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Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod Brings Free Tax Preparation Assistance

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Tax Preparation Services Event by Qualified Volunteers for Those Who Qualify Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service announced tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.

“I’m happy to bring this free service to the citizens in the 32nd Senate District and I commend the volunteers for their work,” said Senator McLeod.

Volunteer tax preparers require a valid photo ID, Social Security card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITN) for all family members, all W-2s, 1098s, and 1099s (if any), a copy of your prior year’s tax return, other income/expense information, total expenses paid for child/day care, total tuition fees and expenses, day care providers’ identifying number, landlord’s name, address and phone number for the California Renter’s Credit.

No appointment is necessary. Tax filers can go to the Boys & Girls Club of Pomona Valley on Saturday, April 14, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year the State and Federal deadline for filing your 2011 income taxes is April 17, 2011.


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Freddie Mae’s Southern Cooking closes, family turns to faith for comfort

By Chris Levister

Willa F. Bratton’s the matriarch behind Freddie Mae’s Southern Cooking died February 28, just short of her 100th birthday, according to her mother Freddie Mae Fort. Four months earlier, on October 6, 2011 Bratton lost her oldest daughter Doris Bradford at the age of 80. Sadly, mother lost a daughter. I lost a mother and sister,” said Freddie Mae.

Bratton’s authentic sweet southern lemonade, mouth watering macaroni and cheese and trademark ‘ooeygooey’ sweet potato pie spawned a cult following and birthed the popular Rancho Cucamonga eatery named after Freddie Mae.

On Friday family members announced that Bratton received a posthumous award last week from President Barack Obama honoring her work as a mentor to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Ironically news of the distinguished recognition was overshadowed by yet another family loss. On Wednesday, April 4 cancer claimed the life of Freddie Mae’s 46-year-old daughter Sylvia Charamaine Fort. She died from complications related to pleomorphic sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer. At Draper Mortuary in Ontario Friday family members and friends gathered at Sylvia’s wake trying to make sense of losing three loved ones in a space of six months.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven,” Freddie Mae said borrowing from Ecclesiastes’: “A Time for Everything.” Sylvia was a teacher at Frisbie Middle School in Rialto. She held a master’s degree in business administration.

“There's grief. There's sadness. There's anguish. But there are no words to describe the loss of a child,” said Freddie Mae. “Grandma Willa had the recipes and Sylvia had the business brains,” said Leticia Rogers, Sylvia’s sister.

“She loved the Lord and lived to run things,” recalling Sylvia’s entrepreneurial spirit. Rogers says the family’s painful journey began in April 2011 when Sylvia who had been healthy all of her life noticed a small abrasion on her breast.

“We were getting ready to renew the lease for our restaurant located at Victoria Gardens,” said Rogers. “Sylvia advised us not to. I think she knew she was facing an uphill battle.” Stunned by the news, the family closed the eatery to focus on Sylvia’s care. “We all thought she would heal quickly and return to running things, instead she continued on a downward spiral,” said Freddie Mae.

“My sister was a fighter who dreamed big. She relished running the family business. In the classroom she was not just a teacher. She was an inspiration,” said Rogers. “When she took ill, it was difficult for her to accept that someone so full of life and vitality could be staring her own mortality in the face.”

Freddie Mae says when Sylvia’s health worsened the family turned to faith. “Two pastors in our family held daily prayer vigils at her bedside. We prayed every morning and every night. When news of Sylvia’s illness spread throughout the community the outpouring of love and support proved overwhelming.”

Still says Freddie Mae, “sometimes I have to step back and look in the mirror and ask myself, is this really happening to me. But wisdom has taught me that strength doesn’t grow without the support of others. That’s why I know now we’ll get through this. I don’t think God would give us more than we could handle.”

“A lot of tears, handwringing and prayers,” says family member Marilyn Bratton. “We’ve had our share of bumps and setbacks on the journey, but also had some miracles. We can attest to a family that prays together stays together.”

