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Black Women in California Say Democratic Party Takes Their Vote and Voice for Granted

Black women voters across the state have begun to organize themselves to express dissatisfaction with the California Democratic Party (CDP) and some of its members for overlooking issues that are important to them and taking recent actions that do not advance their interests.

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By Manny Otiko and Tanu Henry,

Black women voters across the state have begun to organize themselves to express dissatisfaction with the California Democratic Party (CDP) and some of its members for overlooking issues that are important to them and taking recent actions that do not advance their interests.

Tina McKinnor former operations director of the California Democratic Party. (File Photo)

Tina McKinnor former operations director of the California Democratic Party. (File Photo)

They plan to share those grievances with fellow Democrats and officials of the party at the state CPD annual convention May 29 – June 2 in San Francisco. Activists have also organized a number of other events, including a rally and march on the State Capitol on June 22 to speak about some of their concerns and celebrate Black womanhood as they consolidate their political presence and power in the state.

This Wednesday, another group of African American women Democrats, Black Woman Organized for Political Action – Political Action Committee (BWOPA-PAC), the oldest and largest Black political fundraising and advocacy organization in the state, will hold a “Legislative Learning Day” in Sacramento. That event is designed to teach Black women to lobby their legislators on issues that are relevant to them.

“When someone takes you for granted over and over again, it’s time to seriously reevaluate the relationship,” says Elika Bernard, the executive director of the Sacramento-based non-profit Black Women United. Bernard made the statement in an editorial she shared with California Black Media.

“In the case of the California Democratic Party,” Bernard continued, “ it’s time for Black women to rethink our loyalty and commitment.”

The view Bernard is expressing is not new. It articulates a widespread sense among Black women Democrats – who are becoming one of the most powerful voting blocs in the country – that the Democratic party relies on their support during elections but rarely rewards or reciprocates it.

During the last election, 94 percent of Black Women voted for Hilary Clinton. Black women are also largely credited for electing Democrat Doug Jones over his Republican rival in a special election for the US Senate last year in Alabama, one of the reddest Red states in terms of its GOP majority and tendency to consistently vote for Republicans.  According to APVoteCast, a political polling service, Black women votes were responsible for the majority of the Democratic Party wins during the last national midterm elections.

“While the Democratic Party has talked a good game about making space for Black women in leadership, we’ve seen time and time again that these words ring hollow,” said Dezie Woods-Jones, a Democratic party activist, former vice mayor of Oakland and state president of BWOPA-PAC.

Critiquing her party, Bernard cites the way some California Democrats are treating Kimberly Ellis, an African American woman and progressive Democrat from Richmond, California. She is on the verge of becoming chair of the CDP if she wins the election at the state convention later this month.

In 2017, Ellis lost the election for chair by a thin margin to now embattled former chair Eric Baumann, who resigned last year after allegations of sexual harassment by two staffers.

Ellis has picked up key endorsements from a wide range of progressive and moderate groups, including the Silicon Valley Democratic Club and BWOPA-PAC. California US Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA 14thDistrict), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA 11thDistrict) and Ro Khanna (D -CA 17thDistrict) have all thrown their support behind her.

But when the executive board of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County (DPSC) voted to endorse Ellis at their April meeting, Bernard says, that decision was rejected and overturned by its membership.

“Immediately questions of the approval threshold were brought up and the rules changed from a simple majority to ⅔ majority vote,” Bernard told CBM.

Then, there’s the case of Tina McKinnor, another African American Democrat and former operations director of the CDP. Late last year, the acting chair of the CDP Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, who took over after Bauman resigned, fired her. McKinnor has now filed a lawsuit against the CDP alleging discrimination because she is Black and retaliation because she helped another colleague file a sexual harassment compliant against Bauman.

In the filing papers obtained by CBM, McKinnor accuses Bauman of taking job responsibilities from her, including chairing staff meetings, fundraising and meeting with party officials and donors, because her style was “too urban.” She says the former chair of the CDP also used racial slurs like “Schwarze,” a disparaging Yiddish slang for African Americans, to describe her and Ellis. The lawsuit also claims Bauman made statements stereotyping all Black people as poor.

Another time, Bauman asked McKinnor, according to the lawsuit, to chair a meeting and sit up front “for the benefit of the Black folks.”

