HomeCover Stories2013 State of Black Pasadena

2013 State of Black Pasadena

African American news from Pasadena - 2013 State of Black PasadenaIt is our intent, with this limited report, to provide a snapshot of the status of African American participation in the life and times of Pasadena. It is a city with much talent and much to offer its citizens and the nation. The African American participation is significant.

The past year has seen many changes in the position of African Americans in Pasadena setting up what should be a good year for progress in the City of Roses. The dilemma is the same one that African Americans face across America. That dilemma simply put is that with the giant steps made by some African Americans in public life there will be a tendency in the celebration of the giant steps, to think that racism is a thing of the past. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

An article about the benefits of a college degree education in the April 26, 2013 Chronicle of Higher Education points out facts that lead to the conclusion that even with degrees racism still is rampant. The article, while not about race, per-se, says "There are 115,000 janitors with four-year degrees. Fifteen percent of the taxi drivers have college degrees now." The long held theory that Blacks are the last hired and the first fired is evidenced everywhere we look.

In Pasadena, the staff at the Community Health Alliance Partnership (CHAPS) gives the appearance of one of the most blatant examples of racism in the city of Pasadena. One recent visit by this writer (May 2, 2013) demonstrated that this agency that was created by a Black Male Forum and funded in part by government money hires all races but Blacks. The agency is in the heart of the Black community but gives the appearance of being in the community but not of the community. There seems to be an invisible sign that says " BLACKS NEED NOT APPLY." It seems to be ripe for demonstrations pickets and probably lawsuits for discrimination against Black employment.

While there has been great progress nationally in the fields of sports, entertainment, and politics, including the giant step of Barack Obama being re-elected president of the United States, locally the problems of lack of equality in education, criminal justice, housing, health care, employment, and employment opportunity still suffer from the sickness of racial discrimination. In the meantime, the purveyors of racism have new tools. Those tools include, (1) words and phrases like American and individual exceptionalism, (2) the continuing bigger than life image of competition for employment and educational competition between racial and ethnic groups specifically Blacks and Browns, and (3) a growing crisis in the loss of the leadership class that the Black community has always depended on. Specifically, Black America has seemingly lost the leadership of an unselfish Christian ministry that has substituted the liberation model of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jeremiah Wright, and Dr. James Cone and adopted what appears to be a heightened love of the theories of selfish prosperity.

The examples of selfish leadership are represented by images of Bishop Eddie Long Of Atlanta, and Reverend Henry Lyons circa 1996. In Pasadena the leadership class has morphed into just a few churches while one of the largest church has lost it's power by choosing to spend it's money on the minister rather than on the people leaving the question of whose church is it anyway, the people's or the pastor's? At this point it would be useless to name names, the point has been made in previous Journal articles.

What is interesting in the large number of White churches leading the charge for developing programs for Black youth where youth programs were always part of the way of life of the Black church. The reward will be the harvest that White churches will harvest as reward for their "training up the child." The loss will be the continued demise of numbers at the Black churches.

The model for today's Black church dealing with the problems of Black youth locally is defined in the Homeboy Industries designed and carried out by Father Greg Boyle. Efforts spearheaded by Rev. Tyrone Skinner, of Metropolitan Baptist Church, and Rev. Lucious Smith of Friendship Baptist Church are underway to keep the struggle current and relevant.

I have not talked about crime and justice because there is nothing new there. The gangs still terrorize the neighborhoods they reside in. They still work hard at finding work in the underground economy that leads to jail alternatives to learning skills or employable unskilled work. Some police officers, and even more sheriffs, still believe they have a license to use excessive force on people of color.


New names and faces will be visible at the seats of political power in Pasadena in 2013. At the City Council table, John Kennedy will take over District Three. Kennedy will assume the seat long held by Chris Holden. Holden will sit in Sacramento as the first African American Assemblyman to represent Pasadena. He will be closely watched as he assumes the seat previously held by such political luminaries as former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, former Senator Jack Scott and Senator Carol Liu. Kennedy will join Jacque Robinson who was appointed Vice Mayor of Pasadena. Councilmember Robinson is serving her second term.

With high unemployment numbers generally, and African American unemployment rates reported by the Urban League as twice as high as White unemployment the Black community will be watching to see if anything changes. A certain amount of pride comes to the Black community as a result of their efforts to elect a Black assemblyman, the pride will be awarded and warranted when they see positive results.

