The undersigned individuals and national organizations are collectively dedicated to promoting equity and justice for people with mental health disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color (BILPOC), and others who will be disparately impacted by your proposed Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment (“CARE”) Court system…
Massachusetts has become the latest state to enact bans against hair-based discrimination after Gov. Charlie Baker signed The CROWN Act into law last month.
The bill – Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN Act – was introduced in March by Massachusetts state representative Steven Ultrino,, who said that he wished the state had done this earlier…
“With corporations making record profits and inflation at 40-year highs, dignified labor and safe working conditions remain top priorities among union leaders, worker advocates and government officials. But with labor trafficking present in communities across California, how do we keep the most vulnerable populations safe from predatory employers and labor trafficking?”
The ups and downs of June…
Freedom & Roe v. Wade
June is a month to celebrate progress and the pride that comes when people have the freedom to be their true, whole selves. Pride month and Juneteenth are celebrations of hard-fought freedoms. That is what June is supposed to be about…
With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s clear who is most impacted – people with low incomes and people of color, as with most harmful policies cast down from ideological, top-down “leadership.” In a blog post this month by Dalyn Smith, Western Center’s undergraduate intern, Dalyn discusses the intersections between abortion and poverty as well as California’s lesser known access issues. Californians are fortunate that abortion is mostly protected here, but accessibility is still a problem for many people in this state, and it may get worse as people from other states come for help.
Dalyn’s post also points to Western Center’s continued advocacy to address racial disparities in maternal health and morbidity – specifically our work to implement California’s new maternal and infant health laws (SB 65: the California Momnibus Act), which we helped pass last year. That work includes efforts to ensure parents have access to resources like midwives, doulas, and culturally competent care. And of course, we are always working to make sure parents in California have the resources they need to care for their children.
Faster food assistance in LA & our second lawsuit against CA HCD
In Western Center litigation news, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted this month to enter into a permanent injunction to stop the processing delays for emergency food benefits that we and our partners sued the county for back in November. This marks an important win in the fight against hunger in Los Angeles. Find out more here.
This month Western Center and our partners also filed a second lawsuit against California’s Department of Housing and Community Development on behalf of tenant groups (we filed the first last month). The latest suit accuses the department of discrimination and denying Californians due process in the application process for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Learn more about the case here.
Good news! New Western Center staff
Fortunately, we have more good news to share from the Western Center front: the addition of new staff members on our development team! In the past month we welcomed our new Director of Philanthropy, Heather Masterton, our first Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, Lawrence Haynes, and our Development Coordinator, Cinthya Martinez – all based in Los Angeles. We are beyond excited to have them on Western Center’s team ushering us into a new season with a spirit of collaboration and ethical stewardship. Learn more about Heather, Lawrence, and Cinthya here!
We are excited to welcome Heather Masterton, Lawrence Haynes, and Cinthya Martinez to Western Center’s development team!
“As Western Center works to adopt community-centric fundraising principles, our new Philanthropy/Development Team will build on our strong foundation and lead the expansion of our donor community to be even more aligned with our commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice. The members of this fundraising team are champions for racial equity whose approach to philanthropy centers a racial justice and equity lens. I am confident in their ability to help take Western Center to higher heights as we continue to positively impact the lives of our sisters, brothers, and gender expansive community members with low incomes and/or low wealth across California.”
-Crystal D. Crawford, Western Center’s Executive Director
Heather Masterton is Western Center’s new Director of Philanthropy. Heather is the driving force behind Western Center’s fundraising — planning and organizing Western Center’s development activities, and ensuring clarity and collaboration between the development team, leadership, advocates, and the finance department. She is based in Los Angeles.
Heather is a seasoned fundraising and communications professional with 26 years of experience working in the nonprofit field to ensure safe housing and a strong safety net for survivors of gender based violence. She holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification and has successfully secured over $40M to support transformative programming and policy change in the areas of gender, racial, and economic justice.
Prior to joining Western Center, Heather served as the Chief Strategic Engagement Officer at YWCA Glendale and Pasadena where she oversaw the Mission Advancement and Community Engagement teams, directed the organization’s fundraising and communications work, and co-led local policy initiatives, which included drafting and mobilizing support for the unanimous passage of Glendale’s historic Sundown Town Resolution and the establishment of the City’s first Tenant Landlord Ad-Hoc Committee. Her past leadership roles include: Vice President of Development for Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault, Executive Director of South Valley Sanctuary, a 57-bed domestic violence shelter program in Utah, and Director of Development for Peace Over Violence, LA’s first rape crisis and domestic violence support center.
