Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion, and equity. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started. Mr. Bobby Bivens was born and raised in San Bernardino, California, attended San Bernardino Valley College and went on to earn his public degree in public administration from the University of Redlands.
After graduating, Bobby began his career in the private sector working for TRW Aerospace Company, Department of Defense Contractor, and later became a school administrator for the vocational school Operations Second Chance School of Opportunities where he worked for 17 years. He then went on to work as the employment center manager for the Los Angeles Century Freeway I105, and also as the contract compliance administrator for San Bernardino County Government. Mr. Bivens was elected and served previously on the NAACP National Board of Directors and too many other board and commissions to mention. He currently serves as economic development chair for the California Hawaii State Conference, as well as the local branch president for the NAACP Stockton Branch.
As the branch president, Bobby is constantly looking for innovative solutions in which to involve students in the community from working with local school superintendents on issues like the overrepresentation of Black children and continuation programs, elevated crime statistics among Black men, and the disparities in the suspension and expulsions numbers in our schools. He has continued his advocacy to make sure all students, no matter their skin color, have access to equal opportunity. Mr. Bivens continues to work with commitment, dedication, and energy for the state of California and his community.
Please join me in welcoming Mr. Robert Bobby Bivens. All right. Well, I am excited this week because I am blessed and blessed to have the president of the NAACP Stockton Branch serving San Joaquin County, which is where I live, and this is an award-winning branch. You just, I know, received an award along with the first vice president and so I am really interested to have you talk a little bit about what the NAACP is doing. I will tell you how shocked I am sometimes when I say NAACP and somebody says they don’t know what the NAACP is. So maybe we could start there and you could just talk about what the NAACP is for those that may be unaware, and then you could talk a little bit about how you got involved and how other folks can get involved as well.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Okay. Well, good afternoon for starters.
Melyssa Barrett: Hello. Thank you for being here.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: You are welcome and thank you for having me. It is truly a pleasure and a privilege to be able to do this. I got involved with the NAACP when I was eight years old, lived in a housing project in San Bernardino, California and the president of the NAACP ran the recreational center in the housing project that I lived in. And if you were a kid and you wanted to play basketball pool, shuffle board, all those things that kids don’t get to play anymore, you had to join a youth council. And back then it cost about $3 to join a youth council. And so of course a lot of us joined not knowing that we would be on a journey and an educational journey to do civil rights work at that point in time. And that’s like in the mid ’50s when real knock down drag out civil rights activities were going on around the country.
And in San Bernardino we were the home of Klansmen. We were the home of Hell’s Angels. The Hell’s Angels started in our area. We were home to people that had moved to California from other parts of the country that did not truly care for Black people. And at that same time, just prior to that, I started school in a one room schoolhouse that was operated by a Black lady by the name of Ms. Clara Looper. And when she died, we all got scattered all over the city to different schools depending on where we live.
I ended up going to a school that they put me back a year, then they put me to the grade I should be in. But all of my classmates got moved up a year or two years based on the educational level that we were at in comparison to public schools. Now, of course, this was a private school and for those of us that didn’t have cars, she’d run around early in the morning and pick us up for school and then she’d take us back home. And one of the things that I remember the most, other than her doing a Tom Thumb wedding and being a caring Black woman, she had a wood shed. So if you showed out in class, you got to go to the wood shed and the wood shed, she’d put the wood on your behind. And I made a trip and maybe two to the woodshed. And of course, when-
Melyssa Barrett: One or two? Now just one or two, Mr. Bivens?
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Yeah. Just one or two. And of course, when she took you to the woodshed, she’d also tell your parents that she took you to the woodshed. So that meant you got a, and when you got home you got a second whipping for getting the first whipping. But at any rate, from that experience and from going to a public school where I felt the people didn’t like us, didn’t care for us, and then surely thereafter getting engaged with the NAACP I think are some of the root reasons why I’ve been involved as long as why I have been involved. And of course I’ve been involved in NAACP through the Youth Council. And then some years back I filed a lawsuit, me and five other families, we filed a lawsuit for discrimination and education and employment in San Bernardino.
