In this "Yes we Can" world, Black Pasadena looks great by one look at the cover and the positions of power held by Blacks in the city. In addition to the easily recognized department heads, there are those who are second and third in command in various important positions in this City of Roses, also known as Jackie Robinson's hometown.
Departments such as the Pasadena Police Department share power as the Deputy Chief is Daryl Qualls. In command in Finance Department is Andrew Green. Horace Wormely is second in command as Deputy Director of Human Services and Recreation Department. These African Americans provide assurance, that African Americans with a long history in the city are at the table when decisions are made that affect the quality of life.
The Pasadena Unified School District's second in command is highly regarded Dr. Brian McDonald, a bilingual educational giant who is the Chief Academic Officer.
Outside of government and government-related power positions, African Americans share completely in positions of power in Pasadena. The Pasadena Playhouse is headed by Sheldon Epps, longtime proponent of the arts in Pasadena which has brought productions such as author and Pasadena City College professor, Gabrielle Pina's, "Letters by Zora" and August Wilson's "Fences" to the Playhouse. Also, the NAACP Image Awards has found the Pasadena Civic Center as a home, over the years.
African American-owned businesses thrive in Pasadena and include businesses such as the nationally known Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles Restaurant, and the 80 plus year old Wood's Valentine Mortuary. While fewer than 200 African American-owned newspapers exist in the United States, this publication will celebrate 25 years in November, 2014.
Religion in Pasadena thrives with a number of churches spreading the Gospel to those who want to participate. The Journal has honored three African American churches with more than a one hundred year history in the Pasadena/Altadena community. Included are two of our church directory advertisers, Metropolitan Baptist Church, of Altadena, and Friendship Baptist Church, of Pasadena. Historic Friendship Baptist Church is well known as the church that hosted Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights battles.
President Barack Obama has been to Pasadena through the work of Pasadena Public Relations expert, DNC member, Lena Kennedy, both before and after his rise to the presidency. Receptions have been held at the homes of well-known Black Pasadena businesswomen, for both first lady Michele Obama and President Obama. Kennedy is also known as the founder and executive director of the Pasadena Women's Health Conference which draws thousands of women and high ranking health officials from across the region to the Pasadena Convention Center.
The statues of Jackie and Mack Robinson in front of City Hall stand as long lasting testimony of our participation in the life of Pasadena. It is noted that while everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson as the breaker of the racial barrier of professional baseball league, his brother Mack Robinson, won the Silver Medal in the 1936 Olympics to disprove Adolph Hitler's false theory of White supremacy. Mack lived his life out here in Pasadena.
We offer the story of Blacks in power in the words of certain Pasadenans as the State of Black Pasadena.
Statement by Vice Mayor, City of Pasadena, Jacque Robinson:
The state Black Pasadena is complex. Certainly, it cannot be summed up and analyzed in a few short paragraphs. Yet, I applaud the Journal for making an effort every year to describe – through the lens of leaders in our community and their own – to show us where we we've been, where we are, and how we can make progress forward.
We understand that in Pasadena, and in fact elsewhere across the region and State, the rate of African-Americans leaving the city has grown over the last several years. African-Americans are disproportionately under employed or unemployed. Much of this can be attributed to the still rebounding economy, relocations due to retirement and/or states and areas with lower cost of living (I can personally attest to multiple long term neighbors of mine who have sold their houses within the last five years or so), equally high incarceration rates of black men and woman and the after effects it can have on quality of life issues after release, access to affordable housing, challenges of our public education system, and a host of other reasons. Reasons we can dwell on and simply keep repeating, or reasons we can work together to craft solutions. Many of you have heard of and know firsthand of the "tale of two cities" as detailed by the fact and figures found in the public health department most recent Quality of Life Index (2012). If you have not had an opportunity to view the report, go to http://www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/PublicHealth/Records_Reports/.
While the Index does not break down the information by race, certainly inferences can be made based on certain zip codes in our City. Our Director of Public Health, Dr. Eric Walsh, is doing a monumental job at assisting the City Council and community understand that there are factual reasons why some in our community are excelling in every aspect and others are not. My takeaway is that when we understand why circumstances for some exist as they do, we can prioritize our funding to craft solutions to help those most in need.
The good news is that we live in the City of Pasadena! And for all the criticisms that certainly the City is deserving of at times, we are a community that there are a number of resources and mechanisms in place provided by the City, nonprofits, and caring individuals to help our residents. Over the last seven years, I have addressed some of these issues through the founding of the 20/20 Initiative. 20/20 now collaborates with over 40 agencies and individuals to serve the highest risk, highest need gang impacted youths and their families. The Initiative has resulted in the Flintridge Center being named the Institutional Home and lead agency to assist the City in investing long term, not cyclical, into interruptive solutions to violence prevention.
