Hollywood Blvd Business Owners Will File Criminal Charges Against Protesters for Property Damage During Breonna Taylor Demonstration

By Stephen Oduntan

Shattered glass dotted the pavement.

Evidence of vandalism after violent confrontations between Los Angeles police and protesters in Hollywood on the first anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman fatally shot by Louisville police during a botched raid at her apartment.

Now, more than a week after the unrest, many businesses are still barricaded.

“We have a damage of roughly ten grand,” said the General Manager of BIBIBOP Asian Grill, Diana Arias, who also told L.A. Focus that of all the businesses on the strip, her restaurant possibly suffered some of the most severe damage from the carnage.

The rally began peacefully, with as many as 200 people gathered in Hollywood marching through streets blocking traffic at times. But what started as a peaceful protest soon after morphed into a tense standoff with police in riot gear at Vine Street and Lexington Avenue’s intersection.

Law enforcement responded to calls that several protesters dressed in all black clothing and equipped with various weapons had smashed windows and graffitied buildings.

The acronym “ACAB” (All Cops Are [Explicit] covered the walls in graffiti messages.

Video footage from the scene shows an unidentified man who tried unsuccessfully to keep a small mob of protesters from smashing the business’s windows but got pushed to the ground.

“There’s no need to break glass,” the man said.

Ignoring the man’s pleas to stop, a tall, slim protester armed with pepper spray spewed profanity to express his anger before other protesters grabbed the man and hauled him away.

“Breaking glass is not violence,” yelled the protester at the man. “What the [explicit] does glass matter to you? Police are killing people, and you give an [explicit] about glass.”

Eleven people were arrested on the night: five on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, three on suspicion of possessing a prohibited item, two on suspicion of unlawful assembly, and one on suspicion of battery on a police officer, said Officer William Cooper, an LAPD spokesman.

One protester was also treated for “injuries sustained during a use of force” by responding cops. The demonstrator was booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, department officials said.

Meanwhile, the next day after the protest, LAPD Chief Michel Moore tweeted a link to a YouTube video of items being thrown at the officers, writing, “NO justification/excuse for this violence.”

Responding to that tweet, Capt. Steve Lurie, commander of the Hollywood Division, wrote that Hollywood officers were out that Saturday night “to ensure this group could express themselves under the umbrella of” the 1st Amendment, but the protesters “came to destroy Angelenos’ businesses and attack police officers.”

Nine businesses were vandalized during the protest, police said.

“Our building sustained several broken windows and doors, but then most of the damage was to our retailers who are responsible for their own repairs, which were hit really hard, said a property manager of a building on Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street and who requested anonymity in line with speaking publicly about the company’s matters without prior approval.

Some of the sources for this story said they would pursue criminal charges against people arrested during the protests.

“Everybody’s pressing charges because of the huge damage done to our stores, said Aria, the General Manager of BIBIBOP Asian Grill. “We’re not even sure if the people who were arrested were actually protesters because whatever point they were trying to make was quite apparent given all the damage they did to our businesses.”

Aria said she has supported in the past those who are rightfully outraged by the senseless loss of life in Louisville and elsewhere at the hands of police but wishes the culprits responsible for the damage to properties would realize the price business owners pay for vandalism goes far beyond money.

“They are causing more damage and hurt to others and saying they’re doing it to remember Breonna Taylor,” she said. “I wish they would’ve considered how bad this would look in [Breonna Taylor’s] name.”

No officers, meanwhile, who were at the residence in search of drugs have been charged in Taylor’s death, but a grand jury indicted one cop for shooting into neighboring apartments. No drugs were found during the raid.

A Call to Stop Hate: Asian Americans & Allies Held Vigil Demanding an End to Violence & Racism

By Stephen Oduntan

A Black Lives Matter – South Pasadena activist came together with the San Gabriel Valley community to hold a “Stop Asian Hate” candlelight vigil on Saturday evening and called for the ongoing attacks on Asian Americans to stop.

The vigil was held at Almansor Park in Alhambra, four days after a lone gunman went on a shooting spree at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six Asian women.

“Many of my days are extremely full,” Fahren James, the South Pasadena Black Lives Matter activist, told the hundreds of people gathered to honor the shooting victims. “But it is important I came here today to stand in solidarity with the AAPI (Asian-American Pacific Islander) community, who are some of my closest supporters.”

She did not mince words and spent a considerable amount of time highlighting the tense relationship between Blacks and Asians in America, saying to the crowd of masked people – primarily Asian – that now was the time to work together instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes.

“There’s no way,” she reiterated. “I would miss coming here to stand in solidarity with you even though my overwhelming experience in the [Asian-American] community has not been great. But I came here today dressed in a hoodie and chucks on my feet to show you that I am human and care about everybody. The Black Lives movement is not just about Black lives because what we’re asking for is going to help every one of us.”

Betty Hang, the event’s organizer, told L.A. Focus that Asian-American hate crimes had ignited a sense of deep urgency among protesters.

“I was impatient,” she said. “I want this to happen now. I didn’t want to wait for someone to organize an event. We need a sense of community where we feel validated and are here for each other. Having people from the community speak gives us a space to heal.”

