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Building Strong Children and Restoring Strong Adults: How One California Community Is Empowering Change

Gina Warren, Marilyn Woods, Damond “Fade” Dorrough, and Sarah Marikos | Special to California Black Media Partners | April 17, 2023

There is a transformation taking place in an area of Sacramento once notorious for gang violence, sex trafficking, and near decimation brought on by the crack and opioid epidemics.

Despite the cultural taboos around mental health that still exist in many communities, this transformation is healing intergenerational trauma and changing trajectories – by getting to the root.

There’s plenty of evidence documenting how our early experiences shape our health and behavior. Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, such as abuse, neglect, and growing up in a household with violence, incarceration or problematic substance use, can lead to prolonged activation of the body’s stress response, a condition known as the toxic stress response, which affects both mental and physical health throughout the lifetime – even making changes to our DNA that ripple across generations.

The impacts of ACEs are compounded by factors like racism, poverty, and community violence, leading to even greater risk of developing the mental and physical health problems associated with toxic stress.

Consider that adults with four or more ACEs are 30 times more likely to experience suicidal behaviors than those with no ACEs. That’s one in six US adults. The urgency begins early in life, as children with four ACEs are eight times more likely to experience suicidal behaviors compared to children without ACEs. While these statistics may sound

alarming, we see this as a charge – a cause to connect in community, a way to destigmatize what we carry, and a path to prevention.

The good news is that healthy environments and resources can help to regulate the stress response and heal and protect us from the effects of ACEs and toxic stress. Some of the most powerful and effective work we can do to address mental health and suicide – including the concerning rates among Black men and boys – is to prevent and address childhood adversity and intergenerational trauma. This is the core of the work we’re doing from our home on the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clay Street in the heart of Del Paso Heights (DPH) in Sacramento, through grassroots organization Neighborhood Wellness.

In DPH, like so many neighborhoods all over the US, many of our Black families are navigating intangible complexities of poverty every day. They are suffering – some out loud, spreading their pain through violence. Some move with what appears to be a reckless disregard, coping in ways that put themselves and others at risk. Some hold it together in stoic silence, grinding through the days but barely calling it a life, or masking their inner world as they perform to others’ expectations.

Childhood in DPH is far from carefree. In addition to carrying their own baggage, Black people have been handed down the traumas of our elders. They navigate systems hostile to them while bearing these tremendous burdens. Since Neighborhood Wellness got its start in 2015, we’ve been disrupting cycles of intergenerational trauma. We work to remove stigma around accessing help, and to change what help can look like. For many in our community who have felt institutionally and structurally betrayed and neglected, just learning to trust somebody is the beginning of breaking the cycle.

Programs like our Restore Legacies restorative justice program and our Higher Heights self-paced high school diploma program for adults, along with services ranging from parenting skills and DUI classes with trauma education to lifesaving opioid overdose reversal and wound treatment response trainings all address a legacy of inequities and lower barriers to thriving in our community. Our Healing Circles create a trusted space to help us deconstruct what we carry – the effects of our childhoods, what we’ve inherited from those who came before us, the ways racism and trauma have impacted our ability to learn, grow, and create our own paths.

In DPH, transformation is taking place. Mixed generations are sharing in our Healing Circles, acknowledging the need to be mindful of what others may be carrying, stepping into their roles in their families as the innovators – the ones to help make change. We’re working to empower our community, to help them see their value. Consider the fortitude, the resilience, the strength it requires just to keep showing up most days. To do the work of unburdening what we can and shouldering what we must continue to carry, and still trying to find happiness, joy, love, and greatness. Students in our high school Healing Circles get an early start on this work of unburdening, and we provide additional behavioral health services on campus to ensure our young people have a safe space to make strong strides toward promising paths.

At Neighborhood Wellness, we provide the kind of community care that shines like a beacon in any kind of weather, calling our neighbors home and reminding us: no one is on this journey alone.

When we disrupt cycles of trauma and reduce childhood adversity for the next generation – through awareness, education, skill-building, mental health care, access to resources, and lowering barriers – this is suicide prevention. This is helping keep each other alive. This is building the future of our neighborhood, and beyond.

About the Authors

Gina Warren, Pharm.D. – CEO & Co-Founder, Neighborhood Wellness

Dr. Warren, who earned her doctorate from UCSF, brings both clinical and grassroots perspectives to leading an interdisciplinary team to serve the Del Paso Heights community, her childhood neighborhood.

Marilyn Woods – CFO & Co-Founder, Neighborhood Wellness

The retired CEO/CFO/co-owner of the Institute for Fiduciary Education, Marilyn manages corporate development, assists with strategic development and executive management, and serves on the board.