At Sylvia’s funeral Saturday, Mt. Zion Baptist Church pastor Brian E. Kennedy told mourners, “We are comforted knowing our Sylvia is free from all pain and suffering.”

“You never really know a person’s pain from losing a loved one until you’ve stood in their shoes and walked around in them,” said Rogers. “We’ve walked in those shoes now - three times in a row.”

As for the future of Freddie Mae’s Southern Cooking - It will remain closed for now. “Like a tree we’re bending beneath the weight of God’s wind and mercy,” said Freddie Mae. “He will use our pain to plant a seed, which will grow into a future of many great things.”

Home Going for Dorothy Inghram

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An overflowing audience packed St. Paul AME Church in San Bernardino for two-days for the home going celebration of the last surviving member of the church’s founding family, Mrs. Dorothy Inghram, the 106-year old leader in local education.

Community leaders who were present included: Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter, San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, Stater Brothers Markets President/CEO Jack Brown and Ms. Inghram’s former pastor Rev. James E. Grant, Sr. who in Mrs. Inghram’s earlier years requested he be the speaker at her funeral. Long retired, Rev Grant, who recently celebrated his 83rd birth- day, joked that he doubted that either of them had expected to wait so long to carry out her request.

Dorothy Inghram was born on November 9, 1905 in San Bernardino, CA after 106 years She died on March 14, 2012. She was the youngest child born to Henry and Mary Ella Inghram. As a child growing up in had great memories of her family, her comfortable home and attending local schools. She always enjoyed reading, writing and arithmetic, and was a lifelong learner. She attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School, Sturges Jr. High and was a 1923 graduate of San Bernardino High School. She was a music major and while at San Bernardino Valley College she wrote the school's Alma Mater, it is still being used today.

In 1936 she became the first Black to graduate from the University of Redlands (U of R) with a Bachelor Degree in Music. Because of her race there were no teaching opportunities in California so she landed a job at Prairie View College in Texas from 1936-1939. Her mother's illness and subsequent death brought her back to California. She decided to stay and pursue a teaching degree at U of R. It posed a problem because there were no Black teachers. In 1942 Mill School District, a one school district, had an opening and the County Schools Superintendent sent her to fill the position. She had always had to fight race and poverty but this assignment was particularly difficult. Eventually both teachers quit rather than work with her, in 1951 she became the Principal of Mill School, then in 1953 she became the Superintendent of Schools, making her the first Black in the state to hold the position. In 1963 she became a Principal in San Bernardino Unified School District and in 1968 she was appointed Liaison-Principal for the Intergroup Relations department. She retired in 1971. Dr. Inghram encountered much racial prejudice in her life and overcame all obstacles put in her way. So much so she was the recipient of many prestigious awards. The community honored her by naming a library the Dorothy Ella Inghram Branch Library. She was dedicated to reading and just before her death was still talking about the importance of the library in the growth and development of children. She authored several books, among them were Beyond All This (1983) the story of her family, The Incredible You (1993) Dear Meg and in 2004 What's On Your Mind. At 106 her mind was sharp and she was thinking about finishing her next book. At 100 years old she was still driving a car, at 102 she retired from her weekly bowling game. She also loved baseball and golf.

In 2003 she received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters-from California State University, San Bernardino and in 2000 Redlands University presented her with the Inaugural Alumni Educator of Distinction, Lifetime Achievement in Educational Justice Award. In 1999 she was named the Woman of Distinction by San Bernardino Valley College. Her awards are numerous from many community organizations and elected officials. Dr. Inghram comes from a family of achievers. Her parents founded St. Paul AME Church in 1904. Her brother Howard Inghram, M.D. was the area's first Black doctor, her sister became a nurse. Her other brothers, Ben, became a chef and Henry was the first Black to work for the newspaper, he became a pressman. There is a community center named for her parents and an elementary school named for Dr. Howard Inghram. With the many accolades and awards she received, it was the personal 106 birthday greeting and photograph from President and Mrs. Obama, that she treasured. Left to cherish her memory are a number of grand nieces and nephews, a host of friends, former students, members of St. Paul AME Church and admirers in the community.


