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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.”

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Hollywood Under Fire: Black Caucus Members Concerned About Black Women Execs Leaving Entertainment Industry

On July 13, California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) members Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) led a group of lawmakers at a news conference at the State Capitol to express their concerns over various news reports of abrupt departures of Black women leaving high-profile careers in Hollywood after the state recently approved $1.6 billion in tax credits for the industry.

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Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D- Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) led the CLBC Demand Diversity press conference on July 13. Photo by Antonio Harvey.
Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D- Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) led the CLBC Demand Diversity press conference on July 13. Photo by Antonio Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey
California Black Media

Film studios in Hollywood took a one-two punch last week after actors announced they were joining the ongoing writers’ strike while legislators in Sacramento questioned their commitment to Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

On July 13, California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) members Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) led a group of lawmakers at a news conference at the State Capitol to express their concerns over various news reports of abrupt departures of Black women leaving high-profile careers in Hollywood after the state recently approved $1.6 billion in tax credits for the industry.

The press conference was held the same day the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the union representing Hollywood actors, joined striking Writers Guild of America (WGA) members in the biggest labor dispute the American entertainment industry has seen in 63 years.

In recent weeks, several Black women who were executives leading Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives at major entertainment companies have left their positions.

“We are here today, calling on industry executives to meet with the state legislative Black caucus and leaders in the coming weeks to explain what is behind this erasure,” Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) said at the press briefing.

“(We want them to) provide the evidence of how diversity, inclusion and the progress made will continue to move forward given the lack of leadership and gravitas at the forefront of those proposals,” added Smallwood-Cuevas.

Netflix’s vice president, inclusion strategy, Vernā Myers; Disney’s LaTondra Newton, chief diversity officer and senior vice president; Joanna Abeyie, the British Broadcasting Company’s (BBC) creative diversity director; and Warner Bros executive, Terra Potts, executive vice president of worldwide marketing, have all moved on.

In addition, Warner Bros. Discovery’s DEI specialist Karen Horne and Jeanell English, executive VP of impact and inclusion at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences left their DEI roles.

The lawmakers say more Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) could join the mass exodus.

Lawmakers at the press conference said the departure of DEI specialists from major Hollywood companies gives the impression that creating an inclusive culture in the American film industry is not a priority for a sector that has a well-documented history of discrimination and exclusion.

“As vice chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, we are proud to stand in solidarity with the Black Caucus,” Sen. David Min said. “I don’t want to accuse anybody of anything, but it certainly looks suspicious when in a short timeframe after … the $1.6-billion tax credit was signed into law that we see a number of leading African American female Hollywood executives let go.”

Senate Bill (SB) 485, introduced last year by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D- La Cañada Flintridge), provides $1.65 billion in tax credits, or $330 million annually, in financial support for film and television makers and other media content creators. The California Film and Television Production Tax Credit Program was scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2025.

State lawmakers are now asking for meetings and are looking for ways to hold television and film studios executives accountable for benefitting from state investment that essentially helped create DEI programs.

SB 485 was created after a series of production companies opted to leave California for states that offered larger tax incentive programs. The bill was amendedto reflect California’s diverse population.

“I was highly offended to see the industry’s response to a $1.6 billion tax subsidy by quietly eliminating Black women from executive positions with a number of studios,” said McKinnor. “Many of these women were involved in their studios’ diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, which raises a serious question about their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the film industry.”

SB 485 states that “This bill, for credit allocations made on or after July 1, 2023, would revise the definition of a qualified motion picture for purposes of the credit to require an applicant to provide a diversity workplan that includes goals that are broadly reflective of California’s population.”

On July 10, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 132 to extend the state’s $330 million-a-year Film and TV Tax Credit Program an additional five years through fiscal 2030-31.

The governor’s office put out a statement that SB 132 builds “upon a strong track record of success” and “whose productions have generated more than $23 billion” for the economy.

More than 178,000 cast and crew have been supported by the program. The new budget will create the state’s fourth-generation film/TV tax credit program — known as “Program 4.0.”

“The California Film and Television Tax Credit program has led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of high paying union jobs, it’s supported countless local businesses, and pumped billions of dollars into the state’s economy,” said Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association. “The 4.0 version of the program, signed into law by Governor Newsom, will build on that success by creating new commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion and establishing a pilot program on production safety, among other provisions.”

