Assembly Bill (AB) 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act of 2017, brought the community together with politicians from DC and Sacramento for a block party style rally in South Los Angeles on Sunday April 9, to address child poverty in the state of California. The event took place at the St. John's Well Child & Family Center located at 808 West 58 th Street.
The rally titled #EndChildPoverty, was hosted by radio veteran and host of 102.3 KJLH's "Front Page," Dominque DiPrima. An all-star roster of politicians was in attendance to support the bill which was authored by Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke, in March of this year. Notable guests included Civil Rights Icon Rep. John Lewis, House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Karen Bass, State Senator Holly Mitchell, State Senator Steven Bradford, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Supervisor Hilda Solis.
Other notable attendees were Jim Mangia, president & CEO, St. John's Well Child and Family Center and Conway Collis, former Chair of the State Board of Equalization now serving as CEO of GRACE, an anti-poverty organization whom sponsors AB 1520.
GRACE is a non-profit subsidiary of the Daughters of Charity. Daughters of Charity are an international community of over 19,000 Catholic women ministering all over the world. The Daughters of Charity still serve the "poorest of the poor." Their ministry touches those in need through education, health care, social and pastoral services.
The highly-charged plea for support and advocacy was heard by every politician who spoke from passion and experience of why this bill is so important, including a personal testament from Ilene Garcia, a teenage student in Hollywood, she spoke of her experience growing up poor in Los Angeles as a single parent herself.
California has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation. AB 1520 seeks to reduce the percentage of children living below the poverty line in California by half, by fiscal year 2039. One in five children in California lives below the federal poverty line, according to the bill, including 30% of African American and Latino children.
"As a mother and an Assemblywoman, I cannot begin to fathom that we have accepted to have 2 million children living in poverty," said Burke. "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."
Rep. Lewis felt right at home as he championed the cause and encouraged the crowd to, "get in the way, get in trouble get in good trouble". He acknowledged his ties to Los Angeles through his late wife Lillian who was a native attending LA High, UCLA and USC. He stated to cheers and laughter he could never forget AB 1520 as its his home address in Atlanta.
Speaker Pelosi praised the work of Daughters of Charity and spoke about the US president who she called "45" and stated, "if you care about the children in Syria, and we all do, let that be a message to care for all of the children in the world." Trump wants to cut federal funding to the very program needed by children in poverty. "He wants to take us back. We don't want to go back."
Burke and her team are gearing up for their first policy hearing for AB 1520 on April 25.