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Hardy L. Brown

Westside Action Group (WAG) Celebrates 40 Years of Community Service

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What started out as an idea by my neighbor Robert “Bob” Parker talking with me about the need to organize a political action group is celebrating forty years of service. Bob was an entrepreneur at heart and always believed in ‘charting your on course’ when it came to providing for your family and guiding your destiny in the political arena. In our discussions before and during the genesis of WAG, he wanted to train and support candidates but also raise money for campaigns. The name was supposed to be Westside Political Action Group but due to the political climate at the time, the word “political” was dropped.

We had a population of men who had experienced losing their jobs if it was known they belonged to the NAACP or associated with the wrong political group. Bob and I wanted to break the chain of politicians coming into the Black community holding a rally, spreading a few dollars, making promises before election then leaving and return the next election cycle. Bob would tell me, “Hardy I cannot be elected because of my interracial family,” so he helped push me into that arena. Blacks were being elected to public office all over America and Norris Gregory had been elected to the newly created 6th Ward council seat along with Jessie Arias, the first Latino who was elected to the 1st Ward in the city of San Bernardino. John Woods, the first Black to serve on the San Bernardino City Unified School District Board of Education, had also just been appointed to a vacancy.

With those changes in the political climate came racial unrest in the schools and at city hall. This change brought about the discussion by some of what kind of leadership was needed to lead the Black agenda in the community. We had organizations like the NAACP, Urban League, NCNW, League of Mothers, Black Fathers and other social clubs in the community but none meet weekly or was able to address problems or political issues at the “drop of a hat” moment. The San Bernardino NAACP had just ripped the walls of de facto segregation down in San Bernardino and so had the Riverside NAACP in Riverside. The Inland Area Urban League had harnessed many companies to support and give jobs to Blacks and Latinos. The NCNW was training youth in various careers while the League of Mothers were taking on many issues for equal opportunity in the city and county.

The churches of San Bernardino that played an activists role during that time were Delmann Heights Four Square Gospel in Delmann Heights under the leadership of Rev. William Dillard; New Hope Missionary Baptist Church under Rev. David Campbell and St. Paul AME under Rev Leroy Carter. I had a personal family relationship with all three pastors and members of their churches. I was a member of the Delmann Heights Four Square when we hosted and formed the Black Fathers Association and moved to St. Paul AME under Rev. Carter where Bob was a member when we formed WAG in 1972.

You see even with all of that going on in our community, there was still a need to for an organization that could accommodate a crowd on a moments notice and respond without having to consult with a national office, the bishop, church council, board of directors, mayor, board of supervisors or company president. If WAG members present at a meeting decide to act after listening to a speaker, they acted. If they think you have a personal issue they will tell you. And like Ratibu Jacocks told a crowd last week at Cal State University, San Bernardino, WAG is a family and if you come to the meeting and jump on a member you will soon discover the family connection.

WAG continues to succeed because of its openness and allowing people to express their opinion regardless of race, sex, age, religion, political party or status in life. You can have a MD, PhD or no degree but have an issue or concern that needs to be addressed and WAG is open to listen every week just like church.

The last time I attended a meeting before I became ill was in 1999 during the Tyisha Miller shooting. I brought Rev. Bernell Butler, spokesperson for the Miller family, to address the group. Now that we are celebrating forty years of service and the police are still shooting our youth, I am thinking about attending Monday’s meeting to help bring attention to the public safety issue confronting our community today.

WAG has a rich history of community and political service to the Inland Empire and Bob Parker would be proud to know that it is still pressing forward under the leadership of Alton Garrett, Ratibu Jacocks, Walter Hawkins and Don Griggs. I know I am. Congratulations WAG.

Local Government Must Think Outside of Their City Limits

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While sitting in the comfort of my home watching the Riverside and Fontana city council wrestle with many local issues, it became clear that there are many issues that impact their cities from other locations. These issues must be addressed and will require involvement from other local governments and the private sector community in order to get solutions.

This region currently has an unemployment rate over 12% with the leading employers being health care, computer information services, and hospitality. They are also the highest to lowest paying careers with computer information being in the middle according to the State Employment Development Department. They also project these industries growth will continue for another 20 to 30 years because of the size, age, and demands of the population.

I am going to give a few examples in which collaboration is required by regional governments beginning with the Ontario International Airport. This LA owned airport serves the Inland Empire community and would require a two-hour one-way trip to the Los Angeles International Airport when family and friends come to visit should the Ontario Airport close. We need to come together to help solve this problem because every community in Riverside and San Bernardino county will feel the impact from its closure.

The University of California Riverside is in the process of opening a medical school (UCR-SOM) that will help supply the region with doctors to serve our current and future needs. With the training of more doctors will come the need for other health care providers to meet our employment and health care needs. In order to make this a reality with proper funding, it is going to take the cooperation of many local governments and private businesses working together in support of this school.

