’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program which, she said, “can mean the difference between housing and homelessness.”

Funded by $2.6 billion from the federal government, the program is open to both landlords and tenants. Landlords have to agree to forgo 20% of the outstanding rent due, and can receive the remaining 80% from the state.

If a landlord declines to participate, tenants are still eligible for help with up to 25% of what they owe, whether or not their landlords participate. Applications are available here (https://tinyurl.com/COVIDrentrelief) and via phone at (833) 430-2122.
Her department oversees implementation of the eviction moratorium, which protects residential, commercial and mobile home tenants from eviction if they fall behind on their rent for COVID-related reasons. 

Currently, the moratorium is set to expire at the end of June. But Kuehl emphasized that the Board of Supervisors may extend it further, as the Board has done in the past. 

Once the moratorium is lifted, Pratt noted, tenants will have a year to make up arrears.  “If tenants are posing a health or safety risk, they may still be evicted at any time,” Pratt warned.

“We’ve seen an uptick in retaliation because of the COVID-19 protections and illegal lockouts,” she said. “The county’s moratorium also has provisions, fines and penalties to protect tenants against that,” but it’s important that the word gets out.

Inquiries or calls to the department requesting assistance once numbered up to 70 or 80 per day but hit 40,000 over the past year due to the pandemic. Help is still available, she noted, in multiple languages, at no cost, and regardless of immigration status, at (833) 223-7368.

Jenny Punsalan Delwood, of the Liberty Hill Foundation, described the “Stay Housed LA” collaboration which involves 14 community based organizations, nine legal service providers, the county DCBA and city governments. 

She cited studies finding that 90% of tenants who wind up in court over housing disputes do so without a lawyer, whereas landlords are represented 90% of the time.

“It’s not an even playing field,” she said. But, “when a tenant has an attorney and a community based organization on their side, they’re 70% more likely to prevail.”

So far, the collaborative has been able to provide legal assistance to more than 9,000 tenants.

Stay Housed LA  (www.stayhousedla.org) has an English and Spanish-language hotline: (888) 694-0040. For Asian languages, call (833) 225-9415. 

Rounding out the telebriefing, Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez of the County Department of Public Health gave the latest data on vaccination efforts. 

In the past nine days, she said, an average of 78,000 people have been vaccinated daily in the county, for a total of 4,715,894. Of county residents 16 or older, 37.1% have had at least one dose of vaccine, as have 70.2% of seniors.

As of April 15, eligibility for the free vaccines, offered regardless of immigration status, will be extended to everybody in Los Angeles County age 16 or older, although minors will need parental consent.


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