“Run Karen Run”: The Campaign to Make Congresswoman Karen Bass L.A.’s Next Mayor

As the California recall race reaches fever pitch in the countdown to September 14, there is yet another political campaign that is gathering steam as what began as a behind-the-scenes move to enlist Congresswoman Karen Bass in the 2022 mayoral race has gained momentum both in L.A. political circles and the media.

Leading the charge are several women’s democratic clubs that have launched online campaigns to draft the Congresswoman into the race, including the California Black Women’s Democratic Club which posted: “We believe the residents of Los Angeles would like to have a progressive option in the field of candidates. We also know that Bass is a solution-focused candidate who has a track record of solving complex problems. Like many of us, she got her start in community organizing, problem-solving as the founder of the Community Coalition.”

They were the same black women who rallied around Bass when she was eyed as a possible replacement for the senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris in a “keep the seat” campaign that included black leaders and women’s groups across the state and nation, but ultimately ended when— in a move characterized as a snub against black women—Governor Gavin Newsom instead chose California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Yet another campaign dubbed “Run Karen Run” by veteran political strategist Kerman Maddox of Dakota Communications and others is asking business and community members to sign letters encouraging the Congresswoman to return home and run while also gaging support on behalf of the 67-year old legislator who was said to be seriously considering a mayoral bid.

“The arc of her journey has been really impressive and I’m excited about the groundswell of support she is receiving, which is unusual for someone who is just rumored to be a candidate,” Maddox said.

“The possible entrance of Bass, who has been one of the few politicians I can say didn’t do a Jekyll and Hyde after being sworn into office, has been the most welcomed news since President Biden announced he’s sending Mayor Eric Garcetti to India”, Democratic political strategist Jasmyne Cannick wrote in a recent op-ed for the California Black Media. “Who we elected is who we got with Bass — a compassionate, thoughtful and bold leader on important issues”.

City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas is also among the many urging Congresswoman Karen Bass to run having made the decision that he would not seek the post.

“I take the position that if Karen Bass were to launch a campaign, she would be formidable, because of her experience at the federal level; because of her experience at the state level; because of her experience as a health care professional [former nurse]; and because of gender. Those factors are really going to be important,” Ridley-Thomas said of the field of likely candidates include City Attorney Mike Feuer, Councilmember Joe Buscaino and Kevin de Leon, City Council President Nury Martinez and billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso.

“She has not yet made that determination, but she would be a force with which to reckon and the current field knows and appreciates that very point.”

A recent poll bears witness to just how formidable a force Bass would be. Conducted by FM3 Research from July 29-August 5, the survey of 803 people put Bass in the lead with 22% of the respondents indicating that they would vote for her. 

The poll also indicated that Bass had the advantage of being the best known among the candidates and led with Black Angelenos and people on the Westside and South Los Angeles.

Fact is, Bass’ name had surfaced relative to the mayoral race even before Ridley-Thomas bowed out the race. Back in April, a spokesman remarked that though people had asked her to consider running, “she was not considering running for mayor at this time”.

Bass, who had been mum on the issue, was recently quoted in an interview with KPCC/LAist, that she was “overwhelmed and humbled by people pushing me to do this, and I will say that I am seriously considering it.” 

She is expected to announce her intentions later this month and if the answer is affirmative, will have nine months to fundraise and put together an effective campaign.

No one questions the qualifications of the L.A. native whose national profile rose with her chairmanship of the Congressional Black Caucus, her consideration as a vice presidential candidate by Joe Biden and her current leadership in the legislative reckoning over race and police violence. 

Observed Maddox, “Karen Bass is a uniquely talented elected official who has the ability to work with and connect with supporters and critics to get things done because everybody respects her and people really like her and in electoral politics likeability is priceless.

“As she was being vetted to be on the ticket as Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential running mate,” Maddox continued, “people talked about her integrity, her legislative accomplishments, her leadership skills and her career trajectory but the thing I heard more than anything throughout that process was her ability to bring people together because people trusted her and genuinely liked her.”

The six-term lawmaker, who founded the social justice non-profit, the Community Coalition—has since 2011—represented California’s 37th Congressional district, which stretches from Inglewood to Century City and includes Leimert Park, Culver City, Mid-City, West Adams, Mar Vista, Westwood, Ladera Heights and University Park.