Like many Asian-Americans, she is still reeling from the Atlanta mass shooting. The suspect, identified as Robert Aaron Long, faces multiple counts of murder and aggravated assault.

“I think I’m talking for a lot of people when I say we were traumatized learning about the shooting. It’s something we’re going to continue to process over time,” Hang said.

According to several recent studies, since the coronavirus pandemic started a year ago, hate crimes against Asian-Americans in major U.S. cities surged by nearly 150 percent.

But the group Stop AAPI Hate also notes that anti-Asian attacks are likely higher than official hate crime data collected, given several incidents often go unreported – possibly due to language barriers, especially among Asian immigrants and elders.

Attendees at Saturday’s rally held lit candles and signs reading “stop Asian hate.”

Jireh Deng, a student at Cal State Long Beach, said she was frustrated the media hadn’t been more proactive in covering the social crises last summer as a teachable moment to discuss anti-Black racism.

“As someone who is a student journalist, I need to ask the media where were you when we had Black Lives Matter protests?” asked Deng. “Why is it that you only show up to these types of events? Why do we have stereotypes that label certain communities as more dangerous when they show up to combat racism?”

Deng underscored that dismantling “white supremacy” would require connecting the Asian community’s struggles to those of the African-Americans who’ve had a long history of protesting against racial injustice.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles, Connie Chung Joe, also addressed the crowd and urged them to increase awareness of hate crime incidents, reassuring people that her organization offers legal services to the Asian community.

She called for a collective effort to end anti-Asian hate and violence.

“The fact is,” she said. “Violence against Asians isn’t going to stop if only Asian’s care about it. Because we learned through Black Lives Matter that had Black people only cared about Black violence, we’ll never address anti-Blackness in this country. We need solidarity and allyship.”

Los Angeles County Announces Emergency COVID-19 Rental Relief Program

Staff

The one-year anniversary of Los Angeles’ COVID-19 shutdown has come and gone, and for many, the ensuing financial burden continues.

“Hundreds of thousands are struggling to pay their rent on time or even to pay it at all,” acknowledged Supervisor Janice Hahn back in January of 2021.

Along with Supervisor Hilda Solis, Hahn successfully motioned for the extension and expansion of the local rent relief program and eviction moratorium in January. Now, Angelinos can also turn to the city’s Emergency Renters Assistance Program (ERAP), which will open applications on March 30.

Residents will have until through April 30 to apply.

“The Los Angeles Emergency Rental Assistance Program is designed to help landlords and tenants catch up on back rent. The program will provide a temporary rental subsidy for tenants who live in the City of Los Angeles and are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson in a statement.

To be eligible, applicants must meet three requirements:
Residents of the City of Los Angeles, regardless of immigration status. To verify you live in the City of Los Angeles, go to: neighborhoodinfo.lacity.org;
One or more individuals within the household have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 outbreak; and
The household income is at or below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Those eligible will then be randomly selected. However, the program will prioritize applicants with past-due, unpaid rent. Similar to the state program, the program can pay 80 percent of a tenant’s past-due rent for the period of April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021, but only if their landlord agrees to pay the remaining 20 percent.

If a landlord does not agree, the program will help pay 25 percent of the tenant’s past-due, unpaid rent, as well as up to 25 percent of their upcoming future rent for 3 months.

To apply visit hcidla.lacity.org or call the ERAP hotline.

Cal Lawmakers Propose Process to Decertify Convicted Cops

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) added language with some teeth to Senate Bill (SB) 2, the “Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021.”

The amendments to the police reform bill, first introduced in December last year in the California Assembly, are designed to increase standards of accountability for law enforcement officers. They include a statewide process to revoke the certification of a peace officer convicted of violating a person’s civil rights or engaging in other misconduct on the job.

“If last summer’s nationwide protests and calls for police reform have shown us anything, it’s that Californians want more than just a superficial change,” said Bradford. “If many professionals licensed in the state of California can have their certification revoked for committing serious misconduct or abusing their authority, then why not police officers?”

Ross, after whom the bill is named, was a 25-year-old African American who a Gardena police officer shot two times and killed on April 11, 2018.

According to the police report, Michael Robbins, the officer who fatally shot Ross, was the last officer to arrive on the scene. Yet, he was the only officer who perceived a threat sufficient to discharge a weapon. Ross was unarmed and running from officers when he was shot. He died at the scene.

Although he was involved in prior shootings, Robbins was cleared of wrongdoing in the incident.

“It is critical that California’s police officers meet the highest standards of conduct and have the trust of our communities,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), co-author of SB 2.

“The vast majority of officers want to do what’s required to build and keep trust with the communities they serve. I’m proud to co-author SB 2 by Senator Steven Bradford, which would bring us closer to achieving that goal.”

California is one of only five states in the nation that does not have the authority to decertify law enforcement officers who have committed serious misconduct.

“On April 11, 2018, my son, Kenneth Ross, Jr. was murdered by a Gardena police officer who shot three other people in previous incidents,” Fouzia Almarou, Ross’ mother, said.

