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Biden Appoints More Black Women to Key Roles in His Administration

Staff

President-elect Joe Biden is making more announcements regarding his administration, recently announcing that two prominent Black women will serve in key roles. Veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be the U.N. ambassador and Shuwanza Goff will be deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs Shuwanza. 

“My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet.

Thomas-Greenfield served as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs under the Obama-Biden administration from 2013-2017 and has served in diplomatic positions for the U.S. in Liberia, Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica.

Goff was previously the floor director for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and was the first Black woman to serve in that role. She played a key role in helping democrats set their agenda.

“Over 12 years of working for Leader Hoyer, Shuwanza has distinguished herself as effective and experienced and has earned the bipartisan respect of Members and staff across the aisle and across the Capitol.  In the White House, she will continue to be an effective force, as she coordinates and strengthens the work of the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to deliver For The People,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Biden released a statement expressing his eagerness to get to work and set America back on track.

“The American people are eager for our Administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” Biden stated. “In a Biden administration, we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”

Ventura County Board of Supervisors Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

Staff

Racism has been declared a “public health crisis” by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in a new resolution.

“Over this past year, the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others have caused many people to unite in efforts to raise awareness and push for meaningful action that will lead to equitable treatment among all communities,” the board said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought into sharp focus systemic institutional and structural racism that inequitably impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.”

The board’s recently approved resolution includes a pledge to promote equity, inclusion, and diversity in housing, employment, economic development, health care, and public safety.

“By approving and adopting this resolution Ventura County is taking the first necessary step of acknowledging we have a problem,” said Rabiah Rahman, vice president of Black Lawyers of Ventura County. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that there are members of our community who are traumatized every time we leave our homes.” 

The resolution comes as a result of several discussions between the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and community organizations, as well as a forum with panelists from the group Black Lawyers of Ventura County, the NAACP, the county’s public defender, district attorney and executive officer and members of an Inclusion Task Force.

Damon Jenkins, the president of Black Lawyers of Ventura County, was inspired to prioritize discussions surrounding racism and police brutality after the uptick in Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

“Many of us noticed we had common stories of mistreatment. It reminded us that even as attorneys we are often mistreated based on the color of our skin,” said Jenkins.

His group has also called for the creation of an independent advisory board to oversee matters of law enforcement training, hiring and misconduct.

Public Health Director Rigo Vargas and local physician, Dr. Stanley Patterson, explained to the board how racism and discrimination can lead to a lack of safety for people of color within the healthcare system. People of color are less likely to have insurance and also have a lack of trust within the healthcare delivery system that can lead to late diagnoses and other complications.

Rahman, while acknowledging that the county still has a long way to go, is hopeful that this resolution will lead to lasting change.

“This resolution demonstrates Ventura County’s commitment to the continuation of having difficult and uncomfortable conversations around race, justice and inequities,” Rahman said. “While it is not perfect, it is without a doubt a step in the right direction.”

Robert Smith, the Richest Black Person in America, to Pay Almost $140 Million Back to IRS 

Christal Mims, Staff

Robert F. Smith, a billionaire philanthropist and tech investor who founded and serves as CEO of Vista Equity Partners, will have to pay back almost $140 million in back taxes, interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) after admitting to using tax evasion tactics. This news comes after a four-year U.S. tax investigation by The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Services. 

The 57-year-old avoided prosecution by cooperating in a case against Robert Brockman, a Houston businessman accused of using several Caribbean entities to hide $2 billion in income in what prosecutors called the largest U.S. tax case ever against an individual.

“Smith committed serious crimes, but he also agreed to cooperate,” said David Anderson, a U.S. attorney in San Francisco. “Smith’s agreement to cooperate has put him on a path away from indictment.”

Smith was celebrated for his accomplishments as a successful, Black businessman in America and is worth an estimated $7.05 billion. He even paid off the student debt of Morehouse College’s entire graduating class in 2019, as well as their parents’ loans.

Smith has admitted to his wrongdoing and is cooperating with investigators, saying that he failed to file accurate reports of foreign bank and financial accounts over a three-year period. Federal prosecutors revealed that he concealed income and evaded taxes for 15 years by using foreign trusts, corporations and bank accounts.

Smith admitted that he used $2.5 million in untaxed funds to buy and renovate a vacation home in Sonoma, California. He admitted to paying for it in 2005 with private equity funds deposited into accounts in the British Virgin Islands and Banque Bonhote in Switzerland. Smith also moved to Switzerland in 2010 for a brief period and bought two ski properties and a commercial property in the French Alps with untaxed money in the Swiss account. 

Smith owns several homes throughout the U.S. and now lives in Austin, Texas.

Two Pastors Merge Churches in Hopes of Healing Racial Divides

Staff

A white pastor and a Black pastor in North Carolina have decided to merge their congregations in an attempt to lessen racial divides and create a stronger community on Sundays regardless of racial background. The two pastors, Derrick Hawkins and Jay Stewart recently released a book titled, “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last” chronicling their relationship and their goals as a team.

“We are living in a time where there still is much division, anger, and confusion in our nation especially as it relates to racial unity,” Pastor Stewart said. “The bottom line is that we have a very unique story and God has chosen to write a better narrative in the midst of all the confusion and anger.”

Pastor Hawkins hopes that their story can inspire citizens to have hope in the possibility of change and not feed into the narrative spun by the media.

“I think there are so many different narratives going on across the media,” Pastor Hawkins stated. “There are so many things that the enemy is trying to spread. We wanted a better narrative and not just a better story and to let people know that there are amazing things happening with the body of Christ that are positive.”

The two pastors met in 2014 and decided to merge churches a few years later after noticing how divided congregations tend to be on Sundays. Their congregation, now The Refuge Church, has three campuses in North Carolina- Kannapolis, NC (main campus), Salisbury, and Greensboro. Plus, which is an international location in Brazil. While they often lead together, Pastor Stewart heads the main campus, while Pastor Hawkins leads the Greensboro location.

“I live by the motto in Ephesians 4:3, just making unity a priority. We know that we don’t have the ability to create unity, but it is our job to project unity. Pastor Jay always said we want to take every opportunity to make unity a priority but also preserve it,” Pastor Hawkins explained. “Unity doesn’t mean there’s an absence of disagreement, but we have the ability to protect unity at all costs. And there’s a way to look at your own echo chamber to see what you can do to make sure you are building healthy relationships with people who don’t look the same as you.”

The pastors’ new book contains guidelines for beginning the process of racial healing that include getting out of your comfort zone, learning how to understand others, respecting others’ opinions and committing to unity.

Stay Home for the Holidays: Gov Tightens COVID-19 Rules 

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

As COVID-19 case numbers climb, California has imposed tighter restrictions and ordered a ordered a statewide mask mandate, while advising residents to stay home. Out of the 58 California counties, 41 are now at the state’s most restrictive, or purple, tier, including Alameda, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. 

On Friday, the governor announced a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in 41 counties. It will affect more than 90 % of Californians, but he stopped short of reissuing a statewide shelter-in-place order. 

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges.” 

Earlier in the week, Gov. Newsom announced a stricter mandate that requires mask wearing “statewide at all times when outside of the home” by everyone over age two. The new restrictions are in response to the recent COVID-19 case surge, the “fastest increase we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic,” according to Newsom. 

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases hit 12 million on Nov. 21, an increase of nearly 1 million over the previous week. More than 250,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 so far. 

“Every age group, every racial demographic, in every part of the state we are seeing case rates increase and positivity rates increase as well. It is no longer concentrated in just a handful of counties. We are seeing community spread broadly throughout the state of California,” Newsom said during a news briefing Monday. 

Public health and government officials have recently shifted their messaging to warning the public about the spread of COVID-19 in the winter months, as families consider whether to gather for the holidays. On Nov. 13, Newsom issued a travel advisory warning to California residents discouraging travel out of the state for any nonessential reason, including the Thanksgiving holiday, and recommending a 14-day quarantine for anyone who does travel. 

Newsom also shared the number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations in California, which has climbed 48 % over the past two weeks to reach 3,800 as of Nov. 15. Of those, more than 1,000 people were in intensive care. 

Black and Brown communities including East Oakland and East Los Angeles are still hotspots – and the case numbers are climbing. 

Dr. Beverly Tambe is a primary doctor at Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles who recently appeared in a USA Facts Ad to talk about the realities of treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a conversation with California Black Media, Tambe spoke about the struggles of treating a virus whose full impact healthcare professionals have yet to determine. 

Over the past nine months of treating COVID-19 patients, Tambe has seen a variety of situations with her patients. They range from those who recover in a couple of days, to those who were previously admitted to the hospital at the beginning of the pandemic and still come in for outpatient treatment for decreased lung or heart function. She emphasizes that the effects of COVID-19 vary from patient to patient. 

“We have a standardized treatment regimen for patients that come into the hospital, depending on the severity. We’ve got a whole algorithm that we follow, but even with the algorithm and these treatments, some patients get better and some just don’t. We have patients that we’re doing everything for and they’re not getting better,” she said. 

Tambe also shared her concerns about the upcoming winter and whether case numbers will continue to increase. She recommended against gathering in large groups. She also emphasized that people at least take the basic safety precautions, including wearing a mask and washing their hands regularly, to protect themselves and those around them. 

“There’s a 14-day incubation period with the disease. So even though you feel fine, one day you could travel or meet in a large group, and still be carrying the disease. So, you carry the disease, spread it to everybody and eventually your symptoms might come up, but you’ve already gotten others sick. That’s why it’s so important to take care, to be cautious,” she warned.

Women Leaders on Sen. Harris Replacement: “One Is Not Enough, Zero Is Unacceptable.” 

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

The California Democratic Party Black Caucus (CDP Black Caucus) joined hands with other women organizations this past weekend. Their goal: to turn up the pressure on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a Black woman to replace outgoing Sen. Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate. 

During the virtual “Keep the Seat” news conference, which representatives from the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Black Women United (BWU) attended, the organizers explained why Gov. Newsom should appoint a Black woman. They also gave reasons why he should narrow his options to U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and Barbara Lee (D-CA-13). 

“This is a pivotal time in California history. I hope together we can bend the moral arc of history towards justice, together, by ensuring that the most underrepresented and marginalized community retain a significant representation in California by appointing a Black woman to replace Kamala Harris,” said Taisha Brown, chairperson of the CDP Black Caucus. 

Brown continued, “Our call is for all of you to join us in saying to Gavin Newsom, our governor, that we are not going to accept anything but a Black woman. I think it’s critical that we emphasize that.” 

Currently there are three African Americans serving in the United States Senate. Two of them are men (Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina). Harris, the junior Senator from California, is the only African American woman with a seat in the upper house of the United States Congress. 

But with Harris’s imminent ascendency to the Vice Presidency of the United States, there will be no African American woman in the US Senate after Jan. 20, 2021. 

In response, the CDP Black Caucus has put out a call to action under the slogan “One is not enough, and zero is unacceptable.” 

“We have a Thanksgiving message for Gov. Gavin Newsom. Our goal is to have 250 every day until Thanksgiving. We need you to speak up. Make a call and let Gov. Newsom know that Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party as voters, organizers, and we deserve representation in the United States Senate,” said Kendra Lewis, a representative for the CDP Black Caucus. 

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University Long Beach, was also one of the “Keep the Seat” speakers. Karenga, who is also the founder of the annual spiritual and cultural celebration Kwanzaa, said he “stands strong” with the CDP Black Caucus’s push to keep a Black woman from California in the U.S. Senate. 

“First of all, no one is more qualified than the two women mentioned — Bass and Lee. It’s not a gift. It’s recognition overdue. It’s also a service to the Democratic party. Black women have been the backbone of this party. So, it is debt owed to them,” he said. 

Over the weekend, several top women Democratic Party donors in California also urged Newsom to select a woman of color. About 150 of them have placed a letter in full-page ads in two newspapers — the LA Times in Southern California and the San Francisco Chronicle in Northern California — making their request known to Newsom. 

“Women of color are the core drivers of electoral progress in our country, and their voices should be heard in the nation’s highest governing body. California is fortunate to have a strong pipeline of women of color in elected office who are prepared to serve; as Californians and political supporters, we look forward to you selecting one of them,” the letter read. 

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) and other Black leaders in the state have also called on Gov. Newsom to fill the seat with an African American woman. 

The CLBC members also sent a letter to Gov. Newsom making their case for why Bass and Lee should be at the top of his shortlist of candidates. They cited the women’s lengthy legislative experience coupled with their broad foreign policy knowledge. 

Before the election on Nov. 3, Newsom said that he was getting pressure from different groups in the state about who he should appoint to replace Harris. He also acknowledged that he feels the weight of making that important decision and predicted that his choice would not please everyone. 

“The stress of having to choose between a lot of friends, to choose between quality candidates, and the fact that whoever you pick, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be upset, disappointed, that it wasn’t this or that, I don’t even want to get my arms around that until I have the privilege of having to make that decision,” Newsom said in an interview with Los Angeles’ FOX 11. 

Gov. Newsom can either decide to make an appointment to complete Harris’s term or he can call a special election.

Briefly: “Black Panther 2” is Set to Begin Filming Next Summer; L.A. Clippers Star Kawhi Leonard Partners with…

“Black Panther 2” is Set to Begin Filming Next Summer

After losing its star Chadwick Boseman to a four-year long battle with colon cancer, the “Black Panther” franchise has finally made an official step to move forward. It was recently announced that filming of the sequel will begin next year in July 2021.

Details regarding the sequel are still being kept from the public but word that Letitia Wright, who plays Black Panther’s sister Shuri in the series, could take up the lead role.

Executive producer Victoria Alonso has also verified that the sequel will not use a digital double for the late actor.

“No. There’s only one Chadwick, and he’s no longer with us. Sadly, our king has died in real life, not only in fiction, and we’re taking a little time to see how we continue the story and how to honor this chapter of what has unexpectedly happened to us, so painful and terrible to be honest,” Alonso said. “Chadwick wasn’t only a wonderful human being, every day of the five years we spent together, but also, I believe, that what he did as a character elevated us as a company, and has left his moment in history.”

Marvel also hopes to somehow pay tribute to the award-winning actor in the upcoming film.

L.A. Clippers Star Kawhi Leonard Partners with X2 Performance Energy Drinks in Equity Deal

NBA star Kawhi Leonard recently entered a partnership with X2 Performance energy drinks. The Clippers player will now sit on the company’s board of directors and has agreed to an equity stakes deal.

“I have been approached by many beverage and supplement brands, but I decided to join X2 because it is natural with clean ingredients. I love the products, and the impact it’s had on my training and performance,” said Leonard in a written statement. “I’m really inspired by our X2 team and the momentum we are building.”

The line of drinks is sold exclusively at CVS and Leonard plans to be involved with the marketing of the products as well as product innovation. The brand’s focus is on clean, natural ingredients for sustained energy. 

X2 CEO and board member Mark French is looking forward to working with the four-time all-star, as the drinks are used by professional teams in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL.

“He will be the face of the brand. He’s perfect for us because he’s serious and not flashy. There isn’t a more perfect partner for this than Kawhi,” French said. 

The exact terms of Leonard’s equity stake were not made available, but French said that Leonard is a “significant shareholder.”

As You Renew Your Health Care Coverage, Don’t Expect New Restrictions 

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Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

Californians can rest easy. With a little over two months to go until the state’s open enrollment period for 2021 ends on Jan. 31, 2021, expect no new restrictions to your health care coverage options. 

It is not likely that the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, will be successful. It occurred Nov. 10, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments against the national health care law passed under the Obama administration in the case California v. Texas, No. 19-840. 

Although some Obamacare supporters, including California Attorney General Xavier Beccera – who led the Democratic defense of the ACA — expressed some caution about the nation’s highest court’s 6-3 conservative majority, they largely remained confident. 

After the hearing, a majority of Justices indicated that the ACA is still safe. 

California v. Texas mainly focused on the ACA’s mandate requiring insurance. It was filed by 18 Republican attorneys general backed by the Trump administration. They argued that the mandate became unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance in Congress’s 2017 tax reform bill. They also argued that since the mandate was a crucial feature of the law, and they deemed it unconstitutional, the entire law should have been thrown out. 

Although an official decision in the case will not come until the middle of next year, at least five Supreme Court justices have indicated that they would reject the attempt to kill the ACA. Two members of the Court’s current Republican majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, noted that striking down the individual mandate portion of the ACA did not require overturning the rest of the law. 

“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place — the provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and the rest,” Justice Kavanaugh said. 

The Court’s inferred support of the ACA comes at a time when unemployment across the United States is still at record highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Covered California healthcare marketplace began open enrollment Nov. 1, and many newly unemployed or self-employed Californians will need to apply for either subsidized insurance, Medi-Cal or an individual medical plan. 

