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