By Cynthia Brown
Riveting and informational are words that would well describe the panel discussion recently held at the monthly general membership meeting of the Riverside Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The topic of the evening was Homeland Security. The panelists who attended to speak on this timely topic were Rod Pacheco, former Assembly Representative and current Riverside County Assistant District Attorney; Kevin Biggers, Southern District Representative for Governor Gray Davis; and Minister Tony Mohammed, Western Director for the Nation of Islam.
The meeting began with the branch president, Waudier Rucker-Hughes, who welcomed the large crowd gathered and explained the format for the evening.
Afterwards, there were reports to the community and general membership from the committee chairs within the local NAACP branch.
Dr. E.M. Abdulmumin, Education Chair, introduced the panel members. The ardent and urbane Rod Pacheco began the discussion explaining that the district attorneys office had little to do with the new Homeland Security Act.
Kevin Biggers, extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Californias response to homeland security, thoroughly explained all the measures instituted before 9/11 and after 9/11 to ensure the safety of all California citizens.
This list was quite extensive and it revealed, interestingly enough, that some measures adopted by our governor were in place prior to this national tragedy.
The mike was lastly handed to the erudite and ubiquitous Minister Tony Mohammed who launched into a spirited monologue of those who would consider gang members as urban terrorists and those who would want take away the rights of these young men and women simply because of the color of their skin.
Minister Tony incited a speech given by the new police chief in Los Angeles, who has declared war on gangs and refers to them as the number one threat in America. He went on to say that in his discussion with Chief Bratton, he asked for a definition of a gang member.
Instead of giving a definition, he gave a description of any young Black man that could have been his son, who is not a gang member. Minister Tony urged all present to stay vigilant and watchful, lest we lose our freedom under the guise of homeland security.
By this time, the crowd was stirred up. When Dr. Abdulmumin called for questions, there were plenty of them. One questioner, directing his question to Rod Pacheco, wanted to know his views and the views of the Republican Party on what was being said regarding urban terrorists.
Mr. Pacheco noted that he was no longer an assemblyman and in the capacity that he serves now, it would be inappropriate for him to comment. At one point during the question and answer period, Kevin Biggers responded by stating that the government would never enslave any of its people in 2003.
To wit, Minister Mohammed replied, You need to read your history. He went on to give a litany of examples where, in modern history, the U.S. government has participated in these very actions. He also noted that while he didnt know the governor, he has noticed that the governor had been particularly quiet on many issues regarding African-Americans.
This caused Mr. Biggers to strongly defend Gray Davis. As the audience watched, the dialogue was tossed back and forth between the minister and the governors representative. They finally agreed to disagree. The community continued to pepper the panel with questions, even asking Mr. Pacheco about the controversial appointment of Deputy District Attorney Michael Ruston.
Referring to the murder case of the accused police killer, Steven Woodruff, he was also requested to explain how the D.A.s office could use the defendants self-determination that he was not mentally retarded as the basis for their argument that he wasnt.
These were also issues that he stated he was not able to adequately answer because he was not in his current position at that time.
Dr. Abdulmumin ended the questions in order to give each panelist time for closing remarks. Each panelist thanked the NAACP for the invitation and indicated that they would return in the future. They each spoke about how valuable the nights discussion was.
Mimielle Goulatte, first vice president and coordinator of the general membership meeting, noted that the event had gone beyond the expectations of the branch in both attendance and topic relevancy. She stated that it was only the beginning of many meetings of this type.
Ms. Goulatte encouraged the audience to mark their calendars for March 24, 2003 when the topic will be Education and how we will ensure that no Black child will be left behind. Confirmed panelists will include Dr. Susan Rainey, Riverside Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Nick Ferguson, Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent, and Dr. France Cordova, University of California, Riverside Chancellor. Other guests will also be present to contribute to this discussion.
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