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Reparations Task Force Agrees It Needs the Ideas, Input of Black Californians

Regions in the southern, northern, and central part of the state (where many Black farmers reside) should be involved in the process, said Grills. The “listening sessions would go beyond” formal task force meetings and would not infringe upon scheduled discussions, Grills added.

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Reparations Word Scramble Stock Via Google

On July 9, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans held its second meeting in a series of 10.

During the Zoom conference, the group’s nine members shared differing views on how to best get Black Californians involved in their deliberations.

But they all agreed on one key point: having voices and ideas of African Americans across the state influence their conversations would be the best approach to successfully accomplish their work.

“A lot of things that’s important is we as a task force not let ourselves operate in a vacuum,” said Dr. Cheryl Grills, a member of the task force and professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “Not to assume that the public comments that happen at the end of our meetings are adequate to represent the community voice.”

Grills delivered a presentation titled “A Community Engagement Strategy for Taskforce Consideration.” In it, she put forth a plan to get Black Californians involved.

Grills suggested the task force host “listening sessions” across the state since it only has limited time to assess California’s role in slavery and Jim Crow discrimination — and follow up that work with developing resolutions to compensate African Americans for past and ongoing race-based injustices.

Regions in the southern, northern, and central part of the state (where many Black farmers reside) should be involved in the process, said Grills. The “listening sessions would go beyond” formal task force meetings and would not infringe upon scheduled discussions, Grills added.

The intent, she said, would be to involve Black Californians from varying backgrounds.

“Black folks exist in an ecosystem and the system includes a diverse, cultural base of people, social class, education levels, etc.,” said Grills. “So how do we make sure that those people are impacted. They need to be at the table.”

Through news coverage, Grills also suggested the National Association of Black Journalists could play a role in keeping the ongoing discourse about reparations “in the forefront and minds” of the Black community.

Lisa Holder, Esq. a nationally recognized trial attorney and task force member, emphasized that the proposal she prepared was not “in conflict” with Grills’ outreach plan and that her proposal offered a framework within which the task force can draw up its strategy to move forward.

Holder told fellow task force members that she and Grills are on the same page.

“This plan, for a lack of a better word, is in alignment with the blueprint we just saw (presented by Grills),” Holder clarified. “Grills focuses a little bit more on the details of how we can implement the community engagement plan. This outline I put together is a little bit broader and more of a concept.”

The meeting’s other seven participants were task force chair Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; vice-chair Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s; Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena); Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles); San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe; Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis,  chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley; and Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq. is an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States. Tamaki overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II.

After hearing Grills’ presentation, Brown raised concerns about transparency.

He also said that other groups around the state should have an opportunity to present a plan for community engagement.

“What will we do around this state without our giving due diligence to announce to everybody, that you can present a plan, too?” Brown asked. “Whether it’s northern, central California, whatever. We talk about transparency, but if we are going to be about it, then we should be about it.”

The task force voted 8-0 to consider both Holder’s and Grills’ community engagement plans. Brown opposed the motion and abstained, withholding his vote.

Bradford said he favored a “blending” of the two proposals. Both Grills and Bradford suggested that the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute at California State University Dominguez Hills could assist in facilitating the statewide listening sessions, possibly through the California Department of Justice. Both academic research institutes are located in Southern California.

Steppe expressed confidence in her colleagues and the process.

“The (Black) community is going to play a huge role in getting whatever we present across the finish line,” she promised.

The task force also agreed to move public comments during the meeting from the end to the beginning of the sessions. Public comments will also expand from two minutes to three, Moore announced.

African American News & Issues

Gwen Berry: “Activist Athlete” Tokyo Olympics 2021

Berry was formally reprimanded and put on 12-month probation by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2019 for raising a fist after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

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Gwen Berry, Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Gwen Berry is headed to Tokyo representing the United States at the 2021 Olympics in the hammer throw, a track and field event.

Berry, a two-time Olympian, was also in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  She was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1989 and is 32 years old.

On June 26, 2021, while qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in Eugene Oregon, Berry was surprised to hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the U.S. National Anthem being played.

On the podium she turned away from the flag and draped her “Activist Athlete” tee-shirt over her head.

Berry said: “I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose. . .. I was pissed to be honest.”

Berry said she was told that the athletes would be on the podium before or after the playing of the national anthem.

“That’s what they’ve done the whole trials” Berry said.

Texas Republican politicians Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Dan Crenshaw called for Berry to be removed from the USA Olympic team as she was unpatriotic.

Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic decathlon winner in 1976 and candidate for California governor on the September 14th Newsom recall election in a statement said Berry’s actions were “disgusting” and to “stay out of politics” and not use the Olympic stage “for your own political gain.”

