Bernard Parks or “Chief” as he is known to his family and friends has awakened every day with one question on his mind. “What am I going to do today to protect and serve the people of Los Angeles?” Now, he has a new question. “What has Bobbie (Parks) put on my to-do list today?” After 60 years of working for the people of Los Angeles “Chief” Bernard Parks is finally retiring.
Parks is currently serving his third term as Los Angeles City Councilmember for the Eighth Council District. One of the most densely populated areas in South Los Angeles, Parks represents over 250,000 people. During his first year in office he was appointed chair of the Budget and Finance Committee where he implemented prudent fiscal policies in tough financial times that steered the city clear of bankruptcy. Parks helped the Eighth Council District become the leading district in job creation six years in a row.
As of this year, Parks will have completed 50 years of public service. As a devoted champion for the public good, he's undertaken momentous efforts that have included repairing troublesome sidewalks, taking a stand against fracking, and providing safe spaces for people in their communities.
He has implemented many programs to enrich the South Los Angeles area including the Prevention Intervention and Education (PIE) program at Crenshaw High School. The PIE program works to bridge the gap between black and brown students through various school assemblies and noteworthy speakers.
Parks has been extremely successful in delivering legislation that benefits his constituents in the 8th district. He authored Measure L, which passed by 63% of the vote and guaranteed a minimum level of funding for library services.
Alarmed at the lower-than-average life expectancy for Eighth district residents, as well as the high rate of obesity and diabetes, Parks established an interim control ordinance regulating the establishment of new fast-food restaurants and providing tax incentives for grocery stores to devote more floor space to fresh, healthy food.
Parks has been dedicated to promoting a vibrant, diverse, and thriving business environment in South Los Angeles. Concerned by a high saturation of businesses related to automobile sales, auto repair shops, junk yards, and recycling materials and processing facilities, he authored a city-wide ordinance that imposed regulations on the issuance of new permits for such businesses.
Parks has been on the forefront of protecting Eight District residents from the fallout associated with the foreclosure crisis. He authored an ordinance ensuring tenants in foreclosed apartment buildings do not have utilities shut off, due to their landlord’s failure to pay their bills. Parks worked with then, Council President Eric Garcetti, on an ordinance that requires banks to maintain houses they have repossessed through foreclosure. The ordinance allows the city to fine a bank up to $1,000 per day until the derelict property is brought up to code. Parks also played an instrumental role in pulling Marlton Square out of bankruptcy and welcoming Kaiser Permanente as a main tenant.
Following Southern Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2006, Parks led the effort in helping evacuees find long-term housing. As the FEMA voucher deadline drew near, he worked with the city's Housing Department and local landlords to construct a Rent Stabilization Ordinance. This Ordinance allowed L.A. landlords to temporarily charge reduced rent or offer other rent concessions to eligible persons displaced by the hurricanes.
As Chief, Parks is credited with creating first Cold Case Unit in the nation. That same unit was instrumental in the arrest of the suspect in the “Grim Sleeper” Serial Killer Case. Lonnie Franklin, Jr. was arrested for the crimes in July of 2010. He also implemented some of the most rigorous police reforms ever proposed in the history of the police department, including the institution of an Officer Accountability Policy. Parks also made it easier for the community to file complaints against problem officers by streamlining the Citizen Complaint System. Under Chief Parks the City of Los Angeles saw homicides fall by 45%, rape assault drop by nearly 20% and robbery decline by over 45%.
He is also responsible for the firing of 130 problem police officers during his tenure; more than any Chief in recent memory. He uncovered the Rampart Incident, which led to the firings of five officers who were tied to a corruption ring involving the department gang unit. Twelve officers were suspended and seven resigned due to their roles in the Rampart Incident. An extremely popular Chief, People Magazine named Parks to their illustrious "50 Most Beautiful People" list in 1998.
In his more than 45 years as a public servant, Parks has remained closely tied to his community. Aside from patrolling L.A.’s street as a young officer, Parks dedicated many volunteer years to youth activities in the district. He coached Baldwin Hills Youth Football for 10 years and mentored the likes of National Football League Hall-of-Famer Warren Moon and many other kids who grew to become successful community and business leaders. During his Hall-of-Fame induction speech, Moon described Parks as “a guy who instilled values in me at a very young age, showed me discipline and taught me hard work and dedication”.
Parks and his wife, Bobbie, are involved in numerous community groups, such as: the Challengers Boys & Girls Club, the Los Angeles Urban League and the Brotherhood Crusade. He is also a life-time member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Recognized as a longtime voice for minority communities, in 2006 Parks’ footprints were added to the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bernard C. Parks received his Bachelor of Science degree from Pepperdine University and his Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California (USC).
