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Hardy L. Brown

Freedom Is Not Free But Worth Fighting For Every Day

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My wife took me to see the movie Selma this weekend and it stirred up vivid memories of my life during the fifties, sixties and seventies. During the fifties I was in my hometown of Trenton, North Carolina under Jim Crow laws of legal segregation.

When you grow up in that kind of society, you realize the color of your skin is the only thing that prevents you from socializing with others of a different color which makes no sense at all. Television was new and you could see what other people were doing in other parts of the country and after listening to relatives that come home from up north you know that life could be different.

So I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and leave as soon as possible. As they say “catch the first thing smoking”.

As I watched the movie and the scene where the four girls are talking to each other as they walked down the stairs at church and the bomb goes off, it jarred me much like it did the day I heard the news. My emotions went from sad, then angry, and I said to myself there is still much work to do.

As the movie went on I realized again that freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday of your life. I witnessed the marches of the sixties and recalled voting for President Lyndon B. Johnson and listening to his “we shall overcome” speech to Congress and the country. I could not believe he was saying what I heard him say but it was true. Johnson was pushing the Voting Rights Act and wanted Congress to pass the bill. Congress did pass the bill and now today some in the Republican Party want to revisit that law and take that right away if you can not meet certain requirements such as proper identification.

Again I said, there is much work to be done and freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday. I am glad I went to see the movie because I always wondered why it took three tries to walk across the Pettus Bridge in 1965. My wife had the good fortune of walking across it when she went on a southern Underground Railroad tour in Alabama.

After the movie a young lady who recognized me remarked, “we have a lot of work to do” to which I replied, “yes the fight continues.”

In the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 6 it reminds us that the older generation has a responsibility to impress upon the younger generation our history of how we got over. If we do not tell them of our struggles and tribulations then they will not know how to negotiate, demonstrate, and resist when it comes to fighting unjust laws.

For example, in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, Blacks make up seventy percent of the city and yet they feel unrepresented in the government. They have not been told how to exercise their voting power to elect people who will make laws that represent their interest. The police force has only three Blacks on staff and Blacks pay over 95 percent of all traffic violations in the city. Somebody forgot to tell them the history of how to use their power at the ballot box to correct that issue.

Because the young Black voters decided not to vote in high numbers last year, this action might result in some voting rights that we fought for 50 years ago being changed. If that happens the numbers and diversity of elected officials in Washington and some states will also change. That will mean fewer people of color and women will be appointed to the courts with your interest in public policy.

So we must continue the fight because freedom is not free and because if we don’t it can be taken away.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Racial Conversations Dominated the News as 2014 Came to a Close

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New York Mayor Bill De Blaiso is married to an African American woman, Chirlane McCrary, and together they have two children Chiara and Dante. After the recent killing of Eric Garner by some New York Police officers, some citizens of New York held peaceful protest in the streets and downtown even in Macy’s Department Store to draw attention to brutality by police toward citizens of color especially Blacks.

At one of the mayor’s press conferences, he spoke of his conversation that as a parent he has had with his son about how to act during any encounter with a police officer. I thought nothing of his story other than as the father of a Black male he understands the history of racism in this country and wants his son to come home alive if confronted by a police officer who has preconceived impressions of African Americans. I had that same conversation with my son and grandsons.

That innocent statement has some police officers in New York thinking the mayor is siding with the protesters and not them. Mind you the protesters are taxpayers and voters with every right to protest and ask for accountability by their public police force. And the police have every right to not like the mayor for making his personal experience known in public.

And just recently, we had the media broadcast to society their discriminatory view during the airing of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Miss Crown City Queen Joan Williams was stripped of her crown and pulled from the city’s Rose Parade Float in 1958 when city government learned that Ms. Williams was a light skinned African American. In order to correct this horrible and very ugly embarrassment to the Rose Bowl Parade history and the city of Pasadena, the Tournament of Roses parade committee decided to honor Ms. Williams by having her ride in this year’s parade only to have her snubbed by the television commentators as though she was not there. The officials of the Rose Parade did provide all of the news media outlets with the information and history of why Williams was deserving of this honor but the commentators ignored her and the float she was riding.

