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Redistricting Monitors Say Their Efforts Helped Protect the Black Vote

The maps of the state’s electoral districts — updated once every decade to reflect the latest (2020) census count of population shifts and other demographic changes — will be used until 2031 to determine political representation in all statewide elections.

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Members of the California Redistricting Commissioners on Dec. 27, 2021, the day their report was to be turned over to the California Secretary of State’s Office. Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Members of the California Redistricting Commissioners on Dec. 27, 2021, the day their report was to be turned over to the California Secretary of State’s Office. Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

An advocacy group that fights for fair political representation of African Americans in California says it is pleased with the results of the state’s recent redistricting process.

Last year, the California Black Census and Redistricting Hub coalition, a.k.a. the Black Hub, led a grassroots initiative to ensure the state’s electoral map drawing process did not water down the voting power of African Americans across the state.

Last week, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) delivered finalized maps for the state’s U.S. Congress, State Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization voting districts to the Secretary of State’s office.

The maps of the state’s electoral districts — updated once every decade to reflect the latest (2020) census count of population shifts and other demographic changes — will be used until 2031 to determine political representation in all statewide elections.

“All things considered, the (CCRC) had an arduous task. We commend their commitment to including Black voices in the redistricting process,” said James Woodson, policy director of the Black Hub.

Woodson said, in the Black Hub’s view, the CCRC did the best job possible within the rules of the “line-drawing process” to not disenfranchise “Black communities of interest.”

“Even in the areas where we didn’t get the perfect outcome, their attempts to consider the feedback of Black residents were fair. We are satisfied with the results,” Woodson continued.

Over the last three months, the CCRC drew four Board of Equalization districts, 52 Congressional districts, 40 Senatorial districts, and 80 Assembly districts.

During the process, the Black Hub coalition submitted draft maps to the commission based on community feedback they collected from hosting 51 listening sessions throughout California. The hub’s renderings, intended to guide the CRC’s decision-making process, reflected ideal boundaries for greater equity in redistricting while simultaneously identifying opportunities to protect and increase Black political representation.

The Black Hub is a coalition of over 30 Black-led and Black-serving grassroots organizations focused on racial justice throughout California. Two years ago, the alliance organized another initiative to maximize the participation of Black Californians in the 2020 Census count.

CRCC Chair Isra Ahmad, who is employed as a senior research evaluation specialist with Santa Clara County’s Division of Equity and Social Justice, said the commission welcomed the feedback of people across the state.

“We drew district maps in an open and transparent manner that did more than merely allow public input — we actively sought and encouraged broad public participation in the process through a massive education and outreach program, afforded to us by the delay in receiving the census data,” she explained.

The CRCC is composed of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four Californians unaffiliated with either political party. They represent a variety of personal and professional backgrounds and come from different parts of the state.

During the map-drawing process, the commission received letters and comments from a wide range of interested citizens, activists and advocacy organizations, all offering suggestions for how the CCRC should set geographic boundaries for districts. Often, those requests offered opposing ideas.

“This was a very complicated process to understand and there were so many people who organized calls, developed social media campaigns and distributed information,” said Kellie Todd Griffin, convening founder of the California Black Women’s Collective, which launched a public awareness campaign to increase Black Californians participation in the CCRC public hearings. “Their actions helped ensure that the voices of our community were heard and valued when understanding our interest and our assets. It’s important that we keep this engagement active and continue to elevate the voice of California’s Black population.”

Last November, the California/Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP informed the CCRC that it was “prepared to take legal action” if draft maps released to the public for comment last fall remained the way they were drafted.

Rick Callender, president of the California-Hawaii NAACP, said those iterations of the Assembly and Senate district maps for Los Angeles County and areas of the East Bay would have diluted Black political power. Los Angeles County and the East Bay are regions in the state where the highest numbers of Black Americans live.

During a news conference held before the commissioners delivered their final report to Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office, the CCRC said it stood by its work and and took pride in the fact that the maps were drawn by hand.

CCRC Commissioner Trena Turner (Democrat), a pastor and the executive director at Faith in the Valley, a multi-cultural, multi-faith community organizing network in the San Joaquin Central Valley, said the commission read as many public statements and news articles about redistricting as it could.

Turner said specific feedback like that heightened the commission’s awareness.

“What that did, by writing the articles that they did, they served notice. So, we were mindful that we were hearing their voices,” Turner told California Black Media (CBM).

Redistricting Commissioner Derric Taylor (Republican), a Black investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and active volunteer, mentor, coach in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley areas, told CBM that the only way to address Callendar’s and other interested parties’ concerns was by reading reports by the media.

If the concerns were not voiced in a public meeting, the commission had to adhere to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.

California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act requires all state boards and commissions to publicly notice their meetings, prepare agendas, and accept public testimony in public unless specifically authorized to meet in closed session.

“The commission is bound by Bagley Keene,” Taylor said, adding that CCRC members could only discuss or address public comments “in a meeting or open forum to adhere to transparency.”

Because the federal government released the U.S. Census data the commission relies on to draw maps late, the CCRC made a request to the California Supreme Court to move their Dec. 15 deadline for final maps back by nearly a month, to Jan. 14, 2022. The state Supreme Court compromised and set the deadline for Dec. 27, 2021.

“I want to thank the Redistricting Commissioners for their hard work under challenging circumstances. We will now send these maps to the Legislature and to all 58 counties for implementation,” Secretary of State Weber responded after her office received the final maps.

Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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