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Saluting California’s Native American Heritage: New Laws, “S-Word” Ban Lift Up Celebrations

Leaders of Native American tribes from across California, joined Governor Gavin Newsom when he signed AB 2022 and four other bills in an effort to build on his Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion, and accountability throughout the state. 

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Assemblymember James Ramos host of the Third Annual California Indian Cultural Awareness Event at the State Capitol Aug. 15, 2022.
Assemblymember James Ramos host of the Third Annual California Indian Cultural Awareness Event at the State Capitol Aug. 15, 2022.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland), the only Native American elected official in the California Legislature, has been working diligently to get rid of the racist and derogatory word, “squaw,” which has derisively referenced Native American women since the 1600s.

The “S-Word,” which has been used to name public places like Squaw Valley, the popular Lake Tahoe ski resort, is a slur, Ramos says. It is hurtful and offensive to Native Americans, he says, particularly Indigenous women.

On September 23, California Native American Day — which is now a paid holiday in the state — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities, including Assembly Bill (AB) 2022, which will remove the “racist and sexist slur S-Word,” from all geographic features and place names in California, the governor’s office stated.  The ski resort has since been renamed. It is called Palisades Tahoe.

The negative connotation in reference to Native Americans is as disturbing as directing the N-word at the Black community but it’s been used more commonly in naming public and commercial spaces.

“It is an idiom that came into use during the westward expansion of America, and it is not a tribal word,” Ramos said in a statement.  “For decades, Native Americans have argued against the designation’s use because behind that expression is the disparagement of Native women that contributes to the crisis of missing and murdered people in our community.”

According to the U.S. Census, California is home to more Native Americans with a population of 757,628 (1.94% of the state’s total population) than any other state. Oklahoma is the second highest with a Native population of 523,360.

AB 2022 was introduced by Ramos and Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

The bill was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union CA (ACLU), Restorative Justice for Indigenous Peoples and Renaming S-Valley Coalition, and Alliance for Boys and Men of Color (ABMoC).

ABMoC is a national network of more than 200 advocacy and community organizations that banded together to advance race and gender justice by working to transform policies that are failing boys and men of color and their families.

AB 2022 requires every state agency, local governing body, or political subdivisions in this state to identify all geographic sites, public lands, waters, and structures under its jurisdiction containing the S-word.

Leaders of Native American tribes from across California, joined Newsom when he signed AB 2022 and four other bills in an effort to build on his Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion, and accountability throughout the state.

“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” Newsom stated after signing AB 2022. “I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”

Born on the San Manuel Indian Reservation, where he still resides, Ramos is a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla Tribe. He represents the 40th Assembly District which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.

Ramos chairs the California Native American Legislative Caucus and Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Two years ago, Newsom signed AB 3121, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. The bill was authored by Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she was a member of the Assembly.

Similar to the harm many Black Californians have suffered, Ramos spoke of the “atrocities and genocide” Native Americans in the state have endured at the 2022 Third Annual California, Indian Cultural Awareness Event held on the grounds of the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Ramos and other speakers acknowledged that the property the State Capitol sits on is the Miwok tribe’s land.

“We’re trying to educate the Legislature of the true history and culture of California Indian people,” Ramos told California Black Media. “It’s that important for us to talk about our culture to explain who we are. If we don’t come out to speak to these issues, those in the state of California will make assumptions about our way of life.”

Ramos added that more than 100 places in California contain the S-word. The United States Department of the Interior earlier this month renamed about 650 sites that have been using the slur on federal lands. The states of Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota have already banned the word’s use.

“The sad reality is that this term has been used for generations and normalized, even though it is a misogynistic and racist term rooted in the oppression and belittling of Indigenous women,” Garcia stated. “AB 2022 begins to correct an ugly and painful part of our history by removing it from California’s landmarks; it’s the least we can do to help our indigenous women heal.”

The Governor also signed four more tribal measures presented by Ramos, including AB 923. The bill requires state agency leaders to undertake training in properly communicating and interacting with tribes on government-to-government issues that affect them.

The second measure, AB 1314 creates a statewide emergency “Feather Alert” – similar to those used in abducted children’s cases – to enlist public assistance to quickly find Native Americans missing under suspicious circumstances. Native Americans face disproportionate numbers of missing and murdered people in their communities.

“California is ranked No. 7 in the country in terms of unsolved murders and missing people,” Ramos said.

AB 1703, the California Indian Education Act, encourages school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education to engage with the tribes in their area to provide the accurate and complete instruction about the tribes’ culture and history and share instructional materials with the California Department of Education.

AB 1936 authorizes the University of California Hastings Law College to remove the name of its founder, Serranus C. Hastings, from the school’s name. The bill specifies restorative justice measures for the Yuki and Round Valley Native Americans in Northern California whose ancestors suffered mass homicides orchestrated by the college’s founder in the 1850s.

In 2021, Newsom signed six wide-ranging tribal bills introduced by Ramos. Among other provisions, they aid tribal foster youth, create a new monument to Sacramento-area tribes on state Capitol grounds, and bolster students’ right to wear tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies.

In addition, the new laws allow a paid holiday for state court personnel on California Native American Day and streamline access to emergency response vehicles on tribal lands.

Raven Cass, a youth advocate for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, said Ramos and the legislators who worked with him to pass the bills, “made great strides” in the past year “to protect sovereignty and safety in Indian country.”

They were encouraged by the Native Americans’ concerns and strongly took them into consideration, she said.

“This is the power of community, the power of unity, and the power of voice when it is determined to make a change,” Cass said at the California Indian Cultural Awareness event in August. “The more we work together the more we can get done. I hope (the legislators) continue to stand with us. Our lives matter and the world should know that.”

California Black Media was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.

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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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