Racism and Housing: Councilman Kennedy and Beverly Bogar, by Dr. Jill Shook

2 Jul

Over 120 people signed up, and 80 people attended our Forum on Racism and Housing on June 23, 2020. This was one of the largest turnouts we’ve ever had for our Housing Justice Forums, which was very gratifying. We explored both national policy with his local implications, including some of Pasadena”s own past racist sins in relationship to housing justice. We opened with a devotion from Isaiah 61 by Pastor Camille Russel-Wooden, followed by Beverly Bogar sharing her story about growing up as a Black in Pasadena (scroll below). Beverly has lived in Pasadena for 68 years and worked as assistant to the Chief of Police for Pasadena 35 years.

Following her moving story, I shared a PowerPoint Presentation on Racism and Housing in Pasadena. It was so well received I have been asked to do this presentation for Union Station’s board and for a city-sponsored event.

Our City Councilman John Kennedy shared about racism from his own experience growing up in Pasadena. He spoke from his heart with great passion about the need to combat racism and create more affordable housing. You will find the video of both his and my talk here, facilitated by one of our volunteers, Sonja Berndt: Video presentation on Racism and Housing

Pasadena Councilman John Kennedy.

My Housing Story, By Beverly Bogar

The first house I remember living in, when I was maybe 5 years old, was a 4-room 1-bedroom house on a dirt alley called Mary Street, behind a Bekin storage building. That’s  where my dad, my mom, my sister and I lived.  My dad worked odd jobs and was always saving money to buy a house.

He was able to buy a house in Northwest Pasadena. During this time, some white homeowners did not want to integrate, rent, sell or live next to people of color.  It was known as white-flight where they moved further and further north towards Altadena.  My dad got a job at Carl Hanson Ford in Sierra Madre, where a co-worker helped him to rent a 2-bedroom house at 855 Euclid, between Mountain and Buckeye.  It was the most culturally diverse street I have ever lived on. 

As a young child, I never saw color.  I just knew grown people were to be respected and you played with kids. I became aware of race when I was 8 years old and was playing 4-square on the playground at Madison School when a little white boy called me the “N” word.  Not knowing what this word meant, I said: “You’re another one!” The playground teacher grabbed him by the arm, fussed at him and set him down on the pergola. She then came over to me,  wrapped her arm around my shoulder and asked me if I was ok.  She wrote a note and pinned it on my sweater and said to give it to my mother. When I got home my mom read the note and started to cry.  She hugged me and tried to explain there are different groups of people and some of them do not like people who are not like them.  She tried to explain the various nationalities on our block, which only confused me, made me fearful and had me shy away from playmates.

I also became aware of being treated differently because of my color when my mom took me and my sisters to Nash’s on Colorado.  We watched people enter through the glass revolving doors, but she took us in through the back door.  She could not touch items she could only point at the item she wanted to purchase.

Just before 6th grade, the Euclid property was sold and we had to move again.  By that time, my dad had saved enough money to put a small down payment on a 2-story house on Maple Way.  Not knowing the purchase process and trusting others, we lost this house after three years.

My father told me to aim to buy a house as oppose to renting, to save money and live in Pasadena.

We then rented and lived on Vernon Street (which no longer exists) and Pasadena Avenue (north of Walnut).  It was an area where many people of color lived, shopped and patronized local black services – doctors, dentists, stores etc.  Then came the notification of the 710 freeway.

I’m not sure why, but my mom and dad separated and my mom and the four of us moved into a number of apartments, until we moved into a duplex on north Garfield above Washington Blvd., where I lived until graduating high school.

Fast forward, in 1974 I was blessed to purchase my current home on Sunset Avenue in Northwest Pasadena, through a “235 program” whereby I paid a $235 monthly mortgage and the balance was paid by the program.  After a period of time, the payment was gradually increased until I was paying the entire monthly payment.

Ironically, upon graduating college, I worked ror 14 years in mortgage banking, including Countrywide Funding,  and was able to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry (e.g. “ARM loans” ).

I always remember my father’s advice when times were difficult.  When Parson’s came to Pasadena, they wanted to purchase homes in our neighborhood for their staff.  Many neighbors sold their homes and moved to San Bernardino, Riverside etc.  No matter how much they want to move back, they cannot afford to.

Pasadena has been and is (to some degree) a generational city where generations of families have lived and raised their children.  The impact of inequality in housing not only displaces and or relocates people of color, but tends to break down and separate families, weaken our diverse and historical culture.  As our elders age, it becomes more and more difficult to care for and assist them when you cannot afford to live in the city I do not want to believe that my city wants people of color to move out of their Pasadena home.  I want decent and affordable housing for everyone, especially our homeless neighbors.  Thank you for your time.

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