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THE STATE OF BLACK PASADENA - 2009

INTRODUCTION

The State of Black Pasadena is presented for the purpose of allowing the city residents and leadership to take a look at itself and develop an agenda of public policies to improve the lot of all Pasadenans. There is work for city leadership and Black leadership to work to improve race relations in the city. The viability of the city depends on maintaining a reputation for fairness and a character of equality of treatment for all of its citizens.

In 2008, the Alpha Kappa Sorority which celebrated its 100th Anniversary chose to hold their local chapter's annual Regional Conference in Pasadena, bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pasadena. The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity held also their regional conference in Pasadena. Also, the West Coast Black Publishers Association met in Pasadena, as did a number of other national and local African American organizations who have demonstrated their loyalty and commitment by choosing to hold their conventions in Pasadena, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and time here.

The question for Black Pasadenans to ask, "Is Pasadena responding appropriately?" Recent events raise questions about the answer to that question. We will explore Pasadena from a Black perspective to give ammunition for discussing this question? Political leaders call Pasadena "A Great City." But it still appears that there are two cities, one White, and one Black and Brown, in the areas that count such as education, economics, and justice. The question for us to ask is, "Do we need Black action committees in the three areas addressed here, something like a Black 50-50 by 2020 organization?"

 

EDUCATION

Historically, Pasadena has always been a center of higher education with a strong elementary education system, until recent years. Today, Pasadena's statistics show that, like many larger urban centers, Pasadena Black youth still graduate from high school at less than fifty percent and are represented poorly, in spite of great technical colleges and universities in the city such as Cal Tech, Art Center, Fuller Seminary and Pacific Oaks. Even at Pasadena City College, Black students are underrepresented at consistently less than 8% of the student body. This is a sad statistic which foretells a future of more unemployment and increased crime in a community where a large percentage of the population is excluded from great educational opportunities and related employment opportunities.

At the elementary educational level, opportunities are there but are infected with large numbers of teachers who fail to have high expectations for African American children. While programs to improve the situation have been discussed and put in place, the fact is that these programs appear to be primarily geared toward secondary students, even though it is clear that by the secondary level the damage has already been done. By the secondary level non-readers occupy a large percentage of the District's population, never to catch up and headed for the ever increasing drop-out population.

The recent election of a White female with college teaching experience to the Pasadena Unified School District board with the support of a group called 50-50 by 2020 is problematic in many ways. One, it seems to predict the continuing focus on secondary students without improving the important preparatory primary educational level. Second, that selection was disturbing in other ways. Most disturbing in that election was the fact that the organization, started by and populated primarily by White women, convinced a Black woman to dropout of an unopposed seat. They then convinced her, with open checkbook, to run for a seat in competition with a likely unbeatable incumbent. The predictable result occurred, one more White member of the predominately White school Board, and Black kids are still underrepresented. The predictable future seems to be to continued focus on the needs of the minority of White students and a maintenance of the status quo.

An additional concern is that this adventure in power politics by the 50-50 group should be a lesson to the Black community that Black folks need to understand that if they want a better future for their community and their children, they need to develop their own political organizations and raise money to run candidates to carry out the goals set for themselves. The White women's group ran not one single advertisement in the area's Black newspaper for the Black candidate that they choose for Blacks. We can only wonder if the printer of the political materials was by a Black printing company.

The city (and surrounding area) is home to a number of African American operated pre schools two African American oriented Charter Schools, NIA and Rose Bud Academy, and one African American elementary school, Harriet Tubman, which is a top notch private school which is one of the best kept secrets in Pasadena.

 

ECONOMICS

The economics of Black Pasadena is represented by the Black Business Association. The Association is an organization of African American businesses focused on improving the status of Black Businesses in the Pasadena area. Members range from traditional Barber and Beauty shops to a Black owned Bank, Real Estate businesses, Restaurants, a Mortuary, Business and Computer services, Florists, Entertainment, and the Pasadena Journal. The health of Black owned businesses is simply Ok, not great, and with unity it can improve.

The city maintains a Black eye in the Black business community, in view of the way that the Bakewell Company was treated by the city council, related to the development of Heritage Square Project. White city councilpersons refused to support a project in Councilman Chris Holden's District, while he repeatedly supported projects in their district. The paternalistic attitude that White folks know what is best for their Blacks was repeated when the Council ignored the wishes of the District and the work of community leaders and activists, including John Kennedy, Ishmael Trone, Georgia Holloway, Larry Poole, and Jimmy Morris, and chose to do nothing rather than honor the community request of Bakewell to develop the Heritage Square Project.