If elected, Bass would make history as the first woman to serve as L.A. mayor. It wouldn’t be the first time Bass has made history. In 2008, she was elected to serve as the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly, becoming the first African American woman in United States history to serve as a Speaker of a state legislative body.

Election watchers will be looking to see if the early buzz and name identification pay off at the polls. To avoid a November runoff, Bass would have to get more than 50% of the vote. The primary election is set for June 7, 2021.

Commentary: $215 M Cal Recall Election is Baseless, Trump-Backed Power Grab

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Just as it seemed we as a country were coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves faced with another challenge as the Delta variant of the virus spreads more rapidly throughout our communities. On top of the pandemic, we are also heading into another fire season while many of our neighbors remain unhoused. We know that low-income Californians, people of color and women who take care of their families while also providing essential care for others are feeling a disproportionate share of these burdens.

It is during this time that Republicans have chosen to once again return to the Donald Trump playbook of political games by attempting to recall Governor Gavin Newsom and overturn his election without any merit or standing.

This recall effort -_ in addition to being completely baseless and a blatantly political power grab — is completely inappropriate during this period where we need to allow our elected leaders to handle very significant challenges. This recall election of the governorship alone will cost Californians $215 million in taxpayer money, money that could have been spent battling wildfires, developing housing, or combatting a pandemic that continues to threaten our health and public safety.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I know how much Californians — and African American Californians in particular — have to lose from this Republican ploy. We know that recall supporters from the Trump camp understand they cannot win in a normal election, they are yet again using underhanded tactics to undermine our democratic elections. As we fight against voter suppression in Congress and in states like Georgia, we must realize that the recall election is the California version of that same Republican agenda.

Governor Newsom won his position in 2018 and has since set an example to the nation for what strong leadership can do in the face of crisis. Since the very beginning of this pandemic, we remember California was and continues to be looked upon as a gold standard for testing, vaccination, and virus protocols.

Governor Newsom has proven his ability to lead California through the pandemic, and his resume ensures he is more than up to the task of controlling the Delta Variant.

Now, the Trump-backed recall is setting its sights on dismantling all the work we as a state have done to keep this virus under control, and for no more than a political ploy to steal a governorship from the voters who put Governor Newsom in office. The good news is that we have faced these challenges before, we know the good work we are capable of doing.

Although it will take time and a continued effort from our leaders to get through these crises, we will return to a sense of normalcy once again with strong leadership and good decision making as Governor Newsom and his team have already shown capable of executing. Ignoring these problems and instead being forced to deal with a completely unsuitable recall for Californians by Trump-backed groups is a recipe for disaster.

The ploy to recall the governor is one of several democratically elected positions that Trump-backed groups have targeted to recall. From progressive district attorneys to city council members and from California delegates to local school board members, these recall groups insist upon wasting taxpayer dollars, costing Californians hundreds of millions of dollars, just to win political games.

These recalls are a waste of our money and are completely detrimental to overcoming the challenges we have at hand. Simply put, the recall effort of Governor Newsom and every Trump-backed recall effort will hurt Californians–not just our recovery from Covid but reproductive freedom, education funding, civil rights and other longtime conservative targets.

We have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic, the early helplessness we all felt is finally transitioning to hopefulness. We cannot afford to forfeit all that we have worked for over petty political stunts. It is time to fight these recall efforts and ensure our leaders can focus on the issues that matter for the health, safety, and welfare of every Californian.

Women and people of color stand firmly behind Governor Newsom. We know that the health of our families, our neighborhoods and our rights depend on defeating the recall. We invite all readers to join us on September 14 — or as soon as you get your mail-in ballot — in voting NO on the recall.

Rep. Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District including portions of Alameda and San Francisco counties in the United States House of Representatives.


