Step Forward and Get Busy!

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - Building New City - step forward and get busyA few weeks ago I complained about CHAPS having transformed their staff from integrated, under the former Director Wilma Allen, to over 90 percent Latino, under the current director Margie Martinez. In the article I also mentioned El Centro De Accion having no Black staff, even though they had recently received a grant to fight Black gang violence as well as Latino gang violence. In fact, the then Director Randy Ertill, had hired one African American but immediately fired him within 30 days and made no Black replacement. So I was pleased to see that Ertill resigned last week. We shall see if the new director is more inclusive.

We were all saddened by the recent passing of Versie Mae Richardson, the founder of AlKebulan, Pasadena’s only African American Cultural Center. Hopefully, the dream of Richardson for an African American Cultural Center will somehow survive. We badly need it.

Since America is a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-nationalistic nation, we cannot afford to leave one group behind, especially at the expense of another group. It was good to see the Mayor of Pasadena, Bill Bogaard, and others speak well of the reason for the creation of El Centro. Specifically, the Mayor cited the opportunity of El Centro now getting back to “its core mission of education and support for young Latinos in the Pasadena community.” Mayor Bogaard was joined in his statement by similar statements of Councilman Victor Gordo and local Latino activist Roberta Martinez. Martinez, according to the article in the May 28, 2013 of the Star News, is the director of Latino Heritage in Pasadena.

In the meantime, I found myself a bit sad that there is no ongoing Community Center dedicated to the mission of education and support for young African Americans in the Pasadena community. I am not aware of any organization dedicated to African American heritage of Pasadena. Organizations like AlKebulan had a similar mission and organizations such as Aspires were created primarily by African American educators with similar missions. These organizations are still alive and needing support but are more ethnically inclusive. Somehow the African American participation has gotten diluted. Little can be done without the organizations being accused of being non-inclusive or worse, discriminatory, like CHAPS. I hope someone keeps their eyes on whether CHAPS returns to the practice of integration or whether they think their clinic is for Latinos only. If this remains the case, we need to start planning and putting our money together for the discrimination lawsuit.

While we need organizations and facilities to meet the needs of all our citizens, I think it’s critical for cultures to maintain and promote their heritage and not be ashamed of it. My friend John Krikorian, who recently passed this year, would sometimes call me and say, “Joe you’ve got to get African Americans together to form a school or educational organization to do a better job of creating educational opportunities for Black youth.” I agree. The Armenians do, the Latinos do, the Asians do, why not the African Americans? I can still hear the message from John. John, you were right and your message is still ringing in my ear, loud and clear.

I read in the Jewish Journal about the graduation ceremony for the Academy for Jewish Religion/CA where the graduates made statements of commitment to their heritage. One said, “I promise to transmit my passion for Jewish values via the arts, as a speaker, scholar, teacher, artist and chaplain”. Another said she wants “to inspire fellow Jews of all ages to learn about the beauty of Jewish ethical principals.” Black youth have not been taught to value the beauty of Blackness. Black adults need to adopt and renew our commitment to the beauty of Blackness so we can pass that on to our children.

For me, I had the idea for a combination of education and entrepreneurship for Black youth, patterned after Homeboys Industries. I call it, NEW CITY. But my energy level is not what it used to be. I have been fighting the fight for such a long time. I feel that now is the time to pass the mantle on. There are so many Black educators, past and present, to do this job and others just waiting to support them.

Now, whose ready to step forward and get busy?