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Hardy L. Brown

Where Do You Stand on Citizens' Rights to Vote in America?

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This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama march in 1965, where some 600 civil rights advocates were beaten with batons, hosed with water, chased down by police on horseback and bitten by police dogs as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Highway 80 all done by state order from then governor George Wallace. This bridge was named after a Confederate General in the Civil War and Grand Wizard Leader of Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan. George Wallace had declared that “segregation yesterday, segregation today, segregation forever,” would be the way of life in Alabama forever. The 600 citizens were marching that day in 1965 for the right to vote in a state that would have Black citizens guess the number of bubbles in a bar of soap or cite the state constitution and pay a poll tax in order to register. Then if they were registered, the court clerk would call the landowner where the Black person lived and often sharecropped, and have them put off the land.

This was the same year I decided to take my young family back home to Trenton, North Carolina to meet all my family. My wife Cheryl did not know what to expect with all of the racial issues in the news but she took my word that we would be alright as long as we acted a certain way and did not venture off into certain areas. I did not let Cheryl know, but I did take some security measures so that just in case some isolated incident happened I would be able to defend my family like my dad had taught me. I did have some other concerns because I had just bought a new car to drive home and some people did not believe Blacks should have nice things or things better than what they had. We did not encounter any incidents or issues on the trip but I did show her the KKK sign on Highway 70 just outside Jones County that stated this is KKK Country.

This was also during the time when all our water came from a pump and the restroom was an outhouse. However, my Uncle Harry had indoor plumbing so Cheryl went down to their house. That is when I told my dad to get connected up with the city line if possible and we would cover the expenses. Yes, some things have changed.

As I watched the history being told on television and the current thousands of people of all races and religions gather to prove George Wallace wrong, economic segregation may still exist in Alabama but legal segregation based on race has been written off the books.

Today fifty years later we have some new George Wallace imitators all over the country trying to do the same thing; making it difficult for Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Indians, women, seniors, young adults, those who have committed a crime and paid their debt to society, those from the LGBT community to be full citizens in exercising their constitutional right to vote.

While all of this history is being commemorated we are trying to digest the current justice department report on the city of Ferguson. One finding the report confirmed was that Blacks are being charged and over charged for minor traffic violations that turn into warrants and jail time. The courts and the city council sanctioned this kind of action which funds the government that is oppressing the citizens.

This report was generated after the recent incident of a White police officer shooting and killing Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson. As I flipped the television channel to catch the local news, it was reported another unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed in Madison, Wisconsin.

I comforted myself in the knowledge that God is still on the throne and we must remain committed to fighting for justice in the greatest country on the planet. It is worth fighting for because Jesus Christ came and gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. I thought of those who have fought before me, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, my parents Floyd and Essie Brown and of course Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others who have fought and are still fighting the good fight for freedom. My question to you today, tomorrow, and the future: Where do you stand and do you consider this and other civil rights and other unfair economic issues worth fighting for? If so, let your voice be heard.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of Black Voice News.

Freedom Is Not Free But Worth Fighting For Every Day

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My wife took me to see the movie Selma this weekend and it stirred up vivid memories of my life during the fifties, sixties and seventies. During the fifties I was in my hometown of Trenton, North Carolina under Jim Crow laws of legal segregation.

When you grow up in that kind of society, you realize the color of your skin is the only thing that prevents you from socializing with others of a different color which makes no sense at all. Television was new and you could see what other people were doing in other parts of the country and after listening to relatives that come home from up north you know that life could be different.

So I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and leave as soon as possible. As they say “catch the first thing smoking”.

As I watched the movie and the scene where the four girls are talking to each other as they walked down the stairs at church and the bomb goes off, it jarred me much like it did the day I heard the news. My emotions went from sad, then angry, and I said to myself there is still much work to do.

As the movie went on I realized again that freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday of your life. I witnessed the marches of the sixties and recalled voting for President Lyndon B. Johnson and listening to his “we shall overcome” speech to Congress and the country. I could not believe he was saying what I heard him say but it was true. Johnson was pushing the Voting Rights Act and wanted Congress to pass the bill. Congress did pass the bill and now today some in the Republican Party want to revisit that law and take that right away if you can not meet certain requirements such as proper identification.

