By Joe W. Bowers Jr., Antonio Ray Harvey and Edward Henderson | California Black Media
Your roundup of stories you might have missed last week.
Black Caucus Members Sen. Steven Bradford and Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas Recognize Juneteenth on Senate Floor
Last week, the California Senate voted 39-0 to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 76. This measure recognizes June 19, 2023, as Juneteenth. During the session before the vote, Senators Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Ladera Heights) spoke about why the commemoration is important for all Americans.
Bradford highlighted the historical significance of the color red for formerly enslaved people.
“Many times, people stereotype African Americans as great lovers of watermelon, red soda pop, or other things of that nature. But if they knew our history, they would know the significance of ‘red’,” Bradford told his colleagues before they cast their votes in favor of California commemorating the 158th Anniversary of Juneteenth.
“It is the significance of the watermelon, the significance of hibiscus tea, or as my old man used to say, ‘red velvet cake’,” Bradford continued. “The red was reflective of the blood that we shed in this country. The blood that we shed for over 250 years of slavery. That’s why those items are so significant to a Juneteenth celebration if you’ve ever been to one.”
Smallwood-Cuevas reminded her colleagues that Black Americans were enslaved longer than they have been free.
“It is a celebration, historically, of how America became the “Land of the Free” for everyone in this country on Juneteenth,” said Smallowood-Cuevas. “An estimated $20 trillion was amassed on the backs of enslaved labor, making the U.S. the largest economic power in the world.”
Authored by California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC) members Bradford and Smallwood-Cuevas, SCR 76 urges lawmakers and Californians to celebrate the anniversary of the day in 1865 when some of the last enslaved African Americans in America were told they were free through the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln more than two years earlier in 1863.
Hate Crime Hotline Receives 180 Reports in First Month
In May, the California Civil Rights Department (CCDR) launched a hate hotline to provide support and services to victims of hate crimes. One month into the effort, 180 reports from across the state have been processed.
“Make no mistake: Hate and discrimination remain a threat across the country,” Director Kevin Kish said in a statement. “However, here in California, you’re not alone in the face of hate.”
According to Kish, nearly half of those who reported hate acts accepted services from department staff, including help in obtaining legal aid and counseling.
“No place is immune to hate, but in California, we’re committed to doing everything in our power to uplift, protect, and heal all our communities,” Kish said.
Of the 180 reports received by the CCDR hotline, hate acts related to race and ethnicity were the most commonly reported. Acts related to religion and sexual orientation followed. The majority of reports were from individuals who were directly targeted by hate acts. The CCDR plans to release more detailed numbers in the future.
Reports can be made online in 15 languages at any time at cavshate.org, or by calling (833) 866-4283 or 833-8-NO-HATE, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Trained staff are prepared to receive reports in over 200 languages.
Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta Releases “State of Pride” Report
In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta released a new “State of Pride Report.” The report highlights recent actions taken by the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) to support, uplift, and defend the rights of LGBTQ+ communities across California.
The report documents discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in the classroom, sports, healthcare and public access. The report also lists rights that members of the community have to protect themselves against discrimination.
According to the report, about 2.7 million or 9.1% of California adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — the largest share of any highly populated state and higher than the national average of 7.9%.
Between 2021 and 2022, there were over 391 reported hate crime events motivated by sexual orientation bias, and 45 hate crimes motivated by anti-transgender or anti-gender non-conforming bias in California.
“As a committed LGBTQ+ ally, I firmly believe that everyone deserves to be safe, healthy, prosperous, and celebrated for who they are — regardless of how they identify or who they love,” said Bonta. “As we come together this Pride Month to celebrate our LGBTQ+ communities, we must also recommit ourselves to the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights at home and across the country.”
“A Confluence of Crises”: Gov. Newsom Unveils Multibillion-Dollar Housing Plan for Mentally Ill
On June 20, Gov. Gavin Newsom, in partnership with Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), announced a legislative package to build housing for people with mental illness and addiction.
The plan proposes using $4.68 billion in new bond funding and modernization of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) for the March 2024 ballot.
“We are facing a confluence of crises: mental health, opioids, housing, and homelessness – and this transformative effort will ensure California is tackling these head-on in a comprehensive and inclusive way,” said Newsom in a statement.
“Over the last few years, California has led the nation in expanding access to affordable and quality mental health services – especially for children, teens, and people with untreated mental illness. The historic legislative effort announced today will supercharge these efforts to ensure California continues to lead the way in the decades to come.”
SB 326 (Eggman) and AB 531 (Irwin) are two bills that aim to transform California’s behavioral health system through housing with accountability and reform. The funding would provide California with the resources needed to build 10,000 new beds across community treatment campuses and facilities.
“We are facing mental health and substance abuse crises on our streets in communities throughout California,” said Eggman. “This legislation will help us transform our behavioral health system and provide critically needed support for the most vulnerable among us, many of whom are struggling with homelessness in addition to mental illness. The time to act is now.”
University of California San Francisco Study of People Experiencing Homelessness
The University of California San Francisco’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) recently published the largest representative study of homelessness in the United States since the mid-1990s.
The California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH) was designed to all adults 18 years and older experiencing homelessness in California.
CASPEH includes nearly 3,200 administered questionnaires and 365 in-depth interviews with adults experiencing homelessness in eight regions of the state, representing urban, rural, and suburban areas.
The study provides a comprehensive look at the causes and consequences of homelessness in California and recommends policy changes to shape programs in response.
The study found that, for most of the participants, the cost of housing had become unsustainable. Participants reported a median monthly household income of $960 in the six months prior to becoming homeless. Most believed that rental subsidies or one-time financial assistance would have prevented their homelessness.
The study also found that the state’s homeless population is aging, with 47% of all adults aged 50 or older, and that Black and Native Americans are dramatically overrepresented.
“The results of the study confirm that far too many Californians experience homelessness because they cannot afford housing,” said Margot Kushel, MD, Director, UCSF BHHI and principal investigator of CASPEH. “
CASPEH recommendations can be found on the final page of their executive summary.
State Announces New Action to Attack Organized Retail Crime in California
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, with retailers and online marketplaces representing a large share of retail and online business, signed an agreement committing to specific actions aimed at addressing the growing issue of organized retail crime.
Organized retail crime refers to large-scale theft and fraud by individuals or groups who steal retail goods from the retail supply chain with the intent to resell, distribute, or return stolen merchandise for financial gain. In some cases, resale may occur through third-party online platforms. California and other states have seen a pattern of organized retail crime.
The agreement will help advance information-sharing and detection of lost items from various stages of the supply chain, including cargo and retail goods, that may end up for sale in online marketplaces.
“The fact is, we are stronger when we work together as a united front,” said Bonta. “Organized retail crime costs businesses, retailers, and consumers — and puts the public at risk. This new partnership signals a robust and genuine commitment shared by the retail marketplace and law enforcement to crack down on these crimes. Whether it is law enforcement, online marketplaces, or retailers — we will not tolerate organized retail crime in our state.”