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California Legislative Black Caucus Elects New Leadership

“From access to healthcare to housing and homelessness to criminal justice reform and creating economic opportunity, the CLBC has a long history of legislative accomplishments,” said Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City). “I am excited to build upon the past successes of the honorable leaders who have come before me as we move forward into the 2023-24 Legislative Session.”

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The 12 member California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) elected Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (pictured, D-Suisun City) and Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to serve as its Chair and Vice-Chair for the 2023-24 legislative session. 
The 12 member California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) elected Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (pictured, D-Suisun City) and Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to serve as its Chair and Vice-Chair for the 2023-24 legislative session. 

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

SACRAMENTO — The 12 member California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) elected Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City) and Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to serve as its Chair and Vice-Chair for the 2023-24 legislative session.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) was elected secretary and Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan (D-Los Angeles) was elected treasurer. The newly elected officers will begin their two-year terms in December.

“It is a great honor to have been elected chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus,” said Assemblymember Wilson. I look forward to working with my colleagues to uplift over two million Black residents living in California,” Wilson said in a statement.

The change of leadership occurs less than a year after Bradford (the current CLBC chair) was awarded the “Regional Legislator of the Year” award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) during their 45th annual legislative conference in Atlanta in November.

NBCSL is the nation’s premier organization representing and serving the interests of African American State legislators. It considers legislation and issues of public policy which impact, either directly or indirectly upon “the general welfare” of African American constituents within their respective jurisdictions.

Bradford received the NBCSL award for authoring Senate Joint Resolution 7, which called for the destruction of illegal FBI surveillance tapes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senate Bill (SB) 796 that authorized Los Angeles County to return the beachfront property known as Bruce’s Beach to the Bruce family.  On Sept. 30, 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill returning the Manhattan Beach property to descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce who operated a beachfront resort before it was forcefully taken by eminent domain in 1924.

“It has and continues to be a distinct privilege to serve as an executive leader of the California Legislative Black Caucus,” Bradford said. “I look forward to working with the newly elected officers to further advance an agenda that ensures equity and opportunity for all Californians.”

Wilson, the former mayor of Suisun City in Northern California, was sworn into office April 6 to represent the 11th Assembly District. She won a special election following the resignation of former Assemblymember Jim Frazier, also a Democrat.

Wilson, the first Black female mayor to serve in Solano County, was the only candidate on the ballot for the special election. She will serve out the remainder of Frazier’s current term, which ends on Dec. 5. Wilson is running for reelection in November to serve a full, two-year term. Her opponent for the seat is Jenny Callison, an independent.

Kellie Todd Griffin, founding convener of the California Black Women’s Collective, a statewide organization whose members represent various professional backgrounds, says we live in a critical time that requires focused and experienced leaders like Wilson to ensure the needs of Black Californians are prioritized.

“We are proud that she is a member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and part of the California Black Women’s Collective,” said Griffin. “We look forward to working with her on systemic change that improves the lives of the state’s more than 2.1 million Black residents, especially Black women and girls.”

Shortly after she was sworn into the Assembly, Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) appointed Wilson as Assistant Majority Whip.

Wilson also has a seat on the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, the Agriculture Committee, the Appropriations Committee, the Banking and Finance Committee, the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee and the Select Committee on Gasoline Supply and Pricing.

“From access to healthcare to housing and homelessness to criminal justice reform and creating economic opportunity, the CLBC has a long history of legislative accomplishments,” Wilson stated. “I am excited to build upon the past successes of the honorable leaders who have come before me as we move forward into the 2023-24 Legislative Session.”

The CLBC, founded in 1967, is a bipartisan and bicameral body of Black lawmakers committed to eliminating existing racial and social disparities and inequities for Black Americans.

“It is an honor to pass the leadership torch to Assemblywoman Wilson and serve alongside her as we embark on a new chapter. I have full confidence in her ability to elevate this Caucus,” Bradford stated. “I want to thank our immediate past executive leadership team for their strength and unwavering commitment to lead during these past two years. Together, we have been a powerful force, championing legislative policies and initiatives with the purpose of enriching the lives of Black Californians.”

Activism

Panel Discusses Supreme Court Case Threatening End of Affirmative Action

On Oct. 31, SCOTUS listened to oral arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to promote creating diverse student populations at their schools. The case emerged in 2014, when SFFA, a nonprofit advocacy organization opposed to affirmative action, brought an action alleging Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI).

