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Hardy L. Brown

Governor's Veto of the Farm Worker Bill

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This statement is from Hardy Brown, Founder of California Black Media and Publisher of Black Voice News concerning the Governor's Veto of the Farm Worker Bill.

I understand Governor Schwarzenegger's decision to veto SB 1121 because I have been on both sides of the issue. What I don't understand is the penchant of people to compare everything and every situation to the Jim Crow experience. Senator Florez said the Governor, "decided to use his pen in the spirit of the politicians of the segregationist South, who pushed to discriminate against the least protected members of our society...it is a vestige of Jim Crow."

Being from North Carolina and a farm worker myself I can understand the farm worker's argument. I worked for 50 cents per hour in a 10 hour day in the tobacco field. There was no overtime. As a worker in tobacco some workers could make you go broke by the speed in which they harvested the tobacco from the field. To pay overtime in this type of labor might drive a farmer into the poor house.

I also worked a full day picking cotton for 4 cents a pound and on a good day you might get 100 pounds. The pay was different when I was picking corn and digging sweet potatoes. We were paid by the bushel. In these situations it was to both the workers and farmers advantage to be fast because the pay was contingent on productivity. The productive workers made more while the farmer got the crop in a timely fashion.

I was also on the farmer's side paying the workers for my father's sharecropping business. From the farmer's side of the pay issue you have to decide which pay method to use based on the crop being harvested. I don't know if the legislation takes all of those things into consideration. To compare this with the southern treatment of Blacks might be stretching the point but I remember vividly how I felt when I first came to California and went to pick grapes in Fontana. While it's not the type of work I wanted to do, it was in no way similar to the "slave labor" or "sharecropping" history of the state I was from.

I am concerned that the issue of the veto of overtime for farm workers is unfairly compared to America's history of racism, segregation, and Jim Crowism, especially as those things relate to Governor Schwarzenegger. Since he has been in office, he has included more diversity in his cabinet appointees than any governor who served before him, just ask CPUC Commissioner Tim Simon, who was appointed the first African American to serve as Appointments Secretary by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The Governor has also been a champion for workers: signing legislation to increase the minimum wage, forcing regulations that help improve farm worker's working conditions such as requiring breaks during the work day and setting aside an area for breaks, supporting a heat illness prevention campaign, and supporting the (EEEC) Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition to insure employers of agriculture workers are in compliance with labor laws.

I understand the need to do more. However with this state in its current fiscal crisis and with companies threatening to leave the state because the cost of doing business here is higher than most states in the union, I understand the Governor's action. And I reject the notion that race was a reason for that decision.


Removing the Black National Anthem Label is not the answer Prof. Askew for Inclusion

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Professor Tommy Askew at Clark University in Atlanta says we should be moving toward racial inclusiveness by removing the title “The Negro National Anthem of Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by James Weldon Johnson, which was later set to music by Johnson’s brother. Before long it was being sung throughout the south in Black churches, public schools and all public gatherings. It spread like wildfire because all Black people below the Mason Dixie Line could identify with the words because of the legalized oppressive Jim Crow Laws of the southern states. I remember we would sing the Star Spangled Banner and then Lift Every Voice and Sing as a follow up, which is practiced today at many functions put on by Blacks. Even though we were being oppressed Lift Every Voice was our song and it gave us the courage to live on.

I am reminded of another song; However this one was written by an Englishman who sailed the seas carrying cargo of African slaves. He was not a Christian yet today his song is sung more than any other Christian song. It is a favorite in the Black church and was part of the civil rights movement, yet no one has suggested they alter the historic setting of which the song was written or that the writer was White. To the contrary most preachers will lead into the song of Amazing Grace with a brief history of John Newton and his conviction as a slave trader.

Yes it is a song about our struggle as a people living under an oppressive government and any people living under an unjust government that can identify with the words should or can adopt it as their rallying song. That is what the church did with Amazing Grace. To me that is one reason Blacks can identify with the Israelites/Jews stories in the Bible so well. And we do not ask them to change anything of theirs to be inclusive, if you like it you join them where they are.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, in the Book of Deuteronomy 6:6-12, God gave the Jews specific instruction to tell the story of how they got over exactly as it happened.

He instructed them to teach the young because He knew in time of prosperity they would forget the struggle and think of another reason how they got over. This is how I interpret what Professor Askew is doing and suggesting.

These moments in the life of a people living as slaves pulls at your heart strings and soul regardless of ones color or who wrote the words. When one understands the condition by which the writer pens the words it gives added appreciation for the song. For the past twenty five years here in the Inland Empire, people of various Christian denominations gather with Blacks at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. functions and NAACP fundraisers and sing the Negro National Anthem. It is a time of unity, pride and inclusiveness of a people coming together to better understand the plight of Black people as neighbors with our contributions to this nation.

“Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
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;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.”

All who understand the history and do not want to repeat it should remember the Negro National Anthem by Lifting Your Voice And Sing.

