Monday, November 12, 2007

COGIC'S 100th Convocation

On Thursday morning I arrived in Memphis, TN for the Church of God in Christ's (COGIC) 100th Holy Convocation. Since I knew very little about the city outside of that it was in the South, home to Graceland (no, I didn't take a tour) and headquarters for multiple Pentecostal denominations including COGIC, Memphis was larger and much more modernized than I anticipated.

Memphis has been larger than Fresno's current populations since about 1960 with over 650,000 within the the city and approx 850,000 in the greater area. The downtown area, like Fresno had suffered but now is in a boom with the recently constructed FedEx Forum, home of theNBA's Memphis Grizzles. The City has completed over $158M of private resident and mixed-use projects as part of a $3.1B development plan ($1.7B in progress). Adjacent to the Mississippi River, the urban center has several convention venues, a lively music scene, and plenty of good eats. To learn more about Downtown Memphis, go to

Saints from 61 countries came to participate in the celebration of one the oldest and largest Pentecostal organizations in the world. I attended the Thursday night 'Missions: International Day' that included representation of over 150 delegates from across the globe with music and singing in multiple languages. Even the COGIC anthem, 'Yes Lord' included renditions in Spanish, French and Japanese that were sung by approximately 17,000 at the service. All services at the FedEx Forum were broadcasted live via the internet ( Missionaries from South Africa, Pakistan, and India were recognized for the service to the Church and people.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hillary Hysteria?

On Monday, October 22, presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop in the Central Valley. To a diverse crowd of nearly 1000 supporters and a few outskirt protesters, the former first lady of the White House touted her stance on the war in Iraq, health care, education and need to investment in renewable energy. Some of the platform speakers, which included Delores Huerta (co-founder of the United Farm Workers), Council President Henry Perea, Councilmember Blong Xiong and program emcee Cynthia Sterling, sang Mrs. Clinton’s praise and mentioned the Valley hadn’t been inspired to such Democratic-fever since the famed Robert Kennedy visit over forty years ago.

Four black leaders were on the platform in front of Fresno High School at Monday's rally including Rev. Shane B. Scott, the senior pastor of St. Rest Baptist Church. His support for Senator Clinton centers on the issues that are important to him and his congregation-- health care and education. "My support is based on qualifications over race", says Pastor Scott, when asked what drew him away from his early support of Senator Barack Obama. Like others, he had contacted Obama's staff about planning a visit to the Central Valley, only to be told the campaign preferred to utilize resources elsewhere in the state.

Where is Brother Barack?

As the campaign proceeds and Senator Clinton continues to command strong support national wide by African-American voters, the question is— where is Brother Barack? Given Senator strong showing, will he reconsider visiting Valleycrats, who tend to be more conservative than their counterparts in the Bay Area and Southern California? Can he appeal to the Valley’s younger demographic (age 18-34), where his support is the strongest?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Urban Legend: US Post Office to destroy Black Heritage Stamp series

I love that the African-Americans braces technology and that we made great strides in using the Internet. At the same time, we have to savvy about the investigating the messages and information that comes into our INBOX.

Heard this one:

"The P.O. will DESTROY all remaining African American Heritage stamps at the end of the month instead of following their usual procedure of selling them"

This internet urban legend dates back to 2000, stating that the US Post Office will stop selling stamps depicting black American heroes and leaders and destroy the remaining in possession. The Post Office has made several official statements indicating that it has no intention of taking such actions against the Black Heritage Stamp series. On the contrary, on January 8, 2007 it issued its 26th consecutive stamp commemorating Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

But in the word of Reading Rainbow's Levar Burton, "don't take my word for it":
(see the various forms of the hoax and the Post Office's multiple counter memos)

Break the Chain (letter)

Statement from US Postal Services

Localized Community Solutions to Support Fresno Black Athletes

Black on Black Mentorship. Collaborate with local universities and colleges, to set-up an African-American male mentorship programs to provide psychology and social guidance outside of the campus environment. Where do we recruit these mentors? United Black of Men, Fresno Black Peace Officers Association, Black churches, and other local black professional organizations.

Community-campus networks. Black community organizations and concern citizens should connection to college athletic departments to create a social networks for the many black students recruited to our campuses, especially from outside the area who lack those relationships.

Black Enterprise. Invest into the athletes' academic and professional development with internship and employment opportunities with black-led organizations and businesses. Outside of the approximately 10-15 individuals who will continue with a professional athletic career, the remainder have an immediate need to focus on preparing themselves life outside off the field.

Black Athletes and Crime- Who's Responsible?

Black athletes and crime—Who’s responsible?

There are countless stories of black college athletes posed with celebrity, potential wealth and promising professional careers only to have those opportunities taken away due to criminal behavior and/or poor decisions. From the recent FSU football player, Jason Shirley and convicted murder Terry Pettis to even the Edison High School and college student athletes killed the car attendance; these young black men have lost opportunities that many aspire to. Many ask the question: Are these results solely the responsibility of the young men or are others partly to blame? And if so, who?

Here are some responses to an article on . I though to extract information from the comments but I think some of the issues could not be better stated.