“If Officer Michael Robbins had been decertified after the first shooting, Kenneth would likely still be here, with his son, his siblings, and me,” she continued. “I’m going to fight with everything in me to get this bill passed so this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

Other states, such as Florida and Georgia, have led the nation in police officer decertification by inquiring into misconduct without regard to convictions for certain offenses.

The recent amendments to SB 2 are similar to Senate Bill (SB) 73, which Bradford also introduced last year. That legislation died in committee last November.

Sponsors and supporters of SB 2 say this time they hope the Legislature passes the police reform provisions they have drafted to strengthen the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. The 1998 bill authored by California State Assemblyman Tom Bane created legal avenues for police shooting victims to seek compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties.

The state’s primary civil rights law that protects Californians against police abuse, the Bane Act has been undercut by bad court decisions, said Carl Douglas, President of Douglas-Hicks Law, and Consumer Attorneys of California Board Member. Once among the most robust laws protecting civil rights in the nation, Douglas says the Bane Act no longer serves as an effective check against police brutality.

It no longer alerts municipalities of harmful policing practices, gives innocent victims of police brutality an effective civil recourse for justice and accountability, or holds police accountable to act in good faith, he said.

In California, racial or ethnic minorities account for 3 out 4 people killed by police. And, over the last decade over 1,100 Californians were killed by police officers, according to California Department of Justice data. In 2017 alone, 172 Californians died as a result of police use of force.

The amendments to SB 2 include: strengthening the Bane Act by stripping some of the procedural barriers that afford police officers immunity; changing the composition of the public safety advisory boards to include another member of the public and removing a law enforcement officer; allowing the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to retroactively review certain misconduct related to deadly use of force, sexual assault, or dishonesty for the purpose of decertification.

“The legal standard in California should be that no one — not even police officers — has immunity from the consequences of violating someone’s civil rights,” Douglas said during the virtual news conference. “Bad court rulings have given police a blank check for misconduct without consequence. As long as we are unable to hold officers accountable, our communities will continue to suffer from no recourse to justice. SB 2 will finally end immunity for officer misconduct, and it will ensure officers who use illegal force can’t re-offend.”

SB 2 is sponsored by a coalition of community organizations, including Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti-Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, California Families United 4 Justice, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PolicyLink, STOP Coalition, and Youth Justice Coalition.

“California is a national leader in many efforts, but in this one, we are dangerously behind the curve,” Bradford said. “Californians are urging us to pass meaningful and systemic reform that will improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve for generations to

come. Like so many people in our state, I look forward to working with Pro Tem Atkins, our co-authors, and all stakeholders to have this bill signed into law.”

The Lookout: Several Bills Aim to Level the Playing Field for Disadvantaged Californians

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

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

A pitcher throws a perfect game against a hitter without a bat, a tennis player aces a racket-less opponent, and the crowd elates. For many in California, that is their reality. The receiving end of a bad hand. A game most foul.

In Sacramento, there are a few bills being proposed that aim to level the playing field in California, particularly for disadvantaged Californians.

Senate Bill (SB)17, which is scheduled for an Assembly committee hearing on March 23, would declare racism as a health crisis in California and develop a state government “Office of Racial Equity in the State Department of Public Health for purposes of aligning state resources, decision-making, and programs to accomplish certain goals related to health equity and protecting vulnerable communities.”

The language in the text of SB 17 makes a distinction between this legislation and AB 3121, the “Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” which Gov. Newsom signed into law last Summer.

“Existing law establishes the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, with a Special Consideration for African Americans Who are Descendants of Persons Enslaved in the United States to, among other things, 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 bill language reads. “Existing law requires the task force to submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature.”

“This bill would establish in state government an Office of Racial Equity, an independent public entity not affiliated with an agency or department, that shall be governed by a Racial Equity Advisory and Accountability Council,” SB 17’s authors continue. “The bill would authorize the council to hire an executive director to organize, administer, and manage the operations of the office. The bill would task the office with coordinating, analyzing, developing, evaluating, and recommending strategies for advancing racial equity across state agencies, departments, and the office of the governor.”

As issues of racial inequity gain more traction in the U.S., bills like SB 17 are being introduced in legislatures around the country, proposing creative ways to uproot longstanding systems of inequality and discrimination.

During a global pandemic, the racial disparities in the healthcare system have become harder to ignore, according to Sen. Richard Pan (D- Sacramento), a medical doctor who is the author of SB 17.

“Extensive research has identified racism as a public health crisis leading to significant health disparities, including infant and maternal mortality, chronic disease’s prevalence, life expectancy and now COVID mortality,” Pan said. “The state needs an independent body to hold us accountable by examining California’s policies and budget with the goal of achieving racial equity and ending systemic racism.”

People like John Kim, Executive Director of Advancement Project California, believe that the structures that hinder people of color were designed to do so and the solution should be to redesign these structures.

“All of the racial inequities we’ve seen in this pandemic have been decades in the making. We can no longer react to the symptoms of systematic racism or nibble around the policy edges,” Kim said. “Passing SB 17 and establishing a State level Office of Racial Equity is crucial to excavating the intersectional nature of structural racism baked into this state’s public systems and policies. A fully resourced and appropriately authorized office is a powerful mechanism not only to stem the tide of bad, racist policies but also to generate new pathways to close the opportunity gap for communities of color throughout the state.”

