COVID Winter Surge Brings New Challenges for Elder and Youth Health Care

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media 

The COVID-19 winter surge has impacted different age groups in different ways, as caretakers struggle to take care of the elderly during this pandemic and parents remain wary of their children returning to in-person classes. 

“It’s been here but it’s been everywhere for like the last 14 days,” said Los Angeles County resident Clarence Johnson whose wife, Tanesha Johnson, decided to shut down their daycare last year.

Across the United States, 1,099 children under 18 have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In California, the state Department of Public Health reports that 47 children have died of the disease. 

This past December saw a four-fold increase of children admitted to hospital over the past year, according to the African American Wellness Project. 

Tanesha Johnson, owner and director of the Sunshine Academy Childcare Center in Inglewood, made the choice to close her daycare after reflecting on her own concerns as a parent. 

“When I started seeing how fast the COVID-19 virus began to spread, I had to now think as a mother and not just as a business owner,” said Johnson. “I said, ‘okay, if I did not own a daycare, would I feel comfortable sending my children to school at this time,’ and the answer was no.”

Johnson said she is still cautious about her children returning to school and hopes that kids will be required to test before returning.

Both the federal and state governments have been pushing for more tests in schools, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing each student in public school will get two at-home COVID-19 tests.

The Biden administration announced that they will be implementing initiatives that will increase the number of tests in schools by 10 million per month.

“These additional tests will help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test to stay programs. With the additional ten million tests per month, we will make available to schools more than double the volume of testing that took place in schools across the nation in November 2021,” read the press release from the White House. 

In the US, only 27% of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds are in favor of vaccinating their children, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a number of challenges for the country’s aging population as well, particularly for African Americans and other minorities. 

Only 7% of people ages 65 and older who received a booster shot are Black.

Earlier this month, retired Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown (D-San Bernardino), who is a member of the California Commission on Aging, hosted a news briefing with journalists featuring caregivers discussing the difficulties of taking care of aging adults in the state. The virtual conversation was organized by St. Paul AME Church in San Bernardino, Black Voice News in Riverside and Ethnic Media Services. 

According to Donna Benton, Research Professor of Gerontology at USC, caretakers of aging Californians, including family members, have also been impacted. 

“The majority of care, elder care in our state, is done by family members,” she said. “We are an essential part of the healthcare system.” 

Benton, who is also director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center and the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center, said there are nearly 4.5 million family caregivers in California. 

One caretaker, Ruth Rembert, who lives in the Inland Empire, talked about tending to her ill husband and how the pandemic puts him at greater risk.

“His immune system was compromised,” she said. “He has two strikes against him, number one is his age and also his medical issues.”

She also emphasized her support for more people being immunized.

“This pandemic has definitely been a challenge for me and for my husband,” she said. “We all wish this would be over, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be anytime soon unless we take seriously the importance of vaccinations.”

The Rev. Noella Buchanan, Caregiver Coordinator for the Southern California Conference of the African Methodist Church Ministerial Alliance, said most elderly African Americans are people of faith and that plays a role in the way they approach their health care. 

“We need to share with them that if God has opened up a way for someone to come up with a vaccine, we need to trust. And part of our trust comes from what we are seeing. We are seeing loved one die. And the loved ones that are dying are the one that have not taken the shot,” she said. 

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

Fighting Homelessness: Gov. Newsom Sets Sights on Mental Health, Addiction

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

Gov. Gavin Newsom says his administration is emphasizing combating drug addiction and mental illness as part of the state’s multi-year plan to solve California’s homelessness crisis – the worst in the country. 

Newsom says focusing on those health needs of unhoused people is a component of his ongoing “Comeback Plan,” an effort launched last year to help the state recover from the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. 

“This past year, California has been able to move 58,000 individuals off our streets and into the housing and treatment they desperately needed,” said Newsom, adding that it will require a multi-pronged approach to end homelessness because the housing, medical and social needs of unhoused people vary. 

