Mattel Marks King Holiday with the Debut of Ida B. Wells Barbie

Chez Hadley

On Monday, which marks the national celebration of the King Holiday, Mattel is set to honor another civil rights icon with the release of a doll immortalizing trailblazing journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells. 

Wells is the latest addition to the brand’s Inspiring Women series, dedicated to spotlighting heroes who paved the way for generations of girls to dream big and make a difference.’

Wells, who was born into slavery, would grow to become an educator, journalist and key voice in the fight against lynching in the south as well as a founding member of the NAACP. Wells broke down barriers with her words and activism, suing a train car company in Memphis in 1884 for unfair treatment after she was thrown off a first-class train, despite having a ticket and confronting white women in the suffrage movement for their turning a blind eye to lynching.

In 2020, Wells was honored posthumously with a Pulitzer Prize for her courageous reporting on the brutal violence African Americans suffered during the era of lynching.

The doll, set to debut at major retailers beginning January 17. Others honored with dolls as part of the series include Rosa Parks, Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou.

In a statement making the announcement on social media, Mattel wrote, “When kids learn about heroes like Ida B. Wells, they don’t just imagine a better future, they know they have the power to make it come true.” 

The 10th Council District in Collaboration with the Empowerment Congress, Hosts Community Empowerment Training Session

Staff

In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Empowerment Congress and in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, the 10th Council District in collaboration with the Empowerment Congress will host a specialized training session for community leaders, neighborhood council representatives, residents and members of the religious community, in partnership with Harvard University Pedagogy & Curriculum Specialist, Sarah ElRaheb who will empower participants to craft  their “public narrative”.

Citing the power of stories in communicating values as lived experiences rather than abstract principles, Ms.ElRaheb will lead a discussion on ways to strengthen Angelenos’ capacity to lead through personalized storytelling.

ElRaheb is a Canadian-Egyptian educator and coach who specializes in teaching public narrative, organizing, and leadership and has coached, taught, and coordinated over 80 Public Narrative and Organizing workshops across the United States, Canada, and Morocco with an emphasis on inspiring change by evoking shared values that motivate others to action. 

Founded by Councilmember Ridley-Thomas in 1992 as means to affect political change in the face of police brutality and lack of economic opportunity in South Los Angeles, over the past 30 years, the Empowerment Congress continues to educate, engage, and empower by uniting residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, neighborhood groups, religious institutions and community leaders around shared opportunities to improve their communities.

The three-hour virtual training session will allow 200 community members to acquire and refine their skills to further their advocacy efforts and enhance their leadership styles.

Pan African Film Fest Postponed to April 19 Amid COVID Concerns

Staff

Due to the current rise of COVID cases in Los Angeles County, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) has announced that the festival will not take place February 8-21 as scheduled and instead is exploring options to reschedule its 30th annual celebration for later in the year April 19 through May 1 in Los Angeles at its flagship venues the Directors Guild of America, Cinemark Baldwin Hills and XD and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

In addition, over the course of the coming weeks, the nation’s largest and most prestigious Black film festival says it will explore other ways to engage the community including hosting a virtual PAFF online experience to celebrate Black History Month.

“The decision to postpone this year’s PAFF did not come easy because we were looking forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary in-person with our community,” said Ayuko Babu, PAFF Executive Director.  “But we could not in good conscious put the PAFF community in harm’s way.  Our primary concern is always the responsibility we feel towards our staff, artists, audience, and filmmakers who travel to Los Angeles from around the world, and for whom without them, there is no PAFF.  We remain committed to the city of Los Angeles, where we’ve hosted the Pan African Film and Arts Festival for 30 years and will do so again when it is safe.”

Said co-founder Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon), “It’s been over 30 years since we first traveled to FESPACO in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and were inspired to replicate their celebration and promotion of Black films and Black filmmakers here in America.  We want to celebrate 30 years of connecting the Pan African Film Festival audience with the broader African diaspora through film and art and have made the decision to postpone the festival until it’s safe to do that in-person.”

Supervisor Holly Mitchell commended the Festival for its leading by example in protecting our community. 

“The cultural significance, artistic contributions, and fellowship that PAFF offers can never be stopped,” Mitchell said. “I look forward to PAFF safely commemorating 30 Years in the Second Supervisorial District.”

The 30th annual PAFF will feature over 150 new high-quality Black films from the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, the South Pacific, Canada, and increasingly, Asia. In addition, the PAFF will present over 100 fine artists and unique craftspeople from over 40 countries and six continents in a showcase of Pan African cultures.

Insurance Companies Required to Provide Eight Free COVID Tests Monthly

Staff

Effective January 15, as part of its ongoing efforts to expand access to free testing, the Biden-Harris Administration is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so people with private health coverage can get them for free

The new coverage requirement means that most consumers with private health coverage can go online or to a pharmacy or store, buy a test, and either get it paid for up front by their health plan, or get reimbursed for the cost by submitting a claim to their plan. This requirement incentivizes insurers to cover these costs up front and ensures individuals do not need an order from their health care provider to access these tests for free.

That means a family of four would be able to get up to 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. There is no limit on the number of tests, including at-home tests, that are covered if ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment, including for those who may need them due to underlying medical conditions.

Under President Biden’s leadership, we are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Since we took office, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free, and we’re also purchasing half a billion at-home, rapid tests to send for free to Americans who need them. By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”

As part of the requirement, the Administration is incentivizing insurers and group health plans to set up programs that allow people to get the over-the-counter tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers or other entities with no out-of-pocket costs.  Insurers and plans would cover the costs upfront, eliminating the need for consumers to submit a claim for reimbursement.

People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan should check with their plan to see if their plan offers coverage and payment for at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. Presently, Medicare pays for COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed by a laboratory, such as PCR and antigen tests, with no beneficiary cost sharing when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional.

Larry Elder Won’t Seek Rematch with Governor Gavin Newsom

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder has decided to take a pass on a round two  against Gov. Gavin Newsom who is set to seek a second term this November.

“I ran for Governor because I wanted to make a difference,” Elder said. “While I may not know what the future holds for me politically, our campaign’s ability to attract millions of votes and millions of dollars in a very short time demonstrates we have a message that resonates with Americans, and I believe we can put that to good use.”

Elder, who received three million more votes than any other Republican candidate to replace Newsom and raised $22.5 million in eight weeks— said he would instead launch a political action committee focused on helping Republicans take back the House and Senate, in addition to local races that effect public safety and that support K-12 school choice.

The newly formed Elder for America PAC “will engage in public education campaigns, direct voter contact, and effecting public policy on the local level.

“The radical left’s woke agenda is destroying America,” he said. “At the federal level, Democrat leadership is hell bent on ruining the economy, either through massive inflation or draconian mandates for workers and employers.”

“Today, we don’t just have a state to save, we have a country to save.

Michelle Obama’s Newest Mission

Staff

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is on a mission to get one million newly registered voters in advance of the 2020 midterm elections. 

“In 2020, millions made their voices heard at the polls. But now, folks who oppose that progress are making it harder to vote. That’s why I’m asking you to join @WhenWeAllVote and 30 other organizations to turn out more voters and urge Congress to pass voting rights legislation,” Obama posted on Twitter.

As part of the effort, When We All Vote published a full page ad in the New York Times last week featuring a letter written by Obama.

“One year ago, we witnessed an unprecedented assault on our Capitol and our democracy,” Obama wrote. “From Georgia and Florida to Iowa and Texas, states passed laws designed to make it harder for Americans to vote. And in other state legislatures across the nation, lawmakers have attempted to do the same.

“This type of voter suppression is not new. Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip away their power—and they’ve done it by organizing, by protesting, and most importantly, by overcoming the barriers in front of them in order to vote. And now, we’ve got to do the same. We’ve got to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it. And we must give Congress no choice but to act decisively to protect the right to vote and make the ballot box more accessible for everyone.”

When We All Vote— launched by Obama in 2018— is a leading national, nonpartisan initiative with the goal of changing the culture around voting and increasing participation in each and every election by helping to close the race and age gap. Joining the former first lady in the effort are fellow co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, Selena Gomez, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross and Kerry Washington.

As a result of the group’s efforts in 2020, 512,000 people were engaged in the voter registration effort. Among this year’s goals are a million new voters along with the recruitment of thousands of lawyers to protect voters in the states where the freedom to vote is threatened.

