Tanu Henry and Maxim Elramsisy | California Black Media | March 2023
March is Women’s History Month, and several California organizations are celebrating trailblazing women making history in our state — whether it’s recognizing the record-setting number of women who are state constitutional officers or lauding the unprecedented number of women serving in the Legislature ((50 out of 120).
Last week, the Black Women’s Collective kicked off Women’s History Month with an event organized to help build an Economic Action Plan for Black Women. It brought together experts in policymaking, labor, economic development, and entrepreneurship.
“Black women serve as breadwinners in 80% of Black households in California with over 70% headed by single mothers,” said Kellie Todd Griffin, President and CEO, California Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute. Griffin was citing statistics from a report on the State of Black Women in California from 2018 and 2022.
“Typically, Black women have higher labor force participation rates than other women, meaning a higher share of Black women are either employed or unemployed and looking for work,” Griffin continued. “However, the economic safety net is not secure as Black Women makes less than most of their counterparts making .55 cents to White males, which is one of the lowest in the nation equally the wage gap in Mississippi. California falls short of the national rate at .63 cents.”
Panelists at the event included Los Angeles City Councilmember Heather Hutt (CD10); Yvonne Wheeler, President, Los Angeles County
Federation of Labor; Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, President and CEO, Center by Lendistry; and Denise Pines, Co-Founder and CEO, Tea Botanics and Women in the Room Productions. Moderators were Griffin and Regina Wilson, Executive Director, California Black Media.
In Historic Los Angeles Ceremony, Malia M. Cohen Sworn in as Top State Accountant
It was a history-making moment as Malia M. Cohen was inaugurated the 33rd California State Controller at Los Angeles City Hall on Feb. 23. During the swearing-in, she was flanked by her husband Warren Pulley while Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass administered the oath.
As California’s chief fiscal officer and top accountant, the State Controller’s office is an independent watchdog overseeing the disbursement of state and local funds, including one of the nation’s largest public pension funds.
Cohen, a San Francisco native will be the first Black person, and second woman Controller, as the state continues to make an intentional effort to break gender and racial barriers. Two of the top four largest cities, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are led by Black women Mayors, Karen Bass and London Breed respectively, and the state also elected its first Black in Secretary of State, Shirley Weber, who previously served under an appointment by Gov. Newsom.
“Mayor Bass and Congresswoman Lee: I know that you know all too well, that no matter the campaign budget difference, no matter how much they outspend you, leadership can’t be bought,” Cohen said in her inaugural speech.
California Black Freedom Fund Hosts Panel Discussions in Oakland
On Feb. 28 in Oakland, the California Black Freedom Fund (CBFF) hosted an event titled “Strengthening Democracy and Building Black Futures” followed by a reception for guests who attended.
The event included two panel discussions centered around the need for philanthropy to commit resources to building and sustaining a just, racially diverse, equitable and inclusive civil society.
“Civil society is the basis upon which you have a democracy, and civil society needs to be informed. It needs to be about achieving something. It needs to reflect the broader society,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder in Residence, Policy Link, who presented during one of the panel discussions.
CBFF is a “five-year, $100 million initiative to ensure that Black power-building and movement-based organizations have the sustained investments and resources they need to eradicate systemic and institutional racism,” according to the organization’s website.
In April 2022, CBFF named Marc Philpart its Executive Director, a leader with broad experience in social advocacy working with grassroots and community organizations.
Panelists at the event included Blackwell; author Steve Phillips (Brown Is the New White); Lateefah Simon (president of the Meadow Fund); James Herard (Executive Director of Lift Up Contra Costa); Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker (District 1 Antioch City Council); Kavon Ward (CEO/Founder of Where Is My Land); and James Woodson (Executive Director of California Black Power Network.
Californians Impacted by Winter Storms Get Extended Tax Deadline
Both the state and federal governments are offering some relief to Californians impacted by winter storms in January and February. In addition to allowing qualifying state residents to make deductions for disaster losses, last week Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state tax deadline for those affected by the winter storms will be October 16, 2023.
“As communities across the state continue recovering from the damage caused by the winter storms, California is working swiftly to help recovering Californians get back on their feet,” said Newsom.
The extension aligns with Biden administration adjustments to the IRS tax deadline for people affected by winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides in the following counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.
For filing instructions and more details on eligibility, visit the California Franchise Tax Board.
Mayor Karen Bass Endorses “Friend for Decades” Rep. Barbara Lee
Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass endorsed her former colleague and “friend for decades,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), in her bid to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein who is not seeking another term.