Programs like the Apprenticeship Preparation Program are helping people of all ages prepare for living wage and above careers in the construction industry. I recently attended the ceremony of the 10th graduating class of the Intervention Prevention Institute that now claims over 100 graduates of individuals dedicated to learning the history of our Pasadena-Altadena Community and training them to be violence interrupters. Furthermore, the Pasadena/Altadena Reintegration Council is helping recently released, previously incarcerated members of our community turn their lives around and keep them from re-offending by offering a one stop shop for housing assistance, employment training, counseling and healthcare, and other key living skills to help them as they return home.
While gains have been made, there is still much work to do. I remain proud to serve District 1 and the City of Pasadena as we work together to make life better for all of Pasadena.
Statement by Pasadena City Councilmember John J. Kennedy:
Nestled in the Northwest Section of Pasadena, California is a predominantly minority, heavily immigrant and historically Black Community. Pasadena is a small to medium sized city that has outsized influence in Los Angeles County, given its bedroom get away location from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
Here in the fine City of Roses reside titans of major industry, judges on the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, partners in almost every major law firm in Los Angeles and the CEOs of substantial businesses and philanthropic foundations.
So, with all the individual and collective powerful people living in Pasadena, why is it that the Black Community feels, at times, marginalized, abandoned, left out and disconnected? It is a troubling quandary, a puzzling dilemma and problem deserving of analysis.
A complete review, is not contemplated here where greater research is needed, but is answered in a brief context addressing: The State of Black Pasadena. In order to understand fully the condition of African Americans in Pasadena, there is a need to take a look at a progression of neglect and improvements happening almost simultaneously over the past 60 years.
In 1947, there was a strong, vibrant and considerable Black presence in a racially segregated Pasadena. This part of town was once referred to as "the Servant's Quarters" as it was the only place in Pasadena where Black domestic workers, Mexican vineyard workers and Japanese gardeners could legally buy and own property – thanks to the racially restrictive covenants in the rest of the city which allowed the sale of housing only to gentile Caucasians. Today African Americans can live wherever they want to in Pasadena, but unfortunately too many African Americans cannot afford to live anywhere in Pasadena.
Schools were segregated, and even public places were segregated, e.g., Blacks could swim in the public pool at the Brookside Plunge once a week and then would have to suffer the indignity of having the pool drained and scrubbed after that one day of recreation and fun. Losing a battle in court that would have forced the City to integrate The Plunge, the city fathers instead chose to close it altogether.
The 210 Freeway alignment intentionally eliminated a significant portion of low and moderate income housing units. It is important to point out that there was once two Black neighborhoods in Pasadena, one in the Northwest and one on the Southside between Colorado Boulevard and California Boulevard and between Fair Oaks Avenue and almost west of Orange Grove Boulevard. Not the least bit coincidentally, the 710 Freeway, which has the much discussed 6.2 mile gap ends at California Boulevard, the previous southern boundary of the Southside Black community. The Southside Black community was further and again decimated by the location of the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College and its imperial school West of the 710 stub of the freeway that is now being developed with high end, luxury housing.
So you see, the urban renewal projects near Colorado Boulevard, redevelopment destruction of the City's Black business district and several of its stable neighborhoods and effects of the City's diversion of tax increment dollars away from the low and moderate income housing trust funds have all had a draconian and negative impact on Pasadena's African American community.
The effects of such wicked public actions, according to the U.S. Census shows that from 1990 to 2010, the African American population in Pasadena has dropped to a little more than 8%. According to the 1980 U.S. Census, African Americans comprised approximately 20% of Pasadena's population; according to the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans are only 10.6% of Pasadena's population. Altadena's African American population has similarly seen a precipitous decline from 43% of the population in 1980 to just 23% of the population in 2010.
The bad news is that over the past 30 years, the African American population, at its height around 22,000 people, is possibly less than half that number. The good news is that African American owned businesses in Pasadena increased around 2% from 2000 to 2010. However, the African American population in the Pasadena Unified School District saw a 6% drop from 1997/1998 to 2003/2004.
In addition to the callous public policy decisions of past decades, Pasadena has less and less housing that is affordable to working class people. There is significant economic inequality in Pasadena. In the 91104 zip code the median household income is about $68,000, in 91103 $44,358, but in 91105, at $91,587, it is more than double that of families in zip code 91103. (2012 Pasadena/Altadena Quality of Life Index).
Another indicator of how a city is doing is graduation rates from high school. According to the California Department of Education, California District Report Card, Pasadena Unified School District self-reporting, is failing its students of color. The report reveals that the size of the achievement gap between African-American and White students received a grade of "F." The Academic performance Index (API) scores among students of color is 699. The average Caucasian API score is 863, leaving a gap of 165. PUSD students of color API is ranked 128 out of 149 school districts. Pasadena is close to the bottom. PUSD also fails at preparing its students of color for college success. Although 77% graduate in 4 years from high school, only 41% take college preparatory courses.