My Thoughts on Immigration Reform

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Many people are some what baffled that in the Black community they cannot find 100% agreement to grant rights to illegal immigrants who are now seeking rights in our good old USA. As a matter of fact Blacks are not happy over any immigrants coming to America, legal or illegal, only to have them look down or show disrespect for us as a race of people who built this country. We see our current immigration policy that accommodates every nation except those from the continent of Africa, Haiti or other countries where black is the color of their skin.

Now while we do not engage in any activities to deny anyone entrance on U. S. soil we want to help educate the incoming people of our history, contributions, struggles, treatment and false image that have been generated about us so we can all get along as neighbors. I say that because former president Vicente Fox of Mexico said his people were “working on jobs those Blacks did not want”, implying we were lazy, which generated a lot of resentment. Before them it was the entire European block nations that helped paint a negative image abroad about African Americans to the world so when they got here they segregated themselves from us once established.

I see some of the same kind of attitudes being displayed by some Hispanics in the for instance the Latino Political Caucus lead by Gil Navarro. He is frustrated because he, a Mexican American, cannot get elected over Wilma Amina Carter, an African American, in a district where Hispanics make over 50% of the district. His main goal is to take over and isolate the Black community by any means possible including giving non citizens the right to vote and carte blanc on all services. Someone forgot to tell Gil and his cohorts that when you seek public office you have to offer the people more than racial ideas.

Before anyone draws the wrong conclusion, I am in favor of a full comprehensive overhaul of our immigration policy because the one we have operated under for the past many decades is not favorable to people of color.

I am against the piece meal approached like the one in Arizona because that is how we wound up with the Black Codes and legalized Jim Crow laws from 1865 to 1965 also known as the “Separate but Equal” way of life for Blacks in America.

Some of the reasons Blacks feel the way we do is when we arrived on the first ship back in 1502 there was no Statue of Liberty greeting us with open arms. Instead we were put on slave auction blocks to be paraded to the highest bidder as property with no clothes on our bodies. We had no invitation sent to us by eager cousins telling us about the land of opportunity or the American Dream. The American Dream that we built, for others to now enjoy, has been a nightmare for us forover 571 years. We were not given any money by the King or Queen to explore this new world. We were not released from prison to help make room for the population left behind. We had no food famine in our country as a reason to seek this new land. Once here we were forbidden to speak in our native language while it was against the law to be taught how to read and write English. We did not cross any international legal border lines to get here. When our children were born here they were sold with no citizenship rights. We worked for free for 274 years before America became the United States of America and after 1776 we worked another 87 years (1863) as 3/5 a person as slaves. Once Emancipated we were not given any compensation for our free labor and we spent another 100 years, until 1965, under legalized Jim Crow laws as sharecroppers into which I was born.

After all of that has happened to us, when we got citizenship rights we did not bunch together to keep anyone else outof our neighborhood with discriminatory housing covenants.

We have never put language requirements on a job to keep others from having an opportunity for employment. We have never recruited just family members or signed grandfather clause agreements to ensure our family members or race a job.

We have never formed Black only terrorist organizations tohang, kill or intimidate citizens of another race. We have never sought a law that was not inclusive of our fellow citizens including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included women.

We have fought in every war from the American Revolution against the British, on both sides of the civil war to Iraq and Afghanistan. We pay taxes that everyone including other nations have received greater portions than us. Yet when we seek equal access at the public trough funds where fairness is supposed to be the rule, we are told to wait. When we speak out on any issue other than civil rights we are told it is not our business.

Now we have before us 12 million people who are in this country by illegal and some legal means that have expired that we are trying to figure out what to do with. Some want to become citizens while others just want to earn a decent living for their families back home. Some want to get an education and go back home to improve their standard of living.

Whatever the reason we need to find a humane and decent way of doing it so “we can all get along”.

I have reviewed the Obama Administration’s proposed idea and even though I do not agree with every aspect of it, it is a good place for us to start. Securing all borders South and North is critical if Homeland Security is a stated priority. In my mind you cannot close the border of Mexico and then leave Canada wide open. We cannot give Cubans who touch USA land rights then lock up Haitians and ship them back home.

We cannot treat illegals from Mexico or other Latin countries as criminals without treating the U. S. corporations or government agencies who hire them as criminals as well.

We must expect them to learn, speak and write English. This is one of the rubbing points of so many Americans with the language issue. In some cases now employers offer some jobs to only those who speak Spanish. In some cases union positions are posted with that requirement which denies Blacks from even applying. We should also make sure we train our citizens, Blacks in particular, for positions we now recruit from other countries.

We have to penalize the law breakers and then offer some kind of way for them to become citizens after those who are currently applying. The big questions to work out are what status will illegal immigrants have before they become legal citizens? What rights will or should they enjoy until legal?

AB 1998 is Bad Legislation

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There is a bill working its way through the California legislature known as AB 1998 which if passed will ban the use of plastic bags to carry your groceries home from the supermarket. Instead, shoppers must buy reusable bags or buy paper bags for 5 cents from the grocer.

