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Notable deaths in 2020

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Kobe Bryant

Pre-pandemic, on January 1, Nick Gordon, 30 died from a suspected overdose. Gordon was involved with Bobbi Kristina Brown prior to her death five years ago.

Ben Watkins, 14 of Master Chef Jr. fame was the youngest notable Black person to die in 2020 and Earl Cameron, Britain’s first Black movie star, the oldest at 102.

Kobi Bryant, 41, his daughter and others died in a helicopter crash on January 26.  Other sports figures who passed in 2020 include Fred “Curly” Neal, 77; Cliff Robinson, 53; Wes Unseld, 74; Bob Gibson, 84, Lou Brock, 81; Gayle Sayers, 77; John Thompson, 78; and Rafer Johnson, 86.

In the world of music we lost Andre Harrel, 59; Little Richard, 87; Pamela Hutchinson, 61 of the Emotions; Erick Morillo, 49; Esther Scott, 66; Bill Withers, 81; Betty Wright, 66; Bonnie Pointer, 69; Ronald Bell, 68; Bruce Williamson, 49; Toots Hibbert, 77; Georgia Dobbins, 78, of the Marvalettes, coo-wrote “Please Mr. Postman”; John “Ectasy” Fletcher, 56; and Malik B, 47, The Roots.

Ty, 47; Ellis Marsalis, 85, and Charley Pride, 86, all passed from COVID-19.

Thespians who passed in 2020 include Nikita Pearl Waligwa,15; Chadwick Boseman, 43; Naya Rivera, 33; Paula Kelly, 77; Ja’Net DuBois, 74; Tommy “Tiny” Lister, 62; Natalie Desselle Reid, 53; Bert Belasco, 38; and Gregory Tyree Boyce, 30.

Others in the arts and entertainment industry include Stanley Crouch, 83; B. Smith, 70; Jas Waters, 39; Chi Chi DeVayne, 34, of Ru Paul’s Drag Race;  Ashley “Ms. Minnie” Ross, 34; and Jeremy Hutchins, 37.

In mathematics, Katherine Johnson, 101, no longer a “Hidden Figure”.

In civil rights and politics we lost Herman Cain 74; Rev. Joseph Lowery, 78; C.T. Vivian, 95; Charles Evers, 97; David Dinkins, 93; Bruce Boynton, 83; and John Lewis, 80.

Alfred Thomas Farrar, 99, a former Tuskegee Airman passed.

The most notable Black deaths of 2020 were of course, those of George Floyd, 46, and Breonna Taylor, 26, but two of the numerous murders by police.

The deaths and subsequent protests following solidified the #BLM movement, #Defundthe Police, and acknowledgment of systemic racism world- wide and the need for healing.

Newsone.com, Soul TV, The Wall Street Journal, and Wikipedia were sources for this report.

Activism

California Elected Officials, Civic Leaders React to George Floyd Verdict  

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

Photo by: Antonio Ray Harvey.
Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-LA), Tecoy Porter, President of National Action Network Sacramento, Western Region, Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), vice-chair of the CLBC, Senator Steven Bradford (D-LA ), chair CLBC, Assemblymember Chris Holden ( D-Pasadena) Assemblymember Kevin McCarty ( D-Sacramento) and Secretary of State Shirley Weber. Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.
The jury convicted Chauvin on two counts of murder, homicide and one of manslaughter for pinning his knee on the neck of Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020.
The California governor joined other Golden State officials to speak out about the verdict and the enduring problems of police violence against unarmed citizens, particularly African American suspects.
“No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today’s verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society,” the governor continued. “We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism and excessive use of force. It’s why I signed some of the nation’s most progressive police reform legislation into law. I will continue working with community leaders across the state to hear concerns and support peaceful expression.”
Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, took to Twitter to comment on the verdict.
“I’m overwhelmed to tears over this verdict: Guilty. #GeorgeFloyd did not have to die that day. His family is still healing from this trauma. We must continue to fight for justice in this country, for all of us,” he tweeted.
Earlier in the day, the California Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to address police brutality and lethal force by peace officers in California and across the country.
“There may be calls about a crisis. There may be calls about an emergency, but they are not calls intended to initiate death. They are not calls for lethal force. They are calls for issuing de-escalation and resolution.” said Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles).
Kamlager, along with her colleagues – including Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) appointed Chair of the Select Committee on Police Reform – spoke at the briefing. They called on their peers to pass the C.R.I.S.I.S. Act, or Assembly Bill (AB) 2054, legislation that proposes for communities to rely on social workers to intervene in some public safety incidents instead of police officers.
The bill was first introduced last year but died in committee.
California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber also attended the Black Caucus press conference.
“You know it’s really hard after 410 years in this country to continue to raise the same issues over and over again,” Dr. Weber said. “When I look and begin to analyze it I realize that all we’re asking is to have what everybody else has…to be treated fairly – to be treated as a human being, to be treated just.”
President of the NAACP California-Hawaii Conference Rick L. Callender said justice was served in the Chauvin case.
“It was very clear that our very right to breath was on trial,” Callender told California Black Media. “For too long, African Americans have been subjected to the knee of injustice choking us out – in so many different ways. This verdict demonstrates that a badge is never a shield for accountability.”
Speaking from San Diego, Shane Harris, founder and president of the People’s Association of Justice, a national civil rights alliance that started in California, said the Floyd verdict represents a starting point for re-imagining policing in America through federal legislation.
“The reality is that there is a Derek Chauvin in a police department near you, and the question is whether our local, state and federal governments will step up to protect the next George Floyd from being killed in our country,” he said. 

