Black in School: Why Do CA Black Students Face Half a Billion Dollar School Funding Gap Amid Resurging Coronavirus?

Dr. Margaret Fortune — President/CEO of Fortune School

I cannot aptly describe just how complicated running a school has become in the era of COVID-19.  New categories of jobs have been created in schools just to contact trace, test, and track the escalation of the virus as it spreads.  The county health department gave our school a one-page “decision tree” last year to guide our response when we got a COVID case.  Now the document is literally called a “decision forest” and it’s three times as long.  

Quarantining people who become infected has an eerie effect in schools. A person who is at work today, can disappear tomorrow into quarantine leaving the function they once performed to go undone for ten days at a time because there is nobody to replace them. These staffing gaps impact the ability of schools to consistently provide the services we take for granted.  

The reality is before the pandemic 67 percent of Black kids in the Golden State could not read or write at grade level, while 79 percent were below state standards in mathematics and 86 percent in science. Our fight at Fortune School, to successfully educate children, particularly Black children is California’s fight.

However, there is a problem for Black kids going back to school in California. Our state funds public schools based on student demographics, giving more money to the schools that serve kids lawmakers say need more support.  Right now, 80,000 Black kids don’t qualify for extra support because they are not low-income, foster youth or English learners.  If they were, the schools that serve them would get $7,000 more per child.  That adds up to a $560 million funding gap for California’s Black students. 

We need a school funding formula that provides more support for all Black students because as a group, our children are in crisis. 

The California Democratic Party (CDP) Black Caucus is calling attention to these inequities in a special series of hearings called Black in School on the state of Black students in California public schools and powerful ways to improve the Black experience. The CDP Black Caucus is right to call for change.  

As a public school educator, I encourage parents and guardians of Black children to become partners with their schools. This must happen now more than ever. From understanding achievement and funding gaps, to learning how to advocate for your child, we need to be here for each other – teaching, learning, and lifting ourselves as we continue to navigate together in these unprecedented times. Support the CDP Black Caucus as they continue to fight for the rights of all Black students who attend public schools in California. Together we can create the systemic changes that are critical for our children’s futures.

For more information about the Black in School series, visit https://cdpblackcaucus.org/.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Margaret Fortune is the President/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.  She is a State Delegate on the California Democratic Party (CDP) State Central Committee where she also is an elected member of the Executive Board of the CDP Black Caucus. Fortune is Treasurer of National Action Network (NAN) Sacramento and has been an education advisor to two California Governors.  She is a graduate of the UC Berkeley and Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government.

Prayers for Jesse Jackson

Chez Hadley

Americans around the country are sending prayers to the family of the famed Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. The 79-year old civil rights icon and his 77-year old wife of nearly 60 years, Jacqueline, remained hospitalized with COVID. While Jackson—who has Parkinson’s disease— had been vaccinated in January and is being treated for a breakthrough infection, his wife had not been vaccinated due to a pre-existing condition.

“Let us all pray for Rev. and Mrs. Jesse Jackson,” the Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted. “They need our sincere and intense prayers. Prayer changes things!!!

“Praying for Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jacqueline Jackson,” wrote Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Earlier this month @RevJJackson stood with our movement outside the Capitol to extend the eviction moratorium,” posted Congresswoman Cori Bush. “Our movement now stands with him and his wife, Jacqueline, as they recover from COVID-19. Our prayers are with them both for a speedy and full recovery”.

And from Senator Bernie Sanders, came this tweet, “The Rev. Jesse Jackson has been one of the great leaders of our time in the fight for racial, social and economic justice. Jane and I and all Americans wish them a speedy and full recovery.”  

In daily updates, the family has shared that both are responding well to treatment in a Chicago hospital.

“The health status of both my parents is unchanged,” Jonathan Jackson, said in a statement. “They continue to rest comfortably and to receive treatment.

“My family’s focus is totally on my parents… We continue to be eternally grateful for the thousands of prayers and well wishes that our family continues to receive.”

In an exclusive telephone conversation from his hospital bed with National Newspaper Publishers Association President, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jackson said he was doing fine and that he and his wife were receiving the best of care, adding that his battle for freedom, justice, and equality would continue.

