Tanu Henry | California Black Media | February 22, 2023
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA12), the highest ranking African American woman serving in the U.S. Congress, announced on Feb. 21, that she will enter the race to replace U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein — the 89-year-old, California’s senior U.S. Senator who has announced that she would not seek another term.
“No one is rolling out the welcome mat – especially for someone like me. I am the girl they didn’t allow in, who couldn’t drink from the water fountain, who had an abortion in a back alley when they all were illegal,” Lee said in a video she released announcing her senatorial bid. “I escaped a violent marriage, became a single mom, a homeless mom, a mom who couldn’t afford childcare and brought her kids to class with her.”
“By the grace of God, I didn’t let that stop me,” Lee said over a soundtrack of loudening applause. “And even though there are no African American women in the U.S. Senate, we won’t let that stop us either. Because when you stand on the side of justice, you don’t quit when they give you a seat at the table. You bring a folding chair for everyone, and they’re here to stay.
A week earlier, Lee, a 12-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is known for her progressive politics, filed the required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to be a candidate in the 2024 race.
“It has been an immense honor to serve alongside Senator Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving woman senator in our nation’s history,” Lee said in a statement after Feinstein’s announcement. “For over two decades, we’ve worked closely together to represent the best interests of our great state of California; create an economy that works for all; and advance justice and equity.”
“The progress we’ve made in the fight for equity can be seen in the Senator’s tenure itself: when she was elected in ’92, there were just two women senators. Today, there are 25,” Lee continued her homage to Feinstein.
If Lee wins she will be the only Black woman serving in the U.S. Senate. Just two Black women, Vice President Kamala Harris and former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun, have served in the upper house of the United States Congress in the body’s 230-year history.
“As one of the most liberal states in the nation, we must continue to send an independent voice who will be diverse in their perspective and positions,” said Kellie Todd-Griffin, founding convener of the California Black Women’s Collective, a statewide organization whose membership includes women representing various professional backgrounds.
“That is Congressmember Barbara Lee. She speaks for all of us,” added Griffin.
In 2020, after Kamala Harris became Vice President, Black women advocates across California called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a Black woman to replace her. They made the case that there would be no other Black woman in the Senate after Harris left, and that Black women are the most loyal, most powerful, and most consistent voting bloc in the Democratic Party.
Instead, Newsom appointed Sen. Alex Padilla, the first Latino from California to serve in the U.S. Senate. Although Black political advocates and Black leaders in the California Democratic Party eventually embraced Padilla’s nomination, many felt Newsom’s decision to not appoint a Black woman to replace Harris was a slap in the face.
“That is a terrible loss for America. That is our seat,” said Amelia Ashley Ward, publisher of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter, after Padilla was nominated. “It was won by an African American woman, and she had hundreds of thousands of African American women working hard with her, holding her up, standing behind her to win that seat. Not to mention millions of other Californians. Kamala was the second Black woman in history to serve in the United States Senate and she is currently the only Black woman in the United States Senate. She is the face and the voice of Black women from all across this country and we will lose that when she’s gone.”
Lee, 76, will be competing for Feinstein’s Senate seat against two other Democratic members of California’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives: Katie Porter (D-CA-47), 49, and Adam Schiff (D-CA-30), 62.
Both Porter and Schiff, like Lee, have progressive voting records. Both Democratic competitors have already amassed tens of millions of dollars, respectively, in campaign donations. Their early fundraising places them in a stronger position than Lee to win the 2024 Democratic primary which will be held about a year from now.
In the U.S. House, Lee serves as co-chair of the Policy and Steering Committee. She is also a member of the Appropriations and Budget committees. She is former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Lee has also been hailed by her Democratic colleagues as the only member of Congress who had the courage to vote against the use of force in Iraq after the September 11 attacks.
As a young activist, Lee was a volunteer for the 1973 Oakland mayoral campaign of Black founder co-founder Bobby Seale.
Griffin says for Black women particularly, and for African Americans in general, it is important to have representation in the United States Senate.
“Congressmember Lee has been a progressive leader whose record demonstrates she will fight to solve the issues that impact our community. She has effectively served California by advancing meaningful policy while standing up for the things that matter to everyday citizens,” said Griffin.
Gov. Newsom Signs Legislation Funding Nation’s First Black Women’s Think Tank
Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media: September 9, 2022
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a budget trailer bill approving $5 Million in funding to the California State University at Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) to house the California Black Women’s Think Tank.
The California Black Women’s Collective (CBWC) Empowerment Institute will be a founding partner in the development of the policy research institution.