When Newsom presented his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022-23 on Jan. 10, he asked the Legislature to approve $12 billion to support his housing strategy. About $3 billion of that amount would be spent on behavioral health housing, creating 44,0000 new housing units and treatment opportunities for people who are mentally ill. Another $2 billion would go to local governments in the form of flexible aid for housing programs, he said. 

“The California Blueprint will double down on those efforts, focusing on clearing encampments, while also setting the groundwork for long-term systemic change with significant investments in mental health and substance abuse treatment to get vulnerable people off the streets.”

Black Californians are disproportionately homeless. Of the estimated 160,000 unhoused people in the state, more than 40 % are African American. 

Newsom said, in addition to several other measures like securing housing for students and veterans, his administration is currently considering a plan to move the state toward conservatorship for people who are mentally ill. He did not give details about the program, but he said there is a possibility the state will begin entrusting the care of mentally ill people to individuals or institutions in the near future. 

In 1967, when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, the State deinstitutionalized mentally ill patients after the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPSA) was passed and signed into law. California was one of the first states to deinstitutionalize mentally ill patients.

The number of mental patients occupying mental hospitals in California reached its highest point at 37,500 in 1959 when former Gov. Jerry Brown’s father, Edmund G. Brown, was governor. It dropped to 22,000 patients eight years later, according to a report by Chauvet Public Relations titled, “The History of Homelessness and Why We Can Do Better.”

Supporters of LPSA believed the law would provide protections for mental health patients and eliminate “the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of persons (to mental institutions) with mental health disorders,” the language of the bill reads. 

LSPA critics say it inappropriately empowered mentally ill people to make important health care decisions for themselves when many of them had neither the will nor ability to do so. 

When Reagan became president in 1980, he used the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) to repeal President Jimmy Carter’s Mental Health Systems Act, which funded federal mental health programs.

The OBRA gave mental patients the authority to make decisions about their treatment, including the options to seek care outside of a mental institution, get treatment at state-run clinics or the freedom to administer their own medication.

Last fall, the Newsom administration publicly let it be known that it is was leading the charge to provide solutions in the areas of low-income housing, mental health, and the state’s enduring homelessness problem. 

In October, Gov. Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill (AB) 36, authored by Sen. Sydney Kamlager’s (D-Los Angeles) when she was an Assemblymember. The bill would have provided people experiencing homelessness access to health and social services outside the walls of a traditional medical clinic, including mobile clinics and shelter-based and other transitional housing-based health care. 

According to Kamlager, AB 36 would have been the first law of its kind in the nation offering unhoused people Medi-Cal benefits without them having to share the cost.

Newsom’s letter explaining the veto says that the unhoused can already receive similar service through California’s Presumptive Eligibility program, which offers Medi-Cal and timely health care.

The bill was endorsed by 70 organizations and leaders across the state, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. In L.A. County, where over 66,000 people are homeless, African Americans make up 34% of that number although the total Black population is nearly 8%.

People of color in California experience some of the highest rates of homelessness in the nation. For example, nationally, 55 Black people experience homelessness out of every 10,000. In California, that number is 194 out of every 10,000.

Pacific Research Institute (PRI) a San-Francisco-based research think tank released a report in April 2021 that specified decreases of homelessness in major metropolitan areas such as New York City and Seattle. 

The report, “No Way to End California’s Homelessness Crisis,” says that “Clearly, California is doing something wrong” in terms of finding solutions.  Although the state makes up 12% (nearly 40 million residents) of the U.S. population, 27% of all homeless persons live in California, stated Kerry Jackson and Wayne Winegarden, the report’s authors.

According to Jackson and Winegarden, mental illness is one of the driving forces behind the California’s chronic homelessness problem.

But all hope is not lost, the researchers say. 

“A new approach is needed. To cut through the state bureaucracy, California should rely on private efforts to minimize homelessness. Private organizations are typically better equipped than the government to make real differences in the lives of the homeless because they tailor programs to meet the specific needs of individual homeless and can adapt where the government cannot.”

Supreme Court May End Affirmative Action at Universities

Stacy Brown / NNPA Newswire

The Supreme Court said it will reconsider race-based affirmative action in college admissions.
The Monday, January 24, announcement could eliminate campus practices that have widely benefitted African American and Hispanic students.

Policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina are at the heart of the issue that the court has agreed to consider.

At those schools, a student’s race counts among the criteria used to decide who enters class at those institutions.

The Department of Justice late had urged the justices to reject the case against Harvard.
“The filing from the office of US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar emphasized that lower US courts had extensively reviewed Harvard’s racial admissions practices and found them sufficiently limited to meet Supreme Court precedent as they furthered the school’s interest in campus diversity,” CNN reported.

Admissions practices that take account of students’ race, first upheld in a 1978 Supreme Court decision, and reaffirmed in 2003, reportedly have boosted the admission of Black and Latino students for decades.

Reparations Task Force: January Mtg Will Discuss Public “Listening Sessions”

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

To ensure Black communities across the state voice their thoughts and concerns and provide input, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans is partnering with six “anchor organizations” to host public listening sessions. 

Each organization will help the task force hear various perspectives of Black Californians as it assesses the state’s involvement in slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. The committee expects that process to inform the work they do when developing recommendations for compensating African Americans for past and ongoing race-based injustices.

The Coalition For A Just and Equitable California (CJEC) is one of the host organizations. A state-wide network of organizations, associations, and individuals united to push reparations for the descendants of enslaved men and women, the CJEC will participate in 12 sessions involving Black Californians from different social and economic backgrounds. 

“We’ve been at this since 2019. We worked hard for this assignment and it’s really a testament of waking up, networking, and organizing Black folks around the state,” Chris Lodgson, a founding member of CJEC, told California Black Media.

“What we are expected to do as part of that process is produce at least two listening sessions and the task force will support them. These sessions will allow Black Californians to think about what reparations should look like and how it should be implemented,” Lodgson continued. 

Along with CJEC, the Black Equity Collective, Afrikan Black Coalition, Black Power Network, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), and Othering and Belonging Institute are the anchor organizations helping to plan the sessions.

Lodgson said CJEC will “coordinate” with the other five anchor organizations to prevent “doubling efforts” and provide a cross-section of opportunities and ideas from the sessions.

“At least two Task Force members are expected to attend each listening session,” Lodgson said.

“We really want to talk to people in our community that get overlooked the most,” Lodgson said. “People who are unhoused, formerly incarcerated, from the foster care system, street organizations, et cetera, are the people we want to hear from. Their thoughts matter, too.”

At its first two-day meeting of 2022 on Thursday, Jan. 27, and Friday, Jan. 28, task force members will explain in more detail the rationale and process of the listening sessions. The virtual meetings will begin at 9:00 a.m. both days. 

During the upcoming meetings, task force member Dr. Cheryl Grills will highlight the task force’s “Community Engagement Plan, providing more information about the listening sessions. 

The meeting will also feature testimony from experts during the “Discrimination in Technology,” “Community Eligibility,” and “Public Health” segments on Jan. 27.

During the task force’s second meeting last July, Grills introduced the idea of the listening sessions. 

Black communities in the southern, northern, and central parts of the state (where many Black farmers reside) are expected to be involved in the process. 

“Black folks exist in an ecosystem and the system includes a diverse, cultural base of people, social class, education levels, etc.,” Grills said. “So how do we make sure that those people, who are a part of the ecosystem, are impacted? They need to be at the table.”

Grills was appointed to the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) earlier this month. She is a professor of Psychology at Loyola Marymount University, former national President of the Association of Black Psychologists, and founder/director of a non-profit program evaluation organization called Imoyase Community Support Services.

NAARC is comprised of a distinguished assembly of activists, scholars, civil rights, human rights, labor, and faith leaders. The organization devised a 10-Point Reparations Program to serve as a guide and frame of reference for the growing reparations movement in the country.

“Dr. Grills has been amazing. She’s has done a great job in leading our community engagement effort,” Lodgson said. “She’s been largely responsible for looking for groups to be anchor organizations, bringing together resources, and facilitating the conversations.”

On Friday, Jan. 28, the California Task Force will hear testimonies from experts discussing mental health and physical health.

