NNPA President, Chavis, Launches New Public Broadcasting Show Chronicling Black Lives

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

With a soulful sound completed by thumping bass and a picturesque view of the wind blowing the American flag over the White House, civil rights icon and National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., kicked off a brand-new public television show called “The Chavis Chronicles.”

Chavis, a student and disciple of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a member of the famous Wilmington 10 civil rights group, began his new show on Sunday, Oct. 4, featuring Major Neil Franklin, the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC).

Sporting a dark blue suit with a slick necktie and with his NNPA lapel pin for his millions of television viewers, Chavis chronicled the current Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, the battle for equality, and health disparities in his debut.

The program counts as an extension of his duties as NNPA president, one which provides heightened and needed exposure for the more than 200 publishers of the Black Press of America.

“It’s crystal clear that there’s a great disparity in the value of Black lives, and not just in this country,” Franklin declared during the broadcast.

“This is a global issue, and we’ve gotten to a point now where action needs to occur, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to close that gap.”

Clyburn spoke of the future of American democracy, particularly as it pertains to those enduring poverty.

“If you think about the world in which we live and who and what makes up the world, you’ve got to be shortsighted if you don’t know that the future growth and development of this country will be determined by how well we are able to diversify the leadership of this country and how well we are able to diversity the resources of this country,” Clyburn stated.

The program fills a massive void for African Americans on public broadcasting stations that opened after the departure of Tavis Smiley. The Chavis Chronicles is seen as a combination of “Meet the Press” and “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” but with an urban American flare.

Chavis goes beyond the headlines to offer profound insights on matters that impact the public.

Co-produced by Chavis and series creator Clara Wilkerson, The Chavis Chronicles focuses on contemporary reviews and analysis of leaders and innovators of African descent in America and throughout the Diaspora.

According to Wilkerson, Chavis promises lively discussions about “the life-journeys, issues, and historical and social-changing moments of freedom fighters whose genius, courage, and commitments have helped to improve the quality of life for all in the United States and throughout the world in affirmation of the oneness of humanity.”

“Last fall, I had a premonition that America was on the verge of mass social unrest,” Wilkerson stated.  “The constant police brutality videos on the news showing blacks suffering and dying at the hands of law enforcement was akin to seeing kindling wood pile up. It would only take one spark to ignite a flame.”

Wilkerson continued:

“As we all know the death of George Floyd started this firestorm of protest that continues worldwide.  Yet at that time it was just an intuition, but I knew we would need Dr. Chavis’s voice and his leadership as a civil rights icon. That’s why I created The Chavis Chronicles.

“I’ve produced long format documentaries for Public TV for 25 years. I believed Public Television would be an excellent forum for this type of thought-provoking programming.

“I was thrilled when Dr. Chavis agreed to host and collaborate on the series and now we are contracted to provided 52 episodes. It’s a major undertaking, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to bring this TV series to a mass audience with Dr. Chavis.”

American Public Television has ordered 48, one-hour episodes of the Chavis Chronicles which airs in more than 100 cities.

Melody McKinley and Tracie Caldwell serve as senior producers, and Tom Knier, Omar Teitelbaum, and Elie Mosseri also share editing duties.

“We have chronicled in-depth, our voices, our dreams, our pains, our aspirations, our struggles, and our challenges, opportunities, and our commitment to ensure freedom, justice and equality for all,” Chavis declared on air following the initial broadcast.

“Whether it’s Black lives matter, calls for action, and racial justice, health disparities, or income inequities, we’ll be here to report and share freedom’s constant struggle.”

Saving Grace: Koryn Hawthorne

She was just 17 years old, but with a step out on faith, Koryn Hawthorne made a decision that would forever alter the course of her life when she auditioned for the NBC hit singing competition, The Voice. That she made it on the show was little surprise to those who had witnessed her talent as a child and who’d long declared her God-given gifts would take her far. And while they were not surprised when she was selected by vocal powerhouse Christina Aguilera—and then subsequently saved by Grammy-winning, hitmaker Pharrell Williams— they did not know just how far those talents would take her.

      Over the next three months, the show’s nearly 14 million viewers would come to know the depth of her talents as well. The studio version of her live performance of “Make it Rain” by Foy Vance went to number 3 on iTunes’ top 10 list and debuted at number 84 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and she was twice saved by the public after near-elimination.

      Performing songs from the likes of Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson and James Brown, Hawthorne’s powerful vocals impressed not only the public but the judges as well, with Maroon 5 singer and judge Adam Levine saying she had a “drastic, incredible, unbelievable journey.”

