In January of this year when our immediate past president Sylvia Moore brought up the issue of transitioning to a system of sending our monthly club newsletters by email, there were some in the crowd who strenuously insisted on receiving newsletters by mail. A compromise was proposed and a three- month phase in period followed whereby those who still wanted their newsletters by mail would opt in and specifically state so. To that effect, we will be providing Excel spread sheets for those who wish to continue receiving our newsletter by mail, opting in, whereas the rest of us would receive the email version.
Why are we moving to a more sustainable way to share information? When you consider the fact that it costs the club approximately $ 1,637.00 per year to send the newsletters by mail and that we have three elections to endorse this year. Each time we mail out our endorsement postcards, it costs $ 577.70 to have the postcards printed at Norwalk Printing and then another $ 1,501.05 to have them processed and have postage affixed to them prior to mailing. For all three set of elections beginning with the Culver City Council, the June primary and the November general elections, we are looking at a price tag of approximately $ 6,000.00 for this year.
One could argue that we could not possibly meet our obligations this year, but with the introduction of life time memberships, and stepping up of fund raising activities, we hope to be able to reach our goal. To that effect, we will be providing sign-in sheets at the upcoming meeting for those who wish to continue receiving our newsletter by mail, thus opting in. The rest of us will receive the email version of the newsletter.
When I learned that eighty years ago at the Berlin Olympics of 1936, Jesse Owens won four Olympic gold medals in the face of Hitler’s rhetoric, I became to appreciate his courage in the face of adversity and oppression. He won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprint, relay and long jump. That piqued my interest in Black History month and compelled me to read further.
Of the 44 people who set out from Spanish Colonial Mexico to establish a pueblo between the missions in San Gabriel and Santa Barbara in February 1781, 26 were of African descent. They had descended from the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Africans brought to New Spain by the Spanish as slaves and laborers in the 1500s and 1600s. They were free subjects of New Spain by 1700 and had integrated with the local Indian tribes and mestizo population and helped to colonize Alta (North) California. The 11 families that arrived here on September 4, 1781 are commemorated on a plaque near the gazebo in El Pueblo de Los Angeles.
In the next century, Bridget “Biddy” Mason walked to California from Mississippi behind her master’s wagon. Although she was born a slave, she went to court and won her freedom in 1856. After saving her wages from jobs as a midwife and nurse to buy property near 4th and Spring streets in downtown L.A., she established “Biddy Mason’s Place” that would serve as a daycare center and orphanage. In 1872, Mason founded the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles with 11 other people.
In 1940, Tom Bradley was sworn in as one of the 100 black officers on the 4,000 member LAPD force. After leaving the force, Bradley went to law school and became active in politics. He joined the Crenshaw Democratic Club and later became the club’s president.
By 1963, Bradley was the first African-American elected to the Los Angeles City Council representing the Crenshaw district. In 1969, he ran for mayor but lost to conservative Sam Yorty. Bradley ran for mayor again in 1973 and won, serving in that capacity until 1993, thus becoming the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles.
Although Ryan Coogler is best known for his directorial work in “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed” films, he is also known for co- founding Blackout for Human Rights. This is comprised of a network of filmmakers, entertainers and everyman pooling their resources to address human rights violations in the US. In 2014, the group spearheaded Blackout Black Friday, a national call to boycott Black Friday shopping following the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo. Notable members of Blackout include Ava DuVernay, Jesse Williams, Nate Parker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Oyelowo.
This was the week that started with our realization that we were dealing with the worst air pollution disaster in history with regard to the Porter Ranch gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon that belonged to Southern California Gas Company. According to the January 24th edition of the L.A. Times, one failed well at the Aliso Canyon facility released more greenhouse gases than any other facility in California over the three months since October 23rd.
Stephen Conley, the U.C. Davis scientist who has been flying his single engine pollution-detecting airplane over Porter Ranch found that in November of 2015, methane levels registered at 50 parts per million, twenty times bigger than what he had measured before. According to the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 17.9 million kilograms of methane was leaking in early November. However, by January 21 of this year, the cumulative amount of methane registered 84 million kilograms. In relatable terms, this would be roughly analogous to 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or more greenhouse gas than 440,000 cars emit in a year. The geographical extent of the billowing plumes of methane gas seen on FLUOR images reach as far away as Orange County and San Clemente Island, according to Riley Duren, NASA‟s researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.