Public schools are a place where obesity can easily be measured. Here again, African Americans appear to be on track to break records as it relates to negative health indicators. A statistically significant number of African American children are obese. In large measure this is as a result of the lack of access to healthy food choices, glamorization of foods high in bad fats, excessive sugar and an abundance of sodium/salts; smaller number of healthy food providers in minority neighborhoods; and the correlation of lower economic standing with greater difficulties associated with accessing nutritious foods in Northwest Pasadena.
To address some of the issues noted above, the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena School District developed what is called, by abbreviation, The City-School Work Plan. Mayor Bill Bogaard, recently appointed Councilmembers Terry Tornek and John Kennedy as its representatives to that body to develop the framework for further collaboration and solution.
The Center for Health Reporting refers to Northwest Pasadena as a "neighborhood where 18,000 people live below the poverty line." In a recent article in the same publication, Pasadena's Director of Public Health, Eric Walsh, called the area a "food desert." The lack of fresh fruits and vegetables and lifestyle has produced a burgeoning populations of residents with diabetes and borderline diabetes. Diabetes is a terrible disease affecting the internal organs, limbs and eyesight of its victims, but in many cases it is preventable with a change of eating habits, lower caloric intake and moderate consistent exercise.
Police and law enforcement still continue to be matters of concern, the latest being the reluctance and even unwillingness of the City to discuss police oversight issues in a broad and impartial fashion.
So where do we go from here. Well, to deal with the growing income inequality, the City, in collaboration with business, educational institutions, local chambers of commerce, colleges and universities must do what it can to advance an economic agenda that uniquely promotes the divisibility of major contracts into smaller ones where possible to include Pasadena-based business participation, apprenticeship programs, and other initiatives that educate, train and promote the workforce in Pasadena.
Progress is often slow and the wheels of justice turn even slower, but since I have been a member of the Pasadena City Council, I led with the often unanimous support of my colleagues and Mayor Bogaard the following:
1. Robinson Park $10 million dollar Renovation Project inclusion of community participation in the selection process for the Design, Architectural and Engineering firm;
2. Heritage Square Senior Housing Project, lead the effort to increase the City's financial involvement in the project to make the application for $17 million dollars in State Tax Credits more competitive;
3. Encouraged the Public Safety Committee to commission a comprehensive independent study on the pros and cons of civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department;
4. Secured a commitment from the City Manager that when asking the City Council to approve an award of a contact for supplies or services that the disclosure of who the existing holder;
5. Advocated for the release to the public the Office of Independent Review Group's Report on the Homicide of unarmed decedent Kendrec McDade;
6. Lead the effort to have the City increase the age boundaries to participate in it Summer Youth Employment Program (Summer Rose) from age 14 - 21 to 14 - 24 thereby making more students eligible to participate in the program. This was a big win for students who take a little longer to graduate from college; and
7. Provided the good government and compassionate public policy arguments that helped the City make the decision to maintain the City's Housing Department in District 3, at Renaissance Plaza, located at the Southwest Corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Orange Boulevard. The supermajority of residents who receive some form of public assistance and Section 8 Housing assistance live in District 3.
Much of what has been discussed could easily leave one disillusioned or pessimistic, but progress has been made in spite of ill-will and bad public policy decisions. On the political front, two (2) African Americans serve on the Pasadena City Council and the same number on the Pasadena School Unified Board of Trustees. The local assemblymember representing Pasadena in the state capitol is African American.
In City government, the Directors of Finance, Health Department, General Manager of Pasadena Water and Power, Fire Chief, City Engineer and City Attorney/City Prosecutor are all held by African Americans. The Chair of the Board of Trustees at the world-renowned Pasadena Art Center of Design is African American.
If bad public policy is at the root of many of the ills African Americans in Pasadena have had to endure then good public policy and people of goodwill working together can fashion responsible remedies for past and ongoing injustices in the quest to build and promote what I like to call, ONE PASADENA.
Statement by Pasadena Unified School District Board President, Renatta Cooper:
A few months ago I attended a meeting in Sacramento on early childhood education and I as usual I was one of the few African Americans in the room. Now those of you, who know me, know that I advocate for all children, I want the best for every child in this community, in this district, in this county, in this state, in this nation. I believe that the investments we make in our youth will pay multiple dividends in the not too distant future. We all need these kids to do well and maximize their potential, so I am truly an equal opportunity advocate. I would say that most of those attending the meeting had a narrower agenda than I did, and it is what it is. I was approached by one of the speakers during a break, a someone of influence who asked me, "Who advocates for African American children?"
