USC hosts The State of Black L.A. speaker series

Mayor Karen Bass and other key figures in Los Angeles discuss this years’ State of Black Los Angeles County report.

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The annual report spearheaded by the Anti-Racism Diversity and Inclusion (ARDI) initiative, was the focal point of the State of Black L.A., which drew civic leaders, researchers and community members to USC’s campus on Wednesday.

Black Angelenos earn the lowest median household income, have the highest unemployment rate and the highest suspension rate in public schools, according to the report released in April.

“They hire us last, they fire us first. They pay us less, they charge us more. They work us harder so we die sooner,” said Dr. Anthony Samad of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute. “All of the outcomes in the report indicate that there is a compounded effect of racism.”

The event covered education, multicultural collaboration and reparations. All of the information was supported by the report and Dr. Donna Nichol of California State University Dominguez Hills broke down the data before each talking point.

Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass referred to income equality as the major cause of homelessness. The homelessness crisis in L.A. affects the largest amount of people among any other U.S. city or nation as noted by the report. The L.A. homeless population is 30% Black.

“What you see on Skid Row is a Black community,” Mayor Bass said at the event. “We need to reclaim our people off the streets.”

Only 76% of Black students in L.A. County graduate from high school and one in four are chronically absent, the report said.

Dr. Christopher Nellum of Education Trust-West stated that these numbers are due to a lack of care and apathy from leaders who are denying the data.

Dr. Pedro Noguera, dean of USC Rossier School of Education, challenged Dr. Nellum’s idea and said that the problem is not about lack of care. He believes that people care about the disparities in education, but the people in power do not know how to fix it.

Leaders then proposed solutions for their findings.

Veronica Melvin of the L.A. Promise Fund said that care partnered with strategy, focus and collaboration will lead to change. Her non-profit educational organization in South L.A. meets students where they are in their academic journey to assist them with their educational and career goals.

Dr. Tolu Wuraola, who is the founder and principal consultant of Magnitude and Bond Consulting, said that anti-Black racism exists in all communities, and that coexistence between minority groups and the common pain points can and should be used to bond different cultures together, not separate them.

The outcome of this bonding and continued support can lead to wider representation of Black individuals in different spaces such as hospitals, schools and corporate America. With such a high maternal mortality rate among Black women, Dr. Wuraola said that even having a Black doctor in the same zip code as a Black mother decreases said mortality rate threefold.

In response to damages to Black Americans caused by the lasting effects of slavery, Kamilah Moore, chair of the State Reparations Task Force, has compiled an 1100 page report with the California Department of Justice and her team of 11 others calling for reparations.

The result of the report was SB-490, a bill proposed to the California government two weeks ago. If passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California American Freedman Affairs Agency would be tasked with delivering reparations to Black residents of California.

“The true crux and justification for reparations in the state of California and nationally is for that broken promise of reconstruction in this country,” said Moore. “It’s about slavery, but it’s also about addressing the legacy of slavery in this country.”

In addition to the ongoing struggles mentioned in the annual report, it is important to highlight the “bright spots” that were noted. There was a 16% decrease of Black individuals who were incarcerated. In addition, 93.6% of Black Angelenos have health insurance which is only 1.9% behind white residents. Lastly, Black residents reported as being the most likely to receive mental health counseling.

In addition to all the solutions proposed at the event, L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell urged everyone to leave the conference with an “aha” moment, and a desire to make change.

“When we have the courage to reimagine and take action to create a brighter future for Black Angelenos, we are creating a brighter future for every Angeleno,” said Mitchell.

Addendum: This event was hosted by the Los Angeles Urban League.