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Hardy L. Brown

Edison: African American Employees Connecting The Dots Of History

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The public watches with envy as the performers of film and television, and other entertainers walk the red carpet during various award ceremonies in Hollywood. They now even have a television show called “On The Red Carpet.” Well this past Friday I was treated and felt like a star as the African American employees of Southern California Edison welcomed me to their annual Black History program in Irwindale. When my car pulled up outside of the huge white tent, where 500 people had gathered, Edison employees ran up to the van to help me out and escort me inside. Now the carpet was not red but black which was appropriate for this celebration (if you know what I mean). They moved people out of the way so I could pass until they sat me on the front row. Different employees who noticed I was there came up to say hello but due to the program being emceed by Chris Schauble of Channel 4 KNBC and Michaela Pereira of Channel 5 KTLA they had to whisper.

We, the Brown family, were there to receive one of three community awards given by the employees in celebrating “ The Evolution of Electricity to Black History by Embracing the Past to Inspire the Future.” The Black Voice Foundation received the Helping Communities 2011 Community Partnership Award of Excellence. Tammy Tumbling, Director of Philanthropy and Community Involvement presented the award saying, “we salutes you for the outstanding contributions in helping us to advance our strategic community building initiatives.”

As their first African American meter reader over forty years ago, Oliver Roemer asked me to get involved with my community as a Boy Scoutmaster, then later connected me to the Arrowhead United Way. It was that introduction to community service that led to everything I have accomplished to this point. Even though my father and mother trained me with their life of service it was the company support from Edison that removed the barrier of providing for my family while serving my community.

The other thing that made the event so special is we were there with one of the heavy weight organizations in the Black community the NAACP with National Board members present: State President Alice Huffman, Vice Chair Leon W. Russell, and Willis Edwards. Not to mention our family friend Kenneth Morris, Jr. the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington was special guest speaker. Believe it or not, Cheryl knew Kenneth’s aunt Edith and other family members very well.

After the program, you would have thought I was a legend at Edison by the way people came by to say thank you for blazing the way for us. There was John Kennedy, Ed Robinson, Iris Hosea, David Ford, and Afarah Board, (founders of the Black History celebration). And I was able to shake the hand of Lisa Cagnolatti, SCE’s Vice- President for Customer Service. When I was there I was the highest ranking Black in that department as a meter reader, now an African American heads that vast department.

We have traveled a long way down that road. One cannot forget the words pinned in Lift Every Voice and Sing. Sing a song full of the FAITH that the dark PAST has taught us. Sing a song full of the HOPE that the PRESENT has brought us. When you see the present crop of Edison employees and their commitment to service it makes one feel good about the future of African Americans in the company of Edison as they connect the dots.

Riverside City Up Coming Election

The nomination period for city council positions in Ward 1, 3, 5 and 7 will open February 14 and close on March 11, 2011. The position are currently occupied by and. I you are interested in seeking office in one of these wards call 951 826-5557.

City of San Bernardino 'Ain’t The Black Voice News A Newspaper Too'

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At the last meeting of the San Bernardino City Council there was a report given by Heather Gray, San Bernardino City Communications Manager where she received many accolades for her presentation from city council members. I was in agreement until she said that the city had only two newspapers which did not include any owned or operated by Blacks or Latinos.

She also stated that she had met with many in the local media to establish a relationship but according to my staff no formal relationship had been initiated, only casual conversations which occurred at city hall. While casual relationships are alright, it has been my experience that the outcome of this type of interaction is just that, casual and you are forgotten in formal presentations.

Now we have those who heard or saw this presentation thinking that there are only two newspapers that exist in the city. According to U.S. Census data Hispanics make up 57.3% of the population in San Bernardino and I know they have at least one weekly paper that circulates in the city, El Chicano. The Black community makes up 16.3% of the population and circulates four newspapers in the city: The American News, Precinct Reporter, Westside Story and the Black Voice News. I am confident that a formal meeting with us would have produced a different result in Ms. Gray’s presentation. Also speaking for BVN we have 43 business establishments in the city we deliver papers to every week, with one of them being San Bernardino City Hall.

