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Hardy L. Brown

What To Do When Walking Through The Valley In The Shadow Of Death

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Two weeks ago I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ and reaffirmed my commitment to St. Paul AME Church. I did so because of three reasons from my life’s experience of 68 years, which is explained in the statement I had my wife read for me. The statement:

It was sixty years ago around this time of the year that I was playing in the woods and stepped on a rusty nail. I did not tell my parents until it began to hurt several days later. I did not have a tetanus shot that would have prevented me from getting sick. Needless to say poison set in my entire body and on Easter Sunday my jaws locked up and would not open. I was in the hospital for over a month and at one point I died and my mother prayed this prayer as the doctor worked on me. “Lord let thy will be done on my child”. Mom later told me this is what she did outside of my hospital room. The Lord knew her desire but she relinquished her will or desire so his will could be done with my life. In 1st John 5:14 it states: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.” My mother was willing to accept His will whatever that would be and God responded to start my heart back to beating. Sixty years later after my many conversations, I once again find myself with limited speech. However, that has not stopped me from communicating with the world thanks to computers.

2nd In keeping with a practice of having to re-issue an Affirmative Action Policy each and every year at Kaiser Permanente for the sole purpose to recommit the organization to improve Equal Opportunity for every employee in measurable quantities; Likewise on this 60th anniversary of my lock jaw experience, I would like to reaffirm my faith to Jesus Christ and rededicate my commitment to improve my physical efforts to St. Paul. I will do so by increasing my attendance at church services, attend vacation bible school, Sunday school and see if Cheryl can find extra funds for the church.

3rd I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to serve God for many years as a teacher of His word in Sunday school, as a singer in the choir, and in leadership positions on various boards and look forward to doing it again one day. But until then I will do what I can do with the physical limitations placed on me at this time.

So thank you and the St. Paul Family and continue to keep me and my family in your prayers.

Now nothing is wrong or my health has not changed so do not get alarmed but I felt as though this needed to be done. I am reminded of the twenty third Psalms verse “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”.

When I was teaching or reciting the 23rd Psalms during church it meant one thing, or during my employment at Kaiser it meant something else. Since my physical ailment with ALS/PLS or Lou Gehrig’s disease it has taken on a totally different meaning. This line is followed by “I will fear no evil”.

I remember going to a support group meeting for the first and only time after I was told I had ALS. I listened to the people talk about their situation and who was missing from the last meeting. I said to myself this is not for me I still have some living to do, so ever since then I have been living while “walking in the valley under the shadow of death” like I was before the diagnosis. I remembered Jesus telling his disciples “don’t worry about when the end of the world will come because only the Father knows that answer”, so I keep on walking.

Then as my ability to speak clearly is impaired, I am reminded of what is written in Romans 8:26 that the “Spirit himself intercedes for us (me) with groans that words cannot express”, so I keep on walking and groaning. I am better off not speaking since I do not have words to say what is happening or how happy I am.

I decided to write this editorial because my wife came home this Saturday and told me the news of two of our friends that heard the news their cancer had returned. I want them and others to know that I am praying for them to keep on walking and doing well because God is not through with them yet. And as long as the sun keeps shining you will see the shadow so don’t worry, keep on walking. Don’t get frightened if you don’t see the shadow, it only means the sun is directly over head so keep on walking, you will see the shadow again.

Another thing to remember is the shadow of death is nothing more than a SHADOW it cannot hurt you unless you are one of those people who are afraid of their own shadow.

Since the shadow was put over me, I have written over 400 editorials, saw the first African American sworn in as president, founded a statewide news media organization, interfaced with two governors, campaigned and helped elect California’s first African American and female Attorney General, organized several summits in Sacramento, help raise thousands of dollars for charity and most of all continue to guide the family. I even gave my daughter away in marriage while escorting her down the aisle in my power chair.

What am I saying when you get news that you did not wish for or knocked you down. Get up dust yourself off and keep on walking even though the shadow is following you. But like the 23rd Psalms concludes with “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I have goodness and mercy walking with me in the valley as well and their shadow is bigger.

