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Statewide “Listening Sessions” Allow Reparations Task Force to hear Black Californians Stories

The community listening sessions are being conducted across the state by the Reparations Task Force’s seven “anchor organizations.” The seven, Afrikan Black Coalition, Black Equity Collective, Black Equity Initiative, California Black Power Network, Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, Othering and Belonging Institute (University of California Berkeley) and Repaired Nations began conducting community gatherings in March.

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The interim report also includes a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms. A final report will be issued before July 1, 2023.
The interim report also includes a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms. A final report will be issued before July 1, 2023.

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

A series of community Listening Sessions are being held statewide to help the nine members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans better understand how laws and policies that contribute to perpetuating the effects of slavery have negatively impacted Black Californians.

The most recent three gatherings authorized by the Task Force took place last month.

An online community session was conducted featuring panelists Friday Jones, Los Angeles Reparations Commission Vice Chair; Jan Williams, Downtown Crenshaw Board member; and University of California at Berkeley professor Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis.

“What (Reparations) must do is bring about this sense of recognition,” said Lewis, who is a member of the California Reparations Task Force.

“One of the things that the [Task Force] has accomplished so far over the past year is to bring about a sense of recognition for the Black American community in California and the country overall,” Lewis told the online audience.

The virtual webinar and Community Listening session was hosted by the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), the American Redress Coalition of California (ARCC), and Community Health Councils (CHC).

CJEC is a state-wide coalition of organizations, associations, and community members that support reparations for Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved Black American men and women. CHC is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit committed to practices advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to achieve sustainable policy and systemic change.

A sanctioned in-person community listening session was held in the city of Vallejo. It was hosted by CJEC with the support of the state’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA).

The event was held at Black-owned LaDells Shoes in downtown Vallejo. Personal testimony of adversity and success rooted in the Black experience in and around Vallejo were shared during this session. Struggles with employment, decent housing, racism in public schools, homelessness, police brutality, and the challenges of maintaining a business were covered.

“In May we had our first community conversation about reparations [in Oakland, Calif.] and it was an overall history of reparations in the United States,” said Dr. Kerby Lynch, who recently received a doctorate in geography from the University of California Berkeley. “This session is about what reparations look like for Vallejo. We are here to listen to one another’s stories and record these testimonies.”

Vallejo is one of the cities in the state with a modest population of Black people who are fighting for recognition during the reparations proceeding. It does have an abundance of Black history to be shared.

Home of the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo is 32 miles north of San Francisco. The 2020 United States Census says the East Bay Area city had a population of 22,416 Black people (18.48%) out of a total of 121,275. Statewide Blacks are 5.4% of the population.

The third listening session hosted by CJEC was held in Sacramento. Task Force member and Bay Area attorney Don T. Tamaki participated virtually in the session that was held in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood.

At the Sacramento listening session, the community testified about how to build small businesses, Black people’s “Great Migration” from the deep south to the west coast, how the Freedman’s Bureau model can be used to determine reparations, and Black pioneer’s presence during the Gold Rush.

The community listening sessions are being conducted across the state by the Reparations Task Force’s seven “anchor organizations.”

The seven, Afrikan Black Coalition, Black Equity Collective, Black Equity Initiative, California Black Power Network, Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, Othering and Belonging Institute (University of California Berkeley) and Repaired Nations began conducting community gatherings in March.

The listening sessions are designed to ensure certain communities around the state have the opportunity to provide their thoughts and concerns about the work the task force is doing.

On June 1, 2022, the Task Force issued a 483-page interim report to the California legislature. The report surveys the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

“It’s a sweeping indictment,” Tamaki said of the report during the Sacramento community listening session. “It connects the harms of the past and follows the consequences that we face today. There have to be legislative remedies.”

The interim report also includes a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms. A final report will be issued before July 1, 2023.

The Task Force in-person meetings will reconvene in Los Angeles at the Paradise Baptist Church on Friday, Sept. 23, at 9:00 a.m. and Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. The church is located at 5100 S. Broadway.

For updates and additional information visit Reparations Task Force Meetings.

Activism

Grocery Inflation Causes Food Banks to be the Default for Families in Oakland

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

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Photo: iStock image.
Photo: iStock image.

By Magaly Muñoz

During the past three years, the US has seen the largest increase in food prices since the 1980s. In response to this crisis, community food banks have emerged to provide much-needed assistance to families in need.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that national food prices have increased 11% from 2021 to 2022, when the average yearly increase was previously 2%. The San Francisco Bay Area saw a 12% increase from 2021 to 2022.

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

While still maintaining that elevated prices will persist for the foreseeable future, Morris anticipates a decrease of 8% in food price increases.