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate race-based inequity in education, labor, wealth, housing, taxation and more. The commission is also charged with analyzing the state’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the historic denial of Black citizens’ constitutional rights. 

Current California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber authored the bill when she was a member of the State Assembly and chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

AB 3121 requires the task force to submit its recommendations to the legislature no later than 2023. 

The January 2022 meeting will be the first of six meeting this year. The public is encouraged to join the meeting at https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/live-event/ccajafkq

Race and Health Care: New Report Shares Insights on Black Californians

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

In keeping with its commitment to ending health inequities, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) released the first phase of a three-part study documenting how race and racism shape the health care experiences of Black Californians.

The report, “In Their Own Words: Black Californians on Racism and Health Care,” was written by health services researcher Dr. Linda Cummings. The study synthesizes hour-long interviews with 100 Black Californians conducted from June to August 2021. 

According to Katherine Haynes, a senior program officer serving on CHCF’s People-Centered Care team, “The project is to understand the interactions between racism, health and healthcare. (The first phase) is in-depth interviews that are really designed to gain a deep understanding of Black Californians’ perception of racism in this state’s healthcare system and its impact on them.”

CHCF’s main objective is to advance meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, specifically individuals who are financially challenged and whose needs are not well served in the healthcare system.

EVITARUS, a Black-owned Los Angeles-based public opinion research firm, is conducting the three-phase Study for CHCF. The firm has extensive experience polling California’s diverse constituencies and maintains long-standing relationships with Black-led community organizations and media.

“Dr. Linda Cummings wrote the report and we did the research. We designed the study, performed the data collection as well as the data analysis that supported Dr. Cummings and her findings,” according to Shakari Byerly, EVITARUS Managing Partner. “It was a thorough recruitment process and screening and screening of those that indicated an interest in participation. The participants also received an honorarium (of $125) for their participation.”

Findings from the first phase cautioned that just having a Black physician did not automatically result in better care. Negative experiences with Black physicians and other health providers of color can be an obstacle to health care, too.

“It is the subtle, the microaggressions that happen within

the health care field. So, I am resistant to get help unless I feel comfortable with the person who may or may not look like me,” a 33-year-old Black woman from the San Francisco Bay Area stated. “But I also have been discriminated against a lot from Black physicians as well.”

Cummings wrote that more than half of the respondents said that, at some time in their lives, they had been unhoused, without a stable place to live, or stayed with a family member or friend because they did not have a place of their own.

Notably, the study highlighted that the participants took their health care seriously.

“The respondents really spoke about how they were taking action to pursue health, advocating for themselves, in the health care system and taking steps to protect themselves from harm in the health care system,” said Haynes.

Nearly all the respondents (93%) had some form of health insurance. The majority were covered through employer-sponsored plans at 40% or Medi-Cal at 26%, the study reports.

The mix of participants also reflected the ethnic diversity of Black Californians. The majority of respondents identified as Black or African American (83%), Black and multiracial (6%), African (5%), Afro-Caribbean (4%), Afro-Latino (1%), and Black-Native American (1%), Byerly said.

“Everyone identified as Black, but we recognize that people come from different backgrounds,” Byerly said.  “It supports our research design to make sure that we show a full range of our community in California.”

Byerly also shared that 62% of the participants said they have experienced “some type of discrimination” based on their background while getting healthcare for themselves. About 59% said they were treated unfairly while getting healthcare for a family member, she added.

Phase II of the Listening to Black Californians study examines “structural issues” in the health care system gleaned from focus group discussions with Black Californians and key health care stakeholders,” Haynes said.

The third and final phase of the study will be a statewide survey of Black California residents. It will be crafted to evaluate the extent to which the Phase I and Phase II findings are represented in the general Black Californian population.

“The second phase with 18 focus groups, was completed right before the winter holidays. The third phase, we hope, will have over 3,000 Black-Californian participants,” Hayes said. “The final report is expected in the summer of 2022.”

Read the full report. 

Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson Introduce Reward Motion for Information on 16-year-old Found on Side of Freeway

Los Angeles City Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson have introduced a motion to offer a $50,000 reward in the murder of 16-year-old Tioni Theus.