Charles 'Charlie' Seymour A 'Yes You Can' Man

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On April, 2, 2009 I wrote an editorial wishing my friend Charles “Charlie” Seymour Happy Birthday when he turned ninety years young. Well this time I am writing to summarize my true appreciation for having known him and to express my condolences to his family. I first met Mr. Seymour when I turned on the lights for his newspaper “The Tribune” located on Mount Vernon in San Bernardino. I can say it was Seymour that got me interested in the newspaper business because he would let me stop by during the day as I performed my duties with Edison. The first time my name ever appeared in a newspaper was in the Tribune because of Seymour.

It was also my introduction to local politics because he talked me into holding a political coffee party for 6th Ward City Council candidate Norris Gregory in our home on California Street. As a matter of fact, Gregory was elected and that is how the stop sign was put in front of Rio Vista School on California Street. This is what we wanted from Gregory if he was elected, so that could be called a Seymour stop sign.

Later our path’s crossed on a regular basis when we formed the “Black Father’s Group” and held the meeting at Delman Heights Foursquare Gospel Church. Seymour was one of those founding fathers and was very outspoken if you know Seymour. The very articulate Rev. William Dillard of Delman Heights Foursquare and my pastor at the time, was appointed the first spokesperson of the group and later Robert “Bob” Parker became the president.

Seymour understood the business community along with other father’s like Bob Parker, Rev. Art Forbes, Benton P.K. Blakey, Alonza Thompson, while others like Wesley Jefferson, Richard and Bobby Cole had knowledge in the civil rights movement and all of them pushed the group to confront the school board, United Way and banks for doing more to employ Blacks. Seymour unlike the others also knew how to get publicity on issues, plus his income was not tied to the government.

Seymour dropped out of the spotlight for a while as he started and sold several businesses but our relationship grew because his daughter Charlotte became my wife Cheryl’s, best friend. He got me involved with his Adopt- A-Bike and Adopt-A-Computer programs where he drafted me as Board President. I will never forget at one meeting we had a professor from Cal State who held a PhD in non profit businesses telling us how to raise money with proper documentation. The professor made the comment that went something like: “this is how you should approach someone for support”. Seymour spoke up I don’t need you to tell me how to get money, I was getting money before you were born. I have money in large amounts waiting for me to come and pick up now from the county. Just show us how to document to satisfy any funding sponsors. I must tell you I wrote what Seymour said, in language that can be repeated in public, if you know Seymour, he was more colorful with his words.

Seymour was a very courageous man with a gentle and caring heart. He would come by the house or office and say “Hardy, you do not have what they say you have. You have to believe that man. These doctors don’t know what they are talking about.” In our faith, Christian Science, Seymour would say to me, “if I tell that mountain to move it will move.”

Seymour also introduced me to his good friend, Chauncey Spencer, who lived on “H” Street and served on the Police Commission. Now you might say who is Chauncey Spencer? Mr. Spencer is the Black man that flew a single engine airplane from Ohio to Washington DC to show America that Blacks deserved to fly in the military and was instrumental for the inclusion into the Army Air Corp and was an original Tuskegee Airman. These are the kinds of people Seymour hung around with all the time.

Even though his kids and grandkids were out of school, he saw the need and found the time to start a program at Curtis Middle School to encourage students to go to college. He called the program College Capable Cats and used as a motto “Yes you can”. He never gave up on people especially young people and neither should we.

When his ability to drive was taken away he would call me on the phone with words of encouragement. I think the reason Seymour died was to go home and be close to mama, his wife Madeline, who left us a few months ago.

He will be missed but his legacy of “Yes you can” will live on.

UCR: Add More Flavors to Your Kool-Aid

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The University of California, Riverside (UCR) must be drinking from the same pitcher of Kool-Aid as the City of Riverside when it comes to including diversity in some of its major activities. Recently the City of Riverside decided not to include one African American, Latino or Asian citizen on its charter review committee. It is my understanding that they hope to correct that problem.