McKinnor said, “While the California film tax credit 4.0 proposal builds upon previous work to solidify California as the entertainment capital of the world, it does not include requirements to increase diversity of its below-the-line hiring.

“The California film tax credit 4.0 only requires a good-faith effort. California, that’s not good enough,” McKinnor continued.  “We should all expect more from an industry receiving $1.6 billion in subsidies from California taxpayers.”

Smallwood-Cuevas, McKinnor, and other members of the California legislature want to make amendments to SB 132 that will keep DEI programs intact.

They expect to sit down with members of the film and television industry, union representatives, and Newsom to get clarity of the entertainment business’ efforts to promote and stabilize DEI initiatives.

“We want progress towards real inclusion and equity in this industry and we want to make sure that our tax dollars are not in any way involved in this erasure,” Smallwood-Cuevas said. “We hope that these conversations will lead to a commitment and level of trust that will allow us to continue to move forward and expand our investment in this important industry.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

2 Black Caucus Members to Serve in Top Assembly Leadership Roles

After being sworn in as Speaker of the California Assembly last week, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) appointed two members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) to key leadership positions. Rivas announced that Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan (D- Ladera Heights) and Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) will be part of a team of eight Democratic lawmakers who will lead the proceedings of the 80-member body for the 2023-25 legislative term.

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California Assembly Black Caucus members Isaac Bryan and Lori Wilson will be part of an eight-member team of Democrats who will lead in the 2023-25 assembly. CBM courtesy photo.
California Assembly Black Caucus members Isaac Bryan and Lori Wilson will be part of an eight-member team of Democrats who will lead in the 2023-25 assembly. CBM courtesy photo.

By Antonio Ray Harvey

California Black Media

After being sworn in as Speaker of the California Assembly last week, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) appointed two members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) to key leadership positions.

Rivas announced that Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan (D- Ladera Heights) and Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) will be part of a team of eight Democratic lawmakers who will lead the proceedings of the 80-member body for the 2023-25 legislative term.

“The historic diversity of our Caucus speaks to the remarkable lived experiences across our great state. Our leadership team also reflects this diversity so that we can uplift all residents. I look forward to the work ahead of us,” Rivas tweeted on July 3.

As majority whip, Wilson is responsible for monitoring legislation and securing votes for bills on the Assembly Floor.

Wilson’s appointment marks the first time that Black women have held the position of Majority Whip in both houses of the Legislature at the same time.

(Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Ladera Heights), a CLBC member, is the Senate’s Majority Whip.)

Wilson, 48, who assumed office April 6, 2022, after winning a special election, represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes Solano County and parts of Contra Costa County, and the cities of Antioch and Oakley.

Wilson previously served as Assistant Majority Whip under the leadership of former Speaker Tony Rendon (D-Lakewood), who Rivas succeeded.

“Thank you @CASpeakerRivas for the honor of continuing to serve on the leadership team for the second consecutive year. I look forward to our continued partnership as we serve all Californians,” Wilson shared on Twitter.

Bryan, a vocal supporter of Rivas who backed the Speaker’s candidacy, was appointed majority leader. Wilson was named majority whip.

As the highest-ranking officer of the Assembly, Rivas has the authority to appoint Assemblymembers to leadership positions at the beginning of each two-year legislative session. The Speaker or his designee presides over the floor sessions.

Other Assemblymembers Rivas appointed to leadership roles are: Assemblymembers Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) as assistant majority whip; Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) as speaker pro tempore; Stephanie Nguyen (D-Elk Grove) as assistant speaker pro tempore; Gregg Hart (D-Santa Barbara) as assistant majority leader; Josh Lowenthal, (D-Long Beach) also as assistant majority whip; and Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Santa Monica) as Democratic Caucus chair.

As majority leader, Bryan is responsible for expediting Assembly floor proceedings using parliamentary procedures such as motions and points of order. He is also expected to foster harmony among the membership.

Bryan, 31, represents the 55th Assembly District, which consists of Baldwin Hills, the Crenshaw district, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms, Pico-Robertson, Beverly Grove, Mid-Wilshire, and parts of South Los Angeles.

He assumed office on May 28, 2021, after winning a special election to succeed U.S. Congresswomen Sydney Kamlager (D-CA-37) who had been elected to the State Senate.

After he was sworn in as majority leader, Bryan expressed his intention to address issues facing Californians who are undergoing hardships.