By Tuesday, January 26th The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) sued Southern California Gas Co. accusing the company of negligence that extended to the design, construction, operation and inspection of one of the wells at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility that forced thousands to leave their homes. The lawsuit alleges that the gas company had violated air quality regulations and state law for each day that the well, SS-25, continues to leak and faults the utility for a sluggish response to a regional public health threat. The suit seeks up to $250,000 in civil penalties for each day that a specific violation has occurred. According to KPCC, this can amount up to $25 million dollars. All of this came after an abatement order by a special board of the AQMD on the previous Saturday, January 23rd. This board mandated a 1) permanent shut down of the damaged well, SS-25, 2) to establish a leak detection system, and 3) to conduct an independent health study. By Thursday, January 28th, our state Senate had voted to shut down the Aliso Canyon facility permanently.
As an environmental activist and a physician, I am glad that I testified at the AQMD hearing on Saturday, January 16th warning the board about the health hazards of methane, hydrogen sulfide and benzene that were discovered in the air surrounding the residential area. I was also honored to be a Sierra Club spokesperson and interviewed with Al Jazeera America and KABC-7 on Thursday, January 28th. This is in essence my Valentine‟s Day present to the residents of Porter Ranch, Granada Hills that we stand with them shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them as we face this environmental disaster together.
Twenty sixteen marks our President Obama’s last year in office. I feel rather sad as it seems like his historical and amazing tenure as our first Chief Executive of color flew by so fast. But I also feel wistful as I remember that historic night in 2008, sitting inside a Los Angeles-area restaurant/nightclub with my friends and about 100-plus other people watching the election returns. As Barack Obama’s photo flashed on the television screen with the words, “44th President of the United States,” the crowd erupted in cheers and jubilation. The crowd kept screaming as the newly-elected President and his family stepped onto the stage and waved to adoring fans. It was indeed an incredible night.
Fast forward through nearly eight years filled with incredible achievements on the economy, healthcare reform and foreign policy, but also much social unrest and ugly racial tension. For this November’s Presidential election, I have as much trepidation as I did on Election Night 2008. I must confess that back then, I wasn’t sure America was going to actually elect a black President up until the very moment Pennsylvania was called for Mr. Obama. I feared very much the specter of another reactionary GOP presidency in the form of John McCain, along with his fundamentalist lightweight running mate, Sarah Palin. But those two are practically progressives when it comes to what the Republicans are offering up as presidential candidates today.
People are now openly talking about the “F-word” - fascism - as possibly taking root in America. But, thanks to the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, people are also talking more about “democratic socialism” and democratic socialist policies like universal health care, free college for all, a living wage and paid family leave. Sanders would be the “first” openly socialist President if he wins. And people are also talking about the possibility of having the first female Chief Executive in Hillary Clinton. A woman as the most powerful leader in the world would have a tremendous cultural effect in how the contributions of women to our society are perceived.
All these tantalizing “firsts” are great, but I want to caution my fellow Democrats and progressive friends into putting too much expectation onto the one person they hope wins the Presidency. I saw this with President Obama: supporters who had unrealistically high expectations of how much he could achieve in office, and who were disappointed when he couldn’t deliver everything they wanted. I see these same unrealistic expectations among my fellow Democrats and progressives today. I think it is the unique culture of American individualism, as well as the fact that the United States elects its executive and legislature separately (as opposed to most parliamentary governments), that drives this desire to put all of one’s hopes for fundamental change onto one person. I think it’s why Congressional, “off-year” elections - which are just as important - don’t get the same attention as they should. The President, at the nation’s founding, was envisioned as an “elected king” - a national figurehead. But, to get back to Civics 101, the President is by law a co-equal partner with the Congress and the Supreme Court. The President can’t do much without Congress’ cooperation and the Supreme Court’s blessing. I think too often many people forget that. And so, they think that the President can change everything. They think that the President affects their lives the most (when in truth, it’s their local City Council that does). So whether our new President in November is Hillary, Bernie or even Martin O’Malley - and we do hope it’s one of those three - please cut him or her a bit of slack. Because a Democratic President also needs a progressive Democratic Congress to make the kinds of policies we liberals want to see to make America a kinder, gentler place to live.