Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The Brown family from right to left, back row: Daughter Rene Lynn, Hardy Jr. and his wife Sonietta. Front row: playwright Rickerby Hinds and his wife, the Brown's daughter Paulette; Hardy, wife Cheryl, daughter Regina Wilson and husband Kurt.

Hardy Brown in 1995 at the top of his game.  He was the Human Resources Director for Kaiser Permanente’s Fontana Hospital and co-publisher of The Black Voice News.

Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, with Hardy Brown and Cheryl Brown at reception in Palm Springs, Calif. where they encouraged Powell to run for President.

Hardy Brown and presidential candidate Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention in 1991.

Hardy Brown and then perpetual Speaker of the California State Assembly Willie Brown.

The many faces of Hardy Brown.

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) You might think that a man diagnosed with Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS), a rare, degenerative, neurological disorder related to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), would be ready to hang it up, or to be self-pitying and withdrawn. But not if that man is Black publication leader Hardy Brown of Southern California’s Inland Empire.

His speech may be seriously affected so he can no longer take calls from advertisers, and his gait may rely on a cane, a walker and occasionally a wheelchair, yet this 66-year-old co-publisher of “The Black Voice News” goes to the office daily and still turns out his often humorous and always incisive editorial for the weekly newspaper. As his co-publisher wife Cheryl says, “Hardy still puts in six hours a day. He’s a man of very strong faith, and believes God has him here for a reason.”

What reason? Perhaps, as New America Media, an association of more than 700 ethnic media outlets puts it, for more than 35 years Hardy’s newspaper “has been a strong advocate for the voiceless and disenfranchised of Riverside and San Bernardino counties [the Inland Empire].” Reason enough, many would say.

It was 1972 and a handful of students of the University of California at Riverside founded “The Black Voice” to counter traditional newspapers which were seen as ignoring the concerns of Black students. 

Eight years later, former UCR students Hardy and Cheryl, married since 1962, bought the ‘paper, amended the name and broadened the coverage to take in Black community concerns throughout the Inland Empire’s now 4.2 million population with nearly 500,000 African Americans.

Today the newspaper boasts a circulation of 10,000 via subscriptions, retail stores, newsstands and churches.

Two examples over the years highlight the weekly’s community concern and the strength of its stance:
In 1998 a Black Riverside teen was shot dead while sitting in her car as four local police pumped 12 rounds into the girl. Over the following two years “The Black Voice News” refused to let the tragedy slip from public view, focusing on the case with front page stories each week. When the City Council considered reinstating the four police officers that had been fired following the shooting, it was Hardy Brown’s strong editorials in opposition that pushed the Council to not reinstate the four.

Also, early in the 21st century “The Black Voice News” became one of the first news sources to show that the government’s Health and Human Services department admitted that an Institute of Medicine report had minimized unequal treatment of Blacks and Latinos in healthcare.

As Hardy Brown told “California Publisher” in 2003, “Our newspaper is one of advocacy. It is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We advocate justice freedom and self-empowerment through our editorial content.” 

Brown said his role models in the newspaper field were Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm. “They were the founders of ‘The Freedom Journal,’ America’s first Black newspaper. Their credo was ‘We must speak for ourselves.’

Over the years co-publishers Cheryl and Hardy have expanded their community commitment beyond the pages of the newspaper. Created 20 years ago, The Black Voice Foundation provided scholarships to local students, offered technology and media workshops and backed community awards for commitment to local causes. Their Building Better Communities program fostered local businesses, organizations and agencies to improve neighborhoods.

Also, the ‘paper has organized numerous activities honoring the early Black scientist Booker T. Washington who visited Riverside in 1914, and has partnered with the local school district on a video project recording elders telling of their lives while aiding them to learn computers, scriptwriting and video editing. 

Additionally, “The Black Voice News” was integral in the development of “Footsteps To Freedom,” a study program for teachers exploring the “Underground Railroad” effort to get disenfranchised Blacks to the north in the 19th century.

But Hardy Brown, as capable and energetic as he has been, couldn’t have accomplished it alone. That’s why his wife Cheryl is listed as “Co-publisher,” handling the bulk of Brown Publishing’s business while doing some writing, photography and editing. 

“After 46 years of marriage,” Cheryl says, “We’re still deeply in love. He’s my best friend. We’re together 24 hours a day, and it’s wonderful. Hardy is fun and funny, yet has always been a conscientious hard worker. We do have separate offices, though.”

Daughter Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds plays a major role with the company, too, as CEO of Brown Publishing and the newspaper’s Associate Publisher while Regina Brown works for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Son Hardy Jr. has recently taken the reigns of the Black Voice Foundation.

