Author: lafocus

Councilmember Ridley-Thomas Introduces Motion to Crack Down on Illegal Fireworks

Chez Hadley

In the city of Los Angeles, it is against the law to possess, sell and or set off fireworks, but you wouldn’t have known that last summer when the number of illegal fireworks reported to police soared 170 percent last June, with LAPD officers dispatched over 1500 times to investigate complaints. And in areas like South Los Angeles and LAPD’s Northeast division, the numbers were even higher.

Due to public outreach and teamwork on the part of the LAPD and the Los Angeles Fire Department to crack down on illegal fireworks with an anti-firework task force and hotline, the number of resident reports has deceased. 

Still, ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, city and county officials are moving to curtail illegal fireworks.

While L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has sought the help of federal law enforcement agencies, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas has introduced a motion that directs the Fire and Police Departments to report back on setting up a system to track and respond to fireworks complaints through a mobile application that would issue automatic violations. A similar program has been established in the County of San Bernardino.

“The bottom line has to be safety. The use of illegal fireworks poses a threat to Angelenos, whether you are housed and unhoused. We must get creative, and we must make it easy to identify illegal uses and establish sufficient repercussions to curb this activity. Too many of our neighbors are literally playing with fire, and the results can be lethal,” said Councilmember Ridley-Thomas.

“The Fire Department is supportive of all programs which can significantly reduce the risk of injury and potential fires from the use of illegal fireworks,” said Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas. “Councilmember Ridley-Thomas’ motion is innovative, and I look forward to collaborating with the Police Department, the City Council, and other city departments in this endeavor.”

If you’d like to report illegal fireworks, you can do it anonymously at

Isaac Bryan Comes Out on Top In 54th Assembly Race

With 49.62 percent of the vote, Isaac Bryan held a commanding lead in the race to represent the 54th district in the California Assembly, but it was still not known whether or not he could avoid a runoff at press. To do that, Bryan would need to secure more than 50% of the votes cast. A final tally of the votes has not been posted.


The special election was called to fill the seat vacated by Sydney Kamlager, who was elected to fill the Senate seat vacated by now Supervisor Holly Mitchell. Both Mitchell and Kamlager were among a host of elected officials backing Bryan in his bid, including Councilmembers Mark Ridley-Thomas, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, and Congresswoman Karen Bass.


Heather Hutt was a distant second to Bryan with 24.61% and 8,473 votes to Bryan’s 17,086 votes cast. Hutt, who is backed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, had served as a former Southern California district director for then U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.

Cheryl Turner finished third with 10.6% of the vote, followed by political consultant Dallas Fowler (7.6%); Bernard Senter (4.5%) and Samuel Morales (3.2%).


“The community put me on this ballot and the work isn’t mine alone to claim,” stated Bryan, who is the founding director of the UCLA Black Policy Project, a multi-issue policy initiative that has informed legislation at all levels of government.


“This campaign, like Measure J and so many policy changes before, is a labor of love. I feel like we have a real chance to do something special.” 

Bryan has said that his first legislative action would be to ensure an equitable COVID-19 response. 


“I will seize opportunities to use the state’s multibillion dollar surplus to allocate additional funds for COVID relief to the most impacted communities — particularly those, like black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)-owned small businesses, that have been overlooked by Federal relief programs,” he said. 


If Bryan is not able to secure the 50%-plus margin he needs to win outright, he would take on Hutt in a special runoff election on July 20.

