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Hardy L. Brown

Familiar Smell of Strange Fruit in San Bernardino

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In 1939, Billie Holiday made famous a song entitled Strange Fruit that was written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx in New York. He wrote this as a poem after seeing a picture of Black men swinging (lynched) from a tree in the south in the thirties. It was a common occurrence back then for Whites to use this as a way to keep Blacks from progressing in any way by promoting fear and intimidation.

Well in San Bernardino, they do not lynch you from a tree but wait for us to invest our time, talent, and money into viable projects then they put barriers in your way so the fruit of your efforts will spoil and you loseyour investment. I have witnessed this several times in the short time I have been in San Bernardino since 1960. I bring this up because the latest trick they are trying to do is with the school that bears my name, located in the Carousel Mall in downtown. Mind you the mall is almost empty now and it has struggled ever since a white haired man named Warner Hodgdon developed it with our taxpayers money. Warner got the Black community to buy into his analogy of building a wheel you must first make the hub, downtown and then go outward to the rim meaning the 6th ward. We bought into that and we are still waiting for the wheel to be finished. As a matter of fact, the hub is still trying to be finished.

The city had wanted to have a hotel downtown to attract conventions into the city. No one came forth until Herman English, a Black man, came forth and said I can build you a first rate hotel. The city agreed because the thinking of the city’s fathers was it cannot be done but as it got closer to opening day, the city started its racial political game of strange fruit. They said he needed to make some minor changes plus English needed more cash after investing over $22 million of his own money into the project. The city would not advance the additional monies unless English secured a letter of credit to insure the loan. He got the letter but the city did not keep its commitment so English lost the hotel and his investment of $22 million dollars.

The interesting thing about the hotel is the late Sister Margaret James, mother of Pastor Jim James in San Bernardino and Sam James of Riverside, led a group of us in prayer one Sunday afternoon in front of the hotel when the city was playing all of these racist political games with English.

She said to us at the time, her vision from God was that if the city did not allow English to finish the project the success of the hotel would never happen. It had been empty for years, given to a Japanese group, taken back under new ownership that would not allow Blacks to frequent the club there, and now it’s closed.

Another instance was Francis Grice and Operation Second Chance. Grice and her organization brought millions of federal dollars into the city and then she decided to build the brick building located on Highland and Western Ave. After it was completed some could not stand seeing such a nice place on the westside of San Bernardino. So the game of strange fruit started and she eventually lost the building and the city took it over. Later the city was forced to sell it to New Hope Baptist Church.

Another instance was when one of the local banks located on E Street was going under, so John Dukes, a local Black businessman, put together a group of investors that would save the bank and it would be under the ownership of African Americans. It was kept quiet until he had the reception atthe bank for all the community to see. Shortly after the reception, the strange fruit started to smell and the bank was not transferred to Dukes.

Now we have a school to educate young children that have traditionally had low test scores. Our children are the first to drop out of school, first to be sent to prison, lowest achieving when it comes to academics and yet when we say we are going to teach them ourselves, people like Warner Hodgdon are trying to prevent that from happening. I remember it was in 1972 that the local NAACP had to file a lawsuit to force integration so Black children could enjoy the comforts of a nice school campus here in the city. Wehad to fight to get parks for our children. We had to fight toget the city and other agencies to hire our children, so I guess we might as well fight now so they can get a quality education. To me his interest in the school smells like the strange fruit of San Bernardino politics and racism.

What brought this up is last week I read an email from the founder of the school that a white haired man had come to the school taking pictures of the kids without the parent’s permission. He also interrogated some of the staff memberson the school’s five year lease agreement with the owner and that he was the developer of the mall back in the late sixties and early seventies. He implied that something was wrong with the agreement for the school to be there and they might have to move. Mind you this fast talking white haired ex-felon of a man has filed bankruptcy from bad dealings throughout the county including Riverside Raceway. When he got out of prison back in the seventies he donated $50 thousand to the local United Way in a gesture to buy his way back into the good graces of the community. He later ran his wife for public office but the public said no way can we have Warner represent us plus they were not sure what he would do.

Now he, and I’m sure others, do not want us to have a place to educate our children. Well I am here to tell you that we are going to educate our children with or without your cooperation. These are our children and our taxes help build this mall plus the taxes that help keep it afloat today. To the founder and staff, I want you to remain focused on delivering a good education to those students. To the parents, keep your commitment to your children by participating in their education. To the community, keep on praying and supporting our efforts as you have done in the past. Also pray that the strange fruit smell of racial politics will soon remove itself from the air in San Bernardino.