We kind of stayed in court for seven years. We won the first round and we had an attorney by the name of Nathan Colley who was from Sacramento, one of the top civil rights attorneys in the country at that time, and also the only Black person in California’s history to serve on the horse racing board. But at any rate, attorney Colley and Nancy Reardon represented us. We filed a class action lawsuit. As I said, we won and then the school district appealed and they won. And then we went back and appealed the appeal and won in the state Supreme Court. So San Bernardino Unified School District is still under that court order from 1971 because I refuse to sign it. I’m the only living person that was a part of filing the suit on the behalf of their children. And it will be there on them until I die.
I’m not let letting them off the hook. Then they don’t deserve to be off the hook because they still got discrimination going on to this day. Not only down there, but here in Stockton and in San Joaquin County, I worked in an organization that we were very much involved in trying to create educational opportunities. And that was part of the reason that we ended up filing the lawsuit. My CEO or executive director at the time for the organization I worked for, which was a Black company operation Second Chance, and the founder’s name was Francis Grace. And so she was a very serious educational activist, cut having income from Detroit, Michigan. And they paid for school out there. We had free school out here and she couldn’t understand it. But at any rate, she too was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit for 17 years.
She and I worked together and a nonprofit organization by the name of Operations Second Chance. And we did business development, minority business. We got loan packages, we did packaging for Black businesses, minority owned businesses. We were one of the first organizations in the state in the nation to become a technical assistance center back when it first started out. And that was under the MBDA, the Minority Business Development Agency that still existed today in this past year of just became codified as a regular federal agency after 50 years. And I’m also very proud to say that my son was a part of getting that push through in Congress. Congressman Jerry McNerney brought it up to the table, it got passed. So now they don’t have to go back to Congress every year and have a vote for the organization to continue to be able to help minority businesses.
I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my son. I’m happy our congressman here was able to get that push through. And it is now law from that MBDA tech center that we had, our TA center, we also built a vocational school, of which I became the school administrator at the age of 27. We started out in the clerical field typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and helping people get their GEDs. We evolved into a tide tech center for that timeframe. Some of the technology that we use today, and particularly the programming started way back then and they still do the use the same type of programming today, but it’s on these computers that we carry around and we call telephones. So my evolution went from way back there where they had major mainframes that would take up a whole building, building to these little phones that we carry that do probably a million times more and faster than it was back at the very beginning.
My mom was engaged in working at the military base and she was a computer operators, so I would get to go to her job and they had these little cards they stick in, but I ain’t going to go into all that old stuff because if people really want to know about the evolution of computers and technology, they can go on the internet and really find out about it. From that, I was blessed early on out of high school to go to work for an aerospace industry and I literally had the privilege of working on the first lunar walk. I was a program scheduler. I worked on that. The day that the module landed on the moon, I had a, what do they call, an epiphany and it said, “You’re doing the wrong thing for the wrong people.” And we just spent 5 billion putting a piece of tin on the moon.
And on that very same day, ironically, there was this on the cover of Life magazine, these Black kids with large heads and bulging eyes and skinny bone frames from Biafra, what was called Biafra at that time on the cover of Life magazine. And I’m like, “We just put that money up there and we got people that look like me, starving to death here on earth. I’m doing the wrong thing for the wrong people.” And I told my boss, “I’m quitting.” And he said, “No, you’re not quitting.” Because they also had me on the track to become the first Black vice president of the company. And the company had 90,000 employees and I’m like 23 years old and I’m saying, “Nah, not me. I want to keep my life. I don’t want to be one them bourgeois negro and all the stuff that goes through it.”
But they literally made me go to plays, theater, took my wife at the time and I to theater, send limos to pick us up and all this kind of stuff. And I’m like kicking and fighting. That’s not something I want to do. But out of that same department, our manager, were doing business and community planning and development in cities. And so the organization that ended up working for Operations Second Chance was submitting their first grant to get federal funding to do a TA center. Before that, they were involved in African attires fashion shows and making clothes and selling them primarily to white people. So we had a little manufacturer at the house in the storefront and we had a boutique and they sold the apparel that was so up manufactured there and did fashion shows that, of course, the majority of the people that came to Caucasians, they would be the ones who buy these African attire.