Personal Responsibility

“Why are we supposed to feel sorry for them when they break the law? Are they not adults? Are they not over 18? See, I have a hard time feeling sorry for them when they go out there and break the law. It should be common sense, after all, they do live in America, but I guess common sense isn't all that common anymore. But, someone needs to tell them the list of DO'S and DONT'S. And, if I knew that this was in place, then I REALLY wouldn't have any sympathy. Because, you and I both know that, because they are athletes, everything has been excused away for them, so when the REAL WORLD slaps them silly, it's a shock to them, and a shock that usually costs them their future.”

“I get it. They screwed up!!! They deserve whatever punishment they receive!!! You can't possibly see my posting as an apology for them. I always call for personal responsibility. But when schools make millions, they have a strategic opportunity to stop these boys from getting into trouble.”

Parents & Families

“Most people thus far as saying there need not be any community solutions because this is a ‘personal problem’. If they were raised properly by their parents by 18 they should be able to make some intelligent decisions. Some of the stuff these fools do is asinine.”

“Parents need to do their job. But let's deal with the reality on the ground. It's fair to call parents to do their job.”

In the recently published Come on People, co-authored by Bill Cosby it speaks to the lack of parenting and that many of the problems in the black family stem from absence of father and positive male figures. But is that the only possible response?


“Some believe universities have failed to supply young athletes with proper mentoring and active monitoring to protect them from over exposure and poor decision making. Of course, these young men bear responsibility for their actions as well. Yet, given the psychology of superstar status, celebrity and the rags to riches stories, most of these young men have in common, they are not nearly equipped to handle the transformation without guidance. Moreover, these young men generate, untold dollars in revenue for their respective schools. Surely, they can afford to expend a few dollars counseling and guiding them.”

“But, I also blame the colleges. The colleges need to have, on retainer, a hard middle-aged Black man that sits these folks down at the beginning of the semester and tells them the rules of LIFE for a Black Man.

One reader, gave the following recommendations for colleges and universities to avoid further loss of life and livelihood:

1) Assign a guidance counselor and require check-ins.

2) Require counseling to explore their minds and make future recommendations tailored to their needs.

3) Require athletes to live on-campus in monitored facilities, in terms of going and coming. This would assist universities ability to limit the gift culture, access to alcohol, drugs and women.

4) Implement random drug testing and rehab for violations, not suspension.

It Takes a Village…

Why should young people be allowed to go down the wrong path because their parents' failed them? If others around them can see the problems ahead and take a few measured corrective steps to avoid calamity, where is the harm? It's wrong to watch someone go the wrong way if you can offer a word to steer them in the right direction.

I want you bloggers to consider the measured steps that can be taken to assist young athletes whose parents have failed them before they get into trouble. Remember when these young men go down, they take, in part, the dreams of many younger and older black boys and men with them. When we work together to help them, we help ourselves as well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Double the Trouble? West Fresno meat rendering plant to expand

Darling Intl. is seeking to expand the capacity of their West Fresno rendering plant (795 W. Belgravia, Fresno, CA 93706) from 855,000 lbs to 1,500,00 lbs per day. It has been a long time standing odor nuisance in southwest Fresno for over 50 years. It is in close proximity to several schools, public housing complexes, and single-family homes.

The SJV Air Quality Control District allowed Darling to install the equipment in 2006 but they weren't given permits to increase capacity as they are requesting now after public outcry. Since those permits were given, the HUD and City-funded HOPE VI housing development sponsored by the Fresno Housing Authority is slated to invest nearly $60M of housing surrounding the plant including the newly constructed LEED-certified preschool & community center. In addition, there are hundreds of new privately-funded housing units planned within 1 mi. radius of the plant.

We were initially told that the City has no legal jurisdiction in the matter though Sterling and the District 3 Implementation Cmte will submit opposition letters. In addition, the Control District may put the item on their board's consent calendar (no public comment unless posed by one of the board members) unless they receive significant comments (I don't know that's defined). Fresno City Council President Henry Perea Jr. is now on that Board along with Supervisor Judy Case. There is one other minority on the board from Arvin-- a local councilmember.

In August 2007, the Air Board approved their new Environmental Justice Strategy. Ray Leon (Latino Issues Forum/Asthma-Air Advocate) , Kevin Hamilton (Sequoia Healthcare/Asthma-Air Advocate), Metro Ministries, the Poverty Center among others were participants in writing it. The Board is in the process of selecting members to sit on a EJ Committee to advise the Governing board.

The Concerned Citizens of West Fresno that includes advocates such as Mrs. Mary Curry (former FUSD school board member) and Harlan Kelly (former vice-chair of Edison Planning Advisory Cmte and an origin FWCED board member) requested an 30-day extension of the public comment period from the Air Board, which was granted. That new deadline for public comment will end November 5th.

Councilmember Sterling office is coordinating a community meeting that is scheduled to take place before the November 5th deadline.

Public Notice (Sept 5, 2007)

SJVAQCD Environmental Justice Policy

Fresno Bee Article (10/03/07)

Sign a Petition

West Fresno Community Design Workshop

October 17, 2007
5:30 PM Doors Open
6:00 PM Workshop

Cecil Hinton Center
2385 S. Fairview Ave
Fresno, CA 93706

Partner Introductions

Community Break-out Workshops

Come share your ideas about regarding :
  • Housing & commercial development
  • Public Transportation
  • Bicycle & Walking Routes
  • Open Green Park Space
  • Street Intersection Improvements
Event Host:
Fresno Housing Authorities
Event Partners:
Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development (FWCED)
Design Community & Environment
Strategic Energy Innovations

Refreshment & Beverages

Spanish & Hmong language services will be available

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fresno 6?

