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COMMENTARY: When they take our Black boys

NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER — Growing up in America can be a very risky business for Black males. Too many—perhaps a majority—of young Black males get mentally “scarred” from a court system that targets them for eternal struggle. It’s called the United States Penal System. It can be a very evil system designed to target Blacks and keep them under control. Why? Perhaps it is a method of keeping economic control of a population. People with criminal records normally cannot find economic success in our society. A criminal record equates to designed failure and poverty.

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By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow

Growing up in America can be a very risky business for Black males. Too many—perhaps a majority—of young Black males get mentally “scarred” from a court system that targets them for eternal struggle. It’s called the United States Penal System. It can be a very evil system designed to target Blacks and keep them under control. Why? Perhaps it is a method of keeping economic control of a population. People with criminal records normally cannot find economic success in our society. A criminal record equates to designed failure and poverty.

As we evolve America has been improving in how it treats its minority population. President Trump has taken a leadership position in Penal Reform. This is a very big “game changer” in the social arena of our culture. We should embrace it and allow it to flourish and succeed. A prosecution process that leads to no cure or rehabilitation is perpetual hell for offenders. They are doomed to fail at rehabilitation and become “lost” in a societal “wilderness.”

A great book about this is written by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu and is entitled “Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys.” We highly recommend this book for all parents. It is important for Black parents to be alert to the fact that one of the components of early Black slavery was to break up the family unit. The system did this by attacking the male component of any Black family or group. The effects of this multi-century old practice still linger on in American society. In fact, not just America but wherever people of color live in a society that is majority White—Brazil, Columbia, Puerto Rico, England, Italy, wherever. Times are improving. We are getting closer to justice but still have a long way to go.

One of the best things Harry’s mother, Christine Brown Alford, ever did for him was to have him feel the evilness of segregation. She would send him to Jim Crow Louisiana to spend summer with his relatives. She wanted him to know his “roots” and to be able to compare the opportunities afforded by integration versus the “roadblocks erected in the name of segregation. They were two of the best summers a young Black boy could have. My cousins and friends were genuine people with good hearts. Despite the segregated facilities and “evil White people” who despised the appearance of us within their environment, life was good. We just had to stay away from “them”. The friendships that were made were meant to last a normal lifetime. Unbeknownst to us, many of us would not live a normal lifetime. The summers of skinny dipping, jug fishing, snake hunting, horseback riding, etc. are fond memories now—never to return.

Decades later, his parents retired and left California to return to lovely rural Bossier Parish, Louisiana. During one visit Harry sat with his cousin and asked for an update on what the “fellas” were now doing. “How is John Roy”, he asked. His reply: “He stole a car and got into a car chase with the state police. He ran the car into a tree and was killed.” Next question: “What is ‘Po (Napoleon) doing?” His reply: “Po got into a fight in a Ft. Worth bar and was shot dead.” Next question: “What about Linnell?” His reply: “Linnell tried to rob a drug store and was shot dead by the police.” One more time: “we hear Webster (world class sprinter for Southern University) was now with the Los Angeles Police Department.” His reply: “You heard about that Ramparts dirty cops’ scandal?” “Well, Webster was caught up in it. He is now sitting in the wrong side of a police cell.”

It went on and on. Ninety percent of Harry’s male Southern childhood friends had ill-fated futures waiting for them. That racist, Jim Crow society was there to catch them. It seems the big difference between them and Harry was a father looking over him demanding discipline. Without a loving father, a Black male has a slim chance for success. Without a loving male figure, a Black boy is prey for a system that is designed to catch him and scar him for life. It is a matter of economic domination. According to the Census Bureau, “The percentage of White children under 18 who live with both parents almost doubles that of Black children, according to the data. While 74.3 percent of all White children below the age of 18 live with both parents, only 38.7 percent of Black minors can say the same. A father’s absence leads to anti-social behavior.

As an example, the state of California has built more prisons in the last 30 years than colleges. Those prisons are predominantly filled with Blacks and Hispanics. It doesn’t take “rocket science” to figure this game out. Success is so hard to attain without a strong family unit. Don’t let them take your Black boys.

(Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce ®. Kay DeBow is the co-founder, executive vice president of the Chamber.)

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This article originally appeared in the New Pittsburgh Courier.

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Activism

OPINION: Why Every Californian Should Support the Prescription Drug Pricing Bill

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal. Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

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Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.
Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

By Dr. Oliver Brooks, Special to California Black Media

In 1992, the federal government enacted the 340B Drug Discount Program. It afforded community health centers (CHCs) the ability to provide pharmacy services to their patients, a service that many CHCs did not have the resources to provide otherwise.

The program protects safety-net providers, including CHCs, from escalating drug prices, allowing us to purchase drugs at a discounted rate from manufacturers and pass those discounts directly to the patient. This program is presently under threat.

That is why I support Dr. Richard Pan’s Senate Bill (SB) 939. This bill, currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, would prohibit discriminatory actions by drug manufacturers and administrators when providing 340B drugs to health centers and the patients they serve.

It provides important consumer protections that are necessary to protect 340B savings and ensure that the savings remain with health centers and their communities, creating greater access to health care and equity for all.

