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California

Aging in the Inland Empire: African American Elders in Peril

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By Linnie Frank Bailey,
New America Media, News Report –

Melendez said the increased cases of elder self-neglect are one sign of widespread angst among seniors over the deteriorating economy and fear about what the future holds.

This fear of the future is aggravated by recent budget cuts in California affecting senior services and programs. Many elders are living a retirement a lot broker than they planned, and they don’t know where to turn for help. Melendez said her organization is one of many that try to help seniors find resources, however it is harder as programs are cut.

The California Budget – “Nothing to Celebrate”

After a protracted battle, California state legislators approved a state budget on July 24, 2009, to address the state’s $26 billion debt. The negotiated bipartisan budget cut billions of dollars from local governments, education and social services.

That included reductions in programs affecting low-income seniors, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), MediCal, In Home Support Services and Adult Day Health Centers.

Initially, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended eliminating many programs in his May budget. The legislature, though, decided to cut programs, some drastically, but not completely zero out vital programs.

Subsequently, the governor used his line-item veto authority to slash an additional $489 million in cuts.

The governor “blue-penciled” all state funding for Community Based Service Programs in 2009-10. Some the services now denied funds to operate are:

· Alzheimer’s Day Care Resource Centers, specialized daytime programs for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias;

· The Brown Bag Program, which provided surplus and donated edible fruits, vegetables and other food to low income individuals ages 60 and older;

· Respite Purchase of Services, enabling caregivers for frail elders or functionally impaired adult to get relief time away from the constant stress of care;

· Senior Companion programs, in which older volunteers assist their impaired or terminally ill peers with a range of in-home assistance aimed at helping them remain at homes or in community settings (and out of institutions) for as long as possible.

After signing his revised $84.6 billion budget plan for the coming year, the governor stated, “These are ugly cuts” and “nothing to celebrate,” but, “we cannot afford the programs we used to be able to afford even two years ago.”

And he announced that he had increased the governor’s discretionary fund to a half-billion dollars—about the amount of his line item cuts—for use in future emergencies and did so without raising taxes.

“It starts with Downsizing”

You see them at the supermarket, lingering over the selections in the bread aisle, or going thorough the marked down items at the back of the store. At the register, they carefully count out change to pay for three to five items. Were you to follow them home you might find empty refrigerators and cupboards.

“It starts with downsizing,” Melendez said. “We are seeing seniors and their caregiver families look for less expensive housing options. Seniors in assisted living retirement communities are having to find less expensive housing options because they have lost savings. Some move from a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom, others are moving in with relatives and others are placed in nursing homes by family members.”

Seniors are being affected by the same economic perils facing all Americans. They have lost funds in the stock market and equity in their homes. Melendez observed, “The difference is elders don’t have the 10, 15 or 20 years it will take to rebuild their finances.”

She added, “This is causing great depression among those who thought they did everything right. They’re now looking closely at every expense and are cutting out all but the essentials. Depression is high among this age group.”

Some are suffering from too much credit card debt. A recent study shows credit card balances for low-and-middle income seniors soared by 26 percent in the past four years.

The report, by the policy group Demos, suggests that older adults, accustomed to cashing out home equity to pay bills, are finding themselves in the same predicament as younger borrowers because of falling real estate values, shrinking portfolios and rising energy costs.

With family members also strapped for cash, seniors are turning to credit to pay their bills as well as to relatives for help. Also, elders tend to have higher health care costs than younger borrowers. The Demos study says widening gaps between health care costs and insurance coverage are likely forcing some seniors to pay for medical expenses with credit cards. Maria Diaz knows many families who have used credit to pay the bills. She says people are barely holding on in her Riverside-area neighborhood, an enclave of working class Latino, African-American and white families. She sees families doubling up in small houses to make ends meet. Diaz, who shares a house with her mother, age 88, and a grown son, said budget cuts will take a toll on her family.

“Through In Home Supportive Services I pay a local woman to watch my mother, but she makes almost as much as I do, so much of my salary goes to her.”

She added, because of the new budget, her hourly rates are being cut and my mom’s SSI payments are shrinking. We all are struggling, but I know we have it better than some in this neighborhood.”

Riverside County, where Diaz lives, has the eighth-highest foreclosure rate in the United States. According to RealtyTrac, Riverside County is second in the state in foreclosure volume. One in 17 households is slipping into some stage of foreclosure during the first six months of the year. San Bernardino County was fourth, with one in 19 households in default.

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, foreclosures were far more common last year among black mortgage holders. The report states, “African American borrowers were 3.3 times as likely as white borrowers to be in foreclosure, whereas Latino and Asian borrowers were 2.5 and 1.6 times respectively more likely to be in foreclosure as white borrowers.”

Unemployment in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties is near 13%. Among African-Americans and Latinos it is higher, by some estimates 17-19%. While younger seniors with jobs are putting off retirement, a number of adults 65-plus are trying to re-enter the tough labor market to help make ends meet.

Jackie Melendez believes the situation for seniors in the Inland area will continue to deteriorate, at least until the economy turns around. “These are people who never before needed help with housing, transportation, or food. Where will we send them?”

