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Karine Jean-Pierre Makes History as First Openly Gay Person to Lead White House Press Briefing

Jean-Pierre got her start in politics as an activist, and later as a political commentator for MSNBC. She was chief public affairs officer at MoveOn.org — a website that allows people to circulate petitions for progressive causes online — and worked on the Reproductive Freedom Initiative campaign at the ACLU

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Karine Jean-Pierre/ Wikimedia Commons

Karine Jean-Pierre, who serves as White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary for the Biden administration, made history in late May, just ahead of Pride month, as the first openly gay person to lead the daily White House press briefing. Pierre, 43, was also the first Black woman to lead the briefing in 30 years. 

Jean-Pierre got her start in politics as an activist, and later as a political commentator for MSNBC. She was chief public affairs officer at MoveOn.org — a website that allows people to circulate petitions for progressive causes online — and worked on the Reproductive Freedom Initiative campaign at the ACLU. Jean-Pierre later served on presidential campaigns for former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley. She was also senior adviser for the Biden campaign and chief of staff for Kamala Harris. Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents but grew up in Queens, N.Y.

“It’s a real honor to be standing here today. I appreciate the historic nature. I really do. But I believe that…being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people,” said Jean-Pierre.

The first Black woman White House spokesperson was Judy Smith, who served under President George H.W. Bush, beginning in 1991. Jean-Pierre is a part of Biden’s all-female White House senior communications team of seven women — many of them women of color.

Jean-Pierre has held several press gaggles — or informal briefings on Air Force One for journalists traveling with the president. She often represents the Biden administration on cable news shows. Her briefing came as Jennifer Psaki, Biden’s current press secretary, has said that she plans to step down from her position next year. Jean-Pierre is seen as a potential replacement.

“This is not about me. This is not about any of us. And anytime I’m behind here, and I think you’ve progressive

progressive causesheard Jen say this as well — we are going to be truthful. We are going to be transparent as well,” Jean-Pierre said.

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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Activism

With a 97.3% Strike Vote, More Than 500 Richmond Educators Rally Before School Board Meeting

“We don’t want to strike, but we will if it means doing what is best for our students. Over 90% of all union members who participated in the strike authorization vote are ready to meet this crisis created by a board and management team not working in the interests of the district. We are hoping our actions through the fact-finding process will show WCCUSD that we are serious about fighting for the best resources for our students. They deserve the best, and nothing less,” UTR President John Zabala said.

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Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management, to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic, or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day
Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management, to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic, or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day

By Post Staff

United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) held a rally urging West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) officials to reach a “fair settlement” and avoid a strike.

Teachers, school psychologists, school nurses, school counselors, program specialists, librarians, and speech-language pathologists are calling for a settlement that includes community schools, shared decisions, and competitive compensation that keeps outstanding educators in the community — and brings the next generation of educators to the district.

The rally was held at Lovonya Dejean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.

“We don’t want to strike, but we will if it means doing what is best for our students. Over 90% of all union members who participated in the strike authorization vote are ready to meet this crisis created by a board and management team not working in the interests of the district. We are hoping our actions through the fact-finding process will show WCCUSD that we are serious about fighting for the best resources for our students. They deserve the best, and nothing less,” UTR President John Zabala said.

In mid-November last year, the Legislative Analyst Office of California announced additional guaranteed, ongoing funding for the 2023-24 school year. The district intends to only provide less than half of the percentage of ongoing permanent funding it receives from the state for educator compensation, according to a statement released by the UTR.

Despite that projection of continued funding by the state, the school district declared an impasse in negotiations with UTR. Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management, to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic, or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day.

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Activism

Probationers Share Tales of Reconciliation

Once a year, an emotional celebration is held for those who come to a similar realization and make it on the Wall of Change, selected by a committee for providing the department’s most inspirational success stories of the year. The Wall of Change stories and photos include a first-person account from the honoree and words from their assigned probation coach. The annual ceremony also shows appreciation for the Probation officers and other supporters who sometimes find themselves as the only people who believe in their ability to succeed.

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(from left) Marin County Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson, Wall of Change honoree James Mayberry, and Marin County Probation Chief Marlon Washington at the Wall of Change ceremony.
(from left) Marin County Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson, Wall of Change honoree James Mayberry, and Marin County Probation Chief Marlon Washington at the Wall of Change ceremony.

