The Hookah Hypocrisy… STOP SB793

Right now, the California State Assembly is considering a ban on flavored tobacco products to keep kids from smoking. We can all agree that banning flavors like “cotton candy” and “bubble gum” make a lot of sense. Sweet, fruity flavors are intended to do one thing and one thing only—hook kids on tobacco. But, that’s not true with all flavors. Take menthol, for example. Kids aren’t being seduced into smoking or vaping because of the flavor menthol. They don’t even know what that word means. But, 88% of Black adults who smoke, prefer menthol flavored tobacco products. So banning that flavor doesn’t stop kids from smoking, it could turn Black smokers, law-abiding adult Californians into criminals. It’s clear that a menthol ban would unfairly target California’s Black community and should be exempted from any proposed ban.

Tell speaker Anthony Rendon to STOP SB793:

Banning menthol is especially outrageous when you consider that the State of California recently exempted hookah bars and retailers from their flavor ban to avoid upsetting the Armenian community. Originally, the state bill aimed to curtail teen tobacco use by banning all flavored products, including hookah. However, after widespread outrage in the Armenian community and considerable pushback from a coalition of local businesses called the ‘Hookah Chamber’, the legislature granted an exemption. They successfully argued that banning hookah flavor would unfairly target a specific ethnic group, undercut a longstanding tradition and criminalize respectable, law-abiding businesses.

This exact argument can be applied to adult Black menthol smokers. Why is one racial group receiving preferential treatment over another? Why aren’t Black people receiving the same privileges as Armenians? While we all support measures to reduce vaping and smoking among young people, studies prove that menthol is not one of the flavors that “hook” kids. Moreover, anyone under the age of 21 is already banned from purchasing any tobacco products. Prohibiting menthol is a racially discriminatory public policy and will lead to racial profiling amongst other things.

We stand with members of the civil rights, faith, social justice, and law enforcement community in saying that menthol should be removed from S.B. 793 and a diverse working group must be created to answer all questions posed regarding impact.

We need to focus our attention on EDUCATION AND PREVENTION, NOT A HOOKAH EXEMPTION. 

Tell speaker Anthony Rendon to STOP SB793:

Focus on What Matters: Homelessness in California is on the rise

It is time to focus on the bigger issues that are currently at hand in California. During this global pandemic and one of the biggest protest movements against racial injustice, elected officials need to do their part to address issues that are directly impacting their constituents currently: homelessness.

In California, 72 percent of people experiencing homelessness are unsheltered, which is the highest share of unsheltered homelessness of any state. How did it get to this point? Homelessness in California has increased more than 22 percent over the last decade and is looking to increase by over 16 percent. These are predictions made before the global pandemic took place. Now due to employment challenges and people not being able to pay rent, Californians may be looking at eviction, which could increase the population of homeless California residents. While eviction has been halted ordered by the governor, what will happen when that expires? We need to make sure that Californians will be able to live and address these issues now before they become a bigger problem that is not easily controlled.

Homelessness also affects populations of color disproportionally to their white counterparts. Black people are experiencing overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, housing segregation, and employment discrimination, which has led to their disproportionate representation in the homeless population.

However, our elected officials are too busy focusing on S.B. 793 which bans flavored tobacco, or A.B. 2074’s mandate over the definition of California olive oil. The main priority should be providing aid to Californians who are currently homeless and those that may become homeless as evictions will be on the rise once the state lifts the moratorium.

It’s time to focus on how we can get our neighborhoods, city, and state moving forward, and on becoming productive on issues that directly affect Californians and hold our elected officials accountable.

Join the movement. Be the change.

Moving forward in the era of Covid-19: The pursuit of fair and equitable Criminal Justice Policy

Neighborhood Forward is hosting faith leaders and civil rights activists from Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago for a discussion about the challenges facing Black and Brown communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Discussion will focus on recently introduced policy and the unintended consequences associated with it, specifically California Senate Bill 793.


  • Hon. Congressman Kendrick Meek, (FL-17) *Moderator
  • Dr. Amos Brown, Pastor, Third Baptist Church of San Francisco
  • Dr. Jody Armour, Professor of Law, University of Southern California *Invited guest
  • Elder, Joe Paul, City of Refuge UCC
  • Rev. K.W. Tulloss, Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church, President of Baptist Ministers Conference Southern California, and Co-Founder of Neighborhood Forward
  • Rev. William Smart, President and CEO, Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California
  • Rev. Walter Amir Jones, Executive Director, Westside Community Stakeholders
  • Lt. Corey Pegues, NYPD (Retired)
  • Gio Galarza, Executive Director, I Love Homeless LA
  • Thea Williams, President, L.A. Black Pride
  • Roz Renfro, Vice President, L.A. Black Pride


The pace of change in the United States has reached levels that are nearly unprecedented. While the visibility around issues related to social, economic, and political justice has been steadily expanding over the past several years, recent events in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the country have transformed the viewpoints of millions of Americans. In many respects, this trend has already begun to reshape mainstream values in significant ways as corporations, governmental agencies, and elected officials reconsider long-held practices that have produced discriminatory outcomes.

