I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Pasadena on Saturday May 28, 2011. The event, held at Altadena Baptist Church where Pastor George Van Alstine is the pastor, was to my surprise, a packed house. A full agenda was accommodated by the Alliance and its president, Dr. Nicholas Benson. I took my few minutes to talk about and promote the idea of the group organizing to develop a program that serves the young people of Northwest Pasadena where all of the traditional programs seem to have disappeared, or simply don’t serve the young people, anymore. My personal target is young Black males, in particular. I am aware that that may be offensive to some, but in my opinion, young Black males seem to have been abandoned by their fathers, the schools, the churches, and the community, in general. They are the ones who need special attention, quick, fast and in a hurry. I guess the fact that I represent so many young men in court who have been abandoned, one way or another, and see so many mothers and grandmothers struggling to save them, the epidemic is clear to me.
My suggestion that I probably didn’t make clear enough was that the churches should come together and fund a Youth Coordinator and develop a program modeled after the Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. I suggested that the Pastors take a trip to the facility at 130 West Bruno Street in Los Angeles to get a better picture of what I was talking about. With a theme of “Jobs not Jails” their program has a number of components in two general areas. One area is called Homeboy Services and Programs. The other area is businesses, which include a bakery, a café and catering, a retail store and silk screening shop.
I passed out literature that describes their services as having “grown in response to identified needs” among their clients. As demand for specific services grows, or as persistent needs are identified, they expand to provide comprehensive support for their clients. Homeboy is a therapeutic community where those ready to move beyond gangs, voluntarily, may seek help. I would add that there needs to be a program component for trouble prevention programs to provide young people with alternatives to the trouble of the streets. In spite of opinions to the contrary, if there were programs that demonized gang and thug life, we would spend more time building up boys instead.
Homeboy Industries list also includes such services and programs as case management, to help develop long term personal plans, Curriculum/Education that deals with literacy issues and home environments with role models, also G.E.D. and preparations for those who need it, Employment Services for helping to prepare for and find good employment, Legal Services where there is a Lawyer on site to provide workshops and one on one advice and guidance on criminal and civil matters, Clearing Warrants, getting expungements, and resolving child custody matters, to name a few. Mental Health Services are also provided by therapists for those in need.
Yes, I know many of these services are available already, but nowhere is it concentrated and coordinated as a kind of one stop program for youth in our community. Also note that I didn’t mention mentoring because I am not talking about mentoring, per se’. Mentoring tends to concentrate more with one on one assistance and focuses on one particular need. I am talking about a comprehensive program that provides help to those young Black males who have been abandoned and need to get back on the right track in any and all areas of need. Black males are most in need because I see too many programs where everybody is recruited, and Blacks are left out or discriminated against when you look around and see who is being served. I continue to use the CHAPS program as an example. CHAPS medical clinic was started by Black men. Now years later, Blacks have been eliminated from positions of employment. Even a fast food place like Fat-Burger which was started by a Black man has almost no Blacks working there. So why are we still eating at there? Why is the McKenzie Boys and Girls Club not working to serve more Black youth?
I spoke to a white gentleman who has for years volunteered for the Junior Achievement program and he complained that there are few young Blacks in the program. Let’s not be naïve. Young Blacks are not an accepted priority group when there is an alternative. Look at the fast foods places where you all eat. Why is it that there are no young Blacks working there? Why are all of the construction sites void of young Black males? As long as we continue to count minorities instead of Blacks, we will keep providing opportunities for wealthy Asians who are counted as minorities along with other non-Blacks, while the sons and daughters of Blacks who struggled and got their heads busted to open the doors are left out.
As we look forward at something that may seem unrelated, redistricting of Congressional and Legislative Districts is a looming issue in California. I attended a meeting of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, last month. The meeting was held in the City of San Gabriel, in a packed auditorium of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. I was invited to attend by someone white but was maybe one Black speaker in a crowd of probably three hundred. How sad. What I heard before it was my turn to speak (I was number 70), was speaker after speaker, Asian and Latino, unashamedly advocating for designing Legislative Districts that were majority Asian or majority Latino. I thought, who is here to speak up for the rights of Blacks, and why more Blacks won’t stand up and speak out up for Blacks like those other groups? These speakers wanted to guarantee Asian and Latino representation in the State and National Legislatures. I say more power to them. But at the same time I want to see more Black representation. And so I was there advocating for a district that horizontally stretched along the mountains north and the 210 freeway south, in order to pick up our area’s ethnically diverse populations which include African Americans who, while not concentrated in one area, are dispersed along that corridor of the foothills cities of Monrovia, Altadena, Duarte, and Claremont. Together, these areas are a community of interest that will determine how legislative lines will be drawn.
Those interested in more information on redistricting may call Taisha Bonilla at (213) 989-1300. We can try to ignore Blacks in programs and in redistricting if we want, but it will be to our detriment. Do something for Black Boys today.