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.