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ACLU, Barbers Reach Landmark Racial Profiling Settlement

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By Chris Levister –

Facing civil rights violations and a potentially costly legal battle, The California Board of Barbering & Cosmetology (BBC) and Executive Officer Kristy Underwood agreed to a groundbreaking settlement that protects against racial profiling and places new restrictions on joint inspections with outside agencies.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP outlined details of the agreement during a news conference in Los Angeles today.

“This settlement goes a long way toward ensuring that what happened to barbers at the Hair Shack and Fades Unlimited last April won’t happen to other barbers in California,” said ACLU attorney Peter Bibring.

The settlement comes 7 months after the ACLU filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Riverside alleging Moreno Valley police officers and city code inspectors acting in conjunction with the BBC, conducted a series of racially-targeted warrantless raids on barbershops owned and patronized by African-Americans under the false pretense that the searches were just routine health-code inspections.

The agreement calls for Underwood to provide BBC inspectors with specified training and not later than December 31, 2009, make significant changes in the agency’s policy manual governing barbering and cosmetology inspections.

The conditions include the inclusion of a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy that bars discrimination against or grants preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

BBC inspectors will only conduct authorized inspections necessary to determine compliance with the licensing, health and safety standards set forth in the BBC Act and Regulations. The agreement states BBC inspectors are forbidden to use health and safety inspections performed jointly with federal, state, or local law enforcement or other government entities as a pretext for conducting warrantless inspections or collecting criminal evidence.

Inspections that pose a possible safety risk to BBC personnel or suspicious criminal activity inadvertently uncovered during an inspection unrelated to BBC operations e.g. the presence of illegal drugs or other illegal substances; weapons shall be deferred to the Division of Investigation (DOI).

The agreement states joint inspection requests with outside agencies shall be investigated by the BBC Enforcement Manager, authorized by the Executive Officer and completed or accompanied by DOI personnel.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Kevon Gordon, Ronald Jones, Raymond Barnes and Quincy Brown alleges police armed with automatic weapons entered the barbershops wearing body armor and asking patrons for identification.

When one barber asked for an explanation, he was allegedly handcuffed and hauled out to a police cruiser where officers ran a criminal warrant check before releasing him.

The complaint alleges officers blocked the entrances, questioned employees and rummaged through the storefront businesses in a manner more befitting a drug raid than a civil code and business license inspection.

The April 2008 raids, first reported in the Black Voice News sparked a nationwide debate on racial profiling and police practices governing unlawful searches.

The barbers named in the lawsuit and their customers remain indignant and humiliated. They say business has fallen off and their reputations damaged.

Gordon, owner of The Hair Shack called the settlement the right thing to do. “I’m gratified by this agreement. It sends a strong message that the inspections were improper. Barbershops are of particular importance in the Black community,” he said. “I think people will now feel more comfortable about returning.”

“The state deserves credit for recognizing that these policy changes help ensure that barbering and cosmetology inspections will be used to enforce the laws of the beauty industry, not as a pretext for criminal law enforcement ,” said Bibring.

Underwood said “the state agency was not told Moreno Valley police were looking for criminal activity when they asked regulators to accompany them during the April raids.” She declined comment on the settlement, did not admit to wrong doing and agreed to pay $62,910 in attorney fees and court costs. The court will oversee enforcement for 3 years. The agreement does not resolve the ACLU complaint against the City of Moreno Valley and the County of Riverside which provides police services to the city.

The lawsuit demands unspecified monetary damages and written policy changes that would prohibit racial profiling, and ban similar kinds of illegal inspections as a way to get around requirements for obtaining search warrants.

Chief Deputy Rick Hall of the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, who was Moreno Valley’s police chief at the time of the raids, insisted race was never a factor. He said the actions were prompted by police who went into a shop and found barbers working without licenses.


BVF Holiday Gala Focuses on 2010

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Dignitaries, guests and community members came from near and far to celebrate The Black Voice Foundation’s 5th annual Holiday Gala and birthday celebration for Black Voice News Co-Publisher Hardy Brown.

This year’s event recognized 37 community builders as well as the upcoming year’s 2010 foundation programs.

Paulette Brown-Hinds, PhD. and Executive Director of the foundation began the program by recognizing 37 individuals who have played exemplary roles in their career and the community at large.