In the end, a project that would have improved the urban blight in the community and created jobs and business opportunities for the African American community was destroyed because of the Council's apparent dislike of Bakewell. The basis of the hatred of Bakewell is still not clear. Some believe it was the 1993 embarrassment of the city and the Tournament of Roses activism by Bakewell. The problem is that the Black community is suffering for the inaction of the so-called leaders who let their egos get in the way of Black progress.

The job market is as bleak, as it is in the country during this downturn in the world economy. The job centers of the community include city employment, Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena City College, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Huntington Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Ralph Parsons Company, and numerous large corporations and small businesses. The city posts its recent statistics indicating that there are over 100,000 jobs in the city ranging from 49.6% managerial and professional related positions, to17.2% service occupations, 22% sales and office occupations, and 5.6% production transportation and materials moving occupations.

National figures indicate that while there is an 8% unemployment rate for White Americans, there is a 13% unemployment rate for African Americans. This is in keeping with the Black theory that "when White America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. Pasadena has taken its hits in the loss of jobs and the loss of certain financial Institutions over the past year. However, while we do not post the statistics of Black versus White employment, in this report many Blacks believe that a better job of equal employment could be had with each of the primary employers in the community. Especially unhappy are Black employees in the City as indicated by recent reports by the Pasadena Black Municipal Employees Association. Most of the larger employers have African American Employee Associations to serve as watchdogs for equality in hiring and firing, given America's history of discrimination against African American workers.

A continuing criticism is that the community does not support Black owned businesses as vigorously as it could. Many residents take Black owned businesses for granted and believe that they should support the community though they are not often supported. A prime example, on a personal note, is the large number of community residents, both White and Black, who refuse to support this paper with advertisements while expecting The Journal to fight for community causes and inform the community of their business openings, and community events, for free; never mind the costs for printing, staffing, gas for deliveries, and rents. Still, each year we try to reach out and encourage the community to Recycle Black Dollars and do business with Black Businesses - on purpose - so we can continue to tell our story and employ community people.

 

SECURITY AND SAFETY

It is a sad commentary that in 2009 African American communities everywhere are defined by poor education, low income, high crime, police discrimination, and violence. This is the result of social policies that include low expectations for students in overcrowded classrooms, Black who are paid a lower wage than Whites doing the same or lower job, high unemployment rates, Black on Black crime, and police departments that continue to profile Black residents giving rise to high crime statistics. Even delivering this newspaper has become a liability in that expensive citations have been received during early morning deliveries, both in Altadena and the City of Pasadena.

The recent shootings of Pasadena residents by Pasadena Police Officers who assumed that the residents had done something wrong or was going to do something wrong by officers who shot two African Americans in Pasadena this year. Officer are returned to duty within weeks. To the contrary, two top Black officers on the Pasadena Police force have been on suspension for a combined period of over one year for allegedly violating a questionable policy, ironically that could have resulted in Black youth getting work as a student worker. The irony is that one of the two officers involved in the recent shootings of Black males was a cadet less than two years ago. This disparate treatment of Black employees defines the discriminatory policies of the Pasadena Police Department. Opportunity for a Black student was thwarted and served as an excuse for the Department to eliminate a Black Commander and a Black Lieutenant.

The sad commentary is that many older Blacks are afraid that the Pasadena they will turn over to their Grandchildren will be one that still discriminates against them because of their skin color. We are free but still not equal.

In Oakland we grieve the shooting of the four police officers this month. We also grieve the shooting of a Black man who was shot by a White transit police officer as the young Black man lay handcuffed on the ground. The world was, unfortunately, shown to the video of the Black man shot. But in Pasadena, the chief refuses to show the video of his two officers shooting Barnes in the back seat of a car and in the street a total of eleven times, including seven times in the back. The Pasadena chief highlighted the fact that Barnes had a record, implying that it was Ok to shoot a Black man with a record. That means 1/3 of all young Black men.

In the end, the State of Black Pasadena is intertwined with the State of all of Pasadena. Black Pasadenans seek equality of opportnity, education and justice for their people to make sure Pasadena is defined as a great city. But as long as the perception is that we are not treated equal, turmoil will define Pasadena.

You may submit your comments to the Journal regarding the State of Black Pasadena, by e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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