Former legislator Gwen Moore remembered as pioneer

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By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Gwen A. Moore, the late state legislator who died last August, was honored March 30 by the Black Business Association during its annual salute to Black women.

The event, “A Special Tribute to The (Late) Honorable Gwen A. Moore,” was hosted by Gwendolyn A. Goodman, public relations director of the Black Women’s Network.

The ceremony for Moore, a former chairperson of the Black Business Association, was held in recognition of National Women’s History Month.

Due to COVID-19, the theme of the event, carried over from 2020, was “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced”; which continued the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage through Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day.

That day is celebrated in the United States to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment) to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote for the first time.

In light of the continuing celebration and recognition of women who played a significant role in women’s rights, association President and CEO Earl “Skip” Cooper presented Moore with the lifetime, honorary chairperson of the Black Business Association.

“Gwen has done so much, not only for the Black Business Association but for the NAACP and other organizations in terms of inspiring Black women, women of all ages, men, Black men, Black women, Black girls, Black boys to vote,” Cooper said. “We feel it’s very, very important to give this special honor to Gwen Moore today.

“The Black woman has always been so important to the Black vote and voting community because the Black woman has been the foundation of the Black community.”

Moore, who Cooper said “was always about the empowerment of Black women,” was first elected to the state Legislature in 1978 and served for 16 years.

While in the Assembly, Moore introduced more than 400 bills that were signed into law. She not only served as majority whip of the Assembly, she was also a member of several powerful committees, including the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.

 Moore was best known as the architect and political force behind California General Order 156, a state supplier diversity program that reinforced and steadied a number of California Black-owned, women-owned and other minority-owned small businesses by helping them secure lucrative state contracts.

In 1994, Moore resigned from the Assembly to run for secretary of state. Although she lost, Moore pursued other opportunities outside of elected office that influenced state policy.

The founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based GeM Communications Group, Moore was a sought-after consultant and confidante.

During the evening, she was remembered by a number of current and former California politicians and civic leaders.

Former U.S. Rep. Diane Watson called Moore her “best friend.”

“We ran together,” Watson said. “She was one of those kinds of people who gained her knowledge by going amongst the people. She had the knowledge that it took to become a lawmaker.

“She knew the language of business. We would talk almost every day. You have taught me so much. Like she would say, ‘the more you know, the higher you go.’”

Also honoring Moore was U.S. Rep. Karen Bass.

“I think it is perfect to honor National Women’s History Month with a salute to someone who was a joyful mentor to me,” Bass said. “She actually was one of my first employers years before she ever thought of running for office. I was her secretary. She represented the 47th District and I ran in the 47th District. “Throughout the time that I worked for her, many years after, and especially after I became an elected official, she was always a mentor to me. What I miss to this day is her laugh,” Bass added. “She would look at me and she would call me kid and then she would give that unforgettable laugh. Her presence is so missed, but her leadership and all the people that she mentored and raised, the next generation of elected officials, will carry on in her name and in her honor.”

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee called Moore “a leader who refused to be silent.”

“California is forever changed by the extraordinary leadership of Gwen Moore,” Lee said. “She fought to make sure we had a seat at the table. Gwen was a true public servant, representing her Los Angeles district with compassion for her constituents.

“She was a mentor who taught me the ropes. She kept all my secrets. I love Gwen dearly. In spirit, she will continue to lead us in the continuing fight for equitable opportunities in California.”

 Assemblywoman Autumn Burke remembered Moore as “a trailblazer who helped pave the way for Black women like me.”

State Sen. Steve Bradford said he was “honored to call her a friend, a mentor and to carry on in her legacy.”

“We owe a debt and gratitude,” he said.

“It’s important that we remember her and say to her, my dear friend, rest in peace. So long, Gwen,” said Rep. Maxine Waters.

“Gwendolyn Moore, what an incredible person,” said former California Assembly Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. “The state of California is now much better off because this person came along in the late 70s and became a part of the political policy-making process in the 80s, pioneering in an area that African Americans had never, ever been involved in and that is the whole business of public policy on energy and utility regulation issues.

“She became a pioneer for African Americans in an area that African Americans had never ever dreamt of being a part of. Gwen, you done good.”

Former L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, said Moore “was always a leader.”

“She was always someone who was reaching out to make it better for African American women,” Burke said. “She was always bringing us together. She was highly thought of. She was concerned that she could provide mentorship to those who were coming along.”

Moore served on numerous boards including the California Small Business Association, the California State Bar Board of Trustees, and the national board of the NAACP.

She also was first vice president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, vice chair of the California Utility Diversity Council, and chairwoman of the California Black Business Association, the oldest active ethnic business support organization in California.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.

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