Many print media outlets cited that Williams was again snubbed because of race.

It is a disgrace that we have a society which allows some of our citizens to dictate their discriminatory views on the rest of us. In the situation of New York the police are paid from public dollars, of which Blacks do pay taxes, and are sworn to protect and serve all citizens equally and fairly under public laws. The mayor was elected to serve all of the people and oversees a hired staff to assist him or her in doing the job.

Just like the citizens and police who have inalienable rights to protest, the mayor has that same right and parental obligation to educate his son on the obstacles that will confront him in the pursuit of life’s happiness and one of those obstacles is racism by some people in America including those in blue uniforms with badges. Just like all police families want their loved ones to return home alive so does Mayor Bill De Blasio. Every person I have seen on television and those I’ve met in person locally who has lost someone from such incidents shed tears of pain and hopes it does not happen to anyone else.

In the case of Joan Williams it is another example of how deeply embedded racism is entrenched in our culture and society. Many people just go about their daily lives without understanding what people of color go through just to return home safely and prepare for the next day.

My questions to all of us, what makes a drop of blood from a Black human being so powerful? What makes a darker complexion that hated and feared?

Let all of us recommit to making America a better country in 2015.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

There's Still Work to do in Correcting Our Justice System

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We did not create the current justice system nor was it seeking justice for Blacks, women, or the poor in this country at the time it became the law of the land. It was built on biases and stereotypes that are culturally tied to those in charge with discretion that many of us do not understand until we are caught up in it.

Many were surprised by the actions of the county prosecutor and how he used the Grand Jury to present the case for police officer Darren Wilson instead of the victim Michael Brown the young Black teenager. However many in the Black community knew the outcome before the jury rendered its verdict.

The local NAACP is taking a long march from the place of the killing to the state capitol in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of police officers killing unarmed Black citizens in America. They are also hoping to get a law enacted for police to wear body cameras when interacting with the public.

While this would be nice, I remember Mayor Tom Bradley saying, “I know what I saw” when talking about the police beating of Rodney King on video after a jury acquitted the officers using the video. People see what they want to see and ignore facts because they know the majority of the public will not be impacted by their decisions. We are going to have to remove this automatic legal protection of police officers that we have established in America. More cases must be brought to public trial in order to establish any kind of trust in our community and police must prove themselves trustworthy of our respect.

Now Ferguson’s city government is attempting to correct some of the obvious things that have come out into the national spotlight. How does a city where 70% of the population is African American have only one serving on the city council and three Black police officers?

They have accepted the resignation of Officer Wilson while implementing a plan to increase the diversity of the police force by offering financial incentives for officers to live in the city and organizing a police cadet program in schools.

There are many cities like Ferguson all over America and some right here in the Inland Empire. For example, San Bernardino has only 22 Blacks and 62 Hispanics on the force and 18 who live in the city out of a staff of over 200 officers.

On the fire department, there are only four firefighters living in the city with six Blacks and 19 Hispanics on a staff of 120, where Whites make up less than 25% of the population.

Currently there are two Latinos and one African American on the San Bernardino City Council. I say currently because there was a time there were no Blacks or Latinos represented on the city council and a time when only two Blacks served at the same time. Voters must keep this in mind and seek good people to run for office while having a city charter that gives those elected the authority to manage once elected.

To all elected officials, the time to act is before a crisis or like I say in the newspaper business “make friends before you need them.” You never know when a Ferguson issue might happen in your community.

And remember many Black and Latino citizens do not view the justice system as their friend or being there for them. We have a lot of work to do to change that perception.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Remembering Those Who Died And Why

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This past Monday we took time to pay tribute to our fellow Americans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our allies around the world. What began as a day to honor those killed in the American Civil War has now included all wars and conflicts about freedom on our behalf.

At first we just visited the grave sites and laid flowers and offered a prayer on their behalf but now we hold ceremonies with fancy programs while many take to beaches and family gatherings in their backyards.