Mckinnor alleges that Bauman hired her as a token after winning with a slight margin against Ellis. The suit quotes Bauman allegedly saying he needed a “strong Black woman” on his staff to keep Ellis quiet.

As for Ellis, she remains focused on winning the election and bringing her vision to the leadership of the CDP.

“Consistently on the campaign trail I hear from our longest-serving activists that they want new blood and are welcoming the new energy with open arms,” she said.  “It’s clear that there is no longer a place in the California Democratic Party for elitist attitudes. We’re expanding the tent and adding new voices to our ranks – and we’re a better party for it.

The Black women in California who support her are fired up, too, calling on party members to stand with them in their support of Ellis.

Tonya Burke, a lifelong Democrat, political consultant and former mayor pro-temp of Perris in Riverside County, said Black women in California should stop giving their money to the Democratic Party and donate directly to candidates they support. She says they should also run for political office and recruit others to do the same on the state, local and national levels.

“All we seem to keep getting from the Democratic Party are superficial luncheons, tea parties, BBQ’s fish frys and social media apologies,” she said. “If the Democratic Party was a living and breathing human being, Black women would be its brain, heart and soul.”

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel

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BHERC’s Operation Love Delivers Love, Easter Sunday Meals and Essential Goods to Seniors in Los Angeles Area

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Operation Love” meals and gift baskets were delivered to seniors including retired nurses, caregivers and other that have labored in the community for many years among others. All have in some way or another added to the betterment of Los Angeles over the decades. “This small showing of love is both a practical and a heartfelt demonstration of the importance of our seniors. We want our seniors to know they have not been forgotten during this mandated and necessary physical distancing,” states Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC).

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By Sentinel News Service

The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) continued its “Operation Love” outreach Sunday, April 12, 2020 in the Los Angeles area targeted towards seniors and those with “underlying” health conditions who have been extremely impacted and need assistance. This effort provided a heartwarming – from a distance — welfare check, Easter Sunday meal and gift basket of essential items for 100 seniors. The program has reached over 500 seniors since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.

“Operation Love” meals and gift baskets were delivered to seniors including retired nurses, caregivers and others that have labored in the community for many years among others. All have in some way or another added to the betterment of Los Angeles over the decades. “This small showing of love is both a practical and a heartfelt demonstration of the importance of our seniors. We want our seniors to know they have not been forgotten during this mandated and necessary physical distancing,” states Sandra Evers-Manly, president of BHERC.

The gift basket included hard to find items such as: gloves, toilet paper, face masks, hand sanitizer, paper towels and various other essential items. The meals and baskets were prepared and delivered using City/State and CDC guidelines by a host of volunteers. Contributors to the gift baskets include the Barbershop Health Outreach Program (www.blackbarbershop.org), Dr. Bill Releford, founder, Mothers in Action, Tracy Mitchell, president and Larry Chapman, production coordinator, Record One Studio. “You thought of everything,” exclaimed recipient Millicent Newkirk. “You even thought to include the L.A. Sentinel and I have truly missed my paper!”

During this unprecedented time in our lives, this COVID-19 worldwide health and humanitarian pandemic is redefining the very way we live out our lives daily. In many instances, eclipsing the future of what daily work, education, entertainment and play will look like in the future for all of us. In addition to the need for essential supplies is the need for emotional support. “Operation Love delivers a strong message that you are not alone in these difficult times. We are with you!” remarked Evers-Manly.

At BHERC, this is the kind of action that has characterized the BHERC family, its friends and colleagues; a unique demonstration of enthusiastic, abiding support and responsive manner when called upon over the years. BHERC encourages everyone that can to act. “Let’s remind the ones around us how much they matter. Encourage them to stay strong and steadfast,” noted Evers-Manly.

The BHERC family encourages everyone to consider supporting a senior. You can:

  • Call a senior to check on their well being
  • If shopping (do so under City/State and CDC guidelines), pick up an item or two for a senior or someone in need (practice social distancing)
  • Help with an online task
  • Make a meal and drop off (practice social distancing)
  • Send an online order to someone in need

It was an emotional day full of love and thanksgiving and the camaraderie BHERC members, community volunteers and members of the National Black Nurses Association participating in the distribution.

