TO STOP GUTTING OUR POLITICAL REPRESENTATION
President, Ward Economic Development Corporation and Chair, Social Action, 5th District AME Church
African Americans who are watching the recent maneuverings of the California Redistricting Commission are wondering what’s in the Kool-Aid they’re drinking.
The Commission has completely reversed itself on the draft maps it released to the public last month at a press conference in the State Capitol. And it seems to have engaged in clandestine deliberations that have resulted in proposed district configurations that gut African American electoral power in the state Assembly, state Senate and Congressional districts.
What is behind the Commission’s recent decision to amend its schedule and NOT release a second round of draft maps to the public? Instead, the Commission says it will make visualizations and equivalency files available for organizations and news outlets. This was not the agreed upon process. In the communities of color where the digital divide is a reality, this means we won’t have equal access to what’s going on.
These proposed maps will dilute hard fought for Black political power in this state. Too many Black people have lived and died for a voice and fair representation in the legislative bodies. We will not sit by and allow this to happen.
On June 10th the Commission released their first draft maps, which maintained Black political representation; four Assembly, three Congressional and two Senate districts in West and South Los Angeles.
The Commission approved these maps as a work in progress and was set to release 2nd draft maps on July 12th, then they amended the date to release to July 14th.
In response to the Commission’s urging for communities of interest to assist in the redistricting process, groups representing long marginalized African-American, Asian-Pacific Islander, and Latino interests developed a “Unity” map and submitted proposals for the legislative districts. This Unity proposal was at the urging of community groups and accomplished and supported at each level existing Black electoral power in their traditional districts.
Then a major turnaround occurred on the 4th of July weekend when the Commission ignored their input, changed the first maps dramatically and released a configuration that threatens to undermine Black political representation in the Los Angeles area.
We do not understand the impetus or rationale for their new draft maps and are eagerly waiting to hear their response to our concerns.
The California State NAACP and African American Redistricting Collaborative say they are hopeful that the delayed 2nd set of CRC maps will reflect our concerns and restore our Black political centers.
What is particularly baffling is that after showing a willingness to honor the traditions of Greater Los Angeles’ ethnic coalitions, the Commission abandoned their wishes and is now ignoring the calls for “2-3-4” – two state senate districts, three congressional districts, and four assembly districts that maintain Black political power in the Los Angeles area.
The Voting Rights Act is being used to disadvantage Black people in Los Angeles by over concentrating Blacks in one district. Black Californians work in coalition across ethnic and cultural boundaries to achieve various goals. The way in which the Voting Rights act is being applied will cause great harm to diverse communities in the Los Angeles area.
We urge the Commission to pay close attention to the issues we bring forth. We demand continued Black political representation in Los Angeles and throughout the state. Black Californians have always partnered with various coalitions to maximize economic and social justice. Why is the Commission proposing to dilute and contravene that historical political vibrancy that has empowered all marginalized and disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles?