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Hardy L. Brown

Preachers of Los Angeles

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I grew up with our church being at the end of our backyard, so I grew up knowing preachers. Being from a tobacco state most of the preachers grew, smoked, chewed, or dipped some form of tobacco. I also grew up hearing of Daddy Grace and other high profile Black preachers including controversial Congressman Adam Clayton Powell so when I heard the kids talking about this television program called Preachers of LA, it peaked my interest but I did not view it until my son caught me in the mood and changed the TV channel one night.

Then I noticed one of the preachers was Bishop Ron Gibson of Life Church of God in Christ from Riverside.

This really peaked my interest since I remembered Rev. Gibson from delivering papers to his church, the Tyisha Miller protest and my son becoming a member of his church. As a matter of record, my last public speaking engagement was at Rev. Gibson’s church for a Black history program and he helped me from the podium and prayed for me.

I am doing this piece on my friend Rev. Gibson because of some of the reviews I read on the show calling it junk and calling the pastors, power seeking and money grabbing ministers. Now I cannot speak for the other ministers but what I have seen of the program Ron is true to himself as a person and minister.

Pastor Ron has always spoke of his background growing up in a gang and drug infested neighborhood. He did it all and gives all the credit to God for saving him from a life of drugs and violence. It is through his life experience, just like so many of us, that he responds to life and certain situations.

When Tyisha Miller was killed in 1998 by four White police officers in Riverside, the Black ministers came together to lead the fight for justice on her behalf and Rev. Gibson was one of those preachers. On several occasions when the committee needed a place to present controversial speakers like Rev. Al Sharpton and community activist Danny Bakewell, Gibson did not hesitate to offer Life Church. When the police chief told the group they could not protest in front of the police station anymore, there was Rev. Gibson stepping up saying this is public property. Vermont McKinney of the United States Justice Department Community Relations stepped forward and said to Rev. Gibson and Rev. Bernell Butler give me ten minutes to talk with the chief. Needless to say they protested in front of the police station on the property. He was one of many that was arrested and hauled off to jail for protesting. When he went to jail and was in court he pulled off his Rolex watch and had the court officers hold it.

Pastor Gibson showed no fear in his confrontation with law enforcement and it gave strength and courage to the other clergy when confronted with the establishment.

There were many preachers who demonstrated exceptional leadership during that yearlong protest for justice on behalf of Miller. I even offered biblical nicknames for some of them, like Luke was Rev. Jesse Wilson chair of the Tyisha Miller committee. For Rev. Gibson I gave the name Peter “You the Man” because of his eagerness and quick response in critical situations. It was Peter who cut off the solider’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus. That is the way Pastor Gibson responds through his neighborhood experience.

As I previously mentioned, I don’t know the other ministers in the television program but Rev. Ron Gibson and his wife, LaVette are living the life they have always lived and giving all the credit to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin Incident

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Richie Incognito, a veteran professional football player for the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins, used some harsh and threatening language toward Jonathan Martin, a rookie on the team that was so bad Martin quit. Some say it was hazing that every rookie goes through. A hazing ritual that evidently includes rookies taking the entire team out to dinner at a cost in the tens of thousands.

I am sure they do other things like playing silly pranks on the new members of the team. However, the question now is did Incognito cross the line of hazing and did management know about what was going on and did nothing about it.

According to investigative reports, ESPN and other news outlets, this is not the first time Incognito has displayed behavior so bad it caused him to be suspended from a team dating back to his college days.

This time Incognito has been suspended from the Dolphins for an undetermined length of time and as for Martin he is out as well.

By now you are probably wondering what was said by Incognito to Martin that would cause Martin to walk away from a multi-million dollar career and lead to Incognito’s suspension.

Incognito left Martin a voicemail:

“Hey wassup, you half N------- piece of s---. I saw you on twitter, you been training 10 weeks. I want to s--- in your f---ing mouth. I’m going to slap your f----ing mouth. I’m going to slap your real mother across the face, then he laughed; f--- you, you still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

They said that this is only what they could or would release at this time but there is more to come. Many are saying that management should have known and put a stop to this. While others are saying the players on the team should have told Incognito to back off and that his hazing had crossed the line of the locker room norm.

I am sure Incognito is one of those guys who would have said if females want to report on football then she must put up with what males say and do.

I recall that is what male employees said when Kaiser Hospital wanted to hire a female biotech engineer in the engineering department and the male department head said if a woman was hired she would have to put up with all sorts of bad language and pictures of nude women on the wall. The hospital administrator responded, “I did not know that is how your department behaved when I am not present.” He went on to say, “let me say this to you, she starts in two weeks and if you cannot clean up your department by then have your resignation on my desk.”

In my opinion these kinds of things happen in our society because people at the top set the tone for what kinds of behavior are acceptable.

I believe, it is more difficult for one who comes from the privileged side of town to regulate their tongue or behavior because they have never had to worry about the consequences of their actions.

In my opinion this incident will force all teams to re-evaluate how rookies are treated in the locker room when they arrive. I believe Incognito crossed the line and thus should not be allowed to play in the National Football League.

Ben Jealous Resigns As CEO of NAACP

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My friend Ben Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, is resigning his position effective December 2013 citing personal family reasons. As a father of small children having to spend days and weeks of not being able to talk, touch and play with them during their developmental years takes its toll. Those formative years are the most important in a child’s life with mother and father raising them together.

I know this because I have been where Ben is now. I had the opportunity to uproot my family for the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles where I would spend countless hours stuck in an office in Hollywood, on the road throughout Southern California, and in the air to Oakland. Our kids were small at the time with one not yet born.

My wife and I evaluated our situation and decided that our family would be better served in the four bedroom home, with swimming pool, central air & heat, surrounded by people we knew from childhood and a community we loved. I took a promotion with the company but remained in San Bernardino where I came home every night.

Now Ben took the job at 35-years of age when there were no children involved with his decision. Now at 40 and two children later he and wife, Lea Epperson, a civil rights lawyer with her own career, his priorities have shifted. I, for one, applaud Ben for his decision.

I have known Ben since the 90’s when both of us were involved with the National Newspapers Publishers Association, he as staff and I as first vice president of the board of directors placed with some responsibility of staff and conventions. Ben impressed me with his knowledge of our struggle as Black owners of newspapers and citizens in America.

Ben is a Rhodes Scholar and it was clear to me he was skilled at grasping grand ideas and dissecting them into clear statements for communicating them to people.

I know the stress a position like CEO of the NAACP can have on a person because at any moment a Trayvon Martin shooting, a moral Monday demonstration in North Carolina, voting rights issues in any state, interviews on television, radio or newspaper could happen at any time or place in America with his presence being requested, not to mention supervising a staff and raising money for the organization.

Ben is leaving the organization with a good staff and much more money than when he started. The donors have grown from 16,000 to 133,000 with annual revenues up from $25 million to $46 million a year. The NAACP has a high tech operation for getting voters engaged in the political process that helped contribute to higher Black voter turnout.

I wish Ben much success in his endeavors as he strives to raise a family while navigating his career to provide for them.

A Walk Down Memory Lane with "The Butler"

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This weekend, my wife Cheryl took me to see the movie “The Butler” directed by Lee Daniels. The movie stars such notables as Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and others portraying past presidents. It is a love story of a Black man, his family, and friends growing up in America from childhood to manhood during the legalized separate but equal system of Jim Crow Laws in the southern part of our United States of America.

The movie begins with a young Cecil “The Butler” Gaines played by Michael Rainer, Jr. and his dad in a cotton field as he explains how to pick cotton. They witness the White landowner forcing Cecil’s mother to go into a shed for an un-wanting pleasure break that interrupts their exchange. Cecil asks his dad can’t you do something? But his dad is later shot and killed for confronting the White landowner about this unauthorized pleasure break with his wife.

This reminded me of my experience while working at Kaiser Steel in Fontana when a White man asked me if I would like being a slave. I responded with how about him being my slave and I take his wife and there was nothing he could do about it.

The movie took Cheryl and myself down memory lane of growing up in America as the director took us through the timeline of events from presidential administrations, policies, and documenting our struggle for equality as humans in this world.

