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New California Law Considers “Full Context” of Domestic Abuse Survivors’ Lives

Economic justice is a near-immediate, tangible solution to improve life for criminalized survivors of domestic violence. Many survivors hail from predominantly Black and Brown communities, which experience glaring income gaps, and oftentimes they take on the burden of childbearing while juggling the responsibilities of working and taking care of the children, she added.

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It is important to get the message out about what real accountability looks like for people who have caused harm.
It is important to get the message out about what real accountability looks like for people who have caused harm.

Charlene Muhammad | Oakland Post

Advocates for victims of domestic violence, including organizations like the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland, are applauding a new California law that was introduced by Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles). The legislation passed both the Assembly and Senate last fall. It was signed into law by Gov. Newsom in October, and it took effect Jan. 1.

Assembly Bill (AB) 124, also known as the “Justice for Survivors” bill, provides support to survivors of violence, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking.

AB 124 makes provisions for California’s criminal justice system to consider the full context of a person’s circumstances and experiences throughout the court process.

“The idea is more trauma informed sentencing, but I think it starts even before survivors even enter the criminal justice system. I think it’s really important to focus on the responders to the crisis,” stated Nashi Gunasekara, Housing and Gender Justice advocate at the Family Violence Law Center, which advocates for justice and healthy relationships by helping diverse communities in Alameda County heal from domestic violence and sexual assault.

“How responders complete paperwork, their judgment and assessments can all very drastically change the trajectory of a survivor in the criminal justice system, to the point where they may not even enter it, she said. “That’s almost how decisive these those moments of crisis intervention can be.”

According to statistics released by the American Civil Liberties Union, nearly 60 % of female state prisoners nationwide and as many as 94 % of certain female prison populations experienced physical or sexual abuse before being incarcerated.

“Black women make up 25% of the incarcerated population in California, yet are only 5% of the adult population, demonstrating an overrepresentation of Black women in prison. Similar disparities exist for other individuals of color, including Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Indigenous communities,” states the “Justice for Survivors” fact sheet, dated May 26, 2021.

Advocates who supported AB 124 say the legislation is particularly useful for survivors who have been criminalized, because the idea is to take into account factors like a history of abuse or domestic violence, mental illness, and others that may lead to certain moments of crisis when charging or sentencing individuals.

“When you have the right people there, responding to these moments of crises where law enforcement may not be entirely equipped with the information and knowledge to assess those situations correctly, I think we’re not only helping survivors heal, but we’re helping communities as well,” Gunasekara explained.

Part of Family Violence Law Center’s work is helping people to recognize the ways in which survivors can get caught up in the criminal justice system. That includes curbing the continued stigma for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assaults by reversing cultural messages that place blame and responsibility for abuse on survivors themselves, said Marissa Seko, Family Violence Intervention Unit Manager at the organization.

It is important to get the message out about what real accountability looks like for people who have caused harm, she urged.

Power and control, in relationships and within the larger culture are fundamental, core structures that allow domestic violence to continue, according to Seko. One of her clients has been repeatedly victimized by her abuser calling police and filing false Child Protective Services reports as retaliation for trying to leave the relationship, Seko shared.

When a person who is causing the harm has more race or gender privilege than the person they are abusing, they can sometimes use the system against that survivor. That plays out in the ability to pay for lawyers, fight through family law boards, and believability when police are called, according to Seko.

Her agency commonly sees abusers using the system against survivors and weaponizing privileges they have against people with less knowledge or access, she said.

Economic justice is a near-immediate, tangible solution to improve life for criminalized survivors of domestic violence, according to Seko. Many survivors hail from predominantly Black and Brown communities, which experience glaring income gaps, and oftentimes they take on the burden of childbearing while juggling the responsibilities of working and taking care of the children, she added.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases, and is often cited by victims of abuse as the main reason that they stayed with or returned to an abusive partner.

“It’s hard to survive or make decisions when one feels economically insecure,” said Seko.

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Activism

Juneteenth Father’s Day for the Formerly Incarcerated

The giveaway was a testament of the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to the community in the best way they could. Participants received an array of gifts including clothing, work pants, jeans, socks, toiletries and gift cards. The event gave them a place to identify with other men who have overcome many hardships and now live independently of the direct supervision of the criminal justice system.

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From left to right: Dora Parlor, Richard Johnson and Ayanna Weathers. Photo by Jonathan ‘fitness’ Jones.
From left to right: Dora Parlor, Richard Johnson and Ayanna Weathers. Photo by Jonathan ‘fitness’ Jones.

By Richard Johnson

The founders of The Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back organization sponsored a Father’s Day celebration event that highlighted a “just serve spirit” which recognized dads who want to “give and serve” their families and communities, that reached over 150 men in deep East Oakland. Fathers from all walks of life, languages and nationalities were in attendance.

The giveaway was a testament of the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to the community in the best way they could. Participants received an array of gifts including clothing, work pants, jeans, socks, toiletries and gift cards. The event gave them a place to identify with other men who have overcome many hardships and now live independently of the direct supervision of the criminal justice system.

The celebration was co-sponsored by several organizations, including the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, (AASEG) headed by Ray Bobbitt, B.O.S.S. Reentry program, and the Reentry, The Post News Group and Violence Prevention programs directed by John Jones III.

The participating fathers were offered counseling and services to cover back rent, rental deposit, utility bills, credit repair and much more.

