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Hardy L. Brown

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.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

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Our lives are built around sending signals to one another and the same is true of animals. When a boy wants the attention of a certain girl, he will first send a signal that he is interested and the same is true of girls wanting the attention of a certain boy. When a baseball coach wants his base runner to take a pitch or steal a base, the coach will send a signal by way of an arm movement to paint a picture to the base runner.

Before the walls of Jim Crow laws of legal ‘Separate but Equal’ was ruled unconstitutional in the United States, I was raised under those societal rules and some Whites were masters at sending signals to their neighbors of how and what they thought of Negroes.

They would only have you come to their backdoor when you came to their house. They would put up two drinking fountains to drink from: one for “Coloreds” and the main one reserved for Whites only. They would forbid colored people from trying on clothes before they bought them for fear Whites would catch something. They would not let Blacks swim in public pools or use the same beaches. Even at drive-in movies, Blacks had to park their cars on the last two rows even if no Whites were at the drive-in. The back of the bus was where we had to sit when riding public transportation and the ultimate signal of what they thought of us was being called boy regardless of one’s age.

We have some people who still believe like United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney did back in 1857 when he ruled that “being of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the White race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the White man was bound to respect”. Now, that is a very powerful picture and signal which some people like Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona still believe.

With that picture in her mind she decided to create a more modern version by pointing her finger in President Barack Obama’s face. What she was saying by doing so was; “I know your mother was White. I know your White grandparents raised you and fought in the war to keep freedom alive in America. I know that you went to our best schools like Harvard and was president of the Harvard Law Review. I know that you were elected to the state legislature of Illinois and into the United States Senate. I know that you ran a very successful campaign and were elected to the highest office in this great country. I know that you were given a country on the brink of financial ruin and saved us. I know you did something President George Bush tried to do but did not and that was getting Osama Bin Laden. I know that you now dine with Kings, Queens, Presidents and other heads of state but to me you are still just a ‘N’ and boy.

We have seen many signals over the past few years. We had a congressman call the president a liar in a joint session of congress during a state of the union message. We see the Tea Party Representatives in congress saying make President Obama a one-term president by any means necessary. We’ve seen the racist caricatures in popular magazines.

It is too bad that some people will not face reality, that we, as a people, will not go away just because they believe we have no rights they have to respect as American citizens, even in the position of President. The picture tells it all.

President Obama Set the Right Tone for Leadership

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President Barack Obama went on the hill to the House of Representatives for the third time to deliver his State of the Union Address to the people of America. I noticed something different in him that was not in his previous two addresses. If you remember the first time out, someone yelled from the congressional galley “you are a liar”. Obama carried on with his speech as though nothing had happened but the whole world knew it was disrespectful for a congressperson to heckle the president. Yet Obama went on trying to work across the aisles with a group of people who did not want to work with him. The second year, congress was even more determined to not work with him as the “tea party people” dug in their heels led by Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia; who took the position don’t work with President Obama on any issues. Their motto “Make Obama a one-term President” at all costs even if the country comes to a stand still.

I saw in President Obama’s posture and tone a confidence with or without you, I am going to lead this country for the good of the people. You can call me names like ‘food stamp president” like Newt Gingrich has in order to motivate the racially conscious people of his political party that cannot stand Obama. You can make fun of Black Americans who have helped build and protect this country like the Red Tail Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, yet I am going to lead.

His tone and message was: there is something wrong when a billionaire like Warren Buffet pays less taxes than his salaried secretary. There is something wrong in America when Wall Street millionaires mess up the country’s finances, sending millions of middle class citizens into poverty, get a bailout by the remaining taxpayers and do not want government to regulate them.

There is something wrong in America when we pay or give tax breaks to corporations for taking jobs out of the country yet allow them to sell their products in America. It is time we give tax breaks to companies that want to start and expand their companies here at home because American workers are still the best and most productive workers in the world.

It is time we invest in the education of our young people without them being burdened with enormous debts after finishing college. We cannot send our citizens into harms way and when they return home ignore their mental, physical, and employment needs. We have cared for our veterans in the past with the GI Bill and we will do it again, with or without you congress. Obama reminded them that our military forces are the greatest in the world by citing that special units who went after and took out Osama Bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda making Americans safer.

He informed them he will not retreat from every American having access to health care or having citizens removed from insurance plans at the whim of executives. Every American deserves to be paid a decent wage and women paid equal pay for doing the same job as men.

His tone reminded me of when I played baseball and faced a new fastball pitcher who struck me out my first two times at bat. In between innings, I studied his motions, arm delivery and how he treated other batters. Needless to say my third time up there were two men on base and we were down one run in the eighth inning. I unloaded with a triple down the right field line. I did not try and pull him but went with the flow of his power. In the case of Obama he went with what they know and understand: I will use my power as president to care for this country with or without you. I will use executive authority.

If you want to send me bills that meet the needs of the American middle class and poor, I will sign them and this is not class warfare he stated. I was impressed with the tone and substance of his message.

Gigi Hanna for City Clerk

Voters of San Bernardino do not forget to return your vote by mail ballots for Gigi Hanna for San Bernardino City Clerk before February 7th.

California, Why Do We Treat The Future Generation So Bad?

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Our children do not have a say on being born, who their parents and next of kin will be, whether they will take shots for better health, nor if they want to go to school or not. There are a lot of other things children have to do without having a say or choice in the decision, yet we expect them to participate in what we decide. We elect political leaders with or without children who sometimes use our children as political pawns on a chessboard.

