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A Black think tank


By Dempsey Gibson | OW Contributor

What eventually evolved into The Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute began as described in the title of this piece…a “Black Think Tank”.

The start of a new millennium brought with it a California legislature mandate to study elected officials and leadership roles in the African-American community. How politics and the men and women sitting in seats of power affected the day-to-day lives of citizens and neighborhoods they were sworn to represent. That was the mandate’s purpose, but not its sole purpose.

This think tank was never meant to solely live and breathe by political bent. On the contrary, it was also a means by which to study and discuss the practice of local business and business owners of color and their combined effect on the community.

Once a home for this endeavor was agreed upon and determined to be California State University Dominguez Hills, a vision was realized and a new opportunity for excellence was born. The brain trust destined to out live its visionary… just the way he would have wanted.

Mervyn M. Dymally was an African-American man of considerable accomplishment. Born in 1926, Dymally became the very first African-American elected to the California State Senate. He served eight years in that capacity, from 1967 to 1975, then moved on to higher office as California Lieutenant Governor (1975- 1979). Before taking a decade long sabbatical from the stress of political office, Dymally’s last position was in the United States House of Representatives from 1981 until 1993.

After then-Assemblyman Dymally introduced legislation in December, 2002 for The California African American Political and Economic Institute, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law the following year.

The institute has become a source of great pride in the African-American world. It’s a bastion of self identity, art, culture, independent thought and dignity, sorely needed in a world filled with potholes meant to break down the community.

Michael Eric Dyson, Angela Davis and Dr. Cornel West are just a few of the luminaries who have graced the stage to speak to the community, bringing with them messages of hope and solidarity.

In 2019, The Dymally International Jazz and Arts Festival made its April debut to much acclaim. Talented artists at the top of their game such as Nestor Torres, Lira, Maxi Priest, Gerald Albright, KEM and D.L. Hughley paid tribute to the brilliance of the man who had the institutes’ initial vision by performing for the people he worked to inspire.

Dymally passed away in October of 2012. As one last tribute to the legacy and life of this great man, Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 signed SB807, which required that the California African American Political and Economic Institute name be changed to The Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute.

The institute sprung from the mind of a single visionary. From the will of a single man. From the change of a single world. It is a fitting testimonial to a life of service.

Our Weekly coverage of local news in Los Angeles County 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.