The table is being set. It's not the only table. I recall Jason Hardin saying at Speak Out Pasadena "...if you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu."
They lost me too. It wasn’t the Juneteenth celebration I'm used to either. This was different. Nothing in the last three months has resembled anything I'm used to. The 155th anniversary of enslaved Blacks declared Free(ish), should denote the process of moving the culture forward. 2020 has me rethinking and reimagining. 2020 has meant I have to leave a lot in my rearview on what is considered normal. This year has also reminded America that “Our Culture Can't Be Canceled.”
Going forward, I better get used to having Mole and Jerk Chicken at the next cookout. Taco Tuesday and Fish Fry Friday have more in common socially and interculturally--and I like them both. Last Friday was a perfectly blended message of solitary--done with intention.
Call it what it was--a political rally. What wasn't lost, was the collective effort to move the Mayor and City Council towards Independent Civilian Police Oversight. Michael Zinzun was the first in Pasadena to lead an anti-police brutality campaign when he started CAPA (Coalition Against Police Abuse) in the 1970s. Michael was arrested several times for standing up against police abuse and brutality. Zinzun lost his left eye after a Pasadena Police Officer struck him with his gun, Decades later. I wonder what he would say about the current state of our collective communities. What he said then about our liberation from state-sponsored violence was, "...I'd rather lose an eye fighting against injustice than live as a quiet slave" He believed it was our responsibility that ‘each one teach one.’ We could have used this reminder on Friday.
Personally, I wasn't there for a Tic Tok dance-off, woke selfies or to hear the more than 20 heartfelt and painful speeches. Don't get me wrong, I heard the cries calling for people to hold elected officials accountable, future leaders being developed by Black Greek organizations and the Sista that said: “if you don't see my color, you don't see my struggle.”
It didn't really matter to me if Troop, Van Helen, or Terra singing "Together" were the entertainment. I knew that there would be some political theater with bad acting.
I attended knowing politicians would be there in official duties and in full pandering mode. I knew they would be presented a copy of the Community Bill of Rights sponsored by the NAACP Pasadena and the National Day Labor Network. I knew that lead organizer Florence Annang would set an uncomfortable introduction and challenge everyone to ACTIVELY listen to their remarks.
Mayor Tornek said “Black Lives Matter!” Good for him. Councilmember Gordo said he supports "...reform." It appears they are both listening to the demands of the community and more specifically, members of the Black and Brown communities. I also know they heard the crowd booing them as well. Both pushed through their remarks. Both might want to work on being more intentional and find specific connection points with their constituency.
My generation and the two behind me are not of the mindset of Boomers politically. We want change and we want it (right) now.
Let’s have an honest conversation. The Black population in Pasadena is on a steady decline. The voter block is rapidly aging out and younger voters have not historically shown up to polls. Political capital is barely holding on. Lines are being drawn and it's unclear what agenda Mayoral candidates have for the Black community.
In November Pasadena will have to elect a Mayor. Gordo and Tornek are the choices. Last Thursday, I sat down with both of them. In the two-part 30 minute Conversation Live episodes, we discuss where they currently stand on Police Civilian Oversight.
At this moment, it's not the time for preference over progress. We know why we're having this discussion again. As do many within the Brown community. Conscious Chicanos know they would not have any civil rights unless Blacks gained those rights for them and all. They know if we ALL don't succeed--they got next.
About James Farr
James Farr is a journalist & host of the “Conversation Live" a “hyper-local” talk show that focuses on social and restorative justice, inclusion, and equality. Identifying "what is at the root" of local issues, Farr's style is described as "hard hitting" and "unflinching." His format is often piercing and provocative. He garnered national attention with his investigative documentary about 21-year-old motorist Christopher Ballew's savage beating by two Pasadena Police Officers in November 2017 in Altadena, California. Farr initiated Speak Out Pasadena and Police Community Conversations in an effort to find understanding, healing, police accountability, and oversight. James is a Husband, Father, Social Entrepreneur, Guest Lecturer at Occidental College and Author of "Critical Conversation(s)" (Release date: September 7, 2020 Kennedy Richmond Press).