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“To ALL You Straddling the Fence Christians!”

Lou Coleman

Lou Coleman

By Lou Coleman

God says, [Revelation 3:15-16], “[He] knows thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: [He] wish thou were cold or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, [He’s] going to spew you out of [His] mouth.” “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other [Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13]. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Walking with God, and holding hands with the Devil. Shame on you! How long will you be caught between two opinions, two lifestyles, two beliefs, two directions, two mindsets, two masters, two desires. “If it seems evil unto you to serve the LORD, then choose you this day Whom ye will serve…” [Joshua 24:15]. It’s all or nothing! You can’t be 50% Christian and 50% worldly. It doesn’t work that way. Jesus stated: “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). Not only is indecision a dangerous thing. It is repugnant to God mouth. [James 4:4] says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Trying to live for God and mammon at the same time! The Bible says it cannot be done. You must take sides. You are either following Jesus or you are following Satan.  There is no middle ground.  Trying to keep one foot in the world, and one foot in the church.  Ain’t gonna work!

The problem is you don’t want to give up your sin. You don’t want to give up your status in the world.  Naw, you’re having too much fun…. You want your cake and ice cream too. Well you can’t have it! Ain’t no mixing of allegiance to God with other gods! You got to choose! Either God is your daddy or Satan! Who’s your daddy? Time to decide! You cannot remain neutral. You cannot straddle the fence and you can’t just give Jesus lip service. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” [Matthew 15:7-8]. Choose this day Whom you will serve.

Listen, you cannot, and must not, compromise to any of Satan’s conditions. Ultimately, everything you have and ever hope to be, must be laid on the altar. Make the transition from declaration to discipleship. That is, declaration to dedication. Don’t let Satan deceive you and rob you of the greatest blessing man has ever known: salvation from sin through Jesus Christ our Savior and redeemer. Stop straddling the fence. Liberty is not a license to compromise. You are either with Jesus fully, or you oppose him. Which is it? The record of choice: life or death, blessings or cursing.  God wants wholehearted dedication or nothing! That is the clear message of this passage. It’s time to make up your mind! And, it is! Are you ready to serve the Lord? The application could not be clearer: “Choose for yourselves this day Whom you will serve.” There is no room for neutrality. Make your choice. Cast your vote. Choose your God. I pray you will make the right choice. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

Heart and Soul Line Dance Celebrates 12th Anniversary

Soul Dance 4

By Gloria J. Ingram

POMONA, CA- Heart and Soul Line Dance celebrated its’ 12th Anniversary on Saturday, March 5, at the Palomares Community Center in Pomona with a Mardi Gras theme. Harriette Coggs Stuckey, Founder/Director of the line dance organization, welcomed new and experienced line dancers to the annual event, always held on the first Saturday in March.

Soul Dance 2The festive affair was sold out well in advance. An excited crowd started gathering at the entrance around 12 noon, an hour before the doors opened for admission. Many line dancers were dressed in green, purple, and/or gold…Mardi Gras colors, as well as costumes, including several ladies wearing a tri-colored tutu! Approximately 200 enthusiastic line dancers seemed to always rush to the dance floor as songs were played for popular and standard line dances. A King and Queen presided over the event. King Ulric Jones and his Queen, Jean Woods wore royal regali, both wearing a crown, he in a royal robe and sash, she wearing a sash, beads and gold fringed attire led the diverse crowd of revelers in a customary “Second Line.” The room seemed to reach a higher level of brightness because of so many happy, smiling faces. And, the floor seemed to reverberate as partygoers energetically stepped, pranced, and danced around, up and down the dance floor to lively music.Soul Dance 1

One of the many highlights enjoyed by all was a delicious soul food meal of BBQ chicken, red beans and rice, collard greens, and peach cobbler prepared by Executive Chef Terry Cleveland. Other highlights included, awarding gift cards as door prizes and a generous donation to the American Heart Association from the proceeds of a Money Raffle.

Heart and Soul Line Dance class members from Beaumont, Eastvale, Fontana, Menifee, Pomona, Rialto, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Walnut were well represented. The Line Dance Family at-large was also well represented by members of other line dance companies i.e. Jus Dancin, Marva Black and her L.A. Country Strutters, LA and Natalie Kelley, K- Stepmobile, L A. Others came from the Bay Area i.e. Novella Peterson, Shirley Jefferson, and Yvonne Carnelus. Congratulations to Harriette Coggs Stuckey for another stellar celebration of bringing line dance to so many throughout the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley.

Community Town Hall Meeting Urges Officials to Help Break the Cycle of Imprisonment in San Bernardino County

By Angela M. Coggs

On Wednesday, March 9, over 100 community members and parents gathered at Life Center Church in San Bernardino for a town hall meeting to address public officials about a crisis of imprisonment that is fueled by the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, and high rates of prisoner recidivism. The meeting began with an outstanding dramatic monologue from actor and C.O.P.E.’s resident artist, Mr. Amad Jackson. His performance COPE 5focused on ending the cycle of mass incarceration. The audience was encouraged by his noteworthy delivery.