“Chauvin had multiple complaints against him during his career on the Minneapolis Police force, but the city and the department failed to act,” he said “We will not have an Attorney General like Keith Ellison in every state going forward to press for justice like he did, which is why I call on the U.S. Senate to urgently bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 to the Senate floor now, pass the legislation and send it to the President’s desk to sign immediately.”
After 12 hours of deliberations – as people across the country and around the globe waited in anticipation – the jury returned with the verdict that held Chauvin responsible for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The jury consisted of six Black or multiracial people along with six White individuals. Chauvin’s attorney requested bail, but the presiding judge denied it, and Chauvin was taken into custody.
Under Minnesota laws, Chauvin could receive a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
California Congresswoman and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) drew some criticism on social media for a statement she made regarding the verdict. Her critics chided the Speaker for thanking Floyd for his “sacrifice,” a man who they point out was unwittingly murdered by a police officer.
Standing with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in front of the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi said, “Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that, call out for you mom, ‘I can’t breathe.”
“But because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice,” the Speaker said.

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Activism

Bay Area Officials and Leaders React to the George Floyd Verdict

Almost 11 months ago, the world watched as Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck. He kept it there for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The systemic injustice from hundreds of years of racism and mistreatment of Black Americans was put into plain view on video, and the country and the world erupted in protest.

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Photo Credit: Christy Price

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann issued statements in reaction to Tuesday’s triple guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, ex-Minneapolis police officer for killing George Floyd in May, 2020.

Mayor London Breed’s statement:

“This verdict does not bring back the life of George Floyd. It can’t replace the years of his life that were robbed from him, nor the life experiences and memories that would have been made with his friends and family. What this verdict does reflect is that the tide is turning in this country, although still too slowly, toward accountability and justice.

Almost 11 months ago, the world watched as Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck. He kept it there for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The systemic injustice from hundreds of years of racism and mistreatment of Black Americans was put into plain view on video, and the country and the world erupted in protest.

While we’re now months removed from the height of those protests, the need for action is as critical as ever. This is about more than prosecuting the officer who killed George Floyd, though that is an important step. It’s about fundamentally restructuring how policing is done to move away from the use of excessive force. It’s about shifting responses to non-violent calls away from an automatic police response to something better equipped to handle the situation. It’s about reinvesting in communities in which years of systematic disinvestment has made it nearly impossible for people to thrive. It’s about changing who we are as a country.

That’s what we’re trying to do in San Francisco. Our Street Crisis Response Teams, consisting of paramedics and behavioral health specialists, are now often the first responders to non-violent 911 calls relating to mental health and substance use. 

Our Dream Keeper Initiative is redirecting $120 million to improve the lives of Black youth and their families through investments in everything from housing, to healthcare, to workforce training and guaranteed income. And our sustained, multi-year efforts to reform our police department has resulted in a 57% reduction in instances of use of force and a 45% decrease in officer-involved shootings since 2016.