 

A DOCTOR’S NOTE ON COVID-19 TESTING

A Message Sponsored by Los Angeles County

 

A DOCTOR’S NOTE ON COVID-19 TESTING

Dr. Erika Flores Uribe, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

 

How does COVID-19 testing help me prevent the spread of the virus?

Getting tested for COVID-19 helps you know if you have the coronavirus and prevents you from spreading it to your family, friends, and community. If you test positive, isolate yourself so that you don’t spread it. Let people you have been around know, so that they too can quarantine and get tested. This is how we can stop the virus from spreading and prevent future COVID-19 surges. 

Are different types of COVID-19 tests different in how accurate they are?  If so, which one is the best one?

There are two main types of COVID-19 tests: molecular and antigen. Molecular tests – commonly called “PCR tests” – are generally more accurate. They are processed in a laboratory and you’ll receive your results in a few days. Antigen tests – which are sometimes referred to as “rapid tests” – can be processed anywhere and you’ll get your results in about 20 minutes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends taking multiple antigen tests over several days to improve the chance of identifying infections.    

And remember – no matter which type of COVID-19 test you choose, you must provide a good quality specimen so that you can get accurate results. If a trained healthcare professional is collecting your sample, that will help ensure it’s a high-quality sample. If you’re doing your own nose or mouth swab, make sure you carefully follow all the instructions.

How can I get tested if my doctor’s office doesn’t offer COVID-19 tests or doesn’t have any appointments available?

If you can’t get an appointment or if you aren’t able to get in touch with your doctor, go to covid19.lacounty.gov/testing to find a no-cost testing site close to you. Although appointments aren’t needed at many government run testing locations, making an appointment helps you wait less. 

If I’m already vaccinated against COVID-19, should I still get tested regularly even if I don’t have symptoms?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, whether or not you are vaccinated or have had the virus before. And don’t forget – even if you’re vaccinated, you should get tested 3 to 5 days after having been around someone who may have or is confirmed to have COVID-19. 

 

Biden Administration Extends Pause on Student Loan Payments

Staff

In a move to keep the economy recovering at a steady pace, the Biden Administration—which had paused federal student loan repayments for millions of Americans to the end of September—has announced it is extending that pause one final time through January 31, 2022 at 0% interest. Collections have also been suspended.

As today’s jobs numbers show, we have the tools that will allow us to beat COVID-19 and keep our economy recovering at a record rate. But we know there is more work to do and the road will still be long for many people – especially for the one in six adults and one in three young people who have federal student loans,” said President Biden in a statement.

“This will give the Department of Education and borrowers more time and more certainty as they prepare to restart student loan payments. It will also ensure a smoother transition that minimizes loan defaults and delinquencies that hurt families and undermine our economic recovery.”

Over 36 million Americans who have student loans held by the federal government totaling upwards of $1.3 trillion, and according to a recent report from the Center for American Progress 45% of borrowers in default have not found a path to return their loan to good credit standing.

Last month, 23 Democratic lawmakers—including Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren—shared their concerns with the Department of Education. Specifically, what steps would be taken to protect borrowers’ wages and benefits when payments resume.

“The payment pause has been a lifeline that allowed millions of Americans to focus on their families, health, and finances instead of student loans during the national emergency,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “As our nation’s economy continues to recover from a deep hole, this final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment. It is the Department’s priority to support students and borrowers during this transition and ensure they have the resources they need to access affordable, high quality higher education.”

The Department has said it would begin notifying borrowers of the final extension in the coming days, and it would also release resources and information about how to plan for payment restart as the end of the pause approaches.

Tavis Smiley’s KBLA Gives Voice to Community as L.A.’s First Black-Owned Talk Radio Station

Lisa Collins

Tavis Smiley is used to making history. He did it as the first black to have a talk show on NPR and the first African American to have a talk show on PBS. Now, he is making history as with the launch of KBLA-1580, the first Black-owned talk radio format in Los Angeles.

Smiley closed the deal to purchase the station valued at $7.5 million late last year and is calling it the flagship station of what he hopes to build into a nationwide Black-owned and operated talk radio network.

“We’ve already identified other stations,” said Smiley. “So, the plan is long-term to syndicate our program from LA with these other stations that we hope to buy and lease across the country to build finally a black talk radio network across the country.”