On Jan. 8, Tioni was found dead, shot in the neck, after drivers reported seeing her body along the southbound 110 Freeway in South Los Angeles. The motion co-presented by Councilmembers Price and Harris-Dawson, seconded by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, offers a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the teenager’s death.

“Tioni was just beginning her life, with all the possibilities ahead of her, ripped away in an instant. It’s heart wrenching to think that someone who had so much promise and the world at her feet could be taken in such a cruel manner,” said Councilmember Price. “With her love of dance and golf, these God-given gifts and talents never had the chance to be shared with the world; so many unfinished dreams that will never be realized.

Until the person or people responsible for her murder are behind bars, the community will not be at rest. We need answers to provide closure for the Theus family. Only then will justice prevail.”

The case is currently under investigation but there is no apparent motivation. The suspect(s) has not yet been identified and presents a significant peril to the community at large.

“Far too many times, our news and media outlets make the choice to uphold conventional thinking when it comes to the devaluation of Black women and girls,” added Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.”  Some find it hard to locate the center of their humanity. Instead, they question their personhood and judge using their harshest lenses. The underlying subtext of their thinking is distilled into worthiness; a young Black 16-year-old can only be exploited and trafficked. Today my colleagues have joined me in introducing a reward motion that crosses county, city, and district boundaries to encourage anyone who knows the perpetrator to come forward and bring peace to Tioni’s family, friends, and our South Los Angeles community.”

Councilmembers Price and Harris-Dawson will also be introducing legislation in the coming days seeking an equity analysis from the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, with the assistance of the LAPD, on violence facing Black women and girls. The report will explore inequities in the rate of violence experienced by Black women and girls and the rate at which violent crimes against them are solved.

“The murder of Tioni Theus is shocking in its brutality,” said Capri Maddox, Executive Director of the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, also known as LA Civil Rights. “But the murders of Black women and girls that go unsolved is nothing new. Time and time again, our community faces higher rates of violence while being treated like less of a priority. We are so grateful to Councilmember Price and Councilmember Harris-Dawson for leading on this important legislation, and we look forward to working with them to shine a light on this issue. Black women and girls matter, their suffering matters, and they deserve justice.”

CA Attorney General Warns Against Fake COVID Testing Sites

Staff

With pop up COVID  testing sites springing up around the county and across the state comes a warning from officials: “Beware”.

Numerous illegal, unapproved and unsanitary sites have become to pose a problem with people reporting the collecting of personal identification that could possibly lead to identity theft and the failure to provide tests results after receiving payment. So much so that officials in a growing number of states—including California—are investigating the scam sites and introducing legislation to streamline COVID testing operations.

Most recently, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued an alert warning Californians to beware of fake COVID-19 testing locations and websites.

“Throughout California, fake testing sites are sprouting up to exploit families and individuals seeking COVID tests. It is important to recognize the signs of sham testing sites to protect both your money and personal information,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I urge Californians to do their part to avoid fake testing sites by utilizing state resources, including the California Department of Public Health’s website, to find a verified COVID-19 testing site.”

Bonta also shared tips on how to avoid testing site scams, as well as how to search and locate legitimate, verified testing sites.

First and foremost, he advised that people only get tested at verified COVID-19 testing sites or to check with local medical groups to see if they offer testing services within their facility.  To find a testing site near you that is verified to perform COVID-19 testing, you are directed to use the California Department of Public Health’s test site search tool or your county’s public health department website at COVID19.CA.GOV’s Hotlines and Local Info web page.

Keep in mind fake websites that purposely look identical to those belonging to well-known, trusted organizations and state agencies. Before entering personal information into an online form, always make sure that the website you are visiting is secure and does not display misspellings or unfamiliar names in the URL.

Among other red flags are (1) If a provider insists on documenting your nationality or immigration status; (2) If a provider does not offer a notice of privacy practices, or cannot explain how it will use and share your personal data; or (3) If a provider insists on accessing your passport or driver’s license when you have other documents that show your insurance status.