Why Demonizing The Unvaccinated Won’t Work

Sunita Sohrabji/EMS
      Low-income minorities in the U.S., many of whom remain unvaccinated because of hurdles in access and information, are unfairly being blamed for the new rise in Covid infections, said Dr. Tiffani Johnson, a pediatrician with UC Davis Children’s Health Center, at an Ethnic Media Services news briefing July 30.
      “There are so many barriers that exist to accessing healthcare and those same barriers exist to accessing the vaccine,” said Johnson, one of four speakers at the news conference, which addressed efficacy rates of current vaccines against the Delta variant, the dominant strain in the U.S.
      “We’ve had some politicians explicitly say it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks as this pandemic worsens. But It’s really a lot more nuanced than just pointing the fingers at the unvaccinated as we continue to see spikes in COVID,” she said.
      The Kaiser Family Foundation reported July 21 that more than 68 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the two dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
      But as of July 19, less than half of Black and Hispanic people have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in the vast majority of states reporting data.
      The vaccination rate for Black people is less than 50 percent in 38 of 42 reporting states, including 14 states where less than a third of Black people have received one or more doses. Similarly, less than half of Hispanic people have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose in 34 of 40 reporting states, including 10 states where less than a third have received at least one dose, according to the KFF.
      A study released by Israel’s Ministry of Health in July concluded that the two-dose Pfizer vaccine was just 39 percent effective in controlling the spread of the Delta variant, though it was 80 to 90 percent effective in fighting against severe illness and hospitalizations. A study from Scotland released in June noted that the Delta variant doubles the rate of hospitalization in unvaccinated people.
      Johnson acknowledged several barriers preventing low income minority populations from getting the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine. A history of redlining — banks refusing loans to certain communities because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk — has led to segregation of minorities living in healthcare deserts, she said.
      Those who lack stable internet connections may have trouble securing a vaccine, said Johnson, adding that transportation is also a huge barrier. “When you have a vaccine clinic that maybe five miles away, if you don’t have a car, five miles is a long way to try to get on foot.”
Hourly wage workers make up a large percentage of vulnerable communities: If they don’t show up to work, they don’t get paid.
      “So even taking one or two hours off of work to be able to get your vaccine, if you can only find one available during those hours when you’re working, that’s one or two hours that you’re not getting paid,” said Johnson. She noted that people have also expressed concern to her about the side effects associated with the vaccines: chills, fevers, body aches, and general weakness, among other symptoms.
      Dealing with mild side effects also may require taking time off work, said Johnson. “So, either they don’t want to get it or they’re trying to wait for a time where they can block two or three days off.”
      Communities of color also have a general mistrust of a healthcare system in which they feel unheard and unseen, said Johnson. “We’ve been cheating on these communities for years and abusing them for years and now we’re like: ‘Hey baby, I’m sorry, I love you,’ and we expect them to trust us. But we need to earn that trust and build that trust. And it’s not going to happen overnight,” stated Johnson.
      The pediatrician said she was not in favor of a vaccination mandate, nor is she in favor of vaccine passports, which are now being required to enter many public places, and job sites.
      “I don’t think that we should create a two-tiered system where certain groups in certain communities don’t have access to benefits and society. I think that we need to work on educating the community and empowering the community.”
      “Given all of the barriers that I outlined to getting those vaccines, until we fully address all of those barriers, I don’t think it’s fair to create a two-tiered system,” stated Johnson.

Millions of Californians Set to Receive $600 Stimulus Checks

Providing immediate relief to Californians hit hardest by the pandemic is one of the hallmarks of the Governors’ California Comeback Plan which will roll out $600 stimulus checks to millions of Californians this fall.

It is estimated that two out of every three Californians will receive the stimulus checks in what is the biggest economic recovery package in the state’s history. The Plan creates the biggest state tax rebate in American history, expanding direct payments to middle class families for a total of $12 billion in stimulus payments that will go directly to middle class Californians and families.

Those earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year qualify for the one-time checks. Qualified families with kids will receive an additional $500 regardless of their immigration status.

“Harnessing the largest surplus in state history, we’re making transformative investments across the board that will help bring all our communities roaring back from the pandemic – and pay dividends for generations to come,” said Governor Newsom. “Through this comprehensive plan, the state is taking on the inequities laid bare by the pandemic, expanding our support for Californians facing the greatest hardships, increasing opportunity for every child, confronting homelessness head-on and doubling down on our work to build resilience against the climate change impacts that threaten California’s future. I thank Pro Tem Atkins, Speaker Rendon and both houses of the Legislature for their incredible partnership in meeting the unprecedented challenge and opportunity of this moment.”

The payments are tentatively scheduled to be issued in September. Residents earning less than $30,000 who already received one-time $600 stimulus checks earlier this year are not eligible for a second $600 check. 