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Inland pastors join campaign targeting apathy, restrictive voter ID laws

By Chris Levister

Easter Sunday is regarded as a living symbol of Jesus Christ, the empty tomb and the Resurrection, the very nature of Christianity. In the black church, it is often a day of celebration, with standing room only attendance.

Amid an air of spirited singing and traditional Easter sermons, there was another important message coming from America’s black church the pulpits: “get out the vote”. The Empowerment Movement aimed at registering 1 million black voters on Easter Sunday targeting thousands of African-American churches is according to organizers, “by early accounts a success”. The mass voter-registration drive — calculated to take advantage of Easter's larger-than-normal Sunday attendance — was spearheaded by international speaker the Reverend Dr. Jamal Bryant, founder of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland, and included multiple denominations. Each church is challenged to sign up 20 new voters, Bryant said in a press release announcing the effort.

“Our constitutional right to vote is under attack,” declared Bryant. Bryant estimates there are over 500,000 African American churches in the United States, and that there are as many as 5 million unregistered voters in their pews. Bryant, who started organizing the drive before the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida is among a swelling number the black civil-rights leaders trying to transfer the indignation over the teen's death into action.

The Empowerment Movement was organized to fight a rash of new voting laws that often keep elderly, young and black voters from casting ballots and what the U.S. Census Bureau called a troubling sign of voter apathy.

In September 2008, the campaign of then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama estimated there were 8 million African-Americans not registered to vote. Election Day, two months later, thanks to a massive voter registration campaign, the U.S. Census Bureau reported record turnouts by black voters.

Rev. Dr. Raymond Turner, pastor of Temple Missionary Baptist Church in San Bernardino insists a multifaceted problem needs a multifaceted response. “We are battling the spread of restrictive voter ID laws and at the same time voter apathy continues to be one of the black community’s biggest enemies,” he said. “Some people have lost sight of the importance of voting,” said Turner, past president of the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches (IECAAC). “Look at the dismal turnout here in San Bernardino for example. People complain bitterly about the dysfunction in our city government. But those voices are not being heard at the polls.” "What I would hope, as we get people registered to vote, is that we can engage in civilized dialogue about critical issues such as dysfunctional government, crime, unemployment, mass incarceration, health and education disparities.” Turner points out that the black church pulpit has historically been the strength of the African-American community.

“At the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, there were massive voter registration campaigns. Demonstrations, protests and critical bipartisan discussions led to cooler heads and change. Today, we see our voting rights are under attack again. The clock is being rolled backward.” IECAAC president-elect Patricia Small says signing up at least 20 people at each of the local black churches by the 2012 presidential election is doable.

“This is not just a onetime Easter Sunday campaign,” said Small. “We are encouraging congregations to work together, across denominations through the 2012 election. Christians have to educate, step up and speak out in unity.”

Turning the Empowerment Movement into a sustained national movement will depend on whether the outrage and emotion swirling around Trayvon Martin’s murder dissipates over time or coalesces into a permanent desire to make a difference, said Oakland pastor Estelle Williams who attended Easter Sunday service in San Bernardino.

April 4 marks the 44th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Williams says while King would be proud of the election of President Obama, he would be deeply disappointed in the state of our union.

“It’s open season on African Americans. Racism and profiling can seem overwhelming. Still, we have to embrace our faith and return to bedrock of our communities – our churches. We have to pursue the transformation with iron resolution.”

“If you don’t bother to vote, don’t expect to be counted,” insists Williams. “You can’t expect the system to change if you are not willing to do your part to change it.” If you don’t like the "stand your ground" law, vote to elect legislators who will repeal or change the law,” she said.

