OC NAACP and BLM-HB Push for Equity
By Dianne Anderson
Chipping away at institutional racism is not so much about applying pressure as such, but Dr. Fred Calhoun likes to think of it more as a process of encouraging diversity, which is his goal with Orange County educational systems.
Sometimes, it could be a meet and greet to talk about the solution. Other times, marching and carrying signs may be more effective.
“We have to do what we have to do,” said Dr. Calhoun, a retired educator and also president of the Orange County Branch NAACP.
Lately, the local branch NAACP is getting tips and calls of complaints about the lack of diversity at colleges within the Rancho Santiago Community College District.
He is frustrated to see how little has been accomplished in terms of Black hires since he worked in the community college system many years ago.
He said there is no diversity.
“We need some teachers, managers, we’ve got some over there that are not treated very well. There’s going to be a meeting scheduled with the Rancho Santiago Community College District. We’re going to be talking about diversity or lack thereof,” said Calhoun, Ed.D., who also sits on RSCCD’s diversity advisory board.
He sent off a letter recently to the state chancellor and the governor. He is hoping the chancellor, who is in a position to make meaningful decisions, will act promptly to address the problem.
Under his leadership, Calhoun has stuck close to his long-time mission of getting more Black teachers hired, a priority since watching his father file a civil rights school local case in the 1950s in Atlanta. That education desegregation case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Calhoun grew up in Henry County, Georgia where Martin Luther King Sr. was his mom’s Sunday School teacher. He feels that today, tall walls to equal opportunity in education still exist.
From what he sees, the whole college district is impacted. Blacks at local colleges are hardly visible, just a handful in all, and a couple at Santa Ana College. But, he said disparities are particularly evident at Rancho Canyon College.
“People have been calling me. We’re getting complaints, we can see that nothing is happening down there. They hardly have any Blacks on staff,” said Dr. Calhoun, retired Dean of Student Services at Cypress College where he supervised Extended Opportunity Programs & Services.
The local branch NAACP has been able to make some headway within North Orange County Community College District where they have hired more African Americans, however, he intends to stay vigilant. He plans to attend upcoming forums to represent the need to hire more Blacks into higher positions.
If Rancho Santiago Community College District fails to address diversity concerns, he also plans to rally other surrounding NAACP branches, including Long Beach and San Diego, to come out in support of a march.
“The chancellor wants to have a meeting with us. They’re listening,” he said. “I’ll take some of my people down there and we’re going to have a chat. What I’m going to tell him is that we don’t want any delays in getting some of my people in.”
Calhoun believes better things are starting to happen since Black Lives Matter opened the conversation to a broader level. Institutional leadership seems to be paying attention to the concerns of the community.
“Absolutely, I’m proud of those young people that went out there and did what they did,” he said.
Tory Johnson, founder of Black Lives Matter – Huntington Beach, knows the work that Dr. Calhoun is doing because he is also a member of the OC Branch, although he notes that his affiliations are solely his own and not necessarily a reflection of BLM.
In Huntington Beach, he said there is significant KKK activity, and even though he has received threats, he works security and said he isn’t easily scared.
He wants to take the high road, and refuses to be baited into negativity. He also plans to run for city council in 2022 in a city that is 86% white and only about 1.3% Black.
As part of BLM-HB, Johnson held a counter-protest of the White Lives Matter rally in April. He said he makes no apologies for coming out to defend his neighborhood, which is all of Huntington Beach.
But, at times he has had to ignore some friendly well-wishers in the area who, maybe out of fear, cautioned him to just stay quiet.
“They say just let them people be wherever you live at. It’s not going to be like that. This is my home, you’re representing my city when you decide to have a KKK protest right on our pier,” he said.
For more information, see www.naacp-oc.org