I'm sure the paper bags will require double bagging so we're now talking 10 cents extra per bag of groceries.

To me this isn't just another "save the planet do gooder" idea, it's another attempt by an industry to charge us more for something that should be innate to the service they provide...like the airlines now charging for checked luggage knowing that because you are taking a trip you have to take SOMETHING with you.

What's next, charging us to use the shopping carts when we shop?

This legislation also doesn't take into account the poor and those on fixed incomes who cannot afford additional expenses for necessities. Those using public transportation have a difficult time carrying paper bags on buses or trains.

They are also difficult to carry in rain or windy weather. Also plastic bags find multiple uses in our households once we get home.

I'm an advocate for reusable bags, however I understand that they have some risks. Reusable bags can carry bacteria and could contaminate your food if for instance poorly wrapped meat leaks on one shopping trip and then you use the same bag for fruits and vegetables the next shopping trip. They just aren't for everyone and it's ridiculous that our legislators are trying to mandate it. In my opinion they have more more important business to attend to, like focusing on the state's budget crisis, the poor rankings of our schools, the high unemployment rate in our state, and the list goes on....

I could list other reasons against this "noble" idea that in reality is not workable for many of us and should be defeated.

Blacks See Police Abuse & Justice Differently than Whites

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If the shooting and killing of Oscar Grant by a White police officer of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Agency while he was laying face down with his hand on his back was not enough for police abuse, I wasn't surprised that an all- White jury only found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. In other words, the officer was not guilty of murder even though Grant did not pose a threat to him. The officer said he was intending to pull his taser gun to subdue Grant, however other officers were holding Grant down at the time.

It is this kind of so-called accidental shooting or beating by White police officers of Blacks that reaffirms my belief that the way Blacks and Whites see police abuse and justice in America is different. We take the same evidence as presented and draw different conclusions over and over again.

There are many to draw from but let me remind you of a few: the O.J. Simpson verdict was seen differently by Blacks and Whites in America. In the Simpson case, Whites were mad at the jury for acquitting him even though the evidence was circumstantial and some police officers committed perjury. There were 9 Blacks, 2 Whites and 1 Hispanic on his criminal trial that found O.J. not guilty. Yet on his civil trial, it was made up of 9 Whites, 1 Hispanic, 1 Black and 1 mixed of Asian and Jamaican heritage, where they found O.J. guilty using the same circumstantial evidence. Many Blacks say now that O.J. is locked up in Las Vegas, Whites are satisfied.

We also witnessed the video of the Rodney King being beaten by four White police officers and we came to a different conclusion on what happened. Some of then-Mayor, Tom Bradley’s friends got mad at him for saying our eyes have seen the video and it is clear to us that abuse was evident. The officers were brought to trial and charged with using excessive force. The trial was moved to Simi Valley in predominantly White Ventura County where a jury of 10 Whites, 1 Hispanic and 1 Asian acquitted the officers of any wrong doing. A riot broke out afterwards in Los Angeles which resulted in 53 dead, 2,383 injured, 7,000 fires and $1 billion dollars in damage. Rodney put a stop to much of the violence with his now famous “Can we all get along” statement.

The horrific police shooting and killing of Tyisha Miller by four White police officers, this was also seen differently by Whites in Riverside than the Black community. Even when the District Attorney released diagrams of the shooting; showing that Tyisha was shot 12 times in the back while sitting unconscious in a locked car in a well lit parking lot at a service station, whites believed it was a justified shooting.

Russ Leach was hired as chief of the police department to bring trust and peace to the community after this incident. Progress between law enforcement and the community has moved gingerly together until recently. I say recently because the chief was caught driving under the influence and the department tried to sweep it under the rug. The way police officers and elected officials gave Leach special treatment has reopened wounds of mistrust from Blacks and Latinos in the community. It clearly demonstrates that Whites are treated differently than Blacks and Hispanics in our legal system.

In 1996, a movie called A Time to Kill was made starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel Jackson and Sandra Bullock about a Black man who was on trial for killing two White men for raping his 10 year old daughter. Jackson was defended by McConaughey and Bullock. McConaughey realizing he was losing the case instructed the all-White jury to close their eyes as he walked them through this brutal act of two beer drinking men having their way with this little innocent girl. His last statement to them as he described this act was imagine that this girl was White. It was at that moment that the jury saw they would have killed the two men if it was their daughter. It brought tears into the eyes of many on the jury as McConaughey was bringing his summation to a close. They ruled that Jackson was not guilty of this violent act he committed. I know it was a movie but the lesson in it was people had to take a look at putting themselves in a Black father’s position of protecting his little girl.

During all of these abuse incidents and trials, people come together seeking ways to close the division between our law enforcement system: police, district attorney’s office, and court system and then we are once again reminded of this division when another police abuse incident happens.

There is still mistrust between people of color and the police department in every community throughout America because we see police abuse and justice differently than Whites.

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