Heather holds a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies with a Minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Heather is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and is a founding board member of the nonprofit, The Good Deed Corps, which works to eliminate barriers to voting through wrap-around voter registration and education campaigns in Texas and Georgia
Lawrence Haynes is Western Center’s first Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, based in Los Angeles. In his role, Lawrence develops and implements strategic partnerships with corporations, foundations, and major donors on behalf of Western Center.
Lawrence is an experienced practitioner in advocacy, strategic partnerships, and program development. Driven by a passion for bringing people and purpose together, he takes pride in helping people actualize personal and professional growth. Lawrence’s passion for advocacy can be traced back to when he spent significant time assisting nonprofit organizations with structural changes, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and programming that amplified the need to address systemic disparities.
Before joining Western Center, Lawrence served as the Development and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He worked directly with clients to forge new partnerships and served on the grant writing team, which helped to secure grants of up to $300,000. Lawrence also worked in financial services, where grant management was essential to his work, and spearheaded DEI initiatives for the company.
Lawrence has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Maryland, a Master of Science in Nonprofit and Association Management from the University of Maryland, and an Engineering Certification from the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences.
Cinthya Martinez is Western Center’s Development Coordinator, based in Los Angeles. Cinthya leads donor stewardship initiatives, manages vendor relationships, and provides event and graphic design support.
Cinthya is a resourceful and creative development and design professional with 15 years of experience. She has been in love with technology for as long as she can remember and is passionate about championing the vision of organizations and the stories of their clients, donors, and staff.
Prior to joining Western Center, Cinthya served as the Events and Development Coordinator for YWCA Glendale and Pasadena where she was instrumental in the promotion, donor management, and programming of their signature events: the Women for Racial Justice Breakfast and the Heart and Excellence Awards. She also worked to establish and maintain brand identity, develop social media content, ensure data integrity, and develop donor stewardship initiatives.
She began her career at Cal Poly Pomona’s MediaVision production studio where she worked for 7 years and discovered her love of video and audio production and editing. During her tenure at YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley, she evolved from volunteer to Social Media and Marketing Coordinator to Operations and Marketing Manager, and took on a leadership role in the transition to the strategic partnership with YWCA Glendale.
Cinthya holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Light in the dark: acknowledging pain as we celebrate AAPI heritage.
This month was hard. Violence at every corner of the country – Buffalo, Orange County, Uvalde, at the store, at school, at church. The words to express the sadness and loss are few, but our Interim Director of Development, April Walker, penned a poignant expression of anguish after what happened in Buffalo, worth a close read. We do not have a call to action for you – there are too many that need to be taken. The guns, the hate, the racism, the unacknowledged history, the isolation, the anger, the normalization of violence, the adherence to a pathological status quo – there is so much to overcome. Right now we remember the beautiful humans lost in New York, in California, babies in Texas. We grieve and we yearn for an awakening that can heal this country and our humanity.
We also acknowledge the simultaneous impact of the ongoing pandemic, which continues to harm communities of color more than others. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a report this month to “document the equity-driven strategies used to respond to the needs of communities most impacted by COVID-19… strategies implemented in service of LA County’s Black/African American residents, one of several racial/ethnic groups who have experienced disproportionate rates of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout the pandemic.” We hope such continued, targeted care continues for people in the communities most impacted by this country’s deeply imbedded inequality.
As we mourn alongside the loved ones who lost John Cheng, killed protecting his community from yet another shooter motivated by irrational beliefs, we lift him up as part of the incredible tradition of Asian and Pacific Islanders who fought, toiled, lived and died to create a place for themselves and countless others in this country and state. This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrate the incalculable and diverse contributions, wisdom, language, and cultures of AAPI communities in our shared histories and future.
In the first in a pair of blog posts for AAPI Heritage Month, Western Center senior attorney Helen Tran reflects on the legacy and future of Cantonese, her first language, and explores how government policies influence both its preservation and disappearance. In the second post, Helen walks us through a bit of Cantonese history in the U.S. and its impact on landmark civil rights victories. And in exciting 2022 history in the making, Western Center senior attorney Nisha Vyas was recognized by the LA County Bar Association as an AAPI Heritage Month honoree for her advocacy rooted in the belief that everyone should have access to safe and affordable housing of their choice.
Finally, for something lighter for these heavy times, we suggest RISE: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now. “RISE is a love letter to and for Asian Americans–a vivid scrapbook of voices, emotions, and memories from an era in which Asian American culture was forged and transformed, and a way to preserve both the headlines and the intimate conversations that have shaped the community into what it is today.”
