Remembering John Griffin: The Spirit of the Westside
By Dianne Anderson
Now that the holidays are in full swing, something is clearly missing on the Westside.
More accurately, someone.
This time of year, John Griffin would pull the community together, haul out boxes and bags of Christmas toys for Westside kids. He’d freely distribute food or whatever else he could drum up, along with marinating several kinds of meat at his humble abode , preparing for the big holiday barbecue bash.
In his own way, Griffin kept watch over the community, always on the lookout by foot with his walking stick for anything gone awry.
Carlos Teran remembers Griffin as a gruff voice of resistance at local community and town hall meetings, always pushing to get more resources for the people.
But, he also feels the most important contribution Griffin brought to the neighborhood was his spirit. He genuinely wanted to see good things happen for the Westside.
“I would constantly see him walking up Medical Center, he didn’t drive. He just always walked the neighborhood,” Teran said.
Since he died, nothing much is going on in the community, or at the Delmann Heights Park, he said.
“Nobody is taking the lead,” he said. “It’s kind of an empty shell because he’s not there. He was the motivator there, an inspirational speaker.”
Griffin, past president of the Delmann Heights Neighborhood Association, often came out of his own pocket on a fixed income to provide resources for local kids, for boxing and sports equipment. He formed the Westside Nubians, a security group to patrol the area and pick up trash at Delmann Heights Park when the city was stuck in bankruptcy and couldn’t afford to keep the area clean.
He patrolled the grounds, and kept a presence there.
Teran, president of the Mt. Vernon Neighborhood Association, said that Griffin never missed an association meeting, and always tried to get the ear of city leaders to step up services.
The city is officially out of bankruptcy, but Teran said many residents had concerns at his last association meeting around policing, protection and potentially outsourcing code enforcement.
He said the residents are always welcome to come and ask questions of their guest speakers or council people.
“This is America. This is your right to ask any questions you want,” he said. “Filters are off.”
He hopes for improvements on the Westside, but he has a feeling that the community may have to wait longer.
“They said they’re going to be developing on the Westside, but how long? It took 30 years to get that Walgreens on the corner of Mt. Vernon and Baseline,” he said.
What he misses most about Griffin’s impact to the Westside is that he wasn’t shy about pushing for resources for the community.
“John planted trees, tried to bring activities and programs. He was a fighter for the area. Now that he’s gone, no one has stepped up to carry the torch,” he said.
Cynthia Alvarado-Crawford, deputy director of Parks and Recreation for the City of San Bernardino, also remembers Griffin’s commitment to volunteering at the Delmann Heights Community Center.
“He was one of our commissioners for the Sixth Ward. He would help with discussing of events, or cleanups, or community issues particular to his section, problem solving and suggestions,” she said. “It’s definitely felt through the community he represented, absolutely.”