As fate would have it, one of the Founders of Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back, Mr. Paul Redd, was called home by the Lord. His passing came on Father’s Day. We could never question God’s work when He calls His flock home. Paul will be greatly missed by many who loved, appreciated and respected him greatly. We, the Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back, gave back in our experience our profound condolences to the family. We will certainly continue the work that he helped to establish. Rest in Peace my brother.

To utilize the services of BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency), please contact John Jones at 510-459-9014. For more information on this activity and future activities, please contact Richard Johnson at fatijohns28@gmail.com.

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Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties Partner to Create Cleaner Coast

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone.

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“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”
“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”

The Goal: Teach leave no trace practices to growing number of coastal visitors

Courtesy of Marin County

Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties are launching a coordinated campaign to provide visitor education and outreach to reduce the amount of litter and waste in coastal regions and watersheds through a three-County memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the non-profit organization Leave No Trace. The ongoing partnership includes coordination with federal and state agencies, tribal partners, local jurisdictions and land managers, Sonoma County Tourism, and other community-based groups across all three counties.

Beginning later this month, the bilingual campaign will include a broad scope of messaging that will be used by all three counties to educate and influence visitors prior to and during the summer season. Agencies and organizations partnering with the campaign will be able to share the Leave No Trace-based messaging resources in English and Spanish and take advantage of a new stewardship education series, both of which specifically address visitation impact issues taking place along the California coastline.

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone.

“COVID-19 pushed more residents outdoors and drew them to the coast as they looked for safe ways to recreate,” said Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who initiated the three-County collaboration in 2020. “This stressed our limited visitor-serving infrastructure, creating an overflow of trash and waste like I have never seen before.”

Sonoma County Tourism, the county’s destination stewardship organization, was instrumental in bringing the Leave No Trace organization into the partnership conversation with the three counties. Sonoma County Tourism has worked with Leave No Trace since April 2021 on the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Initiative.

Through its Seven Principles, Leave No Trace provides a framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. New education messaging focusing on trash and litter in coastal watersheds is highly relevant due to a surge in visitation to all three counties’ coastlines and adjacent communities. The new education messaging serves to complement existing Leave No Trace and other trash reduction efforts promoted by state, county and local parks officials in all three counties, as well as the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Initiative.

“We had a bit of a head start with the successful launch of our Leave No Trace campaign last year, and we are happy to leverage and coordinate our efforts with our neighbors from the north and south,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “Visitors don’t stop at county lines, nor does the flow of trash.”

Trash causes major impacts on our enjoyment of creeks, bays and the ocean, and creates significant impacts on aquatic life and habitat in those waters; trash eventually enters the global ocean ecosystem, where plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years – if not forever.

“We don’t have the resources to launch this effort on our own,” Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams noted, “But with the support from our southern neighbors and non-profit partnerships with groups like MendoParks, we are excited to launch this campaign.” Fellow Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde added, “The key to moving this effort forward was the unanimous decision for all three counties to use a shared MOU and contract with Leave No Trace. We look forward to working together for years to come.”

“Leave No Trace is thrilled to be working with Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties,” said Dana Watts, executive director of Leave No Trace. “With such diverse natural and cultural resources, we look forward to addressing the key issues in the area. Consistent messaging is crucial because there is no differentiation from visitors on what county they are in when they visit the coastline.”

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Juneteenth ’22: California Legislature Recognizes Reparations Task Force

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

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While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media

Several members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received a standing ovation from constituents of the State Legislature last week for their work over the last 12 months.

During the opening of legislative sessions at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 16, members of the Senate and Assembly participated in the gesture that coincided with the kickoff of the state’s official Juneteenth 2022 commemorations.

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

Bradford, who was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, made his remarks on the Senate floor after fellow task force panelist Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) delivered similar comments in the Assembly chambers.

Seven of the nine task force members and staff from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) were recognized at the event.

Task force members attending the ceremony were Chairperson Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; Vice Chairman Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Dr. Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States and the only non-Black member of the panel, was also in attendance.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon met briefly with the panel.

Task force members Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego Councilmember and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, could not make the trip due to prior commitments.

Several members of the CLBC attended the function, which coincided with the passage of resolution in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday in the Assembly.

Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Akila Weber (D-La Mesa), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and CLBC vice-chair Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) showed up to support the task force members’ efforts.

The Task Force first convened on June 1, 2021, to conduct an examination of the lasting consequences of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants.

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is currently Secretary of State of California, the nine-member panel is charged with making recommendations for how the state can compensate Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.

On June 1, the task force released its first interim report, a 483-page document compiled by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

“The information in the interim report reveals uncovered facts about incidents that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Californians in California for 170-plus years and the country for the last 400 years,” Grills said.

“Until we have a reckoning with the truth, we cannot understand who we are as a nation. When we then begin to have that kind of reckoning, I think the specific manifestation of the harm will be easier to deal with and we will actually have an opportunity for transformative change,” Grills continued.

Over the next 12 months, Moore told California Black Media (CBM) that the task force will focus on bringing increased awareness for the interim report, community engagement, and formulating a framework of how California should compensate around 2 to 2.6 million Black Californians.

“It’s important that the California Legislature understand how important this effort is,” Moore told CBM. “This past year we’ve been working incredibly hard. The next (12 months) I categorized it as the development stage where the nine-member task force has substantive and intentional conversations about what reparations should look like.”

Video link of Sen. Steven Bradford and Dr. Cheryl Grills at the state capitol in Sacramento:  .California Task Force For Reparations at State Capitol 6.16.2022

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