Author: lafocus

State’s Disaster Emergency Preparedness Effort Meets and Exceeds the Goals It Set

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

 Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) announced that the state’s emergency preparedness campaign, which was launched last August, has surpassed the goal it set to engage at least one million socially vulnerable Californians. The campaign, titled “Listos,” which means ready in Spanish, provides the communities it targets with accessible, in-language, and culturally competent disaster readiness information.

Along with California Volunteers, another state-managed program, Listos California, which is anchored at Cal OES, has armed more than 1.6 million Californians with information they would need if there were a natural disaster or other large-scale emergency. Californians who are aging adults, people with disabilities, those living in poverty, as well as people with language barriers, were groups prioritized in the program’s outreach. 

“We know that 88% of vulnerable populations understand that they need to get prepared and they don’t because they find it scary, time-consuming and often expensive. But we’ve been able to overcome these perceptions, hurdles, and tackle these challenges. This is a direct result of a new approach and tireless work of our partners, our trusted community-based organizations that service our most vulnerable,” Newsom said.

Cal OES credits the campaign’s success to Listos California’s strong network of 300-plus local partners, effective communications efforts, and a broad statewide strategy that balances local flexibility with clear standards of accountability.

In August 2019, Cal OES and California Volunteers announced that Listos was awarded $50 million in local disaster resilience grants to launch the state’s new emergency preparedness campaign. 

California is still struggling in the throes of the unprecedented dual challenges of raging wildfires and a global pandemic, the state says. Because of that, it is a relief to know that hundreds of thousands of people in 24 counties across the state — where Listos California had the strongest impressions – are better prepared in the event of an emergency that could make these bad situations worse.  

A majority of Listos engagements were made in more disaster-prone and highly populated areas of the state such as Alameda, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and San Francisco counties. The state-led effort has equipped nearly 1,607,570 Californians with crucial disaster preparedness information, according to Cal OES.

Listos California partners include a statewide network of community-based organizations, Community Emergency Response Teams (or CERTs), AmeriCorps, National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), veterinary organizations, Fire Safe Councils, and management teams to ensure the state’s most vulnerable are ready when disaster strikes.

California Black Media was among the paid media partners enlisted to reach African American audiences throughout California. 

State lawmakers provided the funding for emergency preparedness more than a year before the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic through Assembly Bill 72, the “Budget Act of 2018.”

Gov. Newsom approved it in February 2019. 

Listos outlines five steps for emergency preparedness: make a plan for protection, pack a Go Bag of necessities, build a Stay Box for extended stays away from home, help friends and families, and check alerts at CalAlerts.org.

“Go to the website ListosCalifornia.org to register for a free, 20-minute online training,” Newsom urges residents of California. “Sign up for easy to access text-based tips that go directly to your phone.”

Photo by Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

 

BLM L.A Discusses African American “Distrust” of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Steven Vargas | California Black Media

Now that both Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized by the FDA and are beginning to roll out, hesitancy is growing among Americans about receiving them. According to a recent survey by COVID Collaborative, a bipartisan organization that provides recommendations to governors on their COVID response, only 14 % of Black Americans believe the vaccine will be safe. Only 18 % think it will be effective in preventing the coronavirus.

Black Lives Matter L.A. addressed the uncertainty regarding the vaccine in their most recent installment of “This Is Not a Drill, “Why Black Folks Are Wary of Coronavirus Vaccines,” on Dec. 17. The virtual forum brought together medical professionals and activists to discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine. They also addressed the deep-rooted fear in the Black community about having to receive it – especially if the government or employers mandate it. 

Dr. Gina Guillaume, Community Medicine Fellow at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, opened the session by explaining that much of the fear around the vaccine comes from the long history of medical malpractice against the Black community.

“I took the Hippocratic Oath to serve and to protect my patients, to prevent disease, but unfortunately, that Hippocratic Oath was not offered to a lot of African Americans for centuries,” Guillaume said. “Instead, they have been giving involuntary treatment, painful treatments, harmful more than beneficial treatments in the past. And it has caused a lot of distrust.”