Again I said, there is much work to be done and freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday. I am glad I went to see the movie because I always wondered why it took three tries to walk across the Pettus Bridge in 1965. My wife had the good fortune of walking across it when she went on a southern Underground Railroad tour in Alabama.

After the movie a young lady who recognized me remarked, “we have a lot of work to do” to which I replied, “yes the fight continues.”

In the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 6 it reminds us that the older generation has a responsibility to impress upon the younger generation our history of how we got over. If we do not tell them of our struggles and tribulations then they will not know how to negotiate, demonstrate, and resist when it comes to fighting unjust laws.

For example, in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, Blacks make up seventy percent of the city and yet they feel unrepresented in the government. They have not been told how to exercise their voting power to elect people who will make laws that represent their interest. The police force has only three Blacks on staff and Blacks pay over 95 percent of all traffic violations in the city. Somebody forgot to tell them the history of how to use their power at the ballot box to correct that issue.

Because the young Black voters decided not to vote in high numbers last year, this action might result in some voting rights that we fought for 50 years ago being changed. If that happens the numbers and diversity of elected officials in Washington and some states will also change. That will mean fewer people of color and women will be appointed to the courts with your interest in public policy.

So we must continue the fight because freedom is not free and because if we don’t it can be taken away.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Racial Conversations Dominated the News as 2014 Came to a Close

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New York Mayor Bill De Blaiso is married to an African American woman, Chirlane McCrary, and together they have two children Chiara and Dante. After the recent killing of Eric Garner by some New York Police officers, some citizens of New York held peaceful protest in the streets and downtown even in Macy’s Department Store to draw attention to brutality by police toward citizens of color especially Blacks.

At one of the mayor’s press conferences, he spoke of his conversation that as a parent he has had with his son about how to act during any encounter with a police officer. I thought nothing of his story other than as the father of a Black male he understands the history of racism in this country and wants his son to come home alive if confronted by a police officer who has preconceived impressions of African Americans. I had that same conversation with my son and grandsons.

That innocent statement has some police officers in New York thinking the mayor is siding with the protesters and not them. Mind you the protesters are taxpayers and voters with every right to protest and ask for accountability by their public police force. And the police have every right to not like the mayor for making his personal experience known in public.

And just recently, we had the media broadcast to society their discriminatory view during the airing of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Miss Crown City Queen Joan Williams was stripped of her crown and pulled from the city’s Rose Parade Float in 1958 when city government learned that Ms. Williams was a light skinned African American. In order to correct this horrible and very ugly embarrassment to the Rose Bowl Parade history and the city of Pasadena, the Tournament of Roses parade committee decided to honor Ms. Williams by having her ride in this year’s parade only to have her snubbed by the television commentators as though she was not there. The officials of the Rose Parade did provide all of the news media outlets with the information and history of why Williams was deserving of this honor but the commentators ignored her and the float she was riding.

Many print media outlets cited that Williams was again snubbed because of race.

It is a disgrace that we have a society which allows some of our citizens to dictate their discriminatory views on the rest of us. In the situation of New York the police are paid from public dollars, of which Blacks do pay taxes, and are sworn to protect and serve all citizens equally and fairly under public laws. The mayor was elected to serve all of the people and oversees a hired staff to assist him or her in doing the job.

Just like the citizens and police who have inalienable rights to protest, the mayor has that same right and parental obligation to educate his son on the obstacles that will confront him in the pursuit of life’s happiness and one of those obstacles is racism by some people in America including those in blue uniforms with badges. Just like all police families want their loved ones to return home alive so does Mayor Bill De Blasio. Every person I have seen on television and those I’ve met in person locally who has lost someone from such incidents shed tears of pain and hopes it does not happen to anyone else.

