California Black Media Political Playback: News You Might Have Missed
Your roundup of news stories you might have missed last week.
Tanu Henry and Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
Assemblymember Mike Gipson Demands Sac County Remove Foster Children From Former Jail
Last week, Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) demanded Sacramento County officials stop housing foster children in a former juvenile correction center.
The lawmaker, who authored Assembly Bill (AB) 175 that expanded and clarified the Foster Youth Bill of Rights, says what Sacramento County is doing is “unacceptable” and is in violation of state law.
“This is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking,” said Gipson, who explained that sex traffickers have access to the facility.
“We can find shelters for dogs, and people take those animals and roll out the red carpet,” Gipson told KCRA TV in Sacramento. “Are you telling me we can’t find placement for children in this county?”
Sacramento County officials say the decision to place 15 “high needs” foster children aged 13 to 17 years old at the Warren E. Thornton Juvenile facility is a temporary measure while the county seeks a legal and permanent solution.
Gipson Also Pushes Two Tax Bills
Last week, at a rally at the State Capitol, Gipson also discussed AB 1498, legislation he authored that would establish an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) minimum of $300. According to the California Budget and Policy Center, 78% of people who qualify for EITC are people of color.
Gipson also expressed his support for another EITC-related legislation, AB 1128, at the rally. AB 1128 would “remove the requirement that a qualifying child has to be younger than 6 years of age as of the last day of the taxable year.”
California Elected Officials Among Black Leaders Mourning Harry Belafonte
Black actors, musicians, businesspeople, politicians and more wrote heartfelt tributes and messages of condolences last week after news broke that Harry Belafonte had passed.
Belafonte, singer, actor, activist, philanthropist, civil rights leader and first Black person to win an Emmy Award, died of congestive heart failure April 25 at his home in New York City.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) paid tribute to her friend on Twitter.
“Another superstar has just passed. My dear friend, Harry Belafonte, was an extraordinarily talented singer and performer,” she tweeted. “More than that, he was a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and worked with President Nelson Mandela to end Apartheid in South Africa. We will all miss his wisdom, his advice, and his huge giving spirit.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) also honored Belafonte’s life and work in a tweet.
“Sad to hear of the passing of my friend Harry Belafonte,” Lee wrote. “The world has lost not only a great musician and actor, but a civil rights activist and warrior for justice whose voice helped change America for the better. Thank you for your work, your courage, and your service.”
Democrats Shoot Down GOP-Backed Fentanyl Bills
Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety Committee last week voted down several bills aimed at addressing California’s Fentanyl crisis.
The measures would have strengthened penalties for Fentanyl dealers who possess large quantities of the drug — or kill or injure people they sell the drug to.
“Californians will continue to die, victims of drug dealers profiting off poisoning our communities,” Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher said in a statement. “These bills were not criminalizing addiction, returning to the ‘war on drugs,’ or any other lie told by the pro-fentanyl lobbyists. They were reasonable, bipartisan proposals to save lives.”
Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the Public Safety Committee and Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) pointed to “harm reduction programs,” which experts say are more effective tools to fight the Fentanyl crisis than the punitive measures being proposed by lawmakers.
Jones-Sawyer says more arrests do not solve the problem in the long-term.
“As soon as you arrest somebody, unfortunately they may get replaced by somebody else and then there is even more drugs on the street,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s a lucrative business. We’ve got to get to what the Governor is doing, for example, getting to the supply side. Which is stopping the drugs from getting across the border.”
Bonta pointed to the major criminal justice reform efforts the state is undertaking, as well a $61 billion investment in harm reduction programs, including distribution of test trips and drug overdose medication.
Biden Highlights Importance of the Black Press at White House Correspondents’ Dinner
At the 2023 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Joe Biden spoke about the importance of the Black press and the tragic death of Emmett Till, an event that helped galvanize the civil rights movement in the 1950s.
Biden told the roomful of journalists that during Black History Month this year he hosted the screening of the film “Till.”
On Aug. 28, 1955, while visiting family in Money, Mississippi, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American teen from Chicago, was lynched for allegedly flirting with a White woman a few days earlier.
The story of Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobly is a “story of a family’s promise and loss” and the country’s “reckoning with hate, violence, and the abuse of power,” Biden said.
“It’s a story that was seared into our memory and our conscience — the nation’s conscience — when Mrs. Till insisted that an open casket for her murdered and maimed 14-year-old son be the means by which he was transported,” Biden said. “She said, ‘Let the people see what I’ve seen.’”
Biden also commended Black publications for their reporting on the lynching and its aftermath, Till’s funeral, and the ensuing trial that freed the perpetrators.
“The reason the world saw what she saw was because of another hero in this story: the Black press,” Biden said “That’s a fact. JET Magazine, the Chicago Defender, and other Black radio and newspapers were unflinching and brave in making sure America saw what she saw. “And I mean it.”
Two Black Women Among New Appointees to Emerge California Board
Two Black women are among four new appointees to the board of Emerge California, an Oakland-based body that describes itself as “the state’s premier organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.”
Brittni Chicuata and Alana D. Matthews are the two new Black women members of the 9-member board. The organization had a 70%-win rate out of the 125 candidates it supported in last November’s general election.
“I’m excited to welcome these powerful and accomplished women leaders to the Board of Directors to help lead Emerge California forward and build on our success in 2023 and beyond,” said Board Chair Rhodesia Ransom. “Since our founding more than twenty years ago, Emerge California has trained over 850 Democratic women to run for office, and we’re just getting started. These four women have valuable expertise and skills that will help us grow our movement to even greater heights.”
The other two new board members are Stacey Owens and Marina A. Torres.
Chicuata is Director of Economic Rights at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
Matthews, an Emerge alumna, is an Assistant District Attorney and Policy Director for the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office. She is also an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law where she founded the Racial Equity and Justice Summer Practicum program.