Guillaume said the distrust is warranted but also puts lives at risk. By Thursday Dec. 17, intensive care unit capacities in Southern California reached 0% capacity. According to LA Public Health, there were 16,500 new cases and 96 new deaths in Los Angeles County on Dec. 18. That number has continued to grow with new record-breaking numbers reached, almost daily. 

Guillaume stressed the importance of the vaccine at this critical time of the pandemic.

“My fear is: if we as a community do not get vaccinated, that the gap that we have — the disparities will continue to widen,” she said. “Then the risk of not getting the vaccine might be greater because of all of the complications and the surges that we are seeing.”

The way the coronavirus has disproportionately affected Black and other ethnic minorities helps to fuel the urgency and anxiety about making sure those communities have access to preventive treatments. Blacks are 1.4 times more likely to get infected and 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to Whites, according to the CDC. However, the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 are not biological. They are situational, as Harvard Medical School student LaShyra “Lash” Nolen explained.

“There have been studies that have come out that have shown that if you look at a White person and a Black person who enter a hospital, and both have COVID, both have the same likelihood of leaving that hospital perfectly fine,” Nolen said. “What they’ve shown is that it’s really what happens out in the community because these folks are more likely to be essential workers because they have these chronic conditions that are exacerbated by racism. That is what is killing Black people.”

Humanitarian Rizza Islam shared that his hesitancy to take the vaccine comes from the uncertainty of the vaccine’s effectiveness and the history of medical malpractice on the Black community dating back to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and before. Islam cited the 2011 Bruesewitz v. Wyeth Supreme Court decision that concluded vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe.”

“Everyone in the medical field should know that the only surefire way or closest to 100% guarantee to be completely safe from viruses is to have a strong immune system,” he said. “So, the only guaranteed way is to build up the innate immunity, which is inherent within all of us, which is why we’re alive today.”

Islam believes the issue isn’t if the vaccine works or not, it is a matter of providing people with the option of whether or not to take it.

“They [officials and institutions] are pushing to indirectly mandate it by stating you cannot go to school, work, travel, et cetera, if you do not receive it,” he said.

For BLM-Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah, she’d rather wait to take the vaccine until complications are known. Last week, after Pfizer’s vaccine was greenlighted, cases of allergic reactions were reported. 

“It’s important for me to watch it play out on them first,” Abdullah said. “I want to watch what happens over the period of years. Like, are they going to develop a third arm? I don’t know.”

Although the panelists had differing opinions about the safety of the vaccine, they all agreed that it should be up to the individual to decide whether or not to take it.

“I think it’s important for people to take their time to answer the questions that they need, but just know that the more time that you take, there is going to be this heightened risk,” Nolen said. “But if that’s okay for you, then that’s okay for you. And I don’t think that anyone should force you to do anything, but you should definitely make the best decision for yourself and your community.”

Some Contract Workers Worry They May Owe State for EDD Overpayments

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

A difficult year for unemployed Californians is closing out with one more thing for them to worry about.  

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has asked at least 920,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) recipients to verify their income. Now, some of those Californians who lost their jobs because of the pandemic are concerned that an unclear question the EDD used to determine their income may be coming back to haunt them. Whether it was intentional or an honest mistake, if they received too much money in emergency unemployment payments from the department based on the amount of income they reported, they may now have to pay it back.

EDD began sending out notices on Nov. 21, and the agency has added a page to their website clarifying which documents can be used to verify income. The notice requires workers who received more than the PUA minimum benefit of $167 per week to verify their 2019 income using a copy of a 2019 federal or state tax return document. If they don’t have one, they can send business records, contracts, billing statements or similar records.

If the EDD determines that a person’s net income was less than the amount they reported on the initial PUA application, the person’s benefit will be reduced to reflect their net income, and EDD will seek repayment of the difference between their “current weekly benefit and the decreased benefit amount, for each week you were paid,” according to the notice. 

