“Dr. Cummings, don’t think you’ll ever be alone,” said ‘Ladies in Red’ founder Brenda Knight. “We are here, we got you. You don’t have to worry. All you have to do is call BK. We going to pack it up and come out wherever it is.”
Knight was addressing congressional hopeful Dr. Maya Rockymoore Cummings in the Bay Area from Baltimore, Md., to gain name recognition as she prepares to run for the seat once held by her husband, the late Elijah Cummings.
Maya Cummings then delivered a rousing speech at an intimate meet-and-greet held January 16 at the Doubletree Hotel in American Canyon near Vallejo, sharing her plans with the audience on how she intends to pick up the mantel and move forward with her husband’s agenda.
Cummings told the group that their theme, ‘Trust Black Women’ in this election year of 2020 is absolutely right on target. “And let me add to that, trust Black women because Black women trust God,” she said. “This is a faith walk for me because on October 17th, I buried my loving, beloved husband and I’ve vowed to continue his legacy.”
In her opening comments, Cummings responded to the groups’ invitation to the event. “Black women are the strength of our community,” she noted. “We have been the backbone of not only the Democratic party, but also the strength of our families.”
“We give and we keep giving, and rarely do we think of ourselves. Sometimes, we fall down but we keep getting up and keep marching on. So, thank you for showing up and coming out. Thank you for being the strength of the community. And thank you for just being apparent about how we create change in our society. We need changes right now, more so than we’ve ever needed them.”
“I’m building upon Elijah’s life and legacy,” she said. “That means I’ll continue to fight for his efforts to preserve and protect our democracy. I will advance his work around universal health care and affordable prescription drugs. I have a broad agenda that focuses on what I call the HOPE agenda.”
“Hope stands for healthy and safe communities. It stands for more opportunities for youth, prosperous families and equitable economic development and economic justice. Each one of these things is often overlooked. It’s an agenda that absolutely needs to start. Hope for the future, hope for Baltimore, hope for our country and nation and hope to get this man out of the White House.”
The message Cummings wants to convey to her future constituents in the Baltimore area is that she will fight for them. “Elijah met me when I was fighting and we started fighting together,” said Cummings. “And now I am seeking to continue to fight because this is going to be a battle.
“It’s a battle for the future of our country, our democracy and our community. Civil rights are on the table, women’s rights, and human rights. You name it, it’s on the table and we need to fight and stand up for what we believe in, and that is a diverse, inclusive and prosperous country for all. We have a lot of work to do.”
Cummings’ second Bay Area appearance was later that evening at a fundraiser held for her at Geoffrey’s in downtown Oakland.
As one of the sponsors of the event, Knight closed out the meeting by noting that ‘Ladies in Red’ supports strong, Black women. “That is one of our primary goals,” said Knight. “And for those who are not strong, we try to help them along. That is why this event has been so wonderful, because Dr. Cummings is such a dynamic person. I can see that she is going to continue in the legacy of her husband.
“If I were able to speak to the people of Baltimore, I would tell them they have someone who has their interests at heart, in their mind, in their work habits, and you would want to vote for this person so that you can know that someone is looking out for you.
“You all know what her husband has done for you,” Knight went on. “She’s getting ready to pick up that mantel and continue his work. So support her, vote for her. Get out and tell people to vote for her. Because all across the nation, and right here in California, we’re getting ready to support her anyway we can to make sure that machine operates well when she becomes Congresswoman Maya Cummings.
The event was sponsored by the Solano/Napa Chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), Ladies in Red, the law office of Otis L. Jones, the Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce, the African American Alliance and the Napa Solano Central Labor Council.
Crunch Time for Census: Activists Want Every Black Californian Counted
Black Lives Matter is shouted, printed, painted and posted everywhere in today’s racial-and-social-justice-aware political climate, but those lives may be threatened by low participation in the U.S. 2020 Census.
At risk for Black families in California, who live in the hardest-to-count census tracts of the state in disproportionate numbers, are federal resources for schools, housing, health care, employment, transportation and public policy initiatives that target them.
The ability to maintain or lose political representation in Congress is also at stake. According to the consulting group Election Data Services (EDS), California could lose a congressional district representing 300,000 people for the first time in its 160-year history. Part of the problem, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s interactive 2020 Census response map, approximately 25 % of California’s current population (9,879,459) live in hard-to-count neighborhoods and are at risk of being missed in the 2020 Census.
