Will the AV NAACP please stand up?
Some residents say group is missing in action
LANCASTER, Calif.—The Antelope Valley has experienced what some people would call community-shifting happenings, including the shooting death of two young people within a week of each other and two church arsons that have been speculated about as possible hate crimes.
Over the years, incidents like these as well as some racially motivated crimes and intimidation have caused some AV residents discomfort and even fear. In the meantime, amid all the chaos and tragedy, some people are wondering where the NAACP’s Antelope Valley Branch has gone, and whether the organization will stand up against the growing injustices in the valley.
Rev. V. Jesse Smith, an active member and leader of The Community Action League, said the NAACP does not have a presence in the community.
“First, I think the NAACP is certainly relevant for the times,” commented Smith. “Our local branch doesn’t seem to be as active as it should be. And the issues that we address here (range) from racial profiling to section 8 violations, to just a number of issues where we really need NAACP local support. Unfortunately they have been absent and off the scene, and we would love to get them back on the scene.”
His grievances are not unique. Members of the community say they have given up on the organization because they have not seen anyone from the organization stand up against the injustices occurring in the AV today.
In 2007, however, the branch did take steps to address a racial incident at Pete Knight High School, when campus police manhandled a student, because she did not pick up dropped birthday cake.
Juan Blanco, branch vice president said the objective of the organization is to address issues that make the community better for everyone.
“The goal is to provide for a better future for the people in the Valley,” he said. “We’re about when an entire community or an entire branch of law enforcement decides that they are going to perpetrate against one particular segment of the community and say ‘we don’t want you here,’ ‘we want you to leave,’ or collectively ‘we want to run you out of town’ or collectively ‘we want to keep you downtrodden.’”
Smith does not believe the local chapter has been sticking to the organization’s founding principles, but instead has been ignoring ongoing issues that are affecting the community at large.
Complaints from the AV African American community have revealed that local law enforcement may be stopping a disproportionate number of Blacks in Lancaster.
“I think that it’s unfortunate that when an organization that has the reputation that (the NAACP) has and is known for addressing issues affecting African American, Latino, and even poor Whites, particularly the kind of injustices that we have been facing out here—whether that is from racial discrimination, to housing discrimination—(when) the NAACP has historically been a force helping out people of African descent facing these types of issues,” Smith commented. He added that prominent issues like Section 8 discrimination, racial profiling by law enforcement, and gang shootings are issues the organization needs to be on top of, involved in, and helping resolve.
Rich Poston, president of the Antelope Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, said he also would like to see more NAACP involvement in important issues within the community.
Concerned about the recent church arsons, Poston mentioned that he expects the local branch to investigate the fires, because they appear to have been hate-crimes (no confirmation from local law enforcement has been received).
“Putting this fear in people who are going to their place of worship is going backward,” Poston said with a bit of despair in his voice. “If this is an issue the NAACP should be looking into, they should be on it.”
Blanco said that the shootings and recent arsons are matters of law enforcement, not issues the NAACP “can comment on.”
“I really can’t comment on a drive-by, I can’t comment on a party, because those types of things are illegal activities. They’re not predicated on the masses, on a consensus. You have some stuff going on in Lancaster; law enforcement is pulling over a disproportion amount of people of color. There is no proof to justify that they are targeting people. As far as I know, they are carrying out the law,” Blanco said.
He emphasized that the community is divided and individuals have started up committees and other independent organizations instead of joining forces with the NAACP. He said what the organization needs right now is membership, explaining, “there is power in numbers.”
When asked if he is a member of the organization, Smith said no. He said he attempted to become a member on several occasions but never received a response from the organization. He said he even contacted Blanco in the past, asking for membership forms for himself and those who are a part of TCAL efforts. But there was never any follow through.
“My problem is that they haven’t been in existence at all. Even when you make phone calls to them, no one responds. I’ve made several phone calls to them, and I haven’t received a phone call from anyone,” Smith commented.
Other members of the community have formed a consensus about the lack of contact the local branch has had. Poston also has attempted to reach someone from the branch, including president Celeste Eckley, but has received no calls back.
Our Weekly has left messages on the branch voicemail, but has never received a call back. In an attempt to contact Eckley for a comment, OW also left messages on her personal voicemail. But no call was returned.
Another local resident, who did not want to be identified, said she stopped “dealing with them” because they have done nothing for the community.
“I am getting ready to open up a restaurant, and I was thinking of inviting them to the ceremony, but then I thought, for what?” she asked.
Smith added, “The issues are relevant and their (NAACP) purpose I think is relevant, even if they’re not dealing with discrimination. If you are saying they came into existence to only fight discrimination, you cannot tell me that there is no discrimination in the Antelope Valley.”
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—An Antelope Valley community group sued Lancaster and Palmdale officials today, alleging the cities engaged in practices meant to drive out Black and Latino residents.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of the Community Action League, the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and two unidentified residents who allegedly faced racial discrimination.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — High surf pounded the coast and fierce winds howled across the Southland today, with gusts topping 70 mph whipping the Saugus area and 50 mph in Lancaster.
The Lancaster City Council is expected to vote on Dec. 11 on whether to appoint Cassandra D. Harvey to the council to replace Ron Smith, who was elected to the California State Assembly.
If approved, Harvey would be sworn in and take the seat that day and finish out the remainder of Smith’s term until April 2014.
She would also be the first African American woman to sit on the city’s governing body.
Harvey was nominated by Mayor R. Rex Parris.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors went behind closed doors today to discuss funding for investigations into Section 8 housing fraud in Lancaster and Palmdale amid allegations of racial discrimination.
The county stopped funding for the probes in June, instituting a 90-day moratorium when allegations of racism were raised.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will hold a Social Service Transportation Advisory Council meeting and a Transportation Development Act Article 8 Hearing Board meeting in Palmdale to review oral and written comments previously made in the North County and the city of Avalon public hearings. These meetings will follow up on the Article 8 Unmet Needs Public Hearings held in April.