September 17, 2020

By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr.

Executive Editor

 

Noted activist, playwright and novelist, James Baldwin, wrote “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  His words are as relevant today as they were when Baldwin first wrote them.

The world is out of sync.  The economy is on the brink of collapse, businesses are failing at an unprecedented rate, and unemployment is at an all-time high.  Schools are forced to be session virtually, and while COVID-19 has already killed over 200,000, unfortunately Black and Brown people have died at far higher and disproportionate rate than others.  No matter what the current presidential propaganda is, we are not likely to see a vaccine for at least another 6 to12 months and the realistic perspective of what it will take to get life back to a “new normal,” is like trying to figure out who has the coronavirus and who doesn’t?

Whether you are a political junkie, a Black Lives Matter activist, or just working every day to do the best of your abilities for yourself and your family, this election will set the course for your life and the life of future generations for years to come!  Our reality is that November 3, 2020, will be our day of reckoning; a day that we as Black men and women will come to reckon with the simple fact that the Black community, not only here in Los Angeles, but across the country, will either rise up and let our voices be heard or we will stay home and passively allow others to decide what our destiny and future will be. 

Voting is a sacred right.  Many of our ancestors fought and died for us to have this right.  Many have been beaten, jailed and died to ensure that our vote and our voices would someday be heard.  We have all seen and heard of the attacks from the current White House Administration to weaken and or water down our right to vote.  We cannot and we will not let these actions occur.  Whether you intend to vote by mail or show up to the polls, we must make sure that our votes and our voices are heard loud and clear. 

It is easy to focus on the Presidential election, and for many of us, the answer is clear and simple.  Do we continue forward with the current Presidential Administration, an administration that cares nothing about our community, that cares nothing about our issues and cares nothing about our quality of life.  Or, do we embrace change, do we vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and begin to find a way out of the misery and nightmarish state we have suffered through for the past four years? Do we continue ignoring the devastation that America has been under from COVID-19? Do we watch passively as a government moves forward and the rich get richer, while the Black community, communities of color, women, and all good people of good will, concern and compassion for one another, continue to suffer? 

Los Angeles, we must show up to vote in mass; we must make it our responsibility to not only vote, but we must ensure that our family and friends also vote.  We must create phone banks of people and check-ins with our family and friends in other states to see to it that they too have cast their votes.  The truth is, that California is a very Democratic state and most likely, California and its 55 electoral college votes will go to the Biden/Harris ticket.  But, what about the other states? What about those swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan or those bubble states like Arizona, Nevada and even Texas?  We can be the swing that tips the scales of righteousness in our favor.  Just think, if we show up in mass and vote, like we never have before, how strong the Black vote could be.  We can make the difference on who will lead this country out of the pandemic and into the future ... that would be real power.

MONEY CAN’T BUY OUR LOVE

But, there are other elections at hand that we must pay equal attention to.  The Republican Party has put millions of dollars into the campaign to support agent provocateur Joe Collins for Congress in an attempt to defeat Congresswoman Maxine Waters.  We, as Black voters can play a major role in sending a message, loud and clear, that some things and some people are afraid, and that no one is allowed to try and distract or twist our loyalty by agent provocateurs disguised as change agents attempting to do other people’s bidding.    First, question is who is Joe Collins?  Where did he come from and who is funding his multi-million-dollar campaign against our Congresswoman, our member of congress who has not been afraid to ask the tough questions when the tough questions weren’t popular, and who is never afraid to stand up for US.  In this election, we must say NO!  We must show up and let our voices be heard.  Let every and anyone know that there is no amount of money that they can spend that will compromise our allegiance to those who have stood with us when others turned their backs.  Our pride, our opinion and our loyalty will not be bought and cannot be compromised, and we will take issue with anyone who sells us out and chooses dollars over dedication.

SUPERVISOR

While this race has two strong African American candidates, both vying to replace Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is leaving office because of term limits, it is Los Angeles Councilman and former Council president, Herb Wesson, who has become the clear choice to become the newest member of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, representing the 2nd Supervisorial District.

The Second District is the home to the largest population of African Americans within the County of Los Angeles and Wesson has been able to garner a large and broad supporter base from across the district.  He has been endorsed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Los Angeles Federation of Labor and the Los Angles Sentinel.  Wesson has also received the support and endorsement of mayors from across the 2nd District, including Mayors Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles), James Butts (Inglewood), Tasha Cerda (Gardena), Luis Solache (Lynwood) Alex Vargas (Hawthorne).  He has also received the endorsement of former 2nd District Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke, who is the first woman and first African American ever elected to the Board of Supervisors.