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On Oct. 31, SCOTUS listened to oral arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to promote creating diverse student populations at their schools. The case emerged in 2014, when SFFA, a nonprofit advocacy organization opposed to affirmative action, brought an action alleging Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI).
“(Ending Affirmative Action) essentially, completely upends our ability to level the playing field and remediate for centuries of discrimination and marginalization,” said panelist Lisa Holder, an attorney and president of Equal Justice Society (EJS).

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

A webinar hosted by ChangeLawyers, the American Constitution Society (ACS) Bay Area, and Equal Justice Society was held Nov. 15 to discuss the possible outcomes of the pending decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in the case of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard.

The online event titled, “The End of Affirmative Action: How SCOTUS Is Coming After BIPOC Students” delved into the impact of banning the consideration of race as a factor during the college admissions process.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students would be affected by such a ruling, said panelist Lisa Holder, an attorney and president of Equal Justice Society (EJS). EJS is an Oakland-based nonprofit and civil rights organization that does work geared toward transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social sciences, and the arts.

“(Ending Affirmative Action) essentially, completely upends our ability to level the playing field and remediate for centuries of discrimination and marginalization,” said Holder. “If you do not have intervention and take affirmative steps to counteract continued systemic racism, it’s going to take hundreds of years to repair those gaps. It will not happen by itself.”

Holder is also a member of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, a nine-member panel established after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3121, authored by then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber. The task force is investigating the history and costs of slavery in California and is charged with recommending an appropriate remedy for the state to implement.

Also participating on the End of Affirmative Action panel were Sally Chen, education equity program manager at Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Sarah C. Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for the University of Michigan Law School.

Shilpa Ram — senior staff attorney for Education Equity, Public Advocates and a board member of the ACS Bay Area Lawyer Chapter — was the moderator.

On Oct. 31, SCOTUS listened to oral arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to promote creating diverse student populations at their schools.

The case emerged in 2014, when SFFA, a nonprofit advocacy organization opposed to affirmative action, brought an action alleging Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI).

SFFA argues that Harvard instituted a race-conscious admissions program that discriminated against Asian American applicants. SFFA also alleges that UNC is violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, by unfairly using race to provide preference to underrepresented minority applicants to the detriment of white and Asian American applicants.

Chen, of Chinese for Affirmative Action, is a first-generation college graduate from a working-class immigrant family. She is an alumna of Harvard College. She was one of eight students and alumni that gave oral testimony in support of affirmative action in the 2018 federal lawsuit Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard.

“Particularly as these cases were taking advantage of a claim that Asian American students don’t benefit from Affirmative Action or are harmed; we really saw how this was a misrepresentation of our community needs,” Chen said of hers and seven other students’ testimonies. “My testimony really spoke to that direct experience and making clear that Asian American students and communities are in support of affirmative action.”

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, requiring all government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to expand job opportunities for minorities.

Fifty-seven years later, a decision by SCOTUS could be reached at the end of the current term in late June or early July 2023 banning affirmative action. The decision would dismantle race-conscious admission policies that overwhelmingly help BIPOC students create a better future for themselves, members of the panel stated.

“Schools take race into account as a factor in admission because that is the single-best, most effective way to create a racially diverse class,” Zearfoss said.

Zearfoss directs the University of Michigan Law School Jurist Doctorate (JD) and Master of Law (LLM) admissions and supervises the Office of Financial Aid.

California ended affirmative action policies in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 209.

Prop 209 states that the government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons based on race in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

Proposition 16 was a constitutional amendment designed to repeal Prop 209, but the initiative was defeated by voters in 2020. Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber introduced the legislation that was the basis for Prop 16 when she was a state Assemblymember for the 79th District.

“When we no longer live in a white supremacist society then we can start thinking about ending these interventions that are necessary to counteract preferences for white people that exist and continue to exist,” Holder said.

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Activism

Saluting California’s Native American Heritage: New Laws, “S-Word” Ban Lift Up Celebrations

Leaders of Native American tribes from across California, joined Governor Gavin Newsom when he signed AB 2022 and four other bills in an effort to build on his Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion, and accountability throughout the state. 