While this tragedy can never be undone, what we can do is finally make real change in the name of George Floyd. Nothing we can do will bring him back, but we can do the work to prevent others from facing his fate in the future. That is the work we need to do. It’s ongoing, it’s challenging, but if we are committed, we can make a real and lasting difference in this country.”

OPD Statement 

We all must recognize that this moment is about accountability, justice, and reform. We must be compassionate, empathic, and forgiving, the Oakland Police Department declared in a statement released on Tuesday. 

All sides must unite as one community to effectively communicate. Together we will work towards rethinking policing in America. 

In unity, we will move towards finding solutions for the safety of all people, notwithstanding your age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. 

We stand as one community grieving and healing as we move towards finding real solutions to effect change as we seek to strengthen police and community relations. 

We extend our deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family and all communities. 

Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann:

“Today, we experienced a small measure of justice as Derek Chauvin was convicted and the killing of George Floyd was recognized as the criminal act it was. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that one conviction of one cop for a killing the whole world witnessed on video will change a fundamentally racist and dysfunctional system. The whole law enforcement system must be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up so that there are no more George Floyds, Daunte Wrights and Adam Toledos. But even that is just a start.

“Policing doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Systemic racism exists in policing because systemic racism exists in America. We must fundamentally uproot the disease of racism in our society and create a transformative path forward.” 

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Activism

Nation’s First Bill to Extend Victim Services to Survivors of Police Brutality

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

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The California Senate’s Committee on Public Safety this week unanimously passed SB 299. Authored by Senator Connie Leyva (SD-20), which would extend services to victims of police violence and expand eligibility for survivors of homicide victims.

“It is unacceptable that in order to receive assistance through the Victim Compensation program, police reports and the opinion of police would carry such heavy weight in the application for compensation when the injuries were sustained as a result of police actions,” Senator Leyva said.

 “SB 299 will improve access to vital resources for victims of police violence as they recover from the physical and emotional injuries caused due to the actions of police or—in the cases of individuals killed by police—be able to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect,” he said. 

“Just as the state’s Victims Compensation program can use evidence beyond police reports for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking, so too do victims of police violence deserve similar recognition of their circumstances so that they can get fair access to the help they need.”

Police reports and opinion can also prevent families of homicide victims from obtaining compensation, without any recourse or due process. Families in shock at a violent loss then struggle to bury their loved ones. SB 299 would, for the first time, expand eligibility to make sure survivors of homicide victims are not denied based on the contents of inaccurate, unfair or biased police reports.

“We cannot continue to let the police decide who is a ‘deserving’ victim,” says Youth ALIVE! Director of Programs, Kyndra Simmons. “This has prevented many survivors and victims, including victims of police violence, from accessing the resources and support meant to help them heal.”

“Qualifying for victim compensation was life-changing for me after my son Jordan was killed,” says Tonya Lancaster, trauma survivor and Youth ALIVE! client. “I want to see that support for everybody who needs it.”

Under existing law, victims of limited types of crimes are eligible to receive compensation from the California Victim Compensation Board’s Restitution Fund. That compensation can cover a range of needs spanning medical expenses, burial expenses, wage and income loss and much more. 

SB 299 would extend this eligibility to include incidents in which an individual sustains serious bodily injury or death as a result of a law enforcement officer’s use of force, regardless of whether the law enforcement officer is arrested for, charged with, or convicted of committing a crime. 

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

“We cannot tolerate treating victims of police violence with any less care and compassion than we extend to other crime victims,” said Controller Betty Yee, California’s chief fiscal officer. “We must work toward a just, fair, and peaceful society, and this expansion of victim compensation is one small step in that work.”

“”Advocacy for victims must include all victims and survivors, regardless of who caused the harm. That’s why my office started a first-in-the-state program in 2020 to ensure that our Victim Services Division compensates victims of police violence like any other victim,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  

“Unlike victims of other crimes, victims of police brutality are commonly denied access to victims compensation funds to cover burial costs, medical expenses, lost income, therapy and more,” said Prosecutors Alliance Executive Director Cristine Soto DeBerry. “No one should have to start a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of burying a loved one lost to violence.”

SB299 is co-sponsored by California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, and Youth ALIVE! It will be heard next by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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