In a virtual conference Nov. 9, the day before his Supreme Court oral arguments, Becerra spoke about the importance of the ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he called a national health crisis. 

“We need the ACA more than ever now. COVID-19 has infected more than 10 million Americans, it has cost 12 million American workers their healthcare, and it’s disproportionately 

hurting communities of color. Because of the ACA, in states with expanded Medicaid, workers who have lost their jobs and with that their employer-based health insurance, are still able to get healthcare and support that they need,” said Becerra. 

California has supported the ACA since its inception in 2013, expanding the Medi-Cal program for low-income residents, and creating the state-based Covered California marketplace, which offers both federal subsidies and state-based aid. According to Census records, the rate of uninsured Californians dropped from 17.2 % in 2013 to 7.7 % in 2019. 

According to Covered California, 271,820 people signed up for health care coverage through the marketplace during its special open enrollment period between March 20 and Aug. 20 this year, more than twice the number of people who signed up during the same period last year. 

Dr. Jamila Perritt, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, spoke about the importance of the ACA for the community she treats as an OB-GYN. 

“I take care of people, real people who deserve to have access to the healthcare they will want and need access to — provided by the Affordable Care Act. The health of my patients has improved. The health of our communities has improved. I know that the Affordable Care Act has been a safety net for many communities and undermining or eliminating it will disproportionately impact those who need care,” said Perritt. 

After presenting the arguments for keeping the Affordable Care Act, Becerra was optimistic. 

“The ACA has withstood numerous legal and political challenges. It’s been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional twice before. And we are optimistic that it will withstand this challenge as well,” said Becerra.

Cal NAACP Announces New Leader to Replace Outgoing Pres. Alice Huffman

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Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

 Effective Dec. 1, Alice Huffman will no longer be the president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) due to “health concerns,” she tells California Black Media.  

Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP and current CEO of the Santa Clara Water District, has been appointed to the position and will assume duties the day Huffman’s term expires. 

In a written statement, Huffman first alerted the organization’s executive members of her intentions to vacate the office she has led for over two decades.    

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president since 1999. It has been a pleasure to serve with you, but all good things must come to an end. Due to health concerns, I tender my resignation as president effective December 1, 2020,” Huffman stated in her letter to members of the executive committee.  

Huffman, who isn’t shy about sharing trials she has overcome in her life — including that she is a high school dropout — leaves the position of president after most recently being an outspoken supporter of multiple California 2020 election ballot initiatives, among them: Prop 15, Prop 21, Prop 22, and Prop 25.  

The initiatives, most of them avidly backed or hotly contested by voters and policy makers, focused on a range of issues. From amending the state’s property tax system (Prop 15) and rent control (Prop 21) to the reclassification, under the state’s labor law, of app-based drivers and an increase to the minimum wage (Prop 22), the initiatives put Huffman in the crosshairs of groups that opposed her positions.  

She sometimes found herself at odds with powerful African American political organizations, including the California Democratic Party Black Caucus on some of her positions.  

In a written statement issued Nov. 20, Callender said he looks forward to filling the position left by his mentor, Huffman. 

“Huffman has been one of the strongest NAACP leaders in the country and has truly accomplished a lot for African Americans and people of color in California, Hawaii, and across the nation,” Callender stated. “She leaves very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to leading the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP starting December 1.  It has been a true honor to serve as her vice president on her leadership team for 19 years.” 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. There are more than 2,200 units and branches across the nation. 

The NAACP states that its mission is to “secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in an effort to eliminate race-based discrimination.” It also works to ensure the health and well-being of all persons of color, its website says.  

Huffman was elected president of the California-Hawaii NAACP Conference in 1999 and has won eight-consecutive elections. She is also a member of the National Board of the NAACP as well.  

In Sacramento, Huffman runs her own consulting firm she founded in 1988 called AC Public Affairs, Inc. 

On the morning of Nov. 20, Huffman submitted a written statement in full detail to California Black Media explaining her decision.   

“After serving the African-American community as State president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP for nearly 20 years, I will be resigning and turning the reins over to the next generation of leadership,” she wrote.  

Huffman says stepping down is a decision that she has been grappling with for over a year now.  

“With the victory at the top of the ticket to securing our African American leaders in the state of California, I can say ‘mission accomplished’ and now take a well-deserved rest,” she concluded. 

As You Renew Your Health Care Coverage, Don’t Expect New Restrictions 

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

Californians can rest easy. With a little over two months to go until the state’s open enrollment period for 2021 ends on Jan. 31, 2021, expect no new restrictions to your health care coverage options. 

It is not likely that the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, will be successful. It occurred Nov. 10, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments against the national health care law passed under the Obama administration in the case California v. Texas, No. 19-840. 

Although some Obamacare supporters, including California Attorney General Xavier Beccera – who led the Democratic defense of the ACA — expressed some caution about the nation’s highest court’s 6-3 conservative majority, they largely remained confident. 

After the hearing, a majority of Justices indicated that the ACA is still safe. 

California v. Texas mainly focused on the ACA’s mandate requiring insurance. It was filed by 18 Republican attorneys general backed by the Trump administration. They argued that the mandate became unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance in Congress’s 2017 tax reform bill. They also argued that since the mandate was a crucial feature of the law, and they deemed it unconstitutional, the entire law should have been thrown out. 

Although an official decision in the case will not come until the middle of next year, at least five Supreme Court justices have indicated that they would reject the attempt to kill the ACA. Two members of the Court’s current Republican majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, noted that striking down the individual mandate portion of the ACA did not require overturning the rest of the law. 

“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place — the provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and the rest,” Justice Kavanaugh said. 

The Court’s inferred support of the ACA comes at a time when unemployment across the United States is still at record highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Covered California healthcare marketplace began open enrollment Nov. 1, and many newly unemployed or self-employed Californians will need to apply for either subsidized insurance, Medi-Cal or an individual medical plan. 

In a virtual conference Nov. 9, the day before his Supreme Court oral arguments, Becerra spoke about the importance of the ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he called a national health crisis. 

“We need the ACA more than ever now. COVID-19 has infected more than 10 million Americans, it has cost 12 million American workers their healthcare, and it’s disproportionately 

hurting communities of color. Because of the ACA, in states with expanded Medicaid, workers who have lost their jobs and with that their employer-based health insurance, are still able to get healthcare and support that they need,” said Becerra. 

California has supported the ACA since its inception in 2013, expanding the Medi-Cal program for low-income residents, and creating the state-based Covered California marketplace, which offers both federal subsidies and state-based aid. According to Census records, the rate of uninsured Californians dropped from 17.2 % in 2013 to 7.7 % in 2019. 

According to Covered California, 271,820 people signed up for health care coverage through the marketplace during its special open enrollment period between March 20 and Aug. 20 this year, more than twice the number of people who signed up during the same period last year. 

Dr. Jamila Perritt, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, spoke about the importance of the ACA for the community she treats as an OB-GYN. 

“I take care of people, real people who deserve to have access to the healthcare they will want and need access to — provided by the Affordable Care Act. The health of my patients has improved. The health of our communities has improved. I know that the Affordable Care Act has been a safety net for many communities and undermining or eliminating it will disproportionately impact those who need care,” said Perritt. 

After presenting the arguments for keeping the Affordable Care Act, Becerra was optimistic. 

“The ACA has withstood numerous legal and political challenges. It’s been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional twice before. And we are optimistic that it will withstand this challenge as well,” said Becerra.

Cal NAACP Announces New Leader to Replace Outgoing Pres. Alice Huffman

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

 Effective Dec. 1, Alice Huffman will no longer be the president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) due to “health concerns,” she tells California Black Media.  

Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP and current CEO of the Santa Clara Water District, has been appointed to the position and will assume duties the day Huffman’s term expires. 

In a written statement, Huffman first alerted the organization’s executive members of her intentions to vacate the office she has led for over two decades.    

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president since 1999. It has been a pleasure to serve with you, but all good things must come to an end. Due to health concerns, I tender my resignation as president effective December 1, 2020,” Huffman stated in her letter to members of the executive committee.  

Huffman, who isn’t shy about sharing trials she has overcome in her life — including that she is a high school dropout — leaves the position of president after most recently being an outspoken supporter of multiple California 2020 election ballot initiatives, among them: Prop 15, Prop 21, Prop 22, and Prop 25.  

The initiatives, most of them avidly backed or hotly contested by voters and policy makers, focused on a range of issues. From amending the state’s property tax system (Prop 15) and rent control (Prop 21) to the reclassification, under the state’s labor law, of app-based drivers and an increase to the minimum wage (Prop 22), the initiatives put Huffman in the crosshairs of groups that opposed her positions.  

She sometimes found herself at odds with powerful African American political organizations, including the California Democratic Party Black Caucus on some of her positions.  

In a written statement issued Nov. 20, Callender said he looks forward to filling the position left by his mentor, Huffman. 

“Huffman has been one of the strongest NAACP leaders in the country and has truly accomplished a lot for African Americans and people of color in California, Hawaii, and across the nation,” Callender stated. “She leaves very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to leading the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP starting December 1.  It has been a true honor to serve as her vice president on her leadership team for 19 years.” 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. There are more than 2,200 units and branches across the nation. 

The NAACP states that its mission is to “secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in an effort to eliminate race-based discrimination.” It also works to ensure the health and well-being of all persons of color, its website says.  

Huffman was elected president of the California-Hawaii NAACP Conference in 1999 and has won eight-consecutive elections. She is also a member of the National Board of the NAACP as well.  

In Sacramento, Huffman runs her own consulting firm she founded in 1988 called AC Public Affairs, Inc. 

On the morning of Nov. 20, Huffman submitted a written statement in full detail to California Black Media explaining her decision.   

“After serving the African-American community as State president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP for nearly 20 years, I will be resigning and turning the reins over to the next generation of leadership,” she wrote.  

Huffman says stepping down is a decision that she has been grappling with for over a year now.  

“With the victory at the top of the ticket to securing our African American leaders in the state of California, I can say ‘mission accomplished’ and now take a well-deserved rest,” she concluded. 

Willowbrook Community Doubt the District Attorney Will File Charges Against the Deputy Who Fatally Shot a Black Man in the Back

Mother and father of Fred Williams at a press conference.

Stephen Oduntan, Staff

Mid October, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Fred Williams in Willowbrook, prompting days of protests and conflicting accounts of the moment that led to his death. Amid the demonstrations, one notable chant rippled through the crowds: “Release the bodycam.”

Now, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has done just that.

Sheriff’s officials released an 11-minute briefing late last Friday that included body camera footage, security video and radio communications from the incident. The disclosure came after the Williams family privately reviewed the footage with the captain of the Century station, where the deputy was assigned.

The newly released video from Oct. 16 shows Williams, 25, fleeing the sheriff’s deputy up a driveway and then jumping over a fence with a gun in his hand before he was shot. During the incident, the deputy broadcasted over the radio that Williams “pointed 417 at me,” referring to the firearm.

Toni Jaramilla, a civil rights activist and attorney, said the video revealed that Black lives don’t matter to the deputy who was chasing Williams on foot.

“The video shows that Fred was unjustly shot at by the deputy,” Jaramilla told L.A. Focus in a telephone interview on Monday. “From looking at the camera footage, Fred was not pointing a weapon at the deputy. He was jumping over the fence when he was shot. And it’s consistent with the autopsy report that says he was shot in the back.”

The Sheriff’s Department said homicide investigators recovered a semiautomatic handgun at the scene.

A day after the incident, the Sheriff’s Department said Williams “engaged the deputy by pointing his firearm at him.”

But a summary of the incident posted on the Sheriff’s Department’s website Friday appeared to walk that back, saying “the deputy rounded the corner and encountered [Williams], gun in hand and a deputy involved shooting occurred.”

The coroner’s office has not yet completed the full autopsy report but has determined that Williams died by a “gunshot wound of the back,” according to its online records.

The slain man’s father Fred Williams Jr. said he was angry.

“We all know what’s going on in these streets. We’ve been watching it on the news every day. It’s coldblooded. They murdered my son. I can’t fathom the words to explain it other than it’s heartbreaking,” said Williams Jr., struggling to suppress raw emotions. 

The Williams family and activists are demanding that criminal charges be filed. Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, called on Jackie Lacey, the district attorney to charge the deputy involved in the fatal shooting with murder “just as any [civilian] would’ve been charged for shooting someone in the back.”

Still, activists and the Willowbrook community remain more pessimistic than optimistic about the District Attorney’s Office filing criminal charges against the deputy. Lacey, say critics, has a long history of not prosecuting police officers who kill civilians.

“We have no confidence in Jackie Lacey, and we have no confidence in the criminal justice system. But it is our job to organize and bring pressure on the system to the extent that we get justice,” Smith said.

Smith explained that he wanted to see a more robust civilian control of law enforcement agencies and officers, who he says abuse their authority and answer to no one but themselves.

“We want community control. We want the sheriff’s department under the democratic control of the community. An all civilian control board with absolute authority over the sheriff’s department. Only democracy will bring accountability,” Smith said.

Senior Citizens Targeted in South L.A. Voting Scam

Christal Mims, Staff

L.A. County is assembling a special investigative team to enforce search warrants at the Westminster Arms apartments and surrounding areas after an unidentified woman targeted senior citizens in a voting scam. The woman allegedly told residents that she would assist them in filling out their ballot and then either had them sign it or signed it herself before taking them.

The Los Angeles bureau of the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) reported that seniors involved in the incident planned to report it.

“Many seniors were suspicious, but after hearing that the woman will help them with the election, they gave her the mail ballots. The senior apartment has 54 units and only three households are non-Korean and many Korean American seniors plan to report the incident to the police,” the SBS report said.

The SBS also reported that the suspect asked the victims to vote for a particular candidate before signing and collecting them.

The Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder is now involved in attempting to identify the suspect.

“We take reports of this type of activity very seriously, as even the appearance of interference can erode trust in the elections process,” said L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan.

Rev. William Smart, CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California (SCLC), expressed his disappointment with any individual attempting to illegally influence the election and manipulate citizens.

“It’s unfortunate that something like this has happened with all that we have done to ensure people the right to vote and the SCLC’s work on voter representation. We just hope that the county, as they do their investigation, can find out what happened and that whoever’s responsible, they can be dealt with accordingly,” Rev. Smart said. “I want justice. One vote for everybody is something that we advocate for. People shouldn’t be desperate and do wrong.”

Voters are being encouraged to drop off their ballots at official ballot drop-off locations.

“You can still register to vote in person at any Vote Center through Election Day,” tweeted L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday. “Vote Centers are open today. Make your voice heard.”

A new online reporting tool has also been created to manage cases of potential voter fraud.

“Voter integrity is at stake and consequences for this kind of alleged fraud must be swift and certain,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in a statement. “It is particularly deplorable that anyone would take advantage of a vulnerable population in order to swing the outcome of an election.”

In an effort to ensure more awareness and transparency, the L.A. County Registrar announced a new resident tool to help protect ballots and alert their office to any attempts to damage or mislead voters.

Said Logan, “The swift nature in which the Department of Consumers and Business Affairs assisted in this effort speaks to the commitment across the County to protect and provide great customer service to our voters.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident that took place at the Westminster Arms apartments is being encouraged to contact the L.A. County Registrar Recorder at (800) 815-2666.

Black and Latinx Voters Are Being Targeted by Potential Russian Social Media Campaigns

Dianne Lugo, Staff

Four years ago, the Russian government used Twitter bots, Facebook pages and Instagram posts to launch a massive misinformation campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S election. These Russian operatives, working for the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency specifically targeted African Americans according to the final Senate committee report released earlier this year.

“No single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African Americans. By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016,” the report said.

Now, it appears someone is employing similar tactics to mislead Latino and Black voters this election.

Once again Black voters have become the primary target of disinformation efforts, although it’s not as clear if the Russians are to blame.

In a report from NPR, it appears messages are hoping to encourage apathy among Black voters in an effort to dissuade them from heading to the polls.

“Democrats and Republicans are the same. There’s no point in voting,” one post read.

This year, Latinos have also become a massive target as they become the largest non-white voting block in 2020. There will be 32 million eligible Latino voters this year, just slightly more than the 30 million voters who are Black. And unfortunately, some of the more harmful messages spread on social media appear to be trying to pit Latino and Black voters against one another, according to the New York Times.

“They feed into real fears, about the pandemic, about socialism and exploiting potential gaps within communities, between the Black community and the Latino community,” said Jacobo Licona to the New York Times. Licona studies misinformation for Equis Labs, a liberal-leaning Latino research group.