For Smiley, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“Everything is properly situated in this moment for this. There is some black talk radio around the country, but it’s not thriving in the way that it once was. That’s why I think there’s an opportunity here. I’m dumb enough to try it and we’ll see if it works.”

So far, so good is the initial response from listeners and potential partners.

“After the first two weeks on the air, we started getting calls from stations around the country about syndicating our program, so we’re off to a pretty good start,” the veteran talk show host said.

The business venture follows a three-year hiatus from the airwaves for Smiley following his highly-publicized firing by PBS in 2017 for sexual assault misconduct in the wake of the “#MeToo movement and the subsequent 2018 wrongful termination lawsuit that led to a $2.6 million judgement against Smiley in favor of PBS in 2020.

Admittedly, Smiley says, “The PBS thing was ugly.

“I was lied on when I was a 12-year-old kid, and my father was so upset and so angry that he didn’t take the time to ask me whether or not the lie was true,” he digresses. “I was beaten so severely that I was in the hospital for almost two weeks and I’ve never forgotten the feeling of having someone stand up publicly and lie on me.”

He pauses for a moment, getting emotional.

“I promised myself as a 12 year old kid that I will never let anybody lie on me. So, I fought back and I’m still fighting back. You’re not going to lie on me and get away with it”, said the Gulfport, Mississippi native who got his start on radio in one-minute daily radio segments called The Smiley Report on KGFJ radio after working as an aide to former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley.

“They (PBS) don’t care about that truth. It was about not wanting to renew my contract and wanting to get me off the air. Even four years after “me too”, I am still the only black person in the history of PBS to have his own show. What does that tell you about what they were really committed to? And that’s what that fight was about.”

Smiley—who has appealed the judgement— says he’s not bitter.

“Life goes on. You move on,” he states. “I don’t ever let misery have the last word in my life. You fight and you come back.”

The hardest part of the whole ordeal for Smiley was not having a voice during the last nearly four years.

“I would have loved to have been here, to use my platform, to get access to other forces, to be a megaphone and amplify our voices,” he explains. “I mean, frankly, it was painful for almost four years sitting on the sidelines while I saw my brother and sisters being killed by cops and this era of racial reckoning was taking place, but watching that moment allowed me to realize that they’re covering us now because we’re in the streets. But what happens when we know we’re not in the streets anymore? How do we continue to advance our narrative?

“So, the idea crystallized to try to do a talk radio station for us and the beauty of it is that unlike everything else I’ve done in my career, it ain’t about me. My name isn’t on this,”he continues. This is not a Tavis smiley project or venture or show. It’s about the community. It’s about giving them a platform— a megaphone, and letting their voices amplified. I feel really good about the fact that for once in my life, I ain’t got to cradle all the weight.”

Citing Los Angeles as the most multicultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic city in the country —and given his beginnings in talk radio on KABC—Smiley is surprised that he didn’t think of it sooner.

“The problem is this city and everywhere else, the write up on Talk Radio is all day, all night, all white.”

Smiley’s answer to that is a format whose slogan is “unapologetically progressive”.

“To be clear, we are unapologetic black, but the station is unapologetic progressive,” said Smiley. “We took that slogan because I don’t want to leave out all good people who don’t look like us, who are with us, who came out in the streets during the protest.”

Black Angelenos recall the station’s dial location at 1580 as home to the former pioneering hip hop station, KDAY in the 80s. With 50,000 kilowatts of power, the signal reaches over 12 million in the L.A. basin and stretches from Thousand Oaks to San Clemente.

“The signal is huge,” notes Smiley. “The big boys in town KFI, KABC, KRLA have the same signal strength, so we can put it down as bad as they can.”

Getting the signal was a stroke of faith for the 56-year old broadcaster.

“I was in escrow with another station,” he reveals. As fate would have it, that escrow fell out and I was just crushed. I was praying and 48 hours later, I got a phone call that said, would you be interested in buying KBLA? And I just started crying, because the two stations I was in talks with, were nice stations, but the history of 1580, when you say 1580 to Negroes, you ain’t got to say nothing else. There’s nothing like buying a brand people already know.

“The bad news was that 1580 at the time we purchased it, was a Spanish language/ Christian radio station. What that meant was none of your advertisers are going to stay. So, we’re starting from scratch with no advertisers and flipping the format.”