And I’m talking back in the late ’70s, early ’70s. Anyway, from that we were involved with the NAACP. We were involved in trying to elevate the schools and elevate the community. And so that’s where we came into doing the loan packaging and providing technical assistance to businesses. And then we built our own school out of a house, a garage in two storefronts, ultimately becoming a high tech and one of the most modernized school in the United States in the ’70s, early ’80s. Here I am a 27 year old with a AA degree and our executive director provided me with the opportunity to be the school administrator for my 27th birthday. And she just said, “You got three months to either prove that you can run this school.” And it was a non-traditional type school, but I won’t go into all of that and if the school is not functioning the way that it should be, because it was a national demonstration project, then I’m going to pull in a professional educator school administrator.
But I will have given you a chance first. So for 17 years I ran to school and every now and then she’d bring in different types of people. We’d put them there to run to school to see if they could do it better than me and they could not. And our end result was putting the students that completed the training to work. And I’m most proud of the fact that for a 17 year period, we had an average of 92% of our students graduated and 95% of that 92 or 87% we placed in permanent employment. So this was a part of my early career before I came up here. And so we were doing civil rights through the vehicle of federal run programs, business development, getting loans, banking loans, building relationships. And all of that coincided with what the NAACP’s mission was to do civil rights work, to give Black people a chance of education and in business and the economics.
And then we had another sister organization that was dealing in housing and solar energy for the house and the late ’70s. So these people that’s running around now thinking they got fresh, something great that just happened in the last few years, they need to wake up and smell the coffee. We did the biggest solar 85 megawatt solar generating plant in San Bernardino County in the history of the United States. It was the largest solar energy at electricity generating plant. And we’ve ended up fighting to get contracts for Black businesses on that project.
So we, as a result of having to fight to get Blacks on, we sued the US Department of Energy and also the United States government and McDonald Douglas. And we won that lawsuit for these Black people to be able to get subcontracts and jobs working on that solar generating plant again and concert with the NAACP one of my colleagues was the NAACP president at that time and I was on the executive committee, Francis was on the executive committee, but we were making sure that we were doing civil rights work even though our paid mission was education and business development.
And so it all coincided. And then I decided to run for president in 1987. And on the night that I ran for election, I lost the election by one vote. I’m like, “I know I didn’t lose this election. I mean, I’m not supposed to lose this election.” I was the most visible young Black male in the community and engaged in politics and community relations and serving on boards and commissions and all this kind of stuff at a very young age. And then the night I lost the election, my first wife died. And so I came to realize that by me, by God knowing that what was going to happen and what was ahead of me, he did not allow me to win that election. And I lost it by a vote. I was devastated early and upset by then. By the next morning I was [inaudible 00:20:09] from her passing.
So from that, we ended up closing down the nonprofit after a five year battle with the government because they were saying, “Black folks are doing too much. You have too much power in your community.” And when I say that it’s important for people to understand, we influenced 70% of the vote in the Latino and Black community, mostly the Black community. And so politicians would have to come through our house literally to get elected no matter what they were running for city council, school board, Congress. If we said that this is the candidate that will best represent the interest of Black people and other people of color, then they literally got the vote. We became too powerful. So Congressman came and said, “Hey, they’re going to destroy you guys and even though you’re effective.” We had just the year before won an award as the top business development agency in the United States of America.
Our executive director had gone to the Rose Garden at the White House to receive the award. We’re doing all the right things that you’re supposed to do as Black people trying to bring about change in your community and boom, too much power. We don’t want to have to come go through no Black people to get federal money to get approval on housing projects and this type of thing. So ultimately, we got into the battle and got destroyed. And my boss’s daughter, Francis, the one year her daughter died the next year, her son died the next year my wife died. We were done. The warriors in the house were defeated spiritually and we lost the battle on what we were doing and the organization as a result. So we went to work for the county of San Bernardino as the contract compliance administrator. Again, my mission was to get business opportunities for Black businesses and by to get business opportunities for them, it was for minority businesses and women on businesses.
And I’ve had the luxury of reporting directly to the county administrator with the authority to block contracts. If you did not include a minority business in your contract bid, no matter what it was for, you didn’t get the contract. Because I had the veto power literally to say no, we’re going to this other contractor, even though they may cost a little more, they’ve got Black businesses involved or Latino businesses involved. And if they don’t, they prove to me that they made a legitimate effort to include them with documentation. And that position, happened to go to a conference and I met a young lady who happened to be at a deputy director for the city of Stockton. And at this convention, some of my board members had been telling her that there was a brother down in southern California that knew how to do these things.
