My perspective is based on everyday observations and conversations with community members. Pasadena’s population is now at 150,000. Based on those numbers I believe Pasadena is manageable and efforts can be targeted to have clearly measured results.
I will look at several domains of life in Pasadena and provide my personal observations. My point of view is based on my role as President of the Pasadena Branch of the NAACP. The Branch serves as an advocate for the community. If you want to see change and uplift of the African American community, get involved and let your voices be heard.
The COVID-19 reality has lifted up all the inequities in the African American community, Pasadena included, and for me, revealed that Africans Americans are in for the fight of our lives, to remain with the quality of life we expect and are accustom to in Pasadena. I don’t have any data to support my perspective but in every category of life, African Americans are trending at the bottom of the stack. From household income, home ownership, business ownership, level of educational achievement, and health disparities.
The number of African American residents in Pasadena, depending on who is talking, is anywhere between 4% to 10%. These percentages break-out to an African American population between 6,000 to 15,000 people.
We have many outstanding students achieving at a high level in Pasadena. I have been able to see this firsthand as the Branch interviews applicants for our Maurice Morse Scholarships each year. My observation is that they are successful due to their parents being advocates for the children. My daughter attended private schools until her mother, and I divorced. Because of financial limitations my child attended John Muir. Muir has many outstanding programs on campus that the community is not aware of. As an advocate for my child she became an Honor Roll student and a writer for the school newspaper. If I did not see this firsthand, I too would have been a nay-sayer of having my child attend Muir.
All parents need to be advocates for their children. Home Schooling is a method I believe we need to embrace. We need to take control of the inputs are children are exposed too. Parents taking that control is the optimum reality. Returning to my daughter, she developed excellent fundamentals in private school which allowed her to test out of High School at 16 years old. She was bored attending class. How many more students are under achieving because the pace of the curriculum is to slow for their developing minds.
The Health of African Americans is bad! Underlying disease, health disparities and comorbities, are killing us softly. We need to come up with a comprehensive strategy to address health disparities in the African American community. The COVID-19 has revealed that we are more at risk due to pre-existing health conditions. As a community, we should be more proactive in going to the doctor and closely monitoring our health issues.
Food consumption is another factor impacting our health. We need to be more conscious of what we put into our bodies. Processed foods, (anything in a package), dairy products, and the over consumption of meat in our diets needs to be reduced. Consume fresh foods if you can. Canned goods are next on the list of foods to eat. Read the label of what you consume. If there are three words you cannot pronounce pass on it. You are what you eat! We need to be serious about our diet.
The Branch is developing our own version of a stimulus fund to support African American businesses. Eateries, barbershops and beauty salons predominate in our community. The question for me is where do we spend our money for goods and services? For those of us who have an entrepreneurial sprit this appears to me to be an opportunity.
Workplace discrimination and bias is on the rise. The Branch receives complaints for a variety of issues with workplace discrimination being the area with the largest number of complaints. I repeat this is an opportunity to create our own businesses and hire from within the community.
This bring the need for access to capital! We must figure this out.
Back in the day when someone had a job and a job opening became available at their place of work, they would refer someone from their network of friends and associates. Do we do that anymore. Think about it.
Home ownership has declined for several reasons. Lack of affordability and gentrification are the primary causes. However, many families are selling grandma’s or their family’s homes, seeking affordable housing in the Inland empire, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, etc. A strategy needs to be developed to retain properties owned by African American families that children inherit and then want to sell.
Civic engagement is the most important quality the African American community must embrace to hold and improve our condition as a group in the City of Pasadena.
There are many policies and initiatives going on in the City where African Americans need to participate and have our voices heard. Civic engagement includes the basic activities of voting and filling out the 2020 Census. However, every concern in the City needs the voices of the African American community. Because we do not participate, it appears to those in power that we are not interested as a group, and policies that pass do not include us. The issue of Cannabis licensing in the City is one that people of color have been left out. This is a billion-dollar industry that we don’t get a share. California law was written to include those that had been victimized by past policies. Pasadena completely ignored our community. Whatever your opinion on the issue you should let your voice be heard.
The fact that our voices were not included in the proceedings/decision to close three PUSD schools is a prime example of the need for the African American community to come to the table and be fully engaged in the discussion, planning and decision-making processes in our city.
We need to develop a plan that ensures attendance at every City Council and PUSD Board meeting to make our interest and participation be recognized, by City of Pasadena and School District leaders.
We as Elders, need to pass the torch of Leadership to a younger generation. The COVID-19 virus made this crystal clear. Those of us over 60 years of age are in the most at risk population. Hypothetically, if the virus touched the Branch Executive Committee, our leadership would have been impacted with no one in the wings to keep things going. Let’s be mentors to provide guidance and wisdom to our young people and let them take leadership. They have the ideas and energy to take us forward.