Parks has three children and eight grandchildren with which he now has more time spend. Even though he is retiring, it is almost certain Parks will continue to have a huge presence in the community. He has brought justice, change and hope to the community that was in need.
Thank you Chief for a job well done.
In a state where the confederate flag still holds prominence, South Carolina has become the center of racial tension yet again.
On the evening of June 17, nine people were killed in Charleston’s historically Black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Emmanuel A.M.E.). 21 year-old Dylann Roof, who prayed with worshipers for an hour before killing them, confessed to the shooting last Friday.
He reportedly reloaded his gun up to five times and at the end of his shooting all victims were dead with one person spared.
He is reported to have told them: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. You have to go.”
The victims were Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, and Susie Jackson, 87, were identified on June 18.
Pinckney was the church’s lead pastor and a state senator representing South Carolina's 45th District. He was elected to the state House at age 23, making him the youngest House member at the time.
President Barack Obama held a press conference to address the shooting and give his condolences to the victims.
“The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals,” said Obama.
This isn’t the first time Charleston has been in the news. Just ten weeks ago, a North Charleston police shot down an unarmed Black man named Walter Scott. Officer Michael T. Slager fatally shot Scott in the back after a tail light stop. He was later charged with murder following the emergence of video footage showing the incident with Scott.
The incidents occurred 12 miles apart from one another, and both Slager and Roof are being held in the Administrative Segregation Unit in the Charleston County detention center.
“I refuse to act as if this is the new normal or to pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve, and that any mention of us doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem,” Obama said at a speech before the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco.
Charleston has a long and storied history of racial tension, dating back to the beginning of slavery. Some of 70% of African slaves were brought to America and shipped to Charleston’s port. Making the city a breeding ground for the cruel treatment to African Americans.
Founded in 1822, Emanuel A.M.E. is the oldest Black church in the South. The church was founded as a pillar of hope and a place of escape from the dehumanizing racism Blacks in the South faced from predominately white churches.
The church massacre have caused racial tension in the city to resurface; and Roof's murders will be charged as a hate crime. As the case unravels in court soon, the Confederate flag is brings up concerns about the institutionalized glory of racist roots.
During slavery, the Confederate flag was the battle flag of proslavery traitors who refused to accept election results of a then mandated desegregated nation. The flag became a symbol of slavery, treason and a threat of intimidation to African Americans who wanted to practice their rights during and after the Civil War.
Many want the flag to be removed from the state capitol and some Republicans in the area are defending the right of South Carolina to fly it. However, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced her call to remove the flag from the state capitol on June 22.
“The murderer, now locked up in Charleston, said he hoped his actions would start a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening,” Haley said. “My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move our state forward in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.”
On Friday, June 26, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will travel to attend Pinckney’s funeral, according the Office of the Press Secretary. Obama will give the eulogy at the funeral. Funeral services for the other eight victims will be held the same week according to Emanuel AME Church’s interim pastor.
L.A. Faith Leaders React to Charleston Tragedy
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
The horrific murders at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina drew quick reaction throughout Southern California, especially amongst members of the faith community.
Prayer vigils crossed denominational lines as African Methodists, Baptists, the Jewish faith, United Methodists and independent ministries issued calls for members to collectively appeal to God for peace and consolation for the families of the victims. In addition, hundreds of people gathered on June 18 at First A.M.E. Church (FAME) for the prayer vigil jointly sponsored by FAME and Temple Isaiah.
The tragedy has raised questions surrounding church security and the potential of white-on-black hate crimes occurring in other houses of worship. However, many clergy have cautioned that the response must be approached with balance and non-discrimination.
“The church would not be living up to biblical principles if we would have some kind of closed-door to other ethnic groups. Out of one blood, God made all nations,” said Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., presiding prelate of the Fifth District of the A.M.E. Church.
“We want to be open and welcome to ‘whosoever will come.’ At the same time, we must have people who are observant and watching.”
“The church needs to be prepared. When I was pastor of Brookins Community A.M.E. Church, we had an organization of retired law enforcement officials and they watched everything,” he said.
The Rev. Xavier L. Thompson, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, noted that the Body of Christ and faith-based community will have to make appropriate adjustments to minister to the people during these tough times.
“Government and other agencies made adjustments after 9/11. It is incumbent upon the church that we also be wise and adjust. It’s a delicate walk. While we’re here to serve the community and society, we can increase security without compromising or discriminating against others. We have to do it due to the times we live in,” Thompson, who is also pastor of Southern Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, said.
For many faith leaders, responding to this crisis requires a delicate approach.