Another equity-focused piece of legislation making its way through the legislature is Senate Bill 2, which is essentially identical to last year’s Senate Bill 731. It is meant to bar police officers who have been fired for misconduct or charged with one of a set of specific crimes from serving and protecting in another precinct in California.

As it stands currently, officers that fit into this category can still serve in other counties in the state.

SB 2 is also known as the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021, as it was named after the unarmed 25-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in Gardena in 2018.

“Only one police officer in the history of California has been charged, convicted and sent to jail [for police brutality] and that is Johannes Mehserle who only did 11 months for the fatal shooting of my nephew Oscar Grant,” Cephus “Uncle Bobby” X Johnson said during a virtual press conference for SB 2 in reference to the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant III in Oakland.

Senator Steven Bradford, who introduced SB 2, noted that other professions are held to a certain standard and law enforcement shouldn’t be any different.

“If last summer’s nationwide protests and calls for police reform have shown us anything, it’s that Californians want more than just a superficial change,” Bradford said. “If many professionals licensed in the state of California can have their certification revoked for committing serious misconduct or abusing their authority, then why not police officers?”

Assembly Bill 675 and Senate Bill 424 would create a “homeless hiring tax credit” as an effort to provide homeless people in California “access to meaningful employment.”

“I’ve been unhoused, I’ve gone through a bout of homelessness and I know what it’s like to want to get a job. To want to better yourself, but there weren’t a lot of resources out there, but thanks to [Los Angeles] county and this bill– we’re going to be able to bridge a gap between the business community and the homeless community,” said Lavena Lewis, the Black business owner of Vena Vena Handcrafted. “With being homeless, finding employment is key.”

And in Washington, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) proposed a bill coined the “Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act” that set out to put a cap on the pay CEOs receive in relation to the working-class people who work for them.

“Americans across the political spectrum are outraged by the extreme gaps between CEO and worker pay,” it read on Lee’s press release. “According to a nationwide survey, the typical American would limit CEO pay to no more than 6 times that of the average worker. About 62% of all Americans – 52% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats – favor capping CEO pay relative to worker pay.”

This sounds like the first in a slew of equity-based legislative pushes so batter up, America. Maybe we’ll all be getting a swing soon.

Supt. Thurmond Deploys 3 Million COVID Tests to Speed Up Safe School Reopening

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond expanded an existing pilot testing program, adding 3 million free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to accelerate the safe reopening of schools across California.

“Being able to quickly identify who is positive and who is not will be critically important for day-to-day operations on a school campus and will help protect not only students but teachers and support staff,” said Thurmond.

State administrators partnered with the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force and the California Department of Education to safeguard the reopening of K-12 schools in underprivileged communities across the state. High-needs schools will have access to antibody tests at no cost so that students can return for in-person instruction. The pilot program delivered rapid antigen tests to 11 school districts located in areas that were the most impacted by the pandemic. The participating schools produced fruitful results that identified individuals who were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. The pilot program prioritizes rural regions, low-income neighborhoods, as well as Black and Brown communities that were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to limited access to adequate health care.

Thurmond said that it is important to get the rapid antibody tests “into the hands of those who may lack the access to testing or medical care.”

The antibody tests are crucial for the safe reopening of schools seeing that individuals can get results in at least 15 minutes, state officials said. Members of the COVID-19 taskforce train and oversee the testing process at participating schools in efforts to expand the pilot program.

State administrators also implemented the Healthy Places Index, a census data-tracking tool that identifies underserved populations inconvenienced by the pandemic. The metric tool was created by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California to boost state outreach in low-income Black and Brown communities.

Gov. Newsom said the pilot program is preparing more schools to welcome students for in-person learning before the end of the year.

“By deploying these rapid tests, California is adding another tool in the toolbox to support schools as they continue on the path to reopen as safely and quickly as possible,” said Newsom.

The rapid antibody testing pilot program was launched in January 2021 by the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force along with the California Endowment and the Public Health Institute. The research institutions, part of Gov. Newsom’s Together Toward Health initiative, are expected to publish the pilot program’s data revealing the test results of more than 40,000 students from 80 elementary schools in 11 school districts across the state.

According to the Public Health Institute and the Ballmer Group, positive cases of COVID-19 can be contained to prevent the fast spread of the virus if detected early.

Gov. Newsom recently signed a bill that gives workers who were exposed to or test positive or for COVID-19 access to paid sick leave. The new legislation was enacted to protect essential workers, including educators and school staff, who at high risk of contracting the virus.

The bill aims to fill the gaps in policies related to state and federal paid sick leave, according to state lawmakers. Gov. Newsom said the new law also gives employees who tested positive or were exposed to the virus, “a little more peace of mind as they take time to care for themselves and protect those around them from COVID-19.”

“Helping employees stay home when they are sick is foundational in our response to COVID-19,” said Newsom.

California is still on its path to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the state has vaccinated more than 200,000 education staff and childcare workers since the beginning of March 2021.

The state exceeded its initial goal to conduct 75,000 weekly vaccinations as part of the governor’s plan to allocate at least 10 % of the state’s vaccinations to education and childcare workers statewide. California has vaccinated teachers and school staff in 58 counties, according to state officials.