To combat this, both Latino and Black activists have launched campaigns to protect and spread awareness about misinformation being spread online, warning voters about the more obvious signs of fake accounts and groups and about being more careful about what they share online. 

Briefly: Businesses Around L.A. Board Up Their Shops in Preparation for Election Results; Tyler Perry to Hire Writers and Filmmakers after Facing Criticism…

Businesses Around L.A. Board Up Their Shops in Preparation for Election Results

Several businesses around L.A. and the nation are taking precautions ahead of Election 

Day results by boarding up their stores in case of any rioting or looting that may follow. Plywood window panels can now be seen covering multiple shops in cities like L.A., New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington DC.        

Rodeo Drive will be closed starting at 11:59 p.m. on Monday for two days and several businesses on Rodeo and the surrounding areas have boarded up their shops. Many shops in Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica are also boarding up ahead of Tuesday’s election night.

“As a Police Department, we cannot tell businesses what to do when it comes to boarding up,” a Santa Monica Police Department statement read. “However, we understand the need to feel secure and we respect your decisions on how to handle your day to day operations.”

Businesses down Sunset Blvd. and La Brea Ave. have also made the decision to board up their shops.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Michel Moore have stated that preparations are in place to deal with unrest on election day or the following days.

“We are very prepared for the election, but at the same time I don’t want to buy into a narrative that there’s going to be chaos during our election,” Garcetti said. “We prepare for the worst, but we are hoping and expect generally the best. There may be individual instances, we’ll see some stuff around the country, but don’t let any of that change the narrative of you, your right to vote.”

The Insurance Information Institute reported that businesses in the U.S. have faced upwards of $900 million in insured losses from vandalism during protests this year.

                                                                 

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry to Hire Writers and Filmmakers after Facing Criticism for Writing All of His Content 

Tyler Perry is set to begin hiring a new team of filmmakers and writers for his multiple TV shows and upcoming movies. The new billionaire faced criticism earlier this year after revealing that he did not have a “writer’s room” and did all of the writing for his TV shows and movies himself. Perry is now saying that he wants to fill his Tyler Perry Studios with young creatives.

“We’re super excited about the young, up-and-coming filmmakers and new writers that we’re working with,” said Michael Sneed, president of production and development for Tyler Perry Studios. “Tyler has solidified his place in the industry, his brand is amazing, and we’ll continue to grow that. Then on the other side, we’re working on promoting, providing a platform and advocating for this new talent, both in front of and behind the camera.”

Perry is reportedly very excited to begin working with new talent on fresh ideas, a change in tone from his response to earlier criticism, in which he said, “When I hear that kind of stuff, I’m thinking, ‘Are y’all looking at the ratings? Do you understand that the audience is in love with this? Because if you’re complaining about my writing, you’re not the audience. My audience loves the way that it’s done and the way the stories are told. And from the beginning, it’s always been about being true to them.” 

The 50-year-old is now willing to expand the vision of his catalogue by hiring promising talent.

Gospel Mourns the Passing of Grammy-Nominated Vocalist, Rance Allen

      The gospel world is reeling from the death of legendary vocalist Rance Allen, award winning gospel vocalist, lead singer of the Rance Allen Group quartet; pastor of the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in Toledo and bishop for the Michigan Northwestern Harvest Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ. “While recovering from a medical procedure at Heartland ProMedica [in Sylvania, OH], Bishop Rance Allen passed away around 3 AM this morning,” said Allen’s wife of 49 years, Ellen Allen, and his manager, Toby Jackson, in a joint statement. He was 71.

      Credited with being the first traditional gospel group to incorporate rock, jazz, and soul into their music, the Grammy-nominated vocalist is known for such classic hits as “Miracle Worker”, “I Give Myself To You”, “Do Your Will,” “Closest Friend,”  and “Something About The Name Jesus” which he recorded with Marvin Winans, John P. Kee, Isaac Carree and Kirk Franklin, who was in shock over the news.

      “I just woke up to some of the worst news ever,” Franklin wrote on Instagram. “You guys remember that song God gave me several years ago called ‘Something About the Name Jesus?’ That had the incredible Rance Allen?” he asked in an Instagram video. “Man, we lost Rance Allen. I just wrote and produced his first single.”

      “My whole gospel Male vocal #generation was students of this amazing #icon,” Fred Hammond posted. “We all wanted to sing like Rance. #marvinwinans @keetwit , #commissioned and countless others. Almost every single song I’ve sung has a moment where I’ve put his flavor in.”

      But as Tosha Cobbs Leonard stated of Rance Allen in her post, “Your gift can never be duplicated!” 

      One of 12 children, Allen has been preaching and singing since he was five as “Little Rance Allen—the Boy Preacher”. He founded the group (including brothers Thomas and Steve) in the 60’s, scoring a Top 30 R&B hit in 1979 with “I Belong to You”.  They began recording for Stax Records in 1971 where they made a string of gritty, R&B-flavored gospel and message songs for the Gospel Truth imprint. They toured with the big R&B artists of the day such as Isaac Hayes and Barry White. From there, the group recorded for a variety of labels, scoring their first #1 gospel album in 1991 with the “Phenomenon” CD featuring the crossover R&B smash, “Miracle Worker,” with Allen closed out the 1990s performing in a variety of gospel-oriented touring play productions

      Their nearly six decades in gospel yielded over 20 albums including their first #1 gospel album, Phenomenon (1991), five Grammy nominations, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a performance for President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015.

      “Bishop Allen’s unique vocal ministry was an indispensable sound within the Church of God in Christ and Christendom,” wrote Bishop Robert Rudolph in the COGIC’s official notice of transition. “His gift transcended the boundaries of musical genre as he remained a sought-after personality called to perform on global venues.”

      Noting that the family would hold a private memorial, Rudolph added, “When the restrictions are lifted, a date will be set for a Jurisdictional memorial service that will appropriately recognize the godly life and notable achievements of Bishop Rance Allen.”

                                                                       

Judge: People in Prison Can Receive $1,200 Stimulus Payments

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Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

The first round of economic impact payments funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, has been opened to a new group of Americans. 

Incarcerated individuals can now apply to receive their stimulus payments of up to $1200. 

According to a June report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS initially sent nearly 85,000 payments, totaling about $100 million, to incarcerated individuals. After the report raised concerns about the payments, the IRS decided that payments to incarcerated people were not allowed under the CARES Act and ordered that the payments sent should be returned. 

Then a class-action lawsuit was filed. Lawyers argued that denying the payments solely based on an individual’s incarcerated status was against the law. The language of the CARES Act does not explicitly say that incarcerated individuals cannot receive payments. 

On Sept. 24, Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Treasury Department and the IRS to reverse the decision. The previously rescinded stimulus payments now have to be returned to the incarcerated individuals. 

On Oct. 14, Hamilton also ordered the IRS to extend the deadline for incarcerated individuals covered by the lawsuit to file paperwork to receive the money to Nov. 4. People covered by the lawsuit who did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return will have to submit a postmarked simplified Form 1040 paper return by Nov. 4 to receive the stimulus payment. 

The IRS also extended the online deadline to register for a stimulus payment for people who don’t typically file a tax return to Nov. 21. 

According to the IRS website, the government is working on an appeal to the decision. “The government has filed an appeal and request to stay the preliminary injunction. Any updates regarding the appeal will be posted on this webpage,” the IRS states. 

Under the CARES Act, stimulus payments must be made by Dec. 31. People will still have an opportunity to get the stimulus funds next year, but they won’t receive the money until they file their 2020 tax return. 

Information on how to help an incarcerated person file for a stimulus payment is available at caresactprisoncase.org. The website includes directions on where to mail the simplified return, as well as a sample Form 1040 with instructions on where to add the incarcerated individual’s personal corrections number to ensure payment is sent to the right place.

Black Employees Say Racism is Rife at Cal Air Resources Board

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Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media 

Mary Nichols, an influential California attorney known and respected in environmental policy circles across the United States, is finding herself at the center of racial storm brewing at home.  

Black employees say racism is widespread at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the organization Nichols chairs.  

In September, African American employees hit CARB with a 13-page letter alleging that they have been experiencing racism – widespread, routine and systemic, they point out – at the air-pollution and climate agency.  

The “Concerned Black Employees at CARB (CBE CARB),” the Black group that submitted the letter, says its members have been the target of cynical comments at the organization and that they have been excluded from promotions, and have had to face other atrocities because of the color of their skin. 

The letter details discriminatory hiring practices, incidents of intimidation, low representation of Black employees, and a general lack of support. CARB, the letter alleges, has a total of 1627 employees and only 73 of them are Black. Only one African American has held an executive position with the organization.  

“You will find a compilation of Black stories about our experiences at CARB along with messages we received from those experiences,” CBE CARB stated in the introduction of the document. Although these stories are first person accounts of experiences, we believe that most of them apply (or have applied) to all Black employees at some point and time at CARB.” 

The state of California charges CARB with protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution and developing programs and actions to fight climate change. Founded in 1967, the Sacramento-based organization also sets air quality standards, oversee automakers’ emissions compliance, conducts research on air pollution, measures reductions of air pollutants and promotes public health, among other functions.  

In July, Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento), who is African American, called out Nichols online after she posted a message that drew parallels between the lack of clean air the death of George Floyd.

“How dare you use a dying man’s plea for help as a way to discuss your agenda. Have you no shame?” Cooper reacted to Nichols’ tweet.  

Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee on the unarmed Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes in late May. The shocking incident caught on video a bystander caught was shared millions of time, sparking anti-Black racism protests across the globe.  

On June 1, Nichols posted, “‘I can’t breathe’ speaks to police violence, but it also applies to the struggle for clean air. Environmental racism is just one form of racism. It’s all toxic. Government needs to clean it up in word and deed.” 

Nichols later issued an apology via Twitter, stating “I apologize for speaking at the wrong time about the wrong topic. Racism comes in many forms and I believe we must fight every instance of it in our society.” 

Nichols has served on the CARB Board under Gov. Jerry Brown (1975–82 and 2010–18), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (2007–2010), and Gov. Gavin Newsom (2019–present).  

She also served as California’s Secretary for Natural Resources (1999–2003), appointed by Gov. Gray Davis. Her term under Newsom ends Dec. 31. There is speculation in Sacramento political circles that Nichols, 75, could be in line for a job as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency should Joe Biden win the presidency. 

Published reports say CARB’s Executive Director Richard Corey forwarded CBE CARB’s letter to the air CARB’s staff about a week after he obtained it. The 13-page document is dated Sept. 4. 

CARB’s board, which the governor appoints and the Senate confirms, consists of 14 voting members with two lawmakers in non-voting roles. The board does not have any Asian American or African American members.  

“There is no doubt the letter eloquently describes a history of poor treatment, lost potential, and deep-seated pain,” Corey wrote in a memo to his staff, according to Politico. “But, when I consider the courage it took to write and submit the letter, I have a sense of optimism as I know that change begins with the ability to openly acknowledge and discuss issues.” 

CBE CARB also stated that its only intent is to “shine a light on areas where CARB can improve” and asked the air pollution and climate agency to move forward and be “part of the solution.”  

“Our intent in sharing this Letter and Action Plan is not to shame or belittle CARB, or to assign blame. We enjoy the work we do at CARB and want to do all we can to improve CARB for the future, and our future careers with the agency,” CBE CARB stated in conclusion of the letter.  

For the First Time in a General Election, You Can Vote Anywhere in the County

The 2020 presidential election ends on November 3rd. Americans from across the country are already voting and millions have submitted their ballots. Due to COVID-19, Counties and states from across the country have been working hard to ensure a safe and efficient voting system that would allow every voter to make their voice count. Now more than ever, voting by mail and utilizing LA County registrar early voting systems is more important and safer than ever before.

AltaMed, one of the nation’s largest community health networks has partnered with the Los Angeles County Registrar to host 15 vote centers at their health centers. These vote centers are spread throughout East Los Angeles and South East Los Angeles. Any Los Angeles County resident can vote at any of the vote centers throughout the county.

Vote centers are just one of the many convenient options for voting early in the election. The pandemic created a need for early voting centers for people that prefer to vote in person. The Los Angeles County Registrar has partnered with public locations to offer these options. Voters will be able to visit one of the centers if they need extra assistance to cast their ballot.

With infection rates on the rise throughout the country, it is necessary to create additional options for all communities to avoid further risk of COVID-19. These vote centers allow our communities to avoid further risk of infection. They must adhere to public health guidelines to ensure a safe voting experience for all.

Over 100 vote centers have opened across Los Angeles County since October 24th, including schools, stadiums, and community centers.

Voter Resources: Vote Centers will remain open every day from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Additional Vote Centers will be open beginning October 30.

What is a flex vote center?

LA County flex vote centers are sites that offer voting at a scheduled time and can accommodate voters who may need extra assistance. You do not need to be an AltaMed patient or employee to vote in person or drop off your ballot. Below are just some of the centers you can visit locally. To find more centers near you, visit locator.lavote.net.

DATE: Friday, October 30 –– 8:00am – 5:00pm

LOCATIONS:

AltaMed PACE — South Los Angeles (1776 E. Century Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90002)

AltaMed PACE — Covina (535 S. 2nd Ave. Covina, CA 91723)

AltaMed PACE — East Los Angeles (5425 E. Pomona Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90022)

DATE: Monday, November 2  –– 8:00am – 5:00pm

LOCATIONS:

AltaMed PACE — Downey (12130 Paramount Blvd. Downey, CA 90242)

AltaMed PACE — Lynwood (3820 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Lynwood, CA 90262)

AltaMed PACE — El Monte (10418 Valley Blvd. El Monte, CA 9173)

Op-Ed: Prop 21 Threatens African American Generational Wealth

Diane Robertson, attorney and small property owner 

The primary path to the middle class for American families is through property ownership. However, for many African Americans, Latinos and other minorities, the opportunity has been out of reach because of discriminatory housing laws and economic inequality.

It’s alarming that a measure on the November ballot would make this lack of access worse, and simultaneously threaten relatively recent gains made by others in these groups. Proposition 21 would make it more difficult to build the affordable housing we need, and make it harder to enter the middle class through home ownership — the central pillar of the American Dream.

As we come to grips with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, those of us who have spent years saving and sacrificing to purchase a house or condo find our investment and financial security in jeopardy. The failure of our leaders to pass protections for small landlords like me endangers our livelihoods, and puts our tenants at risk.

Proposition 21 would exacerbate the already dire situation facing mom and pop property owners, and could hasten foreclosure and short sales of our properties. Like the last housing crisis, this economic upheaval will lead to large corporate landlords and hedge funds swooping in to purchase these properties at distressed prices, devastating small landlords and forcing tenants out of their homes.

Fewer rental properties on the market and more corporate ownership of California housing will not only hurt independent property owners, it will hurt tenants as well. According to the group Tenants Together, approximately 200,000 tenants were displaced from their homes in California during the housing crash that began in 2008.

We must protect small property owners who, in contrast to corporate landlords, often are natural affordable housing providers, operate on small margins, give applicants a chance if they don’t meet all of the rental qualifications, and help maintain the integrity of a community. 

As the COVID-19 crisis hit, a neighbor and I talked about the impact it could have on landlords and tenants. We reached out to a handful of other independent landlords of color to share information and ideas. From there, the Coalition of Small Rental Property Owners was born and has been growing ever since. Our goal is to ensure that our voice is not drowned out in the fight between tenants’ groups and large property owners.

Small landlords are an integral part of communities like mine in South Los Angeles.  I have been fortunate enough to save and invest in a duplex and fourplex here. I have made it a point to be flexible with my tenants when needed. I have a personal relationship with my tenants. I understand that having stable tenants is good for my bottom line and my community.

I want to see our community thrive, and the door to property ownership open up for African American and Latino families who desire it, but for whom this dream remains deferred because of bad public policy like Proposition 21. California’s housing market was in crisis before COVID-19, due in large part to a failure to build enough supply to meet demand, and how costly and difficult it is to build new housing in our state.  These factors have caused prices to soar, making it that much harder for the average family to buy property.

We cannot slam the door to the middle class on those who are working to get ahead. Proposition 21 will diminish opportunities to own property for people who look like me, and will worsen our problems of racial and economic inequality.

The state of California is facing a new economic challenge, and families across our state are struggling. What we need most is new investment in our housing market, not an extreme measure like Proposition 21 that will further destabilize it.

Board of Supervisors Developing Plan to Impeach Sheriff Villanueva

Christal Mims, Staff

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is in the midst of developing a plan to oust Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Spearheaded by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the proposal, and co-author Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the plan reportedly consists of rounding up the board’s lawyers, inspector general, civilian oversight commissioners and acting CEO to consider options for removing or impeaching the sheriff.