Last week, during one of my regular barber shop conversations, I jokingly expressed to one barber that I was surprised they weren't in Jena participating in the protest. Straight faced they replied,

"Why go to Jena, when we have unresolved issues in Fresno?"

It raises a good question that I have posed to myself and now to you-- do we only get excited about those stories that make headline news?

Given the Valley's history of racial and social inequity, I'm sure there are many cases like Jena that receives to no press or protest but merit our attention. From to the Paul Perry lawsuit to everyday black men and women entangled in the system, our community cries out for individuals to plead their case.

Have you or someone you know experienced criminal injustice in our Valley? Feel free to share your story

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why black Fresnans need to participate in the awareness and prevention education of HIV/AIDS in our community

  • According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2002, AIDS was the leading cause of death among African-American women ages 25-34 and the second leading cause of death for African American men ages 35-44
  • African Americans accounted for 50 percent of all AIDS cases diagnosed in 2004 in the United States, yet African Americans make up only 12 percent of the population
  • In California, as of December 31, 2006, there were 143,946 cumulative reported AIDS cases; 25,590 of these cases were African Americans. This represents over18 percent of all AIDS cases, yet African Americans constitute less than 7 percent of California’s population

Fresno AIDS Walk
October 6, 2007, 9 AM
Roeding Park

The 2006 Fresno AIDS Walk raised $5,000 with hundreds of walkers. The proceeds benefited several local programs including Community Center Hospital’s C.A.R.E. and Cornerstone Foundation’s (operated by Cornerstone Church) Red Ribbon AIDS Project.

A great resource for black pastors and churches:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Trusting Community Relationship = Good Communication

What happens when in a relationship there is a sense of mistrust because of a perceived lack of sincerity, forwardness, and commitment to open communication? Without purposeful action to remedy such apprehensions, the relationship spiral towards a dismal end where both parties are viewed as adversaries centered on destroying the other. How is this problem magnified when this relationship is between a community and those that lead them— political and social leaders? This is a dilemma facing many urban and ethnic communities across the country and Fresno is no different.

Over the summer, residents of southwest Fresno have been bombarded with scenarios and real life situations that have heaped onto years of feeling neglected, unimportant, and disregarded by their representatives at all levels of government. From gang violence to the Running Horse ‘gone wild’, the attendance at recent town hall meetings demonstrates residents’ frustration with the circumstances surrounding their quality of life. At the most recent town hall meeting hosted by Councilmember Cynthia Sterling, residents repeatedly raised concerns about the lack of communication from City Hall. Their fears regarding the Trump Running Horse, redevelopment and eminent domain stemmed from mixed messages transmitted by mainstream media. These rumors and media stories were put to rest in a truth-telling setting where Sterling, Mayor Alan Autry and current owner, Mick Evans along with a host of city officials from police, redevelopment and city management provided the community with an in-depth explanation of past and current events surrounding Running Horse.

What I heard was not that residents’ were resistant to development but objected to the fact of not knowing. For most people, one of the greatest fears is uncertainty or unpredictability. It’s what drives the purchase of insurance of any type (reallocating risk) to the value of modern technology that allows accuracy and access to information. The politics of yester generations, where information was held tight and confidential by the government leaving citizens in the dark is over. Due to technology—instant messaging, camera phones, television/radio news, the internet along the Freedom of Information Act, people can readily obtain information on just about any subject within a short period of time thus demanding its government to respond respectively.

One good outcome from the last town hall meeting was the Mayor’s commitment to continuous communication and the establishment of a community communications taskforce. The taskforce compromised of Dr. Mary Curry, Keith Kelley, Les Kimber, LaVera Williams amongst others were charged to manage the governance of the taskforce including how to increase the composition of the group and act as a liaison between City Hall and the community. Some may ask, why is direct contact the form of communication key to maintaining a respectful relationship between leaders and an urban ethnic community? Despite today’s many mediums, leaders must not forget that direct oral communication is the one that leaves residents with a sense of sincerity and the opportunity to express their concerns.

Hopefully, the taskforce will take this as an opportunity to open a true channel of communication between an often disfranchised group of residents and those with the given authority to be their voice in our representative government.

Monday, August 13, 2007

West Fresno Town Hall Meetings: Two Down, One to Go

In the past two weeks, there have been two community-driven Town Hall meetings:
  1. August 3-dealing with police brutality. Facilitated by Rev. Floyd Harris
  2. August 9- getting questions answered about Running Horse and eminent domain. Facilitated by Dr. Mary Curry and Gloria Ponche-Roderiguez.
Both were well attended by concerned residents and decision makers from the City of Fresno. The third planned Town Hall will happen this evening hosted by Councilmember Cynthia Sterling at Macedonia COGIC. The meeting's original scheduled guest included members of the Trump team before he withdrew his $30M offer. The meeting is scheduled to continue that will no doubt have carry-over questions from Augsut 9 Town Hall's crowd of 200+ residents (some attendees estimated the audience closer to over 300) about jobs, the petition to stop the closure of Kearney Blvd. or California Ave., eminent domain, and more.