Damond “Fade” Dorrough – Senior Neighborhood Navigator, Neighborhood Wellness

Damond is generationally rooted in DPH and provides historical perspective and understanding that help address the challenges in the current conditions.

Sarah Marikos, MPH – Executive Director, ACE Resource Network

A public health leader and epidemiologist, Sarah leads ACE Resource Network’s national and community-based efforts, along with their work to advance research on the biology of trauma.

California Black Media’s coverage of Mental Health in California is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

Commentary: Los Angeles. On Kevin de León, It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

Jasmyne Cannick | Special to California Black Media Partners | October 24, 2022

The situation with disgraced Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León reached a new low Wednesday when he calmly declared during a news interview that he is not resigning, putting to rest any hope that he would do the right thing and step down.

“No, I will not resign because there is a lot of work ahead,” De León said.

In the two weeks since the leaking of the audio of the October 2021 meeting involving City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Ron Herrera, the leader of the Los Angeles Labor Federation, in which they were overheard conspiring to retain and expand Latino political power to the detriment of Black residents, a lot has been said.

But now, Los Angeles, it’s time to put up or shut up.

Either you stand for and with racists and bigots or you don’t. There’s no in-between on this.

It is not easy to overlook the fact that far too many “leaders” and organizations hesitated before they could bring themselves to call for the resignation of all four involved.

“There is no place in our city family for attacks on colleagues and their loved ones, and there is no place for racism anywhere in L.A.,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in his first statement.

Performative activism on the issue of De León’s resignation should not be celebrated or accepted — by anyone.

City leaders cannot claim to stand with us on this issue and then go on as business as usual. That makes them just as complicit as Martinez, Cedillo, De León, and Herrera.

Labor and Democratic Party organizations cannot denounce the Racist Four and then not put measures in place to make sure that they are ineligible for future endorsements and resources for political campaigns in the future.

De León is a textbook narcissist who believes he has a bright political future ahead of himself, including his running for statewide office in 2026. In order for that run to be successful, he has to have the backing of labor, the Democratic Party, and Democratic clubs. These groups need to deliver a unified message that he can’t come to them for money, endorsements, or support.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Kevin has drawn a line in the sand: he’s not going to leave on his own.

We need to draw our own.

While I know many community, labor, and Democratic organizations were against the recall of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, those same groups should be using their political savviness and resources to spearhead the

recall of De León — that is, if they truly found his comments abhorrent and want him off city council.

If Kevin De León isn’t a perfect example of an elected official who needs to be given his pink slip, I don’t know who is.

Despite public outrage and disillusionment, De León thinks he can sit pretty for the time being as long as he is only facing surface-level activism. Remind you of anyone?

That needs to change, and allies need to do more than issue strongly-worded statements. It’s time for some strategic, organized action.

And before I get out of here, it’s not just allies who need to show up.

Black people, we need to show up for ourselves, too, lest we prove De León’s “Wizard of Oz effect” to be true.

If you are not talking about this situation in some way every day, as the elders say, “you ain’t talking about nothin.” If you can’t be out there with Black Lives Matter and the other groups camping out in front of the homes of Cedillo and De León, then you support the people who are. There’s a role for everyone in fighting for our respect as a people.

How Los Angeles meets this moment will dictate the future of consequences for exposed racism and bigotry in our government. If De León is allowed to stay put, then going forward, no public official will allow themselves to be forced to resign over their anti-Black comments.

Gil Cedillo isn’t off the hook either. He, too, needs to kick rocks. Everything I said about labor and Democratic organizations withholding support from De León should apply to Martinez, Cedillo, and Herrera. At least with Cedillo, while we want him gone now, we know he will be gone in December. The bigger problem we face is giving De León the boot.

Being a leader means more than being the first with a tersely worded statement or performing before the news cameras. It also means taking action and taking a stand, even when no one is watching and it’s uncomfortable to do so.

We are still waiting for Los Angeles “leaders” to meet the moment.

A political strategist, Jasmyne Cannick is a former Special Assistant to previous Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, a delegate in the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and a proud member of The Blacks who stands with the Oaxacan, Armenian, Jewish, and LGBTQ communities.

Ward Connerly Resurfaces to Oppose Reparations for Black Californians

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media | Posted: June 7, 2022

(CBM) – During the early 1990s, Ward Connerly, then-President of the California Civil Rights Initiative Campaign, was the leading African American supporting Proposition (Prop) 209, the ballot initiative that outlawed Affirmative Action in California in 1996.

Well, he’s back.

This time, Connerly, now 82, he is speaking up in opposition to reparations for Black Californians. He is making his objection as the state moves closer than any government in United States history has ever come to providing comprehensive restitution for slavery to Black Americans who are descendants of enslaved people in the American South.