“We stand firm in terms of the issue of transparency and accountability and I think it’s reasonable for the board to have the opportunity to look at this matter,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The motion, titled, “Report Regarding Options for Removing the Sheriff” expresses a lack of faith in Villanueva.

“Under the current sheriff, hard-fought vital progress is being undone, and community trust is rapidly eroding,” the motion states. “While the board has been able to navigate challenging times with previous sheriffs, this sheriff’s actions demonstrate the dire need to explore options for removing a sheriff who refuses oversight or, at a minimum, mitigating damages caused by unacceptable behavior.”

This motion comes after the civilian oversight commission called for Villanueva’s resignation earlier this month. The sheriff disregarded the call and accused the group of punishing him for investigating potential corruption.

Sheriff Villanueva has been criticized in recent months for his handling of the LASD budget, deputy-involved shootings of unarmed Black and brown residents and the unearthed information regarding deputy gangs.

“Given the recent but persistent refusal to provide the transparency and accountability that the community rightly demands, the County should consider whether the status of the Sheriff’s office should be reexamined in order to better serve the more than 10 million residents of the County,” the motion continues. “The need for mechanisms to hold an elected Sheriff accountable is painfully obvious today, at a time when communities across the County are reeling from violence – including much-too-frequent deputy involved shootings.”

The board’s motion also calls for an amendment that would allow the L.A. County sheriff to be appointed rather than elected.

“With an elected sheriff, the county has had to maneuver different ways to create checks and balances on the sheriff,” the motion states.

County officials postponed a vote to consider impeaching Villanueva that was supposed to take place on Tuesday to Nov. 10.

Villanueva responded to the motion by suggesting that the board has been reluctant to provide him with an adequate budget or the resources to do better, but that he is willing to sit down and hash things out.

“I’m reaching out. I’m reaching out across the aisle and tell them let’s sit down, let’s resolve our differences, let’s work out a memorandum of agreement with the inspector general and my office in terms of sharing information,” Villanueva said.

America on Edge: Officials Prep for Possible Post Election Civil Unrest

Staff

Ballot boxes being burned. Americans loading up on guns. Government and police agencies preparing for riots and the FBI investigating threatening emails to Democratic voters instructing them to cast their ballots to Trump “or else”.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Xavier Becerra petitioned the Sacramento Superior Court to order the Republican party to provide details about the location of private ballot boxes it set up, and the voters who left ballots in them. Some boxes were placed at gun stores, churches, and GOP party offices.

“Our work to ensure that all voters have confidence that their vote will count moves forward,” Becerra said in a statement. “To the extent that unauthorized ballot drop boxes are redeployed, our investigation is ongoing, and we will act where necessary.”

All just a snapshot of the confusion and heightened anxiety surrounding the November 3ed election as Americans line up in droves to cast their ballot early and ensure their votes are counted and their voices heard. To say that America is on edge pending the outcome of the November 3 election is an understatement. Gun stores have reported all-time spikes in sales. The demand for tactical apparel is also up and gas masks have experienced a 20-fold jump in sales.

Fifty-six percent of voters (as published in Breitbart) say they expect to see “an increase in violence as a result of the election”. Another poll found that 61 percent of Americans are concerned that the nation was on the verge of another civil war.

The heightened tensions surrounding the election are expected to come to a boiling point in the days following the election, though fearing an uptick in disputes between voters at the polls–and or voter intimidation, some local election authorities will be adding armed security, particularly as President Trump –in an unprecedented move– urged supporters to go to the polls and watch very carefully for voter fraud. Thus, setting up a recipe for possible outbreaks of violence.

And as the campaigns of President Trump and Joe Biden are prepping for legal challenges to election results and the counting of ballots which is sure to further inflame tensions, pro and anti-Trump groups around the country are already making plans to protest.

Police departments around the country are taking extra precautions. The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. purchased more than $100,000 worth of less lethal weapons, including tear gas canisters in preparation for protests and potentially violent demonstrations after the election. The New York Police Department has told its officers to prepare for the possibility of protests that could last into 2021. The Justice Department is planning to station officials in a command center at FBI headquarters to coordinate a federal response to any disturbances that may arise around the nation.

Federal authorities have reportedly thwarted several right-wing terrorist plots across the country in recent months – from an alleged conspiracy in June to firebomb buildings and Black Lives Matter protests in Las Vegas by members of the “boogaloo” movement, to the arrest of 14 men linked to two anti-government groups that allegedly conspired to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer.

In the months leading up to the election, People’s Rights– a paramilitary group founded by an anti-government activist with chapters in at least 15 states and a professed membership upwards of 37,000 who, angered by COVID-19 restrictions, have staged rallies– and are telling their members to prepare to stock up for scenarios that may include chaos, riots and looting and that may lead to basic shortages of food and goods, power outages and supply chain interruptions.

In fact, across the country, Americans are stocking up to hunker down for a possible wave of sustained election-related unrest and according to one analyst, the violence will occur no matter who wins.

“If Biden wins, it will be an excuse to try to delegitimize the results and to go after perceived enemies on the left, and of course, that means labeling pretty much anyone that you disagree as Antifa. If Trump wins, this will be a signal to these far-right groups that have supported him, extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, that they will see this as open season to go after people that have been opponents of Trump.”

Given how Trump has already framed the election as being rigged, officials also fear a possible threat in a loose coalition of vigilantes and other armed extremists who think that their election is going to–or has been – taken away.

Should Trump hesitate to accept the election outcome, the Protect the Results coalition has already set in motion over 200 non-violent rallies in cities across the United States slated to begin a 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 4. Many of the groups have been planning “war game simulations” of how to prepare for various election scenarios.

Under one such simulation of a narrow Biden win that Trump contested; the Transition Integrity Project war game saw more than 4 million Americans take to the streets for the Democratic nominee.

Stephanie Owens, the NAACP’s national grassroots election protection project manager, says the challenges of COVID-19 and the racial protests following Floyd’s death have heightened the organization’s normal concerns about violence. In some cases, the NAACP has been talking to voters about removing their yard signs and bumper stickers to avoid post-election violence.

“The symbolism of who you’re supporting is a very large component of our election tradition. But there is almost nothing traditional about this election,” says Owens. “People are already being targeted based on the candidates they are supporting.”

The NAACP’s Detroit chapter announced that its members and area attorneys will monitor polls across the city and state on Election Day for instances of voter intimidation or voter suppression.

“We’re not police officers, but we have eyes and we have ears,” said Chui Karega, a lawyer and general counsel for the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “We will stand tall and we will be present to assist in the enforcing of the law.”

The NAACP has also trained thousands of volunteers in de-escalation tactics, hoping to reduce violence before it even starts.

Political insiders believe that a close race would make for the worst scenario for civil unrest and a landslide win for Biden would be the best scenario. Even then experts say there is no playbook for what will happen on November 3rd and in the weeks following the election. The Bush/Gore Florida debacle that had poll workers counting chads lasted 36 days.

Here in California, Secretary of State Alex Padilla is projecting a safe election while conceding that counties need to be ready for potential trouble, including any efforts to threaten or harass voters.

LAPD Police Chief Michael Moore is assuring Angelenos that they will be safe, given that armed militia groups are not as predominant in Los Angeles as they are in other areas of the country. He has, reportedly, asked officers to reschedule any vacations or time off around election day in the event of any unrest.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Invests $335 Million in New Behavioral Health Center

Staff

The original Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital building is now the Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Health Center, a new and innovative healthcare facility. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in collaboration with county partners to celebrate the state’s first ever licensed Behavioral Health Center (BHC) that will provide “fully-integrated inpatient, outpatient, and supportive services for some of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable populations.”

“Over the last decade, we have transformed the MLK Medical Campus into a center of excellence that provides holistic care for our community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “With the opening of the Behavioral Health Center, we are bringing to life our intent to establish a cutting-edge continuum of care that promotes mental health, recovery, trauma prevention, rehabilitation, and many other essential wrap-around services that foster long-term wellness for our patients and the community at large. I am tremendously proud of this milestone.”

The Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Center is part of more than one billion dollars invested into the medical campus to transform and support the wellness of surrounding communities. 

Attendees of the ceremony were able to explore the 500,000-square-foot building that includes a new peer resource center, upgraded conference rooms, innovative examination rooms, a new canopy extension, exterior site improvements and more.

“With the County’s $300M plus investment, the BHC will serve the residents of LA County for many years to come with a range of services not found elsewhere. The decision to transform rather than demolish this building has proven to be a very efficient investment of County resources,” said Fesia Davenport, Los Angeles County Acting Chief Executive Officer. 

The center will house more than a half dozen County departments and partners, including clinical and behavioral staff from the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health, Public Works and Health Services. The Departments of Probation and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, along with the Office of Diversion and Reentry, will sponsor rehabilitative, vocational and training opportunities to equip those in need with the tools necessary to reintegrate into society. 

“The Department of Health Services is excited to collaborate with our mental health partners along with other departments to innovate delivery of care. The BHC will provide care for the body and mind, and it is our goal that when someone walks into those doors, they know they are on their way to healing and restoration,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

The new center is set to officially open in 2021.

Trump’s Latest Executive Orders Seen as Attempts to Sabotage a Biden Administration and Eliminate Diversity and Inclusion Programs

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

With record early voting numbers heavily pointing to a potential landslide by Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, President Donald Trump is working behind the scenes to undermine a new administration and further divide the country.

The President this week quietly signed an executive order that strips civil service protections from a large number of career federal workers if Trump determines that they are in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.”

He also was called out by members of Congress for another executive order that removes diversity and inclusion programs both at the federal and private sector levels.

As first reported by the U.K. Independent, the most recent executive order creates a new category “Schedule F” for such federal positions that do not turn over from administration to administration and reclassifying them.

The Office of Personnel Management — essentially the executive branch’s human resources department — has been charged with implementing the order by publishing a “preliminary” list of positions to be moved into a new category on what could be President Donald Trump’s last full day in office: January 19, 2021.

The range of workers who could be stripped of protections and placed in a new category is vast, experts told the Independent.

The list could include most non-partisan experts — scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists — whose work to advise and inform policymakers is supposed to be fact-driven and devoid of politics.

For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, would be among those terminated by Trump.

In a nutshell, the Independent reported that the executive order could give Trump the power to “mount a scorched-earth campaign which would cripple a future Biden administration.”

“In the event the incumbent president loses his re-election bid, this order could give him largely unfettered authority to fire experts … while leaving behind a corps of embedded loyalists to undermine his successor, according to federal employment law experts,” the newspaper noted.

Creating the new category — known as “Schedule F” — and moving current civil servants into it “could allow a lame-duck President Trump to cripple his successor’s administration by firing any career federal employees who’ve been included on the list,” Journalist Andrew Feinberg wrote for the Independent.

“It also could allow Trump administration officials to skirt prohibitions against “burrowing in” — the heavily restricted practice of converting political appointees (known as “Schedule C” employees) into career civil servants — by hiring them under the new category for positions which would not end with Trump’s term.

“Another provision orders agencies to take steps to prohibit removing “Schedule F” appointees from their jobs on the grounds of “political affiliation,” which could potentially prevent a future administration from firing unqualified appointees because of their association with President Trump.”

Spokespeople for both the President and Biden did not return emails to Black Press USA.

“Yes, if Biden wins, he will undo all of these Executive Orders,” tweeted Beth Noveck, the first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and director of the White House Open Government Initiative under President Barack Obama.

“However, if they fire people on their way out the door, it will wreak considerable havoc. And if he doesn’t win, then this disaster is another one of many but a serious one for democracy and the rule of law.”

Noveck added:

“It’s unclear whether this becomes… a blunt instrument…to do some surgical removal of people they don’t like, or whether they’re going to actually attempt some sort of bloodletting or purge.”

Charlie Reeves, who describes himself as an anti-Trump moderate, said the implications of the executive order is far-reaching.

“I understand as an executive order it can be reversed, but you can do a lot of damage in two months and make for a big mess for Biden to clean up early,” Reeves tweeted.

“Clear effort for petty revenge and to hinder a smooth transition.”

The President’s latest act marked another in a string of recent controversial executive orders.

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Chair of the House Financial Services Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, recently introduced a bill (H.R. 8595) to invalidate Executive Order 13950 and preserve diversity and inclusion training programs at federal departments and agencies as well as in the private sector.

Beatty’s bill, which has the backing of 23 members of Congress, noted that Trump’s order rolls back diversity and inclusion training programs within all federal departments and agencies, the U.S. uniformed services, federal contractors, subcontractors, and specific federal grant recipients.

The order also established a hotline within the Department of Labor for the investigation of complaints.

It required the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to craft a request for seeking information from federal contractors, subcontractors, and their employees regarding the training, workshops, or similar programming provided to employees, under the threat of termination of any existing contract and preclusion of future contracting opportunities.

“As the first-ever Chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, I have focused our bipartisan work on highlighting the tremendous impact of a more inclusive U.S. economy and workforce,” Beatty said.

“In hearings throughout the 116th Congress, the Subcommittee has received testimony from industry leaders and experts acknowledging the correlation between diversity performance and the bottom line. Diverse organizations are more profitable, pose less regulatory risk, and strengthen our economy.”

She added:

“That is why I strongly oppose Trump’s divisive attempt to cement racism as the practice and policy of the federal government and call on all Americans to join me in this effort because this Executive Order is antithetical to the values we hold so dear as a nation.”

A Single Dose of Remdesivir Costs Uninsured Two Months of Income

Sunita Sohrabji, Ethnic Media Studies

Essential workers, who must continue to work even as COVID rates spike and shelter in place orders are reissued, largely lack health insurance coverage despite the Affordable Care Act, and thus would not be able to access treatment if they become ill from an infection.

David Hayes-Bautista, Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA Health released a study a day earlier which highlighted that just a single $3,120 dose of Remdesivir, a therapeutic approved earlier this month for treatment of hospitalized COVID patients, would amount to two months of a farmworker’s salary.

“To pay for just that one item, you would basically have to forgo all food, all housing, all clothing, and all transportation for two months,” he said.

Patients using the drug must receive daily infusions for 10 days for a total cost of more than $31,000.

Simply getting a COVID test can cost upwards of $100 to $2,000 if you’re uninsured, he said, adding that for a family, testing costs can add up pretty quickly.

At the briefing, the scholar said President Donald Trump’s fourday sojourn at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital after he tested positive for COVID cost the nation $320,000.

Federally Qualified Health Centers — FQHCs — do offer health care to low-income people, regardless of immigration status, but Hayes-Bautista said this was an imperfect solution to the crisis of access to health care, as such facilities are chronically underfunded and often overwhelmed by large numbers of patients.

A conservative Supreme Court could well do away with the Affordable Care Act, which offers subsidized health coverage to 22 million people. If it is repealed, 55 million people in the U.S. would lack any form of health coverage. “In the midst of a pandemic, this is a recipe for absolute disaster,” said Hayes-Bautista.

Denise Octavia-Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers (CHW), said that health workers are providing services such as contact tracing, testing and education in under-served communities, but largely without financial help from federal or state resources.

CHWs are overwhelmingly women of color and the most underpaid among frontline health care workers. Many of them live in homes without basic facilities, Smith said. In the first wave of the pandemic, many were furloughed, even though they were badly needed in their communities, because of a lack of funding.

“It is my hope that some of the tens of millions or even billions of dollars coming through the federal government will be invested in community health workers’ centers and lead organizations so that we can come through and out of this pandemic with enhanced capacity, not reduced capacity,” stated Octavia Smith.

When a vaccine becomes available, Octavia Smith said CHWs, who are trusted messengers within a community, can help to dispel myths and fears about getting vaccinated, ensuring that more people of color and low-income people are inoculated against COVID.

Taraji P. Henson Will Host Mental Health Talk Show on Facebook

Staff

Actress Taraji P. Henson is set to host a new talk show centered around mental health. The series, “Peace of Mind with Taraji,” is scheduled to go into production later this year and will be on Facebook Watch. Henson will host the show along with her best friend Tracie Jade Watkins.

“I’ve long been a mental health advocate for the Black community and created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 that has provided resources to thousands of people who are struggling,” said Henson. “I’m looking forward to bringing this new talk series to Facebook Watch, where I can continue to create conversation around an issue that is near and dear to my heart.”

Henson and Watkins will interview celebrities, experts and everyday people about mental-health issues, highlighting those in the Black community. The show will attempt to erase the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Henson’s Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is named after her late father, who dealt with mental health challenges as a result of his tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

“The work Taraji has done in the mental health space is inspiring, and we’re thrilled to have her come to our platform to educate and entertain around this  incredibly important topic,” said Mina Lefevre, Head of Development & Programing for Facebook Watch. “One of our strengths at Facebook Watch is building community and conversation around topics people care about, and we’re looking forward to taking this journey together.”