Winners and Winners: Big Takeaways From New Rent Law Benefitting Landlords and Tenants

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 832, which updates California’s eviction moratorium rules and extends it.

“California is coming roaring back from the pandemic, but the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to disproportionately impact so many low-income Californians, tenants and small landlords alike,” Newsom said last week after reaching a deal on the moratorium with lawmakers.

The governor said the agreement he reached with the Legislature also gives the state more time to provide the over $5 billion in federal rent relief funds for eligible tenants and landlords.

According to a spokesperson with the Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH), over 85,907 Californians have submitted rent relief applications to the state-run program and 37,189 of them are already being processed as of June 22.

15.79% of those applicants are identified as Black or African American.

According to the BCSH, $660 million in rental assistance has been requested and the state has paid a total of $61.6 million in back rent so far through the program.

“Our housing situation in California was a crisis before COVID, and the pandemic has only made it worse — this extension is key to making sure that more people don’t lose the safety net helping them keep their home. While our state may be emerging from the pandemic, in many ways, the lingering financial impact still weighs heavily on California families,” Senate President pro Tem Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) stated. “People are trying to find jobs and make ends meet and one of the greatest needs is to extend the eviction moratorium—which includes maximizing the federal funds available to help the most tenants and landlords possible—so that they can count on a roof over their heads while their finances rebound.”

AB 832 also prioritizes cities and counties with “unmet needs.”

Kendra Lewis, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, said the law will benefit families impacted by the pandemic that are still struggling.

“The pandemic showed us all how unequal housing is and how many renters are vulnerable,” Lewis said. “We need to do a better job at outreach and education because if you’re in a vulnerable community, or any situation regardless of your race or whatever, and the government has a program where it’s going to help you pay your rent, there’s going to be some apprehension.”

Lewis praised the eviction moratorium extension, claiming that many families will benefit from it.

“Imagine being in a vulnerable community, worried about losing your job or you’re a frontline worker with kids at home. The last thing you need is to be evicted,” Lewis said.

How Tenants Will Benefit From AB 832

· Allows a tenant to receive full amount due if the landlord doesn’t participate in the program so that they are not carrying it as consumer debt.

· Permanently masks COVID rental debt civil cases, thus protecting tenants from having these cases impact their consumer credit.

· Extends current eviction moratorium.

How Landlords Will Benefit From AB 832

· Increases rental assistance payments to give 100% of rent owed for eligible landlords and tenants.

· Allows a longer timeframe for rental assistance funds, so more unpaid rent can be covered.

· Authorizes rental assistance payments to be provided to landlords in situations where the tenant has moved out and now lives in a new place, but still owes rent payments to their prior landlord.

· Requires a tenant to fill out the necessary paperwork for the rental assistance program within 15 business days of receiving notice of their landlord filling out its portion when a three-day eviction notice has been served.

· These eviction protections do not apply to new tenancies beginning on or after October 1, 2021

New Study Reveals Depth of Police Violence and its Effect on Communities of Color

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA @StacyBrownMedia

A new investigation by the nonprofit The Marshall Project and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal the depth of police brutality and unpunished violence that continues to rock the nation, particularly communities of color.

Since 2015, more than 400,000 people have been treated in emergency rooms because of a violent interaction with police or security guards, according to the report that The Marshall Project published in conjunction with NBC News. “But there’s almost no nationwide data on the nature or circumstances of their injuries,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Many of the country’s roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies don’t tally or make public the number of people who need medical care after officers break their arms, bruise their faces, or shock them with Tasers.”

The researchers noted the national conversation about policing over the past year, where public attention has focused on those like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tamir Rice, who die at the hands of officers.

“Few know that tens of thousands of people like Eliel Paulino end up in emergency rooms after run-ins with police,” the researchers penned in the study.

Paulino was less than a block from his apartment complex late one night in 2015 when “red police lights flashed in his SUV’s rearview mirror,” the researchers continued.

Officers told Paulino that lights on his license plates were out, and “within minutes, a routine traffic stop became a beatdown.”

An emergency room doctor needed four staples to close the wounds in Paulino’s battered right arm after officers mercilessly slammed him to the ground and viciously beat him with their batons.