There are now instructions regarding paying back overpayment on the EDD’s website, and repayment plans are available. According to the EDD, PUA claimants will not be required to pay back the $600 federal supplemental compensation or $300 lost wage assistance payments. However, even just paying back the state overpayment would mean a bill of thousands of dollars for some Californians. 

According to some gig workers, the confusion comes from the type of income that the EDD requires self-employed workers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to report versus unemployed people who qualified for regular unemployment insurance (UI). PUA, which was created to get COVID-19 relief to gig and contract workers as well as workers who do not qualify for traditional UI, calculates aid based on net income, or the income someone makes after deducting expenses. UI is based on gross income, or the amount one makes in total.

The difference between gross and net income can be wide for self-employed workers. 

Expenses that can be deducted include gas, maintenance or mileage for vehicles used for work, equipment and office supplies, and a percentage of rent for a home office. The large difference between gross and net income can mean that people who reported their gross income for PUA may have received thousands of dollars more in benefits.

This development comes six months after there was widespread confusion and a series of mishaps during the initial rollout of PUA – a period marked by unclear information about how people could sign up for unemployment benefits, which online portal they could use to file their claims and even a state website that crashed.  For months, beginning last Spring into the summer, contract workers did not know whether they were even eligible to receive unemployment benefits from the state or the temporary extra $600 per week the federal government provided to help bring relief to people left jobless by the pandemic. 

Gig workers say there may have also been confusion among applicants who did not have accurate income information because they had not yet filed their 2019 taxes when the state started receiving PUA applications.  This year, both the federal government and California extended their tax filing deadlines to July 15.

“If individuals reported gross wages instead of net income, which is an understandable mistake, it could lead to an overpayment. Under the CARES Act, a PUA overpayment currently cannot be waived,” According to a statement from the EDD.

Even if the California EDD, wanted to forgive the overpayments, they would not be able to. Only the federal government can make that decision because the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which established PUA, does not allow states to waive repayment. There is currently a bipartisan bill moving through the U.S. House of Representatives that is proposing repayment waivers if the worker was not at fault for overpayment and if repayment would mean severe economic hardship for that individual. 

Across California last month, the state unemployment rate stood at 8.2 % compared to 3.0 % at this same time last year. During the first two months of the pandemic, an estimated 2.6 million Californians lost their jobs. 

Gov. Newsom Appoints Sec. Padilla to Replace Sen. Harris

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

Despite intense pressure from Black women political groups across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be California’s next United States Senator, replacing Sen. Kamala Harris.

Padilla will complete Vice President-elect Harris’s term, which began in 2017 ends in 2023. He will be the first Latino to serve as United States Senator representing California.

“The son of Mexican immigrants — a cook and house cleaner — Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles City Council and the State Senate, and has become a national defender of voting rights as California’s Secretary of State. Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office,” Gov. Newsom said.

For weeks after the presidential election, various Black women leaders, civic and political operatives have been pushing for the governor to appoint an African American woman to replace Harris. With a campaign titled “Keep the Seat,” they have been organizing rallies, social media drives and news conferences across California – and around the country — to inform the public, pressure the governor and gain public support for their effort. 

The California Democratic Party Black Caucus (CDP Black Caucus), Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC), and Black political leaders across the country expressed their support for filling the seat with a Black woman.

The top candidates the groups recommended to replace Harris were Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Karen Bass (D-CA-37), both Black women. They argued that if the governor appointed either Lee or Bass, he would be continuing the representation of Black women across America in the highest law-making body in the country.

Reacting to the governor’s decision, the Women’s Foundation of California expressed its disappointment. 

“We wanted to see a Black woman continue to represent our state in the Senate,” the organization’s statement read. 

“We are disappointed, but we are not defeated,” the Women’s Foundation of California statement continued.  “We will continue to invest in, train, and connect Black, brown, and indigenous woman, because we know that’s what is needed. We will advance feminist policy that furthers racial, economic, and gender justice, because we know that is what we deserve.”

