August 19, 2021
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
“Vaccinate now” is the mandate from Los Angeles-area federal, state and local elected officials, who united on August 12 to implore African Americans and Latinos to receive the shot to counteract the latest surge in COVID-19 infections.
At a press conference at Kedren Health Center in South L.A., 10 civic-minded politicians answered the call of Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) to collectively urge the county’s 8.3 million residents who remain eligible for vaccinations to get inoculated.
Medical professionals agree that vaccinations remain the primary prevention method against the COVID-19 virus and the Delta variant. Those who are fully vaccinated reduce the chances of hospitalization and death according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“The spread of COVID is at epidemic proportions and we need to make sure that everyone knows how important it is to get vaccinated. I’m the chair of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, and as far as I’m concerned, this is a public safety emergency. We all need to come together to make sure everyone is protected and safe,” said Jones-Sawyer.
Echoing his concerns were U.S. Representative Karen Bass, State Senator Steven Bradford, State Senator Sydney Kamlager, Assemblymembers Mike Gipson and Isaac Bryan, L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, L.A. City Councilmembers Curren Price, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. Unified School District Board Member Dr. George McKenna, and Dr. John H. Griffith, CEO/president of Kedren Health Center.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that our community would be hit the hardest and when the vaccines rolled out, we knew that we would need a full court press to ensure that our community had access to the vaccine,” said Bass, who added that several actions have been implemented on the federal level to fight the virus.
Congressional legislation comprised eight major COVID relief packages that included more than $80 billion for vaccination funding. Also, earlier this year, $16 billion was approved for the research, development and manufacture of vaccines, and more than $20 billion for the distribution of the products.
“Still too many people, especially too many African Americans, have not been vaccinated. African Americans are 6-to-7% lower than other groups in terms of their vaccination rates,” noted Bass, as she announced a two-month campaign spearheaded by Black elected officials to promote COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
The initiative will feature PSAs on radio and in print publications along with a series of testing and vaccination events at community activities in the metropolitan area. The calendar includes the August 21- Uptown Jazz Festival hosted by Long Beach Councilman Rex Richardson, August 22 – Gardena Jazz Festival hosted by Bradford, August 28 – Baldwin Hills Plaza Concert, Sept. 18 –door-to-door mobile vaccination clinic in Watts sponsored by Gipson.
Other speakers included McKenna, who gave an update on LAUSD’s efforts to protect students and staff on school campuses. He said all health and safety guidelines will be followed; all schools are sanitized and all teachers are expected to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated staff will be regularly tested for COVID-19. Also, each school will have a mobile testing and vaccination day available.
“I want to indicate, more than anything else, to get vaccinated. Don’t act like there’s a taboo against that. Do not believe that the vaccine is a plot from someplace. To anybody in my community that is unsure, do not listen to voodoo science. Listen to medical science. Trust your doctor, who is a medical professional and trained to do this,” encouraged McKenna. “The facts are that vaccines will keep us safe.”
Bradford shared similar comments, stressing, “There is no need to fear this vaccine. It has been tested and was even designed by an African American sister, so that should give people even more assurance that this vaccine is safe. The time is now to get vaccinated!”
Gipson delivered an impassioned plea for vaccinations as he recalled losing two family members and two church members to the COVID-19 virus. “But, we can stop it today. We can turn this trajectory around. Whatever your hesitation is, get past that so you won’t have to walk in the shoes I walk in today – missing family members and friends. I got my vaccination and I want you to get yours.”
Making a final plea, Jones-Sawyer said, “This pandemic remains a threat to the health and welfare of everyone. COVID-19 and the new Delta variant continue to disproportionately affect Black and Latino communities with higher infection and death rates, which is why everyone must protect themselves by getting vaccinated.”
August 19, 2021
By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr.
Mark Ridley-Thomas is undefeated as a candidate for elected office. Over the past 30 years, Ridley-Thomas has been a councilman, a member of the California Assembly, the California Senate, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and is now serving his final term as a councilmember for the 10th District for the City of Los Angeles. For many in South Los Angeles and throughout all of Los Angeles, most believed Mayor would be a fitting title for a man who has established himself throughout the city, county, and state as a relentless warrior for the underserved. A ferocious campaigner for political office and an honorable leader who works tirelessly for the service of all.