The officers claimed that Paulino resisted arrest, but video from a security camera proved them wrong. The city of San Jose, California, paid Paulino a $700,000 civil settlement after a jury found the cops violated his constitutional rights.

According to a 2020 analysis, when police use force, more than half of the incidents end with a suspect or civilian getting hurt. The report authors also noted that “most experts agree that injuries at the hands of cops remain underreported.”

“This data depends on the discretion of police, who get to decide who is worthy or unworthy of an ambulance,” Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, an associate professor of sociology at Brown University who has researched the Chicago Police Department, told researchers.

“It is absolutely an undercount.”

In an email to the Black Press of America, Tulane University professor Andrea Boyles said police officers are the most visible arm of the government.

Officers are protectors of state, representing and enforcing immense state power, added Dr. Boyles, a sociologist, and criminologist in the university’s Africana Studies Program.

“This includes violence, which in turn, becomes akin to professional or occupational hazards,” asserted Dr. Boyles, who also serves on the faculty of Tulane’s Violence Prevention Institute.

“And since law enforcement acts as their master status, police violence is treated as inherently warranted and undeserving of prosecution regardless of exchanges across time and places.”

Dr. Boyles continued:

“The bigger concern are the numbers of unreported and uncharged violent crimes committed by police daily. I argue that violent crimes committed by the police largely are not occurring as one-offs or in insolation. Rather, many are happening as build-ups of problems that manifest as dangerous and anticipatorily vindicated escalations. Thus, they become lead-ins to the more series cases like murder.”

San Jose, which has just over one million residents, tracks injuries and hospitalizations as part of reducing violent interactions between residents and the police.

However, researchers noted that about 1,300 people over the three years ending in 2020 still landed in the emergency room after an altercation with police.

Most of the ER visits involved officers using their hands on people, the analysis found.

“Control holds” — twisting arms or holding people down — played a role in 60% of the cases, The Marshall Project found.

Almost 20% of people who went to the ER were shot with stun guns.

Police hit 10% with an “impact weapon” such as a baton.

“In those four years, city data shows, encounters with San Jose police left 72 people’ seriously injured,’ which includes broken bones, dog bites, and internal injuries. Nine more people died, all from gunshot wounds,” the researchers continued.

They said rough arrests had cost the city more than $26 million in lawsuit payouts for civil rights violations since 2010.

The Marshall Project found that police in San Jose, Denver, and Chicago has strict rules about seeking medical attention when someone complains of an injury.

“If [the victim] is not complaining of an injury,” Chicago Police Spokesman Sgt. Rocco Alioto told researchers, “And there’s no visible sign of injury, then there’s nothing that says that we have to call or take them to the hospital for clearance.”

Civil Case Against Former D.A. Jackie Lacey and Her Husband Allowed to Move Forward

Last month, a judge ruled that David Lacey, the husband of former Los Angeles County D.A. Jackie Lacey, would avoid jail time in the three misdemeanor charges of assault with a firearm when on March 2, 2020, he pulled a gun on—and threatened—Black Lives Matters protesters just days before his wife’s election primary.
      The 67-year old will instead enter a diversion program and be required to perform 100 hours of community service, attend gun safety courses and anger management as well to have the criminal case against him dismissed.
      However, he will not entirely be off the hook. Still pending is a civil lawsuit filed by Black Lives Matter activists Dr. Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito, and Justin Marks against both the former D.A. and her husband in connection with the incident. The 16-page lawsuit alleges assault, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.
      This week, that case was allowed to move an L.A. Superior Court judge allowed the case to move forward.
      “Dr. Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito, and Justin Marks are thrilled that we have now overcome all of the procedural challenges and can turn the spotlight of this matter back on David Lacey’s outrageous use of force against three peaceful protesters,” said Attorney Carl Douglas, who was retained by BLM.
      “Jackie Lacey and her army of lawyers have thrown every procedural hurdle known to man against us, and today, finally, Judge Theresa M. Traber said enough is enough, let’s move this case towards a jury trial. That process begins now with us placing Jackie and David Lacey under oath forcing them to answer for their outrageous transgressions.”