Penman: Don't Mess with God's Anointed Ones

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There are two things you don’t do to or in the Black community; and that is talk negative about our mama or fight with our pastors. Well, Jim Penman, city attorney of San Bernardino has gone so far as to sue Pastor Ray Turner of Temple Missionary Baptist Church for exercising his constitutional right. Pastor Turner and many other citizens including, City Treasurer David Kennedy and City Clerk Rachel Clark (both elected) are requesting of voters to have their positions along with the city attorney be appointed by the mayor and council members. The resolution was adopted by four city council members with three voting no to have it come before the voters in November.

This act by Rev. Turner has made Penman upset enough to sue Pastor Turner and of course it has made the African American community boiling mad. For Penman’s information, the word of God cautions us about how to deal with His anointed ones. We recite often Psalm 105:15 in the Black community “Do not touch My anointed ones, do My prophets no harm”. We do not take it kindly when anyone tries to bring harm against them.

However, we noticed Penman has very little respect for our clergy or our places of worship here in the city. It was just a little while ago that he took on Pastor Rohn and the Nazarene Church by telling them who could or could not be members of their congregation. He lost that battle with God’s anointed one and he is about to lose another. Has his law degree and the position of city attorney taken over his once reasonable way of doing things? When he was at the Home of Neighborly Service, this side of Penman did not show itself at least in public, what happened?

I want you to know we will be lifting Pastor Turner up in prayers and another prayer for you. I remember someone telling the story of Sheriff Eugene “Bull” Connors during the height of the civil rights movement. For those who do not know Bull Connors was the sheriff in Alabama that put the water hose and attack dogs on Black citizens for exercising their constitutional rights to assemble in public. The story was “everything was going alright until those colored people started praying on him”. Well Penman we are praying in unity.

We will be registering people to vote. We will be keeping our eye on you to see how you are spending your time as city attorney. In other words, we do not want you to get taxpayers dollars to use against Pastor Turner or us. You have tried to silence those who disagree with your position but you cannot silence us with threats and lawsuits, especially when it is against God’s anointed ones.

The San Bernardino City Council has Rung the Bell

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At a boxing match the announcer comes into the ring grabs the microphone and announces “in this corner weighing in at so many pounds and wearing black trunks is Joe Louis and in this corner wearing white trunks is Max Smelling weighing so many pounds.”

But in San Bernardino politics at the special budget hearing Mayor Pat Morris grabbed the microphone and called the meeting to order and introduced Charles McNeely, the City Manager, who explained the rules of the match for the evening.

He laid out the budget of the city with the shortfalls in revenue and the cuts required to bring the budget in line with the reality of the cash flow. At the end of the marathon session, which lasted until after eleven o’clock in the evening and all the body blows were thrown, Mayor Morris asked thecouncil members “to cast your votes please”.

At this moment it was in the judge/council’s hand to cast a vote to accept the recommendations of the city manager or reject his recommendations. Voting to accept the city manager’s recommendations were Rikke Van Johnson, Virginia Marquez, Fred Shorett, Tobin Brinker and Jason Desjardins with the win and Chas Kelley and Wendy McCammack with the loss. That is the way the vote goes most of the time.

While every level of our government agencies are going through a financial crisis at least the San Bernardino City Council is moving in the right direction to correct a long nagging mismanaged system. I want to commend the five council members who bit the bullet, Johnson, Marquez, Brinker, Shorett and Desjardins for doing the right thing. They accepted the recommendations put before them by McNeely. It calls for an $11 million dollar budget reduction that will begin in July 2011.

One of my main reasons for commending the majority is that the cuts included some sacred cow departments, police, fire and city attorney. Council members Kelly and McCammack did not even want to discuss these departments for cuts. Mind you when you add them together they represent over 72% of all the money from the city’s budget. Then when you look at how much the employees in those departments make and do not live in the city to pay taxes it will make your blood boil. For example: the police average yearly salary is $128,684.20 per officer and only 34 out of 305 call San Bernardino home. They take our hard earned money to other cities to employ other employees to provide services for their own family members.

The firemen are no better when it comes to being good citizens of San Bernardino. They make on average $160,183.57 per year with only 8 of 148, calling San Bernardino home. In the communities where these city workers live they have nice green parks, libraries, paved streets and enough employees working in planning to help developers with building permits.

