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SACRAMENTO – No one expected that three gubernatorial candidates who appeared at a political forum staged at the historic Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento were experts on issues that concern African American women in the state of California.

The member of the panel that consisted of John Chiang, Delaine Eastin, and Antonio Villaraigosa – all members of the Democratic party – were not pressured to learn all the aspects about the Black woman’s plight in 90 minutes, either.

But thanks to the co-host of the forum, Black Women Organized for Political Action Training Institute for Leadership Enrichment (BWOPA-TILE), the three politicians are now fully aware that these respectful women’s voices will not go unnoticed.

“I don’t think we delve into a lot of the key issues,” said Nolice Edwards, Sacramento resident. “But I do think that this is a beginning and it gave the panel a chance to think about some of these issues dealing with Black women. So, when they come back after June, they should be ready, have done their homework, and prepared to jump into the issues that impact Black women today.”

The trio of politicians calmly spoke and reacted to subjects such as health, housing, incarceration, sexual harassment in the workplace, leadership in politics, and jobs. There wasn’t a great deal of time spent on many of the subjects, though just enough to satisfy the format.

The forum, co-hosted and streamed-live across the state by KCRA 3, was representative of the theme — “Our Time to Engage, Inform and Vote: Gubernatorial Issues 2018.” State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell of the 3oth Senate District, note that the candidates made history by participating in the dialogue and what’s the next step in the voting process for Black women.

“Sisters, it is our responsibility to stand up for others by showing up, not only this June for the Gubernatorial primary, but for every election at every level of government as if you life depends on it,” Mitchell said. “Because guess what? It does.”

More than 200 people, mostly Black women of BWOPA-TILE, showed up for the the 90-minute forum moderated by Melanie Shelby of the San Francisco’s public affairs firm Gray, Greer, Shelby and Vaughn. The crowd’s atmosphere certainly relayed a message of engagement and knowledge.

“It was one of the reasons that you saw the crowd here,” Edwards said. “We all know as African American women how important that it is.”

While the candidates sat on stage waiting for the panel discussion to began, Dezie Woods-Jones, the founder and president of BWOPA-TILE, reminded them how powerful a woman’s votes is due to the results of a recent special election in Alabama that denied one candidate, accused of sexual assaults of women, a U.S. Senate seat.

Democratic candidate Doug Jones defeated Republican candidate Roy Moore. Jones is the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate office since 1992. U.S. President Donald Trump campaigned for Moore despite the allegations.

The Washington Post reported that Black women represented 17 percent of the voters that cast a ballot in the election. Ninety-eight percent of those African American women voted for Jones while two percent voted for Jones.

“It took a vote in a small region in Alabama for most of this nation to recognize what many of us had known for years – The importance of African American women’s vote,” Woods-Jones said. “We have been recording for years that African American women make a difference in many key races. I can give you a quick example. In the 2016 presidential election it was African American women who voted 93 percent for Hillary Clinton. If the others had followed our lead, we’d have a different look in the White House today.”

The talks also touched on racial discrimination of Black women, LGBT rights, public safety, education. Shelby fielded questions that were sensible and they revealed a lot about what the candidates have done to address similar issues they have encountered during their political careers.

It was also highly noticeable that the candidates could not completely answer many of the questions concerning Black women. At various times they would align the question alongside the Black community altogether.

However, all three participants were grateful to speak before a Black audience. It should also be referenced that Eastin won this battle and said all the right political things the potential governor of state of California should say.

“There are no finer, stronger, group of Democrats than African American women,” Eastin said. “I thank you all for being such amazing forces across our country, but most especially in California. The truth is that we need a campaign in California to ensure that every person has a chance for a great future.”

Villaraigosa said he showed up to the Black women’s forum because of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the civil rights movement. They were all the things he heard and learned about while growing up in East Los Angeles.

“I recognize the role of Black women, Black people, and the civil rights movement trying to make our country a more perfect union,” he said. “I am here because this is a great state. But it’s a state that needs to grow together. I am here today to thank you for what you’ve done and to work with you.”

Chiang pointed out why he should be governor and mentioned the ongoing policies being produced in the nation’s capital will indeed affect African American women.

“We have to tackle a White House that wants to set us back, that wants to undermine you, African Americans, women, people of color, and all of us” Chiang said. “California must lead. We must stand together and push back. I want to lead that California that inspires all of us.”

As it had been reported right up to the day of the forum, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a candidate, could not be present due to a scheduling conflict.

“I was thinking about Gavin Newsom and very upset that he couldn’t make time,” said Jackie Ansley, one of the members of the audience. “This was very important and everyone did mention the fact that ‘where’s the front runner?’ But I was still impressed with all three candidates. It’s gonna be hard to make that decision (in the primary election).”

“I can’t say it was a missed opportunity because I don’t know the reason for why he could not be here,” Edwards said. “It could have truly been a scheduling conflict. I don’t think it was purposely done because he has been involved in all the other candidate forums around the state. If he makes it past, June he’ll have another opportunity to speak at the forum again.”


By Antonio Harvey

OBSERVER Staff Writer 

CBM exists to facilitate communication between the black community, media, grassroots organizations, and policy makers by providing fact-based reporting to a network of over 21 Black media outlets on leading...