State Senator Sydney Kamlager Announces Campaign to Succeed Karen Bass in Congress

Kisha Smith

Just ten months, after winning a landslide victory in her race for the 30th Senate District seat previously occupied by now L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, State Senator Sydney Kamlager has announced a new race.

“I am running for Congress to continue Karen’s legacy of fighting for justice reform on the national level,” Kamlager has declared. “I’m prepared to jump into the fight to stop voter suppression that is spreading across our nation and will continue my track record of leading on job creation, economic justice, access to health care, and clean air and water for all.”

Kamlager entered the race at the urging of Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is currently one of the frontrunners in the race for L.A. Mayor. In addition to Bass, Kamlager has amassed a broad coalition of support, including Supervisor Holly Mitchell, L.A. Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Congressmember Ted Lieu, State Senators Steve Bradford, Maria Elena Durazo, and Ben Allen, Assemblymembers Chris Holden, Luz Rivas and Mike Gipson, Culver City Mayor Alex Fisch, Culver City Councilmembers Yasmine-Imani McCorrin, Culver City School Board Member Summer McBride, and many others.  

Kamlager, who serves as the Vice-Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus and Chair of the Los Angeles County delegation, has authored landmark legislation in the areas of criminal justice reform, health care equity, and affordable housing – including the most transformative probation reform law in the country and legislation requiring implicit bias training for health care professionals and court employees.

What’s more, Kamlager secured close to $400 million in state funding for our public health care systems, affordable housing, infrastructure, the arts, and other projects across the district. She has been a staunch supporter of economic investments in and across South L.A. and wants to take that fight to Washington. She views the role in Congress as a continued opportunity to make sure “we leave nothing on the table and keep our communities front and center.”

To her credit, Kamlager currently represents 83% of the voters in the 37th District, which was revised during the redistricting process. The new South L.A.-based district extends just beyond Century Boulevard at its southernmost point and Olympic Boulevard at its northernmost – and also includes Arlington Heights, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Culver City, parts of Downtown, Harvard Heights, West Adams, Hyde Park, Jefferson Park, Ladera Heights, Leimert Park, Mid-City, Olympic Park, Palms, South Robertson, Southeast L.A., University Park, View Park, Wilshire Vista, and surrounding neighborhoods. 

Asm. Chris Holden Appointed Chair of Powerful Appropriations Committee

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

On Jan. 3, California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) appointed Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) chair of the legislative body’s Appropriations Committee.

Holden, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), is the first African American in 27 years to hold the position.

“I thank Speaker Rendon for appointing me as chair of the Appropriations Committee,” said Holden. “I appreciate his confidence in my ability to chair this important committee.”

From 1971 to 1974, former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown chaired the Ways and Means Committee, which reviewed and oversaw state government revenue and expenditure.

In 1995, Ways and Means was split into the Appropriations Committee, which reviews the financial impact of all legislation, and the Budget Committee, which drafts proposals for government spending.

Before his appointment, Holden chaired the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy for five years. During the current legislative session, he will continue as a member of that committee as well as serve on the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance, and the Assembly Committee on Environmental Science and Toxic Materials.

“After serving nearly 24 years on the Pasadena City Council, and nine years in the California State Assembly, I have learned the important balance of maintaining fiscal responsibility and advancing effective public policy,” Holden said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues as we endeavor for another impactful legislative session.”

Holden took over as chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee after former chair, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), announced Jan. 3 she is resigning from the Assembly to become the executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation (CLF).

Her last day in office is Jan. 5.

CLF, the country’s largest federation of labor unions, consists of more than 1,200 unions representing 2.1 million workers in areas like manufacturing, retail, construction, and health care.

Gonzalez is known nationally for penning Assembly Bill (AB) 5, a controversial law that changed the status of hundreds of thousands of independent contractors in the state from freelancers to fulltime employees. AB5 codified into law a 2018 California Supreme Court decision on labor in the case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles.

Holden kicked off the new legislative session, which began Monday, with a bang. He introduced AB 1604, a bill that proposes several measures included in AB 105, legislation that Gov. Newsom vetoed last October.