So, when Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas announced Monday that he will not be running for mayor, it was a shock to many and a relief for those who have been considering running for the seat.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, in an exclusive sit-down interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel says, “Thirty years of working as an elected official is enough and that he has no plans for running for another political office.” What he wants to do is spend his time and energy addressing the unprecedented homeless crisis that we have here in Los Angeles and throughout the state.
“If we don’t address this now and get a comprehensive plan together, the problem is just going to get worse,” says Ridley-Thomas. He says that he doesn’t believe he can cure the problem, but he does feel that he can make an impact in addressing the problem. “I never thought I could cure all of the medical issues that face our community, but if you look at what I was able to accomplish by re-opening Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, there is no doubt I was able to have an impact.” It is that type of unapologetic and forward thinking that is needed to address the un-housed here in Los Angeles. Thomas is confident that with the right focus and a massing of city, state, and federal resources that he can have a serious impact in addressing this issue.
Ridley-Thomas says that at this point in his career his “calling and focus is that of the homeless crisis in the city of Los Angeles, and I will double down and lean in on that particular issue." He says right now, he believes he can have the greatest impact on this issue as a member of the city council and chair of the powerful committee that is currently leading the efforts to house thousands of people now living on the streets of Los Angeles.
When asked, if not him, who would he like to see be the next mayor of Los Angeles, he immediately offered up the suggestion of Congresswoman Karen Bass. Ridley-Thomas says while the overwhelmingly popular congresswoman has not entered the race, and that he has not had any conversation with her about running, he believes “she has the character, track record, the understanding of the issues and the leadership qualities needed to guide this city into the future.”
This obviously led to the next question, if Congresswoman Bass is elected Mayor, would he then consider a run for congress? He reiterated his previous response, “I have no intentions of seeking another elected office” and the councilman was adamant that what he now wants to focus on both while in city hall and after, is addressing the homeless crisis here in Los Angeles.
Ridley-Thomas said, “Her [Karen Bass] candidacy for mayor is compelling. She is already a history maker and if she were to become mayor, she would make history again.”
To date, City Attorney Mike Feurer, Councilman Joe Buscaino and real estate agent, Mel Wilson have all announced their candidacy. It is rumored that Council President Nury Martinez is also considering a run for mayor as well as Councilmembers Kevin De Leon and Paul Krekorian.
Following Ridley-Thomas’s announcement of not running for Mayor, Congresswoman Bass released this statement.
“Mark Ridley-Thomas is a living legacy of life-long courageous leadership and selfless public service to the people of the City of Los Angeles. The passion he had when we worked as activists together in South Los Angeles more than 40 years ago has never wavered nor waned – not when he served in Sacramento and not when he served as County Supervisor. His impact can be seen all throughout South Los Angeles. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital is not only serving our community again but saving lives daily in the midst of a public health disaster. The first-of-its-kind Reentry Opportunity Center has offered opportunities to folks from our community to better our neighborhoods. Biotech, infrastructure, and housing investments are all being made in our community. While I respect Mark’s decision not to run for mayor, Los Angeles is grateful and fortunate that he continues to serve us on the city council and continue his work to address the housing crisis.”
While Congresswoman Bass has not addressed the idea of running for mayor, her candidacy would make anyone considering entering the race to rethink their consideration; she would undoubtedly be the front runner to succeed current Mayor Eric Garcetti. If Bass were to win, she would be the second African American (Tom Bradley was the first) and first woman to be elected Mayor of the city. An idea that is not improbable given that the current Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is all-female and that women across the country have been elected and leading major cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, and Atlanta in recent years.
“I am hopeful that Karen will run for mayor. We need a strong leader like her to move our city forward. We couldn’t have a better candidate if she decides to run,” stated Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president of the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade.
