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Community Builders Shine At Black Voice 40th Event

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By Chris Levister

What could possibly get dozens of Community Builders out early on a Saturday morning in the sweltering summer heat?

The answer lies in Luke 12:48: “to whom much is given, much will be required.” The Black Voice News 40th anniversary celebration held at Riverside Grier Pavilion Saturday recognized “40 Community Builders” for their outstanding contributions to community outreach in the Inland Empire.

“To the 40 household names and everyday people who have had the courage to make community inclusivity their mission, we salute you,” Black Voice News co-publisher Cheryl Brown said in welcoming the 2012 honorees and event guests.

Retired Health Educator Dr. Lula Mae Clemons, activist Thelma Winkler-Beach, Vine Life Christian Fellowship Church pastor Dr. Robert L. Wilks Jr., author Laura Klure, Lake Elsinore Mayor Brian Tisdale, community volunteer Sara Garcia, Fontana City Councilman Matthew Slowik, Keynasis Buffong, Rialto High School counselor and co founder of Project Action, Inc., and Mark and Robin McKay co-founders of McKay’s Family Mortuary were just a few of the honorees recognized. “None of us could have gotten to where we are if not for the support, mentorship and achievements of those who came before us,” Black Voice News co-publisher Hardy Brown told the crowd seated in the open air space dedicated to the legacy of Riverside community builders Barnett and Eleanor Jean Grier.

Brown paid tribute to 2012 Community Builders recalling how in the late 1970’s, in an era of rampant racial and employment discrimination, he stood on the “shoulders of giants” at his former employer Kaiser Permanente as he struggled to realize his dream of buying the Black Voice Newspaper. “Honoree Rev. Arthur Forbes the first management executive at Kaiser Steel and Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program hired a staff of Blacks and Latinos to deliver healthcare services to a diverse population while fighting racial discrimination within the organization,” Brown said. He recalled Forbes’ staff including his secretary a Latino, was moved from the 8th to the 6th floor while he was in Washington on company business, without his knowledge. He pushed for equality at Kaiser. He fought for and got a diverse board of directors at the United Way in San Bernardino. He founded the Inland Empire Community Health Care Program 20 years ago. That program exists today,” said Brown.

He credited Forbes with hiring honoree Rev. John Woods, Kaiser’s first Regional Equal Employment Opportunity Program Administrator. Woods became the first African American to serve on the San Bernardino Board of Education. “John took a lot of guff when he tried to convince managers and doctors to integrate the Kaiser workforce. He rallied management to hire Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Indians as Affirmation Action officers at all of its medical centers in Southern California,” Brown said. “Minority personnel hired after 1973 stood on the shoulders of these courageous giants,” he added. “With the support of Kaiser President Jim Vohs and Dr. Raymond Kay of the Permanente Medical Group’, Art and John’s bold leadership as well as those individuals who worked behind the scenes to promote equality ultimately ensured my employment thus allowing me and my family to buy the newspaper and nurture it into a self sustaining instrument for justice and social equality,” said Brown. Similarly honoree Charleta (Charly) Marshall, RN fought for inclusivity. She helped found the United Nurses Association at Kaiser Fontana now the largest union of nurses in the state. She also started the first Medicare certified hospice program at the Fontana facility. Because of her exceptional writing skills, recalled Brown, she was once called an “arrogant Black woman.”

“Forty years ago in a climate of resistance and oppression, the Black Voice News, was born. Dedicated to independence and permanence, thanks to community builders like you, the Black Voice continues to both serve and be a part of this rich community,” added Cheryl Brown. Title sponsors of the celebration and Community Builders reception were General Motors, Macy’s, Wells Fargo and UC Riverside.

Dr. Ruth Jackson the first and only African American university librarian in all of the University of California schools recognized the Black Voice News which was started at UCR in 1972 by Ardess E. Lilly Jr. then-president of the campus’ Black Student Union.

“It makes me proud to salute you and be part of a community where all members have an opportunity to be knowledgeable about issues that shape their lives and prepare them for a better future,” said Jackson.

Other salutes included a resolution from 2012 honoree, Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge who was unable to attend the event. The presentation made by City Councilman Mike Gardner lauded the newspaper’s achievements and contributions often in the face of injustice and adversity. “You have not only reported the news, you have been a tireless advocate on behalf of civil rights, and a force in shaping policy and bettering this community.”

“Dignitaries and ordinary people, I believe that it takes a village to create and sustain communities,” said honoree Keynasia Buffong. “We are many voices with one mission, our attitudes and actions serve to expand equality and opportunity for all people.”