Another opportunity for collaboration is the development of the March Life Care (MLC) project planned for the former March Air Force Base land. Many governments have supported the project but with the advent of the state removal of redevelopment it brings on many new questions, but working together, solutions can be found. And like the airport and medical school, MLC will create thousands of jobs in the Inland Empire area not just one city.

When I first came to the Inland Empire area, people lived in various communities but worked at Kaiser Steel in Fontana, ROHR, Bourns, March AFB in Riverside, Norton AFB in San Bernardino, Hansford Foundry, and George AFB in Victorville. The location of these large employment engines were no accident, they came from strategicregional decisions by elected officials and private corporations working together. Of course it was easier then because we had one or two congressional districts and fewer state elected officials to bring together but it is not impossible for us today once we put our minds to it.

Most of our local cities did not consult school boards or the education community before they embarked on projects when redevelopment agencies were under their control. Now is the time to reach out and include these governing bodies that occupy most of the land within the city limits and educate our business leaders and employees of tomorrow while employing many citizens that pay taxes. It is also a perfect time to bring in the small employers and look for incentives to expand and grow their businesses.

I implore our local elected officials to think outside of their own city limits and help build a better region.

Gigi Hanna Wins by Six Votes in Recount

Gigi Hanna won by six votes in the requested recount by her opponent Amelia Sanchez- Lopez for San Bernardino City Clerk. Before the recount, Hanna had won by 2 votes so the lead increased by four. Congratulations again to Gigi Hanna the new clerk that will take the oath of office Monday at the city council meeting.

The Political Season is Once Again Upon Us

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The political season will get into full swing beginning the first week of March until June 5th as seasoned candidates and some new faces work hard to earn your vote. The Inland Empire will see many seeking to provide our area with positive leadership that will give us a clear and respectful voice in Washington, Sacramento and in city council chambers around the region. Some will be running to remain employed, while others will be seeking a job at taxpayer’s expense. Some will be running to keep a family name alive. It will be up to the voters to select those candidates who will represent the best interest of the people because we have many needs in the Inland Empire.

We have witnessed what can happen with just the stroke of a pen, as we saw redevelopment disappear from the control of local government back into the hands of Sacramento. We have seen our unemployment rates and health care benefits and cost go up and down by many decisions in Washington. We have neighbors whose homes have gone into foreclosure while others are just holding on by a thread. We have heard and seen some political candidates want to rid employees of the right to organize into unions or blame organized labor for mismanaged companies or governments.

We have some public schools that have not performed up to higher standards or the dissatisfaction of parents with children in under-funded schools with some seeking solace in chartered schools with some success. We also have noticed that not all charter schools are into educating children but seeking to bring money into private pockets so parents have to investigate before signing up their children.

We have witnessed racism creep into national campaigns with Governor Jan Brewer pointing her finger in the face of President Barack Obama and sexism with an all-male panel discussing what is best for women and their family planning programs. On the local level we have heard of some who believe that the last name is the only thing a voter should be interested in and not what a candidate can do for the people. However, we are getting feedback that these ideas are losing because people are interested in getting a job, better schools, and access to better health care at affordable cost and greater opportunity to create a business to serve our communities.

The Black Voice News will have endorsements in some major races during the primary while we will wait until the general election in others. We will gather as much information about the people seeking office as possible to help you the voters make an intelligent decision before voting day.

So get ready to engage yourself in order to help Build Better Communities through our election process. Some things you can do to help build a better community is register to vote, volunteer in a campaign and contribute to the candidate of your choice. If some tell you that your vote does or will not count tell them that just this month Gigi Hanna, a candidate for city clerk, won her election by two votes in the City of San Bernardino. Every vote does count and will be counted.

Register and vote.

Is San Bernardino A Killing Field For Some Police?

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A couple of weeks ago an article appeared in The Sun newspaper that read, “Lawsuit settled over SB police shooting.” The family of Jerriel DeShawn Allen, a 19-year-old African American youth who was killed by police, settled with the city of San Bernardino for $575,000 which saved the city from going to trial. Believe it or not the article stated that the judge recommended they (the city) settle because it was a bad case for the city. DeShawn was shot 13 times and the police said he had a gun which was never found. It brought back memories of the Tyisha Miller shooting in Riverside who was shot 12 times by four White officers that cost the city $3 million to the family.

I had heard of other shootings in San Bernardino by watching the council meetings and listening to SB City Attorney Jim Penman, expound about needing more money to defend police abuse cases. Then this past week, I read another article where the new police chief wants to organize a team of leaders to fight crime in the community but no involvement from the citizens of the community.

This prompted me to go to the Internet and look up some information on police shootings and abuse incidents in San Bernardino that I was somewhat familiar with. I found some and now wonder how many of these incidents involve the same officer or officers.