“The Bible says, ‘Whosoever come, let them come,’ so we must not allow terrorists to change the method that God has given us to bring in new converts into the kingdom of heaven. The terrorists win when they use the weapon of fear to change the context of our worship,” insisted Pastor Mark E. Whitlock, Jr., of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church in Irvine.
“I’m not suggesting that we should not have security. We must have security in light of events such as the World Trade Center being blown up. But, we must not be uncomfortable with people of different races, cultures, or religions. Once we do that, then we have become victims of terrorists,” he added.
In place of fear, religious leaders urged faith, courage and perseverance in the fight against hate.
“We’ve had strong, strong struggles and if we continue to struggle, things will get better. You must have faith and believe,” Kirkland said.
I tell our people, ‘Don’t panic. We’ve been here before.’ We dealt with Martin Luther King being murdered in Memphis and the four girls murdered in 16th Street Church (in Birmingham, AL). We survived and we are still going to survive. Don’t give up the faith. God is still alive.”
Pastor Rosalynn Brookins of Walker Temple A.M.E. Church said, “We are a people of great faith and resilience. As the days come and go, let us hold fast to the thought so commonly used by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘that we shall someday overcome.’”
“We draw strength from the history and resiliency of Mother Emanuel AME Church. Moreover, we draw assurance from the name and meaning of ‘Emmanuel,’ God is with us! No act of destruction or dehumanization can deprive us from divine accompaniment,” declared Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church.
“No ideology or theology can separate us from divine solidarity. With troubled and tumultuous hearts, let us renew our focus and fortitude to continue to build a global movement of non-violent resistance from this intersection of mutual pain. Now more than ever, black lives matter!”
Ministers also encouraged people to view the tragedy in a spiritual context and learn from it. Thompson said, “This is bigger than just black and white. We’re in a contest between good and evil.
“The scriptures remind us in Ephesians 6 that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. This is a spiritual fight.
“My prayer is that we will experience a healing in the land because the land is sick. We need God to heal our land as it says in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Jesus is the answer to the woes that we have.”
Offering similar insight, Pastor Velma Union of The Lord’s Church said, “With this act, God is warning the Church that if we, as God’s people, will humble ourselves and pray, and turn from our ways that seem right to man, and pray, then the same God who caused Barack Obama to be president will heal this land.”
The national search to find the next Chief Executive Officer at Metro halted swiftly after the Metro board of directors examined the qualifications of Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) General Manager, Phillip A. Washington.
During an LA Sentinel exclusive interview with Washington, he told a powerful personal story about his own experiences and his perspective about social equity.
“Yes, there was a search process and I did interview with some competition out there; yes, there was a process. And I’m happy to say that I was successful,” Washington proudly stated.
His experience in Denver and concern for equity issues, fostered his ability to make affordable transit accessible through bus and light rail fares for lower-income communities there.
That being said, there seemed to be little surprise when the Metro board of directors voted unanimously to hire Washington as the agency’s new CEO.
When asked how he was going to engage the Black community, he said:
“Well, I think it’s just about keeping open lines of communication. Your newspaper (LA Sentinel) is the first newspaper I’ve talked to. We need to keep those lines of communication open and I’m not just talking about with me personally, but with the entire Metro organization.”
Washington is every bit as good as advertised and more important, tailor made for the city of Los Angeles where building out its complex transit system has become a top priority in one of the most congested regions in the nation.
His understanding of urban infrastructure from his youth days in Chicago and the discipline of a distinguished military career has steeled him for any civic or professional challenge. His calm and even keel demeanor are the ingredients that any savvy politician would dream to have.
Washington left the South Side of Chicago and joined the military where he served 25 years and achieved the highest rank possible in the United States army.
“I had a lot of responsibility at that level, a lot of responsibility for the welfare of troops and their families, so I’m very-very proud of that piece,” Washington recalled.
“I was in Denver after retirement from the military for 15 years and while there, we had a massive transportation expansion program and went out for a vote in 2004 for a sales tax initiative similar to R2 here in 2008.”
Los Angeles County is number three in the country behind New York and Chicago and a big bump in terms of size and system but a lot of similarities with regards to what both those metropolitan areas are doing in terms of transportation and constructor investments.
“I think there are some basic tenets for regional collaboration. I will seek partnerships. We’re not the big transportation bully in the region, as I see it. Yes, Metro is a large organization, but we must be partnered with CalTrans, with the counties, with the 88 cities that make up the county, with the civic organizations, with the chambers of commerce, minority chamber of commerce and various groups.”
