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Supporters, Opponents Clash Over Bill That Would Decriminalize Loitering for Prostitution

Vanessa Russell, founder of the Bay Area’s Love Never Fails, a non-profit dedicated to the restoration, education, and protection of those involved or at risk of becoming involved in domestic human trafficking, said SB 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, is “deeply disturbing.”

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Stephany Powell, an advocate for sex crime victims and survivors, hopes Gov. Gavin Newsom will veto Senate Bill (SB) 357.

The legislation proposes ending punishment for people “loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution.”

Powell, who is director of Law Enforcement Training and Survivor Services for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), and other advocates say, if the bill is signed into law, it would provide increased “open-air” activities in disadvantaged communities.

“I’m just thinking about the people living in the communities that would have to deal with (prostitution),” said Powell, a former city of Los Angeles law enforcement officer. “They (the lawmakers) need to come up with something else because it’s a Band-Aid approach to the issue.  People who don’t have a full understanding of how this can be problematic. I hope it’s vetoed.”

NCOSE, based in Wash., D.C., is dedicated to creating an environment free from sexual abuse and exploitation, through policy, legal, corporate advocacy, education, and public mobilization. Powell joined the organization in 2020.

The author of SB 357, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) presents a counterargument. Wiener says the bill protects sex-trafficked women from the police who use loitering laws to discriminate against minorities, including Black, Latino, trans, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

Existing law prohibits soliciting or engaging in an act of prostitution. It also prohibits loitering in a public place “with the intent to commit prostitution, as defined, or directing, supervising, recruiting, or aiding a person who is loitering with the intent to commit prostitution.”

Under the existing law, a violation of any of these provisions is a misdemeanor. SB 357 would decriminalize them.

California Penal Code 653.22 allows police to arrest someone for intending to solicit or engage in prostitution even if the person never actually engages in the act. The offense is commonly referred to as “loitering to commit prostitution” or “loitering for prostitution.”

Powell said this law is effective. Police officers do not actually have to catch someone engaged in prostitution before apprehending them she says, adding that the police “can arrest the sex buyer and the person selling the service.”

Although Powell says it is easy for innocent people to find themselves under suspicion because of the latitude police officers have under current law, she insists, based on knowledge from prosecutors and D.A. offices’ investigations of sex trafficking and underage prostitution, it would not be a significant problem.

“Say if I am the vice cop out there. I see a girl but don’t know if she’s 16 or 19. But remember: if she is under the age of 18, she is automatically considered to be a victim of human trafficking,” Powell said. “The only reason why I would be able to stop her is because of P.C. 653.22. So, let’s say SB 357 becomes legal. Well then, what am I stopping her for? Because, God help me, if she’s 21. I’m going to have some legal problems.”

The governor is getting increased pressure from individuals for and against SB 357, including sex worker advocates across California.

Sex-trafficking survivors and anti-trafficking advocates held a news conference at the California State Capitol to protest SB 357.

Vanessa Russell, founder of the Bay Area’s Love Never Fails, a non-profit dedicated to the restoration, education, and protection of those involved or at risk of becoming involved in domestic human trafficking, said SB 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, is “deeply disturbing.”

“As a direct service provider, I think it’s important to call out a few things, unfortunately. The false narrative that is present and embodied in SB 357,” said Russell. “This is a bill that is preying on the current anti-sentiment of communities of color. This is not a partisan issue. This is a humanitarian issue. It is an issue that all of us need to engage on to show (sex trafficking) survivors they can be safe.”

Four survivors of sex trafficking spoke outside the state capitol to express their displeasure with the bill. They said police officers use loitering laws to nab solicitors and traffickers — as well as to save trafficked women and men from their brutal traffickers.

The survivors believe that without a loitering law, exploitation of these vulnerable women is only going to increase.

“This piece of legislation only protects the buyer and the trafficker,” said survivor Marjorie Saylor, who also runs a nonprofit for former sex-trafficked women exiting prostitution. “And these are traffickers that send his girls into your high schools to recruit your sons and daughters.”

Saylor, a Black woman, said that it was a police officer that helped her escape a sex trafficker.

“I was rescued by law enforcement, and I feel that it is necessary that we work and partner with law enforcement to engage these men, women, boys, and girls on the streets. They need a reason to go in and say someone is being exploited.”

The bill authorizes a person convicted of a violation of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution to petition the court for the dismissal and sealing of their case, and resentencing.

The U.S. Department of State has estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the country each year. The figure does not include victims who are trafficked within the United States each year.

New York City is currently dealing with an open-air sex market that vice authorities are turning a blind eye to due to the Brooklyn District Attorney shifting from prosecuting prostitution cases. Brooklyn’s D.A. has moved to vacate 262 warrants related to the sex trade.

Powell said actions such as these empower pimps and sex traffickers.

“This is what it looks like if prostitution is legal,” Powell said of New York City’s approach to the world’s oldest profession.

California – a populous border state with a significant immigrant population, the State’s Department of Justice stated – is one of the nation’s top destination states for trafficking human beings.