Black Votes Matter

No race in Los Angeles creates more debate than the race for Los Angeles District Attorney. 

 

The current District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, is not the most popular candidate (even though she barely missed out on securing over 50 percent of the vote in the March primary to avoid a runoff), and not everyone is excited or confident about her effectiveness as District Attorney. 

However, her opponent, George Gascon, has an equally questionable background.  Many of the allegations that Lacey has been accused of here, in Los Angeles, Gascon has also been accused of during his time as District Attorney in San Francisco.  In addition to the allegations that Gascon was not an effective district attorney in the Bay area, we must also not forget that Gascon is a former LAPD officer who rose up and through the ranks as a loyal officer under former Police Chief Darryl Gates.  Yes, the same Darryl Gates who pulled LAPD out of South Los Angeles during the Rodney King Verdict Rebellion; the creator of the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) unit, the same police chief who created and believed in the “Chokehold,” which Sentinel Publisher and civil rights activist, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., former Urban League president, John Mack, First AME Pastor Cecil “Chip” Murray, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, successfully fought to have banned as a permittable use of force by LAPD. The Chokehold was responsible for the deaths of countless Black men and women by the police long before the cell phone camera brought police brutality into the light of the public eye. 

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

In 1963, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley broke through the glass ceiling to become the first African American elected to represent the 10th Council District of Los Angeles.  Bradley held this seat for 10 years, until he was elected mayor of the city in 1973.  Following in Bradley’s footsteps, the seat has been one of only three seats considered by most as an African American seat.  The 10th District covers some of the most diverse parts of the city, but the district is also home to some of the most sacred parts of the Los Angeles African American community.  Now, former Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is running to replace Herb Wesson as the councilman for the district.

Ridley-Thomas is no newcomer to Los Angeles or California politics and has a track record second to none.  He was first elected to the City Council, representing the 8th District in 1991, then went on to serve in the California Assembly and the California State Senate before replacing Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the Second District.

Ridley-Thomas narrowly avoided a runoff and almost won the seat outright, but a field of five candidates vying for the office in the runoff made garnering the 50 percent +1 an almost mathematical impossibility.  Ridley-Thomas has the track record, experience and expertise necessary to help guide the 10th Council District through the challenging times that the district and the City face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the drastic losses in City revenue and the need for experienced leadership as Los Angeles works to both socially and economically recover from the devastation of 2020. 

To add to Ridley-Thomas' ability to assist the City in moving forward, his knowledge of how the County of Los Angeles and the resources they possess and can provide, will be a critical element as the County and the State will all need to work together to help the entire city recover.

SERVICE REMAINS THE PRIORITY

Reggie Jones-Sawyer has been the Assemblyman for the 59th Assembly District for the past eight years. 

During his time in the legislature, he has been one of the leading proponents in prison reform and re-entry assistance. 

 

He has advocated for housing and job training for those formerly incarcerated, as well as been of the State’s leading advocates for creating programs to deter the school-to-prison pipeline for underserved communities.

Jones-Sawyers 59th Assembly seat has been the target of outside influencers who see the seat as a “Latin Seat.”  However, Jones-Sawyer sees the seat and the office he holds as a seat of the people. 

He has actively been working throughout the community ensuring that his district has all of the resources his constituents need to navigate through the challenges and obstacles created by COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic.

Jones-Sawyer is and remains and effective leader, deserving of the community’s support and VOTE. 

We need to reward good and steady leadership and experience during these trying times and there is not a more effective leader in Los Angeles representing our community in Sacramento than Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

WE MUST VOTE, OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT

This election has numerous candidates and issues that can and will affect our community, both in the short and long run.  The candidates we elect can and will change the narrative for our community for the next several years and we must make sure our vote and our choices are loud and clear.   

The challenges that face our community and our people are tough and we need to make sure that we show up and vote for those leaders who will represent us and our issues to the fullest.  

This article is but a small glimpse into why certain races and certain candidates need our support and our vote now, more than ever, and we hope that you all take these thoughts into careful consideration as you show up and vote on November 3, 2020.

Category: Opinion

September 10, 2020

On Monday, August 31, 2020, two Los Angeles County Sherriff deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizzee, a 29-year-old African American man from Lancaster, CA, visiting friends and family in the Westmont neighborhood of Los Angeles.  Shortly after Mr. Kizzee was pronounced dead, community activists gathered at the sight of the shooting.

