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Primm AME Marks 115th Year, Vows To Guide Distressed Families

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By F. Finley McRae –

Pomona's historic Primm Tabernacle AME Church, the Inland Empire's oldest Black congregation, is joyfully observing its 115th Anniversary--but with much more than celebratory banquets, blazing banners and high sounding tributes.

The anniversary celebration, with the theme "Unity of Family," will begin at the church, 12138 South Towne Avenue, on Saturday, December 10 at 10 a.m. The anniversary will be kicked-off with an inter-generational workshop, "Strengthening the Ties that Bind," led by Dr. Gloria Morrow, a nationally recognized psychologist, author and clinician.

On the next day, Sunday, December 11, the Rev. Dr. Cecil L. Murray, an internationally respected theologian, scholar and USC professor of Religion, will deliver the keynote sermon to cap the weekly morning worship service.

This year, the church, with the Rev. Alvin Smith, Primm's senior minister, is focused on counseling and lifting up distressed families and their urgent emotional, psychological and educational needs.

Not only have Primm's leaders pledged to aid congregational families, but fraying units in the wider community as well.

Rev. Smith spoke of his vision for the celebration's success and impact on Pomona's larger population, especially among African Americans: "Our effort at The Tabernacle will hopefully awaken, challenge and enlighten our congregation and communi ty, so everyone will acknowledge that we can't afford to ignore the pain we see and feel every day."

Dr. Morrow, said Rev. Smith, "has been invited to conduct the workshop for us, to lead inter-generational dialogue with families because she's a noted clinical therapist and an expert in marriage and family healing." Dr. Murray, he said, "has graciously responded to our urgent cry to help us embrace our spirituality as we develop action oriented strategies to anchor familes in crisis and need."

"In my role as Primm's pastor, I'm becoming increasingly aware of, concerned over, the pressures facing families in suburban Los Angeles and the church's role in alleviating them."

These pressures include, he said, but are not limited to, "the financial strain caused by college educated youth returning home after graduation--but without employment and bullying and youth isolation in primary and secondary schools which leads to poor scholast ic performance," Rev. Smith said.

He also cited "the difficulty parents and students face in weaving through the gauntlet of public higher education, parents caring for elderly parents and children as well, and, the challenges around rearing children in a bi-cultural environment." Yet these are not the only ones.

Rev. Smith ended his list of concerns with: "The high cost of transportation, lack of technological expertise among parents and seniors and understanding and using social networking and its growing abuse by teens and people without ethical intentions." He wrapped up his list with "unemployment among the middle-class and underemployed and limi ted health care choices in the Inland Empire."

Dr. Murray is a member of the Commission appointed to investigate the horrible beatings and abuse inflicted on inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail. The committee will issue its report along with recommendations to stem the beatings on December 9, two days before he'll deliver his keynote sermon at Primm church.

Only a few decades ago, he recalled, "we had fathers, mothers, extended family and neighbors to help rear our children. If they misbehaved away from home, neighbors soon told their parents. Now, however, we've moved away from our early beginings in the deep South, to the mid-west, east and west coasts, so there's no more extended family for the children."

As a result, he said, "in improverished Black America, the high school drop-out rate is 50 percent; but high school graduates earn three times as much as drop-outs and college graduates earn three times as much as high school grads."

These statistics, he said, indicate another crisis for the Black family, the one in in poverty. In 2000, Whites had 11 times as much net worth as Blacks. Now, though, in 2011, Whites possess 20 times as much wealth as Blacks.

Encouraging and promoting financial literacy is paramount, so Black America won't be able to dig out of the economic ditch without it, said Dr. Murray. Dr. Murray founded a highly successful development engine for small business, FAME Renaissance, in Los Angeles in 1992.

He pointed to another such engine, Operation Hope, established by John Bryant from a simple beginning after the Los Angeles Rebellion. Operation Hope, once only regional but more recently national in scope, has expanded its reach into several African nations and is now multi-national.

"We must learn," Dr. Murray advised, "how to conserve instead of consume, to be producers, not just consumers." The dollar, he said, "turns once in Black communities, five times in Latino and White ones, seven times among Koreans, but 12 to 18 times in the Jewish community!"

African Americans once supported thriving "fish markets, grocery stores, dry cleaners and gasoline stations, among other small businesses. The money we spent with them stayed in our community. But now, we spend everything, save nothing and invest nothing, so we end up with nothing," he said.

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