Future of the Crenshaw Mall in Question Despite Community Push To Purchase Property

Tina Sampay

Downtown Crenshaw has been working to stop the sale of the Baldwin-Hills Crenshaw Mall to outside developers for over a year now. This community-led coalition is comprised of community stakeholders, social justice advocacy groups, as well as people from the surrounding Crenshaw community.
      The mall is seen as prime real estate to large, real estate development groups because the mall sits adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX Metro train that is currently under construction. For those who grew up in the community, however, the mall is more of a cultural landmark.
      “Once they started to work on the train line on Crenshaw, I knew the gentrification was going to triple at a rapid pace. They did not build that train for us. All of these high rises and the new construction of apartment buildings, all of them are not for us,” said Veronica Sance.
      Sance is lead organizer for the Grandmama’s of Downtown Crenshaw. Next month Sance will be 60-years-old. She continues to organize around the issues of gentrification because she will be impacted by these changes and has no options to move from where she currently lives due to her budget.
      “It’s very important for us to help save our community from outside developers as much as we can. We have been responsible for stopping the last two sales of the mall and we intend to stop this one as well.”
      Sance is one of 60,000 residents who live within a 2-mile radius of the Baldwin-Hills Crenshaw Mall. She will be one of the first impacted by the mall closure as well as the potential loss to access retail businesses located inside the mall.
      She has lived in the Crenshaw District since moving back home in 1990 and understands the impacts that new owners have on properties. Sance has been in her current apartment for over a decade and knows that the new owner does not treat the people or property the same as the previous owner.
      Sance used to live in Hollywood through a housing program. She could not afford to live there on her own budget and felt like she was pushed out of living there because she was fighting for her rights.
      This is what fuels Sance in this fight against gentrification and to see ownership of the mall in the hands of the community. She was also one of several protestors who showed up in Century City this week, to protest outside the offices of the new real estate group with their eye on the mall.
      “I love where I live,” Sance said. “I can’t afford to move nor do I want to. That’s why I am fighting. I am going to be one of the first people displaced. I am too close to be comfortable with gentrification. I am 15-minutes from the beach, from downtown, from Beverly Hills,—why would I move?”
      Damien Goodman has been one of the fiercest advocates in the fight against gentrification for the Crenshaw community. A founding member of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, he has been active in presenting community concerns and demands to the City of Los Angeles and Metro regarding the new train and has worked for the past year on efforts to acquire the necessary funding so that Downtown Crenshaw could be taken seriously in its bid to acquire the mall.
      To that end, Downtown Crenshaw says it has secured over $30 million in financial donations, as well as pledges from prominent names in the field of philanthropy. Their bids, however, have been rejected in favor of larger real estate groups.
      Through their collective effort to leave self-determination and cultural landmarks in the hands of the mostly Black community, Downtown Crenshaw has been able to drive away two real estate groups who submitted proposals for the project. Development groups that included CIM, who in April 2019, submitted a proposal to redevelop the Crenshaw Mall into an “office campus,” a corporate tech model that would only serve the purposes of gentrification.
      “They do not want to see a project that has affordable housing for residents. They want to see a project that gentrifies the city. Outside capital will not control this and there will be a Black face in front of it, which is how most development takes place,” said Goodman.
      According to Goodman, after CIM backed out of their bid for the Crenshaw Mall, they filed a lawsuit to get back their $10 million down payment on the property. Downtown Crenshaw thought their bid was in the clear, only to find out recently that Los Angeles-based Harridge Development Group, has now placed their bid for the property.
      In 2017, Harridge Development group purchased property to build a gated community on 18-acres near the new Los Angeles Rams stadium in Inglewood.
      “The Black community can be in control of this. A community that is made up of low income tenants as well upper middle class homeowners,” Goodmon states. “It’s a different model. We are not looking for Black celebrities to save the day. The goal is to give the property to the community, so the community can be in collective control of the space.”

Children’s Defense Fund Preparing to Open Summer Freedom Schools


By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Children’s Defense Fund has always lived by the motto that children are the future.

As young people of color are the majority of youth in America, the nonprofit organization is ramping up its Freedom Schools program.

Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), said the schools incorporate “the totality of CDF’s mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves and in their families, schools, communities, country, and the world with hope, education, and action.”

Dr. Wilson noted that students in the program are known as scholars.

“By providing K-12 scholars with rich, culturally relevant pedagogy and high-quality books that deepen scholars’ understanding of themselves and all they have in common with others in a multiracial, multicultural democratic society, CDF Freedom Schools programs further empowers scholars to believe in their ability and responsibility to make a difference while instilling in them a love of reading to help them avoid summer learning loss,” Dr. Wilson remarked during a live appearance on the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s morning breaking news program, “Let It Be Known.”

