Courage California Institute’s “Courage in the Moment, Courage for the Movement” panelist answered questions submitted on systemic racism, COVID recovery, and safe voting access.
Los Angeles — Today, Courage California Institute hosted its first virtual town hall, featuring some of California’s most courageous women of color elected leaders, including Senator Holly Mitchell, Senator Lena Gonzalez, State Controller Betty Yee, and Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton as panelists.
Over 300 people registered for the “Courage in the Moment, Courage for the Movement” town hall, which encouraged participants to pre-submit questions. Town Hall attendees’ submitted over 50 urgent questions on topics that are at the top of Californians’ minds, including: reforming our police state, addressing systemic racism, ensuring a just and equitable COVID recovery, and turning out voters for the 2020 General Election.
Aimee Allison, Founder and President of She the People and board member of Courage California, opened the town hall with a land acknowledgment and an introduction of Courage California Institute’s first woman of color Executive Director, Irene Kao, who joined Courage earlier this year.
“We’re incredibly humbled and empowered by the turnout at Courage California Institute’s first town hall event. The high level of engagement from participants demonstrated how important it is to hear from bold and grounded leaders in open dialogue,” said Irene Kao, Courage California’s Executive Director. “Throughout history, women of color have been the backbone of social justice movements, and today’s conversation was a critical opportunity to show just why that is. ‘Courage in the Moment, Courage for the Movement’ town hall panelists did not hold back and addressed the tough questions head on. It is going to take strong leadership, like we saw here today, and the courage to meet the moment and pass equitable reforms that work for all Californians.”
California needs to continue to lead the nation as we navigate a global pandemic, staggering under-employment and unemployment rates, an economic recession, systemic racism within our institutions, state-sanctioned violence, and on-going protests in our communities. The demands of our state’s most impacted communities need to be heard by those who are able to translate them into impactful reforms. To ensure “Courage in the Moment, Courage for the Movement” was an inclusive and responsive forum, the agenda was based entirely on questions pre-submitted by attendees.
Addressing California’s recently passed state budget, Senator Holly Mitchell, 30th District in Los Angeles County, explained that “it does reflect our core values as a legislature, about supporting people, by acknowledging that Californians are hurting and that we weren’t going to pass a budget that was going to exacerbate that,” she said.
Budget conversations amongst the panelists segued into a conversation about money in politics and the influence it has played in racial equity. Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton pointed to the fact that Black and brown people are overrepresented in our criminal justice system.
“The role that we [prosecutors] play, have played, in actually fueling mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on minorities is now receiving closer scrutiny today, and for good reason,” said D.A. Becton, who is the first woman and first person of color to serve as District Attorney of Contra Costa — office opened in 1850. Becton is leading a campaign asking other district attorneys to not seek or accept endorsements and financial support from law enforcement unions.
Today’s event shed a light on the talented and courageous women of color leaders we have in California, their commitment and willingness to directly address the concerns of California’s systems — and the pushback and threats they face, as a result. “…and to just this week, have two strong progressive Latina leaders be called out of their name, by fellow elected men — in a very public way — is indicative of the bullshit we [women of color] have to endure,” said Senator Mitchell, in reference to the disrespect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis recently experienced.
“We’ve seen how women of color in elected office have been degraded in public spaces by their male colleagues, and our town hall is a proud rebuke to the fear, sexism, and racism that undermines the ability for some leaders to address the greatest concerns of our communities in the way that these women do,” said Kao.
The virtual town hall provided an accessible and statewide platform to help foster an important dialogue between Californians and their elected officials. Kao shared that future events are in the works, to ensure the dialogue continues.
Courage California Institute was joined by thirteen partner advocacy organizations, ranging from national to local and diverse in issue areas, that helped make the town hall a success. Partner organizations included Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, California Donor Table Fund, California League of Conservation Voters, California Native Vote Project, Close the Gap, Communities for a New California, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, NARAL Pro-Choice California, PolicyLink, She the People, and Voices for Progress. Susan Pacheco-Correa provided ASL interpretation for the town hall.