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Virtual Town Halls Addressing Black Mental Health on June 16 and June 23

“The community can’t wait any longer. We’ve been waiting for officials to do something since 2014,” said Pamela Emerson, co-chair of OFH’s Black Mental Initiative. “Think how many more people will die in the next three years while we wait! This is literally a life and death situation!

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Pamela Emerson is a co-founder of the Oakland Frontline Healers’ Black Mental Initiative. Photo by Pamela Emerson.
Pamela Emerson is a co-founder of the Oakland Frontline Healers’ Black Mental Initiative. Photo by Pamela Emerson.

By Tanya Dennis

When facing a need for health care, mental health evaluation or a mental health crisis, people of Asian, American Indian or Latinx descent in Alameda County have access to culturally relevant help at the American Indian Health Center, Asian Health Services, or La Clinica de La Raza.

African Americans have no such similar resource.

To address that issue, Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) and the Bay Area Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) are hosting two virtual Town Halls on Thursday, June 16 and Thursday June 23 at 6 p.m. regarding “the State of Emergency” declared by Black and Brown leaders after 132 homicides occurred in Oakland in 2021.

The Town Halls will provide an opportunity for county, city, state, and federal officials to convene with OFH and ABPsi and other community activists to hear their plan to establish two African American healing hubs, and an African American healing center.

The proposed hubs would be in donated office space within OFH existing businesses to offer weekly patient appointments and emergency visits. If the hubs — at True Vine Ministries in West Oakland and East Bay Collective in East Oakland — are funded they could be operational within 30 days.

For months, OFH and the Bay Area Chapter of ABPsi have worked to create an immediate and long-term plan to complement Alameda’s County Behavioral Health’s plan which is still three to four years from reality.

The hubs will require $9 million a year to operate, and the center $18 million. Construction costs of the center have yet to be determined, as it will require the purchase of land for a 30,000-square-foot facility and architectural plans to determine costs.

“The community can’t wait any longer. We’ve been waiting for officials to do something since 2014,” said Pamela Emerson, co-chair of OFH’s Black Mental Initiative. “Think how many more people will die in the next three years while we wait! This is literally a life and death situation!

“OFH is taking action now, and we need our public officials to assist us. We have the plan, the services, and the personnel, all we need is funding. More policing is not the answer. We must heal Oakland,” Emerson said.

Dr. Lawford Goddard, the project leader for the Bay Area Chapter of ABPsi’s explained that there were two ‘lanes’ to this African American Mental Health initiative.

“One lane is in response to the ‘state of emergency’ of mental health in the African American community,” Goddard said. “These healing hubs would provide immediate mental health services to African Americans in need of healing…… This effort is community-driven and seeks funding from the state, the federal government, foundations, corporations and private Black investors and businesspersons. “

The second lane of the initiative is the establishment of the African American Wellness Hub Complex which is based on the original proposal submitted to Alameda County Behavioral Health.”

After the planning phase it will require about three years of construction.

“If funded we could have our hubs operational in 30 days,” Emerson said. “The problem is, in Alameda County’s plan, no money has been allocated for services, just construction. We need services, and we are ready and able to provide those services, but we need funding.”

Emerson is hopeful that the Supervisors will understand how vital culturally congruent mental health services are if there is any hope of ending violence in Oakland.

“What we hope to achieve with the Town Halls is everyone walks away acknowledging that violence in our community is a mental health issue, that lack of resources and opportunity exacerbates the problem, and most important, our officials walk away knowing they have people with the skills, knowledge, and expertise to help them produce solutions,” Emerson said.

“We want to be their partners, but we can’t partner until we know each other’s intent, abilities, and capacity. Attending our Town Hall on the 16th or 23rd of June will be a great way to start the process.”

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California Senate Gets Second Chance to Pass Prison Slavery Bill This Week

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).
Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

On June 23, the California Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to remove language in the state Constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment to a crime with a 21-6 vote.

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude with one exception: if involuntary servitude was imposed as punishment for a crime.

The state of California is one of nine states in the country that permits involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

Article I, section 6, of the California Constitution, describes the same prohibitions on slavery and involuntary servitude and the same exception for involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.

The number of votes cast in favor of Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act, fell short of the two-thirds vote requirement needed to move the bill to the ballot for Californians to decide its fate in the November General Election.

The Senate is expected to hold another floor vote on the legislation this week.

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, said she focused the language in the bill on the slavery ban and vowed to bring it back for a vote when Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, asked her about it June 23.

“The CA State Senate just reaffirmed its commitment to keeping slavery and involuntary servitude in the state’s constitution,” Kamlager tweeted.

Jamilia Land, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety, and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said she remains committed to making sure slavery is struck out of the California constitution.