Congresswoman Bass has confirmed that she has been recruited to run for mayor. Bass is extremely popular throughout Los Angeles and throughout the state. She was the sponsor of Congressional bill H.R. 1280 – The George Floyd Justice in policing Act of 2021, which passed in the house on 3/3/21, she was considered by then candidate and now President Joe Biden as a potential vice presidential running mate as well as had been considered by Governor Gavin Newsom for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat to replace now Vice President Kamala Harris. Her broad appeal from progressives and liberals to independents voters, both young and old, makes her a prime candidate to potentially lead the nation’s most populous and diverse city.
“The City of Los Angeles voters will be looking to support a mayor who can solve two main issues, homelessness and crime in the next election. Congresswoman Karen Bass is uniquely qualified to address them both,” stated Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
While Garcetti's official term does not end until December 2022, he has been nominated by the Biden administration to become the U.S. Ambassador of India, pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate. This could lead to an early vacancy which would need to be filled via an appointment of an interim mayor by the city council.
The appointment of an interim mayor gets more complicated since several of the councilmembers are considering running for mayor, and none of them want to allow the other to run and have the advantage of being called the incumbent or have the title of Mayor on their political literature. This quandary has opened conversations about people like former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Council President Herb Wesson as candidates to fill Garcetti’s seat for a year assuming Garcetti is confirmed by the Senate and the interim agrees not to run for mayor in 2022.
Who will be Los Angeles next mayor is wide open, both for the short term and the long term. But what we know is that Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas will not be one of the candidates vying for that title. Since it won’t be Ridley-Thomas, the question remains, “will it be Karen?” Stay tuned.
August 19, 2021
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Redistricting will bring changes to South Los Angeles, an area where many African Americans reside, and the adjustment could affect the collective power of the Black community.
The L.A. City Charter mandates that every 10 years following the decennial U.S. Census, City Council district boundaries be redrawn to make each district largely equal in population. The charter also establishes a 21-member commission charged with recommending a redistricting plan to the City Council that outlines the borders of each Council District.
Charisse Bremond-Weaver, the Rev. Eddie Anderson and Valerie Lynne Shaw were appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson, respectively, as Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commissioners who are the only African Americans on the board.
Although they will vote along with fellow commissioners on the entire redistricting plan, the three are especially focused on persuading Black Angelenos to share ideas, desires, histories and experiences that impact and define their neighborhoods. The goal, they said, is to ensure inclusive representation, secure needed assets, and maintain a strong community.
“Why is redistricting important, particularly for African Americans? It’s really about power and how we’re going to exercise our power and access resources,” said Shaw, a member of the Board of Governors for the California Community College System and former L.A. Board of Public Works president, vice -president and commissioner.
“During the [Mayor Tom] Bradley days, about 40 years ago, we were 20% of the population and now we’re about 7%. We’ve also seen a decline in our communities, changing demographics, the decline of our civic and professional groups and the disappearance of some of our nonprofits,” she noted.
“These are all called mediating structures – structures that illustrate the life of the Black community. Now, we’re looking at changing and rearranging our council districts – our neighborhoods – and it’s important to look at this process in order to further empower Black people.”
Anderson, who serves as senior pastor of McCarthy Memorial Christian Church and describes himself as a “millennial who works with Black Lives Matter and other organizations that care about the Black future,” encouraged African Americans to consider the concept of redistricting as investing in communities.
“When we talk about investment, we are talking about how do you get more parks, more public space, how do we [get] our roads fixed in our neighborhoods. All of that will be the by-product of redistricting - even who is our representative and do they ultimately have your needs at heart,” he insisted.
“So, for the Black community, especially in South L.A. and all across L.A. County, it’s important for us to really bring it in and make sure our voices are heard and to draw, with our moral imagination, for the next 10 years,” Anderson said.
Further emphasizing the importance of input from African Americans, Bremond-Weaver, president/CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, urged Blacks to attend and speak up during the Commission’s public hearings. In addition to the census data, the commissioners’ redistricting recommendations will be greatly influenced by input from local residents and people with a stake in the direction of their neighborhood, she said.