Now we have UCR doing the same thing at the recent ribbon cutting ceremony for its new School of Medicine. It has been over forty years since the State ofCalifornia authorized such a school at the university level and many of the other universities wanted this school that will supply our community with the next generation of physicians. In order to get through the approval process, the applicants must show community support from a cross section of the community. The approval body knows that the shortage of doctors from the Black and Latino population must be addressed and if diversity is demonstrated in the school’s support it is likely to open the door for students. They even requested help from the Inland Empire’s only African American Democratic elected official, Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter in Sacramento to get $10 million dollars to support the school’s opening. Mind you this is not even in her district or the same county her district represents but it is important to the region.

To that end, the committees at UCR fanned out across the community to get support from Black physicians and their group. They reached out to citizens, and yes the Black Voice Newspaper for editorial support. Now that they have been granted the school, UCR failed to invite African American representation to the ribbon cutting ceremony. Maybe they did send out invitations and the people did not show but the same effort was not put into the ribbon cutting event as was the need for support. I have learned that Assemblymember Carter was invited but due to legislative duties, she could not attend but a representative from her office was there.

However, from the over 200 guests that did attend, it was noticed that no representation from the African American, Latino or Asian community was on program or holding the scissors to cut the ribbon or hold the ribbon for that matter. As our reporter, Chris Levister wrote in her article: There was “A Conspicuous Absence of Diversity”.

From my training in Discrimination Law at USC and over thirty years working to overcome the effect of overt and subtle acts of discrimination, I have learned a few things that people and organizations must do. The people at the top must always be mindful of their every decision and action and the message it sends to the community. At USC they spoke of the “chilling effect” to underserved populations. Meaning if none of us have never been employed at a company and we see no outreach from that company to include us, it sends a chilling effect to us that the likelihood of us getting employed will take an act of congress. So us being absent from the ribbon cutting ceremony sends a chilling effect to the Black, Latino and Asian community, that if we want in we must gear up for a fight.

The other thing I learned was the building of a “pipeline”. When explained to me, it is recruiting people of color in our schools and employment at all levels so there is a steady flow of people to make proper selections from. From this school, for example, will come the next generation of doctors to provide care to a region of people needing care. The region is becoming more diverse in its population.

According to the census for Riverside and San Bernardino county, both counties witnessed more African Americans moving here than any other county in the state. Riverside saw an increase of over 28,000 while San Bernardino gained over 20,000. Los Angeles County on the other hand, lost over 68,000 African Americans and the same is true in our northern cities.

To quote Chancellor Timothy White: “This is a powerful thing”. It is powerful because it represents who will control the pipeline of physicians for years to come. It is also powerful to borrow another quote from Dr. G. Richard Olds, it will, “expand the physician workforce to improve the healthcare to our underserved community”.

It is also powerful in another way and that is who will earn the money, which is another thing I learned by working in the field of discrimination. One of the federal compliance officers once told me, “Hardy, always follow the money and who is earning it.” You might be in compliance with the number of employees but out of line when it comes to who is taking home the money. We all know doctors make more than nurses, orderlies or housekeepers and the school will be training doctors.

When I was growing up as a boy Kool-Aid came in only a few flavors: grape, cherry and lime. Now you can buy it in all kinds of flavors and colors because people’s taste have changed and our knowledge base has given us that advantage. So unlike the City of Riverside’s upcoming decision on appointing Blacks, Latinos and Asians to its charter review committee, the powerful impression from the ribbon cutting ceremony cannot be erased from our minds. But where they go from here can be corrected by including us in every decision at the top in the future. Kool-Aid added more flavors to their selections and so can UCR.

City Attorney Penman Tries To Bully The City Council

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As an observer of the San Bernardino City Council meetings and the actions of City Attorney Jim Penman, I have drawn my own conclusions on his ongoing behavior. This past week was no exception as he rambled on one of the agenda items, he was requesting more money to contract with outside legal firms. He carried on for one hour and fifteen minutes repeating himself over and over again. He managed to insult the mayor, council members, city manager and budget director for the city. He called them stupid, bullies and used the term ‘shame on you’ as he pointed at city council members and called out each one of them by name. And he once again referenced the city manager’s annual salary which the council approved at least two years ago. None of those remarks had anything to do with the item so the mayor let him ramble on until Penman lost all the votes except one who would vote for anything that Penman wants.

