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Black History

Rep. Karen Bass Makes History as L.A.’s First Black Woman Mayor

“The challenges we face affect us all, and all of us must be a part of our solutions,” said Mayor-Elect Karen Bass in a prepared statement. “Los Angeles is the greatest city on Earth. I know, if we come together, hold each other accountable, and focus on the best of who we are and what we can achieve, we can create better neighborhoods today and a better future for our children.”

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Mayor-Elect Karen Bass addressing supporters on election night, Nov. 8, 2022. Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media
Mayor-Elect Karen Bass addressing supporters on election night, Nov. 8, 2022. Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media

By Maxim Elramsisy | California Black Media

“This is my home, and with my whole heart, I’m ready to serve, and my pledge to you is that we will hit the ground running on Day One,” Los Angeles Mayor-elect, Rep. Karen Bass announced Nov. 16 after the Associated Press (AP) declared her the projected winner in a tight race for the top job in California’s largest city.

Bass, who has represented the 37th Congressional District of California for 11 years, will be the first woman to lead Los Angeles when she is sworn in on Dec. 12, 2022. She will also be the second Black Angelino to hold the office in a city where 8.8% of residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census.

Before Bass was elected to Congress in 2010, she previously served as a member of the California State Assembly representing the 47th district from 2004 to 2010. From 2008 to 2010 she was the first Black woman to be State Assembly speaker.

In the U.S Congress, Bass represented West Los Angeles and from 2019 to 2021 served as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Her opponent, businessman Rick Caruso, conceded that Bass had won the election Wednesday evening, just over a week after the polls closed in the deadlocked race that election watchers said until this week had no apparent winner until now.

A former Republican turned Democrat, Caruso told his supporters in a letter “the campaign has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am so proud of my campaign. We held true to the core values of our family – integrity, honesty, and respect for all.”

A billionaire real estate developer, Caruso owns residential and retail properties around Southern California, including The Grove at Farmers Market in Los Angeles, Americana at Brand in Glendale and the Commons at Calabasas.

The vote was virtually tied on Election Day, but each subsequent update to the tally extended the lead for Bass. The counting will continue until every ballot is accounted for, but according to the AP, she has accrued an insurmountable lead.

Almost 75% of voters in L.A. County voted by mail in this election, contributing to some of the delay in announcing a winner.

According to California state law, each mail-in ballot must have its signature verified before it can be counted, and ballots are received for seven days after the election, so long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

A record amount of money was spent on the race, with Caruso’s campaign vastly outspending Bass. The Caruso campaign reported a total expenditure of $104,848,887.43.

Caruso himself contributed almost $98 million to his own campaign, which he spent primarily on advertising.

“Despite being outspent 12 to 1, Congresswoman Karen Bass proved L.A. voters can’t be bought,” said Kerman Maddox, the finance committee chair of Bass 4 Mayor.

Vastly outspent from the start of her candidacy, Bass also won the June 7 primary election.

Bass benefited from endorsements from Democrats at all levels of government, including former President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, California Senator Alex Padilla and the Los Angeles Democratic Party. One notable holdout was Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Kellie Todd Griffin, Convening Founder of the California Black Women’s Collective — a collective of hundreds of Black women from various professional backgrounds across the state — referenced Bass’ background as a strong and respected voice for Los Angeles’ African American community.

“This is a victory that we are all vested in because it represents the power of what we can do through community organizing and collaboration,” Griffin said. “Mayor-Elect Bass is the change we need right now to ensure today’s most pressing issues will be addressed in a way that doesn’t leave us behind. We are proud because this a victory for Black women and our community.”

Bass is well known across Los Angeles for building cross-cultural, multi-racial coalitions of people and being able to rally them around causes.

During the crack epidemic of the 1980s, she was a physician’s assistant and a clinical instructor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC Physician Assistant Program who became a leading voice for victims affected by the highly addictive substance derived from cocaine.

Bass promised that her administration will be inclusive and “will bring everyone to the table.”

“The challenges we face affect us all, and all of us must be a part of our solutions,” she said in a prepared statement. “Los Angeles is the greatest city on Earth. I know, if we come together, hold each other accountable, and focus on the best of who we are and what we can achieve, we can create better neighborhoods today and a better future for our children.”

Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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