Carmen Taylor Jones, 2020 Census director at the Los Angeles-based Black Women for Wellness advocacy group, said it is more than simply being counted, but a call to action.
“(The census) is the keeper of houses, and they are the holder of genealogy records,” said Jones, former 2010 Census Bureau Southern California Area regional manager. She said her new slogan for the 2020 Census is “document your existence,” by completing the decennial census.
As African Americans and other stakeholders focus their outreach to undercounted communities, the state is also intensifying its last-ditch initiatives as the 2020 Census count goes into its final stretches.
This week, the California Complete Count Census 2020 office has organized several public awareness activities under the banner of “Get Out the Count Week.” The events, which include a press briefing, a “Virtual Day of Action” and an online pep rally of “Social Media Ambassadors,” are geared toward reaching Californians who have still not completed their forms.
The threat of losing a seat in Congress is heard often, but it has never happened in California, since population losses are typically tempered by nearly as many people moving to the state or relocating within it.
As of July 13, California’s response rate was 63.2 %, according to the Census Bureau’s interactive response map. Per the California Complete Count Committee, an estimated 850,644 households have not responded, which equates to an estimated population of over 4.2 million.
Further, the California Complete Count Committee indicated, the average Self-Response Rate as of June 4 was 61.6 % for Black/African American, 59.1 % for Hispanic/Latino, and 61.4 % for American Indian and Alaska Native.
The National Urban League indicated in its State of 2020 Census Report, however, that favorable state response rates that meet or surpass the national 2020 Census rate provide little indication of how well or poorly predominantly or heavily populated Black communities are responding to the 2020 Census. It recommends closer analysis to ensure targeted outreach lifts participation in low-response-rate Black communities.
“If we are not counted, then we amplify our problems as opposed to solving our problems,” said Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness.
Organizations like Black Women for Wellness knew the COVID-19 pandemic made areas considered hard-to-count only harder to reach. This organization and others in California are part of a group called “The Black Hub” that worked with vulnerable communities across the state.
The State of California gave $187 million for the Census campaign to push outreach efforts to educate of the importance of being counted this year. These efforts included support to The Black Hub along with other institutions.
Flint told California Black Media that outreach on low voting turnouts for her organization began in 2000 with constant voter education campaigns. Later in 2012, it developed VREAM (Voting Rules Everything Around Me) to address voter suppression in California. The decision to participate in the 2010 and 2020 censuses to increase Black counts was an obvious next step, she continued.
The group’s outreach tactic, tagged the 200 Grand Campaign, trained 15 student interns to phone bank for five-and-a-half weeks. Jones requested 200,000 contact phone numbers in 45 hard-to-count tracts from the California Community Foundation.
Seventy-five percent of the 200,000 phone calls affirmed a commitment to participate in the 2020 Census, according to Jones.
“That is the single largest outreach to date in L.A. County,” she said. “In addition, the students’ text campaign reached 35,000 contacts with a response rate close to 90%.”
Student interns like Deshawn Moore worked from home and used their own phones adhering to Black Women for Wellness’ COVID-19 protocols to keep everyone safe. “I learned a lot in training about voting and the Census. One time when I was on the bus, I asked someone if they have taken the Census. They said no. I told them about it and how to do it,” Moore said.
Thousands of Californians Face Homelessness With Eviction Freeze Set to End
With the federal COVID-19 rent protections provided in the CARES Act about to expire, any plan to assist tenants who have fallen behind on their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, would have to be drawn up by state or local governments.
In California, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the Judicial Council, said, during a public meeting June 24 that the council would “very soon resume voting to terminate the temporary orders having to do with unlawful detainer evictions and foreclosures.”
The Judicial Council, which regulates the state’s court system, placed a temporary emergency rule on April 6, which stops judges from processing evictions for non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 state of emergency. If the court votes to terminate the rule, it would be rescinded effective Aug. 14, 2020.
Nisha Vyas, senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty spoke at a press conference held by Ethnic Media Services. In her presentation, she detailed some mechanics of the Judicial Council’s rules and she explained how its rescission would hurt California renters.