After SB 357 passed the Senate Public Safety Committee in March by a vote of 4-1, Fatima Shabazz of Fatima Speaks, and co-lead of the Policy Committee for the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition stated, “this is the first step in repealing a Jim Crow law that criminalizes Black and trans people in public spaces.”

“Sex workers are workers like anyone else, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Wiener, presenting his case for repealing what he views as a discriminatory law.

“Our criminal justice system criminalizes people – particularly Black, Brown and LGTBQ people – for simply existing and going about their lives. Laws like this one do nothing to make people safer or stop sex trafficking. Instead, they criminalize members of our community who are simply going about their lives. We need to support sex workers instead of criminalizing them.”

#NNPA BlackPress

FILM: Top 10 Must-See Black documentaries

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Below you will find a list of documentaries, based on the roots of African American culture, compiled by Word in Black partner, The Houston Defender. From “I Am Not Your Negro” to “High on the Hog,” each film offers up the origin stories of our most important activists, artists, athletes and traditions.
The post FILM: Top 10 Must-See Black documentaries first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By The Houston Defender | Word in Black

The AFRO’s October Special Edition is all about the roots of our culture, our family lineage and the return to old ways and traditions. Below you will find a list of documentaries, based on the roots of African American culture, compiled by our Word in Black partner, The Houston Defender. From I Am Not Your Negro to High on the Hog, each film offers up the origin stories of our most important activists, artists, athletes and traditions.

#10: Attica (2021) 

In September 1971, Attica Prison became the location of one of the largest prison riots in US history, taking place just weeks after revolutionary activist George Jackson was murdered by prison guards at Rikers Island, an act that initiated the birth of Black August and the prison reform movement. The constant abject cruelty and inhumane treatment doled out to the incarcerated (who were overwhelmingly Black and Latinx) by Attica guards (all White) created the context. The riot itself, and its aftermath, are something all human beings should be required to reckon with.

#9: Quincy (2018) 

If you’re Black, it literally doesn’t matter when you were born, what generation you’re a part of, or where you’re from. You’ve been impacted by the genius of Quincy Jones. We’ve all been influenced by the genius of Quincy Jones. The music he made, the albums he produced, the artists he developed, the movies he scored, and about a gazillion other things Jones did, means, as I’ve already said, if you’re Black, Quincy has had a hand in your life. Don’t believe me. What Black person do you know who isn’t a Michael Jackson fan, who hasn’t seen The Wiz, or who doesn’t have a family member who worships jazz music? Quincy Jones had his hand in all that and so much more. Directed by one of his daughters, actress Rashida Jones, this doc is most definitely a must see.

#8: Four Little Girls (1997) 

On Sept. 15, 1963, just 18 short days after the much-celebrated March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed by four members of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated racist group. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, four African American girls between the ages of 11 and 14 who had been attending the church’s Sunday school, were killed in the blast, an act of White domestic terrorism that served as a horrific and sober reminder that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not enough to end the hold the myth of White supremacy had on so many. Director Spike Lee tells this powerfully compelling and important story as only he can.

#7: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (2019) 

For generations that came after the Baby Boomers, it’s hard for us to fully fathom how big a star Sam Cooke was. Think of the biggest singer of any generation. That was Sam Cooke in his heyday. And not only was he hyper-talented, but not only did he call some of the biggest names in Black history his personal friends (Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X just to name a few), Cooke was a man of the people. And he was heavily invested in the Civil Rights Movement and an advocate for Black self-determination and Black ownership. Cooke even pulled a “Prince” long before Prince—gaining ownership of his own music, something that was as rare then as it is today. This documentary chronicles Cooke’s life, rise to fame, and eventual end, though his influence never died.

#6: Thunder Soul (2010) 

Here’s a hometown entry. Thunder Soul spotlights the extraordinary alumni from Houston’s storied Kashmere High School Stage Band which the iconic Conrad Johnson led. These alums return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for the 92-year-old ‘Prof’, their beloved band leader who transformed the schools struggling jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s. This one will have you out of your seat and dancing in the streets. Check it out.

#5: Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (2021)  

In this documentary, criminal defense/civil rights lawyer Jeffery Robinson “draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America.” It’s that simple, and yet that complex. And it goes without saying; it’s a must see.

#4: Jeen-Yuhs (2022) 

No matter where you score on the Love Ye / Hate Ye scale, this 2022 documentary about his rise to superstardom is beyond compelling. I mean, who thinks to chronicle their every move from the moment they start pursuing their dream until they either give up on it or see it to fruition and beyond? Who does that? No one but this negro Kanye. He may be the only human being with an ego big enough to conceive of such a project. And believe me, the scope and scale of this documentary match that galaxy-sized self-obsession brahman has that make him both insanely talented and just plain insane at the same time.

#3: I Am Not Your Negro (2016) 

This documentary by Raoul Peck, director of Exterminate All the Brutes (2021) which made the first list of must-see documentaries, introduced the brilliance and unabashed Black of James Baldwin to a whole new generation. Described as a work that imagines the completion of Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House (about Baldwin’s personal reflections on and recollections of three of his personal friends who were killed during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), I Am Not Your Negro is about so much more.