“We will continue working with our local partners to accelerate this effort in communities across the state so that all school staff have access to a vaccine,” which is a major step toward the safe reopening of schools in California, said Newsom.

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

Women’s History Month: Three Black Leaders on the Forefront of California’s COVID-19 Response

Profile: Yolanda Richardson, the Operator

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

In January 2020, Gov. Newsom appointed Yolanda Richardson as California’s new Secretary of the Government Operations Agency. Now, one year into that role, the governor has charged Richardson with spearheading California’s vaccination distribution. That’s in addition to other COVID-19 emergency response initiatives she leads, including promoting equitable testing and supplying personal protective equipment where needed to keep California’s population of 40 million people safer.

Richardson hit the ground running responding to the COVID-19 pandemic four days after being sworn into office by Newsom. She is responsible for 11 state departments and programs that ensure that the California state government runs smoothly and achieves its goal of overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic. Richardson’s passion for problem-solving was an effective tool in boosting state efforts to build a coronavirus testing laboratory and establishing a vaccine task force. Her 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry has sharpened her expertise and “get-it-done” leadership style as one of three African American women to lead California’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A major challenge for Richardson was, “being thrust into a situation,” to fight the pandemic and find new ways to “get things done in an environment in which we never imagined,” she said.

“The biggest challenge to us has been: How do we keep state government working effectively and continuing to deliver services efficiently,” said Richardson.

Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, Richardson saw an opportunity to support legislation that enabled Californians to make a smooth transition to work-from-home and homeschooling policies. The operation’s team also implemented the governor’s plans to manage

$7.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, $6.6 billion for state schools, and $30 million in grants to support local organizations.

“The biggest win was that people did what they needed to continue moving forward during one of the biggest shifts our state has seen,” said Richardson.

The state of California has partnered with various community-based organizations, leaders, and businesses, a unique approach to the pandemic, in efforts to promote equity, she said.

“In everything we do, we have to be thoughtful about all of the different situations that we find people in,” said Richardson. “I think the state has just done an amazing job of really thinking about being thoughtful and trying to make sure that the approaches and the things that we do meet people where they are.”

The state’s operations team continues to evaluate progress through data-tracking and managing collaborative efforts with community partners to make sure the state achieves its desired outcomes, she said.

Richardson discussed racial equity in the healthcare system with medical experts and leaders in the Black and Latino caucuses, as part of Gov. Newsom’s plans to provide community clinics and health centers with COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

“I’m very passionate about allocating more vaccines to our communities that are mostly populated by Black and Brown people,” said Richardson. “I am very much committed to using my voice and the platform I’ve been blessed with to make sure that I do everything I can to help those in need.”

Vaccine hesitancy fueled by misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 has made it hard for the state to reach vulnerable populations in low-income areas, according to state officials. However, community leaders expressed concerns regarding access to adequate health care, COVID-19 testing, vaccine distribution.

“We’re leveraging trusted advisors, using people in the community that the communities listened to the most,” Sec. Richardson said. “We’re looking at all the different strategies we can employ that are most comfortable and familiar to those in diverse communities so that they can feel comfortable about getting the vaccine.”

Among her list of impressive titles, Richardson is a proud mother of two, an enthusiastic dog owner and wife to her husband of 23 years, who are the anchor to her sanity and peace, she said.

“I have an amazing family that is very supportive,” Richardson said. “I am very blessed to have a beautiful family that keeps me balanced.”

Although balance is hard for any leader, Richardson said her operations team has pushed her to accomplish California’s objectives in serving communities statewide. California’s leaders still

have a long road ahead to achieve its goal of overcoming the pandemic and safely reopening the state.

“There’s so much to do, we joke and say every day is Monday in the state of California. But I have the most extraordinary colleagues who have been a huge support,” said Richardson.

 

Profile: Nadine Burke Harris, the Equity Advocate

Quinci LeGarye | California Black Media

Nadine Burke Harris is California’s first Surgeon General, a role that consists of a number of high-level internal governmental obligations as well as a significant amount of public-facing responsibility. In addition to advising the governor on health matters, she is also the state’s “public health spokesperson,” Burke Harris told California Black Media.

 

“Probably the biggest part of my job is that I translate science into information that people can use to help keep themselves healthy. That’s probably my favorite part of the job,” she says.

 

When asked what her biggest success has been regarding California’s pandemic-related public-health efforts, Burke-Harris focused on the state’s equity measures. They include equity metrics within the state’s reopening blueprints for counties as well as an equity strategy within COVID-19 vaccine allocation that reserves 40 % of vaccines for socio-economically disadvantaged communities. She also mentioned her role as co-chair of the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee, which is part of the process of determining how California allocates and distributes its vaccines.

 

“I think our reopening blueprint really demonstrates how seriously California is taking the issue of equity because our whole notion is that we recognize that this pandemic is disproportionately hard on Black communities, and we really want to make sure that when we are reopening that we are doing an equitable reopening,” said Burke-Harris.