Several things became clear to me and that is Penman does not like people who talk back or stand up to him. He also has in my opinion, the late J. Edgar Hoover syndrome of being power hungry and untouchable by others. Also like Hoover, Penman, born in Mississippi, has a touch of anti-Blackness in his blood towards Charles McNeely the City Manager. Hoover went after our beloved Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because Hoover thought King was too powerful as a Black man. Penman would be alright with McNeely, if McNeely was one of those who would not look him in the eyes and talk back. Some Southerners have a problem with Blacks who stand their ground, ask Trent Lott a former senator or Lester “Ax Handle” Maddox, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama or Bull Connor.

It also became clear to me that Penman is jealous and envious of the prestige and honor given to Judge Pat Morris, the mayor, by some members of the council and the community at large. Penman wants that so bad but it seems to escape him. Penman is also frustrated with the council that does not give him everything he wants, especially to question his requests. Now mind you the council, not the mayor, is responsible to the taxpayers for all of the money that comes into the city and how it is spent. The council took an oath to that effect, yet Penman questions them like a spoiled child that would say, you gave Johnnie some candy where is mine. My mom would say, boy, you had better be satisfied with what you got or I will take what you have back. In Penman’s case every department in the city including every employee has given up something on the city’s bad budget situation so this is Penman’s way to get back what he gave up earlier, according to the budget director. That is why he was angry with the director, she pulled the covers off his scheme and shell game.

Penman at one point suggested the council give him the money his private investigators took in from private citizens, banks and mortgage companies. Councilmember Tobin Brinker responded, Penman that would be like police officers saying to the council can I keep my job using the money from traffic tickets. Penman has this program of enforcing code enforcement violations for the purpose of collecting money for the city and the council called him on it. The same would be true if police officers were allowed to keep the money from traffic tickets, no citizen would be safe but we would have a rich police department.

Councilmember Rikke Van Johnson, stated to Penman all I ever get from you is political chatter and no legal opinions on anything, plus Johnson gave a list of cities in California large and small with similar circumstances with smaller budgets.

Councilmember Fred Shorett the new mayor pro-tem requested Penman to fall in line with other city departments and manage his department and reduce staff.

Chas Kelly who usually sides with Penman said very little and voted with Marquez, Brinker, Shorett and Johnson to give Penman his request but as a loan to be repaid out of next year’s budget.

During Penman’s hour and fifteen minute long dissertation, he recited all the mayor’s, councilmembers and police chiefs that have come and gone. I took that to mean I, (Penman) was here before you got here and I will see all of you gone like Chief Kilmer who just resigned because of me. That is why Penman took up time to swipe at city manager McNeely. What Penman does not know is that Black men like McNeely are used to guys like Penman. If you are familiar with the cartoon Dora the Explorer, there is a character named Swiper who is a fox. Now whenever the fox is around they say Swiper no swiping because he is always doing something he should not be doing. Well in the case of Penman around McNeely I would warn Penman no swiping before you get embarrassed.

Another thing became clear is that everytime he has a conflict, taxpayers are penalized because he has to hire outside attorneys and he has not learned how to try court cases that involve police officers by his own admission. In his twenty-three years as city attorney with over 50% of his case load being officer involved, he has not hired or trained one attorney with that specialty nor has he tried to gain the expertise in that area himself. To paraphrase Cheryl Brown, President of the NAACP, if Penman spent as much time on lawsuits filed against the city as he spends on trying to embarrass the council members, mayor and staff at council meetings we could move forward as a city and not need so many outside attorneys.

If Penman had not said enough during the regular meeting when it came to public comment, Penman got up for another three minutes in the capacity of a private citizen.

In my opinion the council is correct in demanding accountability from Penman even when he calls them names and tries to bully them.

Is Moreno Valley For Sale By The City Council?

