Leaders look more favorably on latest redistricting visualizations
But some caution that maps could change
The Citizens Redistricting Committee (CRC) released its latest visualization map detailing what proposed congressional and state political boundaries could look like.
This latest set of visualizations came Tuesday, following a meeting held Thursday by the African American Redistricting Collaborative (AARC), where more than 75 community and clergy leaders, current and former elected officials, and residents gathered in Exposition Park outside the California African American Museum (CAAM) to demand that their voices be heard during the process of redrawing political district boundaries.
Led by the AARC, officials have vowed to meet each Thursday until the maps are finalized, voted on and sent to the Legislature.
And the concern was not just for what is happening in Los Angeles County, because officials from the Inland Empire were also on hand and expressed their concerns that the apparent eastward shift of district lines could negatively impact their communities as well.
“The new visualization is better than the July Fourth weekend version. It just needs some fine-tuning and cleanup, and we expect the next visualization to be even better,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, head of the Community Coalition, one of the members of the AARC.
Harris-Dawson stressed that while the current visualization is more in line with the needs of the African American community, people must keep the pressure on because a visualization that is right one week could change the next week.
AARC members at the CAAM meeting, including Jackie Dupont-Walker, president of the Ward AME Church Economic Development Corp., said they were there “to protect what we have—two, three, four.”
Her comment alludes to the two state senate seats, three congressional districts and four Assembly slots held by African Americans.
Members of AARC have expressed growing concern and anger as the redistricting process has progressed, and one of the most recent red flags was a visualization map of the three congressional districts currently held by African Americans—the 33rd, 35th and 37th. The visualization revealed that key resources had been excluded from the districts, such as CAAM, which was removed from the 33rd, and the district lines were reconfigured in a way to make it incredibly difficult for an African American to be elected in another district.
What is being protected, stressed Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, is the equitable distribution of resources available to the citizens of the nation.
“. . . today we have to make it clear that any effort to turn back the clock will be vigorously rebuffed,” said Ridley-Thomas, who warned those who wanted to declare the premature death of Black political power need to know “we ain’t going nowhere.”
Among the challenges the redistricting commission faces, according to Commissioner Andre Parvenu, is ensuring African Americans have the right to choose a candidate of their choice.
Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, A violation of subsection (a) of this section is established if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the state or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens protected by subsection (a) of this section in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. The extent to which members of a protected class have been elected to office in the state or political subdivision is one circumstance which may be considered. Provided, that nothing in this section establishes a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their participation in the population.”
This section has also meant that under certain circumstances, minority opportunity districts must be drawn that have at least 50 percent minority voting-age population (VAP).
The CRC legal counsel, Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, has been pushing the commission to utilize this definition, but collaborative members say this advice is wrong and charge that “Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher are uniquely unqualified as a voting rights counsel.”
“Voting rights firms across the county have said that their interpretation flies in the face of traditional advice or even legal decisions,” said Dupont-Walker.
The AARC believes that so-called minority opportunity districts are not needed in California, because there is a history in the state of ethnic groups voting across racial lines to elect candidates.
Changing demographics is not just something to look at and ponder on paper; it is something that impacts the life of every person in the nation, and currently there is a movement within the African American community to ensure that the political gains made since the 1960s are not lost to the numbers.
It is down to the wire and leaders in the African American community continue to remain vigilant about the redistricting effort being conducted by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC).
In fact, this past weekend, a pitched battle ensued as some of the commissioners attempted to condense all of the African American districts into one.
The Urban Issues Breakfast Forum will host scholar-activist-author Angela Y. Davis April 19 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. (the program starts promptly at 8 a.m.) at the California African American Museum, 600 State Park Drive, Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Priority admission and seating will be given to those who purchase Dr. Davis’ latest book, “The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues.” The book must be purchased at Eso Won Bookstore, at which time purchaser’s will be given a priority admission coupon.
Perhaps Manual Arts student Joshua Ham said it best when he attempted to walk the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California through a day in his school life.
He talked of the police cars around the campus, the helicopter flying overhead, the gates around the campus, searches by school security guards and cops patrolling the grounds. . . .
“How can we truly be expected to achieve at a high academic level when we’re treated more like we’re in prison than in school?” he asked.
The WOCI, Women of Color Inc. entertainment networking group is hosting “Girl’s Night Out: Shopping 4 A Cause,” a holiday shopping cultural event at the California African American Museum to raise money for its Black Beauty Shop Health Outreach Program (BBSHOP). More than 400 women are expected to come out on Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m.