These community builders chosen by their peers were featured in The Black Voice News’ 37th Anniversary edition earlier this year. They were given a gift bag with a giclee from artist Charles Bibbs, as well as certificates from Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, Congressman Ken Calvert, and Supervisor Josie Gonzales.

During the celebration, Brown-Hinds announced that Hardy Brown, II will be serving as the Executive Director of Black Voice Foundation and officially turned the reigns of the foundation over to him.

“The gala was an exciting event that allowed the foundation to focus on our upcoming 2010 partnerships,” stated Brown. “We are excited about working and partnering with our community builders,” he continued.

Those partnerships include working with Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino through the foundation’s Opportunity of a Lifetime program geared towards mentoring and training youth by bringing in professionals and partnering with them allowing the youths to learn different career related options through a virtual program using the latest technology.

Also highlighted was the foundation’s internship program, Footsteps to Freedom Study Tour, Gospel Music History Project, CA Black Media and the Green Project.

Happy Birthday was sung by all the attendees as a birthday cake was carried in by Lynn Lee, Sonietta Brown, and Jordan Brown.

During his thank you speech, Brown referenced Joshua 1:6, God’s charge to Joshua not only for manly courage but a courageous faith centered in the word of God. He spoke of the people that have helped him and how he is grateful and blessed for the people in his life.

Riverside Unified Approves 124 Teacher Cuts

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By BVN Staff –

It’s shaping up to be a ‘blue’ Christmas for 124 Riverside Unified School District teachers in kindergarten through third grade. They’re about to join the unemployed.

The school board voted Monday night to lay off the teachers in order to help close a gaping $37 million budget deficit for next year.

The board also voted not to fill three principal and assistant principal positions at a projected savings of $404,250.

“This is not okay. This is personal,” said Superintendent Rick Miller. Miller said the cuts are a last resort.

“We don’t have a lot of choices left. Every employee in the district is being asked to make sacrifices.” The biggest fall out is class size.

The ratio of students to teachers will go from the class reduction size of 20 to 1 to 30 to 1.

Miller and top school administrators urged people to contact legislators in Sacramento.

“Ask them when will they get the message that there’s no fat left to cut. We’re hurting teachers and pupils.” Assistant Superintendent Kirk Lewis agreed calling the budget predicament the worst financial crisis in the district’s history.

A teacher who said she expects to be laid off put a face on the cuts:

“I crashed my car in February, lost my home in June, my cat died in August and now I’m about to lose my job – so what else is new.”

“I see no way we can move forward without staff reductions,” responded Miller.

The layoffs will save the district $5.9 million of the $9 million needed to make the budget mark. The layoffs are set to take effect in the 2010 school year.

Jesse Jackson Takes Banks, Obama To Task On Foreclosures

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By Chris Levister –

The Rev. Jesse Jackson brought his signature charismatic activism to Loveland Church in Ontario and Victorville Sunday calling on banks to halt foreclosures during the holidays while criticizing President Barack Obama for bailing out banks and sending more troops to war at a time when the foreclosure crisis is putting more Americans on the street.

“Why should banks subsidized by the government and protected by insurance paid for by homeowners put people out of their homes at Christmas?” he said.

In a stirring speech punctuated by frequent applause, Jackson told congregants at the Sunday morning service in Ontario, “We are bailing out Herod and not the baby in the manger.”

Jackson, a long-time civil rights activist, founder of the Chicago-based Rainbow/P.U.S.H. Coalition, asked how many people in the audience could name someone looking for work. Nearly half of the 200 people stood up.

“How many of you know somebody facing foreclosure,” he asked. A third of the audience rose to their feet.

Churchgoer Lily Ealy and others quickly sat down when Jackson asked people in favor of escalating the war in Afghanistan to stand. Ealy who lost her home in January shouted “Amen – it’s not our war.”

Last week the President announced plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida and Taliban forces.

Jackson said while the California foreclosure tide may be turning, the fundamental forces driving foreclosure activity in this housing downturn, “high-risk mortgages, negative equity, and unemployment continue to loom over any nascent recovery.”

Jackson also visited Loveland Church in Victorville, where many foreclosed homes were being put up for auction. His trip was one of the many stops he has made to neighborhoods nationwide including San Francisco, Oakland and Modesto where the housing boom has given way to exploding ARMs, mortgage defaults and eviction notices.

