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Black Lawyers Submit Names of Three Candidates for California Attorney General

The CABL recommends that either Diane Becton, Paul Henderson or Terry Wiley to replace California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

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Terry Wiley, Diane Becton, Paul Henderson

The California Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) submitted the names of three accomplished African American attorneys to the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) as possible candidates for the state’s soon-to-be open Attorney General position.

In a 46-page document that includes biographical data of the organization’s recommendations, CABL called on Black members of the state Legislature to support attorneys Diane Becton, Paul Henderson or Terry Wiley to become the next Attorney General. The group also forwarded the proposal listing the candidates they are supporting – all public servants with significant experience — to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“We are in a unique position to know, understand, and recommend one of our own members to serve as the next California Attorney General,” stated the letter dated December 23 from Melinda Murray, president of CABL.  “We strongly urge the Legislative Black Caucus to consider the above three candidates and to interview them for recommendation to Governor Newsom.”

Earlier in December, President-elect Joe Biden nominated current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services in his administration. Since then, various candidates have emerged as possible replacements for the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement official.

CABL’s decision to focus on who replaces Becerra rests not only on finding a candidate who can ably prioritize and address the broad and complex range of legal issues all Californians face. The group says it is also motivated by the need to address the persisting concerns of criminal justice reform and police use of force in Black communities.

In the wake of George Floyd’s violent death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the continued unlawful killings of unarmed Black men and women by law enforcement around the country, the attorney general’s office and the California Dept. of Justice “need someone dedicated to criminal justice reform,” the Black lawyers’ organization stated.

“Californians need and deserve someone who can successfully implement the mandates of Assembly Bill 1506, which authorized the California Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute cases of police use of force resulting in death and officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death,” Murray stated.

The organization believes, Becton, Henderson and Wiley are all candidates with the experience to carry out those tasks. Gov. Newsom signed AB 1506 into law in September. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) authored the legislation.

“Americans across the country took to the streets this summer rightfully demanding more and better of our criminal justice system – and of ourselves,” Newsom said. “We heard those calls for action loud and clear and today are advancing reforms to improve policing practices by ending the carotid hold and requiring independent investigations in officer-involved shootings.”

Becton has spent most of her professional career as a judge, lawyer and manager. In 2017, she was sworn in as the 25th District Attorney for Contra Costa County. Following her appointment by the county’s Board of Supervisors, she was elected to the position in June 2018.

For 22 years, Becton served as a judge in Contra Costa County. She is a former president of the National Association of Women Judges, the nation’s leading organization for women in the judiciary, and past chair of the State Bar Council on Access and Fairness.

Becton leads a prosecutorial office of approximately 222 lawyers, investigators, and staff. She is the first woman, the first African American, and the first person of color to serve as Contra Costa District Attorney since the office was established in 1850.

Henderson has spent his entire professional career working in public service for the city of San Francisco. He was recently appointed director of the Dept. of Police Accountability, where he and his legal team are tasked with investigating all complaints regarding police use of force and misconduct.

Prior to this appointment, Henderson, an openly gay man, spent seven years as the deputy chief of staff and public safety director to the late mayor of San Francisco, Edwin M. Lee.

Henderson served as chief of administration and prosecutor for former San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris from 1995-2010. Handling all types of cases, ranging from nonviolent misdemeanors to serious felonies, Henderson became known as an expert in interpreting complex criminal justice public policy issues.

Henderson, who served under four elected district attorneys, was both the highest-ranking LGBT attorney and African American male attorney in the history of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

Terry Wiley is an Assistant II District Attorney and the third ranking prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, located in Oakland. Wiley joined Oakland’s DA Office in 1990. He has supervised the felony trial team, the Juvenile Division and the Oakland Branch Courthouse.

Wiley has served in most assignments on the criminal side of the office and has prosecuted difficult and challenging felony cases, including the case against three Oakland police officers who called themselves “the Riders.”

