Connect with us

Black History

Meet Kamilah Moore, Young Activist and Lawyer Chairing California’s Reparations Task Force

“(Reparation) stems from President Lincoln’s promise to give emancipated Black people 40 acres and a mule,” Kamilah V. Moore, who was elected the chair of the California reparations task force, told California Black Media. “But that failed with Johnson coming in after Lincoln’s assassination and taking all of that back, leaving my ancestors to fend for themselves in a country that facilitated their demise through discrimination,” she said.

Published

on

Kamilah Moore, Chair of the Reparations Task Force. Photo by Kara Coleen
Kamilah Moore, Chair of the Reparations Task Force. Photo by Kara Coleen

By Edward Henderson | California Black Media

Alphonso “Tucky” Blunt, owner of a marijuana product store in Oakland called Blunts and Moore, says his business is located in the same zip code where he was arrested for selling weed illegally in 2004.

Now that he is legit in the business — he opened his store in a little over three years ago — Blunt says it is nearly impossible for Black and other minority-owned cannabis startups like his to make a profit in California.

“Where’s the tradeoff? I’ve been in the business for a few years and I’m still in the red. California has one of the highest tax rates on cannabis businesses anywhere. Oakland is in the top four of anywhere in the country,” said Blunt. “We also pay the most for armed guards. It costs like $25 to $30 per hour. The city requires us to have them — unlike Berkeley where they are not required. But police respond faster there.”

Blunt says the challenges California cannabis businesses face are many, including the fact that they have to pay federal taxes but can’t write off any expenses because cannabis is not legal on the federal level. Businesses like his also have challenges banking because of federal restrictions. Plus, criminals frequently target cannabis businesses and when they do, insurance companies are typically unwilling to pay for damage or lost products, Blunt says.

To address some of the challenges minority entrepreneurs in the industry are facing —particularly those who were victims of the War on Drugs — legislators in California have taken a number of steps to lower barriers to entry in the industry.

“There is no doubt that the War on Drugs has disproportionately harmed people of color and their communities,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is also chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

In 2019, Bradford authored SB 595, which established a cannabis equity fee waiver program. The Legislature passed that bill and the governor signed it into law the same year. The program was contingent on funding Bradford successfully obtained for its implementation in the Budget Act of 2021.

Right now, California is in the process of approving a $30 million fund that will eliminate business fees for some entrepreneurs entering the cannabis business in the state.

Last week, the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) released the regulations it will follow to implement Senate Bill (SB) 166, the budget trailer bill Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in September establishing the fee waiver program.

The program creates pathways for individuals affected by the War on Drugs to enter into the cannabis industry. Potential business owners who are living at or below 60% of the Area Median Income; who were previously convicted or arrested for a cannabis-related offense; or who live in a community negatively impacted by past cannabis policies would be eligible for the program.

The waivers go toward licensing fees for their potential businesses, which can range from $1,205 to $77,905. The DCC will start accepting fee waiver requests beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

The California Office of Administrative Law will publish the proposed regulations as being “under review” on its website: https://oal.ca.gov/. DCC will share instructions for submitting a public comment and participating in the regulatory process. The agency will also announce when the comment period, which will last five days, is open to the public.

“SB 166 is part of my continued mission for the Government to atone for the wrongs inflicted on people by supporting them with opportunities to enter and thrive in the cannabis market. I encourage anyone interested in the cannabis industry, especially equity cannabis applicants and operators, to provide comments during the short window for feedback.”

DCC Director Nicole Elliott says the state will continue to invest in opportunities to make the licensing businesses more equitable, particularly for people who were impacted by the War on Drugs.

“We know access to capital remains a persistent challenge for California’s equity applicants and licensees,” she said. “These waivers aim to address this challenge for those who need the most financial support.”

Bradford said for government to truly understand the challenges entrepreneurs are facing, they have to make their voices heard and talk about the barriers to entry they face.

“These regulations are extremely important for determining who will and will not get application, licensing, and renewal fee waivers, and the amount of help they will receive,” said Bradford. “It is vital that the Administration have an accurate understanding of people’s experiences in order to create a framework that respects them.”