On June 4, Connerly tweeted that Prop 209 could stop any form of reparations for Black Californians from happening.

“It is (Prop) 209 that will prevent our Legislature and Governor from doing something so ridiculous as to compensate some of us based on the color of our skin or being the ancestors of slaves,” Connerly posted.

Last week, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans submitted its first “interim report” to the State Legislature. The 492-page, 13-chapter report details the committee’s findings thus far covering a range of historical injustices against Black Americans in general with specific citations of systemic discrimination in California.

There are chapters dedicated to examining enslavement, housing segregation, unequal

education, racial terror, political disenfranchisement, among other wrongs.

The final report is due July 2023.

Connerly, who has established himself as a national crusader against race-based preference rules, is one of the first high-profile figures in California to speak out against the task force’s efforts to make amends for historical harms committed against Black Americans.

Chris Lodgson, a member of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), one of seven “Anchor Organizations” sanctioned by the task force to host “listening sessions,” organized to engage the public, responded to Connerly’s post, stating “a conservative businessman from Northern California made an unjust comment.”

“In my gut, I believe you’re wrong. You underestimate the people of California. Also,

just because someone might be resentful of something doesn’t mean you don’t do it (to correct) the harms,” Lodgson tweeted on June 6.

“You make a good point that we should carefully consider, and I will,” Connerly replied to Lodgson.

The task force is currently considering five forms of reparation awards: compensatory damages, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition.

The five remedies for human rights violations were pioneered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR is an “autonomous judicial institution” whose focus is the application and interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights, the organization states on the Organization of American States (OAS) website.

On March 30, the task force decided in a 5-4 decision that lineage will determine who will be eligible for compensation. The panel then quickly moved to approve a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States.

An expert team of economists was appointed to calculate the damages listed in the interim report and determine what constitutes harm and atrocities for the descendants of enslaved and free Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century.

The expert team includes Williams Spriggs (former Chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. He currently serves as chief economist for the AFL-CIO), Dr. Kaycea Campbell (Chief Executive Officer for Ventana Capital Advisors and Associate Professor of Economics, Los Angeles Pierce College) and Thomas Craemer (Public Policy Professor at the University of Connecticut).

William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and Kirsten Mullen, a writer, and lecturer whose work focuses on race, art, history, and politics, are also members of the panel of experts.

The panel recently reported that a “conservative estimate” of two million African Americans in California have ancestors who were enslaved in the United States. According to the US 2020, there are about 2.6 million Black Californians in a state that has a total population of nearly 40 million residents.

During a task force meeting on Feb. 23, Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of

California Berkeley’s law school suggested that the panel establish lineage-based criteria instead of a race-based standard because it could be

easily challenged and overturned in court because of Prop. 209.

“If reparations are given on the basis of race that anyone who meets the definition of being Black is entitled to reparations because all have suffered from the legacy…I don’t think it could survive a challenge under Proposition 209,” Chemerinsky told the task force.

Chemerinsky continued, saying, “If it is in education, if it’s in contracting, or if it’s employment, then anything that is deemed as preference on the basis of race is, per se, impermissible.”

Since it first convened on June 1, 2021, the task force was aware of the challenges it would face during its two-year journey and after its charge is completed. Task force member and attorney Don Tamaki brought this to the panel’s attention in December 2021.

“The report is going to get criticized, scrutinized, and really taken apart,” Tamaki said then.

“It just doesn’t make sense that someone should benefit for something that happened to their great, great grandfather or great, great grandmother. I don’t feel responsible for intergenerational debts,” Connerly’s tweeted on June 4. “Now, the CA Legislature wants to rewrite history & have us believe that CA was a northern representation of Mississippi.”

Central Valley Voice
Central Valley Voice
Felicia Roberts took an idea gathered a few people to reached into a minority community to highlight the positive, using a minority newspaper the Central Valley Voice. Roberts was joined by her sisters Carolyn Williams, Alleashia Thomas, niece Hermonie Lynn Williams, nephew Ron Williams, cousin Jerald Lester, Jay Slaffey, Greg Savage, Tim Daniels and the late J Denise Fontaine. Each individual played an important role in the birth of the newspapers. Since, then many have stood strong behind the success of the newspapers and its goal to fill a void in the Central Valley community The Central Valley Voice published their 1st issue in November 1991. Its purposed was to highlight the achievements of minorities in the Central Valley. The Voice focuses on the accomplishments of African Americans and Hispanics giving young people role models while diminishing the stereotypical pictures of gangs, crime and violence that permeate the minority communities. Since 1991, the Central Valley Voice has provided an important voice for the minority community throughout the Madera, Merced. Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

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