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State’s Black Caucus welcomes new members

On Dec. 5, new members were sworn in at the State Capitol on the first day of the 2022-23 Legislative session. There are many new faces to join the California […]


On Dec. 5, new members were sworn in at the State Capitol on the first day of the 2022-23 Legislative session. There are many new faces to join the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). Lola SmallwoodCuevas (D-Los Angeles), Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City); and Dr. Corey Jackson (D-Riverside), the first Black openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the State Assembly, are the newest members of CLBC’s coalition of 12 Black lawmakers.

Smallwood-Cuevas represents California’s 28th Senate District. She is the only Black woman in the Senate. A graduate of California State University at Hayward (now called CSU-East Bay), she is an educator, labor organizer, community advocate, researcher, and journalist.

Smallwood-Cuevas replaces Sydney Kamlager who was elected to the U.S. Congress seat held by Karen Bass. Smallwood-Cuevas’ district includes the communities of Ladera Heights, View Park, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Downtown Los Angeles, Leimert Park, Mar Vista, Mid City, South Los Angeles, University Park, West Adams, and Culver City.

“I am the 63rd woman ever to be sworn into this illustrious body and one of a handful of dynamic Black women leaders to grace this chamber with their excellence,” Smallwood-Cuevas posted on her Facebook page last week.

In a special election to replace Autumn Burke who resigned in January, McKinnor was elected to represent the 62nd Assembly District, which includes Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lenox, Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Venice, West Athens, Westchester and Westmont in Los Angeles County.

In November, due to redistricting, McKinnor was elected to represent the 61st Assembly District which contains many of the same communities as the previous 62nd District.

“Today I was sworn in for my first term in the California State Assembly,” McKinnor posted on her Facebook page. “I am proud to represent Assembly District 61.”

In August, Bonta won a special election to represent the 18th Assembly District. She replaced her husband Rob Bonta, who was appointed California’s Attorney General last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Bonta’s district covers the East Bay area of Northern California, including a large portion of the City of Oakland and the cities of San Leandro and Alameda. Bonta self-identifies as a Black Latina and holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Yale University, a Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School.

Assemblymember Lori Wilson represents California’s 11th Assembly district. She assumed office on April 6 after winning the seat vacated by former Assemblymember Jim Frazier. As mayor of Suisun City, Wilson was the first Black woman mayor to serve in Solano County. She is a graduate of California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accountancy.

The CLBC elected Wilson and Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to serve as its Chair and Vice-Chair for the 2023-2024 legislative session. Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) was elected secretary and Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan (D-Los Angeles) was elected treasurer. The newly elected officers’ two year terms began this month.

CLBC members make up 10% of the Assembly and 5% of the Senate. California’s Black population is about 6.5% according to the US Census. Veteran Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Reggie Jones Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Mike Gipson (D-Carson), and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) are the returning CLBC members.

The CLBC, founded in 1967 under the leadership of Sen. Mervyn Dymally, describes itself as a bipartisan and bicameral body of Black lawmakers committed to eliminating existing racial and social disparities and inequities for Black Americans.