With almost $650 million in advertising spent every year on radio in LA, the commercial viability adds to the pressure of getting it right and Smiley has $1.5 million of his own money as skin in the game.

But buying the station was only the first step. Now he needed the operating capital to assemble a team as his sales force got up to speed. And that’s where Smiley is getting by with a little help from some rich and powerful friends, including Bill Maher, Ice Cube, Van Jones, some NBA players and even an L.A. pastor, all of whom wrote generous checks.

With adequate financing Smiley was free to engage the kind of talent he believed would captivate listeners and create the kind of content that will lead to solid ratings in what is one of one of the nation’s most competitive markets.

One of his first calls was to Dominique diPrima, long time host of KJLH’s highly popular early morning talker, Front Page.

“I love Dominique on KJLH and Front Page, but I said to Dominique, ‘You have earned a bigger platform and because Stevie is music, he can’t give you a bigger platform. The city deserves an opportunity to hear you for longer than 90 minutes.”

DiPrima had hosted the popular show for more than 16 years and though it was difficult to leave, welcomed the opportunity.

“We all want the opportunity to grow and expand and make history and I think what Tavis is doing with KBLA is historical,” said DiPrima, who is making history as the first black woman to host a morning drive talk radio show.

“When you think about Los Angeles being such a catalyst for change —whether it’s the Watts Uprising or the ‘92 civil unrest or the Black Lives Matter Movement—we are an epicenter of change and black voices and we’ve never had a talk radio station, that’s significant.”

KBLA’s lineup also includes comedian/actor turned political commentator D.L. Hughley, whose syndicated radio show, The D.L. Hughley Show, was not heard in Los Angeles until Smiley made handed him the afternoon drive slot; and Don Amiche who was teamed for years with Tammi Mac on KJLH.

Smiley was also particularly happy to include Danny Morrison into the mix.

“He’s like the Stephen A. Smith of politics,” said Smiley. “He’s loud. He’s brash. He’s bombastic and boisterous, but agree or disagree, he always makes his point.”

And then what would a talk radio station owned by Tavis Smiley be without having him on the air, doing what he does best—interviewing influencers, celebrities and the newsmakers of the day.

What Smiley will not be at a loss for is content. It was one of his dear friends, Grammy-award winning R&B icon Prince, who impressed upon him that content is king, to which end Smiley owns all of his PBS and NPR libraries, his radio content dating back to his days as a commentator on “The Tom Joyner Show” and his more than a dozen books, including his 2006 best seller, “The Covenant With Black America”.

KBLA operates from the Leimert Park office complex that has served as his based for more than 20 years.

“We’re putting bigger studios in the back of the building,” Smiley said. “Once I get my hooks into something, I’m not a hit and quit. We’re going to build this thing with God’s help to make a portal for this community.”

In the meantime, his biggest challenge is getting the word out.

“We don’t have a multimedia dollar budget to do billboards, so right now, more than anything else, it’s about getting the word out.”

For however great the challenge is, Tavis Smiley is more than equal to it.

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

Indeed, for Smiley, KBLA represents a higher calling.

“I’ve always viewed my career in this way that however long I have to do the work God’s called me to do, I know that the eyes of the future looking back at us,” Smiley shares. “Black children are looking back at us, hoping we get this moment right.

“They’re going to ask that of all of us. What did we do in this moment of racial reckoning to advance our narrative? And my answer will be KBLA Talk. That in this moment, I took the opportunity to try to step up my game and to present to the community a platform that we can all use to advance our narrative.”

With Clemency from Former President Donald Trump, Corvain Cooper Resets His Life as Entrepreneur and Community Activist

Corvain Cooper knows what it is like to be behind prison walls and feel like the people you love the most have forgotten about you. He served seven years of a life sentence for a nonviolent marijauna conviction.

Since receiving clemency from former President Donald Trump before he left office in January, Corvain has hit the ground running, hoping to shine light on those whose individual stories are overshadowed within the fight for prison reform. 

Working as brand ambassador of 40 Tons Clothing, along with his business partner and CEO Loriel Alegrete, Cooper has found a unique lane of merging his past fashion pursuits within his current focus of cannabis equity and restorative justice.

“The people who you thought will remember you, will forget about you. I want to be the person who is not forgetting about the people serving life sentences,” Cooper said. “I know how it is sitting in the cell, looking at the wall, wishing you get some pictures or wishing to hear from somebody on the outside.” 