“When I think about collaboration, I think that we must be a good partner and I think if we, LA Metro, are to be a good partner, then we must bring those regional collaborations together. I’m not just talking about all the large organizations, I’m talking about everyone, groups that are in the county that have a transportation interest and that are small and minority business organizations, the historically underutilized businesses, that are women owned, veteran owned, minority owned businesses along with the various groups.”
Crenshaw line is probably the last and the most recent major investment in the community. When asked how he sees his leadership continuing that progress and even enhancing it, he answered.
“We have to be visible on that project. To make sure the project is managed appropriately. To bring this project in on time and on budget, to minimize community and construction impacts, to do all of those things expected of us. I’m looking to enhance what’s already out there, I know how these projects can disrupt communities and we have to be as out front as we possibly can with the construction impacts. I know that Metro has initiated a business interruption program and I applaud that.”
“I think that we also have to continue to show the benefit, the economic benefit of not just the building of this line, but infrastructure projects in general. We have to show the economic benefit because the economic benefit gets lost in various communities, especially communities of color,” he elaborated.
“There is the economic benefit to a developer that may want to put some residential or affordable housing near a station. But, how does Metro show the economic benefit to the young Latino and the young Black kid. Economic benefit means a job to them.
“We need to show the economic benefit at all levels and to all of the communities, but especially in communities of color. What is the economic benefit? The forerunner of the project labor agreement that Metro put together. The first program of that kind was done in Denver under my watch, it’s called the Workforce Initiative Now or the WIN program. That is where the PLA came from - identifying, assessing, training and putting people to work, especially in the communities where we were building the infrastructure project.”
The forward thinking Washington has already hit the ground running. Before transitioning his family to the region he had already met with public officials and civic leaders to engage about expectations and solutions.
The task at hand is enormous, but Phillip Washington is not just up to the challenge, but prepared to exceed at all levels.
When you drive down the I-10 freeway in New Orleans, before you reach the Superdome, Canal Street, or the French Quarter you see beautiful buildings with the emerald green roofs. These rooftops are a fixture in New Orleans, but more importantly they let you know you have reached Xavier University of New Orleans. But the one thing that stands out more than the rooftops is Xavier’s long standing President Dr. Norman C. Francis.
Dr. Francis is not just the longest sitting university president in the history of Xavier University, but he’s the longest sitting president of any university in the country.
“I know some universities that don’t keep their presidents long enough,” he says. “And I know one that has kept theirs too long.”
Dr. Francis’ leadership is celebrated and legendary.
Norman Francis is completing his 47th year as the President of Xavier University of Louisiana and at the end of June, he will retire.
During his tenure, he guided Xavier through the best of times and the worst of times, all with an undeniable commitment to ensuring that every student receives a quality education and an opportunity to succeed.
“Our children need a chance, a chance to succeed, a chance to overcome the challenges of poverty that have been plaguing our communities and our people,” he said.
Two Legacies Converge (taken from New Orleans Tribune interview)
The school that would become Xavier University was started as a high school by St. Katherine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1915, just 16 years before Francis was born. St. Katherine Drexel used most of her own money—an inheritance from her father, a Philadelphia banker—to support the school. A few years later, a training program for teachers was added. By 1925, a college of liberal arts and sciences was formed; and Xavier University came into existence. In 1927, the pharmacy school was opened. In 1929, land in the Carrollton area at Palmetto and Pine streets was purchased and construction of the school’s administration building was completed four years later.
In many ways, Xavier’s story is Francis’ story. Just 23 years after Xavier was established as a university, a young Norman Francis—a poor Black kid from Lafayette—would enroll. As he often says, he was poor; but he didn’t know it.
“My khakis were always pressed, and I had a pea jacket daddy bought from the Navy store.”
Yet, the fact that he was there at all was a testament to both everything the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament must have envisioned when they started their school and to the value his parents placed on education. His father worked as hotel bell hop and later opened a barber shop. His mother was a homemaker. Neither finished high school; but they sacrificed to send Francis and his siblings to Catholic schools in Lafayette. And after he graduated from St. Paul High School in 1948, he got a work study scholarship to attend Xavier University. He graduated in 1952 with a B.S. degree and then it was on to Loyola University Law School. He was one of two African-American students to integrate the law school that year. The other was Ben Johnson, a fellow Xavier graduate. After earning his juris doctorate in 1955, Francis was drafted into the Army.
“I earned my law degree on a Saturday; got married on Monday; and was drafted two weeks later.
He served in Frankfurt, Germany, where he says he spent a lot of time “counseling young 18-year-old Black males (about the value of getting an education).”