In the case of Joan Williams it is another example of how deeply embedded racism is entrenched in our culture and society. Many people just go about their daily lives without understanding what people of color go through just to return home safely and prepare for the next day.

My questions to all of us, what makes a drop of blood from a Black human being so powerful? What makes a darker complexion that hated and feared?

Let all of us recommit to making America a better country in 2015.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

There's Still Work to do in Correcting Our Justice System

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We did not create the current justice system nor was it seeking justice for Blacks, women, or the poor in this country at the time it became the law of the land. It was built on biases and stereotypes that are culturally tied to those in charge with discretion that many of us do not understand until we are caught up in it.

Many were surprised by the actions of the county prosecutor and how he used the Grand Jury to present the case for police officer Darren Wilson instead of the victim Michael Brown the young Black teenager. However many in the Black community knew the outcome before the jury rendered its verdict.

The local NAACP is taking a long march from the place of the killing to the state capitol in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of police officers killing unarmed Black citizens in America. They are also hoping to get a law enacted for police to wear body cameras when interacting with the public.

While this would be nice, I remember Mayor Tom Bradley saying, “I know what I saw” when talking about the police beating of Rodney King on video after a jury acquitted the officers using the video. People see what they want to see and ignore facts because they know the majority of the public will not be impacted by their decisions. We are going to have to remove this automatic legal protection of police officers that we have established in America. More cases must be brought to public trial in order to establish any kind of trust in our community and police must prove themselves trustworthy of our respect.

Now Ferguson’s city government is attempting to correct some of the obvious things that have come out into the national spotlight. How does a city where 70% of the population is African American have only one serving on the city council and three Black police officers?

They have accepted the resignation of Officer Wilson while implementing a plan to increase the diversity of the police force by offering financial incentives for officers to live in the city and organizing a police cadet program in schools.

There are many cities like Ferguson all over America and some right here in the Inland Empire. For example, San Bernardino has only 22 Blacks and 62 Hispanics on the force and 18 who live in the city out of a staff of over 200 officers.

On the fire department, there are only four firefighters living in the city with six Blacks and 19 Hispanics on a staff of 120, where Whites make up less than 25% of the population.

Currently there are two Latinos and one African American on the San Bernardino City Council. I say currently because there was a time there were no Blacks or Latinos represented on the city council and a time when only two Blacks served at the same time. Voters must keep this in mind and seek good people to run for office while having a city charter that gives those elected the authority to manage once elected.

To all elected officials, the time to act is before a crisis or like I say in the newspaper business “make friends before you need them.” You never know when a Ferguson issue might happen in your community.

And remember many Black and Latino citizens do not view the justice system as their friend or being there for them. We have a lot of work to do to change that perception.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Remembering Those Who Died And Why

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This past Monday we took time to pay tribute to our fellow Americans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our allies around the world. What began as a day to honor those killed in the American Civil War has now included all wars and conflicts about freedom on our behalf.

At first we just visited the grave sites and laid flowers and offered a prayer on their behalf but now we hold ceremonies with fancy programs while many take to beaches and family gatherings in their backyards.

However you celebrate, I hope you took the time to really thank these men and women who served our country and obligated yourself to live up to one of the things they died for and that is the right to vote. There are countries around the world engaged in violent conflicts over the right to vote while here at home we have people trying to deny and suppress that right. And if they have their way many living relatives of those who died for the right to vote will be denied that right in America.

Even in some cases those who were injured and have disabilities will be denied that right because of their present living condition of homelessness. Not having a place to call home and proper identification is part of some states’ proposals to deny this constitutional right they died for.

It is hurtful, shameful, and embarrassing to our nation that today, some veterans have died because some people we pay to provide health care services to veterans did not give them a timely appointment to be treated. Things like this must not happen and we, the living, must rededicate our lives to right these wrongs for those who died.

Let us begin by looking to the next election and re-engage ourselves by voting. Twenty to thirty percent of our citizens voting is not a good enough tribute to show them that we appreciate what they did on our behalf.

This thing called freedom begins with the ballot box and by you electing people you think will honor those who died and will fight for the rights of those living.

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