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A Chance Meeting With Rodney ‘Glen’ King Neckwear designer Don Griggs recalls the bond ignited by a court date

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Chris Levister

The morning after Rodney King’s death, police officers maintained a presence outside his modest Rialto house, mainly to keep bystanders and reporters at a distance. The house is quiet, its curtains drawn. No visible markers proclaim "this is where Rodney King died"; no candles, flowers or makeshift street memorials.

It apparently reflects the way King whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was captured on videotape preferred to live, under the radar, after circumstance thrust him reluctantly into the spotlight more than 20 years ago.

Over the years, King struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was arrested several times and went to prison for robbery once. He ended up on the reality TV show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."

Thursday April 8, 1999 King pleaded innocent to three misdemeanor counts in a Fontana court. He was released on $6,850 bail in an incident involving the alleged beating of his 16-year-old daughter and her mother. It was his date with the judge that brought King to the men’s department at upscale Nordstrom’s department store in Galleria at Montclair. “He walked in with his cousin, a young female. He said ‘I need a suit for court – I need it in two hours’.”

That’s men’s clothing specialist and renowned neckwear designer Don Griggs. “I recognized Rodney King but we didn’t go into a lot of introduction. I just remember saying to myself – the clock is ticking – we’ve got to select a suit and accessories have him fitted, get the garment tailored and get him out the door in time for his court date,” recalls Griggs, then manager of the store’s men’s department.

“Knowing who he was and what he had gone through I wanted to make sure we selected a garment that was not only appropriate, but one that exuded confidence and dignity – nothing flashy or trendy.”

Griggs said although King looked familiar, his colleagues and patrons in the store didn’t readily identify who he was. As the threesome scrambled to select a suit, Griggs remembers King’s cousin referring to him as Glen – his middle name.

“From then on I called him Glen which made it a lot easier to serve him while preserving his identity. He seemed to appreciate the anonymity,” said Griggs. “We chose a classic gray suit that he liked very much. He seemed so excited, almost childlike. We hurriedly got him in to see the tailor. My message was ‘we needed this done yesterday’.” Meanwhile Griggs and his charges went about selecting accessories. “It just so happens that Nordstrom carried my signature line of Afro-centric silk neckties,” said Griggs.

“We selected a gray-crimson pattern tie along with a crisp white shirt. We got him outfitted and ready to go with time to spare.” “When he emerged from the dressing room he presented an image of sharp but understated,” said Griggs. “He was happy.” “Fitting”, Griggs said for a man bearing the visible and invisible scars of America’s ugly underbelly.

“During my interaction with him, I could tell he had a few struggles – He walked with a limp. At times he had trouble with attention. His cousin wrote out the check for payment, he signed it.” Griggs said his relationship with the famous man known to him as Glen did not end with that 1999 chance meeting.

“Occasionally he would come in the store. If I was busy he would nod and go to my department, sit down read a magazine and wait for me to finish.” He was a patient, humble man of few words. Griggs said. While the two never talked about the police beating, Griggs remembers the poignant moment when King shared his love for what would ironically become the final stage for his life of tragedy, triumph and final tragedy. “He came in the store one day and said ‘Don I need a shirt’. I said where are you going? He said with a big grin, ‘I’m going surfing’.”

Griggs recalls, “I kind of gave him the look. He said ‘come have a look’. Sure enough he had a surfboard strapped to his sport utility vehicle. He was headed to the beach at Dana Point.” He said, “Don, man - when I get out there in those waves – I’m at peace. I’m away from everybody and everything. It’s just me, God and the water. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Summer Must-Read

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By Jordan Brown

“Friend Me” and “Besties” are novels by Author Cathy Hopkins. They are in the teen fiction drama. These novels include books one through six of the Mates, Dates series. Cathy Hopkins’ novels are enjoyable and fun to read real page-turners. When I read these novels, I couldn’t stop reading. I know reading a book is not normally on a teen’s summer to-do-list but Cathy Hopkins “Mates Dates” series are a summer must read.

The books are about three best friends, Lucy, Izzie, and Nesta and their struggles with being teenage girls. Hopkins has a moral for each story, like in Mates, Dates and Designer Diva’s it’s jealousy. Nesta gets jealous and almost loses her friends. The girls are trying to “find themselves” and doing different things like trying to “fit in” and make friends are helping them on this quest.

There are seventeen “Mates Dates” books in the series. Cathy has written more than 50 books. She started writing in 1986 and started writing teen fiction in 2000. This year Cathy was nominated for the most glamorous book awards called the “Queen of Teen.” It is to congratulate her and other author’s amazing work in teen fiction.