      But what impressed some most about Hawthorne was her gospel convictions. Defying the perceptions of most 17-year old musically-gifted teens who opt for secular music, Hawthorne—who’d been cut from American Idol for deciding to sing a gospel song after the producers had told her not to—once again chose to sing a gospel song in the semi-finals.

      She admits that she was unsure if she could do gospel music because she didn’t see anyone who was singing about God and who sounded like her, on the mainstage. Fortunately, Williams saw how special her walk with God was, even when she didn’t see it just yet.

      “Pharrell was my coach on ‘The Voice’ and he encouraged me to not change. He thought that it was super dope that I wanted to do inspirational music,” Hawthorne said. “Our relationship was so amazing because Pharrell has a Pentecostal background and we talked throughout the whole course of the show about God and how he was raised.

      “I was like whatever you want me to do, I will do it. If he wanted me to be Beyonce, I would’ve done that. But he didn’t want me to be Beyonce. I’m grateful because I don’t think I realized how special it was at that time. To be brought up the way I was brought up and know God the way I know Him and on a platform like that.”

      In a business notorious for challenging the artistic integrity of those who want to “make it,” Hawthorne is grateful for God’s protection at the very beginning of her career. She finished the competition in fourth place and found a lifelong mentor in Williams.  Hawthorne was ready to embody the vision that the industry may have wanted for her, but Pharrell and even record executives knew how authentic and powerful her voice for God was and he encouraged her to pursue a career in gospel music even when she received the opportunity to take the secular path.

      Born in Abbeville, Louisiana, the 22-year-old grew up singing in church where an overseer predicted that her talent would be seen by the world, but she also admired more secular artists.

      “I grew up listening and singing Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. I definitely didn’t feel like there was a place for me,” she explained. “But ultimately, it’s God and through my prayers, my mom’s prayers, for God to continue to orchestrate every step of my life…that’s always what it was for me.”

      Hawthorne released her first album, “Unstoppable” in 2018 and reached number 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart. The album’s hit single, “Won’t He Do It” reached number 1 on three of Billboard’s main gospel charts and has over 6 million streams on Spotify. In a rare feat, her first complete body of work earned her two Grammy nominations, an NAACP Award, Stellar Award, Billboard Music Award and two Dove Awards, amongst numerous other nominations.

      These days, Hawthorne is proud to be bringing the gospel to a new generation who may not connect with the traditional, religious route, and happy that God has surrounded her with a strong team for support.

      “This is where I am and I’m happy about it,” she states emphatically. “I see the plan of God over my life and I see how now I’m influencing a whole generation that feels like they’re different. I know my purpose in God is great, so that drives me to dream even bigger.”

      Indeed, by all accounts, she’s just getting started. The powerhouse vocalist released a new album, “I Am” on September 18 and its lead single, “Pray” has already reached number 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Digital Song Sales chart.

      The entire creative process for the album was laidback, with the recording of the project being completed in only two weeks. The team didn’t go in with a plan but instead allowed God to flow through the music.

      “It allowed God to come in and do what he wanted to do, and it also allowed our natural gifts and talents to come through. It was so organic and authentic and that’s what people can expect to hear, the authenticity,” Hawthorne explained. “It’s raw and pure. It’s encouragement all around the board. I’m so excited for people to hear it, especially in these times, because of the pandemic, because of what we’re going through. I think we need strength.”

      God’s grace is what’s pulling Hawthorne through a difficult point in time for the entire world. Amid the global pandemic, she’s had to rework the marketing strategy for her new album. With the restrictions, she’s been filling up her spare time with cooking, finding new T.V. shows to watch and spending time with her family. The singer’s relationship with God has also grown with all the introspection.

      “It’s causing us to see Him for who he is outside of church, outside of religion, outside of those things,” she said. “As much as I’m sure people would love to go to the altar call right now, you can’t. You have to read God for yourself.”

      More than anything, she wants her new album to be a comfort and source of inspiration for people struggling during this uncertain time.

      “I feel like people right now need strength and I think that’s what this album is. Hopefully with this album, it helps people to feel that. I want it to be used as a tool.”

      In fact, the vocalist is more than willing to push boundaries in her music if it means helping others.

      Every time I went into the studio, I just talked about how I feel,” said the Abbeville, Louisiana native. “I’m never going to stop being authentic. If it’s something that I’ve been through, we’re going to talk about it because my whole thing is about helping other people. There is someone else who’s going to go through that, and they need to hear it. That’s all I can ask for.”