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Assemblymember James Ramos host of the Third Annual California Indian Cultural Awareness Event at the State Capitol Aug. 15, 2022.
Assemblymember James Ramos host of the Third Annual California Indian Cultural Awareness Event at the State Capitol Aug. 15, 2022.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland), the only Native American elected official in the California Legislature, has been working diligently to get rid of the racist and derogatory word, “squaw,” which has derisively referenced Native American women since the 1600s.

The “S-Word,” which has been used to name public places like Squaw Valley, the popular Lake Tahoe ski resort, is a slur, Ramos says. It is hurtful and offensive to Native Americans, he says, particularly Indigenous women.

On September 23, California Native American Day — which is now a paid holiday in the state — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities, including Assembly Bill (AB) 2022, which will remove the “racist and sexist slur S-Word,” from all geographic features and place names in California, the governor’s office stated.  The ski resort has since been renamed. It is called Palisades Tahoe.

The negative connotation in reference to Native Americans is as disturbing as directing the N-word at the Black community but it’s been used more commonly in naming public and commercial spaces.

“It is an idiom that came into use during the westward expansion of America, and it is not a tribal word,” Ramos said in a statement.  “For decades, Native Americans have argued against the designation’s use because behind that expression is the disparagement of Native women that contributes to the crisis of missing and murdered people in our community.”

According to the U.S. Census, California is home to more Native Americans with a population of 757,628 (1.94% of the state’s total population) than any other state. Oklahoma is the second highest with a Native population of 523,360.

AB 2022 was introduced by Ramos and Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

The bill was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union CA (ACLU), Restorative Justice for Indigenous Peoples and Renaming S-Valley Coalition, and Alliance for Boys and Men of Color (ABMoC).

ABMoC is a national network of more than 200 advocacy and community organizations that banded together to advance race and gender justice by working to transform policies that are failing boys and men of color and their families.

AB 2022 requires every state agency, local governing body, or political subdivisions in this state to identify all geographic sites, public lands, waters, and structures under its jurisdiction containing the S-word.

Leaders of Native American tribes from across California, joined Newsom when he signed AB 2022 and four other bills in an effort to build on his Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion, and accountability throughout the state.

“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” Newsom stated after signing AB 2022. “I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”

Born on the San Manuel Indian Reservation, where he still resides, Ramos is a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla Tribe. He represents the 40th Assembly District which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.

Ramos chairs the California Native American Legislative Caucus and Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Two years ago, Newsom signed AB 3121, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. The bill was authored by Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she was a member of the Assembly.

Similar to the harm many Black Californians have suffered, Ramos spoke of the “atrocities and genocide” Native Americans in the state have endured at the 2022 Third Annual California, Indian Cultural Awareness Event held on the grounds of the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Ramos and other speakers acknowledged that the property the State Capitol sits on is the Miwok tribe’s land.

“We’re trying to educate the Legislature of the true history and culture of California Indian people,” Ramos told California Black Media. “It’s that important for us to talk about our culture to explain who we are. If we don’t come out to speak to these issues, those in the state of California will make assumptions about our way of life.”

Ramos added that more than 100 places in California contain the S-word. The United States Department of the Interior earlier this month renamed about 650 sites that have been using the slur on federal lands. The states of Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota have already banned the word’s use.

“The sad reality is that this term has been used for generations and normalized, even though it is a misogynistic and racist term rooted in the oppression and belittling of Indigenous women,” Garcia stated. “AB 2022 begins to correct an ugly and painful part of our history by removing it from California’s landmarks; it’s the least we can do to help our indigenous women heal.”

The Governor also signed four more tribal measures presented by Ramos, including AB 923. The bill requires state agency leaders to undertake training in properly communicating and interacting with tribes on government-to-government issues that affect them.

The second measure, AB 1314 creates a statewide emergency “Feather Alert” – similar to those used in abducted children’s cases – to enlist public assistance to quickly find Native Americans missing under suspicious circumstances. Native Americans face disproportionate numbers of missing and murdered people in their communities.

“California is ranked No. 7 in the country in terms of unsolved murders and missing people,” Ramos said.

AB 1703, the California Indian Education Act, encourages school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education to engage with the tribes in their area to provide the accurate and complete instruction about the tribes’ culture and history and share instructional materials with the California Department of Education.

AB 1936 authorizes the University of California Hastings Law College to remove the name of its founder, Serranus C. Hastings, from the school’s name. The bill specifies restorative justice measures for the Yuki and Round Valley Native Americans in Northern California whose ancestors suffered mass homicides orchestrated by the college’s founder in the 1850s.

