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SFHRC and SFAACC Host Dr. Cornel West at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco

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Uncovering the truth and employing love as an anti­dote to today’s woes were among the points made by Dr. Cornel West in a wide-ranging talk on the present and future of racial equity at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco Tuesday night.

The San Francisco Hu­man Rights Commission (SFHRC) and the San Fran­cisco African American Chamber of Commerce (SFAACC) hosted the meet-and-greet for the prolific author, professor and com­mentator of the times where the Hon. Willie Brown was in attendance.

West said that in order to change the “viscous legacy of white supremacy,” one must be willing to take risks in a society of “survival of the slickest.” “Where are the voices willing to tell the truth about the gangster in the White House? We must be honest about gangsters and thugs in high places.”

For West, “Truth is allow­ing suffering to speak.” Due to the corporatization and commoditization of society, the truth is buried, accord­ing to West.

While congratulating lo­cal leaders in the fight for justice, West discussed the historic acts of courage in the human rights movement by people in San Francisco and across the nation.

“Mary Ellen Pleasant (an African American aboli­tionist and entrepreneur for more than 50 years whose wealth amounted to $647 million), the mother of hu­man rights in San Francisco gave $1 million dollars to radical abolitionist John Brown for the Underground Railroad in the 1840s,” he recounted.

West also mentioned pio­neering civil rights activist Ella Baker who, in New York City and the South served the NAACP, the Southern Christian Lead­ership Conference (SCLC) and the Students Non-Vio­lent Coordinating Commit­tee (SNCC).

“Love” is another anti­dote for these times. “Love is inside of you. That’s why our musicians are so para­digmatic, like John Col­trane’s ‘A Love Supreme.’ We need voices, institu­tions, churches, mosques, synagogues, civic institu­tions, trade unions, profes­sors and everyday people raising their voices in the name of love and justice that tell the truth about people in power and brings pressure to bear to change it.”

Throughout the talk West paid homage to the Honor­able Willie Brown seated in the audience, whom he referred to as an insider and to himself as an outsider equally moving change for­ward.

West praised the “Squad,” a brave group of congress­women of color who have been repeatedly attacked by Pres. Donald Trump. “It’s one thing to tell the truth on the outside, but when you tell the truth as an insider, it takes on a life of its own.”

West shared this pan­oramic view of politics, race, social justice and cur­rent events in a talk with SFHRC Executive Director Sheryl Davis. SFHRC was formed five decades ago to address racism, bigotry, intolerance and discrimina­tion in San Francisco.

The agency also explores the possibilities of out­comes in closing the wealth gap for Blacks in San Fran­cisco and the devastation of the outmigration of Black families from San Fran­cisco.

Opening the discussion, Davis referred to Dr. Mar­tin Luther King, Jr.’s book, “Strength to Love” and asked what does having the honesty to confront shat­tered dreams look like.

West is the author of mul­tiple books including “Race Matters,” “The Radical King” and “Black Prophetic Fire.”

Guests included busi­nesswoman Sandra Varner, Paul Henderson of the May­or’s Office of Public Safety, San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Wal­ton, and Archbishop Franzo King of the Church of St. John Coltrane, among oth­ers.

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City Government

Opinion: We Can Protect Public Employee Pensions and the Environment

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

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Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)
Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)

By Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, Special to California Black Media Partners  

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

I trust CalSTRS and CalPERS to make sound investment decisions that prioritize stable, dignified retirement benefits for California teachers and public employees. I also believe that the climate crisis is a real, existential threat to our state, nation and world. California can and must act to reverse this crisis and preserve our fragile environment for generations to come. That is why California has led our nation by phasing out the sale of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035 and becoming carbon net-zero by 2045.

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, I am committed to protecting the retirement funds of teachers and other public employees. My record is clear. I also represent a coastal district, home to some of California’s most famous beaches along with majority Black and Brown communities that are working to achieve the environmental justice that they and all communities deserve. My record is clear here too: I have, and will continue, to be a champion for protecting the environment.

Last year, SB 252, by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), came before my committee, which would require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from its fossil fuel investments by 2031. At the time, I expressed concern that teachers and other public employees were largely absent from the conversation – after all, it is their money – and asked that the Author and the bill’s supporters work with public sector labor unions to take a position on this legislation.