The new show will be a part of Facebook’s mental health initiative that will also include a resource center on the Facebook app called, Emotional Health that will contain tips and information from experts and new mental wellbeing guides on Instagram. 

Executives are reportedly hoping that Henson’s show will find the same success that Jada Pinkett-Smith’s, “Red Table Talk” has – a series that hosts an official Facebook group with over 2.8 million members.

Briefly: Dave Roberts Becomes Second Black Manager to Win the World Series; Iyanla Vanzant’s, ‘Fix My Life’ Series on OWN is Coming to an End; Netflix Set to Premiere New Gospel Series Executively Produced by Pharrell Williams…

Dave Roberts Becomes Second Black Manager to Win the World Series

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the champions of baseball in large part because of a masterful managerial job by Dave Roberts, who becomes just the second African American skipper to win the World Series.

The Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, the first-time Major League Baseball held the Fall Classic at a neutral site.

“It feels great,” proclaimed Roberts, who joined Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays as the only Black managers to lead their team to a world championship.

Gaston’s Blue Jays won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.

The title is the seventh in franchise history for the Dodgers and first since 1988.

Since he took over the Dodgers in 2016, Roberts’ has guided the team to three National League Championships. He also has compiled an impressive 436-273 won-loss record for a Hall-of-Fame like .615 winning percentage.

It means a lot for me personally, of course,” Roberts exclaimed as his players doused him and each other with champagne.

“But for the Dodgers organization, the franchise where they’ve always been forward-thinking and groundbreaking as far as race and color barriers,” Roberts continued.

“So, for the Dodgers and for me to be the manager of this ball club to bring a championship back to Los Angeles, I think it’s well beyond bigger than me.”

Iyanla Vanzant’s, ‘Fix My Life’ Series on OWN is Coming to an End

Iyanla Vanzant’s popular and long-running series, “Fix My Life” will be leaving OWN. Vanzant revealed that the series’ upcoming seventh season will be its last.

“This is my last season. This is my legacy season, I’m out. We out. 2020,” she announced during a virtual press conference. “This season we deal with the massive breakdowns that have occurred in families and relationships as a result of the pandemic, (and) as a result of the shutdown. We’re dealing with some very compelling issues,” Vanzant said.

Vaanzant said that she is honored to have aided her guests through some of their toughest moments.

“I salute and honor each and every guest that comes forward to tell their story out loud. Imagine, most people sleep with people they don’t tell the truth to,” Vanzant said, laughing. “These people are coming to me, a stranger in front of a national audience to tell the deepest darkest most intimate issues of their life and they had to have a swab stuck up their nose to be able to do it.”

Season seven kicks off with a 2-hour premiere on Oct. 31.

Netflix Set to Premiere New Gospel Series Executively Produced by Pharrell Williams

A new gospel show being tapped as the “American Idol for Gospel Music” is heading to Netflix. The show boasts music icon Pharrell Williams as its executive producer. The show, “Voices of Fire” will follow Williams as he aims to build one of the world’s most inspiring gospel choirs.

The show was filmed in his hometown of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Along with Williams will be religious leader and musician Bishop Ezekiel Williams, who is Pharrell’s uncle.

Netflix describes the show as a search for some of the world’s most talented musicians with the belief that “diverse backstories can give their collective voice a greater meaning, the bishop and his team will search for people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.”

The series will have six episodes and is set to premiere on Nov. 20.

Church News: Jawane Hilton Seeks Second Term

Pastor Jawane Hilton
Pastor Jawane Hilton

Lauding the development of new affordable housing, improved budget reserves, and attracting a $65 mil-lion athletic and academic facility to his city, Pastor Jawane Hilton is seeking a second term on the Carson City Council board.
Hilton, a native of Carson, insist he has work that must be continued and completed on his watch. Having already established the Carson Arts Apartments, Veterans Village of Carson, and a reported all-time low crime rate, Hilton claims, “Carson has moved from a being a bedroom city to a destination city.”

The fact that more restaurants are setting up shop in Carson and a new high-end retail outlet center is on deck, a second term for Hilton would offer him the chance to finish what he started. As senior pastor of City on The Hill Church, Hilton points out that serving as a council board person and leading his congregation are not a conflict but a complement to each other. “I tell my members all the time we don’t have seats at tables, we’re on the table. If you’re on the table,
you’re definitely on the menu,” Hilton said. “They know the role of the church in the twenty first century as it was in the civil rights era. The church was the most powerful place on the planet and what their pastor is doing is reclaiming that role.”
Hilton his hoping to head off an expected increase in homelessness in Carson. He says housing is going to be critical in the next four years and it will also be “important to address the food desert that is in north Carson.”
“We’re looking forward to how we can increase the budget and try to bounce back after COVID,” Hilton adds.
“We’re going to have to stretch and we’re gonna have to come together as a community. In order to get through COVID-19, in order to change systematic racism, it’s going to require us all being together. Even though we are socially distant we cannot be socially disconnected.”
Hilton is endorsed by the likes of Los Angeles’ Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Councilman Herb Wesson, and the LA County Federation of Labor respectively.
Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church Food Program Offers stimulus to Black Restaurants been distributing some 300 meals per Sunday, and recently decided to expand the program to 4-days a week. Therefore, from 12 noon to 1:00 PM designated meals and food are available for pick up as scheduled; Tuesdays is Pizza, Wednesdays is Chicken, Fridays are boxed groceries, and Sundays are Grab and Go dinners.
Local food vendors D’s Original Takeout, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Woody’s Bar-B-Que, Papa John’s Pizza franchisees, and others are on board with the food distribution mission which is helping their businesses thrive.

Mt. Sinai Food Program Helps Black Restaurants

Pastor Jawane Hilton

“We started realizing how the pandemic was going to affect small businesses and could lead to restaurants shutting down,” say Hurtt. “We all know that restaurants in our community is critical to the economy.”
Participating restaurants have testified that the feeding initiative is working like a stimulus package enabling them to stay open and to keep their team members employed.

Mt. Sinai Church has been picking up the tab on all the meals, and the entire program is staffed by church-based volunteers.
“This is everything our vision is which is to see our church, community and our city develop not just spiritually but socially,” Hurtt said. “We are unable to meet as a congregation at this time…but I keep encouraging our people to do everything you can do and then trust God to fill in the rest because our victory is in the struggle.”

Saving Grace

Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige

An entertainer with a lasting career like Mary J. Blige must have the ingredients to success.
“I stay grateful, I stay thankful, and I work really, really hard. I’m always trying to figure out new ways to be better, spiritually and personally. It’s not just about all of the accolades I have coming. I couldn’t have them if I wasn’t spiritually aligned and if I wasn’t strong in my mind,” Blige explained. “It’s really about staying healthy in spirit and believing the best in myself and everyone else. Good things come with prayer and meditation. Blessings come, jobs come, by the grace of God.”

The grace of God has catapulted Blige’s career to great heights. Blige has released 13 studio albums, won nine Grammy awards and sold 50 million albums in the United States and 80 million records worldwide.
But her talent doesn’t stop with music. The 49-

Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige

year-old received three Golden Globe nominations, one for a supporting role in the 2017 historical drama, “Mudbound.” She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for the film, making her the first person to be

nominated for both acting and songwriting in the same year. “I caught the acting bug when I was seven. My music teacher put me and this guy in a school play, and word went around the school about how great we did,” Blige recalled. “I took that with me. It was in my heart but I was scared to dream big or let people see that I was optimistic. When I got into the music business, it came back.”
Even with praise and awe coming from all areas of the entertainment industry, she says the key to success is simple.
“My formula to success is being healthy from the inside out. Learning how to love myself, honestly.”
Learning to love herself didn’t come easily.
Born in the Bronx and raised primarily by a single mother, Blige had an admittedly difficult upbringing. She was sexually abused as a child; it was singing that got her through her lowest and most difficult moments.
Her love for music is also what changed her life. In 1989, Blige became the first woman, and the youngest artist, that Uptown Records had ever signed at only 18 years old. She released her now-platinum album, “What’s the 411?” in 1992 and from then on, Blige continued to stun the world with her empowering lyrics, heartfelt storytelling and honesty.


“I don’t believe that we go through things to keep them a secret and then one day die of a heart attack because we have secrets festering inside of us. I think that we go through stuff to speak about it so we can help someone else heal,” Blige said. “That’s the gift God gave me as an artist, to be able to be trans-parent and say: ‘You know what? It happened to me, too.’ I don’t have any of the answers. That’s why I keep having to do so much work.”
Doing the work is something that Blige continues to do despite the incredible hardships she has faced, but this is how she knows that sharing her pain through art is her purpose.
“I went through it myself. It’s a whole other level for me. The higher the lever, the bigger the Devil. The more you try to work on pulling yourself away from the comfort zone, the negative stuff, you get attacked. Especially when you try to do better, you get attacked.”

“I don’t believe that we go through things to keep them a secret and then one day die of a heart attack because we have secrets festering inside of us. I think that we go through stuff to speak about it so we can help someone else heal. That’s the gift God gave me as an artist, to be able to be transparent and say: ‘You know what? It happened to me, too.’ I don’t have any of the answers. That’s why I keep having to do so much work.”

– Mary J. Blige


Blige went through a very messy and public divorce from her hus-band of 13 years, Martin “Kendu” Isaacs, who also happened to be her manager. Rumors of infidelity and private, finance information was splashed all over the tabloids. The divorce was finalized in 2018.
“The breaking point was when I kept asking over and over and over again for respect and to be respected. And it just seemed like I was beating a dead horse and it seemed like I was talking to a wall,” Blige expressed. “I just wasn’t getting it back so if I can’t get respect in the relationship, then I have to move on and save myself. That was the point where I was like, ‘I’m done. I just can’t do it any-more.’”
She has also been very open about substance abuse and described her 1994 album, “My Life” as “a dark, sui-cidal testimony.”
“We numb ourselves with drugs and alcohol and people and shopping and s***, to cover up what’s really going on inside,” she said. “You’re taking drugs so you can go out and feel courageous, or go out and feel beautiful or whatever. You’re doing it to cover up something.”
“My Life” went triple platinum and has not only helped people around the world cope with their difficulties, but Blige as well.
“I started listening to my own words, my own lyrics back. I was just crying listening to it like, wow, all those horrible, dark places I was in, going through all the hell that I was going through, these words are helping me to feel better and be okay in life,” Blige said, admitting that she’s been listening to her own music during the COVID-19 lockdown. “I wrote the lyrics to ‘My Life’ when I didn’t even want to live.”
Through self-love and spirituality, Blige has been able to completely turn her life around and keep herself hope-ful even while the world goes through an undeniably bleak year.
“I sit quietly. I’ll turn everything off and I’ll breathe and start thanking God and be grateful for everything. It’s a time when you get to reflect on your character, who you are, what rules you, what you’re grateful for,” Blige said. “I wake up in the morning happy to live my life, even though we’re in quarantine. I’m alive. Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I’m alive. My mother’s alive.”
She’s also not slowing down in terms of taking on projects.
Blige is currently starring in the hit series, “Power Book II: Ghost” on Starz and she recently released her very own wine label, Sun Goddess Wines. Blige also created a production company, Blue Butterfly, for which she’s excited to begin producing content.
“Our goal is to produce content that is for the culture.
For us, by us. Create stories about great people. Heroes, women, that people don’t even know about. How there’s a Brady Bunch or Partridge Family, have something like that for us. Actually G-Unit and Mary J Blige … there’s something really big. I can’t talk about it too much but the team is amazing.”
Blige’s goal now is to continue giving her fans the authentic and groundbreaking art that they’ve come to know her for.
“I get in where I fit in and if I don’t fit in, I don’t want it because it’s a disaster for me. And my fans do know me, they’re going to notice it too. If I go against that gut feeling of, ‘don’t do that’ it’s a disaster. I don’t know how to do anything else but be Mary J. Blige.”

People: “Bishop Charles Blake Says He Won’t Pursue Another Term”

Bishop Charles Blake Cover
Bishop Charles Blake Cover

For the last 13 years, he has led the nation’s largest African-American denomination and has been viewed as one of the country’s most powerful Black religious lead-ers. Last week, Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) announced that he would be stepping down from the role at the next election, the date of which is still being determined by board members.
“I have made the decision to not seek re-election as a member of the General Board or as Presiding Bishop. I have requested that the General Board grant me emeritus status,” Blake said in a video on the Church’s web-site.
The Church of God in Christ is the fifth largest Pro-testant denomination in the U.S., the largest Pentecostal group in the country and the second largest Pentecostal organization in the world with churches in 60 countries and an estimated membership of nearly 6.5 million.


“Bishop Charles E. Blake was to the Church of God in Christ what the Apostle Paul was to the first century church,” said Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, Senior Pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church and Presiding Bishop of the Macedonia International Bible Fellowship. “Likewise, I suggest the Lord used the man, the ministry and the message of His Grace Bishop Charles Blake to take the largest Pentecostal denomination of color in the world into the dimension where eyes had not seen, ears had not heard, of the growth, progress and global imprint that characterizes the 13 year tenure of this great Man of God.
“God used the grace and anointing on his life and transitioned the African American Pentecostal/Charis-matic family of the Body of Christ out of the margins where many so fervently attempted to relegate us, on to the front line of spiritual transformation, social change and economic advancement.”
Mother Barbara McCoo Lewis, General Supervisor of the COGIC’s International Department of Women dubbed him as “one of the greatest leaders in the history of Christendom”.
“Bishop Blake’s global mindset caused the Church of God in Christ to grow exponentially around the world,” McCoo said. “He has been a leader of impeccable integrity which is reflected in a posture of financial accountabili-ty.”
Under Blake’s leadership the denomination completed the first comprehensive financial audit of its records in more than 100 years, while completing massive renovations to its headquarters campus in Memphis along with major restorations to downtown Memphis properties and the acquisition of additional properties around our Headquarters campus, including the development of 77 apartment homes near the COGIC’s Mason campus.
Other successes include moving the Holy Convocation to the 502,000 square foot America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri, from 2010 through 2019.
The decision to not seek reelection with the national COGIC does not affect Bishop Blake’s pastoring in Los Angeles where the 80-year old Little Rock, Arkansas native will continue as Senior Pastor of the West Angeles Church, which is one of the denomination’s largest churches with upwards of 20,000 members.
“I have had many great responsibilities over my life-time but the two that have always been forefront of my mind are my family and pastoring the West Angeles Church, said Blake, who became pastor in 1969 when the church has just 50 members. “God has blessed West Angeles to enter into the next stage of the Family Life Center building project, a 25-million-dollar addition that will attach to the West Angeles Cathedral. West Angeles is soon to break ground on this project.”
Bishop Blake will continue to serve as Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle until his successor is selected. Among the names being mentioned as possible successors are Bishops Jerry Macklin, Sedgwick Daniels, George McKinney, Darrell Hines and J. Drew Sheard, all of whom also serve on the COGIC’s General Board.
“Please understand the depth of my gratitude for every opportunity that God has afforded me in serving you,” Blake said. “I pray that I have pleased Him in all I have attempted for the advancement of the Church of God in Christ and ultimately, for His Kingdom. I remain committed to the success of our church and have pledged my support and assistance in a smooth transition so that the work of the Lord will seamlessly continue.”
Bishop Blake has been a member of COGIC for his entire life and is in his 64th year of preaching, 51st year of pastoring the West Angeles Church in Los Angeles, 35th year as COGIC Bishop and 32nd year as a member of the General Board. He is the husband of Lady Mae Lawrence Blake,
“Bishop calls Lady Mae his secret weapon,” McCoo Lewis said. “I am afraid the secret is out. Lady Mae has been unwavering in serving and motivating women to embrace excellence. She is the epitome of the Proverbs 31

Fighting the Good Fight

Maxine Waters
Maxine Waters

Since Donald Trump’s arrival on the political stage, few voices have been as consistently outspoken against this President’s divisive rhetoric and policy agenda than that of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D- CA 43). Thanks in part to the internet, Water’s characteristically sharp tongue and fearless devotion to the issues that matter to her constituency have made her a national figure of resistance– from being one of the first to call for Trump’s impeachment, to the now iconic shutting down of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in his attempts to circumvent her questioning during testimony by repeatedly cutting him off saying “I reclaim my time”, to her controversial encouragement of civilians protesting Trump staffers in public.