Blunt says he welcomes the $30 million investment the state is making to help with licenses and other costs, but entrepreneurs like he need more.

“We need a two-year tax break. We have to pay some sales taxes but the extra cannabis taxes we pay, we need the break to recover. We can save some of that money and reinvest in our businesses and have some money for security,” says Blunt. “My business makes around $5 million a year, but the money I spend on security and taxes alone is easily in the $2-3 million range — and I’m not counting other expenses like payroll and other operational expenses. How will we ever make a profit?”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Activism

Meet the Woman Who Spearheaded Equity, Inclusion in the Business World

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses. “We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” said Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

Published

on

Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)
Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)

By Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, has been creating change for Black people and other minorities long before she started consulting.

In an interview last Wednesday at her office in downtown Oakland, Ramsey said she first worked on easing racial conflict by serving on the student relations council in high school. The goal was to integrate the lunchroom in a school that consisted of 80% white students and 20% Black students.

Ramsey went on to get a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and has been operating Mason Tillman Associates since starting it in 1978. Her firm’s name is a combination of Ramsey’s maiden name, Mason, and Tillman, a last name by which her husband was known.

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses.

“We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” Ramsey said, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

Mason Tillman Associates’ statistical research has revealed institutional practices systemically limiting minority businesses’ access to public contracts.

The company’s disparity study research and policy recommendations have helped identify and modify governments’ practices. Consequently, billions of dollars have been distributed more fairly in over 150 cities, counties, and states since 1978, she said. For example, New York State’s current minority business law is predicated on a Mason Tillman disparity study.

Oakland officials were at first reluctant to release a disparity study for their city, causing an outcry from the Black community. The study — kicked off by Ramsey’s firm — was eventually released in November 2020. Mason Tillman Associates plans to update it following a year of talks.

The company is also credited with preparing the nation’s first competitive disparity study, which was done for Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1990.

Disparity studies aren’t just the right thing to do, they’re the law. Following a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, disparity studies must be prepared to document the need for awarding contracts to minorities. Lawmakers can no longer give preference to minorities without evidence from a study.

Ramsey suspects 300 to 400 studies have been conducted since the SCOTUS decision.

She has also been at the forefront of breaking through ceilings for businesswomen.

“The notion of the glass ceiling was very real,” she said, adding that for Black women, the ceiling was made of “concrete.”

Starting Mason Tillman Associates gave her an occupation when doors were closed for Black women following her attempt to become a university professor, she said.

“You walked a fine line,” said Ramsey.

Women could not come off as too intelligent without offending men. She refined the art of levity to make people feel comfortable.

Before Mason Tillman Associates, Ramsey worked as a flight attendant for the now-defunct yet iconic Pan American Airways. She was the second Black female flight attendant to be hired by Pan Am, which was the only international carrier in the U.S. in the 1960s. Pan Am was known for its stewardesses — now called flight attendants, another positive change for women in the workforce.

Ramsey managed to earn her doctorate in 1977 while raising six children. Then she applied for jobs as a professor and neither UC Berkeley nor the University of Colorado Boulder would hire her. Society wasn’t ready for a Black female professor, she said.

Her experience has taken her on some interesting journeys. While living in Boulder, she secured a contract with the National Park Service to investigate whether Wilberforce, Ohio, was once part of the underground railroad. That, she said, was the start of her consulting business.

Since starting Mason Tillman Associates 44 years ago, Ramsey has trained many professionals in the company’s Oakland headquarters. The firm continues to help redefine managers’ views of Black businesses in agencies nationwide.

Continue Reading

Bay Area

IN MEMORIAM: Mary Agnes English Sparrow, 102

On Sept. 10, 2022, Mary departed this life surrounded by loved ones. She will always be remembered for her big, caring heart. Mary’s unconditional love will truly be missed by all. She was a giver, and Proverbs 18:16 tells us “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

Published

on

Mary Agnes English Sparrow.
Mary Agnes English Sparrow.

