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Black History Month: Black Caucus Honors 11 “Unsung Heroes”

Edward Henderson | California Black Media 

Last week, to mark Black History Month, the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) held a virtual ceremony honoring people with the group’s Unsung Heroes award. 

The 11 CLBC lawmakers nominated an individual from their respective districts – people who exemplify selflessness, courage and service, and whose work to lift others often goes unrecognized. 

“From our earliest days in the United States, the course of this country’s history has been influenced by African American heroes and pioneers that go far beyond slavery and fighting for our freedom,” said Bradford. 

“We have contributed to science, medicine, business, education, government, industry and social leadership,” he continued. 

Bradford said he hopes the CLBC tradition of honoring a wide variety of people doing extraordinary work serves as a reminder that “no matter who you are you can create long-lasting change.” 

Here is a list of the CLBC’s 2022 Unsung Heroes: 

35th Senate District (Los Angeles County) 

Bradford nominated Dr. Keith Curry, President of Compton College and CEO of the Compton Community College District (CCCD). Curry is responsible for overseeing all departments and functions of Compton College and serves as secretary for the CCCD Board of Trustees. He helped raise $11.3 million to help the school transition to an independent college. 

30th Senate District (Los Angeles) 

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), Co-chair of the CLBC, nominated Charles “Bear” Sprately. Sprately founded Brothers Against Banging Youth (BABY) in 2008. The community-based nonprofit provides gang prevention and crisis intervention for young men and women in underserved neighborhoods. BABY has been key to opening up new opportunities to thousands of Los Angeles area youth. 

7th Assembly District (Sacramento and Yolo Counties) 

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) nominated Sharron Chandler, Founder and Executive Director of Yes2Kollege Education Resources, Inc. The Sacramento non-profit provides African American students with “real time” educational tools and resources to live healthy and productive lives, while helping them aim for academic excellence and prepare for high-skill jobs. 

9th Assembly District (Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties) 

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) nominated Dr. Janine Bera, Chief Medical Officer at WellSpace Health. The non-profit community health center system provides medical, dental, behavioral health, and supportive services to more than 100,000 people each year at 31 greater Sacramento area locations. 

18th Assembly District (Alameda County) 

Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) nominated Nancy Harvey, owner of Lil Nancy’s Primary Schoolhouse, a home-based family childcare program in Oakland. The school serves children 4 years old and younger, teaching them language, arts, math, science, and social skills. The program prides itself on its low staff-to-child ratio designed to increase interactions with adults, promote learning, and prevent education gaps — so children enter school “kinder-ready.” 

41st Assembly District (Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties) 

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) nominated Ray Ealy, founder of STEAM:CODERS. Founded in 2014, STEAM:CODERS enhances the education of K-12 students in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM), preparing them for educational or professional opportunities. STEAM:CODERS recruits students who reside in communities 

served by Title I schools. Through the program, thousands of students have been introduced to skill-building training. 

54th District (Los Angeles County) 

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) nominated Cassandra Steptoe-Sampson, founder of A Child’s Dream-CA. The non-profit is dedicated to helping children in South Central Los Angeles — and their families — access resources they need for school and to stay healthy. Under her leadership, the organization has distributed backpacks, school supplies, shoes, clothing, hygiene kits and toys to the families in Los Angeles, and beyond, with the help of sponsors and partners. 

59th District (Los Angeles County) 

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) nominated Dr. John Griffith. Griffith began his career at Los Angeles’ Kedren Community Health Center in 1981, serving as the Chief Operating Officer-Mental Health Services until 2002, when he became the President/CEO. During his tenure at the health facility, he has instituted several changes to help meet the health needs of residents in the surrounding community. Griffith was instrumental in setting up a relationship between Kedren and Charles Drew University, California’s only HBCU. Medical students participate in the project as part of their residency requirements. 

64th Assembly District (Los Angeles County) 

Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) nominated Dr. Ayanna E. Davis, an advocate for education, political empowerment and social justice. She lives in Compton. Over her 27 years of service in education, Davis’s has touched the hearts and helped to shape the minds of thousands of children. Currently, Davis is the Vice President and Political Action Council member of the Association of Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA). In her role as President-elect of the Southern California Chapter of the California Association of Early Young Children, she advocates for disadvantaged children (from birth to 8 years old). 

79th District (San Diego County) 

Assemblymember Akilah Webber (D-San Diego) nominated William Jones, President, CEO and Director of CityLink Investment Corporation, a commercial real estate company. A civic leader and advocate for African Americans and other minorities, Jones is also the lead independent director of Sempra Energy. Earlier in his career, Jones served in San Diego city government as a City Councilmember, Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff to City Councilmember Leon Williams. 

62nd Assembly District (Los Angeles County) 

Earlier this month, Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), who was a member of the CLBC, resigned from the Legislature, citing personal reasons. 

The CLBC honored a nominee from the Burke’s district: Derek Steele, a Morgan State University graduate who started his professional career as an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman. Later, he began serving his community as a volunteer with the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI). His work focused on figuring out how to recreate local food access systems to solve health disparities and food insecurity in Inglewood and nearby communities. Finding service to others more fulfilling than corporate pursuits, Steele was recently appointed SJLI’s Executive Director. 

Inland Valley News coverage of local news in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

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