In addition to the focus on seniors, the BHERC Operation Love is focused on distributing masks to the homeless in Los Angeles and supporting the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA). Last week, the BHERC president contributed to the NBNA to create a special fund to support nurses on the front-line battling COVID19 and to curate an online instructional program for Nurses to Help Nurses. The NBNA donation will also provide 1000 masks for NBNA nurses and provide support for their distribution of masks and meals where chapters are located across the country. “Each and every one of us must reach out in a safe way to make sure vulnerable populations have someone to talk to, have medications and have enough food to eat during these difficult times,” expressed Dr. Martha A. Dawson, president of the National Black Nurses Association. “We are pleased to partner with Ms. Sandra Evers-Manly during these challenging times.”

Everyone can all join in the fight by making just a quick phone call or sending a simple text message. Keeping each other positive and reminding your neighbors and loved ones that even in our isolation, we are not alone. #BHERCStrongTogether

For more information about BHERC email bherc@bherc.org.

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Wells Fargo sponsors Taste of Soul’s “Small Business Owner Giveaway”

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — “I think ultimately we just want to inject some kind of capital into a small business because any amount of money when your a small business definitely impacts something whether it’s buying supplies or allowing you to buy more inventory,” said Wells Fargo Branch Manager Mario Holton.

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The bank located on Crenshaw and Stocker sponsored Taste of Soul’s Small Business Owner Giveaway in an effort to support local businesses in the area.

By Faith Petrie, Contributing Writer

Amidst the bustling activities the 14th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival summoned, Wells Fargo Branch Manager Mario Holton was preparing to do what he proclaimed “the coolest thing I’ve experienced thus far.”

That “cool thing” was the duty to present Yolanda Woodard, Next Generation Youth Television & Film Academy founder and chairwoman, with a check for $500. The bank located on Crenshaw and Stocker sponsored Taste of Soul’s Small Business Owner Giveaway in an effort to support local businesses in the area.

“We really wanted to empower the small businesses in the community,” Holton said. “We could have had a booth at Taste of Soul and did free giveaways but we felt like [the giveaway] was a lot more impactful because we already have a huge presence in this community.”

With three years as branch manager and four and a half years total working at Wells Fargo under his belt, Holton has witnessed numerous Taste of Soul events. In the past, participation by Wells Fargo could be seen in the form of classic spin-the-wheel booths and even the appearance of the Wells Fargo stagecoach. This year, the bank wanted to directly make a change in someone’s life.

“We felt it would be a lot more impactful if we actually gave money to a small business owner in the community and invested in the local community versus just having something there just to be seen,” Holton said.

Woodard, the giveaway recipient also wants to make an impact in a different way. Along with her partner Nicholas Jeffrey Moon, Woodard has created an academy aimed at inserting film programs into disadvantaged student’s lives.

“My whole life of being here in California, I have identified that South Central and East Los Angeles, our youth middle school and high schools, really don’t have an extensive film program the way the schools in the valley have,” Woodard said.

With a goal of opening in 2021, the academy will train young children of color in 33 departments of the film industry spanning anywhere between costumes to production managing and place students in actual productions to get direct work experience.

“It’s just my heart to train our children and just make sure that they’re given knowledge at a young [age] and it keeps them off of the streets if they decide to come to a program and they have hope, a real program that they get certified training working in the industry,’” Woodard said.

To Holton, the giveaway is a way for Wells Fargo to give businesses a push in the right direction to start their business.

“I think ultimately we just want to inject some kind of capital into a small business because any amount of money when your a small business definitely impacts something whether it’s buying supplies or allowing you to buy more inventory,” Holton said.

With the money, Woodard and Moon plan to open a bank account for the academy as well as fund a grant writer to gain additional funding. Being awarded the money meant “unity” to Woodard, a semblance of community within a larger scale.

“The love of Taste of Soul saying we support this community as a family, we support all business owners as a family, we have love for all business owners where none of them are going to be left behind,” Woodard said. “They have love for a business owner just like your parents would have or just like your family would have, that’s what’s needed for people to be successful, that’s what’s needed for our youth to be successful you have to have enough love in your heart to transfer a skill.”

For more information regarding resources for starting a business visit https://wellsfargoworks.com/.

The post Wells Fargo sponsors Taste of Soul’s “Small Business Owner Giveaway” appeared first on Los Angeles Sentinel.

