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On King Holiday Commemoration: 600 Black Legislators Resolved To Push Policies For Economic Justice

THE SEATTLE MEDIUM — It was three years ago that a group of national business leaders launched a movement called Black Wealth 2020 partially based on the economic vision articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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By Hazel Trice Edney

(Trice Edney Wire) – It was three years ago that a group of national business leaders launched a movement called Black Wealth 2020 partially based on the economic vision articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King said in his final speech on April 3, 1968: “It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey, but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee.”

As America commemorates another Martin Luther King Jr. National Birthday Holiday Jan. 21, an organization of Black legislators have adopted a resolution to begin spreading the Black Wealth 2020 principles and initiatives with an aim to grow the economic justice movement that King started in Memphis just before he was assassinated April 4, 1968.

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), a 600-member group of local and state Black elected officials, has encouraged its members to form Black Wealth 2020 economic task forces and adopted a resolution to promote its economic agenda in 2019.

“State legislators can play a critical role in the sustainability of communities through policy,” said New York State Senator James Sanders Jr., who introduced and shepherded the resolution during the NBCSL’s 42nd Annual Legislative Conference that concluded Dec. 1. “This initiative aims to financially empower the Black community in the areas of home and business ownership as well as to broaden opportunities for Black financial institutions. Under those conditions, I believe we must do more than announce these goals aloud, but work to firmly cement them throughout America in the form of solid legislation, so they can truly flourish.”

This means the NBCSL, which represents 60 million people in 45 states, the U. S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, will spend the next two years – and beyond – prioritizing policies that enhance Black economic growth through business ownership, homeownership and Black banking.

Sanders is chairman of the New York State Senate Banking Committee. He also leads the Senate Democratic Conference’s Task Force on Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise.

Sanders continues, “As we approach Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let us remember that he was a pioneer in this area, planting roots with his ‘Poor Peoples Campaign,’ which propelled the economic justice movement begun in Memphis. I am proud to aid in the continuation of Dr. King’s vision. I look forward to working with my colleagues in government and also the private sector to further assist people of color.”

The resolution is posted in its entirety at NBCSL.org.

The passage of the resolution represents the next steps of a promise made by Rep. Greg Porter, NBCSL’s immediate past president, during his speech at the Black Wealth 2020 second anniversary luncheon last year. He called for unity behind the Black Wealth 2020 vision.

The backing of the legislators reinvigorates and expands the movement, says former National Bankers Association President Michael Grant, one of Black Wealth 2020’s founders and chief spokespersons.

“The National Black Caucus of State Legislators, through exemplary leadership of Representative Greg Porter and State Senator James Sanders, helped the Black Wealth 2020 coalition take a quantum leap forward with the passage of Resolution BED-19-21. The NBCSL connects Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of economic justice to a modern day movement that is making wealth-building throughout the Diaspora one of our highest single priorities.”

Other Black Wealth 2020 founders are Ron Busby, president/CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers Inc. and Jim Winston, president of the National Organization of Black Owned Broadcasters.

“Whereas, the economic goals of Black wealth 2020 have historic roots, referencing to when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had launched the ‘Poor People’s Campaign’, an economic justice movement that had begun in Memphis; the founders of Black Wealth 2020 view their work as a continuum of Dr. King’s vision, with a unique contemporary strategy for sustainability,” states the resolution.

“Therefore, be it resolved, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), encourages state policymakers and their membership to establish a Black Wealth 2020 economic task force designed to develop economic building blocks for the African-American population to addresses racial wealth gap.”

The NBCSL, aiming even higher with its goals to spread the initiatives, said it will send a copy of the resolution to the “President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and other federal and state government officials as appropriate.”

At least a dozen other major Black organizations have either joined or expressed support for the Black Wealth 2020 economic initiatives. The goals seek to untangle a web of economic injustices including the following statistics outlined in the resolution:

  • There are only 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, whereas the U.S. black population is estimated to be over 40 million, according to the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
  • 27.6 percent of black applicants for conventional mortgage loans were denied in 2013 while White applicants were denied only 10.4 percent of the time, according to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers.
  • The number of Black-owned banks operating ln the U.S. has been dropping steadily for the past 15 years and fell to 23 last year, the lowest level in recent history, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
  • The median wealth of White households is 20 times that of Black households.