Recent Freedom Schools’ surveys found that 65 percent of scholars liked to read, while 81 percent enjoyed talking about what they read.

Approximately 86 percent reported they read many different kinds of books, 100 percent reported wanting to go to college, 98 percent reported they could achieve their goals, and 89 percent said they believed they could make a difference.

The CDF outlined the following behavioral benchmarks:

  • Seventy-seven percent of scholars reported they were willing to listen to different opinions.
  • Sixty-eight percent of scholars said standing up for what they think is fair.
  • Sixty-three percent of scholars said that they could solve problems without yelling at others.
  • Sixty-eight percent of scholars said that they know how to solve arguments without fighting.
  • Seventy-nine percent of scholars said learning how to cooperate to solve problems.

“Freedom Schools are not just culturally responsive, but we invest in young people – developing their sense of self-agency that they can make a difference in their home, their community and in the world,” expressed Dr. Wilson, who is expected to discuss Freedom Schools further, and the most recent CDF State of America’s Children 2021, during the NNPA’s annual summer convention in June.

Registration for the convention is free, and those interested can sign up at


For the summer Freedom Schools program, CDF officials said they utilized the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Reading Inventory to measure scholars’ reading achievement.

They said 76.7 percent of scholars did not experience summer learning loss. While currently at a 60 percent parent participation rate, CDF is striving to increase this number by soliciting different workshop topic ideas that resonate with the community’s needs.

“It’s absolutely critical that we are there for our children,” Dr. Wilson insisted. “We can’t fall into a trap. I had a mentor who heard me say that I work hard, so my sons don’t have to.

“He told me that everything I had said was good except for the last part. He said, ‘the part about you work so hard, so they don’t have to.

“Don’t set them up for failure like that because the reality is that you pushed through the struggle as far as you could, so you prepare them for the struggle.’”

Readiness to Reopen: Leaders Gauge COVID Threat in Black Communities 

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media 

With California set to do away with most of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions and prepare to fully reopen on June 15, some Black leaders and medical professionals are taking stock of the pandemic’s impact on Black communities. 

They are also tracking readiness in those areas to return to business as usual. 

As of May 7, over 60% of Californians had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. And 44% of people in the state are now fully vaccinated. 


But the road to this point of the state’s journey to recovery has not been easy, says Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, who leads outreach programs at the Kedran Community Health Center in South Los Angeles. 

“We drove up to the county Department of Public Health warehouse, we banged on those doors, we jumped up and down, we screamed, and we shouted,” Abraham said. “We waved our hands, ‘where are our vaccines?’ And we left with 100 doses that day.’” 

Abraham shared his story during a webinar about the state’s COVID-19 recovery efforts organized by California Black Media in collaboration and the Center at the Sierra Health Foundation. 

Not long after the pandemic started, the Kedran Community Health Center swiftly responded to provide people in South Los Angeles – many of them frontline healthcare workers and the elderly, with as many vaccines as they could get their hands on, Abraham said. 

Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, Watts Healthcare Corporation, a community health center located in South Los Angeles, initially saw inequity in access to the vaccine in the Black community, but says, with time, things got better. 

“Quite frankly right now, the vaccine is fairly widely available. An individual who has anything more than a passing desire to get vaccinated can get vaccinated,” Brooks said. “That being stated, in California, African Americans are 5% to 6% of the population and only 3.7% of those getting vaccinated. I don’t see it right now as an access issue more so than a complacency issue.” 

David Tucker, spokesperson of the California Department of Public Health Vaccinate All 58 campaign, says even though the state has set June 15 as the date for reopening, it doesn’t mean that everything is back to normal. 

“We still need to be cautious. We still need to wash our hands and wear masks when appropriate,” he said. “We need to get vaccinated. California has come together and truly met the moment and saved countless lives. COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations have been steadily decreasing and our vaccinations efforts continue to increase. 