They marched to the local Sheriff's station to protest the unnecessary murder of another Black man by those pledged to protect and serve. Protesters are rightfully outraged, and the family deserves answers and transparency.

The following day, Sheriff Alex Villanueva expressed his frustration with the murder, but for another reason. The Sheriff criticized the activists for not protesting other homicides.

Sheriff Villanueva expressly pointed out a recent murder in which the victim "was beaten to death in the restroom of a supermarket in Lancaster about a month ago," Villanueva said. "That name is already forgotten by people. The people on the streets are not saying his name."

Sheriff Villanueva, please know that we mourn every death, we abhor every murderous act, and we detest the criminal who committed the murder that you chose to mention.

But understand this--that murderer did not take an oath to protect us; we did not pay taxes to recruit, train, and arm that murderer, we did not give that murderer special rights in the event of an investigation; that murderer does not work for us. 

On the other hand, you, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and each of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's sworn deputies has taken an oath to protect the citizens of Los Angeles County, not kill us.

Yes, we mourn every death, and we decry every murder, but we cannot quietly mourn the senseless murders that take place at the hands of the men and women employed by and sworn to protect us.

We protest because you and the Sheriff's Department's men and women are accountable to us, the citizens of Los Angeles County.  Sheriff Villanueva, if you do not understand the difference, you are not worthy of the title "Sheriff."

On behalf of the Los Angeles Urban League's men and women, I extend our deepest condolences to the Kizzee family and the entire Westmont community, which has endured too much violence over these past months.

We mourn with you. We stand with you.

With you in the movement,

Michael A. Lawson

President & CEO

Los Angeles Urban League

Category: Opinion

September 10, 2020

By Anthony R. Jerry

 

Two emotions, love and rage, seem to be commonly used to frame historical Black political and social public actions.  On the one hand, narratives of Black resistance and radical action are often popularly framed in terms of us having endured too much or simply being fed up with a society that refuses to offer racial equality.  Within these narratives, Black rage drives the masses to take to the streets.  On the other hand, Black spirituality and love has also framed Black public action.  This narrative contextualizes Black public action less as radical resistance and more as a demonstration of a willingness to take the high road.  In these instances, Black folks are willing to teach an ignorant society by treating others the way in which we want, and gently demand, to be treated.  The underlying sentiment here is that we Black people are willing and able to adhere to the ideals, if not the norms, of a broader civilized society.  But, I wonder how we might talk about another human emotion?  How might we talk about a deep fear that Black people have of non-Black society?  Let’s call it Black Fear. 

A fear so pervasive that it limits us from engaging in public spaces?  The fear of being turned away from public pools. The fear, or at least apprehension, of participating in community block parties on cool spring days? The fear of being stopped or harassed for simply enjoying public parks? The fear of sending Black children out to play in non-Black neighborhoods?  The fear of becoming a victim of state sanctioned violence, whether at the hands of the police or the hands of the average non-Black citizen?  When might we talk about a legitimate Black fear as an outcome of a pervasive and historical anti-Black terror that is so productive for non-Black society that it keeps many Black people from simply engaging in public space altogether?  This fear has been productive on both an administrative and economic level, as this fear has historically been used as a tool to ensure our own self-regulation and to limit our demands for adequate social and public services.

 

It has been common for Black people to hit the streets in times of racial turmoil.  And, our ability to politically organize and socially mobilize our masses has been well documented by any number of official institutions, as well as local history makers and narrative keepers.  Often times, the public conversation and media coverage of Black political mobilization focus on the development, or lack thereof, of racial relations in the United States.  And, more often than not, these narratives keep record of the numbers of people arrested, those who have perished, and the number of police and military called upon to combat protestors or to simply keep the peace during social and political protests.  These numbers are usually accompanied by the economics around property damage; i.e., numbers of buildings damaged and the costs associated with the local, and sometimes federal, governments’ actions to restore order.  The awesome record keeping ability of the modern, and now ubiquitous, bureaucratic state has become accustomed to documenting and tracking the costs associated with the threat of blackness.

Rarely, however, does this official documentation mention the actual number of protestors (at times referred to as rioters/looters) who come together in order to collectively resist the US racial order.  Perhaps this is because in the eyes of the broader nation, 10 Black people might as well be 100, which feels like 1000, which then, in the context of public space and the public eye, appears to be 1 million.  And, while Black people come together peacefully more often than not, the presentations of massive congregations of Black people in the streets, or in public spaces in general, seem to be seized upon as a way to legitimize and naturalize the fear that non-Black society has of Black people.  This threat, the Black Threat, has been neutralized throughout our history by both law and custom. 