When Cooper was sentenced in 2014, he said that he never accepted “life in prison” as his final judgement. Although he understood the magnitude of the sentencing, he knew that everything close to him would crumble, including the future of his two young daughters. He also knew that the essence of who he was as a man would begin to fade and deteriorate. 

Two of his female co-defendants also received jail time in the case. 

As he sought different avenues to try and obtain freedom, this is when Cooper’s faith in God was really all he had to stand on, as well as the fact that thousands of people on the outside began to petition and rally for his freedom. 

His story landed on the front page of the Washington Post in 2020, as well as the BET documentary “Smoke” which shows how the war on drugs has systematically targeted Black communities with the criminalization of marijuana. 

Ivanka Trump would eventually hear of Cooper’s story and was touched not only by the hypocrisy of his sentence but also that he had two daughters that needed him. Although her father granted Cooper clemency and he was released from prison, since he did not receive a full pardon, he must still undergo ten years of parole and is limited in what he can do within the world of cannabis, especially at a time when there is so much growth in the market.

Despite these barriers, he has still been able to have his own strain of marijuana packaged and sold in the popular cookies marijuana dispensary.

For now, Cooper is focused on community events anywhere in L.A County and beyond where he can lend his resources, voice and lived experiences with 40 Tons. So far, 40 Tons has sponsored expungement clinics in South Central, as well as coding workshops for the youth. 

On September 3rd, they are hosting a job fair for the formerly incarcerated to obtain employment in Hawthorne. When you go to 40 Tons website you can choose to write to a prisoner or purchase a shirt directly from them and 100% of the proceeds will be put into their personal accounts. 

Another focus of Cooper’s, is catching up for lost time with his two daughters who are 15 and 11.

“They are with me right now,” Cooper reveals. “I got them working, showing them responsibility, how to trade stocks and how to get their own wealth so they won’t have to depend on anyone when they get older. That’s my basic strategy right now,”

Congresswoman Waters Demands Federal Probe into L.A. Sheriff’s Department “Executioners” Gang

Staff

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, is calling on  U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to take immediate action in directing the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the reports of a rogue, violent gang of law enforcement officers, who call themselves the “Executioners,” and operate within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

In a letter directed to Garland, Waters wrote: “I write to ask that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) take immediate action to address the reported existence of a rogue, violent gang of law enforcement officials, who call themselves the “Executioners,” operating within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), specifically the LASD Compton station. “…an LASD deputy provided sworn testimony identifying more than a dozen deputies with matching tattoos symbolizing their association with the Executioners gang… Deputies at the LASD Compton Station reportedly “chase ink”, a slang term for a deputy who attempts to win favor with the Executioners by committing violent acts in hopes of receiving the group tattoo denoting gang membership.”

“The gang allegedly sets illegal arrest quotas, threatens and harasses fellow deputies, and holds parties after shootings, called ‘998 parties,’ which are in part a celebration that a new deputy will be inked by the gang,” Waters continued. “The tattoos worn by the police gang reportedly feature Nazi imagery… In disturbing evidence of the violence perpetrated against the Los Angeles community by the LASD gang, the whistleblower identified the two deputies responsible for the death of Andres Guardado, a Gardena, California teenager killed by police on June 18, 2020, as members of the Executioners…The killing of Andres Guardado is not the only example of the LASD’s excessive and brutal tactics in the Los Angeles community. On August 31, 2020, LASD deputies fatally shot Dijon Kizzee in South Los Angeles.”

Waters said that her concerns extended beyond the Sheriff’s Department, but to a troubling pattern of police associating with militant groups nationwide, citing four San Jose police officers who were suspended after participating in a racist Facebook group and an Orange County officer caught wearing patches affiliated with a white supremacist group.

“There exists a clear pattern and practice of LASD deputies affiliating with white supremacist, militant police gangs, with the Executioners being the only the latest example,” Waters asserted. “According to ABC News, right wing extremist police gangs that have operated within LASD and other Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies include: the Executioners, the Vikings, the Regulators, the Jump Out Boys, the 3000 Boys and the Banditos. Since the 1990s, there have been dozens of cases…related to [LASD deputy gangs that have led to nearly $55 million in court judgements and settlements.”