Paulette began with the ‘paper while in high school, then took a break to teach English Literature at the University of Cincinnati before returning.

“Our dad takes everything one day at a time,” Brown-Hinds notes. “And he has great faith which carries him along. The rest of us struggle with his disease more than he does. Aside from his slowing down a bit and his trouble walking and speaking, Dad’s as bright and alert as ever.”

PLS is caused primarily by the degeneration of the upper motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, meaning a growing spasticity and weakness of the voluntary muscles. Research suggests between 500 and 2,000 are afflicted with Primary Lateral Sclerosis in the United States. 

The legs, arms, hands, speech and the swallowing muscles will all eventually be affected. Life expectancy is normal, but, regretfully, there is neither cure nor treatments beyond easing symptoms.

“We first began to notice something was wrong in 2002,” Cheryl Brown recalls. “A limp became more pronounced, then Hardy would occasionally fall. Then there were two years of tests and waiting for a diagnosis.” Doctors initially suspected Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); very little was known about PLS. 

“They worried that Hardy wouldn’t be around long,” Cheryl adds. “But Hardy had faith, and wouldn’t accept their diagnosis. It was Riverside’s Dr. Ron Bailey who said Hardy likely had PLS, and another doctor sent my husband to UCLA for more tests, confirming the new findings.”

The North Carolina native came to Los Angeles in 1960, and soon found work with Kaiser Steel in Fontana, then with what is now known as Southern California Edison as, first, a garage attendant chauffer and then the first Black person employed by Edison as a meter reader and customer service technician.

After seven years there, Brown joined the management of Kaiser Foundation’s Health Plan for the Comprehensive Health Care Program benefiting low-income families. Following numerous advancements and other management positions, he retired to acquire and direct “The Black Voice News” and establish Brown Publishing Company as chairman. 

The rest is publishing history.

To reach Hardy Brown or the Black Voice News Foundation call (951) 682-6070 or email Cheryl Brown at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Art Institute Students to Host Fashion Show

Keeira Ford models a formal strapless gown created by designer Cassie Betts at a fashion show earlier this year organized by The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. Her work and that of Soulful Commandoe, a design company featuring urban wear for men, will again be on display when students at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire present “Rock 2 Glam,” at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24 at their 630 E. Brier, San Bernardino campus.

(San Bernardino, CA).  Fashion students at The Art Institute of California-Inland Empire are hosting a runway fashion show Sept. 24 at the college’s campus.  The event is open to the public at no charge.

The show, ‘Rock 2 Glam’ is a journey from rock & roll to glamorous fashions.  It is coordinated by students in the summer Fashion Show Production and Sales & Event Promotion class.

The designs of Beverly Hills designer Cassie Betts and Soulful Commandoe will highlight the runway show.  Runway models featured in the show will be volunteers from the fashion programs at The Art Institute of California-Inland Empire.

The show begins at 4:45 p.m. in Seasons, the restaurant at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute, 630 E. Brier, San Bernardino, CA., 92408.  Hors D’ Oeuvres will be served and parking is available at no charge.  For more information call Shannon Valenzuela, (951) 533-5445.

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers Bachelor of Science degree programs in Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Web Design & Interactive Media, Interior Design, Fashion & Retail Management, and Media Arts & Animation. It offers an Associate degree program in Graphic Design, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program in Fashion Design.

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers an Associate degree program in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree program in Culinary Management. Each program is offered on a year-round basis, allowing students to work uninterrupted toward their degrees.

It’s not too late to start a new term at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. Courses begin Oct. 5 and classes are offered in the day, evening and on weekends for new and reentry students.

For more information, or to arrange a tour, call The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire at (909) 915-2100 or go on line to

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire is one of the Art Institutes (, a system of over 40 education locations throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, and culinary arts professionals.


Meet Riverside County Superintendent Kenn Young

The Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce will host a reception for Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Young on Thursday, Oct. 8 at the Riverside Marriott.

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) – The Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce hosts a reception for Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Young, on Thursday, Oct. 8.

The reception takes place at the Riverside Marriott Hotel, 3400 Market St., from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. It will allow business and community leaders an opportunity to meet their county superintendent and share their concerns about education with him.

“Kenneth Young worked in business for many years before he was an educator, so he understands the concerns we as business people may have,” said Carl Dameron, president of the Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce. “This is a great opportunity for minority business owners from throughout the Inland Empire to discuss their concerns with him.”

Superintendent Young has served as the Riverside County Superintendent of Schools since 2007.  Previously, he was the County Deputy Superintendent of Schools.

As county superintendent, he has fiscal oversight of all 23 school districts in the county along with the Riverside County Office of Education. He oversees a staff of almost 1,800 employees working at 162 different locations across Riverside County.