Our opposition to CARE Court, an opportunity to meet our advocates, and Black maternal health resources
Why Western Center Opposes “CARE Court”
You may have heard about Governor Newsom’s “CARE Court” proposal, billed as a way for the State of California to help people with severe mental health challenges get off the street. Western Center, alongside 40+ organizations, submitted an official opposition letter to the legislative version of the proposal and we are vocal about our many concerns, which are mentioned in The Los Angeles Times (twice), The Sacramento Bee, and this blog post by our Director of Policy Advocacy, Mike Herald. The bill, SB 1338, passed out of its first hearing this week, which means much more debate to come.
With its lack of necessary interventions like guaranteed housing, we believe the framework of the proposal is fundamentally flawed and will lead to the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities and unhoused people, and likely create a chilling effect that will prevent people from seeking services for fear of being institutionalized. Additionally, by involving the court system the proposal will perpetuate institutionalized racism and exacerbate existing disparities in health care delivery since Black, Indigenous and other people of color are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with psychotic disorders than white people. All evidence shows that adequately-resourced, intensive, voluntary outpatient treatment — not court-ordered treatment — is most effective for treating the population CARE Court seeks to serve.
For more information about the CARE Court proposal and others meant to address California’s homelessness crisis, we invite you to join Western Center policy advocate Cynthia Castillo and senior attorney Helen Tran at 12:30 pm PT on Monday, May 16th for our virtual Meet the Advocate event.
Uplifting Black Maternal Health
Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) was April 11 –17th, but one week is not nearly enough to cover such an important issue. As you may recall, last year Western Center co-sponsored California’s Momnibus bill package to reduce birth disparities that too often prove deadly for Black people in our state. This year marked the 5th anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week, which was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) to increase awareness, activism, and community building around the issue. You can watch the Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s 2022 Black Maternal Health Week national call here.
Richard Rothschild (Dick) has practiced public interest law for over four decades, and he’s picked up quite a bit of knowledge along the way. Here’s a tip Dick shared with attorneys in our network, broadened out for public use. For more of Dick’s Tips, check out parts one and two of his tips for brief writing!
People may say they really like getting feedback on their writing. The same people may also say they really like the taste of kale.
In fact, what we all actually want to hear is that our work is brilliant, and that not a single word needs to be changed. So good feedback, like kale, can taste bitter… but like kale, it’s good for you (or so they say). At least, it can be good for you if you know how to approach it. There are three steps involved:
Step 1: Arrange the feedback.
Find somebody with a reputation as a good editor. Hopefully, that will be your immediate supervisor, but even if that is not the case you probably know someone who fits that description. Tell that person that you want to improve your writing skills and are looking for honest and detailed feedback.
Make sure that once you receive the feedback, you review and engage with the edits and comments. Alerting your editor that you would like feedback is an implied promise that you will follow up once you receive it.
Step 2: Write a genuine first draft, not a “rough draft.”
Do not slap together some random thoughts and call it a first draft. Make your best arguments as well organized and worded as possible, then spend a lot of time editing the draft yourself before handing it to the editor.
That does not mean the draft has to be great or won’t need lots of editing and comments. But it does mean that it’s the best work you are able to do at the time. Editors usually know the difference and are loathe to spend more time editing than the author has apparently spent drafting.
Even with your genuine first draft, expect a lot of edits. I’ve heard knowledgeable writing professors caution that too many edits on a first draft is psychologically counter-productive. They advise editors to make a few global suggestions, followed by successive drafts in a multi-week process. Unfortunately, in the real world, particularly in legal services offices, drafts rarely arrive more than a couple days ahead of deadline. Conscientious editors often have little choice but to make substantial revisions.
Step 3: Consciously interact with the feedback.
This is the most important step and perhaps the most difficult.
Let’s say your editor is Maria. What do you do when she sends back an edited document whose primary color appears to be red? Take a deep breath, and pick your ego up off the floor. Carefully read through the comments, which are usually self-explanatory, and the edits, which often are not. For each edit, there are three acceptable internal reactions:
- “I understand the edit and why it’s an improvement.” Think of ways you can apply that knowledge. If, for example, Maria changed a sentence from passive to active voice, look for other sentences in the brief that need the same change.
- “I don’t understand the edit and will ask Maria about it.”
- “I understand the edit, but don’t agree with it and will present my case.” Perhaps knowing the substantive issues better than your editor, you might be right. As an editor, I like it when that happens, and will freely admit to the author that I was wrong. It shows that the author is thinking strategically. (Excessive smirking and end zone dances are discouraged, however).
The key is engaging with the feedback and working to improve, not just for the current piece of writing, but for future work as well. This process, and maybe some kale, will make you stronger. Your editors, and more importantly, your readers, will appreciate that.