And this brother from Southern California had not called her back. So they met at this conference and the lady that I met at this conference name was Luana Johnson Row at the time. And so I had to humbly, humbly say I’m sorry. And the sisters that was on the board, they were digging in me. They was digging in me. They told her, “This is the guy we told you to call, this is the guy that didn’t call you back. This is the guy that knows how to work with you and what you’re trying to do up North. He’s the one.”
So being a kind of suave guy that I was then I just kind of dropped down on my knees and said, “I apologize, I’m sorry. Is there something that I can do to make up for this? And I promise you, I will be on top of this immediately as soon as I get back home.” So she accepted an invitation to dinner and we got to talking and got to know about each other a little bit. And so as you know, two weeks ago, we just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.
Melyssa Barrett: Congratulations.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: But I want you to know, I came into this in a humble, humble way, knees and all.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, yes. And I know Mrs. Bivens keeps you humble.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Between her and the Lord, I don’t have no chance.
Melyssa Barrett: Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back. So in terms of the Stockton branch, can you talk about … I mean, obviously it is an award winning branch at the national level. I certainly had the opportunity that I am celebrating to go to the national convention this year. And it was amazing to see the Stockton branch of the NAACP be celebrated in that fashion and the Thalheimer Award that the Stockton branch received. Can you talk a little bit about what is being done and it’s clearly setting a model for those around us in terms of what is happening at that?
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Well, I want to say that I’ve had the luxury of having a committed and dedicated team of executive committee members as well as some of our other committees to do the work in the community as on a voluntary basis. And as you come to know, we work. It’s a job that you don’t get paid for. And I tell people all the time, as the president of the branch, I pay to do this job. I’m not paid. I pay to do it. I spend my own money, spend my own energy, not sometimes oftentimes not do the business opportunities that I have because I’m busy doing the civil rights work to try to improve the quality of our community. The Thalheimer Award, and I have to honestly say without Luana, I would not be able to do none of what I do. Not just from the support perspective as a wife or the willingness to allow me to have the time away from the household and family to do this work, but literally her doing a lot of the work that we produced, being engaged in various arenas.
And so her skills, her expertise, pushed me to be able to hopefully keep a team together, work with a team to do this. And oftentimes as you know, she’s pushing these agendas and I’m off over here doing the political kind of stuff. But somebody has to really run the shop and be at home. And quite honestly it is her. So the Thalheimer Award is the most prestigious award that a branch can receive from the NAACP. It is the top award for civil rights work that is validated by the national office and you compete against branches your own size and whether they have a paid staff or don’t have a paid staff to, based on your work that you’ve done, you had the opportunity to participate with us this time putting together the package. We’ve won third place and a couple of times and years before, but this is the first time we ever took first place in the nation as a branch.
And certainly that said, you’re a model for doing civil rights work. And it was in education, it was in criminal justice, it was in healthcare, housing, economic development. And then when we throw on top of that our ability to react and respond and be very engaged during COVID, during actual testing and bringing in medical teams and organizations to do tests, Black people because Black people were the ones that were being left out on the COVID testing and also when the vaccines rolled out on receiving the vaccine. So we were able and Luana headed up, spearheaded, had spirited up headed this whole COVID piece and getting other organizations to participate, getting doctors to participate. We’ve put on video forms monthly and quarterly depending on where the COVID was at in different times at the very beginning. Up until today, we’re still out there doing this work to help people get vaccinated or now get the boosters and educate them because on a percentage Black people lost the highest percentage of citizens of any group in the world and particularly in America.
So our role was to get the word out, get engaged, get people involved and deal with the naysayers. So the COVID piece was a major piece and then we were very engaged in some of the housing components and also helping people to not lose their houses due to being evicted because of not being able to pay their rents and connect them to those agencies and organizations that were paying or had funds to keep them in their housing till we got through this thing and everybody’s waiting for it to get over and pay the landlords and all of this while it’s still going on, people still are getting COVID, people are still losing their homes and housing as a result of COVID because many people have lost their jobs as well.
So now the local governments are talking about job creation and job programs. So we’re been diving in and trying to fit into some of those pieces to make sure that as pro training opportunities come along, job opportunities, retraining opportunities that we get the word out into the community and try to make sure that our people, African American people, get to take the advantage of that and be included and not excluded or discriminated against.