So far, in California, there has been about 3.8 million COVID-19 cases and 62,269 deaths from complications of the disease. Health officials have administered more than 60 million COVID tests and administered over 32 million vaccines, according to the California Department of Public Health. 


Tucker said four million of those vaccines were administered in areas hit hardest by COVID-19. 


But only 25 % of Black Californians have been vaccinated so far. 


“We have come a really long way since the beginning of this pandemic,” said California’s Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris. “We are able to connect with other people again – it’s good for our health psychologically and emotionally. 

But to maintain the low numbers of COVID cases in California, Burke Harris said people have to continue to get vaccinated and spread the word to their family members and people in their community about the importance of getting the COVID shot. 

Burke Harris said it’s also important for people who get vaccinated to include their race. She says it makes it easier to track how many African Americans in California are getting vaccinated and make the case for more resources to increase those numbers if they are low. 

On testing, Brooks explained why he feels people are no longer regularly checking to see if they are infected with COVID. He says it has become less of a priority in California but assured that the decline isn’t much cause for concern. 

“But the reason for not getting tested, from what we can ascertain, has nothing to do with hesitancy, just not noting the need,” Brooks said. “I think that because of the vaccine, the virus is just not circulating as much and there’s not the urgency that is felt for providing COVID-19 [tests].” 

Brooks mentioned that there have been some holdouts for getting vaccinated but, according 

to him, that is to be expected. 

“There will always be a hardcore percent of any given population, that hovers around 15 to 20% in America, that for COVID vaccines are saying ‘I’m not doing it,'” Brooks said. 

Despite these holdouts, Brooks thinks California will be relatively safe to reopen in June. 

“There was a section of the population where their mindset was ‘wait and see.’ The number of the ‘wait and see’ is on its way down and those who are fully vaccinated are on the way up,” Brooks said. “What we are seeing with the Black community is a continued uptake of vaccinations.” 

The Rev. K.W. Tulloss, pastor of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles and president of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of LA, says although the number of COVID cases are decreasing, it is still important for leaders to continue encouraging people to get vaccinated and tested when necessary. 

“It is very important that we as a faith community, rise and come together to push the importance of this vaccination. We in the faith community have been distant over the past year. Many of our members have been afflicted. We have lost loved one. We have done funerals virtually,” he said. 

In order to get back to a sense of normalcy, Tulloss continued, “It is very important that we look for opportunities to push this vaccine. 


“We have to continue to educate, continue to encourage our faith community to rise up and recognize the importance of getting vaccinated. We’re tired of going to funerals because of COVID. We’re tired of being separated and isolated because of COVID,” he said.

The Lookout: Three California Cities Push Plans to Increase Police Spending 

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media 

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

It has been over 13 months since cops in Kentucky killed Breonna Taylor, and just shy of a year since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. 

These high-profile deaths of African Americans, along with many others sparked global protests and resulted in politicians and activists on the political Left calling on their cities to and counties to defund their police departments. More precisely, many of are pushing their elected officials to reallocate money in police budgets to more social service-oriented interventions in efforts to reduce the number of violent police encounters. 

But some cities in California — Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles — are planning to do just the opposite. 

From 2019 to 2020, Sacramento’s approved police budget saw an increase of over $7 million. This year, California’s capital city will spend a record $165.8 million on police, a $9.4 million increase. 

However, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg says, by mid 2022, at least $10 million will be directed away from the police department toward the Department of Community Response. 

“I’m not for ‘defunding,’” Steinberg told the Sacramento Bee. “There are some things that are part of running a city, like collective bargaining and binding arbitration, and genuine needs for the police department.” 

“I’m not going to get pinned to the argument that the measure of whether or not we are investing in the community in an aggressive way is whether or not we’re taking the money directly from the police department,” he continued. 

In San Diego, the city is planning to raise the police budget for the 11th year in a row. 

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria proposed a 3% increase for police spending next year, meaning that the police budget has ballooned by a total of 52% since 2008. 

The city is introducing that increase with a decrease in library hours in an effort to offset those costs. 

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez says that she planned to cut the police budget but former Mayor Kevin Faulconer would have vetoed that measure. 

Gloria has expressed interest in reducing police spending over time also, but activists insist that more needs to be done. 

In Los Angeles, after two reports from the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles 

Board of Police Commissioners admonished the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for their mishandling of several protests over the past year, the LAPD has announced that it wants a $67 million increase in its budget to contend with the costs of protest response reform. 

During various protests in the summer of 2020, police made over 3,000 arrests with little to no accommodations for those arrested. 

Police Chief Michel Moore admitted the protest response could have been handled better but asserted that most of his officers responded the way they did because of their training. 

“While there were missteps and shortfalls in communication and command and control, especially from senior staff in the field, the vast majority of personnel performed admirably with their ongoing efforts to tirelessly serve the city, even in the face of antagonistic and violent crowds,” Moore wrote in a letter to the board of commissioners. 

Training will be the primary focus of this proposed budget increase, according to Deputy Chief Dominic Choi. 

Choi stated that much of the budget will be going towards salaries and overtime for extended training. 

The Police Commission has not moved on the proposed budget and the LAPD needs the City Council’s approval before it can go into effect. However, Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed a $50 million increase in the police budget, much to the dismay of members of the Los Angeles Black Lives Matter organization. 

While a couple of these budget proposals are still being deliberated and wouldn’t fully go into effect until next year, they are far cries from defunding the police. 

Despite a growing chorus of voices against it, more Golden State taxpayer money will likely go toward increased funding for “California’s finest.”

Report: Blacks Make Up Only 2 % of Women on California Corporate Boards 


Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

While the representation of women on the boards of California publicly traded companies has increased over the past few years, Black women remain disturbingly underrepresented. 

In fact, African Americans account for only 2 % of all women serving on corporate boards, according to a report the California Partners Project (CPP) recently released. 

The annual report follows the Women on Boards Law also known as Senate Bill (SB) 826. Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2018, SB 826 requires publicly held corporations based in California to have at least one female member on its board of directors by the end of 2021, with the minimum number increasing based on the number of board seats. 

“I am mindful that there is still room for more diversity on corporate boards and California can do better achieving gender-diverse corporate boards for the benefit of our state, its economy, and above all, its people,” said California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. 

Weber’s office is responsible for enforcing SB 826. Under the law, companies that are not in compliance with SB 826 by the end of year could be fined up to $100,000. 

According to the CPP report, the number of female board members overall has increased by over 500 across California since SB 826 passed, but a majority of the women being appointed to serve on California’s corporate boards are White. 

Across the state, a total of 1,483 women now serve on corporate boards. Although White women make up 18.5 % of California’s population, they hold 20.2 % of those corporate board seats. 

The report states, “Women on corporate boards have been shown to drive business growth, with a triple bottom line model of environmental responsibility, social responsibility, and strong governance practices. Before us now is the opportunity to fill more board seats with women of color, whose unique perspectives and experiences can lead our state — and the world — into a future of greater equity, prosperity, and health for everyone.” 

The report found that although women now hold 26.5 % of California’s public company board seats, only 6.6 % are held by women of color, who make up 32 % of California’s population. The report also found that Latinas hold 1 % of the seats on California’s corporate boards. 

Responding to the report’s findings, CPP, an organization California First Partner was co- Jennifer Siebel Newsom co-founded, is calling for California’s publicly held companies to fill upcoming board vacancies with people of color. The recommendation also falls in line with the mandate of another law on corporate board representation, the Underrepresented Communities on Boards law or Assembly Bill (AB) 979. 

AB 979, which was signed into law in September 2020, requires California-based publicly held corporations to have at least one board member from an underrepresented minority in the state by the end of 2021. 

The report also includes strategies for recruiting women of color to corporate boards. Informed by focus groups CPP organized, recommendations include guidance that encourages corporation executives and recruiters expand their insular networks; expand their definition of qualified; think of diversity as an opportunity; and seek difference over conformity.