But followers of national politics have seen her be a tenacious, thorn-in-your-side to Democratic and Republican Presidents alike for the past 30 years, as she spoke up against police brutality during the Rodney King riots of the early 90’s with the same fervor as the killing of George Floyd earlier this year.
For Waters, who was one of 13 children growing up outside of St. Louis, Missouri, the fighting spirit is something she’s had since day one.
“I was raised and educated with the understanding that we have a responsibility to know the civil rights movement and be dedicated to the proposition that we
can help our communities have people do better. I came in with that kind of attitude,” says Waters, who began her tenure in Congress in 1991 after serving in the California State legislature. “And then, coming from a family of 13 , I had to fight for everything so I have no fear of fighting. I have no fear of standing up for myself. Through my work, I’ve walked with the kind of courage that has shown truth-to-power in ways that has got me
recognized as a highly controversial figure, and as a fighter.”

“Coming from a family of 13 , I had to fight for everything so I have no fear of fighting. I have no fear of standing up for myself. Through my work, I’ve walked with the kind of courage that has shown truth-to-power in ways that has got me recognized as a highly controversial figure, and as a fighter”

– Maxine Waters


Now at the age of 82, Waters, whose supporters have lovingly dubbed “Auntie Maxine”, is running for her 16th consecutive term and is making the case that she has the leadership and policy expertise to lead our ideologically torn country through the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a more dignified political era.
While her fighting spirit is most often seen and attributed to her outspoken political stances, much of her fighting is done in her less glamorous work– namely on the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) where she sits as Chairwoman.
And the agenda of the HFSC is heavy to say the least.
Besides being an overseer of financial services agencies both in the public and private sector, Waters is looking ahead to reinstating the mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau– a public watchdog organization set up under Obama to protect consumers against predatory financial organizations– which has been undermined under the Trump administration.
“We’ve got to make sure that we continue to work on denying our big banks the opportunity to engage in predatory lending, which harmed our community so much in the 2008 crash,” says Waters. “We’ve got to pay special attention to payday loans, which are made to lure poor people who are desperate into borrowing situations where they will never get out of debt, and make sure that is outlawed.”
In addition, Waters is using the power of her position to create the first ever Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion in HFSC, creating more room at the top for money managers of color.
“We are looking at what we can do to advance asset managers of color in government agencies which is an opportunity that has not really been available to us due to exclusions and discrimination, which is something I am very excited to be engaged in.”
On top of her regularly jam-packed workload, there are the financial woes resulting from the pandemic to deal with. With millions of workers, homeowners, renters, small business, and landlords looking for some type of bailout, Waters and the Democrats are deadlocked in negotiations with Republicans on further allocations of funds.
“I’m focused, as one of the standing committees of Congress, on what is known as the HEROES Act. We passed the CARES Act which included $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 additionally to those who lost their job. But that ran out,” says Waters. “So now we’re negotiating the HEROES Act, but we have no support from Republicans– they don’t want to spend the money.”
Congressional Democrats have passed the HEROES Act twice now, first for $3.2 trillion then compromised down to $2.2 trillion, only to receive a stiff ‘no’ from Senate Republicans both times.
“They don’t want to give citizens and states the money, but we have to insist so that we don’t start laying off all of the people who provide essential services and keep our economy going,’ says Waters.
Waters also helped craft the HEROES Act to address the pandemic-induced evictions crises with $50 billion in rental assistance and up to $550 billion in relief for landlords who have been left on the hook.
“We’re in a crisis now,” says Waters. “People are desperate to put food on the table and not be put out on the street and be evicted. This president really doesn’t care about this, he interfered with negotiations and extended the moratorium on evictions with no money.”
With hospitalization rates 4.7 times higher for black people than their white counterparts due to the pandemic– Waters recognizes that, like so often is the case in America, communities of color have to fight harder to get
the same treatment. “We had to fight for more testing in [black] communities and to ensure that we had the equipment in the hospitals that serve our constituency,” says Waters. “The next thing that we have to do is be on top of the vaccine and make sure that it’s safe, we have access to them, and
they’ll be distributed fairly.
We have to fight for everything. We cannot sit back and believe that somehow we are going to be treated fairly because history tells a different story.”
Waters is also working with leaders of faith through virtual meetings on how to reinforce the directives of how to protect yourself from the virus.
“We tell people to listen and follow the advice of experts, put on your mask, wash your hands, and be involved with social distancing. You’ve got to do this in order to avoid getting infected,” says Waters.
While Waters’ work seems to be cut out for her, opponents on the right have made sure that she can’t look past her re-election bid this November. Her challenger is 34-year-old first time politician Joe Collins III, who despite only receiving 11% of the vote in March’s primary election, has received massive amounts of campaign funds largely due to his backing from Trump Republicans. Collins, who is a former sailor in the Navy, claims he left the military to run for public office which he couldn’t do while on active duty.
He is an outspoken Trump supporter who is running on an agenda of restoring the 43rd district’s economic livelihood, schools, and combating the lingering crime and homelessness issues, while painting Waters as a selfserving Washington elitist. Collins has run an aggressive campaign with a large ad budget, regularly slamming Waters on social media. In his latest video “Mansion Maxine”, Collins calls out Waters for her lavish $6 million home which is not in the 43rd district.
“Do you know where I am?” says Collins in his video. “Maxine Waters $6 million mansion. Do you know where I am not? Her district. I was born right here in South L.A. in the place Maxine Waters refuses to live. Maxine doesn’t care about our district, she only cares about herself.”
It should be noted that it is not required by law for Congressional leaders to live in their district, and also that Waters’ home was once in the district she represented, before redistricting changed the borders. Waters’ answer to Collins claiming that the woes of the 43rd district are her fault since she’s represented the area for 44 years with the same systematic problems persisting is that he doesn’t understand the general hierarchy of government.
“The young man that is running against me not only has no experience, he doesn’t even know how the government works,” says Waters. “He doesn’t know the difference between City Council, Legislatures and Congress,
and who oversees the agencies who have different responsibilities. For instance, members of Congress fund cities to deal with homelessness. City Councils the ones in charge of contracting non-profit agencies to help shelter
the unhoused. His arguments have not been substantive at all, in fact, he’s been missing arguments.’
Waters has also gone on the offensive attacking Collins character flaws, like the fact that he received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy which disallows him from referring to himself as a ‘veteran’ in any official capacity– including on the ballot where his title is ‘sailor’. Waters also brought to light the information alleging that Collins has some outstanding child support cases.
“It’s not just a lack of experience, it is a flawed character and the inability to represent that he can be a role model for the people he wants to represent, especially young people,” says Waters. “He is holding some food giveaways at his headquarters, and someone remarked to me that he talks about feeding people in Los Angeles, but he doesn’t even feed his own children.”
In coming to her defense, over 30 leaders of faith held a press conference outside the Waters campaign headquarters in Hawthorne to pledge their support for the Congresswoman’s reelection bid.
“Maxine Waters has a history of being there for her community,” said Reverend K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles. “Her opponent is someone who just popped up off the scene. We know what a wolf looks like in sheep’s clothes. We can see the handwriting on the wall. We know that narrative this GOP candidate is trying to put out there. So, we just want everyone to know that we the faith leaders are praying for the Congresswoman in all her goals and priorities.”
Pastor Shane B. Scott of Macedonia Baptist Church also said that Waters’ record speaks for itself.
“In case Mr. Collins needs to be reminded, you don’t just serve 15 terms in Congress if you’re ineffective. But rather you serve 15 terms because you have been a champion for justice, for all people whether they are Black,
White, Asian, Latino, or Native American.”
Proof of her effectiveness can be seen in Waters’ popularity amongst the much younger millennial generation, many who affectionately refer to her as ‘Auntie Maxine’. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a nickname of honor,” says Waters. “The aunt in the family is considered, oftentimes, to rise above the parents because they take up for the children and they’re able to not only criticize them, but to help direct them in ways that sometimes the parents can’t. So, the aunt is always favorably embraced, and I love it!”
It’s this affection that drive Waters’ passion to fight for her constituents and the office she is proud to hold.
“One of the reasons I fight so hard is because people believe in me and they call on me, so I really want this election. I want to be re-elected because I want to continue to be a voice they can rely on,” says Waters. “And to be someone who will actually work at this job.
“This is what I do seven days a week. So, no matter whether I’m criticized by those who don’t like the way I do it or think I’m too confrontational, it doesn’t stop me. I believe that people know I want to continue my work and to really represent and give everything I can give to my constituents.”
Besides her own re-election, the single most important thing to come from this historic election is replacing the man in the White House, who according to Waters, is the source of the divisive polarization in today’s political climate.
Her solution? “Vote him out!”
“The President of the United States has been the most divisive, most deplorable human being that I have really ever experienced in my life,” says Waters. “He has created polarization, he has dog-whistled to the white supremacists and those who have never been comfortable with the fact that they live in a country where blacks and others have a right to a decent quality of life. The solution is to get rid of those who cause the polarization, from the top of the ticket on down.”

Ducks’ Adam Henrique and linemates respond to benching and criticism

Adam Henrique was skating but going nowhere in particular for far too long.

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins had seen enough during Wednesday’s loss to the Minnesota Wild, so he benched Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg and Danton Heinen for several shifts. Eakins then called them out publicly after a 3-2 loss, saying he expected a great deal more from their line.

After all, Henrique led the Ducks with 26 goals and 43 points last season, and Silfverberg had 21 goals and 39 points. Heinen had three goals and four points in nine games after a trade from the Boston Bruins. They combined for zero goals and zero points through Wednesday’s game.

Naming names is often tricky. The players might get offended and shut down all together, rebelling against an authority figure. The general manager might call the coach into his office to remind him to keep such criticism private and within the confines of the dressing room.

Eakins certainly got the attention of his players, though, and they responded.

Henrique scored a third-period goal Friday – his first point of the season – that enabled the Ducks to send their game against the Colorado Avalanche to overtime. He also had five shots on goal, another season best. He also was credited with 10 wins in 20 faceoffs in 17 minutes of ice time.

Silfverberg also had a season-best five shots and assisted on Henrique’s goal, also his first point.

Heinen had two shots and an assist for his first point.

The Ducks lost 3-2 in overtime to fall to 1-2-2, but there were unmistakable signs of improvement. Scoring chances were not few and far between, as they were in the season’s first four games. Their power play looked dangerous, although it failed to produce a goal.

Above all, they gave themselves a chance to win.

“A lot of those little things made a difference for us, especially as a line,” Henrique said Saturday. “We were getting pucks to the net, getting opportunities and turning that into a goal later in the game was big for us. Maybe we weren’t even doing the right things before.”

Henrique then attempted to explain what had gone haywire in the first four games.

“We were in between,” he said. “If you’re in between, you’re just kind of chasing around everywhere rather than driving plays and forcing them (the opposition) into hurried plays or making things tough on them and making them make tough plays to get out of their zone.”

Henrique and his linemates got their feet moving and dictated the pace of the game at times, which was exactly what Eakins wanted and expected from them. Silfverberg nearly scored a first-period goal, but he was robbed on two tries by sprawling goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

Heinen’s cross-ice pass to Henrique for the tying goal in the third was superb.

“You’re just skating around not accomplishing what you set out to accomplish,” Henrique said of his frustration going into Friday’s game. “(Friday), we changed that. We played with more pace more consistently, but we were all on the same page, so rather than slow it down in the neutral zone, we were just up and back in, up and back in. If we were back, we changed from offense to defense quick.”

What’s next for the Ducks, who host the Avalanche again Sunday?

“I think just getting on the board, getting opportunities. You hope it snowballs, really, and then you just keep reinforcing those same things you’re doing to create those opportunities,” Henrique said. “Now I think we just keep building and keep progressing in the right direction.”

Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Jan. 24

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday Jan. 24 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Compton opens drive-thru coronavirus testing site amid LA County’s increasing demand for vaccines

The city of Compton continued expanding its ability to test people for the coronavirus Saturday, Jan. 23, with Burrell MacDonald Park opening as the city’s second testing site and first drive-thru site.

The city’s other testing site is located at Gonzalez Park.

Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring such a critical resource to the community.

Low-income and people of color, McCoy said, have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • City of Compton celebrated the grand opening of a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Burrell MacDonald Park Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Compton Councilwoman Tana McCoy partnered with community organizations Veterans & Youth Career Collaborative and Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton to bring this critical resource to the community. (Hunter Lee, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

“We are experiencing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in LA County and our City of Compton is making it more important than ever to practice safety measures that will keep us healthy and alive,” McCoy said.

“Bringing this site to the community is, in fact, so important,” said Assemblyman Mike A. Gipson, D-Carson. “That we decided to open despite the rain.”

“This virus has hit the community so hard that I know residents who have lost their entire families,” he added.

While Los Angeles County health department teams rolled out five new large-scale vaccination centers earlier this week, all at familiar, high-profile settings, Gipson said he is working with the county health department to establish a vaccination site in the city as soon as supplies become more readily available.

“There are low-income residents, elderly, people who just can’t make the trek to Dodger Stadium to get their vaccine,” Gipson said. “I want residents to not even have to get on a bus to go get their vaccine. I want it to be as easy and accessible as possible.”

One location Gipson said his office has already evaluated as a possible site is the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. But until the county’s vaccine supply increases, its unclear when new testing sites will open across the county.

The new testing site will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. To register for a test at one of Compton’s sites, residents can visit comptoncovidtest.com or text “COMPCOVID” to 474747.

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Promoter auctions off rock star guitars to keep Canyon Clubs open

Promoter Lance Stirling has an impressive guitar collection, with instruments signed by the likes of B.B. King, and he used some of them to decorate the walls of his chain of Canyon Clubs around Southern California.

Now he’s hoping his collection of 500-plus guitars will keep the venues’ doors open amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sterling’s supper clubs are in Southern California suburbs: the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, the Canyon Santa Clarita, and the Canyon Montclair, which are still booking events in the hopes of reopening. Another club, The Rose in Pasadena, is closed. He also runs the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, and the Libbey Bowl in Ojai.

Sterling said he has lost 97.5% of his income since mid-March 2020, when live entertainment venues were shut down, and faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in license fees to the state on top such expenses as rent and utilities.

Still, he is hopeful for his business.

“I have a feeling we’re going to get through it. But it’s coming up on a year now.”

He said that he has heard from venues in states where they are allowed to be open and believes there is an appetite for live entertainment, although initially the experience won’t be the same.

“People are coming back. I don’t know if you are ever going to see thousands of people coming back to Staples, and stuff like that.

“Are you ever going to cram 1,300 people into a Canyon Club? No, I think it’s probably going to be half that.”

Auctioning off his prized guitars, each holding a memory of a rock star, provides Sterling with a way to retain some of his staff.

He is offering the instruments online, two or three at a time, in the hopes that fans will enjoy them.

“It was important to me not to just sell them to some company,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m trying to keep them local, so that people who come to the Canyon Club, it means something to them.”

He built up the collection over decades through his career as a promoter and club operator.

“Every guitar I look at, I think about Marilyn Manson and having a conversation and he signed the guitar, or Michael McDonald. These guitars mean a lot to me, but they don’t necessarily mean anything to my kids.”

“I’ve never sold them out of respect,” he added. “But a lot of my friends, like Neil (Giraldo) and Pat Benatar, they understand.”

Currently available are signed guitars from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Terri Nunn and Berlin, and the Wailers, with starting bids ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.

One of the earliest guitars in his collection, autographed by the rock band Tesla, sold for the highest bid so far, $5,750.

It dates from his years working with the House of Blues. He said Tesla played Atlanta, where a Baptist tabernacle had been transformed by Sterling into a House of Blues in 60 days back in 1996.

“When I was running House of Blues, that’s when the guitar fetish started,” he said. “The Tesla guys thought it was pretty funny they were literally signing a guitar.”

His Styx guitar sold $3,750. And a B.B. King guitar went for $3,500.

With the theme “where the music meets soul,” Sterling’s clubs are intended to bring headliners to where concertgoers live rather than make them drive to large venues in Hollywood.

Sterling fears that local entertainment venues will be lost and their business will be picked up by major venue operators like Live Nation and AEG that have resources to ride out the pandemic.

The clubs have restaurants and full bars and, before the pandemic, Canyon nightclubs brought in rockers such as Vince Neil and the Tubes; nostalgia acts including Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone; vocalists like Don McLean; and a host of tributes to artists such as Neil Diamond.

Sterling said that due to various restrictions he hasn’t qualified for government assistance and that it’s too soon to tell how the federal government’s latest attempt to help performing arts, the Shuttered Venue Operations Grant, will play out.

Meanwhile, he said he’s he’s on the hook for major expenses like rent, utilities and hundreds of thousands of dollars in license fees to the state.

“I don’t think one hand knows what the other hand is doing,” he observed of state and federal government actions.

