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New Study: Racism Drives Black Homelessness

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Structural racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias drive an overrepresentation of Blacks experiencing homelessness.

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By Charlene Muhammad

Structural racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias drive an overrepresentation of Blacks experiencing homelessness, according to a new report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

“Report and Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness” was commissioned by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“We all know that the local data shows that in Los Angeles County, 1 out of every 10 residents are African American, and yet, 1 out of every 3 homeless persons are African American,” said Ridley-Thomas.

According to the report, it is an over-representation consistent demographically across the United States.

“The stark disparities that are the product of vicious and entrenched structural discrimination in all of its forms in our society: the justice system, our schools, our safety net, our workplaces and our halls of power,” he said.

He spoke to more than 100 L.A. County leaders homeless advocates, and activists who gathered for launch of the report at the California African American Museum on February 25.

Researchers found that discrimination in housing, employment, criminal justice, and child welfare policies have led to disproportionate numbers in Black homelessness. Lasting change requires a dismantling of institutions barriers across agencies and mainstream systems, they found.

The document cites 2017 Homeless Count estimates, which indicate that over 53 percent of Blacks experiencing homelessness were between the ages of 25 and 54. Individuals age 55 and older comprised 26 percent of the total population.

The report indicates, “The mounting affordable housing crisis across the state, especially in the Los Angeles region, paired with persistently low, stagnant, and declining wages, exacerbates homelessness and particularly for Black people.”

In addition, it went on, the plight of homelessness is made more complex and challenging by its link to incarceration. Embedding care and empathy in outreach and case management services, as well as policy and program design will effect change, according to researchers.

“While we make up only nine percent of the population, we make up nearly 40 percent of the homeless population, so giving some focus to what solutions could be to help people exit homelessness was paramount to this work,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, LAHSA Commissioner and chair of its 67-member Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness.

She, along with Kelli Bernard, Chair, LAHSA Commission, and Peter Lynn, LAHSA Executive Director, extended sincere thanks to partners and community members, particularly individuals with lived experience of homelessness, for contributing to the study.

Sixty-seven recommendations out of the nine-month study include improving data collection, analysis and collaborative research to better understand and track issues affecting Blacks experiencing homelessness; and, advance racial equitable policies, programs, and funding across institutions.

After invocation by civil rights leader Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Council Members Curren Priceand Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Reba Stevens, an Ad Hoc Committee member and advocate who has experienced homelessness, and Glenn Harris, president, Race Forward, which advocates for racial justice, also gave opening remarks.

Following the launch and a brief press availability, advocates and stakeholders held a symposium to highlight the data and next steps.

Price called the day exciting because of the call for action with documented proof of what’s needed to eradicate homelessness. He shared a personal testimony of how homelessness had touched his own family and many others in the same way.

Harris-Dawson, explained that the new study is follow up to a 2016 report on homelessness in South L.A., compiled by his office. He urged leaders and advocates to follow up to the data gathered in the new study with a scientific approach.

He used his time to sound a sobering note, saying it’s not the first time people have seen such a study or passed recommendations.

“We’ll go all the way, all the way, all the way back to the end of the Civil War. There as a recommendation about 40 acres and a mule, and we didn’t quite get that done,” said Harris-Dawson. He noted other landmark reports, bills and recommendations through the Civil Rights era to the early 90s that produced little change.

“…We should be here and rightfully celebrate this report and celebrate the work that is done and all that we’ve accomplished, but we must all hold our fee to the fire and this time, we get it done, and we get it done in the right way,” said Harris-Dawson.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel

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Activism

OP-ED: Interfaith Faith Council of Alameda County Laments Gun Violence in Oakland

With all the shocked and grieving members or our community, and with the devastated members of the Oakland Islamic Center, we call on those who committed these crimes to turn themselves in, we call on our leaders to redouble their efforts to bring violence to an end, we call on those who glorify the use of weapons to reconsider their stance and we call on those of us who can exert some influence on those most likely to shoot to plead with them to put down their guns.

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Rev. Jim Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, Head Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and ICAC Founding President.
Rev. Jim Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, Head Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and ICAC Founding President.

By Rev. Jim Hopkins, ICAC Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, ICAC Founding President

The headline in the September 20, 2022, East Bay Times read, “‘Everybody was devastated’: Four people killed, five others wounded in string of violence across Oakland.” The article began, “A torrent of violence during an 18-hour stretch Monday evening and Tuesday left four people dead and five other people wounded by gunfire across Oakland, including three men who had just finished praying at a local mosque and a teen girl who was left gravely injured.”

The Interfaith Council lifts its voice in lament over these deaths and this violence. We cry out “How long O Lord, how long, must our city live in the deadly grip of guns and gun violence? How long will the fear of our loved ones being hit by a bullet cause parents to worry, grandparents to be anxious and children to live in terror?’