After the governor’s announcement, Lee immediately sent well wishes to Padilla and praised the governor’s decision. 

“I congratulate Secretary of State Alex Padilla on his historic appointment to fill Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’s seat in the United States Senate. Secretary Padilla has a track record as a skilled legislator and a steadfast advocate for justice, and I believe he will be a powerful voice in the Senate for those who continue to be denied our country’s promise of equality,” Lee said in a written statement.

Padilla, who previously served as a Los Angeles City Councilman and State Senator, has been a national leader in the fight to expand voting rights. 

Padilla was sworn in as California’s first Latino Secretary of State on Jan. 5, 2015. He was re-elected in 2018 and received the most votes of any Latino elected official in the United States.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust placed in me by Governor Newsom, and I intend to work each and every day to honor that trust and deliver for all Californians,” said Secretary of State Padilla. “From those struggling to make ends meet to the small businesses fighting to keep their doors open to the health care workers looking for relief, please know that I am going to the Senate to fight for you. We will get through this pandemic together and rebuild our economy in a way that doesn’t leave working families behind.”

Hours after Gov. Newsom appointed Padilla, he made another major announcement. He nominated Assemblymember Dr. Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego), who currently serves as chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, to serve as California’s next Secretary of State.  

“Dr. Weber is a tireless advocate and change agent with unimpeachable integrity. The daughter of sharecroppers from Arkansas, Dr. Weber’s father didn’t get to vote until his 30s and her grandfather never got to vote because he died before the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. When her family moved to South Central Los Angeles, she saw as a child her parents rearrange furniture in their living room to serve as a local polling site for multiple elections. Now, she’ll be at the helm of California’s elections as the next Secretary of State – defending and expanding the right to vote and serving as the first African American to be California’s Chief Elections Officer,” the governor said.

Gov. Newsom Nominates CLBC Dr. Shirley Weber Secretary of State

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

 Hours after Gov. Gavin Newsom picked California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be California’s next United States Senator, he announced that he will submit to the State Legislature the nomination of Assemblymember Dr. Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego) to replace him.  

If confirmed, Weber will become the first-ever African American to serve as Secretary of State of California. 
“Dr. Weber is a tireless advocate and change agent with unimpeachable integrity. The daughter of sharecroppers from Arkansas, Dr. Weber’s father didn’t get to vote until his 30s and her grandfather never got to vote because he died before the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. When her family moved to South Central Los Angeles, she saw as a child her parents rearrange furniture in their living room to serve as a local polling site for multiple elections. Now, she’ll be at the helm of California’s elections as the next Secretary of State – defending and expanding the right to vote and serving as the first African American to be California’s Chief Elections Officer,” Newsom said. 
Weberan Assemblymember since 2012, is a former President of the San Diego Board of Education and a retired Africa Studies Department professor for 40 years at San Diego State University. Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the California State Assembly and Senate. A decision must be made within 90 days.
“I am excited to be nominated for this historic appointment as the Secretary of State of California. I thank Governor Newsom for the confidence he’s placed in me and his belief that I will stand strong for California. Being the first African American woman in this position will be a monumental responsibility, but I know that I am up for the challenge. Expanding voting rights has been one of the causes of my career and will continue to motivate me as I assume my new constitutional duties,” Weber said. 
State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), vice chair of the CLBC, congratulated Weber, saying his “former colleague and college professor” will do an amazing job. 
“I am happy for my former college professor and chair of the CLBC. Her hard work and dedication to public service is a testament of the excellence she demonstrates as a legislator,” Bradford said. “She will do a tremendous job as Secretary of State. I look forward to working with her and her continued leadership.” 
Taisha Brown, the president of the California Democratic Party Black Caucus (CDP Black Caucus) said she is elated over Dr. Weber’s appointment but is still disappointed that the governor did not choose a Black woman to replace Vice Presidentelect Kamala Harris in the United States Senate. 
“I am happy. I don’t think they could’ve picked a better Black woman to take Alex Padilla’s spot,” Brown said of Weber’s appointment. “But I will say that it is not enough and does not satisfy the fact there is not one Black woman in the United States Senate.” 
Weber chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety and the California Legislative Black Caucus. She also serves as a member of the Assembly Standing Committees on Education, Higher Education, Elections, Budget, and Banking and Finance.  
In addition, she chairs the Select Committee on Campus Climate, which was created to examine and mitigate hate crimes on California’s college and university campuses. The committee also explored student hunger, sexual assaults, homelessness, and freedom of expression. 
In August 2019, Weber introduced and passed historic legislation on police reform, Assembly Bill (AB) 392, also known as the “California Act to Save Lives.”  The measure set new standards, one the toughest in the nation, on the use of deadly force by police.  She has also been a leader on issues of social justice and economic justice.
“I am happy for Dr. Shiley Weber,” said Rev. K.W. Tullos, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California. “However, it does not suppress our feelings about the U.S. Senate seat. I look forward to working with Dr. Weber around voter issues.”
Weber is the mother of two children. She has two grandsons and a granddaughter and is the widow of the late Hon. Daniel Weber, a California state judge.