To be honest I'm like many others who are on the fence regarding Running Horse and its project scope. I hope City leaders will take into consideration the overall socio-economic impact to current residents in the area, as southwest Fresno contains some of the highest levels of concentrated poverty in the country (Brooking Institute, October 2005). Will this concentration increase because low-income residents are relocated via the market or eminent domain, thus reducing the number of neighborhoods with available affordable housing? Will West Fresno become gentrified like West Oakland and the Fruitvale communities in Oakland, CA because of redevelopment where high rents forced long time residents out?

At the end of the day, the problem with being on the fence is the potential fall. Land one way and no development happens and the community remains as it has been for decades-- destitute of community amenities and deprived of economic growth. Land the other way and the community forever changes, forcing low and moderate-income families and individuals out, which perpetuates bad land use planning of the previous decades that has resulted in residents in 15 of the 26 census tracts south of Belmont living in extreme poverty (40%+) and all West Fresno tracts in moderate or extreme poverty by concentrating low-income, public and Section 8 housing into a small area. Neither has to be the case for West Fresno.

This project is a prime opportunity for us as a city and community to build a bridge between often polarizing neighborhoods through the policy and practice of mixed-income housing. This land use & development policy incorporates housing that people can afford while transforming a distressed community through the injection of market-rate housing and conscious economic development.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Running Wild... Horse

On Monday's Valley Black Talk on KFCF 88.1 FM, the show talked about the current status of the Trump-Running Horse saga. In the program, Council District 3 Chief of Staff, Greg Barfield called in to talk about the current process, provide some facts addressing some of the rumors circulating in the community, and to speak about possible scenarios relating to Running Horse. As reported by the Fresno Bee, Trump has requested back the $1M deposit delivered earlier this month. Barfield stated those funds would be used to go after the seven (7) parcels needed but not owned to complete the Running Horse Project as currently planned. This doesn't mean Trump has completely back out of the deal, conversely it's the opposite.

In addition, Barfield touched a couple of issues that would explain for the some the added complications to the project:
  1. All parcels needed to complete the development are not owned by the project

  2. Some of the land within the project has owner options, of which some are owned by Mick Evans, the seller of the Running Horse

  3. Most of the land encompassed within Running Horse does not nor will it incorporated under the scope of influence of the Fresno Redevelopment Agency (Project Area Map)

The third item is a major bump based on the conversations between the City administration and the Trump team. As stated by Barfield and reported in the Fresno Bee, we have known since 2003 that the Running Horse Project was outside of the redevelopment project area. According to the CA Redevelopment Association, a project area can't be expanded without amending the survey area that requires qualifying that proposed area as 'blighted'. The Fresno RDA recently reported, after being asked by the City administration to evaluate the possibility to incorporate Running Horse into the project area, that it would not qualify as blighted. This was done rightly so, backing up the the previous 2003 assessment that determined the area, which was primarily ag. land, did not "consist of the physical and economic conditions that caused a reduction of, or lack of, proper utilization of that area" (e.g. High business vacancies, low commercial leases /high turnover rates, odd shaped lots, or Unsafe access into buildings or parking lots).

The only possible thread to justify blight would be "incompatible adjacent or nearby uses of land parcels that hinder economic activity" or "vacant and underutilized land or buildings" as defined by the CA Redevelopment Association. If these assessments were made before the housing boom and the adaption of the 2025 General Plan that has pushed development southward, they may have worked. Time will tell, if Mayor Autry and the City will be able to influence state legislators to promptly move on incorporating the Running Horse into Fresno redevelopment project area. Again, redevelopment is never a quick fix solution and changes are mandated by the public process, taking anywhere from 12-18 months. If Trump has the patience and commitment as his daughter, Ivanka has stated, the change can happen to the project's overall financial benefit.

These are just some of the issues Councilmember Cynthia Sterling has to consider as she deals with the economic future of her district. Do you have thoughts, concerns or unanswered questions that you like to share with her or the Trump team? On Tuesday, August 13 you will have your chance. Sterling has arranged a town hall meeting for the project stakeholders-- the Trump team, the City and the community as reported on Valley Black Talk.

Running Horse Town Hall Meeting

August 13, 2007 - 6 PM

Greater Macedonia Church

1825 S. Delno, Fresno, CA 93706

(one block west of Fruit, between Kearney Blvd. Ave. and California Ave.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

7 Ways to Promote School Integration After Supreme Court Limits Race-Based Plans

7 Ways to Promote School Integration After Supreme Court Limits Race-Based Plans

I thought this was an interesting article by Diversity Inc. Magazine that outlines seven (7) ways to promote diversity and equal access to schools along with five (5) legal questions for consideration posed by the NAACP Legal Fund about School Integration Plans.

In general Diversity Inc. has published some great articles on race and diversity in the work place. Here are an excerpt:

"You So Articulate" (March 2006)

"He commented on how articulate I had been in the presentation," recalls Perdue, now executive director of the Johnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. Perdue, who is black, was the only woman at the company who managed major accounts. "I asked if he had ever commented to my three peers [all white men] that they were articulate and well-spoken ... He gasped."

Comments that reveal surprise at a black woman's intellect, question a Latina's ability to control her emotions or an Asian-American woman's aggressiveness remain all too frequent in corporate America. Moving up the ladder requires the ability to respond to these offensive stereotypes in a manner that educates the speaker and prevents further comments without appearing hostile or unapproachable.