Holden said AB 1604 will also equip the state’s Reparations Task Force with “more accurate data to utilize in its deliberations.”

“This legislation will be reintroduced and is the first of its kind in the nation – to promote upward mobility for people of color in California’s civil services system and require diversity on state boards and commissions,” reads a statement Holden’s office released Jan. 4.

The bill calls for the California Department of Human Resources to foster a more diverse and inclusive public sector in the state by setting “upward mobility” goals for African Americans and other minorities.

“California has led the nation on other social justice and equity issues and now is another chance to continue that legacy,” said Holden. “My goal is to promote transparency and accountability with this bill – both in government and private workplaces as we saw with AB 979. I am hopeful for what we can accomplish together this year.”

“An Exceptional Man”: Black Leaders Remember the Life and Work of Willard H. Murray

Tanu Henry | California Black Media 

Black leaders in California are remembering the life and accomplishments of Willard H. Murray Jr., an engineer and United States Air Force vet, elected to the California Assembly in 1988. He served in the State Legislature for eight years until he termed out in 1996. 

Murray died on Dec. 20 of natural causes. He was 91. 

“It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to our former Chair and colleague, the Honorable Willard H. Murray, Jr., who passed away yesterday afternoon,” read a statement the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) released the same day. “Willard Murray, Jr. was an exceptional man and public servant.”  

In the Assembly, Murray represented California’s 52nd Assembly District in Southern California. Murray and his son, Kevin Murray made history as the first father-and-son duo to serve in the Assembly simultaneously. 

The younger Murray represented the 47th Assembly district which covered a part of Los Angeles. Later, he won the 26th Senate district seat based in Culver City. 

Murray worked in government for more than 25 years at various levels. Before he was elected to the Assembly, he worked for former California Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Congressman Mervyn Dymally (D-CA-31). In addition to serving as an adviser to the California Senate Democratic Caucus, Murray also served on the staffs of former Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty and two former Los Angeles City Councilmembers, Robert Farrell and Billy Mills. 

In the Assembly, he chaired the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration and served on a number of other committees. A civil rights activist in the 1960s, Murray’s political and legislative priorities included education, criminal justice, economic development and healthcare. 

In 1998, Murray was also elected to serve on the board of the Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California. He also served on the board of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the largest water public agency in the United States. 

“Willard had a long, distinguished career as a leader and public servant in our state. He was giant in the water industry and a champion for the districts he served,” Dale Hunter, Executive Director of the California African American Water Education Foundation (CAAWEF), told California Black Media. 

Hunter said Murray introduced African American professionals, including himself, to the water industry, teaching them the ins and outs, mentoring them, and guiding them so that they moved ahead in their careers. 

“Willard truly made a difference,” Hunter continued. “He was not afraid of diving into policy and making changes that needed to happen. I’m thankful for his contributions and saddened by him leaving us. I’m also grateful for his teaching. I definitely would not be where I am if it were not for his influence.”

Murray earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northridge State, a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School, and MBA from Loyola Marymount University. 

In 1956, he married Barbara Farris Murray. The couple had two children, Kevin and Melinda, who are both attorneys.

  “We mourn with the friends and loved ones of Willard H. Murray, Jr. and celebrate his life and tremendous legacy as a public servant,” the CLBC statement continued. “May he rest in peace.”

Redistricting Monitors Say Their Efforts Helped Protect the Black Vote

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

An advocacy group that fights for fair political representation of African Americans in California says it is pleased with the results of the state’s recent redistricting process. 

Last year, the California Black Census and Redistricting Hub coalition, a.k.a. the Black Hub, led a grassroots initiative to ensure the state’s electoral map drawing process did not water down the voting power of African Americans across the state. 

Last week, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) delivered finalized maps for the state’s U.S. Congress, State Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization voting districts to the Secretary of State’s office. The maps of the state’s electoral districts — updated once every decade to reflect the 2020 census count of population shifts and other demographic changes — will be used until 2031 to determine political representation in all statewide elections.

“All things considered, the (CCRC) had an arduous task. We commend their commitment to including Black voices in the redistricting process,” said James Woodson, policy director of the Black Hub. 

Woodson said, in the Black Hub’s view, the CCRC did the best job possible within the rules of the “line-drawing process” to not disenfranchise “Black communities of interest.”