I know her ommission of the minority-owned papers is not simply an oversight, because every time it comes to formal presentations or expenditures of money, people get amnesia or forget we exist. It always puts us in the position of having to call them out or remind them that we exist. I am always reminded that “we have to plead our own cause.” This statement published in the county’s first Black newspaper, The Freedom Journal in New York City 200 years ago is true today as it was then.

To put it another way, I’ll use the famous words spoken by Sojourner Truth, an African American woman born into slavery who spoke Dutch during her early childhood in the state of New York. Truth spoke at an all-White woman’s conference in Akron, Ohio in 1857, she asked the women: “Ain’t I A Woman”? She described herself as being able to do everything White females were able to do -- bearing children while working as hard as any man; yet no one had ever offered her the courtesies extended to White women. So her question to suffragettes as they sought their right to vote was “Ain’t I A Woman too”?

So my question to the communications manager and the city who accepted the report: “Ain’t We A Newspaper too”? I must say I am in agreement with the council, it was a good presentation, until the ommission of The Black Voice News and other minority-owned publications as viable vehicles to communicate not only the city’s message but the message of the community.

In Ms. Gray’s strategic plan she talked about “outreach” but her presentation sends a “chilling effect” to me as a publisher. Now while we do not publish everyday we do publish weekly, which is often enough to keep up with the goings on at city hall. So my question to Ms. Gray is “what are you going to use to get your message out to our community?” We are all legally adjudicated through the courts, we have business licenses, we pay business fees to the city, we print photos in color, and we all print articles with editorial content. So the question is: “Ain’t the Black Voice News A Newspaper too”?

Jerry Brown's Budget to Reshape Government is Short-sighted

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I wrote a few weeks ago about the governor’s budget and its potential impact on Black California with our double digit unemployment and under performing schools in our community. Well I decided to look at his proposal to reshape government; of taking the tax subsides for development and cutting millions of dollars used by cities in selected enterprise zones that eliminates blight and increases employment. While this approach might help Sacramento it will create havoc in local government by taking away the one tool that can help turn any city around.

Since I do not talk that much over the phone I had my wife call Mayor Ron Loveridge of Riverside and ask him what will the impact be if the redevelopment proposal submitted by the governor is implemented. His response was cities like Riverside have done a lot to eliminate blight and create small businesses on University Ave. from UCR all the way downtown. Just several years ago citizens were complaining about the panhandlers and empty property on this major street. It has added over 300 jobs, $4 billion in business revenue and $2 million in sales tax to the city. These are things we could nothave done without the tools of redevelopment. Loveridge went on to say that all of the cities in Riverside County are in opposition to this idea and will fight the governor on it.

In the City of San Bernardino the response was similar according to Chief of Staff Jim Morris on behalf of the mayor.

It is my opinion based on the history of redevelopment in the Inland Empire, that it is short sighted for the governor to seek this as a way to reshape our government. The one thing I would suggest to cities is take a look at how to get small businesses that benefit from redevelopment to employee more youth. I would even suggest that a employment program for youth be developed so youth will know what is required of them once employed. Things like getting to work on time, workplace decorum, proper dress, confidentiality and following supervisors directions. This is one area the local government can do better than anyone else to reduce the high unemployment rate of 16 to 24 year olds in their cities.

Let me suggest that the Inland Empire cities come together and form some kind of joint sharing or powers agreement on redevelopment to fight this proposal. This is one issue where unity of purpose for everyone is better than going solo.

A Close Family Friend Madeleine Seymour Passed Last Week

Mrs. Seymour a family friend, mother of my wife’s best friend Charlotte Hall, grandmother of our god child Pastor Wade Forde of Perris 7th Day Adventist Church and wife of Charlie Seymour passed away suddenly. She was more than a friend she was family.