Superintendent Young’s primary focuses as county superintendent have been increasing high school graduation rates and better preparing students for college and the workforce.

He has also served in senior leadership positions at local school districts, including deputy superintendent.  He has chaired several school district boundary, busing and budget committees. 

Before he worked in California’s public school system, Superintendent Young spent 17 years in the field of civil engineering, 14 of which he was president and CEO of an engineering construction firm.

He has taught adult education and high school students in public schools and high school students in a non-profit operated religious institution. 

He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Management and a Master’s degree in Education. 

Kenn and his wife Beverly have lived in Lake Elsinore for the past 29 years. He has six children and three grandchildren.

The reception is co-sponsored by Riverside Marriott, The Gas Company, Arrowhead Credit Union, Southern California Edison and Dameron Communications.

About The Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce
The Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to promote the economic and professional development of African American-owned businesses, thus enhancing the quality of life in our community.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Visit Zambia and Profit

Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, Ambassador from Zambia to the United States, poses with community leaders.  Left to right: Pastor Raymond Turner; Field Representative to 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales,  Michael Townsend; Field Representative to Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter, Shelia Futch; President of Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce, Carl Dameron; Dr. Lewanika; Mayor Pro Tem, Rikke Van Johnson; and Celeste King.  Photo by Chris Sloan.

Dr Inonge M. Lewanika, Ambassador to the United States from the Republic of Zambia was the Guest of Honor at a reception hosted by the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, the Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce, and other community leadership organizations, held at the Castaway Restaurant.  The large audience that came from throughout Southern California to meet and honor Ambassador Lewanika  included Africans as well as African Americans. Photo by John Coleman.

Dr. Inonge M. Lewanika, Ambassador to the United States from the Republic of Zambia was the Guest of Honor at a reception hosted by the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, the Inland Empire African American Chamber of Commerce, and other community leadership organizations, held at the Castaway Restaurant.  Photo by John Coleman.

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) Inland Empire residents have a personal invitation from the Ambassador of Zambia to visit and perhaps make a profitable investment in her country.

“Zambia is a beautiful country with many things to offer. I invite you to experience it yourself,”  said Ambassador Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika during a reception the Inland Empire  African-American Chamber of Commerce held in her honor on Thursday, Sept. 10 at Castaway Restaurant and Banquet Center in San Bernardino.

This reception was part of a week long tour she made through the Inland Empire to raise awareness here about the country of Zambia. As her country’s ambassador, she also encourages American citizens to visit and make investments for profit, while at the same time helping the country with needs such as job creation, health care, education and housing.

Zambia was established as an official nation in 1964. It is home to the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Visitors can also see lakes, wetlands, tropical birds and abundant wildlife in this country, which has 11 million people in area about the size of Texas.

Victoria Falls is reason enough to see Zambia, says Ambassador Lewanika. These falls are so large, the mist can be seen from miles away.

“It is like thunder,” she said. “And the mist from the falls is like smoke. Its ancient name, “Mosi-Oa-Tunya” means “Smoke from Thunder.”

The country has much more to offer than a beautiful waterfall, Ambassador Lewanika said.

“Our greatest resource is our people,” she said. “They are very friendly and very warm.”

The largest contributor to Zambia’s economy is farming, especially maize and corn. The next largest industry is mining for natural resources such as copper, gold, diamonds, other precious stones, and possibly soon, oil. 

“Oil has not been discovered in Zambia,” she said. “But it is probably there. Our government has commissioned a study for oil exploration, because of the certainty that there is oil beneath our ground.”

Americans who purchase land in Zambia for farming, mining or development, likely would quickly turn a profit, Ambassador Lewanika said.

“It is very cheap to buy land in Zambia,” she said. “I know of one investor who made a 300 percent profit. I don’t of anywhere else in the world you can do that besides Zambia.”

“People are coming from all over the world to invest in Zambia,” she said. “They come from China.  They come from Japan. They come from all over the Middle East.”

Americans are especially encouraged to invest, because Zambian officials recognize that many in the United States do so not to exploit, but in search of business endeavors that will mutually profit them and their Zambian employees.

“You know we are human,” she said. “You don’t treat us like we have small brains like the boors in some countries do.”

In her current position, she travels throughout the United States meeting as many Americans as possible. But long before that, she lived with an American family for two years while pursuing a college education here.  That family, and most of the other Americans she has met, gives her a highly favorable impression of the United States’ people.

“I came to this country when I was 17 years old, and at that time, Zambia did not have any colleges or universities of its own,” she said. “I want to thank you for the investment you made in my life.

To find out more about Zambia, visit ,  call Helen Harris (909) 648-4605  or e-mail