Attorney John Sweeney—who won a $7 million lawsuit against L.A. County for the family of Donta Taylor, a 31-year-old Black man fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies in 2016—has been trying to raise the alarm on violent cliques in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for decades.

“These deputy gangs do exist. My goal was to expose it to the world,” Sweeney told L.A. Focus in March. “And I knew that some decent people within the sheriff’s department would come forth and corroborate what I’ve been trying to prove for years.”

Despite numerous allegations of deputy gangs revealed in the CBS report and various investigations, Sheriff Alex Villanueva has repeatedly denied the extent of a gang problem within the department, but at the same time says he has zero tolerance for deputy gangs.

“Any employee who aligns with a clique or subgroup, which engages in any form of misconduct, will be held accountable. I do not want you joining these alleged cliques anymore,” Villanueva said in a video on the LASD’s website.

His comments drew sharp rebuffs from Attorney Carl Douglas, who told L.A. Focus earlier this year that Villanueva is deliberately misleading the public about the troubling pattern within the L.A. County Sheriff’s and its well-documented deputy gang problem.

“Anyone who denies the existence of gangs within the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, like Alex Villanueva, is presenting false information to the public for his own self-interest,” Douglas said. “He knows in his heart that gang culture is a serious problem.” 

Calif. Reps. Lee and Bass Are Pushing Bills to Probe COINTELPRO; Remove Hoover’s Name From FBI Building

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media

California’s U.S. Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Karen Bass (D-CA-37) are backing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to remove former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Another bill they are supporting calls for probing the racially motivated counterintelligence programs that Hoover organized and oversaw known as COINTELPRO. Under Hoover’s watch, the FBI often relied on extra-legal tactics to accomplish its aims.

Last month, Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-01), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) hosted a virtual forum focused on the activities of COINTELPRO. Several African Americans with direct knowledge of COINTELPRO programs testified, including 1960s activists Akua Njeri, Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins, testified. Fred Hampton Jr also testified.

COINTELPRO is the moniker used to describe a series of covert projects the FBI coordinated between 1956-1971. They were aimed at surveilling, infiltrating and disrupting several domestic political movements and individuals that the agency deemed subversive or critical of the United States. Targeted groups and individuals included the Communist Party USA, the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, anti-Vietnam war organizers, feminist organizations and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 2021 Oscar-nominated film “Judas and the Black Messiah” depicted the strategy COINTELPRO used to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, which led to the assassination of Black Panther Party leader the late Fred Hampton Sr.

The lawmakers hosting the virtual forum condemned the COINTELPRO programs and J. Edgar Hoover’s leadership over the operation and, more broadly, the FBI. Hoover was the first and founding director of the FBI and he ran the agency from 1935 until his death in 1972. Hoover was also the head of the Bureau of Investigation, a government agency founded in 1924 and the forerunner to the FBI.

They are also calling for the uncovering of the still-classified history of COINTELPRO.

Rush, the co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, introduced his COINTELPRO Full Disclosure Act on May 4, which would require federal government agencies to publicly release all counterintelligence files related to COINTELPRO, and remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI building in Washington, D.C. Representatives Cohen, Rush and Lee are also co-sponsoring a separate bill aimed at removing Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters.

“I know the damages of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO firsthand. I was put in the middle of their aggressive surveillance and counterintelligence activities after becoming involved with the Black Panther Party as a community worker,” said Lee. “As a community worker, I used my organizational and fundraising skills to help implement the Ten Point Program, which made programs like Free Breakfast for Children possible and paved the way for our own government’s free breakfast plan for low-income children.”

Calling the FBI’s activities and methods under Hoover “government-sponsored harassment,” Cohen said “COINTELPRO was not just violent and illegal. What made it so pernicious is it undermined our Constitution and democracy.”

“The United States was born of dissent, and alternative perspectives should be welcomed, not ‘neutralized.’ We may disagree, but every American has the right and freedom to speak their mind, to petition their government, to protest, to be engaged and active in civic life, and to contribute their energy and efforts in pursuit of our ‘more perfect union,’” he said. he FBI, attempted to snuff out minorities and minority viewpoints.”

The forum featured both activists with deep knowledge of COINTELPRO’s efforts and former members of the Black Panther Party. Akua Njeri, Fred Hampton Sr.’s partner, shared a harrowing account of the Black Panther Party leader’s death. Her son, Fred Hampton Jr., also spoke about his own experience with COINTELPRO.

