I commend the Pasadena NAACP for shrugging off criticism from an L.A. civil rights group and moving forward with plans to recognize Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez and Pasadena City Attorney Michele Bagneris at tonight's 27th Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner. Najee Ali of Project Islamic HOPE will lead a protest outside tonight's gala because Sanchez and Bagneris are named in a lawsuit by the family of Kendrec McDade, the young man who was fatally shot by Pasadena police officers last March. But the NAACP is right to honor the chief and city attorney because, like all of the individuals being saluted this evening, Sanchez (who will serve as emcee) and Bagneris (who will receive the President's Award) have distinguished themselves through honorable service to our community – including the response to the McDade tragedy.
Chief Sanchez has been the focus of much criticism in the wake of the McDade shooting. But Sanchez deserves praise for being professional, above-board and compassionate. Along with calling for independent probes by the FBI and the county Office of Independent Review, the chief has met personally with a succession of community leaders and held public forums to answer questions regarding the ongoing investigations and police use of force policy and procedures.
While he has resisted calls from the NAACP, ACLU and other groups to reconvene the citizens' use of force board that he disbanded two years ago, Sanchez's objection seems more to do with the board's structural and compliance failings rather than a discomfort with transparency.
Recently, Chief Sanchez directed his department to invite concerned citizens, community leaders and media professionals to participate in a workshop simulating the potentially-fatal circumstances faced daily by police officers. Going through this Use of Force Simulator gave me a deeper and unnerving new appreciation for the danger, uncertainty and split-second decision-making that cops are trained to deal with. I also gained disturbing insight into how unchecked emotion and bias (my own) can impact one's judgment in a perilous situation. More on all of that in next week's column. For now, I mention the Force Simulator as another example of the Pasadena Police Department's efforts, under Chief Philip Sanchez, to partner with the community.
GENTLEMEN, BROTHERS, WARRIORS AND KINGS
If you know a young black man between the ages of 12 and 25, get him down to Pasadena City College this Saturday for the Sixth Annual Young African-American Males' Conference! Co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Action Services Corporation and PCC, this free, one-day event will empower our youth through workshops ranging from successful educational and career choices to how to act when you're stopped by the police. Inspiring educator Dr. George McKenna will deliver an energizing keynote speech and Billionaire P.A. will drop knowledge about "Wealthy Minds." (Go to www.mcasc.ur or call 626-389-0420 for more info.)
This event is another opportunity to remind our besieged young black men that they were born for greatness and that they have the intelligence, talent and the heart to make their dreams reality and to help lead our people to the highest level!
I sum that message up in four words that point to the heritage, promise and obligation of black men: Gentlemen, Brothers, Warriors, Kings.
Gentlemen -- A kind, well-mannered man who respects others and carries himself with the dignity, humble pride and class that earn the admiration of all.
Brothers -- Whether we acknowledge it or not, ALL people are part of a Human Family. And black folks share a unique kinship because of our heritage of struggle and achievement. Likewise, blacks and Latinos face many common obstacles and aspirations; so, as we celebrate our cultural uniqueness, we should also embrace our brotherhood.
Warrior -- In many African traditions, a warrior uses his strength (physical, mental and spiritual) to provide for, nurture and defend his family and community. A warrior seeks to build up, not to destroy.
King -- A good King is honest, just, fair and knows that leadership is about giving service to his people, not gaining privileges for himself.
This is who we are, fellas! It is who we must be – for the sake of our people and ourselves. See you Saturday!
I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.