So far, Sterling has auctioned off 16 guitars.

A desire to downsize is also a factor in his decision to sell his guitars. He said the collection had gotten a little out of control.

He had three signed guitars by B.B. King. He sold one, and one was stolen out of The Rose by a thief who took off King’s autograph with nail polish remover, Sterling said, thinking that it couldn’t be traced when he tried to sell it.

That leaves Sterling with one.

But, he asked, “How many B.B. King guitars do you need?”

Canyon Club auction

Information: wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com/online-guitar-auction

Recipe: Go with the grain by serving this barley-based salad

This delicious barley-based salad is adapted from “Ancient Grains for Modern Families” by Maria Speck (Ten Speed, $29.99). Speck used marinated dried figs in the salad. I substitute lightly candied fresh kumquats, an idea based on a quinoa salad that I fell in love with at Marche Moderne restaurant (Newport Coast) a few years ago.

I love the sweet-tart spark that those kumquats add to the mix. Kumquats are like inside-out oranges. The peel is sweet while the interior is tart. They are rich in vitamin C and are generally available from November through July.

It takes some time to cook the barley, so I usually cook double or triple the amount used in this recipe. I cool it and freeze it, then use it in quick-to-prepare soups or green salads.

Barley Salad with Kumquats and Tarragon

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

INGREDIENTS

Barley:

2 cups water

3/4 cup pearl barley

1 (2-by-1-inch) strip lemon zest (colored portion of peel)

Pinch of salt

Kumquats:

1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar

8 kumquats

Salad:

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided use

2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (about 4), white and light green parts (save dark stalks for garnish)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped unpeeled cored tart apples, such as Granny Smith

Cook’s notes: Salad can be prepared (without the apples or garnish) 6 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and garnish before serving. If serving as a vegetarian entrée, garnish with toasted walnuts or almonds.

PROCEDURE

1. Cook barley: Place water, barley, lemon zest strip and salt in a 2-quart saucepan; bring to boil on high heat. Decrease heat and simmer, covered, until barley is tender but slightly chewy, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid. Spread out on rimmed baking sheet to cool. Discard zest.

2. Cut kumquats in half lengthwise; pluck out and discard any large seeds with tip of a paring knife. Place 1/2 cup water and sugar in saucepan; bring to boil on high heat. Decrease heat and simmer 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add kumquats and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool (I reserve the syrup that is drained from the kumquats and store it in the refrigerator to use in cocktails.)

3. In a salad bowl, combine lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Whisk in oil in thin stream. Add tarragon and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley; stir to combine. Add celery, green onions and apples, cooled barley and cooled kumquats. Gently toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with 1 thinly sliced dark green onion stalk and remaining parsley.

Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]

John Altobelli remembered for winning championships in family atmosphere

John Altobelli left his mark on Southern California baseball.

Altobelli coached Orange Coast College to four community college state championships and 705 wins in his 27 seasons leading Pirates baseball. He raised $3 million to transform OCC’s baseball facilities to a quality that matches many of the better facilities in four-year university baseball. Many of his Pirates players went on to play at four-year colleges and in the pros, and a few made it to Major League Baseball.

Today his signature and uniform No. 14 are painted onto the OCC playing field. They are visual reminders of his contributions. As important as they are, they don’t come close to the “Coach Alto” memories that live in the minds and hearts of those who knew him.

  • A player with the Orange Coast College baseball team hits a ball into the outfield as players go through conditioning workouts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A photograph of former Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli hangs on a door at Pirate Park at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, along with five others including basketball great, Kobe Bryant, were killed one year ago when the helicopter in which they were traveling crashed in Calabasas. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • A player with the Orange Coast College baseball team goes up for a ball hit during conditioning workouts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Players with the Orange Coast College baseball team go through conditioning workouts on the field at Orange Coast College on Thursday, January 21, 2021, nearly one year after the helicopter crash in Calabasas which Kobe Bryant and and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A player goes after a ground ball hit during Orange Coast College baseball team conditioning workouts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Players with the Orange Coast College baseball team go through conditioning workouts on the field at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A basket full of baseballs sits on side of the field during conditioning workouts for the Orange Coast College baseball team at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Players with the Orange Coast College baseball team make their way past the signature and number of former Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli during conditioning workouts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A player’s gear lays on the side of the field during conditioning workouts for the Orange Coast College baseball team at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A player misses a ground ball hit during Orange Coast College baseball team conditioning workouts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Players with the Orange Coast College baseball team clean parts of Pirate Park following their conditioning workout at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Players with the Orange Coast College baseball team gather on the field to go through conditioning workouts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Banners hang at Orange Coast College’s Pirate Park, the site for their baseball conditioning workouts in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A player with the Orange Coast College baseball team cleans the dugout of Pirate Park following a conditioning workout at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Thursday, January 21, 2021. It has been one year since the helicopter crash in Calabasas in which Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were on the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas on Jan. 26 of last year, taking the lives of Lakers great Kobe Bryant and Bryant’s daughter Gianna.

Alyssa and Gianna, both 13 years old, were basketball teammates. The helicopter was en route to a club basketball game in Thousand Oaks where Alyssa and Gianna were to have played. Others who perished in the crash were the pilot Ara Zobayan; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton.

John Altobelli was 56. In his final season as Pirates coach, 2019, they won his fourth state title.

Tony Altobelli, John’s brother, said he is asked about John almost every day.

“That says a lot about the impact my brother had on so many people,” Tony said. “It’s really touching.”

Orange Coast College will not have baseball practice on Jan. 26. Honoring “what would Alto want us to do on this day,” OCC coaches will take that day off to play golf.

Still, Orange Coast assistant coach Ron La Ruffa said, there is no way to avoid thinking about what the day means.

“It’s always going to be an open wound on that day,” said La Ruffa, who previously was the head coach at Edison and Fountain Valley high schools. “It’s always going to be in the newspapers and on the news that day, especially with the association with Kobe.”

OCC plans to honor Altobelli further by naming the field and stadium for him. That will happen when COVID-19 subsides enough so fans can fill the stands, as they did at the first OCC game after his death.

“We’ll put his No. 14 on the wall and a few more things,” said OCC head coach Nate Johnson, who was associate head coach before the crash, became interim head coach afterward and was named head coach in July. “We want to do it when fans are there. We want people to come out and celebrate it.”

Altobelli’s daughter Lexi is a senior at Newport Harbor High in Newport Beach. She lives with brother J.J. Altobelli, a Boston Red Sox scout who was an All-Orange County shortstop at Woodbridge High in Irvine before playing at the University of Oregon.

Tony Altobelli, who has been OCC sports information director for 14 years, made efforts to connect with Lexi and J.J. for this story. It’s easy to understand why interviews with Lexi and J.J. did not happen.

John Altobelli had a larger family, too. Thousands attended the memorial for him at Angel Stadium last Feb. 10.

“Obviously he was a great coach,” Orange Coast pitcher Michael Ryhlick said. “But it was more about the relationships he had with everybody. He really did treat us all like a family.”

Ryhlick, a product of Mission Viejo High, remembers that when he first walked onto the OCC field he felt like an outsider. That feeling did not last long, thanks to Altobelli.

“I didn’t know anybody,” Ryhlick said. “But he got us to jell together and win a championship. I don’t think that could happen with another coach.”

Johnson said that was typical Altobelli work.

“The way Alto made everyone feel like they’re part of a family was incredible,” Johnson said. “That came from the way he treated people. He made them feel special, whether it was on the phone or in person.”

OCC’s baseball team works out together four days a week, preparing for a season that might or might not happen because of the havoc created by the coronavirus pandemic. They are preparing the way Altobelli would want them to prepare.

“That’s something we talk about every day, remembering Alto,” La Ruffa said. “He’s always on our minds.

“I still keep expecting him to be there every day when we show up.”

Christina Mauser’s family fighting for happiness one year after losing her in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

A seemingly unbearable sorrow paralyzed Matt Mauser after his wife, Christina, died nearly one year ago, a victim of the helicopter crash in Calabasas that also took the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and six others. His witty, strong and talented partner, the mother of their three children, and the life they shared, vanished in an instant tragedy.

After bouts with depression and plenty of tears, Mauser turned to what he does best – music – to help him cope. The words flowed from his heart.

Lost, like a boat on the sea, I’ve been tossed, and taken for a ride because you’re not by my side.

Mauser said writing and performing songs such as “Lost” has allowed him to express his grief and provided a much-needed buoy amid the suddenly stormy seas of his life.

“It just helps in the process of healing,” Mauser, 50, said recently in a phone interview. “There’s no easy fix. Not one, single thing you do is going to make losing your wife and the mother of your children easier. It just doesn’t happen. It’s going to take time.”

The Huntington Beach resident and accomplished entertainer has navigated the tempest since that fateful, and foggy, Sunday morning, Jan. 26, 2020.

Christina, 38, a former standout basketball and volleyball player at Edison High, balanced motherhood with being the top assistant coach for Bryant on his highly competitive, eighth-grade girls basketball team, the Mambas.

She boarded a helicopter with Bryant, his daughter and six others bound for a basketball game in Thousand Oaks. The flight included Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, their parents John and Keri Altobelli and Sarah Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan. John Altobelli was the baseball coach at Orange Coast College.

The group never made it to the gym. The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed into the hills of Calabasas, killing everyone on board. The probable cause of the crash is expected to be announced by the National Transportation Safety Board on Feb. 9.

The crash sent shock-waves across the world and rocked several Southern California communities and families.

“Life is definitely different,” Mauser said. “I knew I had an amazing, amazing wife.”

While Christina was hand-picked by Bryant, Mauser also worked for the Lakers legend.

The lead singer for the popular Tijuana Dogs and Sinatra Big Band, he wrote music for Bryant’s podcast for children called “The Punies.” The duo worked on two seasons of the show.

“It was a lot of work and it really honed my song-writing skills,” said Mauser, whose voice sounds similar to Frank Sinatra. “I give a lot of credit and appreciation to Kobe. He put my feet to the fire, and forced me to challenge myself as a musician and as a songwriter.”

But Mauser’s main job these days is playing Mr. Mom to his own children: Penny, 12, Tom, 10, and Ivy, 4.

There’s the daily challenge of distance learning and comforting children who not only miss their mother but their friends at school. Mauser, a former aquatics athlete and coach at Edison, combats the obstacles with an abundance of hugs and presence in their lives.

Most of all, he tries to follow his wife’s example.

“I just try to live the life that Christina would want us to live,” he said. “The kids are the priority.”

Mauser said his children are “doing OK” and understandably encounter stretches of sadness.

“We fight for every bit of happiness and we’re learning to enjoy life,” he said. “Life is for living, and life is beautiful despite all the stuff that we’ve been through and everybody has been through.

“You’re supposed to find joy in life. There have been people that have been further down than we are with no options, with nothing, and they still have a smile.”

The family also faced the scary realities of the pandemic. Mauser said he and his children each were infected with the coronavirus but recovered in about two weeks. “It was very hard,” he said, “but we got through it.”

When it comes to healing his heart, Mauser leans on his music. The pandemic has halted opportunities for live performances but he continues to write songs dedicated to his wife.

“The most therapeutic thing for me was the writing and getting my music back,” he said. “I couldn’t do it for about a month and a half, two months. I just couldn’t move … But then one morning I woke and said, ‘I got to start writing.’”

Mauser will mark the anniversary of the helicopter crash on Tuesday with a private, fundraising concert benefiting the Christina Mauser Foundation. The concert will stream on mattmauser.com at 5 p.m. PST and feature a Sinatra-style show and a guest appearance by singer Frank Stallone.

Penny will perform the song “Green Bike”, which holds special meaning to the Mauser family. Penny, who played basketball on a lower-division team with the Mambas, was scheduled to be on the helicopter that morning but because she had been sick the week before and was going to perform “Green Bike” that night at the Brea Improv, the family kept her home.

“It’s the reason she wasn’t on that helicopter, too,” Mauser said of the song. “It’s hard to think about but it’s the truth.”

The Christina Mauser Foundation has partnered with the Rose Bowl Institute and aims to support single mothers and women and girls in sports through scholarships and financial aid.

Mauser plans to keep sharing his journey with heartache. He believes grief, at some point, connects all people who have loved someone.

“There’s no class on how to get through it, so you just have to lean on people who’ve been through it,” he said. “If I can help people get through grief, if I can impart any knowledge I’ve learned through this process, that’s where God has put me and so that’s what I feel I have to do.”

And so, Mauser writes and sings. Hey, so much more I wanted to say, it should hurt and oh how it does, when what’s left is what was lost

Grieving has been difficult for the family of Sarah and Payton Chester, who died in last year’s helicopter crash with Kobe Bryant

Grieving has not been easy for the family of Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who were among nine passengers killed in last year’s Jan. 26 helicopter crash that also took the life of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

As the one-year anniversary of the day approaches, Sarah Chester’s brothers, Andy and Chris George, and their mom, Catherine George, remember a kind soul in Sarah, and someone with a future as bright as the sun in Payton. And though a year has nearly passed, the pain is still difficult and their memories are still with them each day. They’re still asking themselves questions about why it happened. From left to right, Chris George, Sarah Chester, Catherine George and Andy George. (Family Courtesy photo).

Sarah Chester, who was 45, was also survived by her husband, Chris, and her sons, Hayden and Riley, who are both now 17, and still live in Orange County. Payton attended Harbor View Elementary in Corona del Mar through fifth grade before moving on to St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, where she was in eighth grade last year.

Sarah was a former elementary school teacher at Tustin Memorial Academy who had retired to raise her family.

“Sarah was my second child and my only daughter,” Catherine George said. “As time went on, we started trading places and she became the matriarch of our family. She was an amazing wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. We frequently talked twice a day. Often early in the morning when she was driving her children to school and at night when her house was quiet.

“During this unbearable year of loss, we all find ourselves saying, ‘What would Sarah do about this?’ or ‘Let’s call Sarah.’ Never a day goes by that I do not want to pick up the phone to just say hello or ask her advice on something. She always had a good answer.”

Payton was a member of Kobe Bryant’s Mamba girls basketball team, and remembered as a special player with a huge heart and smile.

Payton and two of her Mamba teammates – Gianna Bryant and Alyssa Altobelli – took off from John Wayne Airport on a foggy morning on their way to Thousand Oaks, where they had a basketball game planned that day at the Mamba Sports Academy. The helicopter crashed on a hillside in Calabasas, killing all on board.

All three girls were just 13. 13-year-old Payton Chester. (Family courtesy photo).

“Every one of my nine grandchildren are special, but Payton was truly an unusual special,” Catherine George said. “At 13 years old, she was 5 feet 11 inches tall and an exceptional basketball player. Not only was she an athlete, she was smart and a friend to all.

“She had the biggest smile. Losing my daughter and granddaughter in this highly publicized tragedy amid a COVID epidemic could not be more difficult. Our lives will never be the same, but it is my hope that eventually our grief will walk beside us instead of consuming us. This family has a lot to live for.”

MEDIA COVERAGE AND GRIEF

Extra attention has come with being linked with the death of Kobe Bryant, one of the world’s most famous athletes and beloved in Los Angeles, where he played his entire 20-year career with the Lakers. The family has endured that attention since last January.

“Never could I have imagined that something like this could have happened,” Andy George said. “I feel sorrow for everyone lost in this tragedy and for their families, especially for Payton, Gigi and Alyssa, who were just starting their lives.

“I think about it daily. I understand why this gets the media attention it does. It hurts to see the wreckage. It hurts to have my beautiful sister and my sweet niece commonly described as ‘others.’ I know why it happens, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it, agree with it, or accept it. They will never be ‘others’ to us.”

The immediate onslaught of media attention made it difficult, Chris George admitted, and the family has turned away most media requests.

“We definitely had a few media inquiries right after the crash and in recent weeks leading up to the anniversary,” Chris George said. “This is, of course, a very sensitive situation and sometimes the media can take what you say out of context, so we decided to say nothing.

“But it is very important that we let people know what an amazing sister we had and what an extremely talented, kind-hearted niece we had and that their lives were taken away way too quickly. The world was robbed of what they could have accomplished. The sky was the limit for both of them. Our family will never be the same.”

PAINFUL MEMORIES CONTINUE

Andy George is the head football coach at La Serna High, where he attended high school along with Sarah and his brother Chris.

Sarah was an athlete too, described as a standout member of the school’s soccer team.

“Honestly, as this (anniversary) date approaches, I find myself missing them even more,” Andy George said. “I didn’t think that was possible. It’s painful. The way this happened and not being able to say goodbye? Having to see the images everywhere you look. Yes, it brings back all of those memories, but there is not a day that goes by where I am not thinking about Sarah and Payton already. Sarah and her daughter Payton Chester. (Family courtesy photo).