He elicited loud applause when he accused banks of fattening themselves and their executives’ wallets by steering millions of Black and Latino homebuyers into high interest loans they could not afford.

“There is a national crisis as it relates to the number of foreclosures across this country and California is at the forefront largely due to lenders who take advantage of those who are already struggling,” said Rev. Jackson.

“We want to put power back into the hands of the every day citizen who is simply trying to hold on to his or her part of the American Dream.”

Attending the Jackson event, State Senate majority leader Dean Florez (D-Fresno) applauded Jackson’s call for lenders to conduct good faith negotiations with families who face foreclosure of their homes. He says he expects new legislation aimed at helping homeowners to be introduced in January.

Nevada, California and Florida posted the highest foreclosure rates out of all the states.

California had the second-highest rate, after Nevada, with one in every 156 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in October.

A total of 85,420 California properties received a foreclosure filing during the month, a decrease of 1% from the previous month but still nearly 50% above the total reported in October 2008, according to the report.

California’s default notices and scheduled foreclosure auctions were up 120% and 73% respectively from October 2008, when California foreclosure activity was in the midst of a three-month lull after a state law required lenders to give troubled homeowners extra notification before beginning foreclosure.

Under increasing pressure from members of his own party President Obama this week turned his attention to the high level of joblessness, but offered no promises.

He said he wanted to extend economic stimulus programs to keep unemployment insurance from expiring for millions of out-of-work Americans and to help laid-off workers keep their health insurance. He proposed an additional $250 apiece in stimulus spending for seniors and veterans and aid to state and local governments to discourage them from laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters.

200 Years Of Faith In San Bernardino

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California State University, San Bernardino’s 23rd Annual Morrow-McCombs Memorial Lecture will focus on the City of San Bernardino’s Bicentennial.

Rabbi Hillel Cohn, chairman of the city’s Bicentennial Committee, and a religious leader in San Bernardino for the past 47 years, will deliver the lecture “Can’t We All Get Along? Reflections on 200 years of Religious Life in San Bernardino” at 7:30 p.m. March 17 at the university.

Ray McCombs, a former mayor of Rialto and a life-long student of religion, established the lecture series in 1988 to further relations between Christians and Jews. Lillian Morrow was deeply impressed with McComb’s commitment to better relationships between Christians and Jews and also created an endownment to support the series. After Sept. 11, 2001 the Morrow-McCombs Lecture Series was expanded to include Islam. Over the years some of the most prominent religious thinkers in the country have delivered the lecture including Martin Marty, Rosemary Reuther, Ellis Rivkin and David Saperstein.

The 2010 lecture will focus on successes, failures and challenges in interfaith cooperation in San Bernardino. Dr.  Albert Karnig, president of CSUSB, will serve as the moderator.

Rabbi Cohn has served twice as president of the San Bernardino Clergy Association, was one of the founders of Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) and for the past 20 years has been a member of the Priest-Rabbi Dialogue, a project of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. For many years he was a regular participant on “Religion On the Line”, a radio talk show on KABC radio in Los Angeles.

For more information on this lecture, call Rabbi Cohn at (909) 888-3666. Rabbi Cohn is the chairman of the Bicentennial Celebration Committee, and Erin Brinker is the chair of its Public Relations & Marketing and Independence Day Extravaganza committees.

Other Bicentennial Celebration Committee members are Art Guerrero (chair of Neighborhood Beautification committee) Jim Smith (chair of the Community Engagement committee), Cheryl Brown (chair of the Youth Council, Intergovernmental and Arts committees), Beverly Bird (chair of the Legend of the Arrowhead committee), Steven Shaw (chair of the History committee), David Smith (chair of the Finance committee), Jane Sneddon (chair of the Parade committee) and Martha Pinkney (chair of the Gala committee.) These members were appointed by the mayor and members of the San Bernardino Common Council.

Additional community volunteers who have taken on leadership of other committees are: Trudy Freidel (Festival of Faiths), Dr. William Coleman (Leadership Cabinet), Peggi Hazlett (Mayor’s Run), Dr. Charles “Skip” Herbert (Coloring Books for Schools) and The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire (Design).

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