According to Njeri and Hampton Jr., the majority of COINTELPRO’s subversive activities involving Black nationalist groups was directed at the Black Panther Party.

While the forum was mostly focused on testimonies, Lee stressed the need to learn about the past COINTELPRO operations in case similar efforts are used again in the future. She cited the FBI’s “Black identity extremism” report, which was written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit in 2017, and claimed that “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans” had spurred“ an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.” Lee criticized the idea of a “Black identity extremist,” saying that such a thing “did not exist.”

“This was another way for the FBI to surveil the Black community. So, we must be vigilant now, this briefing is so important, because we all have to understand what a COINTELPRO 2 looks like now,” Lee said.

Haitian American Artist Brings His Vision, Gift to State’s COVID Campaign

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

California’s “Your Actions Save Lives” art campaign recently unveiled two “Safety First” murals in San Francisco. The artworks, created by the Grammy-nominated visual artist Serge Gay Jr, were commissioned to encourage people to continue to take safety precautions against COVID-19 even though the state reopened last month, according to the governor’s office.

One is located in the Castro, the city’s renowned historical “gayborhood,” as it is affectionately called by some locals, and the other in the Tenderloin, near downtown — two well-known districts steeped in the Golden Gate City’s famous history of Leftist political organizing and the visibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) people.

The Tenderloin mural, which he dedicates to the city’s transgender community, was inspired by the idea of, “breaking free because during the pandemic, we were all just home and kind of stuck there,” said Gay.

The mural, he explains, emphasizes the feeling of being free, “once you get vaccinated you have that experience back again, that freedom of moseying around the city,” said Gay.

Gay’s second artwork is located at 2390 Market Street in the Castro.

Gay says he chose the Castro district strategically since the area has a history that is committed to the safety and protection of the LGBTQ+ community.

The state says the “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign equips Californians with information about what they can do to help stem the spread of COVID-19. To get the word out, it partnered with The Center at the Sierra Health Foundation and 20 local artists across the state to reach communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The project engages Latino, Black/African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Native American/Indigenous and LGBTQ artists and communities,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The arts initiative, organizers say, is designed to raise awareness of critical actions Californians have taken to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask, washing hands, physical distancing and getting vaccinated.

“These accomplished artists are tapping into their culture and creativity to share empowering messages with communities that have been hard hit by COVID-19. Art has incredible power, and we believe these works will spark important conversations, connections and inspiration throughout the state,” said Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation.

According to Gay, he celebrates the Tenderloin for its inclusion of Black and Brown people. The message behind the mural places an emphasis on freedom of movement following the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages the public to get vaccinated, says the artist whose collaboration with film director Matt Stawski clinched him a Grammy nomination for “Best Short Form Video.”

“I wanted to really kind of also showcase our trends visibility,” said Gay.

The work that Gay produced for the statewide art project captures the diversity of Black and Brown people in San Francisco’s LBGTQ+ community. Gay says, because of his own personal experiences, he realizes that it is important to represent Black and Brown people in his work. He remembers feeling unwanted and invisible when he first moved to San Francisco from Miami.

“Being part of the LGBT community is just wanting to kind of have the opportunity to show diversity on everything,” said Gay.

As a third-generation artist, Gay wants Black people to recognize themselves in his artwork. When he sees artwork centered around Black people, Gay says, he often thinks to himself, “This is me, it resonates with me when I see another artist painting something that I can relate to.”

The fine artist attributes his artistic style (some critics have described it as graphic realism) — as well as his personal flair — to his Haitian culture and heritage as well as his upbringing in Miami, which taught him life lessons about the importance of community. As a Haitian American artist, Gay wants his work to indicate that Blackness is not a monolith. Gay pays homage to his Haitian roots through his artwork which celebrates various Black communities in the Bay Area — African Americans as well as African and Caribbean immigrants, he explains.

“I have this sense that everything is like a celebration of our culture, identity, and roots. So, I tend to put down a lot in my work, bringing the fresh immigrant story, almost like an outsider perspective,” said Gay.

