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Advancing Health Education and Equity: Six Questions for The California Black Health Network

The California Black Health Network (CBHN) is the only organization committed to advancing health equity for African Americans and Black immigrants in the Golden State. CBHN’s mission is to ensure that all Black Californians, irrespective of their educational background, socio-economic class, zip code, sexual orientation, gender identity, living conditions or immigration status have access to high-quality and equitable primary and behavioral healthcare.

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CBHN’s Health4Life series brings together health professionals from diverse disciplines to share information about family health history. The organization’s #carrythevoice campaign provides the Black community with a platform to share experiences with the healthcare system.
CBHN’s Health4Life series brings together health professionals from diverse disciplines to share information about family health history. The organization’s #carrythevoice campaign provides the Black community with a platform to share experiences with the healthcare system.

By Edward Henderson

California Black Media

The California Black Health Network (CBHN) is the only organization committed to advancing health equity for African Americans and Black immigrants in the Golden State.

CBHN’s mission is to ensure that all Black Californians, irrespective of their educational background, socio-economic class, zip code, sexual orientation, gender identity, living conditions or immigration status have access to high-quality and equitable primary and behavioral healthcare. This mission aims to prevent people from unnecessarily succumbing to disease-related fatalities and is supported by CBHN’s many events, informational sessions, fundraisers, and training sessions.

One recurring event that CBHN hosts is the online Health Equity Forum.  At the forum, various stakeholders convene to discuss the most pressing health issues affecting Black communities.

CBHN’s Health4Life series brings together health professionals from diverse disciplines to share information about family health history. The organization’s #carrythevoice campaign provides the Black community with a platform to share experiences with the healthcare system.

California Black Media spoke with Rhonda M. Smith, Executive Director of CA Black Health Network, about the organization’s impact, achievements and challenges over the year.

 What does your organization do to improve the lives of Black people in California? 

 The California Black Health Network conducts outreach, education, and advocacy to achieve health equity for Black Californians through the lens of understanding critical issues that lie at the intersection of racial justice, social justice, and environmental justice.

What was your greatest success over the course of the last year? 

Over the past year, we were recognized for our work and impact. CBHN was chosen as Nonprofit of the Year by the Sacramento Black Chamber, and as a DEI Award Honoree by the Sacramento Business Journal. In addition, we enrolled over 1,000 people in healthcare coverage and provided health education to over 2,000 Black Californians to improve health literacy and self-empowerment.

In your view, what is the biggest challenge Black Californians face? 

I think that our health is our greatest asset. Unfortunately, Black Californians don’t all have the same opportunity, ability, and resources to live long healthy lives like other racial or ethnic groups. So, access to quality, equitable, culturally competent, and affordable healthcare is our biggest challenge.

What was your organization’s biggest challenge? 

Like all nonprofit organizations, we’re in the business of fundraising, and like many Black-led organizations there’s the challenge of the philanthropy giving gap. The unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76% smaller than their White-led counterparts, and their average percentage of revenue was less than half. It’s a major challenge.

Does your organization support or plan to get involved in the push for reparations in California?

Yes, and we support the activities of the reparations task force and will do our part to address the issues identified in chapter 12 related to physical and mental health.

How can more Californians of all backgrounds get involved in the work you’re doing?

They can start by becoming a member of the Black Health Network, attend our webinars and events, and volunteer their time, talent, and treasure in support of the organization’s mission and work, and join the Campaign for Black Health Equity.

 

For more information, visit CaBlackHealthNetwork.org.

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Grocery Inflation Causes Food Banks to be the Default for Families in Oakland

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

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Photo: iStock image.
Photo: iStock image.

By Magaly Muñoz

During the past three years, the US has seen the largest increase in food prices since the 1980s. In response to this crisis, community food banks have emerged to provide much-needed assistance to families in need.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that national food prices have increased 11% from 2021 to 2022, when the average yearly increase was previously 2%. The San Francisco Bay Area saw a 12% increase from 2021 to 2022.

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

While still maintaining that elevated prices will persist for the foreseeable future, Morris anticipates a decrease of 8% in food price increases.

He also stated that while the average person may spend 10% of their income on groceries, a low-income family may spend 30%, making the inflation in food prices that much harsher.

“Higher food prices can put people in a position where they have to make some tough choices between ‘can they go to the grocery store and buy food’ or ‘do they have to spend it on other necessities like home or health care or other things,’” Morris said.