 

Prior to becoming California’s Surgeon General, Burke-Harris treated children as a pediatrician. She is the founder of the Center for Youth Wellness in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. In her decade and a half working in the community, Burke-Harris saw how certain equity and accessibility issues would impact her patients’ ability to receive care.

 

Burke-Harris says, “There are a lot of little things that you realize. For example, I was just on a conversation where we were talking about how close a vaccine site has to be in order to be considered accessible. One of the things that I highlighted is that I live in San Francisco, and I have a car, so for me, something that’s five miles away is perfectly acceptable. But for the patients that I cared for, I had the experience of seeing how hard it is for someone who’s got two or three kids to take three buses across town to get where they have to go. Five miles away may not be accessible. That has certainly informed my role in the state and how I advise the governor.”

 

In addition to her work on the COVID-19 response, Burke-Harris has also continued her previous work on raising awareness about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how toxic stress affects children. A training initiative, which she began in January 2020, has now educated almost 20,000 doctors about how to identify and improve healthcare outcomes for people who have experienced ACEs.

 

As for her biggest challenge during the pandemic, she acknowledged a feeling of exhaustion. Such exhaustion, she says, is common among health care providers and others on the frontline of the COVID-19 response and relief efforts, after a full year of the pandemic.

 

“It’s been a real sprint. My colleagues in government, and especially in health and human services, have been working around the clock responding to this emergency. It’s a lot, it’s late at night, on the weekends, my family not seeing enough of me. I think that for all of us, just the endurance has been pretty intense,” Burke Harris says.

 

To help recover from the daily pressures of work, Burke Harris values self-care and family time. She makes an intentional effort to practice meditation as selfcare when life gets hectic. As for family time, she enjoys game nights and snuggles from her children to cultivate joy. Also, her kids are quick to tell her when she seems stressed.

 

Burke Harris says, “I remember there was one point during the January surge that was really intense. I was having dinner with my family and my eight-year-old said, “Oh no, it looks like Mama lost her giggle.” In that moment, he just held up a mirror for me, and how much the intensity and the pressure of my work was coming into our family life. It just reinforced for me that no matter what I’ve got to keep that sense of playfulness with my kids.”

 

Profile: Kimberly Goode, the Implementer

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

During a time when an all-out effort is underway to get Californians vaccinated, a few women leaders in California are leading the charge to reach the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, including Black families in “hard-to-reach” areas across the state.

Kimberley Goode, the Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Blue Shield of California) is one of those Black women in on the frontlines.

 

Blue Shield of California is the state’s “third-party administrator” as California ramps up its push to get its 40 million residents vaccinated. Goode says the company, with headquarters in Oakland, has taken a number of steps to support the state’s goal to get vaccines to all Californians – particularly those who have been disproportionately impacted — in a way that is safe, equitable and swift. Blue Shield’s provider network boasts more than 1,200 vaccination sites in California, including community clinics, multi-county entities, hospital systems, medical groups, pharmacies and others.

“The state makes final allocation decisions. The state makes all decisions around eligibility,” says Goode. “Our job is to make sure that the robust network that we’ve built is able to get that vaccine to the providers who are throughout every community in the state of California – to reach every zip code.”

 

Goode says their distribution efforts target areas in the state where data shows there are higher incidents of infection and death. “Those are the places we really want to double down on and make sure that we have more vaccines there, more quickly,” she said. “We make sure we partner with local community clinics, trust

 

“Our goal is two reach 3 million doses per week by March,” Goode added.

 

A public-relations specialist, Goode’s position with Blue Shield of California puts her in charge of communication and outreach on behalf of the nonprofit that generates more than $20 billion in annual revenue and serves more than 4 million members in commercial, individual, and government markets.

 

“There is a lot of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and, in particular, the African American community,” says Goode. “One of the things that should give comfort to people in this process is that there are a lot of people who care about equity, and two state leaders I work with, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and Secretary Yolanda Richardson – they are two very important voices that are ensuring that equity is at the forefront of the decision-making process, and the implementation of the vaccine distribution.”

 

She has more than 25 years of communications experience with several global companies, including Kellogg’s, Prudential Financial, American Express, and Allstate. She also spent time as the vice president of Corporate Communications and Corporate Affairs at Northwestern Mutual, where she was responsible for leading the company’s internal and external communications strategy.

 

In the summer of May 2017, Goode joined Blue Shield of California to provide strategic leadership in corporate communications, government affairs, and corporate citizenship. She is also responsible for building relationships that help advance the nonprofit health plan’s mission.

 

“If that’s not enough titles, I get to work on the communication, education, and equity workstream for the third-party administration work that we’re doing on the behalf of the state for the vaccination program,” said Goode, who chairs Blue Shield of California’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Council.

 

Goode is active professionally and in the community with a number of organizations, including the Executive Leadership Council, the Bay Area Council, Children Now Leadership Council and California Women Lead Advisory Council, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and The Links, Inc.

 

At home, Goode says she has been working from home and sheltering in a “four-generation family bubble” with her husband, her two daughters, her 75-year-old mother and her 95-year-old grandmother.

 

“The silver lining of this pandemic has been that it has really helped me to reflect on what matters most and prioritize my time with my family – to focus on the things that are meaningful. We engage in some old fun activities. We play “Black Panther Monopoly.” It’s a board game that is a ton of fun. Just having fun with family in ways that we used to take for granted.”