The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 179, authored by Assemblymember Phillip Ting (D-San Francisco), paves the way for establishing a policy institute that will focus on improving structures and practices that impact the lives of Black women and girls across the state.
“The California Black Women’s Collective has diligently worked hard over the last year to make the California Black Women’s Think Tank, the first of its kind in the nation, happen,” Kellie Todd Griffin, speaking for CBWC, told California Black Media.
CBWC in partnership with Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), is a coalition of more than 1,500 Black Women leaders throughout California.
The coalition utilizes Black women’s expertise and collaboration skills in political, community, and social justice
activism to amplify their voices, knowledge, and issues throughout the state.
On June 20, Newsom signed a $308 billion state budget that helps address rising costs for Californians, tackles the state’s most pressing needs, builds reserves, and invests in the state’s future.
AB 179, the Budget Act of 2022, implements funding for key priorities established by the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC) for this legislative session, including CBWC’s Think Tank.
“We are thankful to the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) that included it as a priority-budget ask and CSUDH for partnering with us on it,” Todd Griffin said.
The CBWC’s goal for the Think Tank is for it to be “relevant and accessible” in providing an “independent, academic, research entity that provides a “rigorous analysis approach to policy,” CBWC explained in a written overview.
The state and CLBC are in support of addressing the need to expand work that drives systematic change, brought forth by CBWC. The Think Tank is an effort to serve as a research institution and resource for lawmakers, elected officials, business leaders, and advocating organizations willing to impact sustainable and scalable change.
“There are approximately 1.1 million Black females in California. However, there are 75% of Black households headed by single Black mothers and 80% of Black households have Black women breadwinners. There are economic, educational,
health, and electoral barriers confronting Black women every day. In California, 23% of Black women live in poverty, according to the Women’s Well-Being Index from the California Budget and Policy Center,” CBWC stated.
According to the Status of Black Women report from the Women’s Policy Research (WPR) and information provided by CBWC, the median income for Black women in California is $43,000 a year- compared to $52,000 for White women and $69,000 for White men. The report by WPR also shared that the average cost of childcare for an infant makes up 28% of a Black woman’s average income in the state.
CBWC’s Think Tank intends to approach its work in a data-driven, strategic, and collaborative manner. Based on current information concerning Black women and girls in the state, the collective specifically aims to provide actionable policy solutions, remove persistent barriers that this group of women faces on a daily basis, and achieve racial and gender equity.
The CBWC Empowerment Institute falls in line with these initiatives to help Black women, Todd Griffin asserts.
“The magnitude of this funding allocation will be transformative as we continue the work to improve the quality of life of Black women and girls throughout California,” Todd Griffin said.
Governor Newsom Signs Budget Putting Money Back in Californians’ Pockets and Investing in State’s Future
With over $580M in new funding, the budget confirms GO-Biz as a central player in supporting industries and businesses across the state, including $250M for COVID paid sick leave relief grants, $120M for CalCompetes grants, $75M for small business drought relief, and $30M for ports improvements.
CVV News-Posted: July 1, 2022
Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a $308 billion state budget that provides direct tax refunds for 23 million Californians to help address rising costs, tackles the state’s most pressing needs, builds our reserves, and invests in California’s future.
“In the face of new challenges and uncertainties, we’re providing over $17 billion in relief to help families make ends meet, and doubling down on our investments to keep building the California Dream on a strong fiscal foundation,” said Governor Newsom. “This budget invests in our core values at a pivotal moment, safeguarding women’s right to choose, expanding health care access to all and supporting the most vulnerable among us while shoring up our future with funds to combat the climate crisis, bolster our energy grid, transform our schools and protect communities. Building a better future for all, we’ll continue to model what progressive and responsible governance can look like, the California way.”
Amid record rates of inflation and economic uncertainty on the horizon, the budget continues to build resiliency with $37.2 billion in budgetary reserves and 93 percent of the discretionary surplus allocated for one-time projects.
The 2022 Budget Act provides GO-Biz with more than $700M in total funding to support a wide range of businesses and promote statewide economic development. This includes more than $580M in new investments:
- $250M for COVID paid sick leave relief grants
- $120M for Cal Competes grants
- $75M for small business drought relief
- $30M for ports improvements
- $25M for employment social enterprises
- $25M for climate resilience financing
- $20M for inclusive innovation hubs
- $15M for tourism recovery
- $11.6M for immigrant integration
- $8M for women’s business centers
- $1.2M for regional recovery