Marin Probation’s inspiring ‘Wall of Change’ newcomers honored at special event

San Rafael, CA – James Mayberry’s painful childhood and young adult years were the start of a long path toward healing and his second chance at life.

He was a young boy when he witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of his father. James was quickly separated from his siblings — they settled with relatives, and he entered the foster care system. Depressed and traumatized, his teen years became overpowered by his alcoholism, and soon after began his period of lawbreaking. By his late 20s, Mayberry was separated from his job, his house, his car, and most importantly, his kids and “everyone I loved.”

A domestic violence charge in Marin County forced him to a relationship with the Marin County Probation Department, where for almost three years he struggled to commit to get sober and turn his life around.

Mayberry, now 31, did commit. He was one of 14 people honored Jan. 18 at the Marin County Civic Center’s Board of Supervisors chamber for accepting renewed responsibilities and becoming a positive role model for others. The group are among the newest probationers honored on the Wall of Change, where personal stories of their transformation are documented in the department’s lobby for all probationers to see. The event opened with a short documentary film about the honorees created by Vincent Cortez of Mitchell Street Pictures.

In addition to Mayberry, the 2022 honorees were Deann Ashley, Hannah Cahoon, Kimberly Clayton, Abdalla “Jimmy” Khaled Sayed, Samuel Lawrence, Cody Lewis, Matthew McCarthy, Gabino Mendoza, Hengly Osiel-Calderon, Fletcher Pinkham, Justin Sheets, Tino Wilson Jr., and Nordia Valdivia-Rodriguez. All of them have powerful stories to tell.

In a statement to the Wall of Change committee, Mayberry wrote that his struggles were rooted in the death of his mother.

“At such a young age I was left to navigate my grief and pain alone, then eventually I became numb to my own emotions,” he wrote. “All I knew was pain, and the thought of happiness was far from my reach. I felt like I had no one to go to even though I knew I had people who knew my situation and loved me, but I didn’t want to be a burden to them.”

Heather Donoho, a senior deputy probation officer assigned to Mayberry’s case, said Mayberry once blew one of the highest blood-alcohol measurements she had ever seen during a compliance check. She said he was testing positive for alcohol use — a violation of probation terms — twice a week on a regular basis.

“We had a serious conversation,” Donoho said. “I was prepared to recommend that he go to jail for a year. Then I found that James had never been offered an addiction treatment program, a recovery coach, or medication and counseling to help him with his trauma. He deserved a shot.”

As those recovery tools became available, Mayberry stopped testing positive for alcohol and stopped missing scheduled appointments. Today, he is sober and no longer homeless. He has a good job walking distance from his home, he helps others in the recovery community, he has reconnected with his childhood church family, and his four kids are back in his life.

“His willingness to work with me changed drastically for the better,” Donoho said. “It sounds cliché, but he’s a good reminder of why I went into this field. Unfortunately, there are so many negative situations we deal with as probation officers, but when you get a chance to work with somebody like James, it’s incredibly rewarding.”

“One day,” Mayberry wrote, “I just decided to be honest with myself and tell the truth because I could not continue living the way I was living.”

Once a year, an emotional celebration is held for those who come to a similar realization and make it on the Wall of Change, selected by a committee for providing the department’s most inspirational success stories of the year. The Wall of Change stories and photos include a first-person account from the honoree and words from their assigned probation coach. The annual ceremony also shows appreciation for the Probation officers and other supporters who sometimes find themselves as the only people who believe in their ability to succeed.

The in-person ceremony was hosted by Marin County Probation Chief Marlon Washington and his staff. Terry Wright, the Probation Department’s Adult Division Director, served as the emcee. Dr. Todd Schirmer, the County’s Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, delivered the keynote speech.

For Mayberry and many other Wall of Change honorees, it’s not just the Probation staff that proves vital to their transformation but also trusted workers from law enforcement agencies, the judges of Marin County Superior Court, the Public Defender’s Office, detoxification centers, supportive nonprofits, social workers, and others. Several recovery coaches and counselors who played critical roles in supporting the honorees attended the Wall of Change ceremony.

Mayberry is finally getting used to hearing that friends and family are proud of him.

“I’m truly blessed to have a second chance at life with all the help and support system that has been given to me,” he wrote. “I also want to help someone else who may be going through the same thing that I have experienced. There is hope in every situation, good or bad, but you have to believe within yourself and have faith that all things will work out for the good once you start making changes for yourself.”

Learn more about Marin County Probation online.

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