Among the successful initiatives of Black Wealth 2020 in its third year are an agreement between the Bishops of the African American Episcopal Church and Black-owned banks and a credit card established by the Black-owned Liberty Black of New Orleans and the U. S. Black Chamber Inc. The NBCSL resolution points out that such initiatives will empower a nation where the pain of poverty and economic disparities are pervasive.

The resolution concludes: “Be it further resolved that the NBCSL urges state representatives to develop and implement state and community-based intervention programs aimed to address historical and systematic barriers to homeownership, small business and access to capital.”

This article originally appeared in The Seattle Medium

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Activism

OPINION: Are We About to See the Permanent Exclusion of Most Black People from Construction Jobs in Oakland?

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

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The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.
The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

By Kitty Epstein

For decades Black people in Oakland have obtained 9% or less of the work hours on publicly funded construction projects. So…for jobs that are paid for by all of our tax dollars, Black residents, who make up 23% of Oakland’s population, get only 9% of the relatively well-paid work doing construction.

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

Nationally, only 7.2% of the carpenters’ union members are Black; 8.3% of the electricians’ union members and so on. The City of Oakland has done two very thorough reports of these racial equity issues. You can find this important information at the end of this story.

But the leadership of the construction trades now insist that that they should obtain an even larger portion of the construction hours and that this practice should be set in stone by something called a Project Labor Agreement. It is now being inaccurately called a “Community Workforce Agreement,” which is nonsense because it doesn’t help the community.

Why would progressive Oakland consider giving exclusive benefits to organizations that practice well-documented racial discrimination? At least one part of the reason is that the construction unions spend enormous amounts of money on Oakland elections. They were instrumental in former City Councilmember Desley Brooks’ defeat in District 6, for example, because they did not consider her sufficiently compliant with their demands.

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

The community members proposed that the entire task force work collectively throughout the process of making proposals and negotiating solutions. The City rejected this proposal and began meeting with the building trades alone, saying that they would return with a proposed Project Labor Agreement, although there has been no demonstrated change in the racial exclusivity practiced by the construction trades.

This is outrageous on three levels:

  1. These are the tax dollars of Black residents, as well as others.
  2. The community’s interests in racial justice have not been resolved in any policy venue.
  3. The community belongs at the table throughout whatever process takes place.

The usual arguments for labor/employer negotiations do not apply. The construction unions are NOT city workers. If they were city employees, they would have both the rights (negotiations) and the responsibilities (non-discriminatory hiring) of the city. Since they are not held responsible to Include Black people in their organizations, they should not have the right to exclusive negotiations about anything

I am hopeful, of course, that the City will reject the continuation and expansion of racial discrimination policies practiced by the leadership of the trades unions and will insist on the drastic changes necessary for Black people to obtain 23% of the work hours they are due by virtue of their proportion of the population and tax dollars contributed.

These two documents below provide information that is both illuminating and horrifying.

Oakland Equity Indicators: https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Disparity Study – https://www.postnewsgroup.com/disparity-study-examines-patterns-of-discrimination-seeks-remedies-for-city-practices-of-selecting-contractors-in-construction-goods-and-services/

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California Black Media

Seven Initiatives Qualify for California November Ballot

Special interest groups have raised more than $370 million to convince voters to either pass or reject the initiatives. Over 88% of the money raised is for settling whether two sports betting proposals should be legalized.

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The office of California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Webber has qualified seven ballot initiatives for the November 8 statewide General Election.
The office of California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Webber has qualified seven ballot initiatives for the November 8 statewide General Election.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

The office of California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Webber has qualified seven ballot initiatives for the November 8 statewide General Election. Seven is the lowest number of measures to appear on a statewide general election ballot since 2014.

One initiative is Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 (SCA 10). It is asking voters to safeguard a person’s right to reproductive freedom. To qualify for the November ballot, SCA 10 received the required 2/3 supermajority vote in each chamber of the Legislature.

The other six measures initiated by citizen groups are asking voters to decide on sports betting, funding K-12 art and music education, kidney dialysis clinic requirements, income tax to fund zero-emission vehicle projects, and a flavored-tobacco products ban. To be on the ballot, the initiative proponents were required to gather a minimum of 623,212 signatures verified by county elections officials. June 30 was the deadline for the measures to qualify for the November ballot.