In that case, the officers were accused of kidnapping, planting false evidence and assaulting citizens. Three of the four officers, eventually fired, were acquitted for criminal charges while the fourth cop fled the country. Civil lawsuits settled in the case totaled $10.9 million and led to police reform within the Oakland police department.

Wiley is currently a member of the American Bar Association Criminal Standards Committee, a past vice president of the National Bar Association, and a past member of the State Bar of California Board of Trustees.

CABL represents approximately 6,000 Black attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. According to its web site, the organization was founded in 1977 to eradicate the root causes of racism and to defend the legal and human rights of African Americans.

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Business

Emergency Federal Drought Relief Available

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

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The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.

Marin and all other California counties to be eligible for assistance

Courtesy of Marin County

As California and the West Coast enter their third year of drought, Marin County and the state’s other 57 counties have been declared primary disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The dry conditions are bad news for Marin’s farmers and ranchers, but the disaster designation status makes available emergency loans for agricultural businesses.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans to non-farm small businesses that do business directly with farmers and ranchers, such as truckers and suppliers of agricultural equipment or services. Eligible businesses may apply for disaster loans through Dec. 8, 2022.

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

“We want to raise awareness of the financial opportunities this drought designation provides because it may help some of these small businesses hampered by our continuing severe drought conditions,” said Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stefan Parnay.

The federal commitment to assist businesses because of drought-related hardship extends to 23 other western states in addition to California. Small non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits of any size may qualify for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the drought not occurred.

In July 2021, the State of California added Marin to its list of counties falling under its state of emergency for drought and record-breaking high temperatures statewide. Governor Gavin Newsom made the drought official in 50 of the state’s 58 counties. Since then, state agencies partnered with local water suppliers to promote conservation tips through the Save Our Water campaign.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin. It also made the County eligible for California Disaster Assistance and other forms of state funding and resources. The local declaration cleared the way for state authorities to aid response and recovery efforts available to the County, water suppliers, farmers, impacted businesses and residents.

Marin Water, the municipal water district serving the majority of water customers in the county, and the Novato-based North Marin Water District (NMWD) are staying in contact with the County about drought conditions. Both water districts have declared water shortage emergencies and enacted mandatory conservation measures. Marin Water serves more than 191,000 customers in central and southern Marin. NWMD serves a customer base of about 64,000 in and around Novato and parts of coastal West Marin. For localized details, see the water rules webpages for Marin Water and NMWD.

Marin residents have been asked to support local agricultural producers who have been affected by the drought right on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 numerous Marin ranchers had to import water by truck to keep their animals alive while also reducing their herds. With far less vegetation for grazing because of the ongoing drought, animals are eating imported feed shipped from other states at extremely high costs to the ranchers. Additionally, a few Marin crop producers had to import water by truck to keep crops alive and fallowed approximately 150 acres, or about 50% of the 300 crop acres in the county.

“As the region enters its third year of drought, this season is going to take a significant toll on our agricultural industry,” Parnay said.

The Board of Supervisors last year approved $150,000 in drought relief funds for the agricultural industry and another $250,000 for general drought relief needs to augment other state and federal aid.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

California Will Be First State to Break Down Black Employee Data by Ethnic Origin

Recently, disaggregation of Black data has been a top priority for some Black lawmakers and advocates supporting reparations for Black descendants of American slavery in California. In January, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 1604, the Upward Mobility Act of 2022, legislation that will require the state to breakdown the data of state employees by ethnic origin.

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Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns.
Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

When Gov. Gavin Newsom presented the annual May revision of his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, he announced that California will establish new demographic categories when collecting data pertaining to the ethnic origin of Black state employees.

Kamilah A. Moore, the chairperson of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, said the breakdown of data is “amazing news.”

“California will become the first state in the nation to disaggregate data for its Black population by ancestry/lineage,” Moore posted on her Twitter page on May 13. “This will assist the task force in our efforts to develop comprehensive reparations proposals for descendants.”

Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns. Newsom’s actions are similar to a bill authored by then-Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

In September 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1726 into law that required the state Department of Public Health to separate demographic data it collects by ethnicity or ancestry for Native Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Islander groups.