With all the shocked and grieving members or our community, and with the devastated members of the Oakland Islamic Center, we call on those who committed these crimes to turn themselves in, we call on our leaders to redouble their efforts to bring violence to an end, we call on those who glorify the use of weapons to reconsider their stance and we call on those of us who can exert some influence on those most likely to shoot to plead with them to put down their guns.

We long for the day when the faith communities of Oakland are united in peace. Today, we acknowledge that we are united in grief even while we are united in our commitment to bring about a better day.  To this end we will pray, organize, and labor.

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#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.

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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.

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Bay Area

IN MEMORIAM: Honoring Henry Fuhrmann, Self-described “Hyphen Killer.”

Henry Fuhrmann was an Asian American son of a German Danish Navy corpsman and a Japanese mother, born on a U.S. hospital ship in Japan. He probably saw hyphens all his life and knew why they should be eliminated.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

Are you African American? Or African-American?

Filipino American? Or a Filipino-American?

Asian American? Or Asian-American?

What’s the difference?

That line between words. You either like it, or you despise it. Henry Fuhrmann despised it.

It might as well have been a royal scepter.

This week, when most of the world was still thinking about Queen Elizabeth II, I was thinking about Henry.

Perhaps you could tell, I wasn’t much for the media’s hagiography. Since her death, I took to criticizing the repressive colonial misdeeds of the British Empire to balance out the steady stream of adulation.

When you hear someone say ‘queen,’ remember Kenya. Or Kowloon. Or Burma.

I wouldn’t have bothered to watch the funeral. But then my friend Henry died last week from esophageal cancer. He was just 65. And that put me in a somber mood.

I mean, what did the queen ever do for us? Compared to her, Henry was a king. Or deserved to be.

Henry Fuhrmann liberated us from our hyphens. I will use none here.

Henry was an Asian American son of a German Danish Navy corpsman and a Japanese mother, born on a U.S. hospital ship in Japan. He probably saw hyphens all his life and knew why they should be eliminated.

But deleting the hyphen would take more than a keystroke.

Henry was a copy editor who retired in 2015 as an assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times. An Asian American Journalist Association buddy of mine, we’d see each other at professional events, and re-tweet each other from afar.

Henry’s passion was that demon hyphen. He wanted to expose it for what it was and get rid of its use. In that simple dash, the parallel line that posed as a connector, Henry saw a dividing line, an “othering” tool that did us more harm than good.

“Asian-American?”

Uh, no. Nope, Henry said.  Just write Asian American. Or Filipino American. Or Mexican American. Or African American.

The hyphen was a grammatical prosthetic that didn’t help matters. It made us less than.

Henry made his case professionally to journalism’s high court of wordsmithing, the keepers of the Associated Press Style book, known as AP Style.

In an essay Henry wrote in 2018 he cited the Oakland writer Maxine Hong Kingston, who expressed how she felt being called ‘Chinese-American’ in her 1982 piece “Cultural Mis-Readings by American Reviewers.”

“I have been thinking that we ought to leave out the hyphen in ‘Chinese-American,’ because the hyphen gives the word on either side equal weight, as if linking two nouns,” wrote Hong Kingston. “Without the hyphen, ‘Chinese’ is an adjective and ‘American’ a noun; a Chinese American is a type of American.”

Wouldn’t that be better?

From that, Henry attacked the hyphen and pushed for change.

A year later, AP eliminated the hyphen in Asian American, and mentioned Henry’s essay as a driving force.  In 2021, the New York Times changed its usage.

Since media organizations can adopt their own style books, you’ll still see the hyphen used. And you’ll still see ‘black’ uncapitalized. But you surely won’t see “oriental.” It’s used to describe rugs. Just not people.

Normally, editors act as conservative gatekeepers of so-called standards. They’re not my favorite people. Unless they’re like Henry. Freedom fighters for a changing language in a changing world.

It’s always a matter of clarity.

Were Japanese Americans placed in internment camps? Was what happened to them “internment” or were they more truthfully incarcerated?

More and more are saying the truth — incarceration. That was Henry’s influence on the AP Stylebook as well.

It shouldn’t be so hard to tell the truth in mainstream journalism. But look at how big-time journalists pull their punches in calling Trump a liar. Or a racist. Or a fascist. Did you see his rally in Ohio? The facts are there.

Or look how cautious people are about calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a racist for his inhumane and possibly illegal relocating of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

That’s why I mourn Henry’s passing. He was against editing the truth.

He’s the reason you are an African American. Not an African-American.

And I am a Filipino American.

We deleted that line, the dash, the minus sign, and became whole. At least in print.

If words matter, if the truth matters, then remember Henry Fuhrmann, the ‘word nerd’ who unchained all people of color from the hyphen and liberated us all.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

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Rev. Jim Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) Co-Founding Board Member and Rev. Ken Chambers, Head Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and ICAC Founding President.
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