Read more at Diversity Magazine*:

Why Whites Don't Understand the Struggle

Which Words (And the Celebrities Who Use Them) Are Most Offensive?

Why 'Colorblind' Isn't the Answer

* free subscription for non-profit and government emails addresses

What About Our Daughters: See What Happens When you Promote Blackface?

What About Our Daughters: See What Happens When you Promote Blackface?

These blackface ads were published all across Europe by the United Nations (UNICEF), but they pulled them after some criticism.

Click on the link to view the ads and to read the story.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A West Fresno with Trump?

So now that the Donald Trump deal with Running Horse is closer to being a reality, we have to begin to ask what will West Fresno look like with a billionaire touch? Members of the West Fresno community were excited five plus years ago when the prospects of the Running Horse first appeared that later spurred the interest of developers and land owners to potentially build a planned 3000 new homes in the area. Those dreams began to fade as the project continuously ran into financial woes. There seems to be a savior in the Trump offer. In a messiah-type fashion, it appears Running Horse has resurrected on the third offer. But will it bring redemption or damnation? In an effort to develop the area in true Trump style, it is said that he want a larger footprint that closer 5,600 acres. That area is more than 10 times larger than the current Running Horse project that would include both residential and commercial developments spanning from Fruit Ave to Brawley, Annadale to the south and Belmont to the north.

How would this happen given that are hundreds of homes and businesses within that landscape? There are two basic options: (1) Trump buys out each individual land owner; or (2) the City acquires the land and negotiates some deal with Trump to obtain it. In the first scenario, Trump would have to negotiate with possibly hundreds of land owners who could hold out for a big pay-day or refuse to sell out right. Mr. Deal Maker does not have the time or financial desire to engage in such activities. That’s where Option 2 becomes ideal. The City through the Redevelopment Agency could buy the land (all City-proper 93706 is a redevelopment area) from owners whether they desired to sell it or not through eminent domain. In turn, the City could sell it to Trump at the purchase price, the market value or at a discount like the GAP distribution center land sale for $1. But before I just leave the bad taste of eminent domain in your mouth, understand that it’s no quick fix. The process is lengthy, tedious and can be just as costly as a conventional real estate process due to the regulations imposed to protect the resident and/or current land owner.

A few other questions to ponder:

  • What could West Fresno look like?
  • We, as residents ask for the City and land developers to consider our community but are we willing to accept the changes to the community—demographics, social and neighborhood composition?
  • How can this become a win-win-win situation for the community, the city of Fresno and investors/developer involved?

There are individuals with legitimate fears of how these changes may affect their community and more specifically their livelihood. Those who have planted their families and businesses in West Fresno may refer to the glory day of the Golden West Side, where the community flourished with local retailers and businesses that catered to the area’s predominately African-American population due to social and civil limitation placed on that group. It was the same time when it was socially unacceptable for ethnic minorities to go north of railroad tracks leading into downtown Fresno without scrutiny let alone north Fresno or Clovis. Today, West Fresno is very different place—the community is reflective of the city, county and state with Latinos comprising 60% of the neighborhood along with a large Southeast Asian population (2000 Census); a much lower rate of homeownership over the history of the community and comparative to the rest of the city; relatively high rates of unemployment; and schools that lack the proper resources to prepare students for academic success and productive professional careers.

The community is in need of a drastic change

I am of the belief that a Trump development could be the catalyst to the economic resurrection of West Fresno. There are many unanswered questions that Trump, the City and West Fresno residents will need to resolve to make this a mutually benefit project. I hope all parties will move forward in a way to will allow productive and honest dialogue.

Thoughts? Am I completely off –base? I welcome your comments.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Riverdale- Next Steps

So what now? There have been nearly 200 comments to this blog alone about the situation in Riverdale. At this point, it can’t be swept under the rug. We can’t pretend that it didn’t happen or impose our own wishes & hopes that the event was ‘educational’ after Principal Doug Spencer in both reports (Fresno Bee, Cover Page- 06/09/07 and CBS 47- 06/07/07) stated that is was a joke, a roast and mean to make fun of the students. We don’t have to dispute the content of the picture as the captions rendered by the photographer tell a greater story. We don’t have to wonder whether the church is embarrassed or feels some level of guilt after they removed the pictures and deactivated their church website. We don’t have to debate whether African-Americans/Blacks/ black Americans are offended when there have been several accounts through these comments. While there may be a few individuals with an African heritage who are not offended (I would ask those persons to evaluate their self worth, appreciation and regard for their culture, and their prospective of slavery), it does not negate the morally improper acts demonstrated at the ‘Celebration’. There are people who are the least offended with the terrible tragedies of 9/11, Columbine, VA Tech, the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears, or other periods in US or world history where hatred for one group by another lead to their near demise and destruction. Yet their lack of regard is not the measuring stick in which we judge what is right or wrong.

There is a false notion that one good deed should cover any bad ones. Does 364 days of good driving negate one’s guilt if they run one (1) stop light? You still get the ticket, go to court and pay a fine. Does 20 years of love, gifts, a home & car make one night of an affair excusable? While I applaud the outreach, ministries, and contributions of Riverdale AG, it does not exempt them from getting this situation straight. Think, would that be a justified answer to God on Judgment Day: I fed the poor, visited the sick, ministered to the fatherless so don’t pay attention to that ‘little’ thing over there—let that one go by.