So all of those kind of pieces are part of what we submitted and this initial of the package that we had to send in to win the award. And then the national staff reviewed all these branches across the country and validated what we said that we did. And we were blessed to come out on top. And like I said, we’ve been second and third and we had two, three times we were third, but never number one, never. And I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of you and the rest of our team for us being able to do this for the blessing. So to me, this is God’s work, this is the ministry, this is the role that he is putting me into play in trying to lead a civil rights movement in our local community. We still have a lot coming down the pike.
Even today I get a call about us helping get out, do some more COVID education within the community. And so that was there. Deedee did a lot of work on the housing and so as a result, last Saturday, of course, she won an award as the advocate for the State of California conference of branches for her advocacy in the housing arena and giving information. And we take leadership roles here out of our branch and leading committees throughout the state to help other branches know how to do this work or provide technical assistance to them as we do this work.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, congratulations to Davy. We want to make sure we say her name. She is a powerhouse realtor in Stockton, California, but really serving in a variety of capacities.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Exactly.
Melyssa Barrett: And I know she did a resolution that is now being taken on at the national level.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Correct.
Melyssa Barrett: As well. So when we’re talking about housing, we’re still having those conversations and the national office is still engaged when it comes to housing and making sure that discriminatory practices are not occurring. So I think it’s nice to know that from a … I think a lot of people may be familiar with the NAACP at the national level. They’re suing for the right to have clean water for example. But I don’t know that a lot of people know that the branch actually, I mean, they can engage with their local branch and really be able to identify things that are happening locally as well.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: We are an extension of the national office. So you look at the big tree and you look at the trunk and then you look at all the branches that are out here. Well, within the NAACP there’s 2,200 branches and we’re one of those 2,200 branches. But they work and the resolutions and for people that don’t understand every year at our national convention, we pass resolutions or a ruling on what we’re going to do, what kind of civil rights work we’re going to do the next year, or what laws we want to see changed or what types of policies in communities. So we, here in Stockton, are engaged in the environmental justice activities that are going on. At one point in time, here in Stockton, we had brown water, literally water that looked like tea in South Stockton. So right now we’re engaged in some of the environmental discussions on cleanup.
There’s monies coming in to put new refrigerators, stoves, air conditioning and vehicles in some of the housing units in South Stockton that benefit low income families. We no longer truly have a distinctly clear Black community. And so it’s imperative that we identify Black folk within those communities to make sure that they’re receiving information and services and assistance. And in that, we don’t discriminate against other people. But because there are multiple other organizations in some of the other ethnic groups that focus solely on the non-English speaking, whether it’s Spanish or an Asian language or German or Russian, and the programs that those people run directly impact those non or limited English speakers. We speak some semblance of the English language as Black folk, but we’re not included in those equations. We’re not identified primarily in those dollars that are sent in to address those issues.
So our task is to reach out into the Black community and put information out there and of course as others are there and we’re hitting certain targeted areas, when people come in to receive assistance from the NAACP, we provide service and assistance to them. We had a rock vaccine festival last December at downtown at the Civic Auditorium. We’ve had different activities at different churches and we’re still doing it. So we serve a much broader role than people understand. We have regional economic development activities happening from Bakersfield and Fresno to Stockton to San Joaquin. We’re at the table in some of those discussions about millions and millions of dollars that are coming here. Some in the environmental area, transportation, the internet, high speed access, access to the high speed internet, making sure that our community is getting connected and that those services are going into areas where there’s low connectivity or no connectivity for Black people.
We’re busy trying to make sure that the schools not just a school district, but all of the school districts are getting, making sure that Black kids are being connected because again, we took the biggest hit during COVID academically because of the lack of having capital to buy computers and rent the internet access and all of those kind of things. So our children suffered. So along with us and other organization, Black organizations, the Divine Nine Black Chamber, Mary Magdalene, some of these organizations within the community have been engaged in trying to keep our kids from falling too far behind while at the same time trying to do some education with the parents and getting parents involved.
Because the biggest crime we have in our community is the lack of parent involvement in their children’s educational life. And as a result, we right now in Stockton, we got a very racist school board that has cut out ethnic studies that refutes to celebrate Black History Month this past February and the February before that tried to come [inaudible 00:40:21] some kind of thing and mix Indigenous People’s Day and Black History Month of which Indigenous People’s Day is in October and Black History Month is in February.