California’s Reparations Effort Takes Shape as Governor Appoints Five Members to Task Force

Bo Tefu | California Black Media 

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his allotment of five of nine representatives to the nation’s first-ever Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. The state task force is being assembled to meet the mandate of the Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, a landmark legislation Gov. Newsom signed into law last September 2020 that aims to promote racial justice and equity. 

Earlier this year, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) appointed two other members to the task force: Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) and San Diego city Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) is tasked with appointing the two remaining members. 

AB 3121, which was authored by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she served in the state Assembly, mandates that the task force must submit written reports, “with a special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.” 

The nine task force members will study the deep-rooted legacy of slavery and the expressions of systematic racism African Americans have encountered over centuries in the United States. The legislation also calls for scholars assembled by the Regents of the University of California to draft a research proposal analyze how the state and country have benefitted from slavery. 

“California is leading the nation, in a bipartisan way, on the issue of reparations and racial justice, which is a discussion that is long overdue and deserves our utmost attention,” Newsom said. 

Newsom selected an interdisciplinary team of academics, community leaders, and lawyers to spearhead the state’s effort. 

He said each member of the task force has, “an expansive breadth of knowledge, experiences and understanding of issues impacting the African American community is the next step in our commitment as a state to build a California for all.” 

The Black Leadership Council (BLC), a statewide organization of African American leaders in California, says it is “committed to ensuring reparations discussions can and will continue in California.” 

The group applauded Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is a member of the reparations task force, and other members of the California Legislative Black Caucus for keeping the issue “front and center” in California politics. 

AB 3121 states that the task force is required to, “Identify, compile, and synthesize the relevant corpus of evidentiary documentation of the institution of slavery that existed within the United States and the colonies.” 

The task force also needs to choose, “the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation,” the bill reads. 

According to the bill, over 4 million African Americans were enslaved in the United States from 1619 to the year slavery was abolished in 1865. 

The bill focuses on, “Leveling the playing field in our society and ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at achieving the California dream,” according to Newsom. 

Newsom’s task force appointments include four people of African descent and one Japanese American. They all have a credible track record of advocating for racial justice and equity in their respective communities. According to the legislation, Senate confirmation is not required for members of the task force, but they are eligible for a daily allowance for no more than ten meetings. 

Newsom’s appointees are: 

• Dr. Amos Brown, 80, an award-winning civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose leadership journey started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960s. He protested alongside the Freedom Riders, a multiracial group of activists who fought segregation laws in the South during the Jim Crow era. He is also the current president of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP and a Member of the organization’s board of directors. 

• Dr. Cheryl Grills, 62, is a clinical psychologist and professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Grills achieved international recognition for her research on racial trauma, healing, and implicit bias in the African American community. She also serves as a member of a few congressional caucuses and leads national COVID-19 initiatives focused on communities of color. 

• Lisa Holder, 49, is a trial attorney who owns a law firm in Southern California. Holder is well known as an advocate for racial and social justice with more than two decades of legal experience. 

• Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, 38, is an economic anthropologist and geographer whose research includes reparations, race, and economic inequality in the U.S. and Caribbean. Lewis is the chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, where he also works as an associate professor. 

• Don Tamaki, 69, is an attorney best known for the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States. Tamaki overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu who refused to 

be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II. The case boosted the Redress Movement, a social movement inspired by landmark court cases that shaped human rights for Japanese Americans. Tamaki is also the co-founder of ‘Stop Repeating History,’ an intersectional campaign that aims to create public awareness on reparations and racial equity. 

Once the team has a total of nine members, the task force will host its first meeting on June 1, 2021. The task force will also elect its own chair and vice-chair who will be supported by staff from the Office of the General Attorney of California.

Poll Reveals What Black Families Really Want: Politicians Need to Listen

Dr. Margaret Fortune

Fortune School of Education in conjunction with National Action Network (NAN) Sacramento, Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, Sacramento Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and The Alpha Community Education Initiative has released a poll called 

“What Black Voters Think” during the NAN Sacramento Rise Up! Virtual Conference.