Los Angeles County Surpasses 9,000 Covid Deaths

By Staff

Los Angeles County has hit a “tragic milestone” as deaths surpassed 9,000 this week. 1,000 of those deaths came over the last two weeks. The county is currently averaging 85 deaths a day. 

“Unfortunately, today marks another tragic milestone as we acknowledge and grieve the more than 9,000 residents that have passed away from COVID-19. Our actions have an impact on the health and well-being of many people in our county, and not following the public health rules has deadly consequences,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer in a statement Tuesday.

The record numbers are expected to get worse as Los Angeles faces an ongoing surge of coronavirus cases and hospitals become overwhelmed. ICU capacity statewide remains around 2%. It is 0% in Southern California, forcing hospitals to enter “surge” mode. 

One survey determined that only 30 ICU beds were available on Sunday. That’s down from the 69 beds available last week. 

Hospitals are now preparing to possibly begin rationing care in the coming weeks according to a document obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The document outlined guidelines on how to allocate resources to save as many patients as possible, instead of trying to save every patient. If the guidelines are put in place it would mean patients determined less likely to survive would not receive the same care that they normally would. 

Photo by Los Angeles County (Flickr)

Mayor Eric Garcetti Issues Veto On City Council Plan to Reallocate LAPD Budget

By Dianne Lugo, Staff

Mayor Eric Garcetti has vetoed the City Council’s plan that reallocated $150 million of the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget to Black and Brown communities.

The motion, passed by a 13-2 vote last week, would fund youth work programs, local hire efforts and other social services as well as divert funds to districts for various projects.

Councilman Herb Wesson’s district,  District 9, was slated to receive the biggest chunk of the funds based on a report that identified the recommended apportionment of the former LAPD funds and determined that Price’s District 9 was the region with the “highest need” for the funds. The district was set to receive $21 million. City Council District 8 and 15 followed in need. They would have received $16 and $12 million respectively. 

Garcetti’s rare veto argues that the funds need to be more focused on community jobs and racial justice. 

LAPD Chief Michel Moore and the police union had similarly argued that the spending list should not have included public works projects like sidewalk repairs and tree trimming. 

“Far too many of the proposed expenditures do not meet the demands of the moment or the call of history,” Garcetti wrote in a letter to the council 

“It sounds like from the letter that he is questioning the knowledge of low-income people and their representatives about what they need in the community,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson (District 8) told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s saying he knows better.”

To override Garcetti’s veto Harris-Dawson will need 10 other council votes. 

 

Houses of Worship Can Now Hold Indoor Services in L.A County, Most Won’t for Now

Last month, Los Angeles County officials reversed a ban prohibiting houses of worship from holding indoor and outdoor services, effective immediately. The decision was prompted by three recent Supreme Court rulings for places of worship. In all three cases, the high court sided with churches in Colorado, New Jersey and New York over state’s restrictions on worship gatherings issuing orders that vacated the lower court decisions in those cases.
In a 5/4 decision the judges ruled that effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,
“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color–coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.” Justice Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion on the New York case.
To that end, Los Angeles houses of worship will be permitted to offer faith-based services both indoors and outdoors with mandatory physical distancing and face coverings over both the nose and mouth that must be worn at all times while on site. Places of worship must also assure that attendance does not exceed the number of people who can be accommodated while maintaining a physical distance of six feet between separate households.
Most pastors, however, have stated that they will not be putting their congregants at risk.
“While this is great news, the priority for us to keep our members safe and in light of this recent surge, Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church is going to continue to practice protocols, worshipping online,” said Pastor K.W. Tulloss, who serves as president of the Baptist Minister’s Fellowship and believes he is not alone in that assessment.
Pastor Mike Fisher, who leads the Pastors of Compton, agrees.
“Everything that is permissible to do should not necessarily be done at that moment. So yes, it is our right to be able to have service and it’s lawful to have service, but I don’t think it’s expedient. We are called to protect our congregation and our flock. For us to expose our congregation to possible cases and positive diagnoses that we are literally watching kill bishops who have faith, pastors who have faith and parishioners who have faith. So this is not a matter of us honoring God by being in a church building.”
Pastor Shane Scott, however, knows the dangers of Coronavirus first-hand.
“On November 16 I tested positive for COVID-19 and I spent six days in the ICU so I’m very clear on the dangers of COVID,” Scott said.
“COVID is no respector of persons. We have to look out for the best interests of our people, and we have to trust God, but also trust the God in science and allow science and medical doctors to guide us through this season so I will not be opening up our church.
“For the pandemic of 1918, our church was closed for five years,” Scott continued. “I’m not suggesting it’s going to be closed that long this time. but the church also has to provide leadership. The church will survive this.”
Some churches like Bible Enrichment Fellowship are taking a “wait-and-see” stance.
“We will be using some of our facilities for smaller gatherings, but getting back to full use is going to be a gradual process starting sometime after our consecration month in January.”
Public health officials strongly recommend that places of worship continue to hold services outdoors, with physical distancing and the use of face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to congregants and to the entire community. And because Los Angeles County is experiencing an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, that every effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to congregants and to the entire community is critical.

Newsom’s Choice To Fill Kamala Harris Seat Draws Heated Response

By Dianne Lugo, Staff

Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate Seat, ending a campaign from progressives in the state to fill the seat with another Black woman. But some Angelenos believe he may have instead turned up the heat on himself and the campaign to have him recalled. 

Black organizers had urged Newsom to appoint Representative Barbara Lee or Congresswoman Karen Bass to the Senate hoping to replace Harris, the only Black woman in the Senate, with another. 

“Thanks to Governor Gavin Newsom, African American women are no longer represented in the United States Senate, what else can go wrong in 2020?  It’s a terribly insensitive decision that will not be well received by African Americans voters in California and African American women nationwide. Many people believe the Governor will pay a political price for this insensitive decision,” said Kerman Maddox, a political consultant. 

His warning —and anger— was echoed by others. 

“This is a slap in the face to California. Karen Bass was the most qualified person for that seat. I haven’t seen black people this mad since Hahn fired Bernie Parks—a move that cost him his political career,” said K.W Tulloss, President of the Baptist Minister’s Association. “Black people never forgot it and it seems that folks are even madder this time. In fact, some in the community are so mad that they’re asking where to sign up for the recall.”

“Kamala Harris’ seat got stolen,” said William Smart, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “The thief is Gavin Newsom. There must be ramifications for his actions.” 

For one anonymous donor, the answer was cutting his financial support to the Democratic party.