Reflecting back on the family and the 16th Street SDA Church relationship dates back to 1961 when the first church I visited when I came to California was then K Street SDA Church down on 8th and K Street. My friend Joe Jacquet invited me there one Saturday after church service. Mrs. Seymour came later and began writing a weekly column in the Black Voice News and other Black owned media in San Bernardino. She became an artist in words by describing the events of the church and its people. She was their ambassador of goodwill into the community that made an impact on community events. Let me cite one example: The S.B. Black History Parade in February used to begin on 17th and Medical Center Drive and church. When the parade committee heard concerns from the members of the church about the disruption from noise the committee was reluctant at first to change the route until someone reminded them Mrs. Seymour was a member of the church.

Mrs. Seymour was perceived as a quiet lady but she could hold her own especially with her husband, who has enough mouth for a lot of people. As a wife and mother the 31st chapter of proverbs beginning at verse 10 comes to mind. “A wife of noble character.” “Her husband has full confidence in her”. That is one of the reasons Mr. Seymour could do and say some of the thing she did, there was no doubt in his mind that Madeleine had his back. She always had him covered in anything he wanted to do. “She brought him good not harm.” Not many men can find that in a helpmate.” “She opened her arms to the poor and her hands to the needy”, which is evident when you look at her life of service to the children she educated as a teacher, the service to her church and most of all her extended family members. “She speaks with wisdom and her children arise and call her blessed”.

Many women do noble things but you Mrs. Seymour were one of the few that I have known surpass them all.

The Right to Bear Arms

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Due to the recent shootings of innocent people in Tucson and the shootings of two boys in Redlands, the “2nd Amendment” of the constitution has been on my mind about our sane and insane “right to bear arms”.

I grew up in the south where every household had some kind of gun and boys were expected to know how to use them for hunting for food and protecting the home. One thing boys could count on was Santa bringing a cap pistol or Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. There were no restrictions on keeping a gun under lock and key or unloaded if not in use. As a matter of fact most people would say to you why have guns if it is not loaded and ready to use. In the cities however, you could not find guns in every home because most people did not have to hunt for their own food.

Another weapon that was available at that time was the switchblade knife and every boy wanted one to carry in his pocket. It was legal and I remember I hadone. That too became the weapon of choice because it was easy to carry and conceal until you needed it for use. That weapon became a deadly tool for people who wanted to take someone’s life but later it had to be regulated by the federal government. For example it is illegal to carry a concealed knife in California if the blade is over two inches long. In Mississippi it is legal to carry any knife if it is not concealed or the carrier is not intoxicated. I take that to mean that lawmakers believed only drunks will use the knife to harm someone. Under the federal “weapons act” states and local governments get to regulate what kind of knives people can carry or own.

I believe we should let people have the right to bear arms while also giving local states and governments the right to regulate how guns can be carried and what kind can be owned.

Most cities that have gangs or high homicide rates would outlaw automatic or assault type guns in their cities, while shot guns and revolvers are acceptable. In this way if Arizona wanted to stay the “Tombstone” and “OK Coral” type of state then they could do so, while Tucson might want to say when you come into town leave your guns at home. That was the way Wyatt Earp was able to bring law and order in the towns that he served as Marshal. If police chiefs had their way they would say to citizens “help me make our community a safer place by putting certain requirements on what kinds of guns can be lawful in our city.” In this way the right of a citizen to bear arms would not be taken away but the kind ofgun would be regulated.

Then we have those who have a mental disorder that should deny them the privilege to have a weapon of any kind, gun, knife, ax handle, stick, or illegal drugs in their possession. This is another delicate area for our society to figure out. How can a society identify and treat those in our society with a mental condition that is on the brink of murder? During the eighties we had a rash of employees doing some horrible things to what they called overbearing managers. If you can recall it was called going “postal”. Employers put together training programs for managers and implemented “threats in the workplaces” policies. These actions were designed to prevent something drastic from happening in the workplace. It forced supervisors and co-workers to be aware of people’s demeanor and statements they made while at work. Procedures were given to all workers on what to do if they felt uncomfortable about another employee’s behavior or statements. I know because I had to investigate many of those complaints and confidentiality played a major role in the success of such reporting and investigating.

