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Reparations Task Force to Recommend “Genealogy Branch” to Prove Eligibility

The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans is recommending that the State Legislature fund a governmental department dedicated to assisting reparations applicants prove their ancestry to enslaved people in the United States. The task force’s proposal to establish a “genealogy branch” within the proposed California American Freedmen Affairs Agency (CAFAA) will be included in the task force’s final report, which is scheduled to be submitted to the Legislature by the end of June 2023.

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Rev. Tony Pierce CEO of Oakland’s Black Wall Street Project addresses the California Reparations Task Force in Sacramento, Calif., on March 29, 2023. The task force will ask lawmakers to institute a genealogy branch to certify individuals' ancestral claims for reparations. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Rev. Tony Pierce CEO of Oakland’s Black Wall Street Project addresses the California Reparations Task Force in Sacramento, Calif., on March 29, 2023. The task force will ask lawmakers to institute a genealogy branch to certify individuals' ancestral claims for reparations. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey California Black Media

The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans is recommending that the State Legislature fund a governmental department dedicated to assisting reparations applicants prove their ancestry to enslaved people in the United States.

The task force’s proposal to establish a “genealogy branch” within the proposed California American Freedmen Affairs Agency (CAFAA) will be included in the task force’s final report, which is scheduled to be submitted to the Legislature by the end of June 2023. The branch would provide access to expert genealogical research to confirm reparations eligibility for an estimated 2.5 million Black Americans in California who are likely to seek restitution.

“The legislation that created the California Reparations Task Force requires the body to recommend reparations proposals that provide special consideration for descendants of slaves,” task force chairperson Kamilah V. Moore told California Black Media on April 10. “Thus, eligibility for Californians should they qualify for reparations through the proposed California American Freedmen Affairs Agency is of utmost importance. The agency will be positioned to provide perpetual special consideration to this unique and special group, through direct reparatory justice services and oversight of existing agencies.”

The task force will recommend that the CAFAA be headquartered in Sacramento and have satellite offices all around the state. California is in line to become the first state in the United States to provide Black Americans reparations, or restitution for slavery and other state-sanctioned discrimination or exclusion.

As the determining factor for compensation, the task force narrowly decided in March 2022 that lineage, not race, will determine who will be eligible for reparations to align with Proposition 209, state law prohibiting the consideration of race in public policy decisions or determinations.

During that March 2022 meeting, the task force listened to the perspectives of 11 genealogy experts who offered insights on qualification for reparations before voting 5-4 in favor of eligibility.

One of the experts, Dr. Evelyn McDowell, an Associate Professor and Accounting Department Chair at Rider

University in New Jersey, is a member and president of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP), a society that works to preserve the memory and history of slavery.

The 10-year-old organization, McDowell said, has successfully helped its members trace their lineage through a mix of research and analysis of the U.S Census, birth and death certificates, and state laws that tracked the enslaved.

“My purpose here is to tell the [task force] that it is absolutely possible to trace one’s lineage to individuals who were enslaved in the United States,” McDowell said. “For the vast majority of African Americans, it is relatively easy.”

Dr. Hollis Gentry, a genealogy specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture Library, shared personal experiences of tracing her ancestry to slavery. She used the Freedmen’s Bureau Records, national archives, and records from Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

Gentry suggested that an agency should be established to manage the eligibility process. It should be connected to state archives and offices of vital records to facilitate access to records that would assist reparations applicants.

Other genealogists who testified pointed to the lack of access to historical records and the difficulties created when enslaved families were separated after members were sold, traded, and auctioned.

Kellie Farrish, a genealogist with over 15 years of experience in Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis and lineage tracing using DNA, provided instructions for how one might want to do genealogy research to locate “enslaved ancestors using the completely free Familysearch.com website.”

Farrish, the lead genealogist for the non-profit Reparation Generation, noted three criteria for determining potential reparations applicants’ lineage: ancestors born in the Deep South states prior to 1865, ancestors living in the U.S. prior to the 1900s, and ancestors living in the Deep South states prior to the Great Migration of the 1940s.

“First, we must define what it means to be African American. For the sake of this discussion, African Americans are those involuntarily brough to the United States for the purpose of being enslaved,” Farrish told the task force. “Using genealogy to prove descendancy from this group would involve tracing one’s lineage back to either a person enslaved in this system or a time when there was little to no presence of legal voluntary immigration from African or Caribbean countries.”

In August 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 189, legislation that would facilitate processing lineage-based reparations claims using state data. SB 189 authorizes the State Controller’s Office and the Department of Human Resources to disaggregate Black employee demographic data in an effort to identify who has immigrant origins and who descends from enslaved people in the United States.

SB 189 was authored by the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC) and Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena). CJEC is a statewide coalition of organizations, associations and community members united for Reparations for Black U.S Slavery Descendants.