These names of cases came to light: Jonneshia Reese, police used excessive force in 2005; Arlene Brooks, police killed in 2006; Jamora Allen, police killed in 2007; Terrell Markham, police used excessive force; Edward King Jr., shot by police and the officer said he had a gun which was not found; Cedric May, police killed in 2009; Francisco Joaquin, police used excessive force; Donavan Parker, police forced his way into the man’s apartment. The man was handcuffed and placed into the officer’s car before the officer recognized the man was telling him the truth, that he was blind. So instead of taking the man too jail, he took the man to the hospital so as not to be embarrassed. James Brown, police used excessive force; Mason, killed by police in 2009; in the shooting case officers claim that the victim had guns or was reaching for a gun that they never found or has been reported.

In all of these cited police abuse incidents, they carry a set aside monetary cost of nearly $2 million to the citizens of the city. As soon as these families find out they can get more in these wrongful deaths of police killings, the settlements go up. Police in New York killed Arlene Brooks and it cost over $4 million to settle. In the case of Tyisha Miller, it was Johnny Cochran that made the price tag go up.

I know that the city will try to prevent the public from getting all the information on police involved shootings, misconduct against citizens, use of excessive force against citizens, or officers that have been involved in repeated shootings against the public but I am still going to request it. If the public pays the salaries then the public has a right to know who the bad employees are and what is being done to correct that behavior to reduce the cost to the city.

We have a right to know who is defending or protecting overzealous or untrained staff members running around our city with badges and guns. We pay the officers, they live outside the city, they fund political campaigns of elected officials, these officials pay outside law firms to defend them and the taxpayers pay for all of it.

Now as a former police commissioner I know that officers have to make split second judgments but to use the same excuse of the victims were reaching for a gun and said weapon never being found is old. I want to know why it is that some officers work a lifetime and never pull their gun at civilians let alone shoot while other officers shoot civilians on a regular basis? Then to have the District Attorney’s office always find the officer justified in their actions is getting old as well. I take that back, I am aware of one incident where the DA took the officer to trial, this officer was Black.

I am aware that the clergy association is implementing a coalition to tackle this issue in the city. It was the clergy in Riverside that took up the justice banner for Tyisha Miller and brought about much needed reform in that police department with outside help from the U. S. Justice Department and then California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

It is time for the City of San Bernardino to establish a citizen’s police review or accountability board with responsibility and authority to oversee police actions and to replace the current police commission. To Police Chief Handy, I do not think your new initiative of experts will do what you want it to do without citizens from the community if you want to get rid of the police-killing field.

Unbowed and Unbought Sam Martin

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My earliest memory of my friend and mentor in the newspaper business Sam Martin goes back to the late sixties. Sam would come by my house on California Street and take pictures of my Boy Scout troop for the paper. Over the years, the friendship grew into a partnership of him selling the Black Voice News to my family in 1980, which is one of the three papers he help found.

During that time, I learned that Sam was a major proponent of believing we should have control of the vehicle that communicated information to our people and community.

He would tell me that during the political season people will say things that might be against your people and without the newspaper, it can go unchallenged and become the truth of our people even if false. He also told me some people will offer you wealth for your paper’s opinion and you have to remain unbought and never bow down to pressure.

Another thing I learned from this self taught man was you are never too old to learn. Sam taught himself how to operate every technological change in the printing of a newspaper including the modern computer. He developed his own pictures back in the day. Part of the reason for this self-training was one time we were printing a story that our contracted White typist thought we should not print and she did not want to type it for us. Needless to say, that week, we did it ourselves.

On many of the issues that came up during the late sixties, seventies and eighties, Sam could be found in the mix of them offering advice. His business and political contacts in the Inland Empire were many and he shared them with me. By Sam being the first African American on the San Bernardino County Central Democratic Committee, he had history with many people. It was because of his political involvement that the name of the memo graphic newsletter printed in his garage became the name of the Precinct Reporter Newspaper.

Sam was a co-founder of the Precinct Reporter, The Black Voice News and founder of the American News that we own today. His daughter Mary Martin Harris along with her husband Clifton publishes the paper from Victorville to carry on his legacy.

This is not a bad legacy for a man from Mississippi, during the time Blacks could be lynched for trying to print a paper, then raised in Needles and moving to San Bernardino uneducated, but still having the desire to help a community that was not fully receptive to independent thinking people like Sam Martin. Sam Martin was a man who was unbowed and unbought.

Brother Winfred Breland A Gentle Giant

A gentle giant was called home last week. I say a gentle giant because Brother Winfred Breland owner and operator of Breland Bus Lines was a mainstay for those who loved to travel by bus. I served with him on the Steward Board, singing in the choir at St. Paul AME Church in San Bernardino.

Brother Breland could be in a room with you and you would not know he was there unless he knew you. He could be funny with close friends and when he would speak it was from experience as he spoke with much thought and wisdom.

I recall many times my wife Cheryl would call Brother Breland for a trip to Sacramento for the youth or a political visit to the capitol on behalf of an issue. The church used him as their own personal bus service when asked to visit other churches in Los Angeles or San Diego.

Another reason he is a giant is because he took the risk to start his own business which his son carries on to this day. His example to me and others to follow, is to go into business while looking for a job. Find something you love to do and try and make a living out of it like Brother Breland. He loved to drive and his passion turned into a business which he be passed down to his family.

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