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OP-ED: California Must Reform Discriminatory Gang Suppression Scheme

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — “These laws create a separate system of justice for communities of color, with criminal charges that don’t require actual wrongdoing, and lead to longer sentences, restricted fundamental freedoms, and a tilted playing field in the courtroom. The legal consequences are clear: more Black and Brown bodies pulled from their families and communities, locked up, and forgotten. But these legal consequences are just the beginning. The truth about California’s gang suppression scheme is that it’s not just putting people in prison, it’s stripping entire communities of their futures. And because of that, it’s making us all less safe.”

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The current gang suppression scheme only exists because it is politically expedient. It makes it easier for prosecutors to rack up wins, even if those wins are wildly unfair and result in wrongful incarceration. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Khalid Alexander (Courtesy photo)

Khalid Alexander (Courtesy photo)

By Khalid Alexander, The Los Angeles Sentinel

Thirteen years ago, I moved to a heavily-policed neighborhood in Southern California. I realized things were different when suddenly I was pulled over by the police three times in one week. I’d been pulled over before, but something other than the frequency of these stops stood out to me. It was the first time police asked me if I was a gang member.

What I have learned since then, as the founder of Pillars of the Community and a father of two young men of color, is that this questioning about “gang affiliation” is a part of a long history of law enforcement’s attempt to label, criminalize, and abuse people in Black and Brown communities. What those officers were really trying to figure out was whether they could get away with violating my rights as a human being and constitutional protections as a citizen.

Recent years have brought new attention to the real impact of California’s gang laws. We’re at a strange inflection point: There are truly dangerous criminal gangs within law enforcement, who continue to act with impunity thanks to the inaction of prosecutors (L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, for example, is known for failing to prosecute bad police, and refusing to even exclude known bad cops from building bad cases). Those same police are maintaining a database of supposed gang members that’s so flawed, it includes the names of kids under one year old.

These laws create a separate system of justice for communities of color, with criminal charges that don’t require actual wrongdoing, and lead to longer sentences, restricted fundamental freedoms, and a tilted playing field in the courtroom. The legal consequences are clear: more Black and Brown bodies pulled from their families and communities, locked up, and forgotten. But these legal consequences are just the beginning. The truth about California’s gang suppression scheme is that it’s not just putting people in prison, it’s stripping entire communities of their futures. And because of that, it’s making us all less safe.

Contact with the criminal legal system can permanently destroy a person’s economic mobility. A criminal record is damaging enough, but add gang allegations and it becomes almost impossible for a person to transition out of prison, successfully find work, reconnect with family, and succeed. Research has shown that stable work and family relationships are the key to lowering recidivism and improving community safety. The more connected and engaged people are to their communities, the less likely those people are to end up back in prison. Factors that harm re-integration–like “reintegrative shaming” and labeling formerly incarcerated people as part of an out-group–create a self-fulfilling prophecy and have been linked to increased criminal activity. In other words, the very deliberate way in which gang suppression laws label, separate, and oppressively monitor people makes those people less able to succeed and more likely to cause future harm. Documented gang members are often barred from visiting or living with family members, prohibited from returning to their neighborhoods, and prevented from participating in any type of civic engagement in the communities they belong to. Rather than encouraging positive reentry into society, they are excluded from it.

California has already begun to recognize this. But what current conversations on reform fail to realize is that the most biased, unfair, damaging aspects of these enforcement schemes could be stopped with a single decision by powerful local prosecutors. County DAs can choose not to use gang enhancements, documentation, guilt by association, and potentially-unlawful gang allegations in their practice. And that choice would be one of the single strongest choices they could make for public safety. In fact, in San Francisco, voters just elected Chesa Boudin, a DA candidate who promised to end the use of gang enhancements, and noted their racist application.

The current gang suppression scheme only exists because it is politically expedient. It makes it easier for prosecutors to rack up wins, even if those wins are wildly unfair and result in wrongful incarceration. To embrace gang policing, allegations, and enhancements, is to sacrifice the public good on the altar of cheap victory. The right move for public safety is to stop using outdated laws that fracture communities and perpetuate crime; to step back away from gang enforcement schemes that have destroyed Black and Brown communities. Any prosecutor who truly cares about the public good will make the smart choice to stop relying on gang documentation, allegations, and enhancements to put communities of color behind bars.

Khalid Alexander, founder of Pillars of the Community, an advocacy organization based on faith, positivity, and a need to build a better world.

The post California Must Reform Discriminatory Gang Suppression Scheme appeared first on Los Angeles Sentinel.

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