SB 189 “feels like a generational step forward for our people, for the state, and for the country,” Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC) lead organizer Chris Lodgson said after Newsom signed the bill. “We are a specific group of people, and we need and deserve to be recognized as such, for reparations and for everything else we are owed.

The task force will hold its next meeting May 6 in Oakland at Lisser Hall, which is located at 500 MacArthur Boulevard, Mills College at Northeastern University. It will begin at 9 a.m. PT.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Funded by Big Tech? Calif. Lawmakers Debate the Future of Journalism

Last month, Sen. Steven Glazer (D-Orinda) vowed to bring back a journalism support bill he authored that had hit a snag in the legislative process. A few weeks later, the lawmaker lived up to his promise. On June 27, the California Senate moved to advance Senate Bill (SB) 1327 with a 27-7 vote under the Urgency Clause – special language contained in legislation that privileges it to take immediate effect after the governor signs it.

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Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, a former journalist and member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, supports SB 1327.
Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, a former journalist and member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, supports SB 1327.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

Last month, Sen. Steven Glazer (D-Orinda) vowed to bring back a journalism support bill he authored that had hit a snag in the legislative process.

A few weeks later, the lawmaker lived up to his promise.

On June 27,  the California Senate moved to advance Senate Bill (SB) 1327 with a 27-7 vote under the Urgency Clausespecial language contained in legislation that privileges it to take immediate effect after the governor signs it.

SB 1327 would impose a charge – called a “data extraction mitigation fee” in the bill — on major digital technology platforms such as Meta, Amazon, and Google to fund local news. Glazer pulled the bill from the floor in May when he discovered he didn’t have the minimum two-thirds votes for passage. Now, that he has generated enough support to move the bill forward, Glazer called his push to pass it a “rescue effort.”

SB 1327 is now on its way to the Assembly for review.

“We are in a moment of peril in our democracy, and our hollowed-out newsrooms are in the center of that crisis,” Glazer said during the opening of his presentation during a hearing for the bill on the Senate floor.

Glazer continued, “Ours is 248 years young. Seventy-one percent of the world’s population is under autocracies. Now, in countries such as Hungary, Argentina, and Turkey, we see these democracies teetering. You simply have to see their actions to curtail and take control of independent news media that was keeping these democracies honest.

SB 1327 has been getting pushback from digital tech giants and some publishers that are worried about losing advertising, the supposed threat of government influence, discrimination against larger publishers, and nonprofit newsrooms getting a slice of the mitigation fee.

Sen. Roger Niello (R-Roseville) voted against the bill. During the debate on the floor, Niello said it gives him “great pause to entertain a proposal” where over half the journalism industries today are “owned by hedge funds and individual investors,” he said.

The lawmaker who owns several high-end car dealerships added that the bill could bring “unintended consequences such as capital venture groups reaping the profits, should SB 1327 become law.

To qualify for the tax credit, news media outlets must initially circulate or distribute news content within the state of California and operate internet platforms.

SB 1327 proposes a 7.25% on gross receipts derived from data extraction transactions, according to the bill’s language.

Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) spoke the ways public opinion, politics and civic life have been influenced by misinformation and disinformation since the decline of the journalism industry. A member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), Smallwood-Cuevas is a former journalist.

“These are efforts to make a difference,” Smallwood said of SB 1327. “I must applaud the author for his work particularly because the alternative must also include building a representative workforce within the newspaper industry, which this bill takes into account– ensuring that those who look like California tell the story of California.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

California Commission on Aging Celebrates 50 Years with Visionary Gala

Last week, the California Commission on Aging celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala that recognized a half-century of service and offered a glimpse into the organization’s vison for the future. The event was highlighted by a generous $50,000 donation from Sacramento-based AKT Investments, Inc., aimed at building California’s first multi-generational community center for health and independence. This initiative is set to become a new model for healthy aging in a digital world.

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Graphic Courtesy of California Commission on Aging
Graphic Courtesy of California Commission on Aging

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

Last week, the California Commission on Aging celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala that recognized a half-century of service and offered a glimpse into the organization’s vison for the future.

The event was highlighted by a generous $50,000 donation from Sacramento-based AKT Investments, Inc., aimed at building California’s first multi-generational community center for health and independence. This initiative is set to become a new model for healthy aging in a digital world.

The evening’s keynote address was delivered by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who emphasized the importance of valuing seniors.

“It is imperative as we talk about this journey that we’re on, that we value seniors in every step of life,” Weber stated. “There’s a richness in this room. There’s a richness in California. There’s a richness in this nation that if we just stop and look around, see how far we’ve come, see who’s made it happen for us, we’ll find the joy in living, the joy in getting older and the joy of what we have to give.”

Weber’s words reflected the Commission’s history of addressing the needs of California’s aging population.

“Those of us who are considered older adults have to remind ourselves and our children how old we really are,” Weber continued. “When you’re so busy and life is busy and you’re doing things that are important, age becomes insignificant.”