According to the adopted budget of 2010-2011 information given to us by John Wilson, Senior Assistant City Attorney, their budget is nearly $4 million dollars, of which they employ two code enforcement officers and two detective inspectors whichare duplicate employees which are provided by other departments. Penman wants to have his own FBI employees instead of relying on the police or code enforcement departments for action. The Police Department budget is over $57 million dollars, that does not include Measure Z money. The Fire Department’s budget is over $32 million dollars. Just think about what we could do if these employees lived, bought homes, cars, food, paid sales taxes and sent their children to school in San Bernardino?

The reason McCammack and Kelley did not want these public sacred cows to be touched is because of donations to their political campaigns. Also added to this bunch is Jim Penman the City Attorney who is the Muppet Masters of all of them. It became crystal clear watching him at the budget hearing as he described his ability to get five votes onthe city council. Penman said he went to thecity manager and then the mayor after he hadtalked the strategy over with his mouth piece on the council Wendy McCammack. I said to myself Mr. Penman has lost his way by gathering votes instead of offering legal advice to the city. He lost his way when he told a Mexican family I will help you by giving you a one way ticket to Mexico. Or was it another time when he proposed that every council member should be voted on by every citizen in the city. He proposed that because Whites vote at a higher percentage than Blacks and Hispanics thus Whites would control city hall with this scheme. The NAACP and MALDF organizations saw this as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and called him on it.

Mr. Penman also gets the lion share of his political donations from, you guessed it, the police and firemen associations. I hope they do not help fund the opposition to Measure Con the ballot in November for some necessary charter changes to have the city attorney, treasurer and city clerk appointed instead of being elected. If they do then the next charter change will be to correct the way police and firemen are paid. The current city clerk and treasurer have signed on to the charter change recommended by four members of the city council. I might add the mayor had nothing to do with the original group that came up with the idea to push forthis charter change. I know because I was atthe meeting.

And Mr. Kelly sits at the dias and talks about developing jobs for citizens in the city while he sends millions out of the city every payday with police and firemen toother communities. He didn’t fight as hard for the departments where the Blacks and Hispanics are working to provide services to the public.

Yes I know that we are going through horrible financial times but I am glad to see the council stand up for what is right. Because the well funded well organized public safety unions are getting so much support I am offering to meet with other employees of the city to discuss ways in which they can help themselves politically here in the city. For one you can vote and the police and firemen cannot because they do not live here. So let us get together and discuss strategies so your voice can be heard down at city hall now that the BELL has been rung by the council.

Non Racist Republicans Playing a Racist Game with the Fourteenth Amendment

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When I was a child I thought as a child, I acted as a child, I played like a child but when I became a man, I put away those childish things and began acting like a man and a citizen of America. That means doing things for the betterment of all citizens as we go about our life, seeking liberty and happiness. My thoughts and opinion is targeted at the people who want to repeal the 14th amendment under the argument that they want to just go after so-called anchor babies born to illegal immigrants. This 14th amendment came about in July of 1868 after the civil war and the famous Dred Scott Decision of 1857 where the highest court said Blacks were not citizens and had no rights a White man had to honor or recognize. Section 1 of the amendment states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States” are protected by federal law which no individual state can take away.

When I was growing up as a boy in the forties and fifties under Jim Crow, there were a lot of western movies that Iwatched across the street from my home at the elementary school on Friday nights. We did not call them westerns, to us kids it was “cowboys and Indians”. That led us as kids to play the role of cowboys or Indians with us picking which one we wanted to play on any given day. Sometimes, I would pick the role of a cowboy like Jimmy Stewart in the movie Winchester 73 or other stars like Buster Crabbe, Tom Mix, Lash LaRue and the list would go on and on. Then there were other times I would be Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Cochise and the list can go on and on of my Indian heroes on the movie screen. We would ride around the yard with wooden sticks between our legs serving as ponies, paper cap guns strapped to our sides and our homemade bows and arrows on our backs. To me it was a game I played when I was a kid but now that I am a man I have put away that childish notion and look at the impact these movies had on me as an unsuspecting youth.

There were other movies that had negative stereotypes of Blacks, Mexicans and Asians which all had one overall arching theme of culture domination in their presentations. Again, now that I am a man I have put aside those images and tried to deal with the reality of how things were and are so we can move forward to improve relationships with all people.