“We’re extremely concerned about this, as the Legislature and governor have not yet acted to put something in place that will prevent the massive wave of evictions that will begin when this rule is lifted,” Vyas told California Black Media over email.
“When the rule is withdrawn and the moratorium lapses, we expect this massive eviction crisis, and if we allow the evictions to simply start again without any long-term assistance, it’s going to have a devastating impact on renters, and in particular communities of color.”
Lifting the statewide eviction moratorium would disproportionately affect Black Californians. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Housing Survey, 64.4% of African Americans in California are tenants. Also, 57% of Black renters have lost income since mid-March this year, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
According to another U.S. Census Bureau Housing Pulse Survey conducted in June, only about 46 % of Black renters in California were confident that they could pay July’s rent. The other 54% – which accounts for hundreds of thousands of African American households – have none to moderate confidence that they will be able to keep a roof over their heads.
During the public meeting, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye also said that the Aug. 14 deadline would give the state Legislature the chance to pass legislation regarding tenant protections.
AB 1436, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) protects tenants from eviction due to non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic; allows landlords and tenants to work out payment arrangements for no more than the amount the renter owes; shields the tenant from negative credit reporting and protects his or her ability to rent in the future; and places the eviction process under the authority of civil courts; among other provisions. It also gives a 15-month grace period for unpaid rent after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends.
The bill passed the Assembly unanimously in May 2020 and is currently under review in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is sponsored by multiple housing justice organizations, including the Western Center, PolicyLink and Housing NOW California.
According to Vyas, solving past due rent disputes in civil court rather than through the evictions process would be better for renters. Eviction proceedings are typically fast-tracked, with nearly 75% of eviction cases resolved within 45 days of filing, and many low-income tenants cannot afford an attorney.
“The advantage is that tenants would be able to remain in their homes. They could handle the rent payment dispute with the landlord in a proceeding that doesn’t put them at risk of homelessness. It would also prevent unnecessary and harmful interactions with law enforcement since lockouts are performed by sheriffs,” said Vyas.
Through e-mail, Vyas also pointed out that Californians would need assistance on the federal level as well, preferably through monetary rental assistance. But on the state level, Vyas said, AB 1436 is a necessary step.
“AB 1436 is a chance for communities and individuals to tell their state legislators here in California to stop the new wave of evictions to keep us all safe and housed. It is, I want to stress, the first step of many that we need to take to bring more equity into housing in California. But this is a great way for people to become engaged.”
Oakland and Richmond Mayors Announce 2020 Census Challenge
Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland and Mayor Tom Butt of Richmond have agreed to a friendly intercity challenge: get as many of their residents to respond to the 2020 Census as humanly possible.
The challenge between the East Bay mayors comes as residents have just over a month left to respond to the 2020 Census as the nation approaches the Aug. 10 reporting deadline.
The two cities’ self-response rates are currently neck and neck. Oakland’s self-response rate is 63.3% and Richmond’s is 63.4%. For both cities, the goal is to achieve a self-response rate of 100%.
“An accurate census count is critical for Oakland to receive its fair share of federal funding for vital public services,” said Schaaf. “Bring it on Richmond, let’s make sure everyone gets counted! Just 10 questions can make a huge difference in our community.”
For Schaaf and Butt, getting their communities fully counted is essential to secure their respective city’s fair share of federal funds for the next 10 years.
Those dollars fund critical services like hospitals and clinics, school lunches, road repair and more. It’s safe, confidential, and there is no citizenship question on the 2020 census.
“Completing the 2020 Census is all about equity of resources and further improving quality of life in our city,” said Butt. “Let’s show Oakland how it’s done! Complete the Census and help bring federal funding to Richmond for the next 10 years.”
Although Oakland is about 3.8 times the size of Richmond, both cities are considered “hard-to-count” communities with populations that are at risk of being undercounted. That makes it even more important to get the word out that the Census is still going and that anyone can respond online at www.my2020census.gov
Everyone can also respond to the Census through regular mail using a paper questionnaire that was mailed to all households with a regular mailing address in mid-April. Another easy way is to call 844-330-2020 (Español: 844-468-2020) and complete the census form with the help of an assistant. The phone lines are supported in 12 non-English languages, with the full list available at https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond/responding-by-phone.html.
The winner of the friendly challenge will accept a gift basket of local goods from their opponent. The winner will be announced on August 10, 2020.
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