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In the United States of America our democracy is built on the premise “…of the people, by the people and for the people.” Thus we elect our fellow citizens to do our bidding when setting policies on behalf of the public. A large number of our elected officials who seek office do so with every intention of being objective and fair when they take the oath of office. However, some officials’ good intentions and vision become clouded based on campaign contributions once the election is over. That is okay when no rules or laws are broken but when their decisions or actions become tainted or appear tainted the public has a right to seek clarity on those decisions to maintain the integrity of our governmental institutions.

Having said that, we have a situation brewing in the City of Moreno Valley that, in my opinion, has reached the point where outside legal government agencies need to be brought in to clear the air on various decisions taken by the city’s elected officials. It appears from the excellent investigative reporting by the Press Enterprise journalist Duane W. Gang that such an investigation by the state’s Attorney General, local District Attorney, or county Grand Jury would be in order.

It was reported in a 2010 Press Enterprise article that Iddo Benzeevi, a developer in Moreno Valley, has given at least $425,000 to help elect council members to the Moreno Valley City Council and contributed substantial other monies to defeat incumbents and city measures that were not in his business interest.

On one occasion, council members, of which Iddo had given campaign contributions, were publicly cautioned that it is against state law to approve building permits that do not have maps. This approval was for one of Iddo’s projects. In that instance, the city council went against their appointed planning commissioners’ recommendation and approved Iddo’s project anyway.

It was also reported that Iddo was a part of the decision to select the newly appointed city manager who is now in support of giving the developer exclusive rights. In another report Iddo gave the city $250,000 to hire staff members to work in the planning department so his plans could move at rapid speed for approval. Now that is enough for the citizens to be suspicious of the decisions being made in favor of his development projects. And it is also reported that Iddo did buy some property for the Moreno Valley City School District and this is a good thing, but it is also reported that he now wants that to be given as a credit towards something else.

I know the city leadership is eager to bring employment opportunities to help decrease the unemployment numbers in the area, but I would caution them to not break the law, bend the rules, or sell the city to the highest bidder. Any city government that would reduce itself to the person with the deepest pockets is on the brink of undermining the very foundation of our government. Instead of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” it becomes “of the developer, by the developer and for the developer.” When that happens the people always lose.

So what should the people do? I would recommend they write letters to the Riverside County Grand Jury, Paul Zellerbach, Riverside County District Attorney and State Attorney General Kamala Harris and ask for an investigation. These city officials need to be questioned under oath to see if their acceptance of financial support from this developer or any developer has any influence on their decisions on any project. All city employees in the planning department who had anything to do with the building permits should be asked the same questions as well as planning commissioners.

I am not saying that anyone has done anything wrong, but as we’ve seen in the City of Bell, these actions as reported and documented do not pass the smell test of being completely ethical or transparent. In this way the citizens of Moreno Valley can have the assurance that their elected officials have their best interest in mind in all decisions.

Riverside Charter Committee Does not Reflect City’s Population

One of the staples of Riverside City is the diversity of its people as so often talked about by city leaders and written about in its literature. It is like red beans and rice to the people of Louisiana, like collards greens and sweet potato pie to Black Americans and refried beans to Latinos, yet the elected officials decided that not one Latino, Black or Asian should be on the Charter Review Committee. Now mind you regardless of the educational level or income status of either group these foods are still a part of their menus.

Mind you Whites make up only 34% of the city’s population, while they want 100% of them to write up the governing rule that every one must play by. He who makes the rules are the one in charge and tell the others how to live, where to go, what time to come in, how to behave, where and what to eat, you get the picture.

Now I am not advocating some type of equal representation but at least two Latinos, one African American and one Asian should be on the committee.

If the truth be told of Police Chief Keith Kilmer Retiring

In my opinion, if the truth could be told, Kilmer is retiring because of the political jockeying of elected officials at city hall. Any time you have a city attorney always challenging every one and some council member demanding non-essential reports and micro-managing or second guessing the chief over police officers, what do you expect? Kilmer was good for the city and will be sorely missed.

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