The 340B Program also allows safety-net providers the ability to accrue savings that must be reinvested directly into patient care and services. Thus, the program enables covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal.

Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

Additionally, 68% of CHC patients are from BIPOC communities. CHCs are often the only source of primary and preventative care for California’s most diverse communities, including those experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and agricultural workers.

Anyone who walks into our health centers today can access a variety of services from primary care to dental to behavioral health care and a variety of wraparound services, regardless of whether they have health insurance, or an ability to pay for care. A large part of why we’re able to offer those services is thanks to savings we receive from the 340B program.

In recent years the 340B program has been under assault by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), drug manufacturers, and others within Big Pharma.

Through the expansion of the Affordable Care Act & Medi-Cal, more low-income patients can access healthcare in California, meaning more are also able to access medications, causing the 340B program to expand. Given this fact, manufacturers have put practices in place that limit patient access to 340B priced drugs while PBMs focus on trying to take 340B savings away from CHCs, and out of the local communities that need them, threatening patient access to critical medicines made available through the program.

Health centers were born out of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all communities, particularly communities of color, would have access to high-quality care that is provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. This program has allowed covered entities, including CHCs, to contract with local pharmacies so that our patients can access low-cost medications in a convenient manner. The continual acts of greed by pharmaceutical companies and PBMs threatens equity and access that CHCs were designed to create.

Community health centers around the country are sounding the alarm over Rx drugs manufacturers’ attacks on the federal 340B program. Since 2019, 21 states have passed laws addressing PBM discrimination against 340B covered entities.

It’s time for California, the policy trendsetter, to become the next state to protect the 340B program so it can operate as intended.

That is why Dr. Richard Pan’s SB 939 is so important and why I so fervently speak in favor of this legislation.

Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

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Bay Area

As San Francisco’s Newest D.A. Faces Recall Threat, Black Activists Speak Out

A former public defender whose parents were incarcerated for years, San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin was seen as someone who would reduce incarceration and deal with racial bias and racism in the criminal justice system.

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San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin. Votersedge.org photo.
San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin. Votersedge.org photo.

By Lee Hubbard

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is in trouble and his job is on the political ropes as he faces a recall election on June 7 to remove him from office.

Elected in 2019, as a progressive reformer who would apply justice to the office and fight crime by bringing a different approach to law and order.

A former public defender whose parents were incarcerated for years, Boudin was seen as someone who would reduce incarceration and deal with racial bias and racism in the criminal justice system.

But things have gone sideways for him. Elected just before the COVID-19 epidemic, crime went down for a while, then it skyrocketed with car break-ins, store robberies and quality-of-life issues, such as open drug dealing and drug usage and people camping out and loitering on the streets.

Seeing that petty crimes were not stopping, in 2021 there were two efforts to recall Boudin. One led by Rich Greenberg, a member of the Republican Party, failed, falling short on votes. The second effort to recall Boudin was led by Mary Jung and Andrea Shorter.

Jung is a former chairwoman of the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee, and this effort, as polling data suggests, may be successful.

The recall has split San Francisco’s Black community.

“I think that people need to sit down eyeball-to-eyeball and come to common ground on political issues,” said the Rev. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church and head of the San Francisco NAACP. “I have never supported recalls, unless it’s a situation of malfeasance or a violent act.”

On the other hand, Mayor London Breed has been very critical of Boudin. Though she has expressed her disfavor with Boudin in the press, she has not publicly stated whether or not she supports the recall.

The move to recall Boudin grew during the crime spree of Troy McAlister. McAlister was on state parole when he stole a car with a gun from another city and came to San Francisco where he hit and killed two women with the car in downtown San Francisco as he was trying to avoid the police.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association then called out Boudin, saying he was soft on crime. McAlister had previous arrests, but he had not been charged with those crimes, and was, instead, referred to the Parole Division.

Black activists, however, like Boudin’s emphasis on restorative justice and they believe he is fighting against bias in the criminal justice system. In his election for District Attorney, Boudin got 35.6% of the first-place votes. To defeat the recall, Boudin needs 50% plus one vote to avoid the recall.

“I think this recall is unnecessarily expensive and an attempt to undermine voters,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, who represents District 10. “Recalls cost millions of dollars and take away the voice of the people (unless there was a crime committed or incompetence).”

But Boudin’s chances of staying in office do not look good. Public Policy Polling revealed recently that 48% of San Franciscans plan on voting ‘yes’ on the recall and 38% ‘no,’ with 14% undecided.

San Francisco’s recall effort is one of three nationally to overturn progressive district attorneys who have made fighting racial bias in the criminal justice system an issue.

Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is facing a recall for his new job as the Los Angeles district attorney. In Illinois, a state representative introduced a bill to authorize a recall against Kim Foxx, a Black state’s attorney for Cook County.

National figures including Rev. Jessie Jackson, Angela Davis, John Legend and Danny Glover, support Boudin. These and other national voices, see Boudin as a trendsetter in criminal justice and a person who can enact policies that can be copied in other cities across the country.

“I also believe this recall is an attack on criminal justice reform and the right for the voters to choose their representatives,” continued Walton. “There will be an election for district attorney next year. That is the time to vote on that office.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

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

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

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

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations is currently reviewing the bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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