He also stated that while the average person may spend 10% of their income on groceries, a low-income family may spend 30%, making the inflation in food prices that much harsher.

“Higher food prices can put people in a position where they have to make some tough choices between ‘can they go to the grocery store and buy food’ or ‘do they have to spend it on other necessities like home or health care or other things,’” Morris said.

Michael Altfest is the Director of Community Engagement and Marketing for Alameda County (AC) Food Bank, the primary food distributor in the county with over 400 community partners that receive frequent donations.

Altfest shared that from 2019 to 2023, the number of pounds of food distributed to their community partners has doubled. In 2019, the food bank distributed 32.5 million pounds of food, while in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, they distributed 58.1 million pounds. This year they are on pace to distribute almost 60 million pounds of food.

“If we’re on pace this year to provide more than we did in the pandemic, I think that says a lot about what the state of hunger is right now,” Altfest said.

During the height of the pandemic, state and federal government relief programs helped families offset significant expenses like groceries. These programs included the child tax credit increase that put anywhere from $2,000 up to $3,600 back into qualifying families pockets when filing their yearly taxes.

Another program that directly targeted food insecurity, was the increase in funds for SNAP or CalFresh. These government programs provide food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people to help them maintain adequate nutrition and health. But earlier this spring, funding was cut from the state program CalFresh and families saw at least a $95 decrease in their assistance.

“Every single person talks about the cost of living in Alameda County, every single person. The cost of rent, the cost of food, those are things that come up every single time without fail,” Altfest shared.

One of AC Food Bank’s community partners is Homies Empowerment, a non-profit in Oakland that was established as a means to support youth and the community through a positive lens.

Selena Duarte, the FREEdom Store Coordinator, said the organization’s initiative to help families with food provision began in May of 2020 when their original store was filled only with books and students told them that while it was nice to have things to read, “they can’t eat books,” showing the team at Homies Empowerment that there were bigger needs in the community that they had to address.

Since then, the organization has expanded its services. They now provide groceries every Tuesday, have established the FREEdom Farm where they grow produce that gets distributed in their make-shift store, offer hot breakfast to 40 students and their families five days a week, and much more.

Duarte said that they serve almost 400 families a week and they are continuing to expand their food services due to the increasing number of people coming to them seeking help to reduce their spending on groceries. She recognized that although people say that the “pandemic is over”, she knows that the stress that families are experiencing is still very real.

“The next phase is really becoming a sustainable community food hub, where literally we can grow, share, cook, and store our food here in the community and for the community,” Duarte said.

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

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“A Time to Reflect and Rejoice”: Black Caucus Members Commemorate Juneteenth on Assembly Floor

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.
ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor, and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

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Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) speaking on the California Assembly Floor.
Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) speaking on the California Assembly Floor.

By California Black Media

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.

ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor, and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

Speaking on the Assembly floor, Jones-Sawyer said the resolution is the CLBC’s annual commemoration of Juneteenth as “Freedom Day.”

“Two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the bell of freedom rang true for over 3 million Black Americans, marking the beginning of the fight to secure the freedom of those still enslaved and provide fair and equal treatment for the formerly enslaved,” Jones-Sawyer said.

“Juneteenth is a time to reflect and rejoice for all the work it took to reach this point, as well as a reminder that true equality is not accomplished overnight,” he added. “While there have been great strides to acknowledge and address the history and plight of Black Americans, society, as a whole, still has a long way to go. Juneteenth is an opportunity to educate all communities that we may not repeat injustices and abuses committed in the past.”

The resolution particularly highlights how Black Americans have helped enrich American civic life through their steadfast commitment to promoting unity and equality.

Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), also a member of the CLBC, spoke on behalf of the Women’s Caucus in support of Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 192, the California Legislature’s resolution acknowledging the federal holiday and celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery.

Weber highlighted that African Americans won their hard-won freedom after providing free labor illegally for two-and-a-half more years in Texas.

Weber shared the story of Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”  Lee is among numerous civil rights activists and leaders who campaigned for decades for June 19th to be recognized as a federal holiday.

Lee traveled around the country educating people about Juneteenth and led walks each year commemorating Juneteenth before it was federally recognized.

At 89, Lee led a symbolic walk, said Weber, from her hometown of Ft. Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., leaving in September of 2016 and arriving in January of 2017.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2024 for her activism.

“Lee represents the millions of women throughout the history of this country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our history is not erased, reframed nor ignored,” said Weber.

Other lawmakers who recognized Juneteenth on the Assembly floor included Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC; Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus; Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno); Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino), chair of the California Native American Legislative Caucus; and Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), also a member of CLBC.

“It is a call-to-action for all Californians to interrogate the systems that keeps others in bondage,” said Wilson.

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