“We in the community are like the human body,” said honoree Carl Clemons, the first Black chairman of the San Bernardino Planning Commission. “We all have different parts – together those parts make one viable body. If we neglect one part, there’s a vacuum. If we don’t fill that vacuum, pretty soon we become dysfunctional. We all have a responsibility to keep the body functioning properly.”

“Our commitment to human dignity in times of loss is to never turn away a family due to a lack of funds,” said honoree Mark McKay founder of McKay’s Family Mortuary. “Celebrating our humanitarian efforts in this way serves to strengthen and empower us as Community Builders.”

Clemons: “Charter Not The Problem”

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So says former San Bernardino Charter Review Committee member

Chris Levister

Carl Clemons, who served as a longtime member of the San Bernardino Charter Review Committee under Mayor Judith Valles (1997-2006) says ongoing efforts to repeal or radically change the city charter are more about assessing blame for the city’s bankruptcy than focusing on real financial solutions.

“It’s the finances. We’re broke. The ship is sinking,” says Clemons. He says to dedicate hours of partisan debate to the charter as the city faces a fiscal cliff is irresponsible and sends a troubling message to the citizens that their elected leaders are out of touch with the serious reality of bankruptcy.

Proponents of the change to a general-law city say the city’s bankruptcy filing highlights an “outdated” “antiquated” charter that can only be changed by a citywide vote. Clemons argues some in the administration have convinced many in the city of an upside-down account of what the authors of the charter were doing – “and timid members of the City Council have let these false impressions harden into conventional wisdom.”

“The charter is one of many city documents that beg review if not change”, he said. “But not in the midst of a financial and public relations maelstrom.” Clemons said the past 25 years have brought unforeseen, astounding and alarming changes in the city. “We have a city “unraveling” with its more than 210 thousand people in various stages of polarized engagement or numbed complacency.”

He said the swirling vortex has stained San Bernardino’s once enviable reputation and sent employees and businesses fleeing the city in droves. We’re scrambling to protect our assets from creditors, struggling with persistent high unemployment, dwindling housing stock, cuts to schools, potholes, darkened streets and rising crime. “What are the priorities? Where is the accountability?” said Clemons. “Shouldn’t we be more concerned about righting the ship than repealing the charter?”

But the message isn’t resonating with Mayor Patrick Morris and others at City Hall. “This is a government in habitual chaos - the word `ungovernable' comes to mind,” Mayor Morris said, blaming the charter for much of that chaos but saying it might be best if residents led the charge.

Sixth Ward Councilman Rikke Van Johnson and others members of the council claim repealing the charter would ultimately save money by allowing streamlined services, consolidated elections and other benefits.

“All of your rules are made in Sacramento. You can't make your own rules,” countered City Attorney James F. Penman, who wants San Bernardino to maintain its status as a charter city and whose position has been at the center of the city's recent charter debates. Penman claims San Bernardino's charter could be improved, but said City Hall needs to work its way through bankruptcy before attempting charter reforms. Ironically Penman has been at the center of past efforts to change the charter says Clemons. In 2004 he authored a proposed charter change that roiled the city’s black community. Clemons then chairman of the Social Action Committee of St. Paul AME Church recalls the dust up over voting disenfranchisement issues of Blacks and Latinos. The unsuccessful effort sought to reduce the authority of the Mayor’s position and change the ward system of electing council members.

“This was the issue that started the uproar in the Black community and led to protests and forced the NAACP to threaten a lawsuit if the proposal pushed forward,” said Clemons in a July 2004 interview.

Three citywide elections have been held since 2000 to change parts of the charter. Voters rejected two, both of which would have made the city attorney post appointed rather than elected. Referring to the City Council’s 4-3 vote Monday not to put the charter measure on the November ballot Clemons says the citizens are better served if the council re-establishes the Charter Review Committee.

He admits given the political vitriol of the last several years, it too will probably be marked with heated discord of division and partisanship. “I’m all for reviewing the charter. But to simply hand the question of repeal directly to a mostly un-informed electorate based on superficial exposure, sketchy beliefs, myths and assumptions, demonstrates the kind of poor leadership that got us into this bankruptcy mess in the first place.”

Clemons, 88 who became the first African American chairman of the city’s Planning Commission and currently serves as a contributor to the San Bernardino Oral History Project says he has tried to stay away from the finger pointing that shackles City Hall. Instead he says he wants to shine a historical light on a time when the 46-page charter was treated as a remarkable working document much like the U.S. Constitution.

Like the Constitution the city charter has evolved with time, he said. “Take the case of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The three amendments made slavery illegal and freed Americans who had been held as slaves. The amendments taken together were intended to eliminate racial discrimination in the United States.” Similarly when African American residents in San Bernardino leveled charges of unequal employment opportunities in 2001, committee members collectively reviewed the charter in a decent and orderly fashion.

