Assemblywoman Autumn Burke and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia brought hope to several hundred South L.A. residents April 9 at a community rally in support of Burke’s Assembly Bill 1520.
This legislation seeks to lift one million California children out of poverty. The Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act commits the Legislature to a goal of reducing child poverty by 50 percent over the next 20 years and provides for a comprehensive framework of research-backed solutions to achieve it.
California has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure that accounts for the high cost of living in our state. That translates to one in five children; and almost one-third of African-American children and one-third of Latino children living in poverty. Without a comprehensive and sustained approach to reduce the root causes of poverty, the future economic stability of California is at risk.
“AB 1520 certifies that it is no longer acceptable to have 2 million children in the state of California living in poverty,” Burke said. “It is frankly embarrassing to know that we have the sixth largest economy in the world, yet we have so many children living under the conditions of poor schools, unsafe neighborhoods and a lack of economic mobility.
“No child should face these odds,” Burke added. “As a mother and an assemblywoman, I cannot begin to fathom that we have accepted to have two million children living in poverty. AB 1520 will analyze current funding and create stronger responsibility mechanisms to ensure that we fully invest in programs that lift our families out of poverty and put the American Dream within their reach.”
AB 1520 addresses child poverty through the adoption of a framework for continued investment in programs and approaches that have been proven to impact poverty in the most effective ways. AB 1520 requires the Department of Finance to monitor and measure progress by producing annual reports analyzing how the proposed state budget will impact the child poverty rate.
In addition, it requires reports every two years monitoring the impact of current and potential investments and joint legislative hearings will be held every two years.
Burke was joined at the rally, which was co-sponsored and held at the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in South L.A., by what seemed to be every major political leader in our area. The special invited political speakers were House Minority House Nancy Pelosi and civil rights icon Lewis, who was clearly the crowd favorite as he was introduced on stage dancing to Pharrell Williams’ Academy Award nominated song “Happy.”
Lewis was the youngest of the big six civil rights leaders. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966, some of the most tumultuous years of the civil rights movement. During his tenure, the committee opened freedom schools, launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer and organized some of the voter registration efforts during the 1965 Selma voting rights campaign.
As the committee chairman, Lewis wrote a speech in reaction to the Civil Rights Bill of 1963. He denounced the bill because it didn’t protect African Americans against police brutality or provide African Americans with the right to vote.
Lewis graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville and then received a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University.
As a student, he was very dedicated to the civil rights movement. He organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville and took part in many other civil rights activities as part of the Nashville Student Movement.
He was instrumental in organizing student sit-ins, bus boycotts and nonviolent protests in the fight for voter and racial equality.
In 1960, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. There were seven whites and six blacks who were determined to ride from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans in an integrated fashion. At that time, several states of the old Confederacy still enforced laws prohibiting black and white riders from sitting next to each other on public transportation.
The Freedom Ride, originated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and revived by James Farmer and CORE, was initiated to pressure the federal government to enforce the Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia (1960) that declared segregated interstate bus travel to be unconstitutional.
In the South, Lewis and other nonviolent Freedom Riders were beaten by angry mobs, arrested at times and taken to jail. When CORE gave up on the Freedom Ride because of the violence, Lewis and fellow activist Diane Nash arranged for the Nashville students to take it over and bring it to a successful conclusion.
Lewis, who worked hand in hand with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is a living legend. It was one of the highlights of my life to meet him.
Burke who is a young rising star in the Democratic Party, should be commended on her leadership on her bill AB 1520
And for putting together one of the best political rallies in South L.A. history.
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