January 12, 2023

By Antonio Ray Harvey

California Black Media

 

On Jan 9, with the sound of African drumming in the background, Shirley Weber was sworn-in as the first-elected Black Secretary of State (SOS) of California and the 32nd person to hold the position. 

The ceremony was conducted at the SOS’ auditorium in downtown Sacramento, one block south of the State Capitol. 

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) administered the oath of office in front of Weber’s grandsons Kadir and Jalil Gakunga.

“I want to thank all of those who work so hard to make this position, the Secretary of State -- and all of those wonderful things that come with it -- possible, and for being in my life,”

Weber said. “I have been blessed beyond imagination with all of the good things California has to give.”

The daughter of a sharecropper from Hope, Ark., Weber said she is “not supposed to be here” as the state’s chief clerk, overseeing a department of 500-plus employees. 

Weber grew up in a two-room, “clapboard house” in Arkansas with her parents and five other siblings before the family relocated to Los Angeles where they lived in Pueblo Del Rio, a housing project known as the “pueblos.” 

Weber said the “data” projected that she would not have a bright future. Still, she went on to graduate from UCLA with a PHD, serve on the San Diego Board of Education, teach African American studies at San Diego State University, and successfully ran for California State Assembly in November 2012.

‘My father came from Hope, Arkansas, because there was no hope in Hope,” Weber said. “He came to California because he wanted his children to have a better chance and a better life.”

When Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Alex Padilla the state’s junior U.S. Senator in Jan. 2021, he nominated Weber as SOS. Padilla filled in for Sen. Kamala Harris, who was elected U.S Vice President. Weber was officially installed as SOS in April 2021.

Weber’s plan after serving in the Legislature was to move to Ghana, Africa, and “build a house up in the hills.”  That all changed when Newsom called. 

“It was hard for me to think about becoming Secretary of State because I was so content in the Assembly,” Weber said. “When I was asked to be Secretary of State, I thought hard and long about it. I realized that everything about the Secretary of State was central to my life. I thought to myself that I am always the one taking the hard challenges. I said who better than a kid of sharecropper, who never had a chance to vote, who could fight for the rights of voters.”

The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer of the State, responsible for overseeing and certifying elections, as well as testing and certifying voting equipment for use in California. Weber’s duties also include overseeing the state’s archives division and registry of businesses.

In her remarks, Atkins praised Weber’s “leadership” and “morality” and called her “a tireless champion of democracy,” adding that those characteristics are integral to performing the duties of Secretary of State. 

Atkins told guests that she first met Weber when she was 24 years old and that Weber helped her run for state Assembly. 

For the first time in its history, California has three Black constitutional officers. The others are Controller Malia M. Cohen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. 

“You know, our constitutional officers are unique, and I give credit to our Governor (Gavin Newsom) and the people of California. “There is no other list of constitutional officers like this. Where do you have a list of constitutional officers where it only has one White male in it? That is unheard of. The diversity (and) the fact that women are constitutional officers in California is historic.”

 

Weber’s daughter, Assembly­member Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) was the ceremony’s emcee while Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) provided the invocation. David Bauman’s African drumming and musical selections by Dr. Tecoy Porter, pastor of Genesis Church Sacramento and President of the National Action Network Sacramento Chapter and his Genesis Church choir were the entertainment. Weber’s son Akil Weber provided the closing statements. 

“Words cannot express how truly proud I am of what my mother has done, what she will continue to do, the door she has opened, the legacy she is creating,” Assemblymember Akilah Weber said of her mother.

Category: News

January 05, 2023

By Betti Halsell

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Beauty photographer—Jamil Brown— focused his lens on editing and perfecting his skill in capturing beauty in diverse cultures, specializing in darker skin tones. He highlights the unparalleled beauty found in the Black community.

 

In the entertainment industry, he is well known by first name, Jamil.

 

 

Editing Black people in digital photography is a skill that takes a keen ability; one must master picking up on mahogany skin tones and illuminating ageless beauty against what society has labeled attractive.

 

As a small business owner, Jamil reflected on his growth. He started his career shooting landscape images and moved to capture editorial and beauty photography.

 

 

Jamil shared that his uncle inspired him to pick up a camera, he recalled memories of his uncle taking pictures of family trips; he realized that his uncle captured countless memories, and this led Jamil to find his purpose. 

 

 

Jamil has been a photographer for over six years, he reflected on his journey and stated, “I started with landscapes—and then landscapes led to capturing images of people,” It was a pivotal moment, when Jamil decided to start capturing images of people.

 

Jamil described his mindset when he was exclusively shooting landscapes, he said, “You have mother nature, you never have to wait. You know at a certain time the sun is going to set and you’re not going to be disappointed.”

 

His uncle works in the entertainment industry and provided an opportunity for Jamil to work as a production assistant on The Steve Harvey Show.

 

“As I was on the show, I got close to the photographer, and that’s when everything changed,” Jamil stated that he watched the show’s photographer, Adam, turn out extraordinary visual work from a small space, igniting his motivation to pursue photography.

