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Hardy L. Brown

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.

The Supreme Court is Narrowing the Line on Race for College Admission

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This past Monday, our United States Supreme Court made a decision on Affirmative Action by returning the case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas back to the state of Texas. This case is regarding Fisher’s claim of having been discriminated against because she is White. The Texas university system has an admissions policy that takes the top 10% of the public schools student body to correct past racial discrimination of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.

The court ruled 7-1 with Justice Clarence Thomas saying that race should not be considered at all even though he was appointed and selected to serve because of his race by members of the Republican Party. They knew and understood that racial discrimination has been a part of American history for over four hundred years and his appointment was just a small step toward correcting this injustice of legalized racial discrimination.

During this four hundred years, Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Indians were legally denied admission to colleges and universities everywhere in the country and especially in the state of Texas. Texas is the state that birthed Juneteenth because when all slaves were Emancipated by President Lincoln, Texas kept slavery alive and well for another two and half years. This is one state that knows how to discriminate when it comes to race. But Texas is not exempt in its racially discriminatory practices. Some examples of the legally entrenched practices of racial discrimination: In 1970 the courts found that in the history of Alabama State Troopers, no Blacks had ever been hired.

In 1987, Sheet Metal International Association, Local 28 was found guilty for adopting discriminatory recruitment, admission criteria, restricted its membership to deny Blacks, Latinos and Asians access. They were also found guilty of only selecting workers from its sister local to avoid from even having to consider outside applicants. And believe it or not this practice is still going on with some public safety associations and construction projects in California.

In California we have witnessed firsthand what happens when race is removed from college and universities admission policy. The Board of Regents in 1995 had to rescind its policy of SP1 and SP2 of not taking race, sex, religion, color into consideration when admitting or hiring students and employees. They had every good intention of doing what Justice Clarence Thomas based his opinion on the “Good Faith Notion” that people are color blind. It sounds good and right in a Christian nation but my forty years of working in America and implementing affirmative action programs and fighting racial, sexual, religious discrimination it is not going to happen without laws on the books to make decision makers take race into the equation.

Some Justices have asked the question: “How long should we have Affirmative Action?”

In my opinion, how about starting with the evidence of what four hundred years of White preferential treatment has giving us in admission to schools of higher learning, awarding public construction contracts, employment at all levels. I would say four hundred years might correct the problem and you would still need to have laws on the books. Just look at what some are trying to do with our voting laws.

Some of our Presidents have tried to protect the rights of all citizens and in some cases introduced remedies to correct the wrongs that are inflicted on the victims of racial and gender discrimination. Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Bush, Clinton and now Obama have issued executive orders to strike down the walls of some forms of discrimination because they know it will not just go away.

So this court knows that race must be a part of the criteria and that is why they returned this case back to Texas for evaluation.

Gigi Hanna - Courage In The Face of Adversity

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(NNPA) Having a backbone means having the courage to speak up for yourself and others, taking a position and holding it, taking risks and being trusted. Only a select few in public leadership, especially in the City of San Bernardino have the mental or spiritual backbone of courage to demonstrate it and go against the political opinion of the city attorney.

Well San Bernardino City Clerk Gigi Hanna has taken on the political opinion of City Attorney Jim Penman and the actions of the mayor and council to take over her duties as city clerk to oversee the city’s recall election of the mayor, all seven members of the council, and the city attorney.

It was the opinion of Penman that Hanna should recuse herself from her duties since she has been issued a separate recall notice not related to the original recall. Penman’s political opinion did not take into consideration that the city charter gives election responsibilities to a city elected clerk, which in this case is Hanna.

At the last council meeting, Penman went so far as to recommend an outside law firm back up his political opinion to advise the mayor and council to give this election process to the city manager and be supervised by four council members. These council members were selected by the drawing of four short straws. During my observation of this process, council member John Valdivia tried to get out of serving with Virginia Marques, Fred Shorett and Rikke Van Johnson who also drew short straws. In my opinion he did not want to serve with them because they usually vote in opposition to him.

After the meeting, Hanna decided to seek her own outside legal advice from the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office, the Secretary of State’s Office, the City Clerk’s Association of California and private legal council and on June 10th issued a statement that, she will not step aside from her duties as the municipal election official in the current efforts to recall the mayor, Common Council and City Attorney.