“There are a lot of people in California who are still hurting and there’s a lot of work we can do to alleviate that,” Bryan said. “It first starts with us coming together, building a different kind of culture in the body with all the new members who are here.”

While speaking on the floor of the Assembly last week, Bryan thanked Rivas for his “trust,” and his colleagues and constituents for their support.

“Change isn’t about a person, me included,” Bryan said. “We all have the power to make a difference in the lives of others. Let’s use that power.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Black Caucus Members Welcome New Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas

The California Assembly ushered in new leadership with the swearing in of Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 30. Rivas replaces Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), the outgoing Speaker who presided over the Assembly for the last seven years.

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Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) was sworn in as the 71st Speaker of the Assembly on June 30 at the state capitol in Sacramento. CBM photo by Robert Maryland.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) was sworn in as the 71st Speaker of the Assembly on June 30 at the state capitol in Sacramento. CBM photo by Robert Maryland.

By Antonio Ray Harvey
California Black Media

The California Assembly ushered in new leadership with the swearing in of Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 30.

Rivas replaces Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), the outgoing Speaker who presided over the Assembly for the last seven years.

Rivas is the 71st Speaker of the state Legislature’s lower house. Known for being a pragmatic coalition builder, Rivas’ rise to power has been steady, colleagues say, since he was first elected to the State Assembly in 2018.

After being sworn in, Rivas informed the 79 other members of the Assembly that his leadership, which he says will benefit everyone, will be characterized by “urgency and unity” as his top priorities.

“California is still the greatest state in the union. But if we in this room do not act, and do not act with greater urgency, it will get more and more difficult to build a good life here,” Rivas said. “I feel, and I know that you all do, too, a great sense of responsibility because we are the ones who can keep the door open for the next generation.”

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-11), U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-18), Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass were among politicians, state officials, family members, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) and others present to witness 43-year-old Rivas take his oath of office.

Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City) said the day celebrates “the new season of leadership under the Honorable Robert Rivas” and all members of the Assembly’s hearts “should be filled with joy” about a man who came from humble beginnings.

“On behalf of the Black caucus, congratulations on your success,” Wilson, the chairperson of the CLBC said to Rivas. “We look forward to working with you on monumental legislation to ensure equity for all and continue dismantling systematic discrimination and racism.”

Civil rights icon and labor rights advocate Dolores Huerta, Rivas’ mother Mayra Flores, his grandmother and about 30 farmworkers from his district were “scattered throughout the chamber” to see the swearing-in ceremony along with his wife, Christen, and their daughter Melina, Rivas said.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) thanks Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas' wife, Christen, for being patient with him while he represents his community in the Assembly. CBM photo by Robert Maryland.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) thanks Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas’ wife, Christen, for being patient with him while he represents his community in the Assembly. CBM photo by Robert Maryland.

The three African American state Constitutional officers Controller Malia Cohen, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and Secretary of State Shirley Weber also attended the proceedings on the Assembly floor.

Raised in Paicines, a small town in San Benito County with a population of under 700 people, Rivas says he watched his grandfather as a child stand side by side with César Chávez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) as a leader in the movement that won equal rights and fair contracts for farmworkers.

Rivas attended local public schools in San Juan Bautista and Hollister. During his inaugural speech, he mentioned that along with his mother and brother, he once shared a house of “three beds” with five other family members, including his cousins.

In 1988, Rivas’s grandparents, aunts and uncles pooled together money to purchase a small house for $140,000 in the city of Hollister, a community established by ranchers and farmers in 1872.

“It was a massive investment, but it was doable,” Rivas remembered his family’s ambition to own a home of their own. “It gave us a sense that our future was not so precarious and that there was a place for us in the greatest state in the country: in California.”

Rivas graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government from California State University Sacramento and later earned a master’s degree in public administration from San Jose State University.

A lifelong resident of the 29th Assembly district, Rivas served two terms on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors prior to becoming an assemblymember in 2018.

During his first term in the Fall of 2020, Rivas was appointed the Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and elected as Vice-Chair of the influential Latino Legislative Caucus.

Rivas’ priorities are directed at tackling California’s housing and homelessness crisis, battling climate change, and enhancing public services and infrastructure.

“I am excited for the future of this body and even more excited for the future of this great state with Robert as our speaker,” said Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), who is also a member of the CLBC. “So, congratulations to our speaker designate and my good friend Robert Rivas.”

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