We developed the poll as a way to truly understand what Black voters view as the most critical issues they are facing right now. More than half of Black parents said education was most important, eclipsing their concerns about health care, housing and climate change — the issues that tend to dominate the conversation in “progressive” circles. Only the economy ranked higher than education on the list of what Black parents who are registered to vote said affected them most on a daily basis. COVID relief came in a close third.

The survey, conducted in February 2021 by Applecart Research on behalf of Fortune School of Education, includes responses from 1,290 Black registered voters in California and key 2020 Presidential swing states including Michigan, South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

The majority of respondents surveyed have spent a significant amount of money on education-related expenses during the pandemic — 71 percent of parents polled said they or someone they know has spent money out-of-pocket to cover educational expenses due to COVID-19 school closures. The American Rescue Plan includes $129 billion for K-12 education. While that windfall is headed to schools, the next human infrastructure spending plan out of Washington may go equally big for families.

When asked about their support for public charter schools, 71 percent of California Black registered voters surveyed said they supported charters.  According to a CalMatters report, public school enrollment in California has hit a 20-year low while enrollment jumped by 15,000 students in public charter schools during the coronavirus pandemic.  Despite facing political headwinds among some Democratic politicians, there is no denying public charter schools are as popular among parents now as when President Barack Obama championed them as America’s first Black president.

Charter schools are public schools, tuition free to parents with open enrollment to students.  In California, where more than 690,000 students are enrolled in a charter school, charters are authorized by locally elected school boards or the state, operated exclusively by non-profit organizations or school districts and are held accountable for academic results.  Charter schools are held accountable to the same transparency laws for governance and finance that apply to school districts — with one big exception.  If charter schools fail to follow the rules, they are closed, not so with school districts.

Nearly all of California’s top majority Black public schools are actually charter schools led or founded by Black people who have used chartering to specifically create schools that are open to all and aimed at educating Black children to a level of excellence. 

Poll results show Black voters support this work. In California, 85% of poll respondents agreed that we need more Black educators and community members to lead publicly funded schools that provide equity, empowerment, and high quality education for all students.  Black registered voters in swing states agreed at higher rates with 88% saying more Blacks should be in school leadership.

This poll reveals, in spite of everything we have faced over the last year, Black families will do anything they can to make sure their children have educational opportunities.  Blacks are more informed and empowered to seek an understanding of what a high-quality education should look like and why it’s important for their children.  Elected officials must take heed, and create and pass policies that are also in support of the issues Blacks care about most — the economy and high quality education.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a network of K-12 public charter schools based in Sacramento, California she founded to close the African American Achievement gap in her hometown. Dr. Fortune has been an education adviser to two California governors and is a delegate to the California Demoratic Party (CDP). Fortune is on the executive boards of the CDP Black Caucus and National Action Network Sacramento, an affiliate of Rev. Al Sharpton’s national civil rights organization.

Maya Angelou to be Honored on U.S. Quarters


Even in death, famed poet/author Maya Angelou is making history once again as the first African American woman selected to have her image featured on a special edition quarter to be circulated by the U.S. Mint. 

The quarter—issued over a four-year period from 2022 through 2025—is part of the American Women Quarters program which will feature twenty iconic American women as part of the special minted series of quarters. The only other woman announced thus far—as part of the series—is NASA astronaut Sally Ride.

“For too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who introduced the “Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020”, which required the Department of the Treasury to issue quarter-dollar coins emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of up to five prominent American women per year.

“I am pleased to see that the first women to be recognized under my bill are outstanding individuals in the fields of science and literature: Dr. Sally Ride and Dr. Maya Angelou,” Lee continued. “They paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy. 

The public is invited to submit recommendations for women to be honored via the following web portal established by the National Women’s History Museum:

Contributions may come from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts, but in accordance with the public law, the Secretary of the Treasury will select the final women to be honored following consultation with the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus.

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