 

Jamil reflected on the motivational messages Harvey would share with the live audience on the show, he left that production knowing that at any stage in life, one can make things happen for themselves.

 

 

Jamil described his photography as “clean and true.” Jamil stated, “When I say true—how you see it on your phone, or a screen is how she (the model) looks in real life.

 

You can see the texture; you can see the pores—you can see everything. It’s not airbrushed, which a lot of photographers are doing these days.”

 

As a beauty photographer, Jamil manages anywhere from 3-4 photoshoots per week; he confirmed that it takes approximately 8-10 hours to edit the images. “The editing varies, depending on what I am going for—I’m editing longer than I’m shooting,” Jamil said.

Jamil painted a mental picture depicting his love for capturing headshots, by stating, “It’s really the lighting, the end result, and the editing— it’s my favorite.

 

It’s almost therapeutic.”

 

Jamil harvested a sense of purpose through a camera lens; he recalled a time when he didn’t know what he wanted to do in life before photography.

 

He stated, “Being able to be happy doing something, being good at it, and being able to service people—you’re making other people happy, that’s my purpose.”

 

Jamil’s studio is located in Moreno Valley, California, but he conveyed that he travels with a lot of his clients.

Jamil studies different types of photography, but his bread and butter are headshots. One day he would like to work with fashion model, Aslayy Baugh.

To find out more information follow Jamil Brown on Instagram, @milly2s

To book your next headshot with Jamil, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Category: News

January 05, 2023

City News Service

 

After a protracted legal process that led to the historic return of pristine Manhattan Beach coastal property to a Black family that had the land stripped away nearly a century ago, the family has decided to sell the parcel back to the county for $20 million, the county confirmed on Tuesday, Jan. 6.

“The seizure of Bruce's Beach nearly a century ago was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires,'' Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement.

“I fought to return Bruce's Beach because I wanted to right this wrong.

This fight has always been about what is best for the Bruce family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property back to the county for nearly $20 million and finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century. This is what reparations look like and it is a model that I hope governments across the country will follow.''

Charles and Willa Bruce purchased the land in 1912 and operated a resort for Black residents until the city of Manhattan Beach condemned the property under a false pretense of developing a park. Instead, the property sat vacant for years after the Bruce's and other Black families were evicted from the area.

Hahn spearheaded the effort to have the land returned to the Bruce descendants. The county, which ultimately wound up owning the property, held a formal ceremony in July to officially hand over the property deed to the family.

Under an agreement approved by the Board of Supervisors in late June, the land was officially transferred to Marcus and Derrick Bruce, great- grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce. The Bruces were then set to lease the land back to the county for $413,000 a year for the continued operation of county lifeguard facilities at the site.

The agreement also included clauses that would allow the Bruce's to sell the property to the county for a price not to exceed $20 million. The family this week opted to make that $20 million sale.

In an appearance Tuesday on the Tavis Smiley talk show on KBLA radio, Bruce family attorney George Fatheree said a variety of factors played into the decision to sell the land back to the county.

“The return of the property and the ability to sell the property and take the funds and invest it in a way that's important to their lives represents an important opportunity for my clients to get a glimpse of that legacy that was their's,'' Fatheree said.

He noted that there are “multiple family members'' involved in the decision-making process -- “each at their own stage in life, some starting families, some nearing retirement, some caring for aging parents.'' Fatheree also said that any effort by the family to develop the property would likely involve a lengthy approval process with the city of Manhattan Beach and the Coastal Commission.

The attorney called the decision to sell the land “a positive development'' giving the family members immediate access to financial resources that had long been denied them.

Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, who authored state legislation that allowed the county to transfer the property to the Bruce family, said in a statement that he supports the family's decision to sell the land.

“They are exercising a right that should have never been taken away from them,'' Bradford said. “I understand why the Bruce family would want to sell the property. The current zoning regulations would prevent the Bruce family from developing the property in any economically beneficial manner. Based on that fact it leaves L.A. County as the only logical purchaser of the property.

“... In no way does selling the property diminish the powerful example that the return of Bruce's Beach represents in America. They were able to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.''

Willa and Charles Bruce purchased their land in 1912 for $1,225.

They eventually added some other parcels and created a beach resort catering to Black residents, who had few options at the time for enjoying the California coast.

Complete with a bath house, dance hall and cafe, the resort attracted other Black families who purchased adjacent land and created what they hoped would be an oceanfront retreat. But the resort quickly became a target of the area's white populace, leading to acts of vandalism, attacks on vehicles of Black visitors and even a 1920 attack by the Ku Klux Klan.

The Bruces were undeterred and continued operating their small enclave, but under increasing pressure, the city moved to condemn their property and surrounding parcels in 1924, seizing it through eminent domain under the pretense of planning to build a city park. The resort was forced out of business, and the Bruces and other Black families ultimately lost their land in 1929.

The families sued, claiming they were the victims of a racially motivated removal campaign. The Bruce's were eventually awarded some damages, as were other displaced families. But the Bruce's were unable to reopen their resort anywhere else in town.

Despite the city claiming the land was needed for a park, the property sat vacant for decades. It was not until 1960 that a park was built on a portion of the seized land, with city officials fearing the evicted families could take new legal action if the property wasn't used for the purpose for which it was seized. The exact parcel of land the Bruce's owned was transferred to the state, and then to the county in 1995.

The city park that now sits on a portion of the land seized by the city has borne a variety of names over the years. But it was not until 2006 that the city agreed to rename the park “Bruce's Beach'' in honor of the evicted family, a move derided by critics as a hollow gesture.

 

Category: News

January 05, 2023

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA

 

A new report has revealed that California law enforcement officers searched, detained on the curb or in a patrol car, handcuffed, and removed from vehicles more individuals perceived as Black than individuals perceived as white, even though they stopped more than double the number of individuals perceived as white than individuals perceived as Black.

California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board’s report gathered information from 18 law enforcement agencies.

 

The data revealed that officers stopped 2.9 million individuals in 2020. Most were African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

The agency said that the data included what officers “perceived” to be the race, ethnicity, gender, and disability status of people they stopped, even if the perception was different from how the person identified.

According to the data, authorities search African Americans 2.4 times more than whites and disproportionately more than other racial and ethnic groups.

It also found that individual officers perceived as transgender women were 2.5 times more likely to be searched than women who appeared cisgender.

Data for the report came from the state’s most important law enforcement agencies, like the California Highway Patrol.

However, the highway patrol didn’t include data analyzing stops based on gender identity.

All agencies must report the data in 2023.

“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” Chief David Swing, co-chair of the Board and past president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said in a statement.

The report further showed that Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to have force used against them compared to white individuals, while Asian and other individuals were less likely.

Specifically, the odds of having force used during a stop were 1.32 times and 1.16 times as high for Black and Hispanic individuals, respectively.

Asian and other individuals whom officers stopped had lower odds of having force used against them (0.80 and 0.82, respectively) relative to the odds for those perceived as white.

Search discovery rate analyses showed that, when officers searched individuals, all races, or ethnic groups of color, except for Asian and Middle Eastern/South Asian individuals, had higher search rates despite having lower rates of discovering contraband than individuals perceived as white.

Furthermore, a search and discovery rate analysis show that officers searched people perceived to have a mental health disability 4.8 times more often and people perceived to have other types of disabilities 2.7 times more often than people perceived to have no disability.

Still, they discovered contraband or evidence at a lower rate during stops and searches of people with disabilities.

Officers used force against individuals perceived to have mental health disabilities at 5.2 times the rate at which they used force against individuals they perceived to have no disabilities.

The data show that Black and Hispanic/Latinx individuals are asked for consent to search at higher rates than white individuals.

Officers searched Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and multiracial individuals at higher rates for consent-only searches than all other racial/ethnic groups.

These consent-only searches resulted in lower rates of discovery of contraband (8.5%, 11.3%, and 13.0%, respectively) than searches of all other racial and ethnic groups.

The reason for the stop was a traffic violation in more than half of the stops where officers conducted a consent-only search (consent being the only reason for the search) of black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Middle Eastern/South Asian individuals.

On the other hand, less than 30% of the consent-only searches of white people happened during traffic stops.

The people who wrote the report said that searches based on consent alone lead to fewer discoveries than searches based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

With consent-only searches, the rate of finding something was 9.2 percentage points lower for Black people than for white people.

“Given the disparities in the data on consent searches, the board questions whether consent searches are truly voluntary,” the authors wrote.

While the data show that most people consent to a search when asked by an officer, research from the report reflects that this “consent” is not necessarily voluntary because of the inherent power inequality between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public.

The research shows that this natural power imbalance is evident in vulnerable groups, such as people with mental health problems or young people, who may be more likely to give in to authority.

“Indeed,” the authors wrote, “RIPA data reflects that for both people with mental health disabilities and youth, a larger proportion of their stops that began as consensual encounters resulted in searches, as compared to people without mental health disabilities or adults.”

Board members said they carefully looked at the data about people who were stopped and searched because of their status as people under supervision.

The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices.

For example, officers performed supervision-only searches – where supervision status is the only basis for the search – of individuals perceived as Black at 2.8 times the rate at which they performed supervision-only searches of individuals they perceived as white.

Similarly, officers also performed supervision plus searches – where the officer had some other basis to search the person – of Black individuals at 3.3 times the rate they performed supervision plus searches of white individuals.

The rates of discovering contraband for supervision-only searches were lower for all racial/ethnic groups than white individuals; Black individuals had the most considerable difference in their discovery rate (-11.4 percentage points) compared to whites.

Officers also reported a higher proportion of supervision-only searches during stops for traffic violations (46.9%) than during reasonable suspicion stops (24.6%).

“These were just a few of the many disparities discussed in the report,” board members noted.

“Given the large disparities observed, the Board reviewed efforts by various law enforcement agencies to limit inquiries into supervision status as well as stops and searches on the basis of supervision status.

“The RIPA data further indicates that the practice of conducting supervision-only searches shows racial disparities that result in low yield rates of contraband or evidence.”

Category: News

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