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Hardy L. Brown

My Memories of Valerie Pope-Ludlam as a Friend

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By Hardy Brown –

I first met Valerie during an off campus Sociology Class put on by the University of California, Riverside throughout Riverside and San Bernardino County. The purpose was to bring people of different races together for greater understanding of each other and work on issues common to each group.

The next time I ran into Valerie was at a request to turn her electricity on for a hair dressing business, if my memory serves me correctly. Of course our paths crossed many times during political elections and she supported me for my school board election. But the thing I will most cherish about our relationship is in her position with the welfare mothers.

I was the collector of overdue electric bills and if you could not pay, I had the responsibility to turn the electricity off and the westside was part of my territory for the Edison Company. Delman Heights, above Highland Ave., had a reputation of people being bad and moving around, destroying property, replacing electric meters from one home to another to get free electricity and stripping vacant homes of cabinets, electrical conduits and selling them. I started working with Valerie and found out it was not the people on welfare but contractors who was refurbishing homes and wanted to get the federal government to fund various housing projects. I shared this information with my supervisor to change the perception of the people living in the community, thanks to Valerie.

Valerie also asked me to give more time in collecting unpaid bills to coincide with when the mothers got their checks at the first of the month. This way it would prevent lights from being turned off and them having to pay a deposit. I could not change Edison’s collection policy but I could and did give more extensions on over due bills, without the knowledge of Edison management. In turn the mothers got their checks and true to form paid me when I came back to collect. As a result more of them improved their credit rating with us as good customers. Also at the same time my good friend Don Griggs was in management training at our local district office and he used his position to have lights turned on for Valerie and her mothers with no deposits. He will tell you they never let us down.

Valerie went on to use the relationships she encountered throughout the years to hold public office as San Bernardino City Council Member and I will cherish her with fond memories. Her late husband Jack was my son’s baseball coach on Delman Heights Little League Baseball Team.

Walking through the valley in the shadow of death (Part 2)

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“Your Grace and Mercy, brought me through, I’m living this moment because of you. I want to thank you and praise you too, Your Grace and Mercy brought me through. Justice demanded, that I should die but Grace and Mercy said oh, no, oh, no, oh, no, We’ve paid the price”.

Last week I shared my experience of walking through the valley in the shadow of death. Another part of the story is what my parents did in telling me the story of how they got over in a country and town that was not so kind to them. The only thing they had was their fai th in God and His son Jesus Christ. My mother’s favorite song was “Your Grace and Mercy”. When I closed last week’s editorial I said Goodness and Mercy was a larger shadow and would follow me all the days of my life. That was true not only for me but my son as well.

Because of my early experience with lockjaw and my parents telling me the story of how they got through it prepared me for an experience that happened to my son. It was the summer of 1995 when Hardy II broke his femur bone and had a medical condition called a fat embolism. My wife nor I had never heard of such a condition but for 16 days we learned a lot, it was our faith and what my dad and mom had taught me of my experience that brought us through. I cannot share all of the things we went through but I want to share a few. They had to place Hardy in an induced coma on a life support system and told us this is all we can do. This is when I said to my wife, “I now know what to do.” So we placed our hands on our son and turned it over to God and prayed for everyone and everything that came into contact with him.

Some people thought we were in denial of his soon to be death while others joined in prayer throughout the medical center, community, country and foreign lands. God sent Christians of various denominations to be his nurses and they were some good ones. He sent a doctor from Vietnam, who could not practice medicine in America, but was working as a respiratory therapist to regulate his machine for proper breathing. He sent every race and creed of medical personnel to administer to his needs. But most of all because of the fai th we demonstrated, others returned to Christ. For example: staff members in my office sought places of worship to join; hospital employees prayed on elevators and in groups; doctors allowed my wife to pray over their hands before they touched Hardy; and Brother Roy Harris had open prayer over his radio program. There were so many people praying that a lady from the Mi ddl e Eas t came to me and said, “Hardy I don’t bel ieve but I prayed for your son last night. ” The telephone operators were swamped with callers offering prayer for him. Even the doctor who operated on him knew something was different and asked one of his staff members, “who did I operate on?”

One man who had a daughter in a room next to Hardy’s stopped me on a Sunday morning and asked “how can you be so calm.” I am a nervous wreck. I could not think of what to say but shared wi th him the story of what my mother told me and also the story of Abraham having to kill his only son. “You have to have fai th that God gives and God takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We prayed and he broke down and cri ed and three days later his daughter came out of her coma and five days later he took her home.

When they told us they were going to remove al l of the tubes from hi s body to see if he could make it own his on, I picked up the Bible to read his favorite scripture which is Proverbs 3:5-6 but instead an angel turned to John 11 and in bold red letters, verse 4 stood out alone: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glori fied through it”. I got on the phone and cal led my wi fe and read i t to her. She said well Jesus surely had been glori fied. Now Hardy II and his family are part of my team of caregivers just another example of Grace and Mercy following my family and I around in the valley in the shadow of death.

So, when the doctor told me I had ALS with a five year life expectancy, Grace and Mercy again said, “Oh, No, Oh, No, Oh, No We’ve already paid for his ticket and he does not get off at this stop.”

It is important to tell the story of who brought you over the rough humps of life. It is important that we tell the story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to those who will listen this Holy weekend. There are many who have not heard the story and many who have heard but do not bel ieve the story. This is where your personal story should and can be told to those who wish to listen.

Have a very Happy and Glorious Easter

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.

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