However you celebrate, I hope you took the time to really thank these men and women who served our country and obligated yourself to live up to one of the things they died for and that is the right to vote. There are countries around the world engaged in violent conflicts over the right to vote while here at home we have people trying to deny and suppress that right. And if they have their way many living relatives of those who died for the right to vote will be denied that right in America.

Even in some cases those who were injured and have disabilities will be denied that right because of their present living condition of homelessness. Not having a place to call home and proper identification is part of some states’ proposals to deny this constitutional right they died for.

It is hurtful, shameful, and embarrassing to our nation that today, some veterans have died because some people we pay to provide health care services to veterans did not give them a timely appointment to be treated. Things like this must not happen and we, the living, must rededicate our lives to right these wrongs for those who died.

Let us begin by looking to the next election and re-engage ourselves by voting. Twenty to thirty percent of our citizens voting is not a good enough tribute to show them that we appreciate what they did on our behalf.

This thing called freedom begins with the ballot box and by you electing people you think will honor those who died and will fight for the rights of those living.

What's in the Water Donald Sterling, Cliven Bundy, and some Congress members are Drinking?

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Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has opened up another Pandora’s box of blatant racism when a recorded statement: “don’t bring Blacks to the ball game, you can sleep with them, hang with them but just don’t do it in public,” was released to TMZ.

On tape, Sterling told his then girlfriend that he did not want her posting pictures of her with Black people such as Magic Johnson or bringing them to his ball games. He also went on to say that he gives his players food, cars, houses, and other things as though they do not work for their salary they earn as professional athletes.

This really reminded me of the slave master mentality of owning people without compensating them for their labor - picking cotton, tobacco, cutting sugar cane, harvesting bananas, lettuce, strawberries or picking grapes. In other words, be grateful to me for allowing you the privilege of working for me.

Sterling has a history of discrimination going back to 2006 when the U.S. Department of Justice settled a case against him for $2.7 million for housing discrimination against Asians, Latinos and African Americans. In the suit, it is alleged that Sterling said Hispanics smoke, drink too much, and hang out around the property while Blacks smell and attract vermin. In other words, he compares Blacks to dogs and other animals that attract fleas, bed bugs, and other nuisance insects that are hard to get rid of.

The great Elgin Baylor sued Sterling for employment discrimination back in 2009 when he worked as the General Manager for the Clippers, and Sterling told him to sign up poor Blacks boys from the south and pay them low salaries and get a White coach.

Sterling reminds me of the slave master that had slaves as property, worked them from sun up to sun down then would rape their females at night. This is what he was telling his racially mixed girlfriend when he told her to do what you like but do not bring attention to what I like in YOU people.

The reason I mention the water is because some members of congress are behaving in the same way when it comes to their actions toward the nations first African American president, Barack Obama. Even when Obama presents some solutions to problems that they once supported when the president was White, they now reject them. They call him a liar during the State of the Union address, which had never been done before. A total disrespect and disregard for the nation’s highest office.

Then I thought perhaps there is some water-borne racism virus the CDC hasn’t told us about, when I heard the recent comments by the “rebel” Nevada rancher Cliven “Clyde” Bundy who very publicly and unapologetically asked “Were ‘Negroes” better off as slaves?” To which he believes the answer is yes.

We now know that Donald Sterling has admitted to making the racist statements and shows no remorse in saying what he said. To him it is about money and using people to make it by any means. I am happy to see the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver take such a strong stance against Sterling and address the issue as a national one that is greater than basketball.

I also want to commend Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento for accepting the challenge to be the spokesperson for the NBA players on this issue. And Coach Doc Rivers for his leadership in helping to keep the young players focused on their job while addressing the issue.

It is equally important that the elected leaders of the city of Los Angeles weigh in on the matter and they should. When you think of the tax breaks these owners get from taxpayers to have a team play in their city, it is an issue that should be of concern to all citizens. It is great to see corporate advertisers say we cannot be a part of this. Like Mayor Johnson said, “let this be warning to other bigots in America, if Donald Sterling can fall, so can you.”

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