#2: The Last Dance (2020) 

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to get caught up in the chronicling of the last run at an NBA championship by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls who had been told before the season began that the team would be broken up. The doc not only takes you on that 1996 Bulls’ championship ride, but it also digs deep into the past of players, coaches, and family members, spotlighting triumphs and tragedies that are part of the human story, not just the story of professional athletes.

#1: High on the Hog 

How African American Cuisine Transformed America (2021)

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for anything that celebrates our history, especially those things that connect us to our African roots and our Pan-African family. This documentary does all that and more. Because the main character is food. Our food. The stuff we grew up on. The meals many of us are eating right now, and never stopped eating since our youth. This beautifully filmed, beautifully narrated piece of art is full of both the familiar and the foreign; or rather, things we’ve come to believe are foreign to us, but are really part of our story and our heritage. And the okra on top? High on the Hog has a powerful H-Town connection. A few, in fact.

This list of documentaries based on the roots of African American culture was compiled by Word In Black.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Lawsuit Alleges U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans for Decades

NNPA NEWSWIRE — According to internal VA data obtained by the Washington Post, Black applicants seeking disability benefits were denied 30 percent of the time from 2002 to 2020. White applicants were denied 24 percent of the time.
The post Lawsuit Alleges U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans for Decades first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Black Information Network | Atlanta Daily World

A new lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alleges that the U.S. government discriminated against Black veterans for decades.

On Monday (November 28), the suit was filed by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) on behalf of Vietnam War veteran Conley Monk Jr, whose applications for education, housing, and disability benefits have been denied since he returned home from the war, per The Hill.

According to the suit, discrimination by the VA has left Black veterans without benefits more frequently than their white counterparts.

Yale’s VLSC said the lawsuit could “provide a legal pathway for Black veterans to seek reparations from the VA.”

“This lawsuit seeks to hold the VA accountable for years of discriminatory conduct,” Adam Henderson, a law student working with the VLSC on the case, said in a statement, per the Hill.

“VA leaders knew, or should have known, that they were administering benefits in a discriminatory manner, yet they failed to address this unlawful bias,” Henderson added. “Mr. Monk — and thousands of Black veterans like him — deserve redress for the harms caused by these negligently administered programs.”

According to internal VA data obtained by the Washington Post, Black applicants seeking disability benefits were denied 30 percent of the time from 2002 to 2020. White applicants were denied 24 percent of the time.

VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said the agency is working to combat “institutional racism.”

“Throughout history, there have been unacceptable disparities in both VA benefits decisions and military discharge status due to racism, which have wrongly left Black veterans without access to VA care and benefits,” Hayes said. “We are actively working to right these wrongs.”

The post U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans For Decades: Lawsuit appeared first on Atlanta Daily World.

The post Lawsuit Alleges U.S. Government Discriminated Against Black Veterans for Decades first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BOOKS: Jerald LeVon Hoover Blends a Love of Sport & Friendship into New Children’s Book

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Through colorful pictures with vibrant imagery, young readers will easily get drawn into the exciting adventures of Bennett Mayco Wilson’s fictional yet exciting world and learn valuable childhood lessons together, when Bennet gets a basketball as a present from his father on his fourth birthday.
The post BOOKS: Jerald LeVon Hoover Blends a Love of Sport & Friendship into New Children’s Book first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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‘A Basketball Hero is Born’ is a part of The Hero Book Series by Jerald LeVon Hoover, which aims to inspire youth to make a positive change in their communities and the world in general

Widely celebrated African American author, Jerald LeVon Hoover, is once again inspiring young people to make a positive change in their communities with the launch of a new children’s book. Titled A Basketball Hero is Born, the new children’s reading book contains colorful pictures that warm the heart and keep young readers glued to its pages.

The plot follows the exciting adventures of Bennett Mayco Wilson who gets a basketball as a present from his father on his fourth birthday. Affectionately naming the new basketball “Lucky,” the story unfolds as young Bennett tries to take his new best friend everywhere, including the dinner table, to school, and to bed when it is time for sleep.

Jerald L. Hoover

Jerald L. Hoover

Through colorful pictures with vibrant imagery, young readers will easily get drawn into Bennett’s fictional yet exciting world and learn valuable childhood lessons together. Currently available for purchase on Amazon, A Basketball Hero is Born is a part of The Hero Book Series by Jerald LeVon Hoover, which emphasizes instilling a love of sports and friendship in young readers.

About The Author

Jerald L. Hoover is a multi-talented individual with countless accomplishments in the creative, literary, and entertainment worlds. After winning an award for “The Best New Male Writer of the Year” for his fictional novel, My Friend, My Hero Jerald went on to be listed from 1994 – 1996 as a best-selling author among young Black writers in various African American publications. In 1995, he was awarded the Writers Corp Award by then-President Bill Clinton. In 1998, Jerald was inducted into the Mount Vernon Boy’s and Girl’s Club Hall of Fame. Since then, Jerald has won several other awards and is also an in-demand motivational speaker who overcame a childhood speech impediment.

The post BOOKS: Jerald LeVon Hoover Blends a Love of Sport & Friendship into New Children’s Book first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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