Berry responded: “I say Caitlyn Jenner does not know how it feels to be a Black person in American who’s representing a country [that] has literally done nothing for Black people in America.  She needs to do her research and understand the history in America before she says anything like that.

Berry was formally reprimanded and put on 12-month probation by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2019 for raising a fist after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

In June of 2020, the USOC supported peaceful protests and condemned “the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans.”

Berry tweeted “I want an apology letter. . . mailed . . . just like you and the IOC MAILED ME WHEN YOU PUT ME ON PROBATION. . . stop playing with me.”

Berry added to The Associated Press: “The anthem doesn’t speak for me.  It never has. . ..  I am here to represent those . . . who dies due to systemic racism.  That’s the important part.  That’s why I’m going.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “[p]art of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we are, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals.  And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”

The 2020 Summer Olympics delayed because of the pandemic will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.

The New York Times, CNN, and Wikipedia were sources for this story.

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African American News & Issues

Company Will Pay African Americans $125 to Participate in Research Project

Participants in the survey need a stable, high-speed internet connection since the interviews are all being conducted via Zoom. The researchers are also asking potential interviewees to make sure that they have access to a quiet room and a dedicated telephone, and that they should be willing to share their experiences and opinions for approximately one hour.

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Glasses, Notebook and Laptop courtesy of Dan Dimmock via Unsplash

Evitarus, a Black-owned, Los Angeles-based public opinion research firm, is surveying African Americans in California to gauge opinions on healthcare and racism. The goal of the project, the company says, is to gather data that can influence healthcare policy.

“We are conducting one of the largest scale studies of Black people in the U.S. regarding their perspectives on health and experiences with health care,” said Shakari Byerly, partner and principal researcher at Evitarus.

“This research will be focused on Black Californians with the goal of changing both practice and policy as it relates to health care delivery and the elimination of racism in the health care system in California,” Byerly added.

People Evitarus select for the one-hour interview will be paid $125 for their time. Researchers plan to interview 3,200 people.

During the second phase of the survey, researchers will conduct interviews with African Americans to discuss their personal experiences with the healthcare system, healthcare disparities and the impact of racism.

Participants in the survey need a stable, high-speed internet connection since the interviews are all being conducted via Zoom. The researchers are also asking potential interviewees to make sure that they have access to a quiet room and a dedicated telephone, and that they should be willing to share their experiences and opinions for approximately one hour.

Byerly, former director of the California Governance Project at the Center for Governmental Studies, is also a National Academy of Sciences Ford Foundation Fellow, a Rev. James Lawson Teaching Fellow at UCLA, and a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

She is also active in a number of African American-focused statewide and local civic and community-based organizations, including serving on the boards of Black Women Organized for Political Action, the African American Community Empowerment Council, and the Los Angeles African American Women’s Political Action Committee.

Byerly said, with the study, Evitarus intends to do a deep dive into the demographics of African Americans in California.

“We are especially interested in reaching Californians in harder to reach segments of our community, including those 70+ years of age, men of all ages, the LGBTQ+ community, lower income Black Californians, and those in key regions such as the Far North, Central Valley, Central Coast, and Orange County and San Diego counties,” she said.  “That said, all Black Californians are encouraged to participate.”

For more information about participating in this project, visit https://evitarus.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_enXQ1qkDsWWQfau.

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Activism

Legislative Black Caucus Celebrates Juneteenth

Much like the story of Juneteenth, the California Black miners’ experience is largely excluded from texts and research. But one of those stories of servitude was told by the event’s keynote speaker Jonathan Burgess from the California African American Gold Rush Historical Association.

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CA Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber and Senator Steven Bradford (D-LA), chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) continued last week’s celebration of Juneteenth, America’s newest federal holiday, with the group’s first in-person event since the state reopened on June 15 — and since the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order took effect in March 2020.

Billed as “CLBC Juneteenth Black Family History Event,” the commemoration focused on Black miners and the integral role they played during the California Gold Rush era of the 1850s. Family members of the miners, serving as historical experts, assisted CLBC members and research staff with information for the celebration.

The event was held at the Constitution Wall Courtyard in the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento where California’s first Black Secretary of State Shirley Weber made her first public appearance at the facility since she was sworn in to serve in that role.
Weber, whose parents were sharecroppers in Hope, Ark., shared that there is “another side of California” that should be historically told in full context.

