California Native Vote Project is inviting local Native American and Alaska Native peoples and allies to join in conversation as the organization decides how best to utilize funds from Measure J.
The listening session on Saturday, March 4, will ask community what programs or projects this funding should be directed to.
Juay Roybal-Kastl leading community members through a listening session to discuss funding allocation. Courtesy of CA Native Vote Project.
LA County voters approved Measure J in 2020. The measure dedicated no less than 10% of the county’s locally generated unrestricted funding to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice. The funding would be invested in projects related to youth development, job training, small business development, supportive housing services and alternatives to incarceration.
“What it is, is having folks give their input as to where they want to see those dollars spent,” said Native Vote Project organizer, Juay Roybal-Kastl who also hosted a virtual listening session on March 1. “The biggest part of yesterday was that people in our community are trusting the work that California native vote project is putting forth. We are from the community doing work for the community, and we live in the community.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed the Chief Executive Officer to establish a 17-member Measure J Reimagine LA Advisory Committee. This committee provided funding recommendations to the CEO in June 2021. Then, in August 2021, the Measure J Reimagine LA Advisory Committee expanded to become the Care First and Community Investment Advisory Committee, a 24-member body comprised of 23 voting members and 1 non-voting member.
In 2021, $500,000 was allocated for Native housing to the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission out of overall a $44 million for all LA County residents for safe, permanent, and affordable housing. In 2022, $500,000 was allocated toward Native youth programs.
Joseph (Joey) Williams, Kern Valley Indian-Nuwa (Kawaiisu) & Xicano, represents the Native American Indian Commission for the voting committee. He said that the previous year’s funding helped, it is only just a start and that he is always seeking more funding for American Indian and Native Alaskan communities.
According to Roybal-Kastl, the listening session at Homeboy Industries is tailored to welcome community members who have been furthest displaced from the native community. This can be from various experiences, including incarceration, foster care, drug and alcohol addictions and domestic violence.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, in 2019 native people made up 2.1% of all federally incarcerated people which larger than their share of the total U.S. population — less than 1%. Additionally, Native youth confinement rates are second only to those of Black youth and exceeds those of white, Hispanic and Asian youth combined.
LA’s Homeboy Industries resources, training and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated people.
Roybal-Kastl added that speaking to this demographic ensures that California Native Vote Project can propose societal re-entry and supportive programs for this demographic.
“When I say this demographic is often left out, I feel like a lot of times our community — rightfully so — celebrates our college graduates, right, our folks pursuing higher education and our business owners,” said Roybal-Kastl. “But there are a lot of us that are struggling with this generational trauma that breeds domestic violence, that breeds addiction, that breeds houselessness. We need to figure out how to help our community heal.”
She added that many folks want healthcare to be part of resource allocation. According to Indian Health Services, American Indian and Alaskan Native have lower life expectancy — 5.5 years less than the U.S. all races population — and are disproportionatly disease burdened including chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, diabetes mellitus, unintentional injuries, assault/homicide, intentional self-harm/suicide, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. This is understood to be due to inadequate education, disproportionate poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services and cultural differences to contemporary medicine.
“We sit down and say what is important to you? Because we’re going to go sit in these rooms with these people, and we’re going to tell them that this is what we need. We’re no longer asking permission,” Roybal-Kastl added.
To RSVP for California Native Vote Project’s listening session, visit www.bit.ly/cnvplisteningsession.