This month, the federal government announced the launch of a new federal resource where individuals can get free FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 test kits. Visit COVIDtests.gov, or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to order free COVID test kits from the federal government. When placing an order online, you will be redirected to the United States Post Office website to fill out an order form. The form only requires you to provide your first and last name, shipping address, and an optional email. 

Remember that no one from the federal government will call, text, or email you to ask for additional information to help you with your order. If someone reaches out asking for additional information such as your credit card information or Social Security number, do not respond – it is a scam.

If you believe that you have been scammed by a fake COVID-19 testing site, you are encouraged to report it to your local police or sheriff’s office and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at oag.ca.gov/report.

Hollywood Mourns with Regina King Following Son’s Suicide

Chez Hadley

The rising number of suicides have claimed the spotlight once again with the tragic death of Ian Alexander Jr., the only son of actress Regina King. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those between the ages of 10 and 35 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alexander, a budding entrepreneur and DJ, was 26. 

The Oscar winning star shared the news in a statement on Friday.

“Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian. “He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time. Thank you.”

That statement—which sent shockwaves through Hollywood—drew overwhelming support from fellow celebrities and the entertainment community.

“Sending my deepest condolences to my friend @iamreginaking and her entire family, following the passing of her son, Ian. I pray the love that you pour into others every day is sent your way, tenfold, during this time,” wrote Halle Berry.

From Janet Jackson: “I’m so sorry to hear about Ian. Please know that I am here for u @iamreginaking. Sending all my love, prayers and condolences,”

“My heart breaks for you @ReginaKing Ian was sweet & kind,” Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Garcelle Beauvais posted. 

Loni Love reflected back on meeting him at a birthday bash. 

“He catered the event. Cooked and served all the food and it was delicious!!!! Such a sweet and talented young man… Rest In Peace.”

King Cudi tweeted, “My heart hurts for Regina King and her family. God, please watch over them.”

“Praying for Regina King. She needs all the grace and light that can flow her way right now,” said Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

Jackee Harry shared simply, “Nothing but prayers tonight.” 

Others sharing their condolences included T.I., Octavia Spencer, D.L. Hughley, Marc Lamont Hill, Josh Gad and Viola Davis. 

Close friend Vivica Fox reported that the actress was holding up, surrounded by loved ones and that she appreciated the outpouring of love. 

“This weekend, our whole community mourned the loss of #IanAlexander,” reported Foxx, “and we were all there with words of love to wrap our sis #ReginaKing in. @msvfox shares a message from our sister and asks us to continue to wrap her in love and uplifted in prayer.”

On the occasion of his mom’s 50th birthday last year, Alexander—who often escorted his mom to red carpet events— posted the following on social media: “Happy birthday to my co, so extremely proud of you and inspired by your love, artistry and gangsta. To be able to watch you take this lifetime by its neck and make it yours is something i will forever be grateful for. But to have you as my mother is the greatest gift I could ask for. To be all that you are while always having the time to be there, love and support me unconditionally is truly remarkable. The whole marvel universe ain’t got s*** on you, your the real superhero! Love you mom! This day and everyday YO DAY!!”

Biden Poised to Select First Black Woman Supreme Court Justice, L.A. Native Among Top Contenders

Staff

With the recent announcement of Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, President Joe Biden is poised to make history with the selection of the first black woman justice to the nation’s highest court.

At 83, Breyer is the oldest justice on the court and has said he will stay in place until his replacement is confirmed. His retirement clears the way for a liberal replacement and President Biden has been open about selecting a Black woman as his first Supreme Court pick, pledging to do so in the run up to the South Carolina primary. 

“I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a black woman on the Supreme Court, to make sure we, in fact, get every representation,” he said.

Biden repeated the pledge again one month later, stating “I commit it that if I’m elected president and have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts, I’ll appoint the first Black woman to the courts. It’s required that they have representation, now it’s long overdue.”

While a Black woman on the court won’t’ change the 6-3 conservative majority on the court, it will still be an impactful—as well as historical—choice

Timing is key though Breyer had not indicated (at press) when he would retire. 