However, we have some people like radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, Senator Mitch McDonnell, Congressman John Boehner, Newt Gingrich and others in the Republican Party that are still playing those old stereotypical racist games of old. They are old enough to remember the Jim Crow laws of the south, the game of calling all Black men boy regardless of his age so as to demean him or someone you don’t have to respect.

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I am glad I remembered those stories and that way of life because I can see they are trying to take us back to those days of yesteryear. I am not going to say any of them are racist but they are playing the racist game. They have not grown out of the role they played when they were children when the law was legal segregation and Blacks and other minority groups had no constitutional rights. I also want to tell the Indians now can live on or off the reservation. They have found a new industry -- gaming -- that assists some to live a better life here in their native land. The Jim Crow laws of segregation have been ruled unconstitutional even though the residue still has its effects on us as citizens. I want to point out to them that women have the right to vote with three serving on the U.S. Supreme Court and many serving in congress alongside many Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Indians.

Now we have Limbaugh still referring to President Barack Obama as a “boy child” and someone you don’t have to accept as president. He never referred to George Bush as a boy, even though Bush acted like one sometimes. We now have some Republicans calling for a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution under the disguise of saying children born in the USA to illegal immigrants (Mexicans) should not be given citizenship rights. It sounds good to many Americans and some Blacks, who think something like this must be done to address this problem. However, let me tell you, once they get the 14th amendment open they might as well take away every other persons right to fix their fancy. It will become like the game of ‘Operation’ that kids get for Christmas with the patient lying before you, remove the leg bone and kidney, no the arm and so it goes. To these non-racist Republicans playing a racist game with the 14th amendment, it is a political game to get votes and stay in their elected positions but to me it is a matter of life and death. I have lived under Jim Crow Sr. and I don’t care what Jim Crow Jr. calls it, it ain’t gonna to happen.

So none of you are racist nor segregationist but you are acting out the parts of those racist from the past. Grow up and put together a program that will bring us together in business, education and community. If you want to repeal the fourteenth amendment then add to it the forty acres and a mule, now a tractor, which was never given to our ancestors. Put in reparations for the years we worked for no pay. Pay the Black farmers for the government discriminating against them. Show us the real Republican Party of Lincoln and the writers of the Fourteenth Amendment, now that is a role you should be playing and not that of racist politics.

Riverside Council Members Need To Revisit Why They Sought Office

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According to an article in the Press Enterprise by Alicia Robinson the Riverside city council members enjoy a $39,405 year salary for doing a parttime job plus a free car and gas credit card to do “official business”. This free car cost the city $5,000 to $7,000 per year for purchase, insurance, and general upkeep. The pay out for monthly usage of the vehicles varies from member to member because of the definition of “official business” between each member. 6th Ward council member Nancy Hart sold her personal car because once she got the city car her personal car was not used.

Steve Adams drove his city car to Santa Barbara many times to shopping centers and stopped in Ojai and went shopping, not bad for “official business”.

According to the city charter section 403 the council members are entitled to compensation when doing “official duties” and “shall be reimbursed on order of the city council.” One of my questions would be is what constitutes “official duties or business”? Would “official business” mean that the council members would get council direction first to visit Santa Barbara and make a report back to the council or could the member wake up on a beautiful day and say to the family let’s drive up the coast to Santa Barbara and check out some shopping centers? While another council member wakes up and tells their family let’s travel down to Mexico and visit our sister city. Or yet another council member waking up and saying to his/her family or friends let’s go to Arizona for a conference? Is each council member doing it in the name of “official business” for the city but never reporting back to the city of their findings? What about the number of local trips within the city that are not related to city business such as personal shopping or grooming?

Also, according to the article this free car program was implemented when Brad Hudson became city manager. Brad Hudson is now under fire from some community groups that do not like his management style of communicating with the minority community.

They are demanding Hudson be fired and return integrity to city hall, implying that these perks and other things have happened without public discussion.

I want to commend Council members Mike Gardner and Chris MacArthur for not accepting this free car program because it is these kinds of perks to policymakers that clouds the thinking. It is other perks of giving council members untraceable license plates that have community members upset.

With the public demanding more transparency from their elected officials, it would behoove the council to evaluate their relationship with staff and the perks they enjoy. They should also revisit why they sought the office of policymaker for the city. Was it to get perks or lead the city with good policies to improve the quality of life for its citizens and be good neighbors to surrounding communities?

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