The Legacy Continues…
The genesis of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) can be traced back to 1918 with the election of Frederick M. Roberts to the California State Assembly; the first African-American to serve in the California State Legislature. In those early years, legislative efforts focused on eliminating laws and policies that restricted African-Americans from exercising their civil, social and political rights. Among such efforts was a bill authored by Assemblyman Roberts in 1921 that prohibited the publication of education materials that portrayed negative images of people of color. Roberts also authored landmark civil rights legislation in both 1919 and 1923 guaranteeing African Americans access to public accommodations.
The CLBC was formed in 1967 when African-American members of the California Legislature, under the leadership of Senator Mervyn Dymally, joined together to address the concerns of African-Americans and other citizens of color. The members believed that a caucus representing concerns of the African American community would provide political influence and visibility far beyond their numbers. Today, there are twelve members of the California Legislative Black Caucus.
Throughout its history, the CLBC and African-American members of the legislature have been instrumental in crafting and supporting legislation to promote racial and gender equality as well as advance an agenda that assures quality health care for all, focuses on employment and economic security, and ensures justice for all Californians. Among many of its major legislative accomplishments over the past three decades, the CLBC successfully passed legislation to promote set-aside policies for government contracts for minority and women-owned businesses; the divestment of the state’s financial assets in companies doing business in then-apartheid South Africa; the establishment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a state holiday; the creation of the Commission on the Status of African-American Males; the formation and operation of the Center of the California American Educational Excellence and Achievement; the establishment of the California Museum of Afro-American History and Culture; the passage of legislation prohibiting the practice of “redlining” in the home loan industry; and higher standards and increased accountability of our public schools in an effort to close the achievement and opportunity gaps in education. Legislative accomplishments such as these have set the foundation for the opportunities that are afforded African-Americans today.
The CLBC also actively opposes bills each year that seek to dismantle programs that benefit the poor or negatively impacts African American communities. The efforts of the CLBC have not been limited to the legislative arena. Some of the issues embraced by the CLBC include taking a stance against negative media coverage of African Americans, addressing the over-representation of African Americans in the criminal justice system, defending affirmative action programs that have created employment and educational opportunities for people of color and women, and fighting cuts in government spending for the poor and disadvantaged.
2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the CLBC. During this Legislative Session, the CLBC will take an aggressive posture in its work. The members will be actively engaged in crafting a responsible budget that reflects the reality of the current economic crisis while protecting the state’s safety net for its most vulnerable citizens; including children, the poor, elderly and disabled. In the fifty years since its founding, Caucus members have been successful in rising to strategic positions on Assembly and Senate Committees to affect needed changes in state policies.
This session, the CLBC is taking an aggressive posture in its work. With plans to host a Policy Summit through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement, the CLBC hopes to establish legislative priorities for this session and expand on ideas derived from this summit. In addition to proposing specific legislation, the CLBC hopes to be change agents and require strategic involvement from the Black community to address issues that impact our community.
In addition, the CLBC will continue support programs that encourage academic excellence. This year the CLBC will continue to provide scholarships to deserving college-bound students and will also support programs to introduce high school aged students to leadership training and the legislative process.
In the areas of civic engagement, the CLBC will work to identify and support candidates that represent our values and ideals in all levels of government.
As we witness the arrival of a new era of African American political empowerment and enlightenment, both nationally and statewide, the CLBC will continue to strive towards implementing strategies and solutions that strengthen the African American community and bring about greater opportunities. In order to ensure success, these strategies must include an ability to sustain hard-won accomplishments as well as stronger partnerships with our communities and businesses to counter the conservative backlash sweeping this nation.