“Our first order of business was to leave politics at the door. We listened to the opposing sides. Then we gathered the facts before recommending solutions that served the city and all of its citizens, not just a chosen few,” said Clemons. “We insisted on accountability.” Clemons said given the current acrimonious political landscape, it is crucial that citizens be better informed about the city’s charter — and not only about our founding documents but about San Bernardino history. “But to meet that desirable goal, we must do the required homework.” “In these times of fiscal emergency and uncertainty as citizens, our hope is that we can all put our differences aside and move forward together,” he said. “The sidebar debates that continue to divide us ignore the 900 pound gorilla in the room and ultimately tip the tide toward even greater financial instability.”

Beauty Salon to Host Fundraiser for the Needy

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Genesis Beauty Studio, located in Rialto CA will be hosting a fundraiser to help raise funds supporting homeless women and children on August 4, 2012 at 224 S. Palm Avenue, Rialto, CA 92376 from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Brenda Carr, owner of Genesis Hair Studio, along with her son, Henry Robinson, will be giving back-to-school haircuts for children, and regular haircuts for men, and women.

Gift baskets will be sold, and silent auction items will be raffled off in support of Time for Change Foundation, a San Bernardino City nonprofit organization providing housing and leadership development to homeless women and children. All donated proceeds will go towards supporting Time for Change Foundation's transitional living homes, "Sweet Dreams" and "Mt. View" which annually house over 70 families a year. According to her business's mission statement, Brenda first opened Genesis hair studio in 2001 with the goal of "using her cosmetology skills to restore purpose, vision and self confidence back into the lives of the women that need and want to reestablish themselves in the community." When asked about her relationship with Genesis Beauty Studio, long-time client, Gail Randall said, "Brenda has always had a dream to help others and has fulfilled all of her goals.

Not only is she remarkable as a stylist and entrepreneur, but she has a strong passion for helping the homeless." "Genesis Beauty Studio started as a dream for me, and then it became a goal and eventually developed into a reality. I know and understand the importance of maintaining your image when you are in the community and seeking employment," said Carr.

Carr has worked in the past with Time for Change Foundation. In May of 2012, she provided three of the Foundation's clients with beauty makeovers. Genesis Beauty Studio is currently looking for volunteers who would like to assist the studio for the day of the event. You can reach Brenda Carr, at (951) 536-7309.

Bankruptcy Spurs Public Anger, Mistrust, Civic Engagement San Bernardino coalitions call for charter reform

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By Chris Levister

They’ve flooded San Bernardino City Hall with tough questions, demanded audits and release of public records. They’ve taken to Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Blue Tooth, spouting everything from frustration to damnation. In bars, coffee houses, grocery aisles and in their own living rooms, they’ve watched in amazement as their city’s meltdown marched across the world stage. They’ve Tweeted, blogged, texted and railed against a city administration some called “toothless”. They’ve formed action groups and packed town hall meetings. Some have gone as far as accusing city officials of handing the city a “death sentence”. Others have insisted on “cleaning house”. In the weeks since the City Council voted to declare bankruptcy, San Bernardino has experienced a stiff jolt of civic engagement.

It's an anger-fueled form of participatory democracy that's relatively new for this working class city of 213,012 not known for being good governance watchdogs. “San Bernardino is like a bucket with a big hole in it,” says activist Rev. Bronica Martindale, president of the California Neighborhood Cluster Association. “On July 10 Martindale sat in a packed City Council chamber hoping that bucket didn’t contain the ‘B’ word.

“When I sat there and watched our elected officials cast that vote to declare bankruptcy my heart sank. My first reaction was: ‘Lord, the chickens have finally come home to roost’.” “The morning after that vote, I think we all woke up to the realization that we’re on a sinking ship – without a life raft,” said Westside resident Julius Fields. At a heated July 12 town hall hosted by Sixth Ward City Councilman Rikke Van Johnson, residents unleashed a wave of withering criticism.

“You chose to engage in toxic politics over good governance. You mismanaged our tax dollars and now you want us to bail you out,” charged Lionel Brown, an elderly resident of the city’s Westside. News that the city was on the brink of insolvency came as a surprise to many in this community. But accountant and activist Kim Carter, president of the Time For Change Foundation, said it was impossible not to know how bad the situation had become. It’s been presented to council over and over again that our city was on the brink of collapse,” said Carter directing her frustration at Johnson.