“All we needed was 26 votes,” Land said. “But we have made amendments to ACA 3 on (June 24). Now it could either go back to the Senate on (June 27) or Thursday, June 30.”

Five Republicans and one Democrat, Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), voted against the amendment.

He stated that the issue is “certainly a question worthy of debate” and “can be addressed without a constitutional amendment.”

“Slavery was an evil that will forever be a stain on the history of our great country. We eliminated it through the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th Amendment,” Glazer said in a June 23 statement. “Involuntary servitude — though lesser known — also had a shameful past. ACA 3 is not even about involuntary servitude — at least of the kind that was practiced 150 years ago. The question this measure raises is whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.”

Glazer said that the Legislative Counsel’s office gave him a “simple amendment” that involuntary servitude would “not include any rehabilitative activity required of an incarcerated person,” including education, vocational training, or behavioral or substance abuse counseling.

The Counsel also suggested that the amendment does not include any work tasks required of an incarcerated person that “generally benefit the residents of the facility in which the person is incarcerated, such as cooking, cleaning, grounds keeping, and laundry.”

“Let’s adopt that amendment and then get back to work on the difficult challenge of making sure our prisons are run humanely, efficiently and in a way that leads to the rehabilitation of as many felons as possible,” Glazer added.

Kamlager says “involuntary servitude is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be stricken from the constitution.

The state’s Department of Finance (DOF) estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told Senate the Appropriations Committee on June 16.

“These are facts that we think would ultimately determine the outcome of future litigation and court decisions,” Edwards said. “The largest potential impact is to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which currently employs around 65,000 incarcerated persons to support central prison operations such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry services.”

Right before the Juneteenth holiday weekend, the appropriations committee sent ACA 3 to the Senate floor with a 5-0 majority vote after Kamlager refuted Edwards’ financial data.

This country has been having “economic discussions for hundreds of years around slavery, involuntary servitude, and indentured servants” and enslavement still exists in the prison system, Kamlager said. She also added that a conflict was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

“This bill does not talk about economics. It’s a constitutional amendment,” Kamlager said. “The (DOF) is not talking about any of this in this grotesque analysis about why it makes more sense for the state of California to advocate for and allow involuntary servitude in prisons. I think (this conversation) is what led to the Civil War.”

Three states have voted to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude — Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska — and in all three cases, the initiative was bipartisan and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of legislators, according to Max Parthas, the co-director of the Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN).

ACA 3 is already attached to a report that addresses the harms of slavery. The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans issued its interim report to the California Legislature on June 1.

The report included a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms, including its support for ACA 3. It examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Will Cassidy Hutchinson Shame Republicans to Tell the Truth?

The hearings are intended to help us understand what really happened when a mob nearly prevented a presidential election from being certified. But we can’t get to that until someone has the courage to tell the truth.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He has a webshow on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

We got our fireworks early this week at the Jan. 6 Select Committee Hearings in Congress.

And boy, did we need them.

The hearings are intended to help us understand what really happened when a mob nearly prevented a presidential election from being certified. But we can’t get to that until someone has the courage to tell the truth.

And it needed to be someone on the MAGA inside, like Cassidy Hutchinson, 25, a white female conservative Republican.

You want to know what it was like on the day of Jan. 6 from within the White House? Hutchinson was in the West Wing, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

And so, Hutchinson did what even her old boss has failed to do — cooperate with the committee.

At the hastily set up hearing this week, under oath, garbed in a white blazer, she was like a symbol of light.

She had the courage to break the Trump code and speak out.

We learned that the morning of the big rally on Jan. 6, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Hutchinson to “make sure we don’t go to the Capitol.”

The consequences? Hutchinson said Cipollone told her that “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

Hutchinson testified it wasn’t the first time Cipollone mentioned that going back to the Capitol would look like they were obstructing the Electoral College count or generally inciting a riot.

But as the day of Jan. 6 evolved, Hutchinson said that Trump knew the crowd was violent and armed, and that once the rally attendees made it to the Capitol, Trump wanted to be there. Perhaps to admire his handiwork?

Hutchinson testified about an incident after the rally in the presidential limo, “the Beast,” when Trump was told by Secret Service chief Bobby Engel that they were going back to the White House and not the Capitol.

“I’m the f—ing president,” Trump said according to Hutchinson’s testimony. Then Trump tried to grab the wheel and physically threatened Engel.

Is any of this activity criminal? Let the Justice Department decide. Our lower bar as Americans is to ask if this unhinged man is a person who should have ever been president.

Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman

Before this week, two Black women emerged as the stars of the Jan. 6 Select Committee Hearings: former Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who was falsely accused by no less than Donald Trump himself of being a “vote scammer.”