Earlier in the day Westside Action Group, WAG was meeting in Ontario drafting a constitution for the organization that would encompass our plight from overcoming enslavement, legalized separate but unequal Jim Crow Laws and now entrenched institutionalized discrimination practices that prevent or act as barriers to full freedom of Blacks in America.

Just as The Butler got his job in the White House by word of mouth that practice has not changed today. The good jobs only come about by the personal recruiting of family and friends and if you do not have that link you are not going to get that job.

The Butler now played by Whitaker was a proud man and knew well the art of his trade to be in the room where important confidential issues were being discussed but went about his duties unnoticed. Even when derogatory things were being expressed about his people, he never flinched or told any one about the discussion. That happened to me several times during my job as a chauffer and garage attendant.

His role as husband, father, and friend was very telling of many African American men growing up during that era while trying to survive with dignity in the face of humiliating treatment. It was also filled full of cultural things that if you have not lived it you might not understand the significance. For example, my wife and I laughed out loud when Oprah said our son is seeking a career as a numbers runner. No one else in the theater even made a peep.

The Butler is a movie for everyone to see that would like to better understand the plight of what a Black family goes through in trying to make it in America. It is also a good documentation of American history for all to see as it weaves how elected officials make public policy. It is a good movie to be used for discussion by those for better understanding between the races. I highly recommend you take the time to see this move and if possible take someone with you who grew up under our Jim Crow Laws.

Great movie.

Trayvon Martin Shooting and Verdict: My First Reaction

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When I first heard of the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman I thought of when I had a conversation with my son when he was attending San Bernardino High School. It was in the late eighties and two gangs, Crips and Bloods were active and our police were on high alert. It was not a safe community and I wanted to make sure when he left for school that he also returned safely.

The conversation centered on him wanting to wear his red tennis shoes and red sweater, which was the school color, and he was the school mascot of Johnny Cardinal. He had every right as a citizen, student, and supporter of his school colors to wear the clothes but from my history and experience of being a Black male in America, I had to say, “you have every right but you being a Black male, I cannot let you wear that.”

It is so sad that our forefathers fought and died in every war from fighting the British to establish the country, civil war north and south to keep it together, World Wars I and II to keep us free, not to mention clearing the land, planting the fields, harvesting the crops, building the cities and the White House only to be treated and valued less than animals.

Michael Vick, a Black male professional football player in 2007 was implicated in a dog-fighting ring and served 20-months in prison. According to the records no dogs were killed, which in my mind puts a higher value on dogs than it does Black males in America.

We had a Black female, Marissa Alexander, stand her ground in her house by firing a pistol at the roof when her husband confronted her, and she was found guilty and is serving 20-years in the Florida prison system. She had a court restraining order against him so she had a right to defend herself but the justice system in Florida gets the results its wants against Blacks.

In the Trayvon case, Trayvon had every right to be where he was as did Zimmerman.

Zimmerman decided to profile Trayvon as a suspicious suspect just because of his experience of a White neighbors home being broken into several weeks before. Zimmerman profiled Trayvon as being “up to no good” just because of his color and the clothes he wore. Zimmerman decided to follow Trayvon around the neighborhood, which provoked Trayvon to believe his life was in jeopardy. Trayvon ran and Zimmerman followed even after being told by the police to stay in your car do not follow him. Zimmerman followed and when confronted by Trayvon and was losing the ensued fight, he pulled his gun and killed Trayvon. Then claimed he was standing his ground and killed Trayvon in self-defense.

Another thing that irked me was the police believed Zimmerman and did not arrest him until a fuss was made. Zimmerman was innocent in their eyes without a complete investigation.

People are saying that we had a trial and six people gave a verdict of not guilty. I remember another trial that was held over two thousands years ago that was a set up trial to get a verdict of guilty. So even though people receive a trial does not mean justice is served and it was not served in the Zimmerman trial.

In my opinion it is sad that Black males cannot feel free in their own country. It is sad that we have to teach our children they cannot behave in the same manner as White children. It is sad that we cannot “stand our ground to defend ourselves” when confronted by a White man in America. It is sad that we have to tell our children they are second class citizens in America.

Trayvon did not have to die because he did nothing wrong and that is why we will have to teach our children to act differently if we want them to come home alive.

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