Mary Agnes English Sparrow was born in Beaumont, Texas, April 3, 1920. She graduated from Prairie View College, in Prairie View, Texas with a degree in Social Services 1941, but her passion was teaching. Mary followed that passion by teaching special education in Texas for 10 years.

Mary moved to Alameda, California in 1952 and was a very active member of the community. She continued her passion of teaching Special Education at Donald D. Lum Elementary School and Paden Elementary School, in Alameda for 22 years.

Mary raised her three children in Alameda. Her two sons, Frazier Sparrow II and Steven Sparrow, preceded her in death. Her daughter, Pamela Sparrow Lewis is an active community member.

Mary’s hobbies were gardening, reading, attending plays, musicals, making wonderful hamburgers and delicious lemon pies. Mary had a love for people and took in so many family members.

Sunday, April 5, 2020, about 200 of Mary’s near and dear family and friends had planned to celebrate her 100th birthday, at the Albert H. DeWitt Officers’ Club. The family had planned a day fit a queen! But the COVID virus shutdown interrupted those plans. Mary was so looking forward to that celebration.

On Sept. 10, 2022, Mary departed this life surrounded by loved ones. She will always be remembered for her big, caring heart. Mary’s unconditional love will truly be missed by all. She was a giver, and Proverbs 18:16 tells us “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

Homegoing services for Mary were held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, at Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home, Crematory & Columbarium, 4499 Piedmont Avenue Oakland, CA 94611.

A recording of the livestreamed service can be viewed from this link:

http://webcast.funeralvue.com/events/viewer/78590/hash:6B7BC20DBA2851F3

Continue Reading

#LetItBeKnown

Fighting an Unjust System, The Bail Project Helps People Get Out of Jail and Reunites Families

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Published

on

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.
Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily — many find it challenging to pay bail

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — advocates remain adamant that it’s more important than ever that the facts are straight, and everyone understands the bigger picture.

“The U.S. doesn’t have one ‘criminal justice system;’ instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems,” Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner found in a study released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the study authors said in a press release.

With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily, many find it challenging to pay bail.

Recognizing America’s ongoing mass incarceration problem and the difficulties families have in bailing out their loved ones, a new organization began in 2018 to offer some relief.

The Bail Project, a nationwide charitable fund for pretrial defendants, started with a vision of combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

“We have a mission of doing exactly what we hope our criminal system would do: protect the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that we know can criminalize poverty,” Johnson stated.

“Our mission is to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system,” she insisted.

Johnson said The Bronx Freedom Fund, at the time a new revolving bail fund that launched in New York, planted the seed for The Bail Project more than a decade ago.

“Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we can build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution,” Johnson stated.

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Johnson noted that officials created cash bail to incentivize people to return to court.

Instead, she said, judges routinely set cash bail well beyond most people’s ability to afford it, resulting in thousands of legally innocent people incarcerated while they await court dates.

According to The Bail Project, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by cash bail, and of all Black Americans in jail in the U.S., nearly half are from southern prisons.

“There is no way to do the work of advancing pretrial reform without addressing the harmful effects of cash bail in the South,” said Robin Steinberg, Founder, and CEO of The Bail Project.

“Cash bail fuels racial and economic disparities in our legal system, and we look forward to supporting the community in Greenville as we work to eliminate cash bail and put ourselves out of business.”

Since its launch, The Bail Project has stationed teams in more than 25 cities, posting bail for more than 18,000 people nationwide.

Johnson said the organization uses its national revolving bail fund, powered by individual donations, to pay bail.

The Bail Project has spent over $47 million on bail.

“When we post bail for a person, we post the full cash amount at court,” Johnson stated.

“Upon resolution of the case, the money returns to whoever posted. So, if I posted $5,000 to bail someone out, we then help the person get back to court and resolve the case,” she continued.

“The money then comes back to us, and we can use that money to help someone else. So, we recycle that.”

Johnson said eliminating cash bail and the need for bail funds remains the goal.

“It’s the just thing to do. It restores the presumption of innocence, and it restores families,” Johnson asserted.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending