Explore Black Leadership Long Beach
By Dianne Anderson
Advocates and leaders came together last week to brainstorm longstanding problems in the Black community, and hear a panel discussion that delved deeper into what Black leadership means.
For years, Dr. Alex Norman has compiled mounds of research across health, welfare, jobs, education, and the social justice system.
He said the outlook for the Black community is extreme, and the city’s Black leadership must collaborate, rather than pursue disconnected goals.
“What happens nationally is the same thing that’s happening locally. We don’t have the national organizations joining together like they did in the 60s, 70s and 80s,” said Norman, author of African Americans at the Crossroads, the Continuing Struggle for Equality in America.
The event was co-hosted by District 8 Councilmember Al Austin, who supports planning and development of the African American Cultural Center in Long Beach. Last week, the Cultural Advisory Committee and Austin held the book signing for Dr. Norman at the Michelle Obama Library.
Norman said from the 1960s through the 1980s, major organizations managed to pull together toward common goals under the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership.
There were differences, he said, but overall everyone agreed on the need for the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act. He believes that kind of unity can happen again.
Norman, who led up the 2012 State of Black Long Beach, said all the problems have been identified.
Now, he said, Black leadership must step together cohesively to address poverty and lack of educational attainment that are driving trauma, negative health, and social impacts. African Americans have lower longevity rates. Black women have low fertility rates. The infant mortality rate is high.
He believes much of the inertia in leadership may be related to Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, multi-generational trauma theory proposed by noted researcher, Dr. Joy DeGruy.
“We devalue ourselves the way white people do. At some point it could paralyze the community,” he said.
Norman, professor emeritus at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Policy and Social Research, holds a social work doctorate from UCLA, where he served on faculty for 21 years.
He predicts that if Black leaders don’t make stronger efforts to unify and address entrenched community problems, the consequences will be like never before.
Dr. Norman has engaged and produced data sets spanning several areas of crime, educational data from Long Beach School District, health department data, demographic data from the census tract. In 2012, he partnered with Lydia Hollie, J.D. to present their State of Black Long Beach findings of extreme disparities in the academic performance of Black children.
In light of what’s at stake, he said panel discussions can help bring important issues back to the forefront, and galvanize leadership and action.
“White nationalists are organizing, and here we are fighting each other,” he said. “It behooves us to come together and have discussions.”
Over the years, Dr. Norman has produced numerous data sets through Rethinking Greater Long Beach, which he co-founded.
That online database covered city crime, educational data from the Long Beach School District, health department data, combined with demographic data from the latest census tract up with reports up to 2016.
Among the statistics, the research shows the death rate among Blacks strikingly higher than any other group, with 71% of Blacks dying between the age of 15 and 24 because of homicide. That database covered demographics with reports ending 2016.
Charles Brown, special advisor for Austin’s office, moderated the recent event’s inter-generational panel discussion. Among the participants were Winnie Carter, 101, Norman, 88, Austin, 48 and Jeremiah Jones at 18 years old.
Brown said the broader dialogue will continue, as they jointly host future discussions along with a variety of topics on how to address heavy challenges facing the African American community.
“We were very pleased and excited about attendees response to the exchange and there unanimous agreement that we should continue the effort,” he said.
At Austin’s request, City Council has set aside $50,000 last year for the planning and development of the African American Cultural Center. Meetings are ongoing, and the project is also funded for $50,000 for 2020.
Upcoming panels and discussions may include creating Black wealth, physical, spiritual and mental health in the Black community, arts and culture, and education.
“The bottom line is that we will continue, as long as possible, to put on similar kinds of forums on the critical issues that African Americans face in Long Beach,” he said. “The primary purpose of these endeavors is to both inform and inspire action.”
For the data, see http://www.rethinklongbeach.org/