 

But the greatest reward of her work right now, Goode says, is working for a “mission-driven company.”

 

“This is work that enables us to help every Californian,” she said. It is very gratifying to know that when I wake up and come to work every day (even though it is in my living room), it is not

focused on ‘how I can help Blue Shield today.” It is focused on “how can Blue Shield help Californians across the state.’”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Launches Fight Against Recall Effort

Dianne Lugo

Gov. Gavin Newsom has largely kept quiet about the now inevitable recall effort against him that has been months in the making. But on Monday, the California governor launched a political action committee to fight back against the measure and raise money for his defense campaign.

Organizers had until today, Wednesday, March 17, to submit at least 1.5 million signatures to force a recall election on the ballot. It is a feat they said they had surpassed since last week, allegedly collecting 2 million signatures. Election officials will have until April 29 to verify them and report the final number to state officials.

“I won’t be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall – but I will fight it,” Newsom said in a tweet that linked to the campaign website, “There is too much at stake.”

The website, named “Stop the Republican Recall,” details Newsom’s strategy to paint the recall as a campaign led by anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and anti-immigrant Trump supporters. It also urges people to donate.

“I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” he said in an email sent from the campaign.

Other Democrats spoke out in support of Newsom early in the week as well.

“The same Republicans who refused to hold Donald Trump accountable for the deadly insurrection of January 6th are now trying to hold Governor Newsom accountable for the failures of Donald Trump,” said Sen. Alex Padilla in a statement.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Reps. Katie Porter, Ro Khanna, and famous activist Stacey Abrams also spoke out against the recall campaign.

“Gavin Newsom has shown the nation what courageous leadership looks like during the pandemic. He’s made tough calls that kept Californians safe and helped them recover financially. Defeating this cynical, Trump-fueled recall effort will be one of the most important priorities for Democrats this year,” added Sen. Cory Booker.

“We will crush it because we will be united that we are not going to fall for a trick to hand our state over to what potentially could be a Republican governor,” said Rep. Karen Bass.

An election date will not be set soon. The final scheduling will come from Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who will have to schedule an election 60 to 80 days after the last signature count verification. Even after verifying petition signatures, there will be other legal hoops to clear. Voters have a 30-day window to change their minds and withdraw their names. After the California Finance Department produces a cost estimate for the election, a legislative panel will have a month to review those findings. Only then will a date be announced. Experts think that will likely be until later this fall.

Cal. Black Elected Officials Unite to “Crush Unfair” Effort to Recall Gov. Newsom

Manny Otiko and Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Fourteen California Black Democratic elected officials serving at the federal, state, county and city government levels joined hands in a virtual show of support for Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday during a news briefing on Zoom. In one-minute statements, each one explained why she or he is standing behind Newsom as a Republican Party-led effort to recall California’s 40th governor gains ground across the state.

The two main organizations spearheading the recall effort, RescueCalifornia.org and RecallGavin2020.com, announced last week that they had collected the signatures of more than 2 million Californians for the petition they expect will soon trigger a recall election.

To begin the process of removing Newsom from office, the governors’ opponents must collect 1.5 million signatures – or 12 % of the total number of people that voted in the last gubernatorial election. They must also submit the signatures to registrars in all 58 counties by close of business on March 17.

“This is the beginning. Let’s hope this is the last time we come together to talk about this. But mark my words, if this recall does qualify, we will crush it because we will be united. We will not fall for a trick,” said U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37), pointing out that Gov. Newsom has done nothing that should warrant him being removed from office.

Bass said based on the price tag of past attempts to recall California governors, most recently Gov. Gray Davis in 2002, an election to remove Newsom from office would cost taxpayers over $100 million.

A total of 9.4 million voters cast ballots in the special election that ended Davis’ governorship.

Because the state will hold a gubernatorial election next year, Bass says, it is not fiscally responsible to hold one this year.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) said there is “no reason to recall the governor of the state of California.”

“There will be an election in June 2022 and people will have a chance to vote. So, I urge everyone to join us in this unfair recall against Governor Newsom,” she said.

Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) said Gov. Newsom has been a “friend of the African American community.”

“This governor has stood with us on criminal justice reform. He has eliminated and paused executions because he realized the majority of people on death row are minorities – Black and Brown individuals who are over-sentenced and over-prosecuted all the time and many times are innocent,” said Bradford. “So, we stand with this governor. He has stood with us.”

So far, recall supporters say they have over 2 million signatures – well over the minimum required by the state. The Secretary of State’s office has until April 29 to verify the signatures.

Many supporters of the recall effort say their plan to oust Newsom has been largely motivated by frustration over the strict coronavirus lockdown the governor imposed on the state. Some of the leading supporters are the California Republican Party, 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Republican National Committee. Both Cox and Faulconer have put their names forward to replace Newsom if he’s removed from office.

“We’ve proven we can win. And I did it twice in San Diego. San Diego’s registration mirrors that of California — 24 % Republican — it’s the same in San Diego as it was statewide,” Faulconer said in an interview with the conservative magazine National Review. “So, I know how to build coalitions and win and get results. I know how to use the power of the bully pulpit to go out and win the argument publicly and then win the vote. That’s what you have to do to be successful in California and you have to get not just Republicans but independents and a portion of Democrats as well.”