Jim Crow era Black codes, for example, have given way to subtler modern anti-loitering laws.  And, when these laws are ineffective or undone, local custom continues where the law leaves off.  For example, just recently, as my family of four made our way to downtown Riverside for a scheduled protest against the police murder of George Floyd, we were met by the stares and shaking heads of our non-Black neighbors.  And, even before leaving the actual community of the Riverside Wood Streets (more a figment of the minds of developers and real-estate agents than an actual community) a passerby decided to remind us of our limited access to public space, as they yelled out in a disciplinary tone from the window of their passing car- “GO BACK HOME!”. 

Evidently, the county enforced curfew of 6pm for that evening was seen by some of our neighbors to be an insufficient measure for protecting the broader public from the threat of blackness.  It appears that even when our presence in public is supported by state and federal law, local custom continues to support a climate of public terror directed at Black people.  That evening, the fear began before the protest.  And, that fear remains as I continue to walk my dogs, ride my bike, work in my yard, and from time to time remove the “cute” miniature American flags that my patriotic neighbors continue to place at the base of my mailbox.

The mathematics around blackness and the Black population in the United States are well known.  According to the US census, the total Black population in the United States is about 13.4%.  And, in the majority of US states, the population is significantly lower.  California, for example, has a Black population of anywhere from 6.5-8% depending upon the sources cited.  According to some estimates, this makes California’s Black population the 5th largest in the country.  While the percentage itself may seem rather low, 8% of California’s population is roughly 3.1 million individuals.  But I wonder, if there are 3.1 million Black people in California, why does a group of more than 5 Black people seem so out of place in public? 

I cannot remember the last time that I went to the mall, a restaurant, the grocery store, a coffee shop, a public park, a movie theatre, or any other place of leisure outside of a recognized “Black community” (and let’s face it, many of these spaces of leisure are located far beyond the access of Black communities), and saw more than 5 Black people at one time.  And, on the rare occasions that I have seen a large group of Black people at one of these public places, I have had to try and make sense of the general discomfort that is part of non-Black society’s response to Black bodies in public.  At these moments, the discomfort has been so palpable that I have found myself questioning my own public presence in these spaces.

It is no surprise to me then, that 34,000 Black individuals in public streets (the supposed number of participants in the Watts Rebellion in 1965 for example) would appear to be a horrific sight to any non-Black person.  But I wonder how we might interpret the mobilization of thousands of Black people if we were to imagine the amount of fear that has to be overcome in order to move us to organize in public?  We know that not only might we be arrested, but many of us will be beaten, maimed, and perhaps even killed for daring to bring this fear into the view of the public eye.  We know what the consequences are for being too many in public.  We also know that the fact of a global pandemic means that these consequences will surely be the outcome of a more sinister addition to the anti-Black arsenal – biological warfare.  Ironically, then, the same fear that has pushed us to monitor our own daily presence in public space also pushes us to take to the streets in order to protest racial and civil injustices, not to mention out right murder, against Black people.  So, I wonder, what might it look like if non-Black society recognized Black protest not as an outcome of Black rage or Black spirituality, but simply as a rational response to fear; a fear that continues to be a hallmark of the Black experience in the US?

Part of the issue here is that we, as a society, have simply been unwilling to accept antiblackness as a foundational component of US (not to mention the modern state) ideology.  For example, the general public has long accepted the existence of antisemitism and its impact on Jewish communities.  And, a general anti-immigrant sentiment is regularly recognized as part of the immigration debate in our society, as well as a threat to the material livelihoods of immigrants to the US.  The fact that these sentiments have been legitimized through larger public conversations actually works to legitimize the fear that Jewish communities and many non-Black immigrant communities feel when attempting to make a home in the US.  One might even go so far as to suggest that the broader legitimation of the fear that these communities experience has been a key factor for the development and success of these communities.  By publicly recognizing and legitimizing the broader sentiments of antisemitism or anti-immigration, fear (Jewish and Immigrant fear in this example) is also legitimized as a rational response to these “anti” sentiments. 

