Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

A note to Jakada Imani and Vien Truong: 

This forum does not permit me to adequately address all of the “Monday morning quarterbacking” analysis that we have all been doing around Prop 29.  From your Op-Ed piece it seems that you both understood the issues and what was at stake for our communities but your assessment of why Prop 29 did not do better at the polls is inaccurate.

You can fault the Yes on 29 Campaign for being under-financed and running on a shoestring budget especially with what Big Tobacco spent.   But “our” Yes on 29 Campaign was not color blind and we did have common sense, we just didn’t have enough money.  As Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council I can tell you that our organization worked tirelessly along with countless others from priority population communities.  We were a real counter force against the industry’s historical co-opting of our leadership groups.  We coordinated with the American Cancer Society and the other Prop 29 sponsors.  We particularly applaud the efforts of the American Cancer Society at working to include our voices.  We did webinars, media outreach, op-ed pieces, press conferences, and protests, though obviously not enough because you don’t seem to be aware of any of it. It is truly heart-breaking to come this close, and one always thinks about what extra effort could have been squeezed out to gain those few deciding votes but let me tell you, we all worked hard!  Let’s not turn on each other as Big Tobacco would have us do.

While Big Tobacco was apparently successful at confusing California voters with their lies and deceptions we ask, where was the Los Angeles Times who opposed Prop 29, we ask where were our African American elected officials whose job it is to defend their constituents from predators, where was their LEADERSHIP on this issue?  We ask you Jakada and Vien, “what did your organizations do to help assure its passage??”  You obviously understand the political process and what is needed.  While the campaign you ran for Prop 23 sounds like it had some financing behind, did you access the relationships you forged and use it for Prop 29?  You didn’t need an invitation to get in this dog fight.  While ACS, Heart, Lung, and others did the heavy lifting in getting Prop 29 on the ballot, these issues belong to all of us and it was ours to fight for, with whatever resources and leverage we have.  Where is your communal “ownership” around fighting the industry responsible for so much death and destruction in our communities?  Our council fights for parity, justice, inclusion, and yes funding but we also show up and fight the fight, sometimes with folks who are supposed to be our allies. We all have our “issues and areas of concern” but everyone who works in our communities must understand that for every Oscar Grant there are 5-6 parents and grand-parents that die from tobacco related diseases.  The tobacco industry is a predator and a plague on our communities.  Their tentacles run deep and we only see the surface of their manipulations.  We must all fight them on all fronts.  We are still praying about Prop 29 but regardless of the outcome the fight goes on and I just made two new friends, I will be in touch.

With love and respect for the work you do, Carol.

Carol McGruder,

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