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Black Leaders: Redistricting Process Is “Rushed, Inconsistent, Incomplete”

According to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, because the proposed maps chop up and split districts where African Americans live, Black political power will be diluted in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, the Central Valley, the Bay Area and the Inland Empire. To address the problem, they have submitted proposed maps to the redistricting commission that will protect Black political power and representation.

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Starting November 17 there will be a series of meetings during which the public will be able to provide their input to commissioners. Another round of map drawing sessions will commence November 30.
Starting November 17 there will be a series of meetings during which the public will be able to provide their input to commissioners. Another round of map drawing sessions will commence November 30.

By Tanu Henry | California Black Media

African American leaders in California are keeping a close eye on the commission drafting congressional, state Senate, state Assembly and Board of Equalization voting maps. They are concerned about the outcome of the redistricting process.

On November 10, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission released the first draft maps of the redrawn lines for the state’s voting districts. By state law, the finalized versions of the new political districts have to be completed by December 27.

But advocates like James Woodson, the policy director of the California Black Census and Redistricting Hub (CBCRH), are asking the commission to press pause and re-evaluate the maps they have come up with so far.

The CBCRH, also called “the Black Hub” is a statewide coalition focused on “racial equity” and “fairness” in the redistricting process.

“The Black Hub appreciates the commission’s hard work and its early release of the maps for public input. At the same time, the Black Hub is deeply concerned that the process for developing the maps has been rushed, inconsistent, and incomplete,” said Woodson. “It has resulted in maps that have ignored the interests of many Black communities and millions of residents in the state’s most populated areas.”

For example, draft maps released by the commission last month collapsed the only two congressional districts in Los Angeles County represented by Black U.S. Congressmembers, Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) and Karen Bass (D-CA-37), into one district. After advocates and activists complained about African Americans losing political power, the commission separated the single district it was proposing into two constituencies again.

But because California lost one seat in the U.S. Congress due to an overall drop in the state’s population, according to the U.S. 2020 Census numbers, advocates worry that it will cause a ripple effect, which will change the racial and political composition of districts across the state.

The “Black Hub” leaders and other advocates in the state are urging Black Californians to speak up and provide input to ensure their communities do not lose representation or resources.

“It’s not just about us losing political power. It’s also about us losing assets,” said Kellie Todd Griffin, a resident of the Los Angeles County city of Carson, where the number of Black residents accounts for more than 25% of the city’s total population. Los Angeles County, where California is expected to lose one congressional seat, is home to about 40% of African Americans in the state.

Griffin, who is an organizer and entrepreneur, is known in California’s political circles for her outspoken advocacy on behalf of Black Californians. She says with the Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2028, there will be a lot of development and an increase in revenue for government and businesses in Carson. Redrawn political districts, she fears, could hurt her city and others nearby economically.

“When you look at the maps, you see that our congressional district in Carson has been attached more to Redondo Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes instead of being connected to cities like Long Beach and Compton and places like that,” Griffin said. “There is also an assumption that Blacks and other minorities in the area vote the same on issues. As we know, that is not always true. We have specific issues that affect us Blacks differently. So, we vote differently on them – from some criminal justice reforms to the Crown Act.”

One of the realities driving the leaders’ concern is the possibility that the Black vote in five different regions of California will be diluted.

“Rather than adhere to map priorities from BIPOC communities, we are concerned that, in an effort to prioritize all voices, some commissioners have mistakenly and unknowingly elevated voices from less diverse, affluent communities in the process, and at the expense of BIPOC communities,” said Woodson.

According to CBCRH, because the proposed maps chop up and split districts where African Americans live, Black political power will be diluted in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, the Central Valley, the Bay Area and the Inland Empire. To address the problem, they have submitted proposed maps to the redistricting commission that will protect Black political power and representation.

Another major concern is the compressed timeline on which the commission is working, which limits the time for citizens to influence the line-drawing process. This year, due to pandemic-related federal delays, census data the commission relies on to redraw maps was delayed. Instead of its usual release in March, the U.S. Census Bureau did not provide that information until September 21.

“The Black Hub is deeply concerned that the process for developing the maps has been rushed, inconsistent, and incomplete. It has resulted in maps that have ignored the interests of many Black communities and millions of residents in the state’s most populated areas,” said a statement released by CBCRH last week.

Every 10 years, California appoints a new redistricting commission after the U.S. Census. It is tasked with mapping or re-drawing the state’s electoral lines based on population shifts in the state population over the decade between census counts.

According to Census 2020 numbers, California’s Black population decreased from about 2.5 to nearly 2.2 million over the last decade. However, there was a dramatic increase in the number of Californians who identify as more than one race — from 4.9% in 2010 to 14.6% in 2020.

In 2008, California voters approved the Citizens Redistricting Commission through a constitutional amendment called The Voters First Act or Proposition 11. It handed the function of drawing electoral maps to citizens. The policy was set up to avoid the political influence of government officials or special interest groups on the redistricting process.

Before the passage of Prop 11, the state Legislature was responsible for drawing its own electoral districts. There are five Democrats, five Republicans, and four members who are not affiliated with any political party on the committee.

When redrawing maps, the number of voters in all districts across the state has to be equal. That is roughly 761,000 people in each congressional district. For all state Senate districts that number is 988,000, and 494,000 people in Assembly districts.

In California, Blacks make up a little over 5% of the state’s population of about 40 million people. There are 52 congressional districts; 80 Assembly districts; and 40 Senate districts. For the state Board of Equalization, the body responsible for representing taxpayer interests and “equalizing” county-by-county tax assessments across California, there are four districts.

The commission has to comply with a number of constitutional mandates, including Voting Rights Act provisions that all minority groups must be able to elect a representative of their choice; a district must be whole or contiguous (connected geographically); among other rules.

Starting November 17 there will be a series of meetings during which the public will be able to provide their input to commissioners. Another round of map drawing sessions will commence November 30.

“We need to lift our voices and make sure we have said something. That we didn’t just sit by and let these lines be redrawn without us fighting for our interests. We have to define what community means to us,” said Griffin. “We have to make sure we are submitting written comments and letting people know the things that work for us and the things that don’t.”

To make a public comment to the commission, email votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov or complete the Community Feedback Form.

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Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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