But according to Ballotpedia, Republicans have had it in for Newsom for a while. This is the sixth recall attempt against Newsom since 2019. But the previous five weren’t successful.

In addition to Bass, Lee and Bradford, the other African American California elected officials who joined the media briefing to express their support for Newsom are: State Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles); Assemblymembers Autumn Burke (D Inglewood), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) and Mike Gipson (D-Carson); San Francisco Mayor London Breed; Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell; California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond; California Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen; Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe; Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas; and Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Gov. Newsom, who has said very little publicly about the recall, spoke up in an email to supporters Monday.

“I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” Newsom said. “I’m going to fight because there’s too much at stake in this moment.”
The governor also took to Twitter.

“I won’t be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall — but I will fight it,’’ he tweeted. Getting Californians vaccinated, our economy safely reopened, and our kids back in school are simply too important to risk.”

Breed said Newsom had led the state through a difficult time. She said Newsom showed more leadership than former President Donald Trump. According to Breed, Trump had abandoned San Francisco during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. She dismissed the recall effort as a “right-wing attack.”

In Washington, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) all came out in full-throated support of Newsom the same afternoon. Shortly after, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams also voiced her support for California’s governor.

“This governor was duly elected and deserves to serve his full term,” said Cohen. “A recall is the ultimate statement of voter suppression. Citizens of California came together and voted disproportionately to support Gov. Newsom. It is our duty to fight this baseless, senseless recall.

Los Angelenos Rally Against Wave of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Stephen Oduntan

Tammy Jiraprapasuke said a random, unprovoked racist attack on a subway train left her emotionally bruised.

“Every disease comes from China because they’re [expletive] disgusting,” the Asian-American woman said.

“A man entered the subway, and he gestured his body in my direction and started using derogatory language about Chinese people. I felt alone and looked around the train for an ally, but everybody averted my eyes. I wondered if everyone believed I was deserving of the [verbal] assault… If they also thought I was dirty and brought the coronavirus.”

Jiraprapasuke, an Angelino, described what began as an “ordinary evening that turned into a nightmare” to a crowd of protesters who attended the “Love Our Communities: Stop Asian Hate” rally outside the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo (JANM)on Saturday.

“Today, we stand in solidarity with the members of Pacific Islander community to speak out against the rise and tide of hatred and violence,” JANM’s Board of Trustee William Fujioka told the crowd. “But sadly, these incidents of racial hatred are not new to the members of our Asian-American and Pacific Islanders community. For every Asian immigrant, racism has been constant since we came to America.”

By Stephen Oduntan

TiDo, who goes by a single name, encouraged individuals at the rally to think broadly about how the system too often devalues people’s lives in the marginalized community and why it is critical they use this moment to navigate away from the hopelessness of grief to power.

“We are here as a community for the sole purpose to build. We are building on the long tradition of the Asian-American revolutionary movement,” said TiDo, an organizer with Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, talking on a microphone to the applause of the crowd. “Hate is nothing new because hate is just White supremacy, and White supremacy has been around ever since White people stole indigenous lands, forcibly enslaved Black folks, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese incarceration, and the legalized Islamophobia after 9-11.”

David Morikawa, a Los Angeles resident, attended the rally but didn’t speak to the crowd. He told L.A. Focus Saturday’s rally sends a strong message that they will not tolerate the hate-fueled attacks on Asian-Americans.

“If it takes us 50 years, we’ll come after the perpetrators. We [Asian-Americans] are kind of like the worst people to be talking about ‘forgive and forget’ because we don’t do that… we’re not too good at that,” Morikawa said.

“We have to change the system to get rid of racism,” he added. “We have to change capitalism because every time the cops evict people for failure to pay their rent, or every time employers lay off workers and go out and strike and get arrested for it or the tension between people of color and the cops. That’s going to keep on happening unless we do something about the air pollution from burning fossil fuels, job losses, and evictions; we’ll never be able to stop racism.”

The rise in hate crimes and discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week to approve allocating more money to fight the problem.

Supervisor Hilda Solis authored the motion calling for additional resources for a Human Relations Commission program called L.A. vs Hate.

“Despite our efforts to combat hate, the situation has gotten worse,” Solis said. “We must expand the county’s only anti-hate program to show that L.A. County stands with our marginalized communities when they are under attack.”

According to a Los Angeles Police Department report, Solis said anti-Asian crimes in the city jumped 114% in 2020.

“Amongst other things, let’s lay the blame where it belongs. This deteriorating situation is partly due to the fact that the person with the loudest bullhorn in the country mocked and denigrated our API communities for the better part of a year,” she said.

Several speakers at the rally said they didn’t want to combat hate with hate, and Nara Kim, a Koreatown activist for Black Lives and planning committee organizer for Saturday’s event, said “refusing to sit in despair” helps to counter xenophobia related intolerance.

She added that “especially in a city as diverse as L.A., we should remain committed to understanding and getting to know each other because it’s that kind of weariness and lack of relation-building that makes people more unsafe.”


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