“It is not enough to teach our young people to be successful…so they can realize their ambitions, so they can earn good livings, so they can accumulate the material things that this society bestows. Those are worthwhile goals. But it is not enough to progress as individuals while our friends and neighbors are left behind.” -Cesar Chavez
Look California in the eye with Western Center’s 2021 Annual Report
As we celebrate Cesar Chavez today, and as we wrap up Women’s History Month, we recognize and uplift the trailblazers who laid the groundwork for history being made today – like the impending confirmation of this country’s first Black woman Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and by the Dolores Huerta Foundation and its Executive Director Camila Chavez, a 2022 recipient of the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for their work “strengthening underrepresented communities by training and inspiring the next generation of leaders.” Judge Jackson stands on the shoulders of many, like Jane Bolin, Constance Baker Motley, and Julia Cooper Mack, all of whom helped set this stage for her to take, as well as community members who provide constant, often quiet support, like those mentioned at her confirmation hearings. Camila Chavez, daughter of civil rights leader Dolores Huerta with whom she co-founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and niece of Cesar Chavez, continues to build on their legacies of fierce community activism and leadership in California.
We are grateful for the people – the many women – who form the supportive backbone of our communities: workers, caregivers, and everyone whose labor is regularly undervalued but fundamentally essential. Until we bring parity to our value systems, inequity, discrimination, and poverty will continue to threaten our shared futures. In spite of the two-year health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic, California has the world’s 5th largest economy, 189 billionaires, and a steadily increasing state budget surplus. A lot of “success.” But as Chavez pointed out, it is not enough. In the midst of its success, California has not addressed the unsustainable and ever-rising cost to live here, and more people are going unhoused.
Our 2021 Annual Report highlights Western Center’s work throughout 2021, and presents portraits from photographer Gale Filter, captured through his relationships with unhoused communities in Sacramento – specifically via the organizations ShowUp Sac and Mercy Pedalers. We hope that by viewing this report, you will look at our collective responsibility to make things better for our neighbors most impacted by poverty and other systems of injustice.
Western Center’s efforts to protect people from eviction, increase pay for low wage workers, expand access to health care, and get more money into people’s pockets is in service of one quest – economic dignity for all and its direct correlation, racial justice. We will not stop until we get there. Please join the fight by getting to know and supporting our work, seeking service opportunities in your own community, and getting to know all of your neighbors.
February 20th is World Day of Social Justice — observed by the United Nations and people around the world. Since 2009, the UN has encouraged World Day of Social Justice as an opportunity to focus on social justice, draw attention to injustice, and inspire cooperative movements for change.
For many, California represents endless good weather, boundless natural beauty, and limitless opportunity unmatched by other places on Earth. But peek behind the golden curtain, and you’ll find poverty, homelessness, and other injustices that belie the golden image of the golden state. In a state with so much, it is unconscionable that there are so many Californians unable to share in that wealth.
For me, How?, Why?, and What The @!#$? come to mind.
I am proud that I joined Western Center last summer to be a part of the team that asks not only the questions above, but also works every day to answer them. Since Western Center’s founding in 1967, we’ve worked to ensure access for all Californians to justice, housing, healthcare, and financial and community stability. Our multi-pronged approach to systems change allows us to positively impact the lives of individuals while also creating change that ripples across the state.
Western Center’s litigation team trains and supports legal aid communities to help enforce laws where bad actors would ignore or take advantage. Our advocacy team advances legislation in Sacramento to build a better future for all Californians and stymie efforts that further entrench injustice and exploitation. We don’t do this work alone — we know that robust community partnership and coalitions of support are required to make the change we seek.
I invite you to join us.
You might think the most obvious thing I’m going to ask you for is a donation. And while yes, your financial support of our work is greatly appreciated and provides funding to power our mission, there are other ways I’d love for you to consider joining us as well.
Use your voice. It isn’t just lawyers or policy advocates’ voices that matter – yours does too! I encourage you to contact your elected officials in Sacramento, your county, and your local town to let them know what issues are important to you and what change you’d like to see. Make sure you’re registered to vote and vote every chance you get. Your voice matters.
World Day of Social Justice is a great opportunity to raise a hand and join the community of people and organizations fighting for change. As a donor, as a volunteer, as a social media follower – no matter how you engage, there is a space for you.
Today is a great day to reflect on how social justice resonates with you and to seek out organizations and actions that most speak to you. In addition to Western Center, I have a few suggestions for outstanding organizations you might also engage with:
- A New Way of Life Reentry Project
- First Nations Development Institute
- Black Organizing Project
- Women’s Voices for the Earth
If you’re reading this blog post, it likely means you are a supporter of Western Center and the work that we do. Thank you, today and every day, for fighting alongside us for social justice.