A year later, although a few public sector labor unions expressed their support for SB 252, many others did not. In fact, a number of police, fire, and other public employee unions oppose the bill. As a compromise, I offered the Author amendments that would align CalPERS and CalSTRS divestment from fossil fuels with California’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. It was a real path to divestment that still allowed CalPERS and CalSTRS to take early divestment action if they decided to do so. The Author declined to accept the amendments, which was followed by her decision to cancel the bill being heard in my committee. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity to protect public employee pensions and show global leadership by divesting from fossil fuel companies once and for all.

To be clear, if CalPERS and CalSTRS wanted to divest from fossil fuel companies they could – today. Together, CalPERS and CalSTRS have committed over $100 billion in investments to sustainable energy and using the power of their investment portfolios to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. More can and must be done to not just green our economy, but green our public pension systems.

I encourage the author and the supporters of SB 252 to reintroduce the measure next legislative session with my proposed amendments and work closely with our public sector labor partners to find greater consensus with the environmental community on this issue. We do not have to choose between protecting public employee pensions and protecting the environment – we can do both. But we cannot risk the solvency of current and future public employee retirement benefits without consensus from our public workers.

It is their money after all.

About the Author 

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor serves as Chair of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee and represents the cities and communities of El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lenox, Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Venice, West Athens, Westchester and Westmont in Los Angeles County.

Connect with Assemblymember McKinnor on social media: @AsmTinaMcKinnor

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Bay Area

Pan-Hellenic Council Awards Scholarships to Hundreds of High School Seniors

The San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council hosted its 49th Annual Scholarship Reception in Oakland on Saturday where more than two dozen local fraternities and sororities awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of deserving Bay Area students.

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More than 200 people attended the scholarship reception hosted by the San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council. Photo by Chika Emeka.
More than 200 people attended the scholarship reception hosted by the San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council. Photo by Chika Emeka.

By Tuseda A. Graggs

Special to The Post

The San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council hosted its 49th Annual Scholarship Reception in Oakland on Saturday where more than two dozen local fraternities and sororities awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of deserving Bay Area students.

The event, held at Merritt College in the Huey P. Newton-Bobby Seale Student Center, honored the accomplishments of high school seniors from schools throughout the Bay Area. More than 300 people attended the two-hour event.

Students received scholarships from Bay Area chapters of the Black Greek letter organizations – better known as the Divine 9 –which include: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.

Oakland City Councilwoman Treva Reid (District 7) encouraged students to persevere through the challenges that they will inevitably face in college. She discussed her challenges of becoming pregnant at Hampton University, birthing her daughter, and struggling financially yet sticking it out and graduating from college.

Shanga Goman, the City of Oakland’s former Youth Poet Laureate also blessed attendees with a motivational poem providing guidance to his younger self as a college student.

In addition to the tuition scholarships awarded, the Pan Hellenic Council drew numbers to give away six $500 book scholarships and two dozen gift cards for students.

For more information about the National Pan Hellenic Council – San Francisco Bay Area and about the Bay Area’s Black Greek Letter Organizations, please visit https://www.sfbaynphc.com/.

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California Black Media

California’s U.S. Senators Padilla and Butler Support Bill That Would Double Pell Grants

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

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California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler. File photos.
California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler. File photos.

By California Black Media

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the sponsor of the bill.

Butler, a former recipient of a Pell Grant, highlighted that the program helped her further her studies and afford a college education.

“As a proud recipient of the Pell Grant, I know the transformative power of the program in turning the dream of higher education into a reality for students in California and across the nation,” said Butler.

“We must expand the Pell Grant Program to put higher education in reach so that every student has the opportunity to succeed,” she said.

With this new initiative, the program will index maximum awards for inflation. If passed, the measure will make Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls. The act would also restore eligibility for the program up to 18 semesters for students.

Padilla, a first-generation college graduate, acknowledged that the Pell Grant supported his goal to attend college and overcome financial challenges.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, no matter the size of their parent’s paycheck,” said Padilla.

“As a proud, first-generation college graduate, I know the challenges students face in accessing an affordable education, especially as the cost of education continues to climb,” he said.

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