No one ever has the excuse to do wrong because of the wrong actions of others no matter who they are—rappers, other churches, public figures, neighbors or even your family.

To those Christians that out there, you know better (right?)… who’s suppose to be the light?

Personally, I have mixed emotions about the situation. One part wants to be angry because I KNOW the situation was wrong. Because such situations just don’t happen. They were planned, thought out, and agreed upon by multiple adults who have been exposed to what is morally and socially right. These acts would not be found edifying, good or acceptable in any reasonable institution of sound beliefs—Christian or otherwise. Also, as a Christian—a believer in the Holy Bible and teachings of Jesus Christ, I am hurt that such incidents took place under the covering of the church and has blemished the work of His Kingdom. Unfortunately, because of the power of religion and the church, many have abused its place in our society to propagate many principals contrary to the Bible in an effort to manipulate its members and our culture.

RACISM, PREJUDICE and DISCRIMINATION are not principals supported by true Church of Jesus Christ.

But these are issues that the Church has been plagued with since its inception. St. Paul who was commissioned to reach the Gentiles, had to OPENLY confront many of the Hebrew Christians because they treated non-Jews as second class believers. Because these acts were done publicly, they have to be dealt with PUBLICLY.

On the other hand, I willing to forgive as are many, but we have to deal with it. There is a group of organizations including ministers and pastors, who desire to sit down with the staff involved and church leadership to figure how to move forward.

Some will say that we (me—again, it ain’t about Tate) are moving too fast or not fast enough on this situation. Well, problems that have brewed over years can’t be expected to be resolved over night. I don’t agree that with Douglas Spencer that “there's nothing I can do to make it better" (Fresno Bee 06/09/07). Beyond apologies and feeling sorry (feelings change), the school should incorporate awareness training in their faulty development in addition to the student’s curriculum. For those are who claim Christ justifiably, they will welcome the opportunity for the dialog, to come to an understanding, and to reconcile. Others—black, white, the unwise and otherwise— will only want to fuel hatred with racial slurs, profanity, and cloud the issue of what’s presently in this situation.

Note: I do not agree with just making allegations that have serious criminal circumstances against specific individuals without any proof. If those situations are truth, then they should be handled in a court of law. Also, its not an outsider's place to tell a congregation or its' pastor how to spend money donated to that church. I am sure the church and General Council have procedures for handling any internal matters and the offended should utilize those channels.

Think we are alone? This is happening all over the country, especially amongst college students (the next place the Riverdale graduates will go) from Clemson University to The University of Arizona throwing 'ghetto parties' to mock MLK Day. But some institutions choose to handle it differently. Here is an example of what Whitman College did after picture surfaced on Facebook depicting white students in black face.

Excerpt from Racialicious:

There was an outcry among the student body when photos were found of students who put on blackface to mimic the racially segregated cast of “Survivor: Cook Islands” at an off-campus party. ( Hum…where have we heard that?)

Instead of merely denouncing this act, Whitman College cancelled classes for an entire day and organized a full-day symposium on race relations which every single student had to attend.

And this wasn’t some lame “we are the world,” “there’s no race but the human race” crapfest. Take a look at the agenda. Some of the panels and workshops included:

  • The History of Blackface
  • Creepy Fun, Complicit Thoughtlessness, and Taking Action
  • On Being White in A Racist Society: A Workshop on Becoming An Effective Ally
  • Individual vs. Institutional Discrimination
  • “I’m Not a Racist”: Feigning Moral Blindness
  • Race, Class and Gender in Outdoor Sports and Institutions; AKA “Why is it Always White Dudes Leading Trips?”
  • The History of Race in the Greek System


All About Race. White Christian Creatives and Stereotypical Assumptions

Fresno Bee.Riverdale Christian Academy staffers poked fun at slavery”

CBS 47 News. Thursday, June 7 2007

Lodi News. Riverdale Minstrel Show

Fresno Juneteenth Activities

Juneteenth Kids Day

Friday, June 15, 2007 , 12:00pm to 5:00pm

Frank H. Ball Neighborhood Center, 760 Mayor
, Recreation & Community Services
A celebration of Freedom. Free event open to the community, featuring music and entertainment, refreshments, contests, dominoes tournament, cultural education and crafts.
Wendi Danyluk

29th Annual
Fresno Juneteenth Celebration

June 16, 2007

Parade @ 10 AM

Kearney & Fresno to Hinton Center via MLK Blvd.

Celebration: Food, Booths & Stage Entertainment@ 12 Noon- 6 PM

Where: Hinton Community Center

2385 Fairview (Church St.) just south of Edison Computech

Jerline Bishop 579-5274

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth originated as a celebration of the ending of slavery in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and 1,800 troops of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved persons were free. Even though President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect on January 1, 1863, freeing all enslaved persons in those states in rebellion against the United States, for various reasons the decree had not yet taken effect in Texas. For more info go to

Friday, June 08, 2007

This is nothing new under the Riverdale sun

After reading several posts, I began to think... Is this ‘just my imagination running away with me’? Is this merely a case of ignorance that could be easily corrected with some awareness training and dialogue? Am I over exaggerating a silly joke that happened one time? I thought maybe until I received a call that clear these doubts.