The gala also featured remarks from the Hon. Cheryl Brown, Chair of the Commission on Aging (CCA), who highlighted the critical role of the Commission over the past 50 years.

“As the chair of the aging and long-term care commission and a current caregiver, I appreciate the value of providing quality and consistent core programs and services throughout California,” Brown said. “So much has changed in our state over 50 years. During my time as a legislator, there were times when I felt alone in my desire to focus on the anticipated growth of our aging population.”

California is experiencing a significant demographic shift, with its aging population growing rapidly. According to recent statistics, the number of residents aged 65 and older is projected to nearly double by 2030. This growth underscores the urgent need for comprehensive community infrastructure that addresses the specific challenges faced by older adults, such as physical disabilities, healthcare needs, and fixed incomes.

California State University Sacramento (Sac State) President Luke Woods echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the role of education and community engagement.

“Older adults face specific challenges such as physical disabilities, healthcare needs, and fixed incomes, and we need to build the same community infrastructure that comprehensively addresses these challenges,” Woods said. “That is why this year, Sac State created the nation’s first Black Honors College to educate students about the experiences of members of the African American diaspora, supported by the AKT scholarship fund.”

Woods said at the heart of the celebration and forward-looking initiative is a spirit of partnership, and AKT’s support of the CCA exemplifies good corporate citizenship.

“AKT is really working to design and create a first-of-its-kind community for health and independence that can be a model for other communities around the country and around the world,” Woods noted. “This vision, in collaboration with the Commission on Aging, UC Davis, and other organizations, aims to foster healthy aging in a digital world and ultimately add life to years.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Asm. Corey Jackson Calls Asm. Bill Essayli a “Bully” After Assembly Floor Spat

Last week, Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside) called Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R-Corona) a “bully” after a verbal spat between the lawmakers in the State Capitol’s Assembly chambers. The incident occurred on June 27 during a hearing for Assembly Bill (AB) 1955 – also called the “Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act.” That bill calls for prohibiting school districts and employees from disclosing information about a student’s gender identity or sexual orientation without the student’s consent.

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Asm. Corey Jackson 9D-Moreno Valley), right, has a brief conversation with Asm. Issac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights), left, on the Assembly floor at the State Capitol on June 27 after Jackson has a near confrontation with Asm. Bill Essayli (R-Corona). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Asm. Corey Jackson 9D-Moreno Valley), right, has a brief conversation with Asm. Issac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights), left, on the Assembly floor at the State Capitol on June 27 after Jackson has a near confrontation with Asm. Bill Essayli (R-Corona). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

Asm. Corey Jackson 9D-Moreno Valley), right, has a brief conversation with Asm. Issac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights), left, on the Assembly floor at the State Capitol on June 27 after Jackson has a near confrontation with Asm. Bill Essayli (R-Corona). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

Last week, Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside) called Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R-Corona) a “bully” after a verbal spat between the lawmakers in the State Capitol’s Assembly chambers.

The incident occurred on June 27 during a hearing for Assembly Bill (AB) 1955 – also called the “Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act.” That bill calls for prohibiting school districts and employees from disclosing information about a student’s gender identity or sexual orientation without the student’s consent.

Jackson had to be restrained from approaching Essayli on the Assembly floor after the Republican who represents the 63rd District made provocative comments. Both lawmakers are from Riverside County.

Jackson told Essayli who was a few rows in front of him, “You better watch yourself,” as he was being held back by fellow members of the Assembly, including Isaac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights) and Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood).

Bryan, McKinnor, and Jackson are members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC).

“I am going to leave it as it is and move on. He is who he is,” Jackson told California Black Media (CBM) after the incident,” “Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again but sometimes (Essayli) becomes a bully, and sometimes bullies don’t back down until you force them to.”

Authored by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego), AB 1955 passed off the Assembly floor with a 61-16 vote. The bill – supported by the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus — now advances to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his approval or veto.

Before the vote, the fracas started after Essayli and Chair Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) were having a contentious back-and-forth about the former prosecutor’s conduct during the debate. Essayli opposed the bill.

Wood told Essayli that he was out of order for bringing up his legislation AB 1413, which he introduced last year. The bill that died in January would’ve required schools to notify parents if their child identified as transgender.

“By the way, I am tired of being interrupted by you,” Essayli said, pointing his finger at Wood. “You do not interrupt them (Democrats).”

Moments later, Jackson reacted to a comment directed at him by Essayli. It is still unclear what was said, and neither party would comment on it. Essayli emailed a statement to CBM concerning the matter, sharing his perspective of Jackson’s action.

“In a free society we don’t silence minority viewpoints, and we certainly don’t resort to threats of violence,” Essayli told CBM. “Mr. Jackson’s conduct was beneath the office he holds and a disservice to the People we represent.”

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