Although there is misinformation and disinformation, Gay wants his work to reassure people that the vaccine is safe. Racial disparities in the healthcare system had a devastating impact on Black communities across the nation. Gay stressed that the number of lives lost due to

COVID-19 in Black and Brown communities indicates that people need to get vaccinated.

An award-winning artist, Gay says the COVID-19 pandemic pushed various Black communities to, “come together to fight for a cause.”

He said it important for Black and Brown communities to “remember what we have learned through this and figure out how we move forward and how we deal with it the next time.”

Through his artwork, Gay takes on the responsibility of, “educating people to go back to what happened in the past and to learn from the past,” he said.

New Strain of Covid Proving Fatal to Unvaccinated People

Manny Otiko | California Black Media 

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.

According to medical doctors, the United States is currently dealing with a new strain of the virus, the Delta variant, which is more lethal and virulent than previous strains. The Delta variant originated in India towards the end of last year and was first identified in America in March. The Los Angeles County Health Department is so worried about a new outbreak, its told residents to mask up again. “Since the Delta variant is more infectious than other variants, Public Health recommends wearing a mask around others in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status,” said the LA County Department of Health in a tweet. Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles, has already seen signs of the new strain in the Los Angeles community. He said medical professionals are already gearing up for what he called the “5th wave” of the coronavirus pandemic. “

It’s already in LA,” he said. “We assume the rates will go back up.” Like other viruses, Covid-19 is constantly mutating. When the virus encounters new hosts (particularly unvaccinated bodies,) it changes and gets stronger. The best way to eliminate the disease is to vaccinate about 70 % of residents in a community (herd immunity,) so the virus doesn’t have any places to grow and survive. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., emphasized this point during a recent Ethnic Media Services virtual briefing on the efficacy of continued mask use. “The more warm bodies the virus has, the more opportunity it will have to mutate,” said Feigl-Deing, who is also the Chief Health Economist for Microclinic International, a San Francisco-based non-profit that bills itself as an organization that “revolutionize how deadly diseases are prevented and managed worldwide.”

“If you let it spread, it will mutate,” he warned. Feigl-Ding added, at this stage, reaching herd immunity is not realistic, and we need to look at alternative solutions to contain the virus, such as continued mask usage, ventilation, hand washing, disinfecting surfaces and air purification devices. But over the last year, the debate about vaccinations became political. A large number of people who supported former President Donald Trump downplayed the virus and accused Democrats of overstating the severity of the pandemic. A lot of those skeptics even refused to take the vaccines.

Some say they don’t trust the science. Others do it to resist what they see as pressure coming from liberals.

But health experts say, refusing to take one of the three vaccines approved to fight COVID-19 in the United States is dangerous and only allows the virus to thrive.

Data is beginning to show the effects of politicizing public health. Deaths and infections are going up in red states, while the numbers have been steadily declining in blue states. “A study from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, finds that states with Republican governors have experienced the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Medical News Today. Medical data shows that 99 % of recent Covid 19 deaths were unvaccinated people, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading virologist and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Abraham is a big proponent of vaccination and estimates his clinic has given about 300,000 inoculations to people in the South Los Angeles area. But he still sees worrying trends. According to Abraham, only about 40% of Black Men in the area are vaccinated. He is also troubled by the attitude he sees in a demographic he calls “the Invincibles” (young people in their late teens and early 20s who don’t think they’ll ever get sick.) Many of them, Abraham says, ar reluctant to take the vaccination, even though they’re eligible. Abraham said he encountered many “Invincibles” at the recent Juneteenth celebration in Los Angeles, and many of them had a nonchalant attitude towards Covid-19. He said many young people he encouraged to get vaccinated said, “I’ll get over it.” They think if they eat right and are healthy, they’ll survive Covid, he said. But Abraham said healthy people can get sick and still need to get vaccinated. “You’re never going to exercise or eat your way off a ventilator,” said Abraham. Abraham also warned the situation would worsen during the fall when it gets colder, and people spend more time inside. “It’s not a matter of if,” said Abraham. He also said that pandemic diseases are becoming more common. There are several reasons why this could be occurring, such as overpopulation, children growing up in sterilized environments, poor nutrition, global warming, poor health and poor sanitation in the developing world. And we live in an increasingly globalized world, so it’s easy for a disease that originated on the other side of the world to end up in the West. “What happens in South Asia will affect us in L.A.,” said Abraham.


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