More than legalistic mumbo jumbo, the hearings have detailed the real victims of Trump’s lies. It’s regular people like you and me.

Moss and Freeman were called out by Trump and Rudy Giuliani in the former president’s manic drive to change the results of an election that he wrongly believed was stolen from him.

But as Moss and Freeman testified on June 21, their lives were turned upside down by Trump’s nonsense.

Moss had been an election worker for 10 years, happy to connect people with democracy. But once the false accusations were made, everything changed.

She told the committee she gained 60 pounds.

“I just don’t do nothing anymore,” she said, in tears. “I second guess everything that I do. It’s affected my life in a major way — in every way. All because of lies.”

Trump’s “Big Lie” destroyed a sense of self-worth for many in our democracy. People like Moss and her mother, known as Lady Ruby.

But we all knew that testimony alone isn’t enough to make all Americans understand just how wrong Trump and his cohorts were on Jan. 6.

We need people on the inside like Trump attorney Pat Cipollone and others who have either plead ‘the fifth,’ or totally ignored the committee, to have the courage to break the Trump code and tell the truth.

That also includes all Republicans who continue to support and see Trump as anything but the man who lost and lied.

For the sake of our democracy, they all need to have the courage of Cassidy Hutchinson.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He has a webshow on www.amok.com

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Trump’s Lies Destroyed Lives  

The Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings are proving to be an invaluable public service. Getting the truth is the first step in holding people responsible for the attack on our country — including Trump — accountable. Trump was repeatedly told that his claims were false. But he kept lying and inflaming his supporters to anger and violence without any regard for the country or the people he was hurting. 

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous, President of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania

“Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”

Those are the words of Ruby Freeman, a Black woman and election worker in Georgia during the 2020 election. She and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss were falsely accused by Rudy Giuliani of rigging the election against Donald Trump. Their lives were virtually destroyed by the Trump team’s lies.

Thanks to the public hearings being held by the House committee investigating Trump’s effort to overturn the election, Americans got to hear about the racist threats that rained down on the two women after they were falsely accused. Trump supporters drove Freeman out of her home in fear for her life — and invaded the home of Moss’s grandmother. They testified that they still avoid even going to the grocery store for fear of being harassed by Trump supporters.

These are just some of the harms done by Trump’s endless lying about the election he lost.

In the case of Freeman and Moss, two people performing an essential public service had their privacy shredded and their lives turned upside down. Other election workers were singled out, lied about, and harassed.

The hearing reminded us of the alarm sounded by Gabriel Sterling, an election official in Georgia, against Trump supporters’ “Stop the Steal” frenzy. A young computer technician was getting death threats based on false claims circulating among Trump’s supporters. “Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed,” he warned.

“It has to stop,” Sterling demanded. But it did not stop. Trump has never stopped lying about losing the election.

Others who testified about the consequences of Trump’s lies were high-ranking Republican officeholders. By now, most of us knew about the phone call Trump made to demand that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” the number of votes needed to throw the election to Trump.

At the public hearing, we learned more about the threats and harassment experienced by Raffensperger and his family when he refused to break the law on Trump’s behalf. Some Trump supporters broke into his widowed daughter-in-law’s house.

Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House, testified that Trump and Trump’s attorneys urged him to abuse the power of his office to overthrow the election, while failing to provide him with any evidence of widespread voter fraud. Giuliani appealed to the fact that they were both Republicans. But Bowers refused to violate his oath to the Constitution.

In return for his courage and integrity, Bowers and his neighbors were harassed outside his home by Trump supporters, including at least one carrying a gun, while Bowers’ dying daughter was inside.

During his powerful testimony, Bowers cited his faith and read a passage from his personal journal in which he had written, “I do not want to be a winner by cheating.” Trump, of course, was desperate to be a “winner” and was trying to bully election officials into cheating on his behalf.

The Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings are proving to be an invaluable public service. Getting the truth is the first step in holding people responsible for the attack on our country — including Trump — accountable. Trump was repeatedly told that his claims were false. But he kept lying and inflaming his supporters to anger and violence without any regard for the country or the people he was hurting.

There’s another benefit to the hearings. In our partisan and polarized times, I believe it has been a gift to the country to highlight the testimony of so many Republicans. These were people who voted for and worked for Trump, but whose commitment to the country and Constitution were more important to them than their desire to keep Trump in power.

Their example is a reminder to all of us that we can and must find ways to work with our political opponents for the good of the country. I may have very different views on most political issues than Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, but I admire her willingness to withstand the intense pressure being brought against her by less courageous and less principled Republican leaders.

In our deeply polarized country, when common ground seems increasingly difficult to find, a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power to the president elected by the voters is a good place to start.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

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