      For the now 22-year old Grammy nominated artist, it’s all about God’s grace.

      “(Saving Grace) means everything to me. I boldly talk about how imperfect I am and a lot of times, I think we feel like we beat ourselves up more than what God is doing,” she notes. We’ve all made mistakes and have done things where we feel like God is not even looking our way and that’s not true,” she said. “I am so grateful that no matter what I do, he has a plan over my life, and he can restore.”

      “His grace is sufficient enough, anything that you could ask for. There’s nothing I could ever do to be enough to deserve what he has given me. That’s what the gospel is about, we don’t deserve it but it’s Jesus, because of his sacrifice, because of what he’s done. The grace of God is unbelievable and I’m grateful for it every day.”

Briefly: Ice Cube Faces Backlash After Meeting with Trump Administration; Taraji P. Henson to Host and Produce Podcast Series…

Ice Cube Faces Backlash After Meeting with Trump Administration 

Rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube is facing criticism after it was revealed that he met with the Trump administration to discuss their plan to address Black issues in America. The 51-year-old allegedly met with Trump’s team to discuss the Platinum Plan, the Trump administration’s proposal to directly impact Black Americans which includes making Juneteenth a national holiday and defining lynching as a national hate crime. After news of his involvement prompted criticism on social media, Ice Cube made a statement on Twitter.

“Facts: I put out the CWBA. Both parties contacted me. Dems said we’ll address the CWBA after the election. Trump campaign made some adjustments to their plan after talking to us about the CWBA,” he tweeted, regarding his “Contract with Black America.”

He continued, “Black progress is a bipartisan issue. When we created the Contract with Black America we expected to talk to both sides of the isle.  Talking truth to power is part of the process.”

The rapper also revealed that “the powers that be” cancelled his Cuomo Prime Time interview on CNN following the news, saying, “it seems they can’t handle the truth.”


Taraji P. Henson to Host and Produce Podcast Series About Harlem Music Scene

Actress Taraji P. Henson has partnered with Universal Music Group (UMG) and Wondery to develop a podcast series about a group of teenagers in the Harlem music scene. Henson will host and produce the six-part podcast. 

Titled, “Jacked: Rise of the New Jack Swing,” the series will focus on the teenagers’ complex relationship and feature interviews from band members, managers and music from the UMG catalogue. It will also dive into the tumultuous history of the “New Jack Swing” sound that gave us songs like Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” and “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe.

The series will premiere November 17 on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, the Wondery app and other podcast platforms.

State Offers New Rape, Assault Protections for Health Care Workers

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media  

 California is expanding aid and protections to health care workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues through two new laws and an executive order. 

Late last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that orders new actions on health care in response to the pandemic. 

The order allows public health officials working to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic to participate in the Secretary of State’s address-confidentiality program, known as the Safe at Home program.  

The Safe at Home program provides substitute addresses for groups that need protection against harassment or violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence victims. Multiple public health officials have reported receiving death threats, including Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer and Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. 

“Our public health officers have all too often faced targeted harassment and stalking,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. This “program can help provide more peace of mind to the public health officials who have been on the frontlines of California’s COVID-19 response.” 

The order also authorizes the Department of Managed Health Care to gather data to assess the impacts of the pandemic on health care providers and health care service plans. 

Gov. Newsom also recently signed two bills, AB 2537 and SB 275, that would increase the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.  

Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) introduced AB 2537. The law requires hospitals to stockpile a three-month supply of PPE by April 2021. 

“We are currently experiencing something we haven’t before, and healthcare workers are at the frontlines of it all. While dealing with this pandemic, the last thing our workers should be worried about is whether or not, they will be protected from exposure. We must protect those providing care so that they too can continue to do their work,” said Rodriguez. 

SB 275 mandates the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to establish a 90-day PPE stockpile for health care and other essential workers within one year. It also requires major health care employers, such as hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics, to build an additional 45-day stockpile of PPE by 2023 or later. 

Under SB 275, essential workers will receive PPE from the CDPH stockpile include school workers, childcare providers, in-home support providers, and any workers who provide services directly supporting patient care. SB 275 was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union California. 

“One of the hard-learned lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for a well-managed supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep California’s healthcare workforce and other essential workers safe. SB 275 creates a reliable supply of PPE to ensure healthcare workers, essential workers, and the public at large are protected during the next health emergency,” said SB 275 author Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento). 