“For a long time, there were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed and face this, but I knew I had no choice. Just like I ask my players to have courage and fight through adversity, I knew it was time for me to step up and do just that. There were three little girls and my wife depending on me. There was my mother, whose remarkable strength was an inspiration. I continue to think about the pain that my brother-in-law and my nephews are going through and the courage that they exhibit daily.

“I know how important it is to stay strong for them. I think about my sister and what she would have wanted.  It’s an art to live with pain. So I continue to move forward with their love and memory in my heart.”

A TRAGEDY THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?

Why did the helicopter leave John Wayne airport that morning?

It is a question that still haunts the Chester and George families, and is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which will hold a public meeting next month to determine the probable cause of the helicopter crash – a key component to several lawsuits that are awaiting the results of the investigation.

But the why? It’s hard to cope with.

“I think about that day quite often and the events of that morning,” Chris George said. “We all knew Sarah and Payton were taking the helicopter with Kobe and Gianna to their basketball game in Thousand Oaks. I was on my phone and got a news alert about a helicopter crash in Calabasas. I immediately was concerned, so I tried to call Sarah numerous times with no answer.

“Fearing the worst, I raced to find my mother and brother and was able to reach them minutes before the news broke that it was Kobe’s helicopter that crashed. I, like most people, definitely question why the helicopter left that morning, especially when so many other planes, police, and news helicopters were grounded. I am certainly not an expert, but I guess in a couple of weeks when the final NTSB report comes out we will all hopefully have some answers.”

The why question is difficult for Andy George, too.

“Every day I ask myself, ‘Why did this happen?’” Andy George said. “I try not to focus on that, because it often leaves me with feelings of anger. Instead, I try to replace that with all of the great memories in my heart that I have of Sarah and Payton. I replace it with their laughter and the feelings I had when I was near them. Their light was so bright and it will continue to shine for me and for everyone who knew them.”

DEALING WITH GRIEF AND COVID

Time usually makes grieving easier, but soon after the helicopter crash, the coronavirus pandemic took shape, and the normal routines of daily life that help people cope with the loss of loved ones was put on hold.

“To say this has been an extremely tough year is an understatement,” Chris George said. “There hasn’t been a minute where I have not thought about my sister Sarah and my niece Payton. I miss the way they both laugh. I miss the way my sister always scolded me even though I’m older than she is. I miss talking to her about my kids and what they are doing.”

Chris’ son, Jake, is a junior at La Serna High and a member of the football team. He was planning on dedicating the season to his Aunt Sarah and cousin Payton, but the coronavirus pandemic has put all youth sports on pause since March.

“The way I was going to dedicate my junior season to my aunt and cousin was by letting anyone who interviewed me after games know that I was playing the season for them,” Jake said. “I wanted to do this so that their names would not be forgotten and people will know how caring they were and how much they supported me and wanted me to succeed. I was also going to wear a shirt that had my cousin’s jersey number and name on the back under my jersey every game so that she was with me throughout the whole year.

“Since we weren’t able to play this year, I continue to train and be ready for when I get to step on the field again with my teammates. And when I do get the chance to play football again, every game will be dedicated to my aunt and cousin to honor them and help keep their memory alive.”

Chris and Andy George both spoke of how the coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult to grieve.

“I am not really sure how my family was able to deal with this tragedy, which has only been compounded by the pandemic,” Chris George said. “I ask my mother all the time how we are all getting through this. Having my family be a part of this international tragedy is very surreal. As the cliché goes, we definitely are taking this one day at a time. Unfortunately, because this was an international tragedy we are going to have to be reminded about this and that tragic morning forever. At some point in time, we realize you have to live for the living. I have my own kids and they do not want to see their father sad all the time.”

For Andy George, the last high school football game he coached was in a CIF Southern Section divisional championship in 2019, just a few months before he lost his sister and niece.

“I think it’s safe to say the impact of COVID didn’t hit me as hard in the beginning as it did for others because of the grief,” Andy George said. “I guess I just didn’t have the ability to process what was happening worldwide and also what was happening in our family.

“I’ve realized I look at my life now as the way it was prior to January 26 and the way it is now. I know this has been a difficult year for everyone and my heart goes out to everyone affected by COVID. This includes my students, my players, and their families. Our football team is a family. I know these young men are devastated. It is an added layer of pain to see them suffering being away from the sport they love and being away from each other. I wish I could help them more. Of course, I miss football. I miss being out on the field with my players and fellow coaches. It would have been a nice outlet.  It’s what I love to do.”

THE HEALING CONTINUES

While being associated with a national tragedy has its difficult moments, it also has helped with healing through kind words and tributes from all walks of life.

“In the days that followed the accident, we heard many stories of Sarah and Payton,” Andy George said. “I have always known my sister to be a beautiful, selfless and generous person. The detailed stories of her supporting friends, serving her community and supporting her family were endless and only solidified this picture of my incredible sister. Pictured from left to right, Andy George, Catherine George, Chris George and Sarah Chester. (Family courtesy photo).

“We heard beautiful stories of Payton’s kindness, loyalty and generosity. She was truly perfect. I picture Payton draining the 3-point basket to win the game on the 26th. I picture her with the confidence to take that shot, the smile on her face when she hit it and the joy running back on defense as she celebrated with her teammates.

“She had so much to offer this world. They both did. And they were beautiful together. I learned so much from Sarah and Payton and will forever be influenced by them. I just miss my sister and my niece. I miss all of us together. I find comfort knowing one day I will see them again.”

Chris George echoed those sentiments.

“The world lost a lot of great people that morning,” Chris George said. “Multiple families were devastated in a matter of seconds.  A lot of people were lost that had chapters in their lives that will never be told. Sarah and Payton were very special people that meant the world to so many.

“The Christmas before the tragedy, I asked my sister, ‘Does Payton ever stop smiling? Does she ever get upset?’ And Sarah laughed and replied, ‘No.’ Payton was a fierce competitor but she always had time to have fun. I often ask why God would take a mother and her 13-year-old daughter …  hopefully someday I will know. The one thing I do know is that our family will never be the same and Sarah and Payton will never be forgotten.”

Alexander: Kobe Bryant’s legacy remains vibrant

Tuesday, it will have been one year, exactly. A gloomy, lazy Sunday morning in Southern California changed, dramatically, as the news spread: Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and six other passengers and the pilot were in a helicopter that crashed in the hills above Calabasas, on its way to a girls’ basketball game, and there were no survivors.

We weren’t sure how to process the news at first. A sick prank disseminated via social media? A rumor that, God willing, would turn out to be unfounded? A case of mistaken identity, perhaps?

As the truth hit and hit hard, shock turned to mourning. By that afternoon, in that era before public health guidelines and quarantines and stay-at-home orders, hundreds of people showed up at L.A. Live, across from Kobe’s workplace at Staples Center, to express their grief and to leave flowers, balloons, candles, jerseys and whatever else they could. The Grammy Awards were supposed to take place at Staples that night, but no matter. This was bigger.

Those hundreds turned into thousands, and that impromptu memorial only grew larger over the following week. Murals honoring Kobe appeared throughout Southern California – there are currently 246 locally and 434 worldwide, according to kobemural.com – and fans shared their memories and their sorrow in numerous ways.

The period of grief has never really ended, and it has affected a community, a sport and particularly the franchise for which Kobe had played his entire career. Lakers personnel received the news that Sunday on the flight home from Philadelphia, where – in what turned out to be bitter irony – LeBron James had passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list the previous night, and marked the occasion with remarks about Kobe’s thoughtfulness and the example he had set for James as a young player.

It is a memory James would prefer not to rehash. Asked this past week about his thoughts as the anniversary of Bryant’s death approached, he said he tried not to “take myself back to that position, that place, that time frame. Obviously he’s looking down on us, along with Gigi.

“(I’m) just proud of what we’re trying to do here as an organization. And hopefully, we continue to make him proud as well and make her proud. … I don’t want to live in the past, and definitely don’t want to live out that day again. So I’ll always continue to move forward and continue to live (up to) his legacy.”

The legacy of Bryant – five-time NBA champion, two-time scoring champ, 2008 league Most Valuable Player, No. 4 on the all-time points list, 20 seasons with the same franchise – was powerful, if complicated.

The obituaries and tributes and reminisces that weekend focused on his accomplishments and his insatiable desire to win. But they also mentioned the intensity that alienated teammates, put him in conflict with superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal and led to the breakup of a three-time NBA championship team in the summer of 2004. And they had to include the events of 2003 in Eagle, Colorado, when Bryant was accused of sexual assault; eventually, criminal charges were dropped and the case was ultimately settled out of court.

Was there image-polishing involved as his career went on? Perhaps, but Kobe didn’t lose that edginess. By the end of that decade, he had won two more championships, teaming with Pau Gasol, not too long after calling out owner Jerry Buss in the summer of 2007 and demanding a trade – saying, memorably, that he’d rather play on Pluto – because he didn’t think enough was being done to improve the team.

He scored 81 points in a game against Toronto in 2006 – it was a haunting coincidence that the anniversary of that game, Jan. 22, was four days before his death – and there was disagreement over whether it was a brilliant individual achievement or just a case of a guy shooting way too much.

He ripped his Achilles tendon in April of 2013, at age 35, and played just 41 games over the next two seasons, but Jeanie and Jim Buss, daughter and son of the late owner and in charge of business and basketball matters at that point, respectively, gave Bryant a two-year, $48 million contract extension just six months after the injury. Skeptics said it was a bad, salary cap-eating contract, but it was as much recognition of the past as compensation for the future, it ensured Bryant would be a Laker for life, and it was a signal to the world that the Lakers would always take care of their own.

By the time he retired in April of 2016, after having played 66 games and averaging 17.6 points in his final season, Bryant had become an elder statesman of the game – still a ferocious competitor, but having dialed that edge back just enough to be a mentor for a younger generation of players.

In the days after Bryant’s death, current Laker Anthony Davis recalled his time as the junior member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, shortly after he’d been drafted No. 1 overall out of Kentucky by New Orleans, and how Kobe and LeBron “were the first two guys to take me under their wing.”

“I’ll never forget,” he recalled. “We were playing Nigeria and I think we were winning by, like, 60 or something like that. I finally got my chance to go in a game, and … I was just so happy to be around these guys, these future Hall of Famers, and I forgot to put my jersey on for the game. So when Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) called me to get in the game, I’m going up to the (scorer’s) table and I’m about to take my warmup shirt off, and I looked down and it was just a white T-shirt underneath, and so I kind of creep back to the bench. Coach K is like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I kind of whispered to him, because I didn’t want those guys to hear me, ‘I forgot my jersey.’

“And Kobe got on me. I can’t say what he said, but basically, it was like, ‘Why’re you not going in the game? This is your chance?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t got my jersey on.’ And he kinda looked into my warmup, and he said some more things after that. So now every night before the beginning of the game I just check to make sure I have my jersey on, to this day.”

In retirement, Bryant became an author of children’s books and got involved in film production, winning the Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 2018 for “Dear Basketball,” which he wrote and narrated. And he had become an unabashed supporter of women’s and girls’ basketball and coached 13-year-old Gigi. That’s why they were on that helicopter that Sunday morning, headed from home in Orange County to a tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy – yep, his gym – in Thousand Oaks. (After Bryant’s death, out of respect to his memory, the name was changed to simply the Sports Academy.)

“It felt like these last three years was the happiest I’ve ever seen him, being able to just be with his daughters, be with his family,” James said last January.

Meanwhile, the only NBA team for which he had ever played dedicated the rest of their 2019-20 season to Bryant. No one dreamed it would play out the way it did, with a four-month stoppage because of COVID-19, the ultimate resumption of the season in a health-mandated bubble in Orlando, Florida, and the winning of the franchise’s 17th NBA title in October.

But Kobe was still on their minds the night they won it, and particularly the mind of Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who had represented Kobe as a player agent and remained close to the Bryant family.

“To be able to have a friend who changed my life, and helped me understand what greatness was about and sacrifice was about, there’s not many greater gifts,” Pelinka said the night they beat Miami for the title. “To be able to share this moment right now, knowing that he and Gianna are looking down from heaven … I know he’s a proud friend. I know he is.”

“When I took the job, I remember he said, ‘Hey, I know what you did for me for 20 years. He said, ‘I’ll give you two to three years, you’ll fix this. You’ll get the Lakers back on top.”

Then Pelinka looked upward and added:

“I guess you were right, man. You gave me the energy to do it.”

[email protected]

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

Bomb damages El Monte church that opposes gay marriage

An El Monte church that had been threatened this month with an arson attack over its condemnation of same-sex marriages was damaged early Saturday, Jan. 23, when someone threw a bomb at the building, blowing out some windows.

No one was injured in the explosion, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. The First Works Baptist Church at 2600 Tyler Ave. was also vandalized, the El Monte Police Department said.

The FBI is investigating the attack, which it said involved “an IED,” or a homemade or “improvised” explosive device.

“As to the question of whether this was a hate crime, that’s always going to be considered among the theories when a house of worship is attacked,” Eimiller said, “but it would be premature to confirm any motive at this time, and we are not ruling any other motive out.”

El Monte police heard the explosion at about 1:15 a.m.

“When our units arrived at the scene they found that (the church) … was having some smoke come out of the windows,” Lt. Christopher Cano told reporters. “It appeared that the walls to the church had been vandalized as well as all the windows. (The windows) appeared at first to be smashed, then we realized that the windows were not smashed, that they had actually blown out from some type of explosion.”

First Works Pastor Bruce Mejia previously filed a report with police after receiving a threat of arson on social media. Mejia said his doctrine since the church was launched three years ago includes condemnation of same-sex relationships.

This month, some residents called Mejia’s sermons and the church’s stance hate speech during public comments at the El Monte City Council meeting. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization specializing in civil rights litigation, lists the church as an anti-LBGTQ group on its watch list.

Protesters gathered outside the church on Jan. 17. The protest was organized by local El Monte activists, including Keep El Monte Friendly, according to the website Medium.com.

Editor’s note: The video below contains some graphic language.

Keep El Monte Friendly posted on Instagram Saturday that members were shocked to learn of the bombing and said, “we would never promote, encourage or condone any violence or acts of harm.”

The group called off a protest it had scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 24 at 10:30 a.m. “for everyone’s safety.”

The church is a single-story gray building accented with white bricks near neighborhoods mixed with single-family homes and apartments. It sits across the street from some restaurants. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department set up a command post nearby.

On its Facebook page Saturday morning, the church posted two Bible verses:

• Psalm 9:17, which says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

•  And Romans 12:19, which says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written: Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Mejia said in an interview on Jan. 11 that part of his beliefs and his doctrine is to preach against the LBGTQ community. He said he has been doing so since the church started about three years ago. Some of the members of the community said in public comments during the El Monte City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5, that Mejia’s sermons and the church’s message amount to hate speech.

“Some of those within that LGBTQ group caught one of my sermons that are online and they’ve just been harassing ever since, trying to get me out of El Monte, trying to get me and myself and my church out of El Monte by signing a petition,” Mejia said.

Mejia said he wanted to make sure the police were aware of threats against his church and that the church filed a report about arson threats on social media directed at the church.

“We filed it but we’re not going to pursue it,” Mejia said at the time. “We feel it’s not worth it. We’re not the violent ones here.”

Mejia did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Saturday.

El Monte City Manager Alma Martinez has been coordinating efforts with the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations, the U.S. Department of Justice Public Relations, Bienestar and the Asian Pacific Mediation Center to address the tension between the First Works Baptist Church and members of the LBGTQ community.

The goal, according to a statement Martinez sent to city councilmembers, is to share ways to deescalate tensions and facilitate dialogue.

“We’re having this conversation where normally in small cities like ours, things just get kind of thrown under the rug. But not in this case,” El Monte Mayor Pro Tem Maria Morales said in an interview on Jan. 12. “That’s not who we are as a city and I don’t think that is who we are as progressive elected officials. We really want to tackle some challenging conversations and I think it’s the right time to do it.”

El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said Saturday, “As your mayor, I will always ensure that the City of El Monte continues to be an example for civility, respect, and inclusion of all people across the nation. We are a city that cares and protects all its residents and visitors. We respect and uphold the laws that protect each one of us, regardless of who we are.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said her office had been aware of the concerns involving the church and called for city, church and civic leaders to come together and work to address hate issues in the community.

“Violence is never the answer, even in response to hate speech,” she said Saturday.

Authorities ask anyone with information on the attack to contact the FBI at 310-477-6565 or fbi.tips.gov.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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