Kennedy and Holden are joined by political and community service newcomer Tyron Hampton. Hampton will take on the position of School Board member to represent the newly formed District Three. He has been elected Vice President, right out the gate. Renatta Cooper was re-elected as President. Cooper is the first African American female to hold that position. With Hampton's election, he brings the number of African Americans on the Pasadena Unified District School Board to two. Two was also the number when African Americans, Dr. Jackie Jacobs and Elbie Hickambottom sat on the Board during a period of change. Today's watchword for the Board seems not to be so much change as improvement.

The Pasadena Branch NAACP, after 12 years of leadership by Joe Brown, has chosen a new slate of officers beginning in 2013, with newly elected President Gary Moody. The Altadena Branch NAACP is now led by Jalal Sudan who formerly served as President and has returned. Other organizations include Pasadena YWCA with Tamika Farr as Executive Director.


Health care in Pasadena took a turn for the better in April, 2013. City Public Health Department through Director Eric Walsh has added dental care to the services available to Pasadenans and Altadenans through the health department. April 24,2013 marked the grand opening of the new Michael Antonovich Dental Clinic located at 1845 North Fair Oaks Avenue, in Pasadena. The Clinic is a joint venture between the County of Los Angeles and the City of Pasadena. Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich worked with Pasadena City Manager, Michael Beck, and Dr. Walsh to make it happen. Accordingly, the clinic is appropriately named City of Pasadena Michael D. Antonovich Dental Clinic. Dr. Melanie Washington is the director of the new dental clinic.

A community health center that grew out of an idea by the Black Male Forum, now known as CHAPS (Community Health Alliance Partnership), has expanded its services and now has three centers in Pasadena, including locations on North Lake Avenue, Del Mar Avenue, and its primary location, with administrative offices, on North Fair Oaks. The medical staff for CHAPS include two African American female doctors. The medical staff is integrated but the administrative and support staff seems to exclude African Americans from employment.


Since the introduction of Africans to America as a source of labor, it has been clear that education holds the key to success. A look at Black history will show that even before the end of the horrible institution of slavery, institutions of learning have held the key to progress for African Americans. For that matter education holds the key to progress for all people.

It is interesting that the Secretary of Education in the Obama administration says that "education is the Civil Rights of our time." To that, I can only say that education has been one of the Civil Rights issues for all time that African Americans have occupied in America. First, it was what the slavemasters didn't want Black immigrants to have. Today, it is what the power structure doesn't want Blacks to acquire. The reasons have always been the same. A smart "one" was, and is, dangerous because, like the vote, education leads to independence. When you have both, the vote and an education, the results cannot be predicted. As a consequence White conservatives continue to this day to try to prevent an opportunity to get a quality education for African Americans.

Lest we forget, the emancipated slave who was educated in the skills of farming led to leaders, farmers and educators like Booker T. Washington. Education led to schools like Hampton, Tuskegee, Howard, and Morehouse which led to liberators like Dr. King and Howard University which led to legal giants like Thurgood Marshall.

Education also led to liberators like Nat Turner and Bishop Richard Allen who, in addition to being credited with starting the African Methodist Episcopal Church, helped to found the first Black newspaper, Freedoms Journal, in 1827, along with Reverend Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm. It should be noted that Russwurm was one of three Blacks who made history as being the first to graduate from American colleges. Russwurm graduated from Amherst in 1826 and earned a Masters from Bowdoin in 1829.

Pasadena's primary education system (Pasadena Unified School District - PUSD), is headed by a seven member Board which will include two African Americans, Renatta Cooper and Tyron Hampton, as of the beginning of the 2013 school year. At the staff level, Dr. Brian McDonald, Ed.D. is the Chief Academic Officer. McDonald was born in Santa Cruz, Jamaica. After completing his primary education in Jamaica he moved to America and earned a Bachelors of Science in accounting and a certification as a teacher. With degrees from the University of Houston in Houston, Texas he initially worked as a banker. He later applied his business and accounting background to becoming a math teacher.

McDonald earned his Masters from Texas Southern University with emphasis on Education Administration. He holds a Doctorate from Texas Southern and worked as an Assistant Principal and middle school Principal in Texas for more than eight years. He and his wife, a banker, have six children and live in Pasadena. His role in Pasadena is to work with principals to help close the achievement gap.