She went on to say, “Not only does the council not have a right to amend the Charter without a vote of the people, neither do I.” To which I agree.

I have often wished that the mayor and city council seek outside legal council against some of Penman’s long winded political opinions during council meetings. In my opinion the city would not be in its current mess if they had done so. It is often after his political opinions the council spends money they do not have or reallocates it on things that have not been properly vetted for accuracy by staff.

I want to commend Gigi Hanna for standing up for the citizens of the city against the vested interest of Penman and the inept mayor and some council members. I say some because Shorett and Van Johnson have taken on Penman and his unqualified opinions in the past, however they have not done so in the way and style of Hanna.

The city can be proud of the way Hanna is conducting herself in carrying out the responsibilities of her office. I wonder which elected official is behind the one individual who says Hanna is not doing her job and wants her recalled?

Hanna deserves our support to continue to do the job we elected her to do. We need someone who is not afraid to stand up and speak up for what is right. She does not use intimidation nor toss out false accusations about people like some at city hall.

In my opinion, Hanna deserves our support for having the courage and integrity to show us what being a watchdog for the people should do when confronted by misguided political opinions by other elected officials.

SANBAG, Check Out Your Contractors Hiring Practices

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Two weeks ago I wrote that SANBAG’s governing board needs to look at its contractors’ and subcontractors’ employment practices. I did not have a clue how much money was being spent until a recently headline appeared in the May 26th Press Enterprise: “Boom time for roads, rails”. The article stated that more than $2 billion worth of transportation projects are underway in San Bernardino County with over 90% of the construction in the cities of Colton, Rialto, Fontana, Grand Terrace, San Bernardino and Redlands. The article went on to say that before all of the 45 projects are completed, the total cost would be worth over $4.4 billion.

SANBAG’s Executive Director, Ray Wolfe was quoted in the article saying: “I expect over time you will start to see some serious development on the Westside of San Bernardino that will really correct the imbalance that was created when the freeway was first constructed” which I believe to be true referring to the original configuration of the freeway and ramps making it difficult to access the city’s Westside.

This is one of the reasons I signed on in support of Measure I back in 1989. The other underlining reason was to correct past racial discrimination that occurred during the first construction of the freeway. It has taken 50-years to correct the Westside’s isolation by the freeway, so one has to be careful with words like “over time”. My concern is if we cannot correct this lack of employment for local citizens, Blacks and Latinos will not be living on the Westside of San Bernardino because they will have to move where the jobs are.

With the development and completion of a lake in the middle of the city displacing those residents in that area, it will only be natural to redevelop the Westside and upgrade those homes like other cities are currently doing. With gas prices going up every month and citizens paying 70.6 cents on each gallon, it will not take long for workers to want to be closer to downtown.

According to the Metro Report on May 9th out of Riverside the unemployment rate for the Inland Empire is 10.5% and falls behind the state and nation at 7.6 percent. They also reported that the raw numbers show a gain of 23,500 jobs in the Inland Empire.

It is my opinion that outside contractors must have reported the jobs for the Inland Empire but brought in outside workers to fill those jobs, thus keeping us in double-digit unemployment. This practice must be investigated.

When a city like San Bernardino, for example, gives 81% of its general funds to public safety employees and those same employees take their earnings out of the area even as far away as Las Vegas, it is no wonder the area suffers.

SANBAG currently lists these projects on their books: Haven Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga, $954 million; Cherry Avenue in Fontana, $76 million; Citrus Avenue in Fontana, $56 million; Cedar Avenue in Bloomington, $59 million; Pepper Avenue in Colton, $8 million; Railroad crossing in Colton, $90 million; Duncan Canyon Road in Fontana, $37 million; Glen Helen Parkway in San Bernardino, $325 million; and hot lanes road widening and high speed rail projects along I10 and I15 in Rancho Cucamonga, $1.1 billion.

This is a lot of money and we need to know who is being employed using our local taxpayers’ dollars. If our people were being employed from all of the money being generated from the area, our unemployment rate would be below the national average. And contrary to popular belief our citizens’ living below the poverty level pay rent and contribute to our economy. When they pay rent it covers the property taxes paid by the landowner. It is those same citizens that pay local sale and gasoline taxes. They buy cars, furniture, groceries and other items. All of our citizens deserve respect from those spending our money.

Once again, in my opinion the SANBAG governing board needs to access their contractors’ hiring practices.

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