The Empowerment Movement is also in partnership with the NAACP, National Urban League, United Negro College Fund, The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Local churches are encouraged to join the movement. Voters in California can register to vote online.

For more information visit: www.Empowermentmovement.org.

Walking While Black

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By Marian Wright Edelman

Every parent raising Black sons knows the dilemma: deciding how soon to have the talk. Choosing the words to explain to your beautiful child that there are some people who will never like or trust him just because of who he is—including some who should be there to protect him, but will instead have the power to hurt him. Training him how to walk, what to say, and how to act so he won’t seem like a threat. Teaching him that the burden of deflating stereotypes and reassuring other people’s ignorance will always fall on him, and while that isn’t fair, in some cases it may be the only way to keep him safe and alive.

But sometimes it isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to protect Trayvon Martin. Seventeen-year-old Trayvon’s English teacher said he was “an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” Trayvon loved building models and taking things apart, his favorite subject was math, and he dreamed of becoming a pilot and an engineer. Instead, he was gunned down by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain vigilante who profiled him, followed him, and shot him in the chest. His killer, George Zimmerman, saw the teenager on the street and called the police to report he looked “like he’s up to no good.” At the time Trayvon was walking home from the nearby 7-11 carrying a bottle of Arizona iced tea and a bag of Skittles for his younger stepbrother, leaving many people to guess that the main thing he was doing that made him look “no good” was wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the rain and walking while Black. George Zimmerman’s decisions made that suspicious enough to be a death sentence.

Now there is widespread outrage over the senseless killing of a young Black man who was doing nothing wrong and the fact that the man who killed him has not been arrested. People are trying to make sense of the series of gun laws that allowed George Zimmerman to act as he did—starting with the Florida laws that allowed someone like Zimmerman, who had previously been charged for resisting arrest with violence and battery on a police officer, to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon in the first place. Many more questions are being raised about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which also has been described as the “shoot first, ask questions later” law, and gives the benefit of the doubt to Zimmerman and others claiming “self-defense” by allowing people who say they are in imminent danger to defend themselves. Some states limit this defense to people’s own homes, but others, like Florida, allow it anywhere.

As Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, says, this law “has turned common law—and common sense—on its head by enabling vigilantes to provoke conflicts, resolve them with deadly force, and avoid ever having to set foot in a courtroom.” The fear in Trayvon’s death is that this is exactly what has happened so far: that the story told by witnesses, phone records, and Zimmerman’s violent past and earlier complaints during his neighborhood patrols shows an overzealous armed aggressor who followed Trayvon even after police told him to stop, chased Trayvon down when the frightened boy tried to walk away from the stranger following him, and then shot the unarmed, 100-pounds-lighter teenager while neighbors said they heard a child crying for help. The prospect now that Zimmerman might never set foot in a courtroom for the shooting has caused widespread frustration and fury.

Just as sadly, Trayvon’s death was not unique. In 2008 and 2009, 2,582 Black children and teens were killed by gunfire. Black children and teens were only 15 percent of the child population, but 45 percent of the 5,740 child and teen gun deaths in those two years. Black males 15 to 19 years-old were eight times as likely as White males to be gun homicide victims. The outcry over Trayvon’s death is absolutely right and just. We need the same sense of outrage over every one of these child deaths. Above all, we need a nation where these senseless deaths no longer happen. But we won’t get it until we have common-sense gun laws that protect children instead of guns and don’t allow people like George Zimmerman to take the law into their own hands. We won’t get it until we have a culture that sees every child as a child of God and sacred, instead of seeing some as expendable statistics, and others as threats and “no good” because of the color of their skin or because they chose to walk home wearing a hood in the rain. And we won’t get it until enough of us—parents and grandparents—stand up and tell our political leaders that the National Rifle Association should not be in charge of our neighborhoods, streets, gun laws, and values. In Trayvon’s case, his father Tracy speaks for what his family needs: “The family is calling for justice. We don’t want our son’s death to be in vain.” I hope that enough voices will ensure that it is not.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

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