The California Black Media Political Playback

Tanu Henry and Antonio Ray Harvey

Last Saturday, Rep. Barbara Lee held her first U.S. Senate campaign rally at Laney College in Oakland.

“We fight for freedom, for dignity, for justice, and, together, we win,” said Lee to a cheering crowd of supporters gathered at the Alameda County community college.

“That’s why I’m running for the United States Senate,” continued Lee, who is the highest ranking African American woman in the U.S. Congress and the only African American so far in the 2024 California senatorial race.

Lee, 76, is serving her 12th term in the United States Congress. Known for her progressive politics, she joins the race to replace Feinstein against two other members of California’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA-37), 49, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-30), 62.

Several high-profile Bay Area politicians attended the rally, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, the first Hmong-American mayor of a major American city.

“Black women have been at the forefront of frontlines of the fight for freedom and dignity and justice and peace for centuries. Black women get the job done,” said Lee.

In other political news, Assemblymembers Chris Holden and Reginald Jones Sawyer are eyeing futures in local government.

As their time in the state legislature gets closer to end due to term limits, California Legislative Black Caucus members Chris Holden (D- Pasadena) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) have announced their future political plans.

Assemblymember Holden is entering the race for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (5th District). He’ll face Republican incumbent Kathryn Barger.

Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer is seeking to represent the 10th District on the Los Angeles City Council, hoping to replace Heather Hutt who was appointed to the seat because Mark Ridley-Thomas is under Federal indictment.

Each member elected on or after the passage of Proposition 28, in 2012, are allowed to serve a lifetime maximum of 12 years in the State Legislature, or a combination of service in the Assembly and Senate. Holden has been in office since December 2014 and Jones-Sawyer has served in the Assembly since December 2012.

Finally, as Black History Month draws to a close, the Public Policy Institute of California has released a profile of Black Californians titled “California’s African American Community.”

“One in 20 Black Americans lived in California in the most recent Census count, and California’s Black population is larger than that of all but five other states (Texas, Georgia, Florida, New York, and North Carolina),” the report reads before giving an overview of the history of Blacks in California and pointing out that only 3 % of California’s Black population are non-citizens and only 4% are naturalized.

According to the profile, Black Californians “lag behind other groups in college graduation, home ownership, and income.”

When it comes to political participation, Blacks engage in the electoral process at rates almost equal to their White counterparts.

Today, California’s Black community is geographically concentrated, with most Black Californians living in Los Angeles, the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Sacramento. In this respect, Black Californians are more similar to Asian American Californians than to white or Latino Californians, who tend to be more broadly distributed throughout the state.

The small share of Black Californians may shrink further as both Black and white people amount to a disproportionate share of the recent migration from California to other states.  Moreover, few Black immigrants have come to California from other countries: 3% of Black Californians are noncitizens, and 4% are naturalized immigrants. However, in contrast to the Latino community, California’s immigrant Black community is generally better off than its native-born counterpart. Incomes are higher ($68,000 vs. $53,000) and college graduation rates are close to those of non-Hispanic whites (42% vs. 45% for non-Hispanic whites).

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