I received a call from a local that expressed that there are several accounts that this skits or variations of it have been performed numerous times over the years. One graduate remembers particularly that a similar skit was acted out six years at the graduation after reminiscing from a school year book. But it case I’m still off base, the school should allow the media or some third party to review the multiple DVDs that were produced by the school staff or Jim Davis, the photo album originator and pastor’s son-in-law that are being recalled after the CBS-47 story.

In addition, from my understanding there is/was one (1) African-American student attending Riverdale Christian Academy. I hope she wasn’t present. I hope she hasn’t seen this ‘joke’ or other like it that depicting African-American only as slave to entertain her white peers. I hope that staff, administration/church leadership and other students didn’t continue this form of comedy after Graduation. Unfortunately, it light of the pictures, their captions and information that has surfaced since, I don’t have much hope.

Unlike the Imus situation, I hope we (the Fresno community) will not rant, fire someone and then forget about it. It's really not about protesting or just an apology (though a formally written apology is very much in line), the greater issues of race & religion and matter of race in the Valley must be dealt with for us to move forward.

True reconciliation can not start without forgiveness and true forgiveness require repentance. Repentance is more than saying 'sorry' but it must be accompanied by a change in one's action.

Here are some ways to accomplish that:

  • Declaration by sister Assemblies of God churches that such practice are not acceptable
  • The Church pastor, as the leader of the school and church formally apology denouncing such practices and resolving that such skits or any forms of racial depiction be removed from all church or school-sponsored activities
  • The school establish or enhance their non-tolerance policy
  • A series of open dialogues between the community (church leaders across racial/ethnic lines, educators, and community advocates-- civic and otherwise) and the church about race and why such scenarios are deemed inappropriate, and how to incorporate true diversity into the school's culture. This not a microwave result but it be the most fruitful.

Setting some things straight: Racism in Riverdale?


The community of Riverdale is 22 mi. south of Fresno near the border of the county line making more identifiable with Kings County as only 14 mi from Lemoore. According to the 2000 Census, the community has a total black population of 30. In the neighboring communities of Laton, Helm and Caruthers there are 29 blacks combined. Even Easton, which is considered an extension of West Fresno (not the historical ‘Golden Westside’ of Fresno County that includes all of western Fresno County), has only 12 blacks in that community. Many of the black students that attend Washington Union High School, live just outside of the City of Fresno's sphere of influence and feed into that school district. If there are only 11 students in Riverdale Unified School District according the District’s Accountability Report, it’s likely that Academy (their demography information is publicly accessible since it’s a private school) has a few if any black students in attendance there.

The principal in the CBS-Channel 47 (View News Interview) stated that these were jokes and the skit was pointed to make fun of the students. That was the exact purpose of Blackface: to get a good laugh at the expense of blacks. How does whites painted to portray black slaves jest white and Hispanic students? The bigger question is would the same skits and characters if they had black students or black families in attendance? Hopefully, no. But their embarrassment demonstrates that they knew it was inappropriate and that that why the picture have been removed and the school site is ‘temporarily down’.

Does the presence of ethnic minorities diminish the opportunities for racism and prejudice?

No. In many southern states, there were (and still are) large percentages of blacks and Latinos but were home to the some of the most legally and socially segregated communities. Jim Crow started in the South it an effort to control the lives of the many blacks there.

The community can’t be racist because they have a large Hispanic/Latino population.

What? Have you been in Tulare County where they little to no Hispanics elected to County offices though they constitute roughly 50-60% of the population? By the way, the school is not 51% Hispanic, that's the ethnic composition of the community itself. The has approximately 40 Hispanic students (30.8%), which really irrelevant to practices.

My Riverdale Knowledge

I have been to Riverdale a few times, in high school and college because I had black friends whose family that lived there and still do. I even had an opportunity to visit Boro Farms that is headquartered in the community.

Assemblies of God & Church of God in Christ

Let me make this clear—this is not an attack on the denomination. However, given the historical background of that body that broke off its affiliation to a black-led organization due to racial tension; it is an action that must be dealt with to further the reconciliation process. Also, for setting the facts straight, I have reference several sources including Oral Robert University that note the historical separation and recent deliberate reconciliation process between the two church organizations

Assemblies of God- Wikipedia

The Assemblies of God, or A/G for short, was founded in 1914 at Hot Springs, Arkansas. The early founders were licensed white ministers of the Church of God in Christ, the largest African-American Pentecostal body founded by Charles Harrison Mason in 1897 [4]. Their affiliation with the Church of God in Christ was short-lived due to the racial climate of the Jim Crow Era in the United States. Subsequently, predominantly white representatives from 20 states and a few foreign countries gathered to form a fellowship of Pentecostal believers. A fellowship emerged that was incorporated as the General Council of the Assemblies of God. E. N. (Eudorus Neander) Bell (1866-1923) was elected the first chairman. Central Bible College was started in the basement of the Central Assembly of God church in Springfield, Missouri in 1922.

Oral Roberts University. “The Origins of the Pentecostal Movement”

“Since many white pastors had formerly been part of Mason's church [Mason was the founder of Church of God in Christ], the beginnings of the Assemblies of God was also partially a racial separation. In time the Assemblies of God church was destined to become the largest Pentecostal denominational church in the world, claiming by 1993 over 2,000,000 members in the U.S. and some 25,000,000 adherents in 150 nations of the world.”