Recently, disaggregation of Black data has been a top priority for some Black lawmakers and advocates supporting reparations for Black descendants of American slavery in California. In January, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 1604, the Upward Mobility Act of 2022, legislation that will require the state to breakdown the data of state employees by ethnic origin.

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations is currently reviewing the bill.

AB 1604 promotes mobility for people of color in California’s civil services system and requires diversity on state boards and commissions. Newsom vetoed AB 105 last year, the legislative forerunner to AB 1604, which Holden also introduced.

Shortly after he was appointed chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations in January, Holden reintroduced the legislation as AB 1604.

Holden, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said AB 1604 will give the Reparations Task Force more accurate data to utilize in its study and deliberations. The bill was passed by the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement on March 14.

In a written statement released in October last year, Newsom said he vetoed AB 105 because “the bill conflicts with existing constitutional requirements, labor, agreements, and current data collections efforts” but found disaggregation useful for dissecting data about California’s workforce.

As stated in his 2022-2023 May revision of the state budget, under the section titled “State Workforce Demographic Data Collection,” Newsom proposed the separation of Black employee data beginning with the state’s 2.5 million-plus employees.

The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) will work with the State Controller to establish new demographic categories for the collection of data pertaining to the ancestry or ethnic origin of African American employees.

The collection of this data, the document states, “continues CalHR’s duties to maintain statistical information necessary for the evaluation of equal employment opportunity and upward mobility within state civil service.”

In March, the nine-member Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans decided with a 5-4 vote that lineage will determine who will be eligible for reparations.

The May revision also includes $1.5 million in funding for the Department of Justice to continue supporting the work of the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans

Supporters of disaggregation say it will serve as a key tool for the task force as it enters its second year of studying slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans.

The state’s reparations task force will recommend what compensation should be and how it should be paid by July 2023.

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Bay Area

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors. In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

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More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.
More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

This past weekend in the Inland Empire, a San Bernardino couple welcomed hundreds of African American high school graduates from the region for a joyous multi high school, Black-themed graduation celebration.

“Sometimes we have students doing magnificent things and nobody sees them,” said Keynasia Buffong, co-founder of Buffong Consultation Solutions, the company that organized the celebration honoring graduates from various high schools in the area.

Keynasia Buffong co-owns the firm with her husband Jonathan Buffong. The couple wants to expand the mass graduation event to all regions in the state.

“When you come into your community, we see you. We recognize you,” Kaynasia Buffong continued.

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors.

In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

Black Greek organizations attended the weekend-long event as well as the first Black valedictorian of Beaumont High School where African American students make up a little under 7% of the student population.

“We got a chance to give away $27,000 in scholarships,” said Keynasia.

Both Buffongs are educators and student advocates in California. They have been hosting the graduation event appreciating Black students for over 11 years.

But the Buffongs say celebrating success always comes with a reminder of the challenges Black students face.

According to the California Department of Education, at 72.5%, Black students had the lowest high school graduation rate among all other racial or ethnic groups at the end of the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Jonathan said one of their goals is to help graduates transition into the next stage of their academic life, whether that be a four-year university, community college, trade school, or employment.

“Sometimes they don’t know where to go or what to do,” said Keynasia. “There’s mentorship and sponsorship and we aim to have both.”

For the scholarship awards, the Buffongs are not just looking at grades but the full context of the graduates’ lives.

“Whether it’s COVID, deaths, family or health issues, disabilities, we’re looking for things to support them on so we can get them to the next level,” said Jonathan.

Outside of academic and career success, the Buffongs spoke about the importance of Black cultural exposure through education and traditional practices such as the Black national anthem and a libation ceremony.

The libation ceremony is performed by an elder in the community as a way to honor one’s ancestors. It is significant in various African cultures as well as other cultures around the globe.

The Buffongs say their next step is to look into more internship opportunities and figure out how to help curb the high numbers of Black high school graduates who leave the state to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

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