S. E. Williams | BVN Executive Editor

Governor Gavin Newsom has tapped Assemblymember, Dr. Shirley Weber to serve as California’s Secretary of State—the first Black woman in the state’s history to hold this position.

2020 proved to be a year of social justice trials and coronavirus tribulations forcing leaders across California and the nation to find their moral centers.

While many faltered in this quest, Black women once again stepped up and unapologetically pointed a way forward with courage, leadership, and determination; all the while, leaning on wisdom that has sustained a people for more than 400 years and kept the Democrat party relevant during times of moral crisis like these.

Here in California among those most central to championing the causes of social justice and economic equity stood Dr. Shirley Weber, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, who represents the state’s 79th Assembly District in San Diego and serves as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee.

When news of Weber’s imminent appointment to be the first Black woman in California to serve as Secretary of State, it was met with high praise. Advocates celebrate Weber as a champion who has proven her political acumen and leadership ability and established herself as a strong voice for all constituents especially Blacks and the underserved.

Newsom referred to Weber as a fearless advocate with unimpeachable integrity and moral clarity while stressing there was no one better suited for the job of Secretary of State. “With her,” Newsom advised, “California will continue to be a model for the nation in expanding democratic participation and access to the ballot box.”

Weber steps into the role being vacated by Alex Padilla just named by the governor to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Vice-President elect Kamala Harris. Padilla makes history as the first Latino from California to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Commenting on Dr. Weber as his replacement as Secretary of State Padilla stated,  “I know she’ll bring experience and a commitment to protecting voting rights and expanding access to the ballot.” Adding, “Congratulations, Dr. Weber. Thank you for continuing the work to make California a beacon for democracy.”

Weber’s focused and steady stewardship of the California Legislative Black Caucus is evidence of this commitment. As its chair, she was instrumental in prioritizing, supporting and/or amending legislation aimed at improving the quality of life for Californians. Many of those efforts resulted in the successful passage and signing into law of meaningful pieces of legislation conducive to progressive changes desired by constituents in 2020 including:

AB 3121 calling for the establishment of a task force to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.

AB 1460 requiring the California State University system to have an ethnic studies graduation requirement.

AB 1950 amending the California State Penal Code to limit probation to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses.

AB 1185 strengthening  existing citizen Sheriff oversight bodies and helping  increase transparency and accountability.

AB 1196 ending the use of this practice by law enforcement in California.

AB 1506 ending use of the carotid chokehold as practiced by law enforcement in California.

SB 203 requiring a youth under the age of 18 to consult with legal counsel prior to waiving their constitutional rights and before police begin interrogating.

AB 846 Updated existing mental and emotional health screening materials for peace officers to include an evaluation for explicit and implicit bias against race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability, and sexual orientation.

AB 979 requiring each publicly held corporation headquartered in California to have at least one director from an underrepresented community by the close of 2021.

Acknowledging Dr. Weber’s reputation as a tireless advocate and change agent Newsom stressed, “Now, she’ll be at the helm of California’s elections as the next Secretary of State, defending and expanding the right to vote and serving as the first African American to be California’s Chief Elections Officer.”

Weber’s reputation as a strong advocate and successful change agent preceded her tenure in the State Assembly. Before her election in 2012, she served more than 40 years as a professor at California State University, San Diego, and as president of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Throughout her time as an Assemblymember her legislative agenda remained focused on K-12 and higher education curriculum, public safety, student financial aid, small business procurement and juvenile justice youth assistance programs.

Commenting on Weber’s appointment to Secretary of State, Anthony Rendon noted, “I was in the same incoming Assembly class as Shirley and have nothing but respect for her passion for justice.”

Senator Toni Atkins commented, “Congratulations to my friend and fellow San Diegan on her historic appointment as California’s Secretary of State. I know Secretary Weber will fight to protect our vital right to vote and help ensure the workings of state government are visible and accessible to all.”

A strong and proven leader, Weber’s supporters are confident she will bring the same passion and commitment to her new role.  

“I am excited to be nominated for this historic appointment as the Secretary of State of California.” Dr. Weber stated. “Being the first African American woman in this position will be a monumental responsibility, but I know that I am up for the challenge. Expanding voting rights has been one of the causes of my career and will continue to motivate me as I assume my new constitutional duties.”

S. E. Williams is executive editor of IE Voice and Black Voice News.