This is someone who regularly hears from advocates for many constituencies and yet she was not hearing a singular voice, advocating for African American children. I returned to Pasadena determined to work on reinvigorating a local advocacy group that in times past filled this role locally and nationally. I will write more about that at another time, I mention it today because I wonder if there is not a level of complacency that has set into the African American community regarding educational outcomes for the children and youth in The Journal's target area. Is our focus on those children who are related to us, with less emphasis on the collective? Do we no longer see any African American child as "our" child? Is part of upward mobility, nurturing the distance that exists between "our children" and "those children?" I wonder and I believe the children do, too.
Last year at the beginning of the African American Success Initiative a project in the PUSD led by Chief Academic Officer Dr. Brian McDonald and Dr. Mack Hines of Sam Houston University, Dr. Hines interviewed African American male students at several of our campuses. They expressed a general frustration at not being able to get a break from anyone on their campus. They felt blamed for things that went wrong, overlooked when they had a positive contribution to make in a class discussion; They made no differentiation of the race or ethnicity of the teachers and administrators when describing who made them feel this way. Students who were academically inclined felt that they were not encouraged to do more, to fulfill their potential, the culture of low expectations, which permeates our educational system. As a district we are making progress, and the willingness of the principals and teachers to work with Dr. Hines and Dr. McDonald is a plus and I know that his is difficult work to do.
I was on the faculty at Pacific Oaks College for 21 years and a big part of my work there involved helping students face their internalized biases so that they could overcome them. This is work that all educators need to do, regardless of race, class or ethnicity. Some of the children in our district have some significant challenges at home that would create learning difficulties for anyone. In mental health language this is called "toxic stress "and for some children "acting out" may seem to be their only solution. because the situation at home is unchanged during the hours they attend school. So do we work to engage these kids, and help them to see that a good education is their best route to a different kind of life for themselves? Are we helping them learn that they must not let themselves be defined by circumstances beyond their control? Or do we push these kids away, fearful that someone will think that we are all like this?
The easiest attempts at closing the achievement gap that exist between African American students and those from higher achieving groups have been attempted and found wanting. The only solution is to roll up our collective sleeves, and do what needs to be done, and if that requires taking a hard look at ourselves and how we respond to some kids, so be it. There are bright spots in the district: a full ride to Yale by one of our students, a Gates Millennium Scholarship finalist, still waiting to hear the outcome of that one, Posse scholars and so many others!
A few years ago I went to Rwanda, and I noticed as we drove along the highways, protective screens were constructed over newly planted trees to protect them while they were their most vulnerable. This is the kind of protection we need to provide for the children of our district and our community, until they are able to stand straight and strong on their own.
Statement by PCC Senior Vice President and Assistant Superintendent Academic and Student Affairs, Dr. Robert H. Bell:
Pasadena City College (PCC) continues to advance opportunities for African American students. The college's Ujima Program is a learning pathway designed to enhance the experience of African American students through counseling, instruction, mentoring, and community building. The Ujima Program's primary focus is to equip our students with resources to aid in successful academic, social, and personal development. Each student will receive an introduction to college through math, English, personal growth and development, and study skill enhancement courses. Upon successful completion students will advance in their sequential courses and continue in a general education pattern towards transfer and degree completion. Ujima students work together as a community by participating in college tours, partnership in the arts, tutoring (midterm/ finals) and community activities.
A great many African American find their way to PCC through intercollegiate athletics. The college's Academic Athletic Zone provides tutorial services for its student-athletes throughout the year. Highly trained tutors provide weekly one-on-one and group tutoring sessions for approximately 85 classes. Review sessions are also held before midterms and finals to help student-athletes prepare for exams. Math books are available for loan. Specific workshops and tutorial sessions are conducted based on the urgent needs of our student-athletes.
The President's African American Advisory Committee works to advance the message of opportunities at PCC and works to make PCC a better place for black students. The committee is dedicated to garnering greater involvement from the African American community to help increase enrollment of African American students at Pasadena City College. In addition, the committee's goals are:
1. To help improve the academic performance of African American students at Pasadena City College.
2. To help improve the retention rate of African American students at Pasadena City College.
3. To help improve the transfer rate of African American students at Pasadena City College.
4. To help increase outreach to the African American community served by Pasadena City College.
Recently, PCC has undertaken steps to proactively build a network of support for African American male students. The first Men of Color Network meeting will be held on campus on April 22nd. The purpose of this gathering will be to begin a focused dialog on how faculty can help reverse the plight for Men of Color at Pasadena City College. The overall aim of the effort is to identify promising practices and began discussions on launching a learning community for this important student group.