Summer Advice

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By Jordan Brown

I know summer can be a fun filled fest, but you don’t want to get rid of all the knowledge you’ve gained during school.

Summer has endless possibilities; you could find something you really love to do. Research keeps the mind fresh and you could be doing many things on the internet, since multitasking is so popular. I suggest playing a game of Word Dynamo on dyamo.dictionary.com. It tests you on the words you know by giving clues to find the definitions of interesting words.

Its fun style might have you playing for hours. You also want to exercise this summer because being a “coach potato” is not healthy. The First Lady, Michelle Obama has a program called “Lets Move” it gets kids moving and she says to “play for at least an hour every day.” Get up and play or maybe take a walk or try Beyonce’s let’s move dance. It’s fun from ages 3 to 93.

So what ever you choose to do this summer, don’t forget about school in the fall. Keep your mind sharp and ready to learn. Have fun this summer. Remember you don’t have to “work” everyday. Get up and have fun!

Obama Needs to Run Against Congress

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By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

NNPA Columnist

If President Obama wants to win in November he will have to run against the Republican Congress. He will actually not need to spend his time on Romney. When you have people like former President Jimmy Carter suggesting that Romney is not that bad, you have a message problem and one that may not be resolvable in the short-term. On the other hand, as a few people have suggested, if the obstructionist, wealthy Republican Congress can be tied around Romney’s neck, it could quite possibly undermine Romney’s campaign.

What does running against the Republican Congress mean? It means taking a message to the public about what sort of economy we need. It means picking up on the themes raised by the Occupy movement and hammering away at the policies of the Republican Congress and their support of the upper 1 percent. It means walking the streets of our devastated cities and speaking with the unemployed, and particularly speaking with those who have been out of work for years, people who fear that they may never be able to work again. Obama needs to become the voice of the voiceless. President Obama needs to remind people about the economic policies that got us into this mess. This is something that the White unemployed and precariously employed need to hear time and again. Too many of them seem to be ready to go one more round in the Republican economic fun-house.

If there was one thing that Obama needs to do, and I am not sure that he is prepared to do it, it is to encourage protests and action among the bottom 99 percent against economic injustice. I don’t particularly care that he did not show up in Wisconsin to support the anti-Scott Walker recall movement. Wisconsin needed to be about Walker, not Obama. That said, the people at the base need to hear from Obama the way that we did in January 2009 when he supported the demands of the workers at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago when they occupied – no pun intended – their factory. When was the last time that we had heard a president of the USA take such a stand? We now ask, why was that the last time we heard this from Obama? We also need President Obama to stop trying to out-Republican the Republicans when it comes to national security. One of the best ways to demoralize segments of his base can be found in the continuing attacks on civil liberties that have been underway during his administration. ”Whistleblowers” have come under attack. Peaceful, non-violent protesters – d such as the anti-war protesters in Minneapolis and Chicago – have not only come under surveillance but also have faced various legal charges. Look, we voted for a president we hoped would expand democracy rather than contract it.

We also voted for someone to end these senseless wars. Well, points go out to President Obama for ending the Iraq occupation, but we are still in Afghanistan and these drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen do nothing but inflame local tensions and create more enemies. To win, Obama needs an “Obama Doctrine” for the 21st century, a clear, non-rhetorical statement that situates his campaign in the hearts and minds of the 99 percent. We do not need any more feel-good speeches. We need change that we can see.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Angela Minniefield Named 2012 “Champion of Health Professions Diversity”

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Los Angeles - Angela Minniefield will be honored by The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) as the 2012 Champion of Health Professions Diversity for her successful efforts to improve the health and wellness of California’s most underserved communities. On June 12, 2012, TCWF honored Minniefield along with two other leaders at its tenth annual “Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award” ceremony in San Francisco. In recognition of her efforts to mentor and inspire students, increase access to higher education and better serve the health and well-being of California’s underserved and disadvantaged communities, she received a cash award of $25,000.

Minniefield worked for 20 years in the state government advancing policies and programs that increase the number of underrepresented students in health professions. Minniefield recently became the vice president of strategic advancement at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. She had previously held several leadership positions at the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, including deputy director of the Healthcare Workforce Development Division. Minniefield states, “Not only is increasing access to higher education imperative in developing and diversifying California’s health workforce, there is also a direct relationship between one’s educational background and his or her own health status.”

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women’s health and work and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities

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