A/G and COGIC rebuilding relationships- Charisma Magazine

COGIC historical dateline-


There is truth in some comments that what was demonstrated was not blackface is its true or original form. Yet, if one looks back at the historical content of the practice, its purpose and its targeted audience you will find all of those elements present in the Riverdale incident.

Expert from “The Guardian”:,,1878318,00.html

Blackface is "a form of racist caricature invented by white Americans in the minstrel-show days of the 1800s," says American academic John Strausbaugh in his book, Black Like You. Blackface minstrelsy became one of the US's most popular musical styles. In this white imitation of black characters black people were portrayed as stupid, superstitious, lying, lazy and lascivious. By the late 19th century, minstrel shows regularly featured black performers - but they continued to black themselves up in darker hues for their white audiences.

"It was a deliberate attempt to suggest that black people had no humanity," says Caryl Phillips, whose latest novel, Dancing in the Dark, looks at the life of Bert Williams, a light-skinned Antiguan-born black man who became America's highest paid entertainer by blacking himself up and playing a dim-witted funnyman.

Other Resources

Yellow Face

Bamboozled, A Spike Lee movie

John Strausbaugh .Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture

Overall Thoughts

Yes, we are American have freedom of expression—to the laws limit. People can say and do what they want but its not without consequence. I am especially disappointed about this situation for three reasons:

(1) While a private school, it is still an educational institution. What examples, images or messages did the faculty, staff, church leadership send to those students, who already have few opportunities given the area's demographic, about black Americans?

(2) Whether one is Christian or not (am I and a member of Church of God in Christ), in general, we as a society hold churches as moral-teaching institutions. What morals were taught that allowed such practices to take place at an event purposed on celebrating the accomplishment of young men and women completing one phase of the educational careers?

(3) How do these images affect the way, we as a community-- the Central Valley viewed internally and externally? Obviously, the images have been distributed across the country within a short of time (this event happened just last week) and made their way back to the Valley. Now what are we going to do about it? Are we willing to face the issue or do we continue to sweep such situations under the race rug? Time will tell.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Racism in Riverdale?

Are Whites still putting on blackface? Yes, right in our back yard--Riverdale, CA. White men and women had 'brown faces' depicting slaves during the Civil War at Riverdale Christian Academy's Senior Prom & 2007 Graduation Celebration. The skits and characters were part of the entertainment.

Riverdale, CA
Population: 2400 (2000 Census)
Ethnic Make-up:1.2% African-American, 51% Hispanic and 40.1 % White- non Hispanic.
Location: Approximately 20 miles south of Fresno, off Fwy 41 between Easton and Lemoore

The really sad part about this situation is that characters were performed at a church-sponsored event as the Academy is under Riverdale Assembly of God. Just when we think the we have truly begun the reconciliation process between the Church of God in Christ-COGIC and The Assembly of God (Assembly of God member-churches were originally a part of COGIC until they broke off in 1914 to establish a predominately-White denomination), we see that many still need deliverance from racism and prejudice. Racism and prejudice in the church has to be dealt with. John, one of Jesus disciples speaks false love for God in I John 4:20(NIV):

If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

This is not merely a theatrical production emulating fictional characters, but a purposeful demonstration of disregard for the seriousness of the black American slave experience. It trivializes slavery, it celebrates the ungodly and unfounded Biblical justification of this Era (similar reasoning used in stripping land for Native Americans and the encampment of Japanese-Americans during WW II), and further characterizes rural and small town America as unwelcoming to people of color.

Charles Spencer is the Pastor of Riverdale Assembly of God, it appears that he and his wife were present at the event.

This type of behavior is totally unacceptable, especially when sanctioned by a church. I believe the church leadership, Academy administration & staff, the characters and students involved need to admit the action was wrong and prepare a formal apology to the African-American community.

Obviously, one of the Academy's staff though it was harmless enough to post the pictures of the event on the web [the albums and the account were deleted after this post]

Riverdale Christian Academy at The Riverdale Assembly of God

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Mangled Use of the Justice System

41 year-old Paul Perry, a victim of a demented use of the justice system to settle a personal vendetta, will be a guest of Valley Black Talk in follow-up to a Fresno Bee article detailing his horrible account of over 10-months of vicious unwarranted threats from Fresno County jail inmates. The threats were the results of letters from an unsuspecting guard to inmates full of racial slurs, derogatory comments, and slander against their families with the intent to enrage them to the point of wanting to retaliate against Paul Perry, his fiancĂ©, her sons, and his mother. And for what….. to combat a civil lawsuit & at-fault car accident that the guard had with Perry?

Listen tonight at 8 PM on Valley Black Talk (KPFA/KFCF, FM 88.1), as he recounts the ‘nightmare’— the resistance he encountered with the Sheriff Department, the threats, and how this could happen to any of us.

Valley Black Talk- Monday, May 7, 2007 at 8 PM . KFCF 88.1 FM

Read the Story on Valley Black Talk
The Fresno Bee article- Sunday, April 29, 2007. "Living a Nightmare"

Question: Do you think that Alejandro Vital received a sufficient sentence for the crime committed? Could this be considered a hate crime and/or a intent to commit murder?