Black Educators Reject Trump, call on Biden to Embrace Obama Era Education Policies

Dr. Margaret Fortune, Fortune Education

There was a point in that messy first presidential debate when Black folks were spectators as three old White men — Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace — talked about African Americans in a discussion of race in America from a White perspective.  What was on full display at that moment was how Black Americans can be completely side-lined in a dialogue about our own future.  How would a conversation on race in America that White men centered on law enforcement and White supremacy be different if it had been led by Blacks? 

In answer to Chris Wallace’s question, “Do you believe that there is a separate but unequal system of justice for Blacks in this country?” Joe Biden responded, “Yes there is systemic injustice in this country in education, in work, and in law enforcement and the way in which it is enforced.”  We agree.  To be clear, those of us who want to end Donald Trump’s reign of terror are voting for Joe Biden to be the next President of the United States.  But that does not mean Biden gets a free pass when it comes to issues of Black concern. 

Amid the systemic injustices perpetrated against Blacks in this country, Joe Biden listed America’s inequitable education system first. Yet, Biden has embraced a traditional view of public education without critique or nuance to garner the support of America’s largest teachers’ unions — American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.  Despite Blacks being undereducated and over-policed in our nation’s schools, he has walked away from Barack Obama’s education agenda that increased education funding while challenging the status quo to improve. Obama understood the urgency of Black parents who couldn’t wait for the system to right itself and expanded options for our children within the public school system, including high quality public charter schools. 

Nearly 90 percent of Black Democratic primary voters’ support expanding access to more public school options, including charter schools. Has Biden stepped over Black voters to ingratiate himself with White progressives?  Is that trade off worth it? Biden doesn’t have much room for error.  The parents of 3.3 million charter school children could make a difference in swing states with razor-thin margins if they turn out for Biden.

It is imperative for Biden to speak directly to the interests of Black communities.  It wouldn’t take much for him to signal that “his” Democratic Party is a big enough tent for educators on both sides of the divide to come together for this crucial election. After all, as Biden said, he is the Democratic Party.

Black people have always had to fight for what we need to survive in this country. The rules aren’t created with us in mind to ensure that we have the tools to build a life in pursuit of the happiness promised to all Americans under the Constitution.  Our hope is that Biden will build and improve on the Obama-Biden legacy of investing in an ecosystem of high-quality public school options for students and families to receive the education they deserve. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This op-ed was co-authored by the following education leaders: Dr. Margaret Fortune, CEO, Fortune School, California; Dr. Steve Perry, Founder and CEO, Capital Preparatory School, Connecticut/New York; Dr. Howard Fuller, Professor Emeritus, Marquette University, Wisconsin; David Hardy, Founder, Boys Latin School of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Rev. Alfred Cockfield, Founder and Executive Director, Lamad Academy Charter School.

BLM Co-Founder Signs Multi-Year Deal with Warner Bros.


Co-founder and Executive Director of the Black Lives Matter Movement Patrisse Cullors has landed a T.V. production deal with Warner Bros. Television Group. The activist will focus on creating original programming that uplifts Black voices on streaming services, cable and five broadcast networks.

“Black voices, especially Black voices who have been historically marginalized, are important and integral to today’s storytelling,” said Cullors. “Our perspective and amplification is necessary and vital to helping shape a new narrative for our families and communities. I am committed to uplifting these stories in my new creative role with the Warner Bros. family. As a long time, community organizer and social justice activist, I believe that my work behind the camera will be an extension of the work I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. I look forward to amplifying the talent and voices of other Black creatives through my work.”

The multi-year, wide-ranging overall deal will allow Cullors to produce live-action scripted dramas and comedies, longform or event series, unscripted docuseries, animated programming for co-viewing among kids, young adults and families as well as original digital content.

Cullors, who started Black Lives Matter alongside Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi back in 2013, has since become one of the most prominent activists at the forefront of the now global movement. For her work in the movement, she was recognized in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 list and TIME Magazine’s 2020 list of the 100 Women of the Year.

Cullors is also the founder of the Los Angeles–based grassroots organization Dignity and Power Now. 

She now plans to bring the fight for criminal justice reform and racial justice to the creative media world by amplifying Black voices and creating content within the framework of Black Lives Matter. Warner Bros. also stated that they will work to provide more opportunities for Black producers, writers and other creatives.

L.A. County Gets $60 Million for Affordable Housing


Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced that L.A. County is set to receive $60 million to purchase eight motels that will be converted into affordable apartments. With a combined 631 rooms, the apartments will come with supportive services and rent subsidies that will be funded through the county’s Measure H – a tax with the intent to end homelessness – as well as state and federal resources. 