Democrats want to fast track the process to ensure it’s done by the mid-terms when the GOP could regain the power in the house and Senate.

With the Senate split 50-50, Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote, but all bets are off if the Republicans retake the Senate with mid-terms victories. Breyer’s retirement in advance of the mid-terms would give the Biden Administration time to push the nomination through despite what will be a political battle with conservative groups sure to rally their troops against Biden’s replacement pick.

Biden has already nominated more Black women to the U.S. Court of Appeals (considered by many as a steppingstone to the Supreme Court) than any other president and five of the eight have been confirmed thus far. One of them Ketanji Brown Jackson—who previously clerked for Breyer and was on Obama’s Supreme Court shortlist in 2016— is widely considered to a top prospect for the pick, particularly since she was confirmed last June as United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit in a 53-44 vote.

Also considered to be on the list of key contenders is Leondra Kruger, who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California. The 45-year old Los Angeles native formerly served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Deputy Solicitor General, during which time she argued 12 cases in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government.

The Harvard grad who served as Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens following her graduation from Yale Law School.

Others potential nominees include Candace Jackson-Akwumi and Eunice Lee, who were both appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals last summer; U.S. District Judges J. Michelle Childs, and Wilhelmina Wright; and Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor and president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

In its 232-year history, the supreme court has counted two African American justices, one Latina and just five women among its 115 justices.

Voting Rights Takes Center Stage at Black Caucus MLK Breakfast

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media 

Voting rights was the central theme at a virtual breakfast the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) held Jan. 12 to celebrate the sacrifices and impact of Martin Luther King Jr. on American life and politics. 

“It is not enough to evoke Dr. King’s name on his birthday, post on social media and then take the day off,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Inglewood), CLBC chair, reminding the audience of King’s activism and how his efforts led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Bradford said there are forces still attacking the rights of some Americans to vote, and more work needs to be done to make sure the voices of all Americans are heard and that all voters have access to the ballot box.  

“His birthday should be about a day on, a day of activity in our community, of activism and continuing to push for real change in this country,” he continued. 

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who is a former chair of the CLBC, said “the crisis of democracy is center stage, we are still fighting for our fundamental rights.” 

“In 1965, we secured [the vote] and now we find ourselves debating the same issue over again and with great concern about the fact that we are faced with the rolling back of what we had thought was just old stuff that people would never go back to,” said Weber.

A day before the CLBC breakfast, President Biden and Vice President Harris visited Atlanta to emphasize the importance of protecting voting rights. Although, the House of Representatives voted a day later to pass the Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Act, the legislation is in jeopardy of not passing in the U.S. Senate as two Democratic Senators — Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) — refuse to change the rules allowing a minority of senators to block legislation. 

Weber said there are about 400 bills making their way through state legislatures across the country that are attempting to restrict voting rights. 

“Here we are now in this century, in this timeframe, in 2022, and we are talking about something that took place in 1965 in terms of the Voting Rights Act,” said Weber. “Dr. King told us, ‘I see governors with the words of interposition and nullification dripping from their lips.’ In other words, ‘I see Jim Crow laws. I see governors trying to overturn federal law with regards to what is right and what is just in this country.’” 

Civil rights activist and friend of Dr. King, Rev. James Lawson, also spoke at the virtual breakfast and encouraged Black leaders to fight for their communities.

“Black elected officials must support the community of Black people all around the country, organizing continuous campaigns,” said Lawson who shared intimate details of his work with Dr. King and how much King’s ideas, strategizing and activism secured the human rights of all Americans. 

During a press call on the same day, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond spoke about the historical weight of the current voting rights standoff among lawmakers in Washington. 

“Our democracy has faced defining moments many times in our history and this is one of those,” said Richmond. “This will be a question of what side you want to be on.”

Lawson called for community leaders to “dismantle plantation capitalism” and praised the work of other Black leaders that led to civil rights legislation during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

“The greatest use of law and nonviolent tactic was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many movements were in it, and we must not forget Little Rock Nine, Jackie Robinson’s desegregation of baseball and so on. It helped the Black community come together,” said Lawson.


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