“I’ve seen her leadership firsthand. Her work in a divided government to secure billions of dollars in COVID relief for underserved communities is just one example of the type of principled and tenacious leadership she will bring,” Bass tweeted.
Both alums of the California Assembly, Bass and Lee served together for nearly 11 years as two of three Black women members of California’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. The other Black woman is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA-43).
Emerge California Announce Black Woman as New Board Chair
Emerge California, an Oakland-based organization that recruits and trains women in the Democratic Party to run for political office, announced it has appointed Rhodesia Ransom to chair its Board of Directors.
“I’m excited to step into this role to lead our Board of Directors as we welcome Emerge California’s Class of 2023 – the most diverse class in organization’s history,” said Ransom, who joins four other board members, including Julie Waters, Board Treasurer, and Jacqueline Piccini, Board Secretary.
Founded in 2002, Emerge California has trained over 800 women political candidates. The organization prides itself on a win rate of nearly 70 % and, last year, there were 125 alumnae of its training program on the November ballot, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, State Controller Malia Cohen, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and seven state legislators.
SoCalGas Customers Can Apply for Hardship Assistance
Responding to spiraling inflation and a winter hike in gas prices, SoGalGas is offering hardship assistance to its customers that have been hit hardest.
“SoCalGas is stepping up to help customers in need with charitable donations of $10 million in shareholder funding to help customers with
bill assistance and to bolster community resources for those who may be struggling financially,” the company said in a press release last week.
The assistance will be distributed through three channels: $5 million through the Gas Assistance Fund administered by United Way for “Income Qualified Customers”; $4 million through the company’s Fueling our Communities program, a community feeding program organized by local food banks and nonprofits; and $1 million to restaurant owners through its Restaurant Cares Resilience Fund.
Supporters of “Involuntary Servitude” Bill Calif. Senate Rejected Vow to Bring It Back
Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media | Posted: July 17, 2022
Activists supporting legislation that would have ended involuntary servitude in California Prisons and eliminate the word “slavery” from California’s Constitution say they may have lost a battle, but they will not back down until their goals are achieved.
Late last month, the State Senate failed to pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act. If the legislature had approved the measure, it would have been placed on the November General Election ballot for voter approval.
For now, California will remain one of nine states in the country that permit involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.
June 30 was the last day ACA 3 needed two-thirds of the Senate vote. Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, stated that the removal of the word slavery from the California constitution would have been a “substantive step toward safeguarding” the future from “the worst practice of our past.”
“Yesterday, ACA 3 failed to be heard. It did not have the 27 (votes) needed to pass off the floor,” Kamlager said in a July 1 statement. “States across the country are embarking on this journey to remove hateful and historically painful language and practices from their constitution. Until yesterday, so was California.”
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.
Article I, section 6, of the California Constitution, describes the exact prohibitions on slavery and involuntary servitude and the same exception for involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.
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).
Kamlager said involuntary servitude “is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be removed entirely from the state’s constitution. On June 23, the state Senate rejected the amendment to ban the language with a 21-6 vote. Without the input of 13 Senators that did not cast a vote, ACA 3 was seven ballots shy of passage.
“The CA State Senate just reaffirmed its commitment to keeping slavery and involuntary servitude in the state’s constitution,” Kamlager tweeted after the measure failed to pass.
The legislature is now on summer recess until the first week of August.
Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), the lone Democrat that voted no against the amendment on June 23, inferred that ACA 3 raises the question of “whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.” He brought forth the notion based on information he received from the state’s Department of Finance (DOF).
The DOF estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 16.
Samuel Nathaniel Brown, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety, and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said the Senate “messed up” when it failed to remove the language out of California’s Constitution.
Brown helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence.
“The people in California want to end slavery now. Two Senators took it upon themselves to deny the people an opportunity to vote on ACA3 and many people are disappointed and upset,” Brown said. “We will now return more educated, agitated, concentrated, and dedicated. We will eradicate the overt vestiges of white supremacy that taint our constitution, weaken our system of rehabilitation, and undermine public safety.”
ACA 3 is connected to the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans’ Interim Report that was submitted to the California Legislature on June 1.
The report examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today. It also provides to remedy those harms, including its support for ACA 3.
“This effort was uniquely personal to me,” Kamlager stated. “I will continue to fight to speak the truth about our history so that we can learn from it and be better. That is democracy.”