Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed 

News You Might Have Missed

Yahushua Nyerere Robinson (courtesy photo)

By Bo Tefu, Antonio Ray Harvey, Lila Brown and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media


Rest in Peace: A.M.E. Pastor and L.A Civil Rights Icon Cecil “Chip” Murray Passes

The Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, former pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles, died of natural causes April 6 at his Windsor Hills Home. He was 94. 

“Today, we lost a giant. Reverend Dr. Cecil Murray dedicated his life to service, community, and putting God first in all things. I had the absolute honor of working with him, worshiping with him, and seeking his counsel,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass of the dynamic religious leader whose ministry inspired and attracted millionaires as well as former gang bangers and people dealing with substance use disorder (SUD).

Murray oversaw the growth of FAME’s congregation from 250 members to 18,000.

 “My heart is with the First AME congregation and community today as we reflect on a legacy that changed this city forever,” Bass continued. 

Murray served as Senior Minister at FAME, the oldest Black congregation in the city, for 27 years. During that time, various dignitaries visited and he built strong relationships with political and civic leaders in the city and across the state, as well as a number of Hollywood figures. Several national political leaders also visited with Murray and his congregation at FAME, including Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. 

Murray, a Florida native and U.S. Air Force vet, attended Florida A&M University, where he majored in history, worked on the school newspaper and pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.  He later attended Claremont School of Theology in Los Angeles County, where he earned his doctorate in Divinity. 

Murray is survived by his son Drew. His wife Bernadine, who was a committed member of the A.M.E. church and the daughter of his childhood pastor, died in 2013. 


Yahushua’s Law: Senate Advances Bill to Protect Students From Extreme Weather 

 In a significant move towards student safety, the California Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill (SB) 1248, also known as Yahushua’s Law, on April 3.

The bill is named in memory of Yahushua Robinson, a 12-year-old student from Lake Elsinore, who tragically died due to a heat-related illness during a physical education class in 2023. It is a pioneering effort to prevent similar incidents in the future. 

Authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Bakersfield) and co-authored by Assemblymember Akilah Weber, M.D. (D-La Mesa), SB 1248 directs the California Department of Education to develop comprehensive guidelines for schools regarding student activity during all extreme weather conditions. 

“No student should ever lose their life on campus to extreme weather when we can take steps to protect them by preparing statewide plans to minimize exposure to the most harmful elements of exposure,” Hurtado said after introducing SB 1248. 

The bill stipulates that schools must implement safety measures which include monitoring weather forecasts, postponing or relocating outdoor activities during hazardous conditions, and ensuring students have proper hydration and access to shade. It also requires schools to establish clear communication plans to keep parents, teachers, and students informed about potential weather hazards. 

Supporters of the bill include the Robinson family, advocate Christina Laster, Bold Enterprises LLC, California Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute, Familias Empoderadas del Valle Central National Action Network, The Black Student Advocate, and the Ventura County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Thanking Hurtado for introducing this crucial legislation, Weber said, “The story of Yahushua Robinson last year was heartbreaking. We have protections for farm workers and other industries in the case of extreme weather, now climate change is forcing us to also extend similar protections to students at school.”


Sen. Steve Bradford Introduces Reparations Bill

California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) vice chair Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) introduced new legislation related to reparations to the Senate Committee on Housing on April 2 in Sacramento.

Senate Bill (SB) 1007, “establishes the Homeowner’s Assistance for Descendants of Enslaved Persons Program to make financial aid or assistance available to descendants for the purposes of purchasing, owning, or maintaining a home,” the legislation states.

The Senate Housing Committee advanced the bill with an 8-1 vote. It will be re-referred to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.

 Sen. Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) was the only member who voted against the bill.

“SB 1007 is about starting a long process of paying back a debt that is not only owed, but that was also promised, and is 160 years overdue, to African Americans,” Bradford told the committee chaired by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). “It is the first step in closing the wealth and equity gap created by centuries of slavery and racial discrimination policies.”

The bill aligns with one of the 115 recommendations listed in a two-year study conducted by the California reparations task force, of which Bradford was one of nine members.

Bradford said the report reveals that, in the state of California, a typical Black-owned home is 22% less valuable than a White-owned home. 

Various advocacy groups from around the state attended the hearing held at the State Capitol Annex Swing Space. The California Housing Partnership, Bay Area Regional Health and Inequities Initiative, Coalition for A Just and Equitable California, Disability Rights of California, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, and California Community Builders all voiced their support of the bill.

Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas reparations Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 113 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 31-1 vote on Feb. 29 and was adopted with a 10-0 vote on April 2. The bill is a companion of Assemblymember Akilah Weber’s Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 135.

SCR 113 would acknowledge the harms and atrocities committed by the State of California that “promoted, facilitated, enforced, and permitted the institution of chattel slavery and the legacy of ongoing badges and incidents of slavery that form the systemic structures of discrimination” the bill’s language states.

“For the first time, California is acknowledging its role in the perpetuation of the harms and ongoing effects of slavery of Black people across the state and in the nation. This resolution simply acknowledges that,” Smallwood-Cuevas said.


Congresswoman Barbara Lee Issues Statement on Deaths of Humanitarian Aid Volunteers in Gaza 

On April 2, a day after an Israeli airstrike erroneously killed seven employees of World Central Kitchen (WCK), a humanitarian organization delivering aid in the Gaza Strip, a statement was release by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12). 

“This is a devastating and avoidable tragedy. My prayers go to the families and loved ones of the selfless members of the World Central Kitchen team whose lives were lost,” said Lee.

The same day, it was confirmed by the organization that the humanitarian aid volunteers were killed in a strike carried out by Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Prior to the incident, members of the team had been travelling in two armored vehicles marked with the WCF logo and they had been coordinating their movements with the IDF. The group had successfully delivered 10 tons of humanitarian food in a deconflicted zone when its convoy was struck.

“This is not only an attack against WCK. This is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the direst situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable,” said Erin Gore, chief executive officer of World Central Kitchen. 

The seven victims included a U.S. citizen as well as others from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Palestine.

Lee has been a vocal advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza and has supported actions by President Joe Biden to airdrop humanitarian aid in the area. 

“Far too many civilians have lost their lives as a result of Benjamin Netanyahu’s reprehensible military offensive. The U.S. must join with our allies and demand an immediate, permanent ceasefire – it’s long overdue,” Lee said. 


LAO Releases Report on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in California Child Welfare System

Racial inequalities in California’s child welfare system disproportionately impact poor Black and Native American children, according to a report released April 3 by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). 

The report, which was presented to the Assembly Subcommittee No. 2 on Human Services — chaired by Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley) — states that the proportion of low-income Black and Native American children in foster care is four times larger than other racial and ethnic groups in the state.  Half of the children from each racial group has experienced some level of child welfare involvement before reaching legal age. 

Jackson is a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus. 

“Racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparities are present within initial allegations and persist at all levels of the system — becoming the most pronounced for youth in care,” the report states. 

The disparities have persisted over the last decade across the state, the LAO found, adding that Black children living in poverty are more likely to enter foster care. State data shows that there is a correlation between poverty and foster placement in each county. 

“Throughout all levels of the child welfare system, families experiencing poverty are more likely to come to the attention of and be impacted by the child welfare system,” stated the report. 

Overall, the report revealed that more than half of the families affected by the state child welfare system earn $1,000 per month, significantly less than the national average of $5,000 a month. 

The financial disparities highlighted in the LAO report align with existing research indicating that poverty is among the main factors contributing to the likelihood of child maltreatment. State anti-poverty programs include cash aid, childcare subsidies, supportive housing, and nutrition assistance. 


Call for Nominations: The 2024 California Diversity Awards

Organizers of the California Diversity Awards are now accepting nominations for its 2024 ceremony, which will be held June 27 at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento. 

Hosted by the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce, the California African American Chamber of Commerce and the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the awards ceremony “recognizes committed corporations, public officials, and nonprofits that are moving the dial in creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable California.”

“Awardees are recognized at an invite-only luncheon with California’s business, political, and community leaders,” according to a joint press release from the three chambers of commerce. 

The deadline for accepting nominations is Monday, April 15, 2024, at 11:59 PST.

In 2023, the awardees included California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, the Banc of California, and the California Farmworker Foundation. Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate Tara Lynn Gray and T-Mobile Corporation were the recipients in 2022. 

Public officials who are nominated must be an active elected or appointed “state official who is currently serving California and have demonstrated their commitment to improving the quality of life within diverse communities through focused, innovative, and inclusive initiatives and policies.” 

Corporate nominees must have “demonstrated a commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through impactful actions that create advancement opportunities for diverse communities in California.”

Other criteria include the organization’s or individual’s commitment to philanthropy, community engagement and promoting diversity in leadership, procurement and among employees. 

To submit nominations, visit CaDiversityAwards.com.