Two other measures could have qualified for the ballot but were withdrawn by their sponsors. An initiative to increase the cap on medical malpractice lawsuits was withdrawn when the sponsors reached agreement with the Legislature and Assembly Bill 35 by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes and State Senator Tom Umberg, was passed and signed by Gov. Newsom.

An initiative to reduce plastic waste reduction was withdrawn after it was clear that Senate Bill 54 by State Sen. Ben Allen would pass. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law in June.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 (ACA 3), the California Abolition Act, which would have removed a clause in California’s Constitution that allows the practice of involuntary servitude as a means of punishing crime is not on the ballot because, while it passed the Assembly with the required 2/3 vote, it failed to get enough votes in the Senate.

Special interest groups have raised more than $370 million to convince voters to either pass or reject the initiatives. Over 88% of the money raised is for settling whether two sports betting proposals should be legalized.

The following are details on the fall ballot measures.

Proposition 1California Constitutional amendment to prohibit the state from denying an individual’s reproductive freedom

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn federal protections for women seeking abortions, California lawmakers proposed a California Constitutional amendment to protect the reproductive freedom of women. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Gov. Newsom stated “Abortion is legal in California. It will remain that way. We will not cooperate with any states that attempt to prosecute women or doctors for receiving or providing reproductive care.”

Proposition 26Authorizes new types of gambling

This proposition would allow federally recognized Native American tribes to operate dice games, roulette and sports wagering on tribal lands. On-site wagering at privately operated horse-racing tracks in four specified counties for betters 21 years or older would become legal. Prop 26 also imposes a 10% tax on sports-wagering profits at horse-racing tracks and directs portion of revenues to enforcement and problem-gambling programs.

Proposition 27Allows online and mobile sports wagering

Currently, sports’ betting online is illegal in California. This proposition would allow Californians 21 and older to place bets online through federally recognized Indian tribes and eligible businesses like Draft Kings and FanDuel. Prop. 27 is estimated to increase state revenues by tens of millions of dollars yearly and potentially direct hundreds of millions of dollars in fee revenue to housing services for homeless Californians.

Proposition 28Provides additional funding for arts and music education in public schools

This proposition sponsored by former Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent Austin Butner would require the state to set aside $800 million to $1 billion annually beginning in 2023-24 for arts education in school. A greater proportion of the funds would be allocated to schools serving more economically disadvantaged students.

Proposition 29Requires on-site licensed medical professional at kidney dialysis clinics and other state requirements

This measure requires a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant with six months’ relevant experience to be on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics. It authorizes an exemption for staffing shortages if a qualified medical professional is available through telehealth. Prop 29 prohibits clinics from closing or substantially reducing services without state approval and prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on source of payment. This is the third attempt by SEIU United Health Workers West, a union representing over 100,000 health care workers and patients across the state, to pass the measure. Opponents of Prop 29 cite it would cost tens of millions of dollars annually for clinics to implement.

Proposition 30Provides funding for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Individuals with a personal income of over $2 million would receive a tax increase of 1.75% to raise between $3 billion to $4.5 billion a year to fund greenhouse gas initiatives. A majority of the funds would go toward incentives for Californians to buy zero-emission vehicles and build new electric charging or hydrogen fueling stations. Twenty-five percent of the funds would go toward wildfire fighting and prevention initiatives.

Proposition 31Referendum challenging a 2020 law prohibiting retail sale of certain flavored tobacco products

This proposition sponsored by the tobacco industry aims to overturn Senate Bill 793 signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products. A “yes” vote keeps the law and a “no” vote overturns the law.

California ballot measures require only a simple majority of the votes cast to be approved.

As new initiatives enter circulation, fail, become eligible for, or qualify for an election ballot, the Secretary of State’s office will issue status updates. The updates can be found athttps://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/initiative-and-referendum-status or here.

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Activism

California Commits $100 Million to Producing Its Own Insulin

Black Americans are slightly overrepresented in the statistics. They are 15.5% of those diagnosed with diabetes while being roughly 13% of the nation’s population, according to the United Health Foundation. Black people are also 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, are 2.3 times more likely to be hospitalized for amputations associated with the disease and are twice as likely as whites to die from it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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“There is a shortage of insulin just in general so having more providers obviously reduces cost,” said Dr. Karen Hansberger, the former chief medical officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP). “Producing it is one thing but producing it at a very high quality is the second piece of it.”
“There is a shortage of insulin just in general so having more providers obviously reduces cost,” said Dr. Karen Hansberger, the former chief medical officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP). “Producing it is one thing but producing it at a very high quality is the second piece of it.”