“Most of them were from the South and here they were in Frankfort, Germany.” After his Army tour, Francis returned to New Orleans. He worked as of counsel for the Black firm of Collins, Douglas and Elie, formed by noted civil rights attorneys Robert Collins, Nils Douglas and Lolis Elie. As of counsel, Francis represented the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Later as president of Xavier University, he would house Freedom Riders in a campus dormitory. Also after returning from the Army in 1957, he got a call from Xavier University. His alma mater was in need of a dean of men. In his mind he owed a debt to Xavier; and serving for a while as the dean of men was a fair way to pay it.
“More people graduated from Xavier without paying a dime in tuition, because (St. Katharine Drexel) paid for everything.” He served the school in various administrative capacities for almost 11 years. After dean of men, he was director of student personnel services, assistant to the president of student affairs, and assistant to the president in charge of development. In 1967, he became the executive vice president. In April of 1968, he was promoted to president of the university. He says he turned it down twice. But when he finally said “yes”, his career track as an educator and administrator as oppose to the law, was no doubt set.
Dr. Francis says that there are great Xavier Alumni throughout the country and Los Angeles has no shortage of outstanding Alumni. “Every October I come to Los Angeles and participate in an event at the Proud Bird. When you come to this event there are alumni from Xavier who work in every field you can imagine. I love attending this event because when you listen to the jazz music, taste the food and visit with the people you would you were in New Orleans.” Most of them worked as teachers, doctors or pharmacist but they also represented almost every field or profession in the country.
Dr. Francis has not only been instrumental in building Xavier, but he was the catalyst for the re-birth of Xavier University after Hurricane Katrina devastated all of New Orleans and Xavier was in no way less impacted by its devastation. “Katrina was a disaster! But, we have comeback. After Katrina I appointed by the governor to chair the recovery effort, I had lost my home, and Xavier was in shambles. But there is something about adrenaline. I called the staff together in a little town right outside of my home, I met with the staff and they asked: Mr. President when are we coming back? I told them right there, we are coming back January 17th” That was the day Xavier was scheduled to start the second semester and by the grace of God and a determination and vision that few had Xavier re-opened and began classes again on that day. Dr. Francis not only gave them a target date, but he gave them inspiration. He told them “we are going to come back, not like we were, but like we should have been. Better than what we were.” Today, if you visit the campus it is one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere in the country and Xavier is set to compete for the best and brightest students in the country and provide them with whatever they need to succeed.
Dr. Francis is coming to Los Angeles this Monday, June 15, 2015 to host a fundraiser for the school. The focus of the fundraiser to create an endowment for the university in the name of Dr. Norman Francis to insure that every child has the opportunity to attend the university without being denied access to a quality education because of a lack of funds. “The endowment is named after me, but it is not about me it’s about these kids. I have never seen the degree of young kids who are coming from young families who can’t afford the tuition we are charging. We are still under $20,000 in a city where Loyola is charging $38,000 and Tulane is at $46,000 and were giving discounts and scholarship but you can’t reduce the tuition much lower and still pay the water bill and keep the lights on.” So just like in the recovery of Katrina Dr. Francis went to work. He is traveling around the country meeting with some of the largest Xavier Alumni Associations in the country, motivating and inspiring them to give to give back from once they came and to help these young people.
Dr. Francis understands the challenges that face our young students today he says “Poverty is at epidemic proportions in major cities throughout this country”. The attrition rate for students is alarming, not because they can’t academically compete but because they can’t afford to finish. This has to be addressed. Dr. Francis says “The attrition rate the government uses to track Black and Brown students graduation rate is a “bad math formula” and gives numbers that appear to be the worst, but he also knows that if you take a chance and invest in a student his opportunity for success rises expotentially.
Dr. Francis has an undeniable belief and vision for the future of our young Black students. He wants young Black students who want an education to have the ability to receive it at Xavier to receive scholarships to help pay for it and he is confident that Xavier will remain the #1 school in the nation for graduating African American Students throughout the nation.
Dr. Norman Francis is a rock star in the New Orleans community. As he walks the campus in his final days as President of the university students literally jump out of moving cars and run from all over campus just to take a picture with Dr. Francis. “Everyone wants to take a “selfie” with me”. The students complain that he won’t be at their graduation next year, but Dr. Francis assures them that he will be back. He says “I think the new President will allow me to come back for the 2016 graduation ceremony”. There is no doubt about that. Dr. Norman Francis the longest tenured college president in the nation has certainly that seat.
This article was done through a one on one interview with Dr. Norman Francis along with excerpts from a previous interview from the New Orleans Tribune (which is owned by the family of LAUSD School Board Member Dr. George McKenna also an Alumnus of Xavier University) published earlier this year.