Orange County Residents Share Stories at “Listening Session”

On Saturday, December 8, OC Human Relations Commission, along with Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, West Coast Christian Tabernacle, New Spirit Baptist Church, OC NAACP, Dr. Thomas Parham, and the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association invited African-American community members to share their stories, challenges, and celebrations of living in Orange County. The “Listening Session” was prompted by the experiences of an African-American family who were targeted by hate in Yorba Linda. Below are some of the news stories that resulted from the December 8 event:

NBC4 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:
Black Orange County Residents Urged to Share Stories at “Listening Session”

Despite comprising only 2 percent of the county’s population, African Americans are the most frequent targets of hate crimes
By Antonio Castelan and Melissa Pamer | Saturday, Dec 8, 2012

In the wake of recent crimes against African American families, the Orange County Human Relations Commission held the first of several scheduled “listening sessions” Saturday to hear stories of other black families in the area.

At the county’s largest black church, Christ Our Redeemer AME in Irvine, dozens gathered to discuss experienced that some said go unreported.

“Orange County is a great place to live, but we have a few dinosaurs that are causing problems in isolated situations,” said Rev. Mark Whitlock of the church, which hosted the event alongside several other churches and the commission.

Dozens of area residents gathers in small groups to converse about their own experiences.

Sarah Neal Taylor of Yorba Linda said she experienced discrimination when she went to enroll her daughter in a local school.

“When I took here there, they wouldn’t even accept her into the school until I brought my papers showing I had bought a home in East Lake Village,” Taylor said.

As for hate crimes, Whitlock said people often don’t report them because they believe they’re difficult to prove in the court.

African Americans make up about 2 percent of the population of Orange County, but the commission’s recently issued annual hate crime report show they are the most frequently targeted victims of hate crimes. Blacks have been the most targeted group every year since 1991, when the commission started issuing its report.

The Saturday event comes after an anonymous black family reported that it left Yorba Linda after repeatedly having rocks thrown through windows, tires slashed, and racial slurs yelled at them.

This week, another black family in Rossmoor said they were the victims of “acid bombs” that they thought were racially motivated. One of the bombs – out of five placed near the home – went off. The bombs was being investigated as a possible hate crime.

After hearing the former Yorba Linda family’s story, the Orange County Human Relations Commission decided to “go into the community” to ask to hear people’s experiences, rather than expect residents to come to commission meetings.

Rusty Kennedy, the commission’s executive director, said the stories need to be shared.

“We want to take those stories and tell them to the community, tell the rest of Orange County that some of our neighbors are facing these kinds of incidents,” Kennedy said. “And you should know about it, and we should be ashamed.”

Orange County Register

Human Relations Commission, churches join to tackle racism

By David Whiting | Dec 8, 2012

Nearly 150 residents, Human Relations Commission members and law enforcement gathered Saturday to share and offer solutions to the recent increase in hate crimes in Orange County against African Americans.
In announcing the series of such meetings, Doug Wooley, OC Human Relations commissioner, said “The commission wants to go into the community with ‘Listening Sessions’ to hear additional stories of the African American experience in OC, including hate incidents or crimes that may not have been reported. Racist behavior and hate crimes are not tolerated in Orange County.”

Human Relations Commission Chair Carol Turpen said, “We look forward to an ongoing dialog with the African American community over the next few months.”
The meat of the meeting included 10 discussion circles in which residents, police, Sheriff’s deputies and pastors discussed racial incidents and how to better deal with them.
Rusty Kennedy, executive director of OC Human Relations, explained the anecdotes will be reviewed to determine if certain themes emerge. If so, the commission will then seek appropriate organizations to help tackle those themes.
Offering context, Rev. Mark Whitlock, senior minister of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, stated, “Orange County, like other communities, has a few misguided people, but we live in one of the most diverse and safe communities in America.”
UCI Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham told the gathering, “There’s more love than there is hate.” But he also cautioned against silence about racial incidents. “We must raise our voices and (ensure) this does not go on any longer.”
After listening to several residents recount racist incidents, Irvine Police Chief David Maggard called the events disturbing and said his department would remain vigilant.
Other groups included West Coast Christian Tabernacle, New Spirit Baptist Church, the NAACP and the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association. The gathering was at Whitlock’s church in Irvine.

All photos courtesy of KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

2 Comments