BAPAC 31st Annual Convention Hall of Fame Awards Banquet

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On October 2-4, 2009 political and religious dignitaries, business executives and community leaders will join together to explore economic development, political literacy and health care issues.

The Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC) will celebrate its 31st Anniversary hosting a series of workshops, a luncheon, and an awards banquet culminating with a Sunday prayer breakfast held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, 506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA.

Invited Guest Speaker Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a BAPAC 2009 Legend, joins the ranks of Attorney General Jerry Brown, UC Regents Chair Richard Blum, Bishop T. Larry Kirkland and the Honorable Gwen Moore BAPAC.

Congressman Baca Hosts 2009 Women's Conference

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Congressman Joe Baca will be hosting a free empowerment conference for women in the Inland Empire. The conference will be held on September 18th from 9am to 12pm at the Lewis Library and Technology Center, 8437 Sierra Avenue, Fontana.

The conference theme is “Protecting Women’s Rights in a Tough Economy” and features guest speakers: Gillian Zucker, President, The Auto Club Speedway; Michelle Skijian, Director, Inland Empire Women’s Business Center; Hilda
Kennedy, Executive Director, AmPac TriState; Robin De-Ivy Allen, Founder, Necessary Nutrition; Peggy Long, Director, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union.

Congressman Baca has been a passionate advocate of women’s rights especially as it relates to equality and fairness in the workplace. He is personally responsible for getting several pieces of legislation passed regarding equal pay, equal access and professional advancement.

During this turbulent time, everyone is experiencing a large increase in unemployment.

A large number of these unemployed individuals are women, many of whom are mothers caring for underage children.

It is the hope that this conference will provide hands-on tools to assist women in understanding and coping with this current climate and to develop necessary skills to compete for current jobs. This is a great time to begin the process of “thinking outside the box” with respect to retraining, job creation and entrepreneurship.

To RSVP, contact Karen Serrano, Virginia Marquez or Beverly Thomas at (909) 885-2222 or karen.serrano@mail.house.gov.

The Life of Col. Joseph Powell Remembered With Military Honors

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By Cheryl Brown –

“A giant has fallen,” said Pastor Gerald Penick, President of the So. Eastern Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. And a life was well remembered at a top military service for Col. Joseph Powell.

About 1600 people spent time honoring a man who gave to God and country through his service as a pastor and leader in the military as Chaplain.

U.S. Senate Chaplain, Barry Black preached his eulogy and Major Andrew R. Harewood, United States Army Deputy Pentagon Chaplain directed the service. It was military and it was holy. There were few seats to accommodate late comers and the program progressed on. Those making comment were those who knew him.

Not a passing knowledge of him but a deep knowledge of what made him the man that he was. The men who honored him one after another said that he was the reason for them being in the military and he was the reason they themselves had the rank. He had diverse relationships: husband, father, brother, dean, solider, chaplain, read Dr. Tina Robinson, head of Living Legends. She and Victoria

Watts read the acknowledgements from civil rights organizations, the Bermuda Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist and from close friends.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he fought the battles of legal segregation over, said everybody can be great because everyone can serve. Powell’s work was great because he served,” they read. As she finished she saluted the casket and said, “Col. Powell you are dismissed.”

It was Chaplain Harewood who said as a teenager he would see Captain Powell in the inspirational stories in the books they read in Bible Study. That planted an indelible image in his mind.

Dr. Calvin Rock, (ret.) Vice President of North American Division of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, talked about Powell’s loyalty. He was loyal to his home church in Baltimore, MD, to country, to troops, colleagues, students, super loyal to his family most of all he was loyal to his Lord,” said Rock.

Chaplain Black spoke of the sadness he felt when he heard of his mentor’s death.

“Powell used to come to Oakwood College in his uniform, crisp and sharp,” he said. He said they were both from Baltimore and he felt that he came to the campus just to see him and to encourage him. It was his nurturing spirit that helped to lead Black into the ministry and the military. “He mentored me and others,” he said. Chaplain Black said that he led a life service and after he retired he was willing to go to Oakwood College to be the chaplain there. He served the purpose of God not the life of himself.

Chaplain Black recalled the story of when he asked for permission to get involved with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the desegregation movement; he was told that racial segregation will be here as long as the end of time. “He got involved and served his generation,” said Chaplain Black. Chaplain Black spoke of the ability to articulate and make his verb and subject agree, and how his ability to speak helped level the playing ground. He had the military asking “are there any more like you where you come from?”

The military was segregated when he came along.

Speaking directly to Powell’s wife Alice he said, “we would not be military chaplains without your husband, without his sustained performance. Chaplain Herman Kibble would not have been the first Black Adventist Chaplain on an Aircraft Carrier.

“Had it not been for him I wouldn’t have been an Admiral, had I not been an Admiral I wouldn’t be the U.S. Senate Chaplain. I owe it to my mentor,” said Chaplain Black.

Delbert Baker, President of Oakwood College made mention of Black’s priorities.