“Even in the areas where we didn’t get the perfect outcome, their attempts to consider the feedback of Black residents were fair. We are satisfied with the results,” Woodson continued. 

Over the last three months, the CCRC drew four Board of Equalization districts, 52 Congressional districts, 40 Senatorial districts, and 80 Assembly districts.  

During the process, the Black Hub coalition submitted draft maps to the commission based on community feedback they collected from hosting 51 listening sessions throughout California. The hub’s renderings, intended to guide the CRC’s decision-making process, reflected ideal boundaries 

for greater equity in redistricting while simultaneously identifying opportunities to protect and increase Black political representation.

The Black Hub is a coalition of over 30 Black-led and Black-serving grassroots organizations focused on racial justice throughout California. Two years ago, the alliance organized another initiative to maximize the participation of Black Californians in the 2020 Census count.

CRCC Chair Isra Ahmad, who is employed as a Senior Research Evaluation Specialist with Santa Clara County’s Division of Equity and Social Justice, said the commission welcomed the feedback of people across the state. 

“We drew district maps in an open and transparent manner that did more than merely allow public input — we actively sought and encouraged broad public participation in the process through a massive education and outreach program, afforded to us by the delay in receiving the census data,” she explained.  

The CRCC is composed of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four Californians unaffiliated with either political party. They represent a variety of personal and professional backgrounds and come from different parts of the state.

During the map drawing process, the commission received letters and comments from a wide range of interested citizens, activists and advocacy organizations, all offering suggestions for how the CCRC should set geographic boundaries for districts. Often times, those requests offered opposing ideas.

“This was a very complicated process to understand and there were so many people who organized calls, developed social media campaigns and distributed information,” states Kellie Todd Griffin, Convening Founder of the California Black Women’s Collective, which launched a public awareness campaign to increase Black Californians participation in the CCRC public hearings. “Their actions helped ensure that the voices of our community were heard and valued when understanding our interest and our assets. It’s important that we keep this engagement active and continue to elevate the voice of California’s Black population.”

Last November, the California Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP informed the CCRC that it was “prepared to take legal action” if draft maps released to the public for comment last fall remained the way they were drafted.

Rick Callender, president of the California-Hawaii NAACP, said those iterations of the Assembly and Senate district maps for Los Angeles County and areas of the East Bay would have diluted Black political power. Los Angeles County and the East Bay are regions in the state where the highest numbers of Black Americans live. 

During a news conference held before the commissioners delivered their final report to Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office, the CCRC said it stood by its work and took pride in the fact that the maps were drawn by hand.

CCRC commissioner Trena Turner (Democrat), a pastor and the Executive Director at Faith in the Valley, a multi-cultural, multi-faith community organizing network in the San Joaquin Central Valley, said the commission read as many public statements and news articles about redistricting as it could.

Turner said specific feedback like that heightened the commissions’ awareness.

“What that did, by writing the articles that they did, they served noticed. So, we were mindful that we were hearing their voices,” Turner told California Black Media (CBM). “‘let’s make sure we’re not breaking up historical areas’ to the best extent possible.’”

Redistricting commissioner Derric Taylor (Republican), a Black investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and active volunteer, mentor, coach in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley areas, told CBM that the only way to address Callendar’s and other interested parties’ concerns was by reading reports by the media.

If the concerns were not voiced in a public meeting, the commission had to adhere to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.  California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act requires all state boards and commissions to publicly notice their meetings, prepare agendas, and accept public testimony in public unless specifically authorized to meet in closed session.

“The commission is bound by Bagley Keene,” Taylor said, adding that CCRC members could only discuss or address public comments “in a meeting or open forum to adhere to transparency.”

Because the federal government released the U.S. Census data the commission relies on to draw maps late, the CCRC made a request to the California Supreme Court to move their Dec. 15 deadline for final maps back by nearly a month, to Jan. 14. The state Supreme Court compromised and set the deadline for Dec. 27.

“I want to thank the Redistricting Commissioners for their hard work under challenging circumstances. We will now send these maps to the Legislature and to all 58 counties for implementation,” Secretary of State Weber responded after her office received the final maps.  


© Copyright 2021 - LA Focus Newspaper