The initiative will be done though Homekey, California’s $600 million program to purchase and rehabilitate housing, which include hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other properties with the intention of converting them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“Behind every allocation we make for Homekey is the story of a Californian who will no longer have to sleep in a tent, in a car or on the street,” said Governor Newsom. “The partnerships with local leaders and their innovative approaches to homeless solutions are inspiring. From helping victims of domestic violence, to LGBTQ youth, to seniors, we’ve seen bold proposals that help a cross section of Californians struggling to find permanent housing.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed Measure H, believes that this is an important and crucial step to assist residents who are concerned about living sustainably in the city.

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his unwavering leadership and investing much needed resources to combat this crisis within a crisis – homelessness amid a pandemic,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district will have three Homekey sites. “Project Roomkey enabled LA County to bring 4,000 vulnerable people indoors in just months – an unprecedented accomplishment that protected their health and that of the larger community while simultaneously providing a lifeline to struggling businesses.

Of the $600 million designated to Homekey, $550 million will be provided to cities and counties by California’s direct allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds. 

“We are ready for the next phase, Homekey. We have eight motels lined up to be converted into affordable apartments with services, a key component of our COVID-19 recovery rehousing plan,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Newsom also announced a partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that was created to develop affordable housing. Through this partnership, Newsom will distribute $45 million in funding – $20 million from Blue Shield of California and $25 million from Kaiser Permanente – to assist operating subsidies for Homekey projects. 

Over 100 Clergy Join Operation Unity to Fight Police Brutality


      Over 100 local clergy and members of the church community will gather at the steps of five city’s City Halls on Oct. 22 to push local politicians for tangible and effective legislation against police brutality in a day of prayer and meetings they’re calling “Operation Unity”.

      “We don’t want them to say it to us privately anymore. We want them to actually enter into an agreement that says, as long as you’re in a place of power, you’re going to work with clergy and community to make sure we move forward in accountability between community and law enforcement,” explained Pastor Michael J. Fisher of Greater Zion Church Family and organizer of Operation Unity.

      The “operation” comes on the heels of a summer of protest, where thousands of racial-justice protests occurred across the United States largely after the killing of George Floyd in May. One report from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) estimated from May 26 through Aug. 22, about 7,750 protests took place in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and D.C.

      For Fisher, Operation Unity is a way for communities fighting for justice to come together, especially within the black church community.

      “Black Lives Matter does things together. The LGBTQ+ community, they do it all together. The Latino nationality, they kind of move together. When it comes to the black church, we don’t,” he believes. “If we’re going to have a voice in this, we’re going to have to do it together…It’s all about unity. It’s all about us having one sound, one band, one message.”

      As much as the day is about showing a united front, the group is also ready for a solid response from elected officials promising legislation that will hold law enforcement accountable. Outside, participants will gather at the steps of City Hall at the five chosen cities to pray and sing while pastors will meet inside with city leaders to discuss and sign the “Declaration of Interdependence.” Those cities are, Long Beach (at 8 a.m.), Compton (at 9:30a.m), Inglewood (11 a.m.), South/East LA (12:30 p.m.) and Downtown LA (2 p.m.).

      This document is a pledge that promises that city leaders will formulate the legislation the community is asking for.

      “We’re really not coming to sing another song, right?” Fisher added.

      Fisher also recognizes that politicians may be more willing to work with clergy than they might be with Black Lives Matter activists who have been demanding similar action. Operation Unity is recognizing that leverage and platform and utilizing it.

      “Operation Unity is important in reestablishing the narrative that the movement for social justice was always birthed from the church, specifically the black church, the black clergy. And so this moment is reclaiming that narrative because a lot of people think that the church is dead when it comes to social justice, but we’re still yet alive.”

Larry Elder Appointed to Trump Administration


      President Donald Trump has appointed conservative author, pundit and talk show host Larry Elder to a key position in his Administration.

Elder, who has long maintained that the absence of fathers poses a bigger threat to Black communities than racism, will serve on the president’s Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.

      “That so many children, particularly black children, are raised without fathers in the home, is our nation’s most pressing domestic problem. Former President Barack Obama said that a child raised without a father in the home is five times more likely to be poor and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school and twenty times more likely to end up in jail.”  

      Elder adds: “We need to ask ourselves if we are incentivizing women to marry the government and if we are incentivizing men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility.”

      Elder was selected for the post while promoting, Uncle Tom, the documentary he executive produced and appears in about Black conservative. Released this summer, it was the No. 1 documentary on iTunes.