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

On July 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will be the first state to produce its own insulin in an effort to drive down costs for diabetics statewide.

“On my first day in office, I signed an executive order to put California on the path towards creating our own prescription drugs. And now it’s happening. California is going to make its own insulin,” Newsom stated.

Diabetes is recognized as the most expensive chronic condition in the U.S. According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 10 U.S. citizens live with diabetes, which is 8.8% of the planet’s known diabetes diagnoses, despite the U.S. only accounting for 4.25% of the world’s total population.

Black Americans are slightly overrepresented in the statistics. They are 15.5% of those diagnosed with diabetes while being roughly 13% of the nation’s population, according to the United Health Foundation. Black people are also 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, are 2.3 times more likely to be hospitalized for amputations associated with the disease and are twice as likely as whites to die from it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Karen Hansberger, the former chief medical officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), explained that one of the reasons for the higher death rate for Black people with diabetes is they sometimes receive the diagnosis later in the disease progression, so by the time they see a doctor, some organs might already be damaged.

“Oftentimes, people of color don’t go to the doctor until their symptoms are really bad,” said Hansberger. “It’s harder for them to take off work and they face more difficulties when they do take off work.”

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that 10.5% of California’s adult population has been diagnosed with diabetes with 16.9% of that number comprising Black adults. Black people represent about 6.5% of the state’s total population.

Californians with diabetes have been vocal about the high cost of insulin and state officials claim that monthly out-of-pocket costs for the life-saving drug can range from $300 to $500.

In 2018, insulin in the U.S. cost over 10 times more than in 32 other similarly developed countries, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Nothing epitomizes market failures more than the cost of insulin,” Newsom said. “California is now taking matters into our own hands. The budget I just signed sets aside $100 million, so we can contract and make our own insulin at a cheaper price close to at cost and to make it available to all.”

The budget is split in half with $50 million going toward developing insulin products and the other $50 million dedicated to creating an insulin manufacturing facility based in California, according to the governor.

Newsom claims that this initiative aims to cut the costs of insulin and insulin products by at least half. “It’s simple. People should not go into debt to get life-saving medication,” he said.

Dr. Hansberger agreed that this could bring costs down but has reservations about the state’s ability to produce insulin well.

“There is a shortage of insulin just in general so having more providers obviously reduces cost,” said Hansberger. “Producing it is one thing but producing it at a very high quality is the second piece of it.”

Hansberger believes that the government should invest more energy in diabetes prevention for people of color, as it can be difficult getting access to fresh food in some communities of color.

“When I was the chief medical officer in East Los Angeles, we had one area – a housing project – that had been cut off by all of these freeways,” said Hansberger. “And for them to get fresh food, they had to take a 2½ hour journey. It was ridiculous.”

Hansberger stressed the significance of success for California’s insulin production plan.

“If the state of California is going to get into that business, they have to do that business well because people’s lives depend on it.”

However, she believes, in her experience, that governments “don’t necessarily do business well.”

Two other states, Washington and Maine, have joined California in establishing state-based efforts to disrupt the U.S. pharmaceutical market and assure affordable and equitable access to essential medicines through public production. Each has passed legislation related to addressing insulin costs and access within their borders by having the state participate in manufacturing and distributing it.

On the national level, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced bipartisan legislation by way of the Improving Needed Safeguards for Users of Lifesaving Insulin Now (INSULIN) Act which would impose mandates on insulin providers and individual health insurance companies in the private sector to cap prices for products.

“The American Diabetes Association is proud to endorse the INSULIN Act introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Susan Collins, legislation that stands to have a historic impact on the diabetes community by dramatically reducing the cost of insulin,” said ADA Chief Advocacy Officer Lisa Murdock during a press conference last month. “More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 1-in-4 insulin-dependent people with diabetes report rationing their insulin for economic reasons. We urge Congress to address the prohibitive and rising cost of insulin by passing the INSULIN Act.”

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