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Celebrating Forty Years of Service by Honoring Others

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The Black Voice News turned 40-years-old this year and celebrated Saturday with some people who have given their lives to serving others in the Inland Empire. They came together to pay tribute to a community that has generated a good life of faith, family, and friends and reminisce of the struggle and success of what it takes to build a good community.

For The Black Voice News it was an opportunity to reflect on the beginning of a dream by college students trying to find their voice in a world that seemed to not know they were there making a contribution to society. It was also a time for the Brown family to reflect on the last 32-years of publishing and witness the second and third generations of the family carrying on this vital media to the community.

I recall seeking a business that our family could work together and give the children the opportunity to gain skills and work ethics that our fathers and mothers had given us. This was not easy because our first business was an employment consultant business specializing in civil rights and affirmative action programs.

Thanks to Cheryl helping the late Sam Martin, owner of The American News and the Black Voice News, he decided to sell us this Riverside based community weekly paper. Thanks to our oldest daughter Lynn Renee for caring for her siblings during the many times on Wednesday nights we would be gone working on deadline.

One of our earliest stories that made headline news was getting the then Black History Queen to ride on the San Bernardino City Rose Bowl float in Pasadena.

Another story involved a controversial statement made by Dr. Tony Evans, former President of California State University, San Bernardino concerning African Americans inability to learn.

We had many stories pertaining to political breakthroughs of the first Blacks elected to school boards, city councils, and as mayors, discrimination, police abuse, the O.J Simpson trial, birth and death announcements, anniversaries in the community and historical events like hosting the National Newspaper Publishers winter conference and the Booker T. Washington Family Reunion.

These are memorable events but none comes close to the unfortunate shooting and killing of 19-year-old Tyisha Miller during the Christmas holiday of December 1998. This event took on a life of its own that lasted through a year of weekly protests and brought national and international attention on police abuse in Riverside and throughout the nation.

The Black Voice News was at the center of reporting and documenting the story each and every week. Our newsstands were taken off the street by city officials and the KKK left pamphlets in some of the remaining stands as a warning of what could happen if we continued printing.

During those times we found many friends that helped us get through the tough times like Ira and Lavonza Grey, Charles Ledbetter, Sylvia Martin-James, Rose Oliver, Mayor Ab Brown, as well as advertisers such as auto dealers Chuck McVay and Lenny Woods, as well as Steve Garcia of Anheuser Busch.

One cannot forget current advertisers like Macy’s, Nordstrom and the many churches and small businesses who rely on us to get their message out to you our readers.

On Saturday we did highlight 40 people and I want to give you a sampling of the kind of builders we have in our community. Rev. Art Forbes came to Riverside working for the largest private employer in the Inland Empire at that time, Kaiser Steel as a community relations representative. He had a company car and expense account plus access to the company budget to support community activities. He interfaced with other business leaders that many of us had not heard of or have the means to influence their decision.

I first saw him in action at a United Way board meeting where dollars given by employees from companies in the community are allocated out to many community organizations. His concerns were about service and having Blacks and Latinos serve on these various boards. He was a leader and the best organizer anyone had ever encountered and would not back down from his ideas.

This led to Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Hospital, which is how the community knows it, coming to him to lead the Comprehensive Health Care Program providing service to low income families in a seven mile radius of Fontana. Art hired a staff of Latinos and Blacks from the community and began a process line of them entering a career in the health care field at Fontana and the regional office in Los Angeles.

He brought Rev. John Woods in as Regional Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator that led to many discriminatory barriers being removed from the personnel process. Many minorities who are now employed at Kaiser and other industries in the area are standing on the shoulders of community builders like Art Forbes, John Woods, Dr. Lulemae Clemons Kaiser’s first Black Education Director, Richard Webster, first Black Housekeeping Director, and Charly Marshall, RN one of the founding members of the United Nurses Association at Kaiser.

These individuals took on the challenge and built a reputation for others to enter the career of their choosing without the obstacles of overt discrimination.

I want to thank our staff Lee Ragin, Jr., Ashley Jones, Anna Wenger, Susan Morris, Bette Cook, Christopher Allen, and Richard O. Jones or contributors Chris Levister, Dr. Ernest Levister, Dr. Joseph Bailey, Juanita Barnes, Pastor Larry Campbell and a host of volunteers who work tirelessly each week to produce the paper. And a special thanks to our daughter Paulette and son Hardy and their children Alexander Hinds our webmaster and Jordan Brown our newest writer for wanting to build a better product for you to enjoy each and every week.

During this weekend’s past event, I was humbled to see the turnout of friends, guests and community builders who took time out of their day on a Saturday morning and look forward to celebrating with them at our annual gala December 1, 2012 at the historic Mission Inn Hotel.

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