The community concerns addressed in the meeting were: Challenging the use of citations that prevent students from getting a driver’s license and enlisting in the military, ensuring that San Bernardino county spends money on intervention/prevention programs and not prison, and making sure that school funding serves those most in need of academic support. The goal was to make the community voices heard with decision-makers who have the authority and power to do something about the community’s concerns.

San Bernardino County Supervisors, Josie Gonzales and San Bernardino County School Board Members, Hardy Brown Jr., San Bernardino County Schools Earl Smith, San Bernardino City Unified Director of Student Services Ray Culberson, and San Bernardino City School Board Members, Barbara Flores, and Gwendolyn Rogers, and Danny Tillman were all in attendance.

The town hall meeting, organized by Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), intended to keep public officials focused on the school-to-prison pipeline and concerns that the excessive use of citations and arrests that could otherwise be handled apart from law enforcement involvement, could keep students in a never ending school-to-prison trap.  As school board members in San Bernardino City Unified School District continue to press for a new discipline policy that would, among many things, reform the district’s practices on school citations and school-based arrests, the town hall illuminated citations as a county—wide crisis.COPE 2

Testimonies from two parents from the Rialto Unified School District highlighted the need for a county-wide look at discipline policies involving school citations.  Charnice Miller, shared a story about her daughter who was cited for a fight in which she defended herself after notifying the school administrator that she was being bullied.  The parent and student were never provided with an alternative to suspension and expulsion, nor adequately informed about the citation process but was mandated to pay a $400 fine. A similar story shared by another Rialto parent highlighted the pain and trauma her son experienced as a result of an incident in which he was ultimately found innocent but that landed him a ten day suspension. San Bernardino City School Board Member Barbara Flores agreed that the problem lies in “the way we (the district) communicate with our parents because right now it is unacceptable.”

Another parent shared a heart wrenching story about how her son, a SBCUSD graduate from Cajon High School, is still dealing with the effects of a school citation while away in college.  From the campus of Howard University, Brandon Watts shared a video testimony of how a citation issued in the 8th grade, may now impact his eligibility for COPE 3a summer internship in the White House.  He urged public officials to take a different approach because citations can do a lot of harm. The SBCUSD motto is to “Make Hope Happen” but the constant issuance of citations to students is not giving the students hope, it is in fact discouraging the students. They are not feeling hopeful.

When questioned about what the San Bernardino City Unified School District board members intend to do to ensure that San Bernardino Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) money is earmarked for school funding , alternative discipline, as well as other intervention programs such as mental health programs so that students are adequately supported, SBCUSD Board Member Rodgers responded without hesitation. “What we are making sure is that funding is targeted to support necessary for the specific students that  are more at risk, which we all know is the majority of all of our students. The targeted funding what we have and we know that funding is on a limited bases but we have to make sure we maximize it in every way that we can.” She spoke about specific line items that are set for the specific needs and for the specific things that the community and parents have brought to the Board’s  attention.

“This is a critical time because once that money is allocated it definitely can change from year to year,” SBCUSD Board Member Tillman also added. The school district has been making positive changes on behalf of the students. “Two big things that we (the school district) did do was to ensure that all students have the ability to have access to a computer and the internet. Every student in our district can get one computer per household.” He also stated that school pays the monthly payment for the internet access. Secondly, Tillman stated that they also eliminated the wait list for the CAPS Program. “This past year the wait list went away. That cost us about three or four million dollars.”

On the other end of the pipeline, a testimony from a formerly incarcerated female, who is now drug free, working, and giving back to community, shares a story of redemption and what is possible when there are resources available.  Demita Burgess, a San Bernardino resident, urged the County to make sure that Proposition 47 meets its intended outcomes and give people a second chance to be productive citizens.  In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, a ballot measure to reduce some felony records to misdemeanors and uses the savings from prison spending for intervention and prevention services such as drug treatment and mental health services.  The savings may also be directed to youth intervention and prevention programs.  However, according to Governor Brown the savings from prison spending only amounts to approximately $29 million when the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) says that the savings is closer to $100 million dollars.  Community members urged County Supervisor Josie Gonzalez and other officials to join a statewide effort urging the Governor to adopt the LAO’s calculations so that resources can be properly utilized for adult and youth intervention and prevention efforts. The collective voices have the power to dismantle the pipeline.

The break  a cycle imprisonment, community members want public officials to take action by instituting policies that undo the cycle and place youth and adults in a better position to be productive citizens.

This effort was organized by Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement in partnership with Inland Congregations United for Change, Youth Action Project, Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, African American Mental Health Coalition, and members of the African American Education Collaborative.

“I was very inspired to become more involved in the community and school boards to ensure our children has the same chance and opportunities as their neighboring peers,” said Alondra Ladison, San Bernardino County Site Supervisor Preschool Services Department. She left the meeting enlighted and ready to stand up for all of our children.

With the input and feedback from the community hopefully the San Bernardino City Unified School District will depart from its current code of conduct, which is based on a zero-tolerance approach, and make a strong commitment to an approach that is grounded in teaching and learning, interventions and restorative practices.