Sadly, this does not seem to be the case for Black people in the United States.  On the contrary, it appears that non-Black people have been allowed to maintain a monopoly on this basic human emotion.  To suggest that Black people fear the police, or to claim that Black people fear wearing a mask in public to protect themselves from the impacts of a global pandemic sounds completely irrational without the recognition and broader public acceptance of antiblackness.  Without the acceptance that Black bodies continue to be under attack, both directly and indirectly, fear as a legitimate human emotion continues to be withheld from Black people.  Fear then, as any internet search will show, appears to remain the property of non-Blacks in the US.

The recent Covid19 outbreak has given us (Black people) another reason to question the acceptance of our physical presence in public space.  One would think that the potential to contract a life-threatening virus would level the playing field with respect to the application of individual measures to protect one’s self and others in our society.  However, this has not been the case.  Beyond the data around higher instances of death for Black people due to “underlying conditions”, and the US economy’s higher reliance on Black people as “frontline” and “essential” workers, a lack of acceptance in public space continues to make Black people more vulnerable. For example, state mandated requirements to wear a face covering in public seem to have increased the dangers that Black people were already subject to when entering public space.  As late as April 2020, the NAACP was calling for states to suspend the mandates for citizens to wear face coverings in public. 

The call from the NAACP was not, like many calls and protest from the far right, about individual and personal freedoms.  Rather, the NAACP was responding to the real danger for Black lives brought about by our society’s general fear of Black people in public.  During the current pandemic, this fear has been heightened by the inability of non-Blacks to see the actual faces of the Black threat under the mask.  The feeling for some seems to be that blackness continues to be more of a public menace than the invisible threat that is the Covid19 virus.

The general fear of Black bodies seems to put us doubly at risk during the pandemic.  Not only are we at risk from state sanctioned violence from local police forces and those citizens who see themselves as protectors against a Black threat, but a general fear of public blackness has meant that we are limited in the measures that we can take to protect ourselves, and others, by adhering to the broader guidance of the state and the CDC.  Public fear continues to put us at risk.  And, a non-Black monopoly over the basic human emotion of fear continues to leave us powerless to formulate a legitimate response of our own.  Black death, then, continues to be the status quo.  So, when will we as a society be willing to talk about Black fear?

Anthony R. Jerry is an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Riverside.

Category: Opinion

August 20, 2020

By Tim Watkins

President & CEO, Watts Labor Community Action Committee and

By Mark Ravis

J.D., M.P.A., Attorney, Public Interest Law and Civil Litigation

 

While this is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, it is also a pivotal moment in the history of Los Angeles.  Although it is a time of crisis, we need to use it as time of great opportunity, a time to breathe new life into the marvelous minority communities of South-Central Los Angeles.  In short, we need to embark on what may be called an Urban Marshall Plan designed to expand political power to minority communities and to promote fairness in the distribution of public resources. This is an opportunity to bring new hope to the poor and underserved who are suffering the most in these times of crisis, as they do in all times.

We must start with the City Council.  In the city council, Watts can no longer be unnaturally chained to San Pedro in Council District Fifteen. San Pedro dwarfs Watts in population and the great economic power stemming from the Port gives San Pedro outsized political weight.  Moreover, the people of the two regions have little in common.  Therefore, the old political chain that binds these two regions must be cut and the political noose choking Watts must be sent to the dustbin of history. Watts needs to be freed and politically reborn by incorporating it into Council District Nine.  Watts must become the master of its own fate.

Moving Watts to CD 9 will be a new beginning politically and socially.  A move to CD 9 will enhance Watts’ political voice and will be our contribution to the civil rights struggles of past generations. We should embrace this opportunity for political reform just as the great civil rights leaders of the past embraced the opportunities presented to them and changed the way we live together legally and socially.  Bringing Watts home politically will help level the playing field and give minority Angelenos a better chance to elevate their lives. An invigorated Watts will usher in an era of magnificent opportunity for its growth and development.  Watts will be better able to plan its own development, in its best interest, preserve its historic sites, and blossom as a world-famous ethnic community.

Los Angeles has a small city council for a city of four million people.  Eight of its fifteen members can make vital decisions regarding construction and resource allocation.  Did you know that in 1965, Watts had 34,800 residents. 55 years later, it has just under 40,000 while the population of Los Angeles has nearly doubled. Watts is choking in its current configuration.

This leaves great power in very few hands.  While enlargement of the council, by creating additional districts, should be considered at some point, reform can begin immediately with re-shaping what we already have…putting Watts in Council District Nine.  It is a baby step to fairness but by embarking together on this Urban Marshall Plan, beginning with Watts, we can soar together, as proud Angelenos, to new heights of greatness. 

What time is it?  Fifteen to Nine.

Category: Opinion

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