In 2021, Newsom signed six wide-ranging tribal bills introduced by Ramos. Among other provisions, they aid tribal foster youth, create a new monument to Sacramento-area tribes on state Capitol grounds, and bolster students’ right to wear tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies.

In addition, the new laws allow a paid holiday for state court personnel on California Native American Day and streamline access to emergency response vehicles on tribal lands.

Raven Cass, a youth advocate for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, said Ramos and the legislators who worked with him to pass the bills, “made great strides” in the past year “to protect sovereignty and safety in Indian country.”

They were encouraged by the Native Americans’ concerns and strongly took them into consideration, she said.

“This is the power of community, the power of unity, and the power of voice when it is determined to make a change,” Cass said at the California Indian Cultural Awareness event in August. “The more we work together the more we can get done. I hope (the legislators) continue to stand with us. Our lives matter and the world should know that.”

California Black Media was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.

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Activism

Thousands of California Students to Earn Cash for Community Service

College Corps represents the first and largest state-level investment in a college service program in the country, with $146 million earmarked for up to 6,500 students over the next two years. About 80% of fellows are students of color, 58% are first-generation college students, 68% are Pell-Grant eligible, and 500 fellows are AB 540 Dream Act.

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Sacramento State University College Corps students’ swearing in ceremony Oct. 7, 2022. Photo by Antonio R. Harvey.
Sacramento State University College Corps students’ swearing in ceremony Oct. 7, 2022. Photo by Antonio R. Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

On October 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, educational leaders, community organizations, and the California Volunteers Commission administered the service oath to the first #CaliforniansForAll College Corps Fellows.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, more than 3,200 student fellows will receive up to $10,000 for completing a year of community service. College Corps is a statewide paid service program that provides meaningful work to college students that helps them graduate on time with less debt while benefiting the local community.

The oath is a solemn promise to perform voluntary work with the intention of helping people and improving communities.

“Part of the California way is giving back to help uplift others, and that is a core principle of the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps,” Newsom stated. “College Corps is about restoring the social contract between the government and its citizens. This public investment builds upon California Volunteers’ army of service members, which is larger than the Peace Corps and exemplifies the spirit and idealism I see in young people across California.”

The oath was taken in front of Newsom at the California Natural Resources Agency Building in downtown Sacramento, a few blocks from the State Capitol.

Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was in attendance.

Over the next four years, College Corps will engage 13,000 California undergraduates to make a positive difference in their communities. This service and career development program will help build a diverse class of leaders set to transform California for the better.

Funding was made possible by the efforts of Newsom and the Legislature. The program is the first opportunity for Assembly Bill (AB) 540 CA Dream Act students to earn support for college in a state service program.

“I decided to apply because I am pursuing a career in education, and #CaliforniansForAll College Corps is a way for me to earn as I learn,” said Tia Rowe, a College Corps Fellow from Sacramento State University. “I’m looking forward to working in my community and playing an active role in bringing people together.”

Rowe, along with other College Corps fellows, will take part in community service projects across the state. Fryday said College Corps is an opportunity to “begin a life of service” to benefit the masses. The program is a collaboration of over 600 community organizations, including 46 partnering colleges and universities across the state.

The objective is to address issues pertaining to climate change, tutoring and mentoring, low-income students, and distributing meals to those facing food insecurity. Once the fellows finish their assignments, they stand to receive $7,000 for 450 hours of community service. An additional $3,000 is provided as an education award.

“You and I are going to be part of a movement toward change,” Rowe said before the oath was administered in the auditorium of the California Natural Resources Agency Building. “We’re going into our own communities and playing an active role in building them up.”

College Corps represents the first and largest state-level investment in a college service program in the country, with $146 million earmarked for up to 6,500 students over the next two years. About 80% of fellows are students of color, 58% are first-generation college students, 68% are Pell-Grant eligible, and 500 fellows are AB 540 Dream Act.

A virtual briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media was held on October 11 featuring Fryday, President and CEO of FIND Food Bank Debbie S. Espinosa, and student fellows. The discussion centered around the vision that inspired the program, how it works, who is eligible, how to apply, and where students will do their community service.

“This is a win-win-win: Helping to pay for college, gaining valuable work experience, and having a meaningful impact on your community,” Fryday said.

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