“If you care about your community, if you want your community to change, if you want resources in your community, then you have to be a part of the process. We all have to be accountable to the communities we care about and love. For me, that’s Council Districts 8, 9 and 10, where we have three Black amazing elected officials, who represent our community. If we don’t get the input from our own community, those lines might be different,” she stressed.
“Black voices must be heard in this process and we have to be unapologetic about what we want for our community. If we’re not pushing that narrative, if we’re not showing up to tell our stories about why our community should look like this, then shame on us,” said Bremond-Weaver.
In addition to giving testimony at public hearings, residents will be able to communicate their vision for their community by using a map tool on the City Council Redistricting’s website.
According to Robert Battles, associate director of community outreach and engagement for the Commission, the tool will allow site visitors to create a visual presentation reflecting their image of their community and what they would like it to look like in the future.
The tool, which will be launched in the near future, will include a tutorial.
The public can also share comments during meetings that the Commission is currently hosting for each Council District via Zoom.
Individuals or representatives of neighborhood-based organizations can participate either virtually or by telephone.
Hoping to inspire African American involvement in the redistricting process, Anderson declared, “Your voice is very important. Please tell us your story and let’s show up. This is equity. This is our civil rights for 2021!”
Bremond-Weaver said, “Your voice matters, resources matter in our community and who represents us at the local level.
If you care about keeping our community whole and all of the things that make our community as beautiful as it is, your voice needs to be heard.”
Shaw frankly stated, “If you can intend to live in L.A. as we move forward, it will be crucial that you understand how city government operates, that you understand the power structure of your district and your neighborhood.
“This process will enable the average citizen to understand those two things because as we lose population, if we don’t raise our voices, we lose power.”
To learn more about the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission, visit https://laccrc2021.org/
Managing Editor Brandon I. Brooks contributed to this report.
August 12, 2021
By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Shortly after the U.S. Senate passed President Joe Biden’s most ambitious pieces of legislation, a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, Democrats acted again by pushing through an equally enterprising $3.5 trillion budget proposal.
The bill would make childcare more accessible, create universal pre-K, expand paid family and medical leave, and make community college free for the first two years.
Household tax credits would see an enhancement.
The age for Medicare likely would reduce, and Americans would realize reductions in healthcare costs while receiving expanded access to dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
The big-budget plan also would expand green energy and curb climate change through business tax breaks, consumer rebates, and fees assessed to polluters.
“The Democratic budget will bring a generational transformation to how our economy works for average Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) remarked.
The budget resolution passed 50-49, with each Democrat voting for the measure and every Republican against it.
It also passed following nearly 15 hours of amendment votes and the passage of the infrastructure plan.
While there’s optimism for ultimate passage in both chambers of Congress because Democrats are using the reconciliation process for the budget, Sen. Schumer and others in his party know there remains a battle ahead.
West Virginia Democrat – and Republican-leaning – Sen. Joe Manchin already has raised the possibility that he might ultimately vote against his party on the budget bill.
“I’m concerned about the grave consequences [for the nation’s debt] as well as the ability to respond to other crises,” Sen. Manchin stated.
“Given the current state of the economic recovery, it is simply irresponsible to continue spending at levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession – not an economy that is on the verge of overheating,” the Senator continued.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) also expressed concern about the cost of the bill.
In the evenly divided, Democrats need each of its members to vote in favor of the measure.
In a 50-50 tie, Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the deciding ballot.
The budget bill would accomplish a significant goal of the Biden-Harris administration, installing the first federally paid family leave program.
Funds also are earmarked for home health care, housing, job training, child nutrition, and to reduce the cost of health insurance and medication.
Investments would go toward green and sustainable housing, production and housing affordability, and workforce development.
Also, millions of immigrant workers and families would gain a path to citizenship, and the government would make “the largest one-time investment in Native American infrastructure projects,” a White House official stated.
The Internal Revenue would see more money, enabling the agency to add resources to collect unpaid taxes.
“We still have a ways to go, but we’ve taken a giant step forward to transform America,” Sen. Schumer concluded.
“This is the most significant piece of legislation that’s been considered in decades.”