In addition to the PUSD system, Pasadena is known for its large number of private schools. Harriet Tubman School under the direction of Ms. Willie Mae Johnson has a longtime reputation as a great and effective educator. With over thirty years since she earned her degrees from UCLA and started Tubman School in northwest Pasadena her former students can be found at colleges and universities across the nation.

The return on investment for private schools versus public schools has always been a matter for discussion. The Tubman program continues to be a bargain and a well kept secret. In addition to the Tubman School there are a few other schools owned and operated by African Americans. Many are specialty schools. These include The Sue B Dance Company, located on North Lake Avenue in Altadena. Sue Black is a longtime dance teacher, educator, and professional dancer who has been teaching dance in Pasadena, Altadena area for over thirty years.

Pasadena Rosebud Academy is a charter school, directed by Shawn Brumfield. It is located in Altadena on Loma Alta Drive.

Another specialty school is Integrity Health Careers College located on North Lake Avenue in Pasadena. The Director and Founder is Ms. Bea Martin. The school trains students in the health care professions and includes preparing students for the LVN (Licensed Vocational Nursing) examination and certification by the State of California. With the large increase in need for health care providers due in part to so-called Obama Care, there will be a great need for large numbers of health care nurses and care providers. Here the return on investment avoids the long waiting list of some better known public schools.

Pasadena City College (PCC) is a community college located in Pasadena, California. It is known as the third largest community college campus in the United States. The school is part of California's 111 community colleges, which have a total enrollment of 2.6 million students, the largest higher education system in the world. Over one million individuals have taken classes at PCC in its over 75 years. The rate of students who transfer to four-year universities is ranked second. PCC's leadership includes African Americans at every level, including Vice President Dr. Robert Bell and Board Member, Berlinda Brown.

Pasadena's Art Center College of Design (a.k.a. "Art Center") is a private college located in Pasadena, California, and was cited by BusinessWeek as one of the 60 best design schools in the world. The college's industrial design program is consistently ranked number one by both DesignIntelligence and U.S. News & World Report and also ranks among the top 20 graduate schools in the U.S.

Art Center's Chairman of the Board, Robert Davidson, also serves as Chairman of the Board Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.


As if the need for education could become more evident than it is today, programs beyond the public education system come and go. They serve as a glaring testimony that the public school system is inadequate to meet the needs of the African American community. In Pasadena, Aspires West is one program that serves the unmet needs of the community.

Aspires West (AWP) is a non-profit community service organization located in Pasadena California. In partnership with other local community-based, faith-based, and academic organizations, AWP is dedicated to providing students and parents with services and opportunities that provide the knowledge and fundamental skills required to enable students to succeed in their academic and personal lives. For more information contact them at 626-797-0789.

For adults seeking career options, the Pasadena Community Education Center provides publicly funded training in a variety of careers including clothes and drapery making, an Apprenticeship Program through the Flintridge Center and inspired by Councilmember Jacque Robinson. The Center also provides training in cosmetology, GED achievement and for business office systems for those interested in training for computer skills and related office clerical work. For more information on the PCC Community Education center located at 3035 E. Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena.

A theme for a popular job training program called Homeboys Industries says "Jobs Not Jail". Another creative program out of Houston, Texas called the Prison Entrepreneurship Program engaged a local university (Baylor's Hankamer School of Business) and has developed a program to turn felons into entrepreneurs. The program is nine years old and has spawned similar efforts at other schools including the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.

Home renovation businesses, gutter–installation business plans for bakers, plumbers, solar power companies are just a few of the ideas that grew out of the Houston program. What is needed are creative ideas and programs to make them work as alternatives to the revolving door of prison. For those who are not headed to or have been to prison, entrepreneurship programs can be their magic bullet to success.

In Pasadena, a partnership between the University of California and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities has grown out of an idea from The Journal. The 2013 summer program will provide an intensive two-week training institute for emerging managers and leaders. An emphasis will include entrepreneurship training. This idea was spawned by Journal Publisher and then Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and continues to grow. Leaders need to seek out more ideas for creating entrepreneurial adventures to create jobs and skills in today's crisis market.

[Cover design by Brother Yusef.]



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