Michael Altfest is the Director of Community Engagement and Marketing for Alameda County (AC) Food Bank, the primary food distributor in the county with over 400 community partners that receive frequent donations.

Altfest shared that from 2019 to 2023, the number of pounds of food distributed to their community partners has doubled. In 2019, the food bank distributed 32.5 million pounds of food, while in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, they distributed 58.1 million pounds. This year they are on pace to distribute almost 60 million pounds of food.

“If we’re on pace this year to provide more than we did in the pandemic, I think that says a lot about what the state of hunger is right now,” Altfest said.

During the height of the pandemic, state and federal government relief programs helped families offset significant expenses like groceries. These programs included the child tax credit increase that put anywhere from $2,000 up to $3,600 back into qualifying families pockets when filing their yearly taxes.

Another program that directly targeted food insecurity, was the increase in funds for SNAP or CalFresh. These government programs provide food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people to help them maintain adequate nutrition and health. But earlier this spring, funding was cut from the state program CalFresh and families saw at least a $95 decrease in their assistance.

“Every single person talks about the cost of living in Alameda County, every single person. The cost of rent, the cost of food, those are things that come up every single time without fail,” Altfest shared.

One of AC Food Bank’s community partners is Homies Empowerment, a non-profit in Oakland that was established as a means to support youth and the community through a positive lens.

Selena Duarte, the FREEdom Store Coordinator, said the organization’s initiative to help families with food provision began in May of 2020 when their original store was filled only with books and students told them that while it was nice to have things to read, “they can’t eat books,” showing the team at Homies Empowerment that there were bigger needs in the community that they had to address.

Since then, the organization has expanded its services. They now provide groceries every Tuesday, have established the FREEdom Farm where they grow produce that gets distributed in their make-shift store, offer hot breakfast to 40 students and their families five days a week, and much more.

Duarte said that they serve almost 400 families a week and they are continuing to expand their food services due to the increasing number of people coming to them seeking help to reduce their spending on groceries. She recognized that although people say that the “pandemic is over”, she knows that the stress that families are experiencing is still very real.

“The next phase is really becoming a sustainable community food hub, where literally we can grow, share, cook, and store our food here in the community and for the community,” Duarte said.

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Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

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To enlarge your view of this issue, use the slider, magnifying glass icon or full page icon in the lower right corner of the browser window.

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“A Time to Reflect and Rejoice”: Black Caucus Members Commemorate Juneteenth on Assembly Floor

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.
ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor, and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

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Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) speaking on the California Assembly Floor.
Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) speaking on the California Assembly Floor.

By California Black Media

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.

ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor, and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

Speaking on the Assembly floor, Jones-Sawyer said the resolution is the CLBC’s annual commemoration of Juneteenth as “Freedom Day.”

“Two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the bell of freedom rang true for over 3 million Black Americans, marking the beginning of the fight to secure the freedom of those still enslaved and provide fair and equal treatment for the formerly enslaved,” Jones-Sawyer said.

“Juneteenth is a time to reflect and rejoice for all the work it took to reach this point, as well as a reminder that true equality is not accomplished overnight,” he added. “While there have been great strides to acknowledge and address the history and plight of Black Americans, society, as a whole, still has a long way to go. Juneteenth is an opportunity to educate all communities that we may not repeat injustices and abuses committed in the past.”

The resolution particularly highlights how Black Americans have helped enrich American civic life through their steadfast commitment to promoting unity and equality.

Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), also a member of the CLBC, spoke on behalf of the Women’s Caucus in support of Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 192, the California Legislature’s resolution acknowledging the federal holiday and celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery.

Weber highlighted that African Americans won their hard-won freedom after providing free labor illegally for two-and-a-half more years in Texas.

Weber shared the story of Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”  Lee is among numerous civil rights activists and leaders who campaigned for decades for June 19th to be recognized as a federal holiday.

Lee traveled around the country educating people about Juneteenth and led walks each year commemorating Juneteenth before it was federally recognized.

At 89, Lee led a symbolic walk, said Weber, from her hometown of Ft. Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., leaving in September of 2016 and arriving in January of 2017.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2024 for her activism.

“Lee represents the millions of women throughout the history of this country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our history is not erased, reframed nor ignored,” said Weber.

Other lawmakers who recognized Juneteenth on the Assembly floor included Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC; Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus; Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno); Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino), chair of the California Native American Legislative Caucus; and Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), also a member of CLBC.

“It is a call-to-action for all Californians to interrogate the systems that keeps others in bondage,” said Wilson.

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