“I thought about the funeral of (Ted) Kennedy (going on at the same time) and that Chaplain Black was on program. But he came here,” he said. In a word Harewood told Black Voice News after the service of Black coming even with the pressing service of Kennedy: priorities! It’s what you are and who you are and he knew his priority. He made the right choice,” said Harewood.

“He did what he had to do. They could get by without him,” said Sgt. William Farmer.

Chaplain Washington Johnson, a Navy reservist and Editor of the Messenger Adventist Magazine said of Black’s decision. “He is a tremendous leader that believes in service. He inspired me to greater service that service is leading others to Christ,” said Johnson.

As the service was being planned and the military took over the planning, Lt. Col. (Ret) Bill Howe, told Black Voice News, “The music will make you want to walk right into heaven,” Howe is a member of the church and was a close friend of Powell’s.

On Monday in a solemn service Col. Joseph Powell went into his rest at Riverside National Cemetery until Jesus Christ comes again.

Kamala Harris, Cali's Next Top Cop?

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By Chris Levister –

She’s brilliant, she’s ambitious, she’s tough and she’s unlike anything you’ll see on Law & Order. They call Kamala Harris the ‘female Barack Obama’ and lately a lot of people from Oprah Winfrey to President Barack Obama are singing the praises of the woman who wants to be California’s next attorney general.

With a 90 percent conviction rate super star prosecutor Kamala Harris made history in 2003 when she was elected California’s first African-American female district attorney.

“Law enforcement has such a direct impact on the most vulnerable members of our society and I wanted to be at the table when the decisions are made that affect them,” says Harris.

Kamala Harris is mixed race, thus her current position gives her three firsts — she is the first female District Attorney to be elected in San Francisco; the first African American elected as District Attorney in California; and the first Indian American elected to the position in the United States.

If she has her way in 2010, she would be breaking even more glass ceilings.

She would be the state’s first female Attorney General and the first, in decades, who started out in the trenches as a courtroom prosecutor. She was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term in November 2007.

Harris was born in Oakland, California, her parents both professors were active in the Civil Rights Movement and instilled in Kamala a strong commitment to justice and public service.

That commitment led Kamala to Howard University, one America’s oldest Black universities and then to Hastings College of the Law. She was raised with her sister Maya in Berkeley by their mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer specialist.

DA Harris believes it is her duty to nurture the next generation of young women who dream of following in her footsteps.

“My mother who was a very strong influence in my life always said ‘Kamala you may be the first to do many things but make sure you’re not the last’.”

Harris is a strong advocate of identifying and implementing strategies for reducing gang violence and victimization. Two weeks ago, the Democrat, a long time friend of President Obama and a very early supporter of his presidential campaign got a boost in her bid for California’s top cop.

Harris was picked for a star role at the National Conference on Gang Violence Prevention and Crime Control, where she discussed her “Back on Track” low level drug offender re-entry initiative and anti truancy work.

She was part of a select group of mayors, district attorneys including San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and San Bernardino County District Attorney A. Michael Ramos, academics, criminal justice experts and violence prevention experts – including U.S.  Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama Administration drug czar Gil Kerikowske.

“Many cities in California are facing vicious and growing gang activity, and across the nation communities are being held hostage by gang-related violence. I’m honored to be a part of the national strategy to combat this serious issue,” she said.

“She lights up a room the way then little-known Barack Obama did when he gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.”

That’s Jose Medina, delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and co-founder of Obama Riverside, the formidable grassroots organization that helped propel Mr. Obama to the White House. Kamala, Medina says is among a new crop of young, Democratic professionals – ‘bright, fair, and tough as nails’. Though Harris has generated controversy and made a few formidable enemies in law enforcement circles, she has remained firm in her opposition to the death penalty and is unafraid to stand down the likes of those involved in sexual exploitation of children, corrupt cops and parents whose children are truants.

“I’m especially proud of creating a child assault unit dedicated to prosecuting those kinds of cases because I can see the impact it has on children, families and society in general,” said Harris.

Harris also has boundless ambition, as a candidate for state Attorney General in 2010, she hopes to bring her “smart on crime” approach—which has resulted in a marked increase in homicide clearance rates in San Francisco to one of California’s most important and visible offices.

“I’ve spent my entire professional life in the trenches as a courtroom prosecutor. And I can tell you from the frontlines, we need tough new ideas for strengthening our criminal justice system in California. As Attorney General, I will fight for all Californians – from distressed homeowners to families whose neighborhoods are under siege. With the cooperation of state, federal and local officials we can fight street gangs, go after subprime lenders and others responsible for the financial crisis.

We can fundamentally reform our prison system,” said Harris.

She would replace Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the former Oakland mayor and California governor, who is expected to run for governor in 2010.

“It takes a lot of guts to stand up for what you think is right in the political world, especially when faced with high-level pressure,” said Medina.

Spring 2010, Medina and Obama Riverside co- founder Linnie Frank Bailey hope to bring the Harris excitement to Riverside believing people need to be reminded that there are many more shining stars like Barack Obama out there.

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