“Leimert Park Rising” is Fast Becoming L.A.’s Largest Juneteenth Celebration

Tina Sampay
The Leimert Park Rising Festival is estimated to have doubled in size from last year’s 10,000 attendees. Black people of all shades, shapes and across a broad spectrum of careers, connected in Leimert Park this past weekend for what is quickly becoming one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in Los Angeles.
      This year, the theme of Leimert Park Rising was stronger together, as the planning committee envisioned ways to establish a stronger, cohesive, cooperative model in Leimert Park that was equitable for everyone in the village.
      “We have always done the Juneteenth Heritage Festival, but the interest is shaping and shifting the energy in Leimert Park, creating a model that can be duplicated in other cultural hubs,” said Fred McNeill.
      McNeill served as project manager and art director for LPR, overseeing the festival’s branding and marketing.
      “There are other Black neighborhoods that can create power through collectivism and collaboration to show that culture and commerce can work together and be equitable and balanced,” McNeill continued.
      Media, logistics, city and food compliance, scheduling of artists and vendors, as well as raising the capital necessary to fund a festival of this magnitude were just some of the planning committee’s tasks.
      Then, there was what Kaya Dantzler of the non-profit We Love Leimert, referred to as the ‘buy in’ of various stakeholders in the Leimert Park Village and surrounding community.
      “From business owners, to vendors, to community organizations like Africa Town and getting everyone to work together across ideological and political differences. That was a huge thing that we had to do,” said Dantzler.
      She notes the small victories such as the gates to Leimert Park finally being open after two years and petitions circulated for access to be granted.
      City Councilman Mark-Ridley Thomas is one of the officials who pushed for the gates to be reopened, especially in anticipation of LPR.
      “We want policy changes and investment in the community for long-term development. We want more structural changes–not just symbolic changes. I see things are moving in a good direction, but I am waiting to see more,” Dantzler expressed.
      When the tasks of planning LPR seemed overwhelming at times, Khrissy Briscoe learned to lean on her peers in the planning committee. She trusted the collective talents and expertise of the team and knew that if they stayed on the same page, they would be able to make LPR a success.
      “It was long nights and meetings after meetings and always checking in with the team to make sure we were all on the same page,” observed Briscoe, who worked as the media liaison for LPR. 
      “When you think of Camille and Qwess, we’re talking NO sleep. They worked endless nights just making sure everything was in order,” she said of MC Ill Camille and DJ Qwess, familiar faces in Leimert Park who are artists and creatives dedicated to uplifting the artistic vibrations of Leimert Park and Black Los Angeles.
      “When we were planning this, we had no idea how many people in the community were going to show up, the imprint of Leimert Park Rising was huge,” said Dorothy Pirtle who served on the vendor and compliance team.
      Pirtle says it was a tall glass to fill, creating a space where 20,000 people were all satisfied, happy and felt welcomed.
      “One of the activity areas we had carved out was the park for kids and families,” Pirtle detailed. “So, to see a bunch of Black children enjoying themselves with one another, in large numbers, we had not seen that in a long time.”
      For many, Juneteenth is more symbolic than it is literal.
      “When I think of Juneteenth, I think of the power of information. When the information did get to them in Texas that they were finally free, their whole mindset shifted,” said Paris McCoy who provided tech support through T.E.C Leimert.
      “I think about what that moment was like—when your whole world changes based on information,” she continued. “When I think of Juneteenth, I think of physical and mental freedom.”
      “Having a Juneteenth celebration in Leimert Park for the second year for me was a marvelous experience,” said Akil West, co-founder of Sole Folks. “For me, the multiple art installations were the star of the festival, thanks to Foster the Millions, The Lion, The Art Dpt and Sole Folks Art Lab.”
      Dantzler says she is pleased with the outcome of LPR, although she notes that more resources would have allowed them the opportunity to operate the festival at a higher capacity.
      “We live in such a hostile society, so knowing we can create a space where Black people can just be free, that’s motivating for me.”
Photo Credit: USC Student Dante Bailey

The Lookout: Black LGBTQ+ Leaders and Allies Applaud Three California Bills

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

June is Pride Month and lawmakers in California are advancing a number of bills to make life safer and less difficult for people who are LGBTQ+.

Some of the proposed laws aim to address challenges that impact various segments of the African American LGBTQ+ community — either directly or circumstantially.