      “I’m very honored and flattered that I was contacted some time ago to do this,” Elder told the audience that tunes in weekdays to his syndicated talk show on the Salem Radio Network. “I hope to focus on the fact that 70 percent of kids raised without fathers is by far the number one problem facing the black community, not this business about institutional racism…systemic racism nonsense that the media and these so-called activists have people focused on to the exclusion of what the big problem is. 

      “It’s not just a black problem, it’s an American problem,” Elder continued. “Fifty percent of Hispanic kids are raised without fathers. 25 percent of white kids are raised without fathers. It is the number one problem facing this country and frankly, neither party is talking about it not until this administration set up this commission to do something about it. I mentioned Obama, but also Tupac Shakur. He said in that documentary called “Resurrection”, ‘Had I had a father I would have been more disciplined, I would have had more confidence.”

      “These are two people that the left loved—Tupac and Obama—and they’re both saying that not having fathers in the home is a serious problem.”

      Signed into law in August, the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act — introduced by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson—establishes a 19-member commission that will examine the societal disparities that disproportionately affect Black males in America.

      “I am overjoyed that this historic bill, which I have introduced each year during my tenure in Congress, is now a law. The fact that it was passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the president is a testament to the urgency of the need to examine and address the egregious treatment that Black men and boys in our nation have endured for generations,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “It is the most important piece of civil rights legislation that Congress has passed since the Voting Rights Act. In addition, it is the first bill passed in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide protests sparked by that tragedy.”

Petition to Halt Sale of Baldwin Hill Plaza to New York Developers

Stephen Oduntan, Staff

We’ve seen this movie before.

Back in April, when CIM Group announced it had signed a purchase and sale agreement to acquire the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza community residents thwarted the proposed plans to turn the shopping center into a massive luxury mixed-use complex.

Now there’s a sequel of sorts to these events nearly six months after Crenshaw Subway Coalition launched an online petition calling on the community to halt the sale of the retail shopping mall to the Mid-Wilshire-based CIM Group.

Earlier this month, the current owners of the mall selected New York real estate companies LIVWRK and DFH Partners to acquire the 40-acre property. And a response was swift. The Crenshaw Subway Coalition launched another online petition calling on the community to stop the sale of the retail shopping mall to the developers with ties to Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who specializes in high-end commercial real estate.

“We don’t need a bunch of Trump towers on Crenshaw. It’s more expensive to build developments over six stories with a concrete base which ultimately means the less affordable those properties become,” said Damien Goodman, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

Asher Abehsera, the founder of LIVWRK, said he will talk to local residents before deciding on a makeover plan. “A project of this scale affords a mix of uses,” he says.

Nonetheless, opponents say that a large-scale real estate development of this magnitude increasingly result in longtime resident migration and gentrified induced-displacement. But this reflects national trends, says Goodman, and these kinds of aggressive methods have been used to displace poorer tenants in Black and Hispanic Los Angeles communities. He pointed to how developers erected the Cumulus Skyscraper at the corner of La Cienega and Jefferson Boulevard. 

“We challenged that project,” he said.

 “But now the project has gone up and it’s not yet occupied we learned that the rates for that tower is $5,300 a month which is like three mortgages in our community. We know these rent prices are an intentional effort to price those of us who’ve held down South Central, South Los Angeles, Baldwin Hills, and the Crenshaw area for such a long time.”

Displacement of long-time residents has “created a musical chair effect where low-income tenants get displaced at the convenience of the rich folks,” said Jose Lopez, an anti-displacement activist who lives in the surrounding community directly adjacent to the Cumulus Skyscraper. “I don’t want to have to go live all the way in Lancaster.”

Abehsera said he named his company LIVWRK, a shortening of “live-work,” because he believes neighborhoods thrive best when they are home to commercial and residential uses that engage people day and night. His comments have done little to convince president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California, Pastor K.W. Tulloss who said, “CIM Group put their costumes on early before Halloween and came in as LIVWRK.”

The real estate developer critics say that minority teams that submitted bids for the Baldwin Hills project offered more money to build the mall but were rejected in favor of LIVWRK who offered significantly less.

“We’ve been told to pull ourself up by our bootstraps. Well we’ve got some boots and we’re willing to pull ourselves up. We want to make it abundantly clear and let them know that we have one position, one voice, and one message, and that is: ‘No, don’t sell the mall,” said Baba Akili of Black Lives Matter and one of many activists who’ve teamed up with Goodman’s Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

The sale is expected to close before the end of the year.

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