“For years you guys were warned; you’ve got to take action, you need to fix the finances instead you (City Council) just stood around looking like deer in the headlights,” said Carter. An empathic Johnson responded “you’re right; we lacked the political will to act.” But just as quickly Johnson roared back with a stinging lesson on blame: “If you're the owner of five fingers, point your pointer finger and see what happens to the bottom three fingers. That's right. They're pointing straight back at you,” he said. “For years many of you put on blinders because you found it easier to ignore what was happening around you than to do something about it.”

“Most of us shy away from civic engagement because we don’t like the toxic politics,” responded Martindale. “But it’s very crucial for you to become educated on what your leaders have been doing with our tax dollars and how they’ve been using existing laws in a political way to protect their mismanagement.”

“We demand accountability from our leaders, but we can’t stand on the sidelines and expect things to magically change,” said Carlos Teran, President of the Mt. Vernon Neighborhood Cluster Association. “Rather than doing something, most people look away believing the trash will always get picked up,” said Teran, a city employee in the Refuse and Recycling Division. At a July 21 meeting of the newly formed Concerned Citizens Coalition of San Bernardino City Council Members Virginia Marquez and John Valdivia listened intently as a packed house lamented that potholes are going unfilled, burned-out streetlights are left untouched and ball fields are languishing unmowed.

“You slashed the workforce and extracted concessions from city employees, but you protected the 900 pound gorilla: public safety,” charged Ruben Martinez. Concepcion Powell, a Grand Terrace resident, started the coalition the week of the bankruptcy move.

“Our goal is to harness the power of the five sectors: private, educational, church, nonprofit and government,” said Powell. “We have to smack City Hall on the head. There's been no leadership, that’s got to change.” “When you’ve got police and fire costs taking up 75 percent of our budget, there’s little money left for parks and crime prevention,” said Roxanne Williams, vice-chair of a group called Save Our San Bernardino (SOS) which formed four months ago.

“I've always been concerned about the lack of vision of San Bernardino, so our concern actually predated the fiscal bankruptcy,” said Williams. Growing Momentum to Change City’s Charter Teran, Martindale and Jim Smith, a member of SOS, are part of a growing momentum to reform the city’s “fifth rail” – its charter.

They say the city’s economic woes are made worse by Charter Section 186, which sets police and firefighter salaries as the average of 10 similarly sized California cities. “Apple and oranges – we don’t have the same revenue sources as say Fontana. We can’t continue to pretend to be something we aren’t,” said Smith. Kim Carter insists the city’s “antiquated” charter is merely the tip of the iceberg. “Sadly, this behavior over the years has brought the city to a place where they have lost sight of their responsibility: safeguarding taxpayer's dollars. The Titanic is going down. We want to know, where is the money?” said Carter.

“In one way or another, I believe that San Bernardino County and City has been the target of every crook, corrupt politician, backward investor and anyone else that had the opportunity to come rob, steal and destroy. So far, these folks seem to have been welcomed with open arms.”

EMMA SHAW Celebrates 100th BIRTHDAY

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On Saturday, August 11, 2012 the Shaw Family will assemble in San Bernardino to celebrate the 100th Birthday of the matriarch of the family, Emma Shaw. The celebration banquet will take place at the Inghram Community Center. Emma was born to James Armstrong and Gertrude Bohanan, who lived to be 104, on August 9, 1912 in Tallulah, Louisiana where she grew up and attended Madison Parish Training School. While she attended school Emma met her future husband, George Shaw. Emma and George were married on February 6, 1933 and to this union God blessed them with six sons and five daughters – Cleveland, Luretha, Johnny B, Joyce, Wiley, Mary, the twins – Donell and Ronell, Barbara, Vernon and Valerie.

George worked in construction until he retired. He was also the only Black barber in San Bernardino for many years. Emma worked as a housekeeper. Emma has always belonged to a church and made sure that her children went every Sunday. She is affectionately known to many as Mother Shaw at Greater New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ and throughout the community.

Mother Shaw always sees some good in everyone, no matter who they are. She always has a smile and good advice for anyone who would partake of her wisdom. She can be heard saying: “I’m telling you now, you need to get right with God and live a saved life, because time is winding up and soon, cause this world is coming to an end,” or “It’s an individual affair, everyone must seek Jesus for himself,” or “Get ready cause He’s comin’ back...early one Saturday morning I heard a loud voice sayin’, I’m on my way back…”

Emma has received acknowledgements for her 100th Birthday Celebration from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama; U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer; Governor Jerry Brown; Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter; Supervisor Josie Gonzales; Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren; and San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and the Common Council.

Emma has 8 living children, 55 grandchildren, 123 great grandchildren and 30 great-great grandchildren. – 30 – Rikke Van Johnson (909) 725-1053

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