The first is Senate Bill (SB) 357. If the Legislature approves it, the law will repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, which penalizes loitering with the intent to engage in sex work. This particular bill, if approved, supporters say will significantly reduce the risks and dangers many LGBTQ+ people at the lowest ends of the socioeconomic ladder face. Many of them are young people who turn to sex work because of a number of reasons, including being unsupported by their families or the social structure because of their sexuality; trauma brought about by sexual or physical abuse; drug addiction; unemployment, among other factors.

Based on English Elizabethan “poor laws,” loitering laws in America were developed as a part of the Black Codes in the late 1800s as a means to arrest Black people in order to sell their labor in a practice called convict leasing.

“These laws were created to eradicate us,” said Dr. Jon Paul Higgins, a California-based social justice advocate and writer who is African American.

“So, when you talk about the importance of repealing these laws, it’s not even just about the law, it’s about getting to the root of what’s creating these laws,” Higgins explained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “many persons who exchange sex may have a history of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental health issues, violence, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, and drug use.”

In California – and across the United States — a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by those challenges — all of them considered social determinants of good health by Public Health professionals.

Because of the vagueness of these loitering laws, many critics have noted that they gave police a wide range of arresting powers to target “undesirables” like Black people and people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Higgins explained.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), author of this bill, says it would help make the streets safer for sex workers who are a part of a marginalized community.

“Sex workers are workers, and they deserve respect and safety,” Wiener said. “We must work toward a future where people — especially the most marginalized — aren’t criminalized because of who they are and what they look like. Anti-sex workers loitering laws are deeply pernicious, and they need to be repealed.”

SB 357 also allows those convicted of California Penal Code Section 653.22 to seal their records.

SB 357 was passed by the Senate Public Safety Committee 4-1 and has now been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Another bill concerned with safety is Assembly Bill (AB) 1094 which would require the State Department of Public Health to establish a 3-year pilot program in up to 6 participating counties to collect gender identity and sexual orientation data in violent death cases in order to get more accurate data about hate crimes.

According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 2019 Hate Crime Report, Black people accounted for 9% of the county’s population but 47% of the total racial hate crimes.

The report also stated that 2019 saw a 64% increase in hate crimes targeting trans people, many of which were Black or Brown, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“Yet another year with alarming levels of bias-motivated crimes underscores just how urgent it is to address this hate crimes epidemic,” said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President. David is the first African American to lead the organization, the largest advocacy body for LGBTQ+ people and issues in the United States.

“This year, we saw a tragic new record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in this country, particularly against Black and Brown transgender women,” he said.

Following the Stonewall riots in New York, Black trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy became influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights at the time when discrimination and hate crimes against people like them were much more commonplace.

Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), author of AB 1094, explained why he feels the bill is crucial.

“I deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that my Assembly colleagues gave today to AB 1094,” Arambula said in a statement. “This legislation may be centered on data, but its purpose encompasses compassion and empathy to better understand what is happening in our LGTBQ+ community — particularly among the youth — when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths.”

AB 1094 has passed in the Assembly and is now on its way to the State Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill (SB) 379, which has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, would ensure the University of California Health System [UC Health] only contracts with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services, such as gender-affirming and reproductive care.

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Black mothers have a 3 times higher maternal mortality rate and a 2 times higher morbidity rate than white mothers while Black men are 70% more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic White men.

People in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to have access to competent healthcare, largely due to issues with discrimination, according to Cigna.

Higgins spoke from personal experience about the intersectional nature of being both Black and in the LGBTQ+ community.

“For me, being a Black nonbinary person and meeting a provider who has all of these bias ideologies or stereotypes about Black people… there are all of these preconceived notions about who I am as a Black person and then you add on the nonbinary-slash-trans part of it, there’s just a lot of underlying stereotypes and bias,” Higgins said.

Jasmyne Cannick, founder and CEO of Empowerment Justice Strategies, praised this bill for moving with the tides of progress.

“In 2021, it makes absolute sense for UC Health to contract with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services given the population that it serves,” Cannick said.

“We are moving towards a more inclusive society and these are the types of bills that will ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community can receive healthcare they need,” she continued.

Higgins, Cannick and other advocates say it means a great deal that California lawmakers are making an effort to ensure that these “warriors” can continue to do so safely, and that those who just wish to live their lives without fear for being who they are may do so more boldly.

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