But yet they tried to put it together and make it all be one in February of 2020 and ultimately had no recognition whatsoever of a federal month of celebration of Black people that have built America. So we got that type of activity. We got school, we got lack of transparency going on in our schools. We got racism going on. Then we have people talking about Blue Lives Matter and threatening Black kids with death and racism in our school by educators, administrators, students. And so we’ve had to bring the FBI in. We’ve had lynchings here in Stockton. The coroner’s office called it, we had a young man that was hung in the outskirts of Stockton in [inaudible 00:41:37] and the coroner called it suicide by hanging. Well, that’s not our thing. And you throw salt on that wound. Then they turned right around and cremated him before there’s parents even knew he was being cremated because there’s no evidence left after that.
And so now we’re still two years, almost two years later trying to fight the battle of what happened to this young man. We had young people beat up in the jail. We had a young man, the ex navy young man, Mr. Peoples killed out in Tracy by racists and self proclaimed white supremacist that killed him and didn’t even know him in the gas station in Tracy. So we’ve had all these things going on that we’re engaged in one way or the other. We put in place a 10 point plan that we took to the city related to policing. And so we’ve been fortunate enough that we have a city manager here that had the courage to go out and recruit outside of the Stockton Police Department in a nontraditional way. And the gentleman that happened to come out on top of to be the police chief in Stockton as an African American man historically that had never happened before.
That if you was inside of Stockton Police Department, you knew you had a shadow getting to be the chief. And you could keep that negative counterculture going forever. And somebody still was going to end up being the white male police chief in Stockton while this manager took the courage. The council joined with him and they did a nationwide recruitment and we came up with the best qualified candidate rather than somebody from the Stockton Police Department to be the chief. Same thing happened in Tracy, but a different way. So we have a Black chief in Tracy, we have a Black chief in Stockton. And then the impression of crime and criminal justice in San Joaquin County is that Black people commit the most crimes. And that’s not even a true fact. And we’re 10% of the population, 13% of the population in the city of Stockton, yet we represent 28, 29% of the people that are tried, arrested and convicted of crimes.
Our numbers don’t match the numbers of people that are victims are being sent away to prison and removing a male image out of the household, having to bring in other males from organizations to try to represent a male father figure when you have young men and young girls rejecting those figures because they want their own biological father or their own father there and you’re not coming in and taking my daddy’s place. And so we don’t care if you want to help us with school or not because we don’t want your help because we want our father back destroying the family element in the home.
So all of these issues that I’m talking about are things that the Stockton branch, NAACP are engaged in. So when people say they don’t know what we’re doing, my answer to them is come in and see and if you have a criticism, come and join the team and make the team better and let’s fix your criticism. But you don’t get to stand on the sidelines and throw rocks at us and don’t think we not going to throw rocks back. It don’t work like that. I’m not that kind of guy.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and I want to make sure we give a shout out to Chief Stanley McFadden and-
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Absolutely.
Melyssa Barrett: They have done wonders in San Joaquin County so we appreciate them for sure.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: And one quick thing on that, see when, remember the young man that got murdered out in Tracy, Chief Millington had that group of people arrested within 72 hours and they were trying to get away up into the hills where the FBI would’ve caught hell trying to go up there and bring them out to arrest them. That was major, major, major police work headed up by a Black man. Not somebody that’s soft on crime. We just had this serial killer around here and Chief McFadden’s team and his leadership, they got to that guy quickly and arrested him not trying to be soft on crime.
And neither one of them looked to say, “Well, what do they look like? What do they look like?” Hell, they’re killing people, let’s get them. And they did that. So we have two powerful, knowledgeable expert policemen at the heads of two of our major police departments in this county. People have to recognize you don’t got to be white to be right and you can be Black and win and we can have a safe community. So all of those things are important city managers leadership. And we do be engaged in trying to do some leadership development through the NAACP and through our nonprofit EAG to assist or augment the work that the NAACP is doing because the NAACP’s role is to advocate and then the role of others is to educate and administer. So we here, we here.
Melyssa Barrett: And so just to be clear, is the NAACP an organization just for Black people?
