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Creating fair district lines is a critical tool our communities have to reclaim their voting power. For many communities of color throughout the nation, historical gerrymandering allows their elected representatives to choose their voters in their district, rather than allowing the voters to elect their representatives in fair and lawful elections. This practice of gerrymandering has disenfranchised underrepresented communities and diluted their voting power. Our communities are standing up and demanding that county officials adhere to the process as outlined in the Federal Fair Maps Act. Community leaders like Tammy Tyler refuse to be shut out of the process and are working to make sure that the voice of her community is not only heard, but that their involvement leads to concrete changes. For Tammy, redrawing the district lines is personal. “A lot is at stake for the community of California City, California,” Tammy states, “The system has failed the black and brown communities for so long that we have lost faith and it made us believe that we have lost power.” Tammy says that all changed when she met DHF Organizer Carol Watkins. It was then that she “woke up” and took her power back empowered with tools and knowledge she gained through a series of educational redistricting workshops. According to Tammy, “We don’t even have a hospital here. Our roads are bumpy when the ones in the white neighborhoods are nice and smooth.” She understands the lack of resources and funding for communities of color is rooted in racist practices that our communities work to dismantle.
California City is not alone. The DHF plans to continue addressing redistricting issues in the Central & Antelope Valleys in partnership with community leaders and other organizations that make up the Equitable Maps Coalition (EMC). Using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, DHF is working to create maps that display newly proposed boundaries. GIS mapping makes the data visible and easier to comprehend the social inequities in Central Valley communities. With your support, DHF has been able to mobilize folks in the Central Valley and support leaders like Rubi Colmenares, one of many community members who have collectively submitted hours of comments and feedback at board of supervisor meetings. Rubi shared, “I felt good, because I had the opportunity to express what I had in mind and I was being heard.” “It was so beautiful to hear from every community in Kern to come to a universal agreement, especially in the most misrepresented and underserved communities,” said Gabriela Fernandez, DHF Youth Program Manager.
DHF has faced strong opposition in Fresno and Tulare as in Kern County, and the fight for equitable representation is just starting. Each area has gained a tremendous amount of support for the EMC maps. Over 1,200 people signed petitions in agreement that these maps presented the best options for fair representation. Vecinos Unidos® member, Mirna Elvir says, “It was a very important moment for me being able to express myself to the people who have power to resolve the different problems that communities have, especially the community of Lamont.”On December 4, 2021 DHF joined forces with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 521, Central California Coalition for Equitable Redistricting (CCCER), Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE) Central Valley Leadership Round Table (CVLRT), Cultiva de Salud, Central Valley Progressive PAC, Central Labor Council (CLC), Communities for a New California (CNC), Strength Based Community Change (SBCC) and Central Valley Partnership to lead a “Redistricting March for Our Future” in Fresno, California. Hundreds of supporters took to the streets to urge Redistricting Commissions to adhere to the redistricting criteria and ensure that community voices are heard. We marched in solidarity to demand fair maps, improved public services, and more COVID rescue funds for our Central Valley communities. Join us in DEMANDING redistricting commissions to adopt an equitable map at assembly, senate and congressional levels. Demand that your elected representatives know where you are located and what is important to you and those in your community by giving public comments at your local redistricting hearings. For more information, please contact Eliana at firstname.lastname@example.org or Californians may visit www.wedrawthelinesca.org