“There are multiple Latinos in the Senate, but the Democratic party has no Black female senators. I won’t give any more money to the California State Democratic party until that changes. As to the governor, he just lost us. No democrat wins nationally without black votes.” 

Critics of the move recognize that Padilla’s appointment is a historic one, as he will become the first Latino representing California in the Senate. Similar to Harris, he’s the son of immigrants (his parents are from Mexico), but the outrage following Newsom’s announcement had little to do with Padilla or his accomplishments.

“We recognize the accomplishments of Secretary of State Padilla and we will actively engage with his office to elevate the voices of Black women across the state and nation, but Black women deserved more from the Governor today,” shared Rachel Brashier, President of the Black Women’s Democratic Club. 

The BWDC had partnered with Black Women for Wellness Advocacy Project, and Black Women Organized for Political Action to speak out and send a message to Gov. Newsom to pick a Black woman to replace Harris. After Senator Dianne Feinstein announced having reached out to Newsom to let him know about her support of Padilla, the BWDC and other Black leaders urged Feinstein to give up her own seat. 

They also launched a social media campaign to garner support that has now concluded.

“The first thing that came to mind after I read [the news] was Malcolm X’s quote saying the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected and the most unprotected is the Black woman and so I do think that there should be ramifications because we’re never getting our due respect,” added Brashier.

Some like political consultant and fundraiser Lena Kennedy, believe it was a missed opportunity for Newsom.

“I think the Governor missed an opportunity to create equity in the U.S. Senate and to do what is just and right in the black community and he needs to be held accountable, especially in light of where the country is right now in terms of social awareness and justice. Where is his awareness? The black community supported him. It would have been just and fair for him to be cognizant of that,” argued Kennedy, founder of Women in Leadership, Vital Voices. “We—as a community— need to re-evaluate where we put our trust and faith.”

Despite anger from their supporters, Reps. Lee and Bass extended their congratulations to Padilla.

“Today, our state gains yet another champion following a distinguished line of individuals who have shattered glass ceilings and hurdled obstacles in their way. After then-Senator Harris’s historic election in 2016 as the first woman of color to represent California, we now have another historic barrier shattered as Alex will be the first Latino to serve California in the United States Senate,” Rep. Bass said in a statement.. 

“I congratulate Secretary of State @AlexPadilla4Ca on his historic appointment to fill VP-elect @KamalaHarris’s seat in the United States Senate,” shared Rep. Lee on Twitter. “I look forward to working with him on behalf of all Californians to address the economic and public health crises we are facing, and to create a brighter future for our state and for communities across the country.” 

Newly-installed Second District Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell’s response to the appointment was mixed, celebrating both its historic nature and her disappointment. 

“As a Black woman I can’t ignore what Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s senate seat represented. She was the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate and now there are none. This is something we must hold space for discussing and acting on as our party works to rebuild our nation from the failures of the Trump administration. I hope that the Governor will remain mindful of the lack of representation for Black women in the U.S. Senate. I wholeheartedly trust that Alex Padilla will continue to lead with the integrity and fortitude he has shown as our Secretary of State and throughout his career in public service. I have worked with Alex in the legislature and know that he will fight for all Californians. We should not shy away from celebrating this historic moment while acknowledging the continued work that must be done to keep our seat at the table.” 