However, we currently have a large mentally ill outpatient population that needs serious attention, especially in the African American community. This illness is not one we like to talk about because of what we think it represents. Many of our boys and men act out in violence because of neglect in professional mental services and treatment.

When you mix an automatic weapon in the hands of a person who is unstable in their thinking, you are asking for trouble. Then you have a free society, and an atmosphere of fear and violence it becomes a recipe for something bad to happen to innocent people.

Congress must begin the discussion of the right to bear arms and the right for local government to regulate what kind of weapons citizens can own.

Budget Woes Should Not Have Disproportionate Impact on Blacks and Poor

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While I am an advocate for good and responsible government, I am a stronger advocate for those who have no voice or the means to defend themselves from those who control the policies we have to live under. By that I mean it is important to alert us of the impact our decisions have on people and the long-term impact it might have. I am referring to the proposed state budget offered to us with major cuts and araise in taxes.

I am in favor of cuts in the budget but the cuts will have a disproportionate impact on African Americans and the poor when it comes to programs under Medi-Cal, CalWorks, childcare, elderly care, students seeking to further their education at the community college level and at our universities.

Our seniors have already worked and paid for these programs and now through mismanagement, we want todeny them service and raise taxes as well. With young parents, we want them to work but make childcare services so expensive it will be impossible for them to do so. For our children we say go to college yet we raise the fees while providing no jobs for them to work andpay the extra fees. For those fortunate enough to enroll and graduate, in California they will have to leave if they are to find work. This applies to all who fall in these groups where African Americans are concentrated and will continue to suffer the most.

Then we have on the other side of the budget a proposed tax raise to pay for a continuation of what is wrong with good government. We have to take a serious look at where the money is spent and who is getting it. If the same people are going to get the new taxes that are already getting the old taxes then what incentive is there for me to vote for an extension of new taxes? What is the reason for African Americans in California to vote in favor to raise taxes? This is a major question for the Legislative Black Caucus members to ask their colleagues when the discussion starts in Sacramento. Will Black entrepreneurs get procurement opportunities and state contracts? Will our students get special programs in school to help close the achievement gap, reduce the dropout rate and improve the college going rate while preventing the prisons from sucking them in.

These are serious issues for all of us to discuss while seeking a solution to our budget woes.

Josie Gonzales the New Chair of Board of Supervisors

Congratulations to Josie Gonzales, Chairwoman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. I am confident she will serve with great dignity and fairness. Josie becomes the first Latina female to serve in this leadership position and the Black community is proud of this accomplishment.

Greater Control Needs to be Placed on Firearms

Words cannot express the horrible act of violence that took place in Tucson, Arizona last weekend. Everyone is looking for someone to blame other than the one who took it in his own hands to shoot, kill, and injure people.

To the families we send our prayers and offer words of condolences. To those in recovery from injuries, I want you to have faith because I know that sadness might be on you now but JOY is around the corner.

We as a society must reevaluate the way we treat and care for those with mental illnesses. We must make care more accessible to families and neighbors when confronted with a situation like this.

We have some people saying guns don’t kill, people do. While this is true, if some people did not have agun they would not kill. I am for the right to bear arms as a citizen but greater controls have to be put in place so automatic guns are not readily available to the general public. Our law enforcement community must step forward and speak out about how these weapons are destroying our freedom for life.

No elected official should be afraid to meet and greet citizens in public. Nor should an elected official yellin the halls of congress or yell to the president of the United States, “you are a liar”.

Let us all take this opportunity to call, write and meet with our elected officials to provide input on this topic and pray for America.

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