On February 22, 2023, California state government executives participated in a special convening to build a shared vision for a racially just California, discuss updates on racial equity team progress in the Capitol Collaborative on Race & Equity (CCORE) 1, and cultivate relationships in support of racial equity.   

The event was hosted by the Public Health Institute’s State of Equity and included representatives from the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, California’s Strategic Growth Council (SGC), Governor’s Office of Planning & Research (OPR), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), Business Consumer Services & Hosing Agency (BCSH), Health and Human Services Agency, Conservation Corps, and the Departments of Social Services, Finance, Health Care Access & Information, Parks & Recreation, and Motor Vehicles. 

Action at the State and Federal Levels 

The convening was particularly timely given two recent Executive Orders, issued separately by President Joe Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom:  

  • On February 16, 2023, President Biden issued Federal Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government, which includes requirements to establish equity-focused leadership and teams across the Federal Government, among many other actions.  
  • On September 13, 2022, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-16-22, which among other things establishes a Racial Equity Commission at the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research (OPR). Advocacy for establishing the Commission was largely driven by a coalition of racial justice and community-based organizations led by Advancement Project California, Community Coalition (CoCo), The Greenlining Institute, Public Health Advocates, NextGen California, and SEIU California. Other elements of the Executive Order address equity in state plans, policies, programs, public engagement, language access, data, workforce, procurement, infrastructure, and civil rights & anti-hate protections. 

A Growing Community of State Leaders for Racial Equity 

Over 50 California state organizations have already been building capacity for racial equity since 2018, developing institutional leadership teams, racial equity action plans, and embedding racially equitable practices through CCORE.  

At the February convening Kim McCoy Wade, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Aging, Disability, and Alzheimer’s, remarked that “the GARE [Government Alliance on Race & Equity] and CCORE work is really the laboratory or the foundation on which the State work is going to be informed.” When asked if state entities should slow or pause their work on racial equity to wait for the establishment of the Racial Equity Commission, she responded that state entities should keep moving, “Keep hustling. Keep going as a moral matter, but as a practical matter that’s how we’ll get the state part right is because you’ve proven what works and what doesn’t work.” 

Saharnaz Mirzazad, Chief Deputy Director of Policy and Planning with OPR, spoke about the organization’s vision for racial equity and preparations to host the Racial Equity Commission.  She spoke about OPR’s efforts as an organization to incorporate equity into its own policies, programs, and operations, including developing its first ever racial equity action plan, to be published Spring 2023, centered around a result that “all Californians thrive and are resilient and connected, healthy and secure, both mentally and physically, in their communities and environment.”  

Kirin Kumar, Deputy Director of Equity and Government Transformation at the SGC, moderated a conversation with CalEPA Secretary Yana Garcia and BCSH Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez about their insights and vision for racial equity. Secretary Garcia named the imperative that “we advocate for benefits, for those who live at the intersection of pollution and prejudice, pollution and poverty, pollution and racism.” Garcia also described how support from Secretary Castro Ramírez has been impactful with her leadership and reflected that it makes all the difference to be in community with supportive peers for racial equity in state service. Deputy Director Kumar reflected that Secretary Garcia’s remarks exemplify the importance of building a community of practice and action around embedding racial equity in governance to support leadership on racial equity at all levels.  

Secretary Castro Ramírez shared that BCSH is “drawing attention to the values that guide the work that we do, and we’ve been very clear that racial equity is fundamental to the work that we do to improve the quality of life for Californians” and reflected that “it’s fundamental to understand that systemic and institutionalized racism has created an uneven playing field for Black, Indigenous, and people of color” and that leaders must have conversations about how this is addressed in their work. Castro Ramírez also remarked that participation in CCORE is both an investment in participants as individuals, and also an investment in organizational capacity and driving towards a more equitable California.  

One of State of Equity’s key organizational values is collective care, recognizing that racial justice will only happen in an environment that supports healing and relationships. To center this value, the convening also included small group conversations connecting participants to each other, to share how they are bringing care into their leadership for racial equity – care for themselves, their teams, and the communities they are in partnership with. 

Looking to the Future 

Keep an eye out for further developments from CCORE and California’s Racial Equity Commission. Per Governor Newsom’s Executive Order, the Racial Equity Commission will partner with stakeholders to develop a statewide Racial Equity Framework by April 1, 2025, including methodologies and tools to advance racial equity and address structural racism, budget practices, data processes, and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders. The Commission is also charged with preparing “an annual report that summarizes feedback from public engagement with communities of color, provides data on racial inequities and disparities in the State, and recommends best practices on tools, methodologies, and opportunities to advance racial equity.”  

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  1. State of Equity collaborates with the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) to co-host CCORE. Program partners include O&G Racial Equity Collaborative and the Government Alliance on Race & Equity. Philanthropic partners include The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, and the Blue Shield of California Foundation.