“We think of California as a free state yet there are many examples that took place where people were brought to California as slaves and were made to stay in California as slaves,” Weber said. “And then, when there was opportunity for them to stay in California, they wanted to remain. But the government and others decided that they would pass the Fugitive Slave Act. So, if you came here (as an enslaved person) you were sent back to Mississippi or Alabama. So, it becomes important when we talk about reparations that we have a full picture of California and what took place here.”

Much like the story of Juneteenth, the California Black miners’ experience is largely excluded from texts and research. But one of those stories of servitude was told by the event’s keynote speaker Jonathan Burgess from the California African American Gold Rush Historical Association.

He talked about how his Black family’s land was taken from them. He also said that the “true history” of California has not been fully explained and, to him, it is a “miscarriage of justice to teach our kids incorrect history.”

“My goal is to educate and enlighten those who are not informed and believed that slavery did not exist in California,” said Burgess last week as he celebrated Juneteenth as a federal holiday for the first time in its 156-year history.

“I also want to share some of the tactics that were used to take land. This has been occurring since individuals came to what supposedly was a free state but hasn’t been completely free,” Burgess said.

Like Burgess, many Black leaders, celebrities, and activists here in California — and around the country — registered their approval of Juneteenth becoming America’s 12th nationally recognized holiday. But they cautioned Americans of all backgrounds to resist the impulse to reduce, arguably, the most significant historic moment in Black American history to an annual marketing event.
Last week, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law after most of the U.S. House and every member of the U.S. Senate who voted on the bill approved it.

Juneteenth, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger of the anti-slavery Union Army traveled to Galveston, Texas, to let enslaved Black people there know that two and-and-a-half years before President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the United States – on paper.

“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They embrace them,” the president said, celebrating the bill’s passage and marking the end of slavery and honoring African American history.

State Senator Brian Dahle said, “We should not be afraid of learning about our history. The more truth we bring to light, the better we are at making decisions as we take on the challenges of our time. Events like this are a positive way to move forward together”.

Genealogists and members of the Sacramento African American Genealogical Society welcomed Black legislators and staff and set up laptop computers to help guests find the path to their ancestors. Black history resources were provided by FamilySearch International, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Millions of formerly hidden records have been made available for free by the Church as a tool to help the world understand that all people are connected as brothers and sisters of God.

Mixed Reactions to Juneteenth Holiday

Other Black leaders took to social media, group chats and in-person discussions to both celebrate and “crack” on the Biden’s decision to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Some complained that while the symbolism of the holiday is important, substantial current issues such as voting rights, police violence, adding Black History to the educational curriculum, and reparations needed to be included in the legislation.

A number of postings centered their skepticism and criticism on the possible commercialization of the holiday.

“I better not see a single Juneteenth mattress sale, y’all hear me?! We didn’t stop picking cotton for it to be sold to us for a profit. Give us reparations, not capitalistic BS,” Comedian Jackée Harry posted on Twitter June 17.

Anthony Samad, the executive director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute at California State University Dominguez Hills took to Facebook.

“What do we need another GOTDAMNED holiday for, anyway? Another day to fuel capitalism by spending money Black people don’t have?” Samad fired off. “This is a distraction away from the racial hostility we’re experiencing today, and away from the reparations discussion,” said Samad, who is also an educator, columnist and author of several books.

Samad warned that the commercialization of Juneteenth could take a lot of distasteful turns.

“Juneteenth celebrated the day federal troops arrived in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, which only freed slaves in states in rebellion against the Union,” Samad stated. “Texas ignored that the Confederacy had lost the war and the emancipation until Union troops showed up to enforce it. It’s already being appropriated with a false and distorted narrative.

On Roland Martin’s digital daily show, guest Carl Mack, a former president of the Seattle Washington-King County Branch of the NAACP, said hundreds of thousands of African Americans remained enslaved after June 19, 1865. Mack said while he supports the efforts, knowing the true breadth and depth of the history of Juneteenth is something all Americans have to come to grips with, he said.
Regardless of difference of opinions, lawmakers in the state of California believe that a Juneteenth holiday will heighten knowledge that was obscured beyond the Black community.

“This is a timely and appropriate step in the right direction as conversations continue around slavery and reparations to descendants of these atrocities,” said State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chairperson of the CLBC “Today is an opportunity for fellowship, celebration, and recommitting ourselves to addressing the lasting impacts of slavery that continue to affect Black life’s conditions in America. If we fail to learn from this history, we are doomed to repeat it.”

State Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) also added that Juneteenth was celebrated last week on the Senate floor as “Freedom Day” and many of lawmakers, as well as many Black people, were also unaware of its existence.

“It is a shame that we are not talking about this in our schools, (kindergarten) through 12th grade, secondary schools and beyond,” Kamlager said. “It is really important that we know our history and for us to know who we are.”

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