This is currently what is happening with the state budget if voters do not agree to raise taxes. Our children’s education will suffer. This is horrible for a society of people who passed laws that our children must go to school or in some district the parents will be put in jail if the kids are not in school. We label them bad, irresponsible parents and child abusers.

On the federal level we have people running for president, who say if they are elected they would abolish the department of education. On many local levels, we have school boards who say pay me to serve with superintendents, administrators, teachers, classified employees saying pay me and rightfully so. We have some school grounds with no landscape, children walking farther and farther to get to school or no crossing guards to help small children cross busy and dangerous streets. We eliminate some extra curricular activities from the school agenda and tell them go and learn.

Now mind you corporations and other institutions of higher learning know how important comfort and environment plays in an employee performing well and being able to study and learn. Our stock market does not do well when uncertainty is in the air around their finances. Our gas prices go up when Iran or some other country in the Middle East makes a loud noise. Every time a new executive takes over a company, presidency, governorship, mayor, or school district, the first thing they want to do is make it comfortable for them by changing the environment.

All of these things are good and needed so why do we not want the same for the children we bring into the world and force to go to school. Why don’t we make it a law that our government must spend a certain portion on K-12 education regardless of how much money we take in, in taxes? We need to make sure that every business has to pay a certain portion of their profits toward education since this is the recruiting field for employees.

I am not advocating the same kind of public funding for higher learning because no law requires any adult to go to school, thus a different combination of public, private funding should be undertaken.

I bring this topic up because we refer to our children as the future generation with some parents working hard, saving money so they can leave their children an inheritance of some kind for a better life. Yet every year, we toss our children under the bus because of inability to manage the state budget. Our K-12 system of education deserves better than each year their teachers being faced with lay off notices, school boards being faced with having to cut from school extra curricular activities such as art or sports, or telling parents you must drive your kid to school because we do not have transportation or enough money to pay for crossing guards. And each year, the children are tasked with raising their own funds for extra curricular activities or events through school fundraisers and who suffers? Our kids today, may not know how to read, write, add or subtract effectively, but they do acquire great salesmanship skills.

I served on the school board of San Bernardino for twelve years and can recall only one time students came before us requesting something. They came to ask for lockers to put their heavy books in that we purchased, so they would not have to shoulder them around campus. We suggested they have their parents buy them backpacks. These were our top students that had done the proper research with the benefits of how this would help them be better students.

Now we have Governor Brown saying to us parents pay up or we will cut education instead of saying to the legislators, we are not going home until we solve permanent funding for our K-12 children of California out of the money we have. We will not treat our future generation like second class children.

Leadership Likened in San Bernardino Governing Body

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Last week three young ladies, came into the office looking for my son to place an event they were having at Perris Hill Park on January 21st into the paper, to bring attention to the senseless killing of their classmate Keith Deshean Hall and the shooting of another classmate Army Specialist Christopher Sullivan. I am sure you recognize Sullivan’s name, as he was the recipient of a Purple Heart Award for being injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and was attending a hero’s homecoming party. Someone at the family party pulled a gun out and shot Sullivan while engaged in an argument over a football game. Now Sullivan lay in the hospital paralyzed.

One of the young ladies, BeAnna Hamilton, said this is crazy and we have to do something. The “peace event” she calls it, is to focus attention on the violence and offer solutions in order to reduce these types of incidents in the city. She went on to say that the Police and Firefighters Association have signed on to help them as well as the Young Visionaries organization.

They are hoping to attract a large crowd who like them, are tired of people settling their differences with a gun.

I was hoping the mayor and city council members would embrace the youth’s gesture for peace but after watching the council meeting last Monday, it is clear they are in need of a peace event. The meeting began at 3 pm and ended at 11 pm with lots of verbal assaults, insults, accusations of dishonesty hurled at council members, Mayor Pat Morris, City Manager Charles McNeely and his staff from councilmember Wendy McCammack, and City Attorney Jim Penman.

McCammack and Penman got so angry they could not even sit in their seats, they went to the public podium and threw a barrage of words at their colleagues on the council and said it will be different when the new council member is sworn to office in March. Neither Penman nor McCammack wanted the council to approve Regal Cinemas movie theater in downtown, San Bernardino.

She was angry because a majority of the council would not join her making the staff give her requested information. They have an unwritten policy that when council members make a request that will involve a lot of staff time, at least four council members must agree to give the go signal to staff. So McCammack took her frustrations out on McNeely, the city manager.

Then later on the agenda, they needed a legal opinion from Penman regarding the city’s take over of the redevelopment agency’s $155 million properties and other investments done in the name of the city. Penman would not give the council-members a clear opinion but gave conversation that you might be sued if you take over without the states approval. The mayor and some council members argued that it would be irresponsible to allow another group or government be appointed to carry out the business in the city. After much name-calling they did seek to go on record to accept part of a motion presented to them by the staff of the redevelopment agency.

Another highlight in the meeting was that the newest council member, Robert Jenkins spoke and said he could not figure out how some members get information that the rest of them do not have. As an observer of the meetings, it appears to me that McCammack always brings up information, with research papers, regardless of the timeframe it is brought to the attention at the meeting. Usually it is in line with the city attorney’s thoughts on the subject.

I cite the antics of the council in light of our youth in the city seeking guidance and leadership from our elected officials. This past meeting was a bad example for our young people to follow on how to conduct oneself in making public policy. The city council and city attorney needs to get over the election and personal agendas and get down to governing the city. Our young people, businesses, and taxpayers deserve better.

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