Photo by Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

For Mark Ridley-Thomas, Success Is Not A Whole Lot of Magic, Just Hard Work

Staff No matter how demanding the job, former Supervisor and now recently elected Tenth District Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas has but one working philosophy: “when you show up, you do have to have the capacity to show out.” And when you look at his accomplishments over the past 12 years as Supervisor of the second district, from the MLK Hospital and the Crenshaw to LAX rail line to Measure H and homelessness—he certainly has proven his ability not just to show up but to show out. That, he says, has pretty much been the arc of his three decades of public service. “It’s been quite an honor to use my abilities, my sensibilities to represent our communities. I transitioned from the board of supervisors on a very high note with a body of work that I’m very proud of,” says Ridley-Thomas of his tenure as supervisor in the second district, home to the largest population of African-Americans in L.A. County. The most obvious of which is the Martin Luther King medical campus. Once dubbed “killer King” the hospital was closed in 2007, but what has transformed in its place is a state-of-the-art facility, with the first of its kind behavioral health center, a recuperative care center, psychiatric urgent care center, a family wellness center, 70 sub-specialties and a model of healthcare delivery that he says he’s told is “second only in terms of emergency room admissions to Cedars-Sinai.” Of course, he doesn’t mention MLK Hospital without including the Charles R Drew University of medicine and science. “It is in my view, the most endowed campus providing safety net services in the entirety of the County of Los Angeles,” Ridley-Thomas says of the campus that has added more residency programs in the areas of psychiatry, family medicine and obstetrics. “And when we talk about the transformation of the campus, we’re also talking about jobs, good jobs. We are in excess of a billion dollars of investment in the MLK medical campus and the adjacent affordable housing projects, a new library and the Rosa Parks transit center. A community that has been deserving and now is getting things delivered.” For Ridley-Thomas, it is a testament to what can be done if one is willing to work. “Not a whole lot of magic involved. This is about being focused on delivering services,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It is about determination. It’s about equity. I’ve learned all those things and new in this past 12 years and it has equipped me to be a better public servant.” Being a better servant has meant bringing visionary change to South Los Angeles. Change that has included nearly 6,000 affordable housing units—either completed or underway, an expansion of parks—including an extensive renovation of the 104-acre Magic Johnson Park and transforming the 178-acre Victoria Golf Course into a recreation center with the involvement of Tiger Woods, and in partnership with Metro a transportation boarding school in the heart of South Central that will afford some of the county’s most marginalized youth with the opportunity for careers in the global transportation industry. Given his recognition of public service as a calling, terming out of the L.A. County Supervisors only fueled his passions to continue to advocate on behalf of others.  “I do this because it provides a level of fulfillment,” Ridley-Thomas reflects. “And because being elected ten consecutive times to four different seats suggest that there are constituencies who believed that I can do what I say I will do.” For all of his accomplishments, which include the 1992 founding of the Annual Empowerment Congress and the 2002 founding of AAVREP (African American Voter Rep) which has registered over 200,000 new voters, the path to his recent victory in the L.A. City Council’s 10th district did not come as easily as some would have thought. He credits part of that to the anti-incumbency fervor sweeping across America “It ended up as decisively, as one could have hoped. 61 to 39 is obviously not close,” says Ridley-Thomas. “But to get there, it took a lot of skill and fundraising. It took people believing in my candidacy as distinguished from the opponent in the race who just didn’t have the capacity or the ability to persuade by virtue of what she hadn’t accomplished and what I have been able to accomplish. The thing that made it difficult is the level of anti-incumbency fervor that has been a big challenge for incumbents during the last few election cycles.” That he is a bridge builder helped to overcome any ambivalence voters had towards incumbents.   “There’s no secret I’ve invested in communities across the board,” Ridley-Thomas states. “The objective of those in the primary, and then in the general was to diminish the import of the historic value and contribution of the African American electorate. It became very important to take a stand on behalf of the African American community, not at the expense of the Korean community, the Latino community, the Chinese American community, the Filipino community, the white community, or the Jewish community, all of which are represented in the 10th district.” Yet another concern for some was whether or not the Manuel Arts High School graduate who earned a PhD in Social Ethics from USC is positioning for a future run for Mayor. His answer to that question is about as enigmatic as a poker player who is hardly ready to show his hand. Ironically, it is a question he answers in third person. “There’s no elected official locally that has a comparable body of work to that of Mark Ridley Thomas and I think constituents know that in the 10th district and beyond…and probably want to see if that can be enhanced,” states the 66-year-old married father of two.   “I would just simply say, we’ll have to see as it relates to the kind of systematic and almost scientific way of making such a determination.”


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