Join Black and Brown leaders from across the country for a conversation discussing the pursuit of fair and equitable criminal justice policy and more.

Media is invited to cover the event. Interviews can be arranged with panelists ahead of or following the event. Questions for the Q&A portion of the discussion can be sent to

Vote “NO” on SB 793

Tell Your Assembly member to VOTE NO on SB 793.

Neighborhood Forward is concerned with California Senate Bill 793, the proposed legislation to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. In the course of the debate, many pressing and critical issues have been raised concerning both the public health, as well as the criminal justice implications of a ban on cigarettes whose major consumers are people of color.

Although we have taken a different position concerning this legislation than others, we all share the same belief that we can have a robust and productive debate that prioritizes both the public health, as well as the criminal justice concerns. Our collective primary interests are protect the public and communities of color, specifically, from both corporate, as well as law enforcement abuses.

To that end we are requesting that any proposed ban on menthol cigarettes be withdrawn at this time and a working group convened, with the set mission to offer recommendations for new legislation. That working group must take into account all of our collective concerns and address the need for greater public health protections that do not compromise our constitutional and civil rights.

It is unjust to expect communities of color to choose between greater public health protections and basic civil rights. We do not accept the premise that we must choose between the two, that these interests are mutually exclusive nor that this debate is zero sum. A working group consisting of social justice and law enforcement along with other organizations is the best solution available to bridge the current divides.



To find your local district representative, click HERE.


Let us be your voice. Sign the petition to stop SB 793

….Trust Black Voices…We know…

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has come the rise of the white ally. While the fight for racial justice needs all the supporters it can get, this mass wave of freshly radicalized activists doesn’t come without its share of issues. They mean well, but what many don’t realize is that trying so hard not to be racist can actually lead directly to you being racist, or, at a minimum, may make you a barrier to progress.

The issue lies in paternalism, or when those in power make decisions that are allegedly in the best interest of those who don’t look like them, live next to them, share a degree from their Ivy League alma mater… you get the idea.

Take, for example, San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s recent interview in Vogue magazine. Mayor Breed has been in the crosshairs of progressive “allies” who view her stance on defunding the police as too reserved. Mayor Breed’s thoughts on paternalistic allies co-opting the movement reflect the feelings of many Black activists.

“I have a real problem with the takeover of the movement by white people. I want people to respect the opinions and feelings of Black people and allow us to decide what is in our best interest. I talk about the plan to reduce the police budget and reallocate those resources to the African American community, and a large number of non-Blacks reached out to tell me what I should do for the Black community. Then, they say what their community deserves because of their challenges as well. That really bothered me. The Black community [of San Francisco] is capable of speaking for ourselves and deciding what’s in our best interest.”

Are we not capable of deciding what’s offensive to us? Why do others get to decide what’s best for us? And why don’t they listen when we tell them? Have some allies not learned from the rallying cry “trust Black women”?

So, if you want to be “ally,” stop trying to steer the movement. Let Black people decide what is best for them. Sit back and listen. Unpack why you believe that we are not capable of making our own decisions. Sit with that for a while.

Your job as an ally is to use your privilege to uplift the movement, not direct it. Only by dispelling the savior complex that lives inside of you and trusting Black people to provide their own solutions can anti-racist work truly begin.

Join the movement. Be the change.

Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Elijah McClain. Atatiana Jefferson. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

These names only just begin to cover the countless Black men and women murdered across the United States over the past decade. Until change is made, this list will continue to grow.

For too long we’ve sat at dining room tables across America debating race, religion, and politics. We’ve sat together with friends and family discussing how to make our communities better, but we’ve been “uncomfortable” taking the first step.

For most, it wasn’t until they watched the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, read about the no-knock warrant that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, and listened to the countless stories of racial injustice told by Black friends, neighbors, and acquaintances across this country that they accepted that institutional and systematic racism was real.

This is where we are as a country. We realize the problem; now it’s time for us to come together to lead, change, and take comfort in being uncomfortable.

Neighborhood Forward is a collective of concerned citizens, faith leaders, civil rights activists, elected officials, business partners, and non-profit organizations from across the country who have come together to advocate for real and lasting policy change. We are dedicated to action at the grassroots level, one neighborhood at a time.

Join the movement. Be the change.

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