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Absolutely not. Half of the founders of the NAACP were white people and Jewish people because in 1909, 1908, 1906 and ’07, Jews were being hung and lynched in New York and Illinois as well as Black people being lynched and hung in the southern parts of our country as well as out here in California. So let’s don’t be confused because California is not the state that is the exempt from lynchings and mistreatment of Black people. Slavery existed in San Joaquin County until 1896. Think about it, the Civil War was over in 1865. But they still practiced slavery of Black people in San Joaquin County, city of Stockton until 1896. Historical fact. Go read it.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. Well, we got to know our history. So I mean, I just wanted to make sure people were aware because I think a lot of people look at NAACP and they think it’s for Black people. No, but as you say, when Black people win.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: All people win.
Melyssa Barrett: So I know you love that saying because like if we come up, everybody comes up.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Well, Melissa, they’ve never passed a law in America that was for Black people, that only Black people benefited from. So every law or every improvement that has been made through policy in the United States of America when they have so-called fixed things to make it better for Black folk or African American folk because everybody Black ain’t African American and everybody look like us ain’t about us. So those laws have benefited women, gay people, white males, disabled people, old people. So all of these citizens that are receiving a lot of the civil rights, equal rights benefits to this day, owe that to the NAACP. And they didn’t just do it because they were a powerful force because also every one of the other organizations have used their strategy to achieve equity or equality using the NAACP model. So if we was only for Black folk, all these other folks shouldn’t be using our model to benefit because everybody has and does even to today. And then they turn around and become racist against Black people using their own model.
Melyssa Barrett: All right. Well, so before we go, I do want to make sure that we talk about what’s upcoming for the NAACP in the Stockton branch and what may people get involved with. What is up and coming aside from, I mean, I know we have a monthly meeting that people are welcome to as well as they can join for very little money by the way.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: For 30 cheapest union in America.
Melyssa Barrett: But what is up and coming and what does that look like over the next month or so?
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Well, over the next month or so, we have our Freedom Fund banquet coming up on the, what’s it, 27th-
Melyssa Barrett: 26th.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: 26th of November, the fourth Saturday of November, celebrating our civil rights workers in San Joaquin County. And it’s our major fundraiser and a portion of those funds go from scholarships, but it’s where we raise our revenue to have our office, our phones, our internet and all of that. And it’s a fun event. We’re going to keep the name of our speaker to ourselves for right now because we want to surprise the community and roll it out in a couple of weeks. We’re looking forward to people getting their tickets, their tables being a sponsor. You can go to stocktonnaacp.org to be able to become a sponsor. We also have, tomorrow, we’ll be out doing some more COVID educational work, canvassing some communities, putting out information as well as giving out test kits to the people that need them.
And then we have our year end meeting in December, the middle of December. We’re in negotiation right now and talking about building, creating, establishing a Black history museum of San Joaquin County. That’s in the preliminary stages, but we have discussions ongoing on that. We have our health run in January on Martin Luther King holiday, which is generates revenues for us to provide therapy sessions for African Americans that are suffering from mental health stress related to whether it’s COVID or just generational trauma. And so we have that coming up in January. So we’re not just having our meetings but we’re busy engaged in those activities. We will be pulling together a more concentrated health equity program to address the hospitals and medical facilities in the community, engaging the doctors. We’re already involved in trying to educate medical interns on sensitivities of working with Black people and recognizing that we are people as well and that learning our culture so that they can treat us better medically to help us with some of the diseases that we have.
Diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure. And realizing some of the outlying factors that contribute to those conditions that Black people have more so than other people that have historically been treated less than some of the diseases that other folk may have. So that’s pretty much what we got going through the end of the year. We are looking for members, we’re looking for members to be engaged. We look for people to bring their expertise to the table. We are the only civil rights organization in this community. We are the oldest, boldest, most revered and feared civil rights organization in the world. So please come and become a member of the Stockton branch NAACP. We need your skills, we need your commitment as we still have to go to city hall and push agendas of equity for Black people, knowing everybody else is going to be a benefactor of it.
We still have housing discrimination taking place. We still have people being evicted from their homes without having an agency that has had the courage to stand up to the landlords and challenge them for removing Black people so that they can raise the price of the rent of which so many of us can’t afford and have others move into it a different form of subtle gentrification. So those are some of the key issues right now, our criminal justice system, we got a new district attorney coming in, we need to bring him to the table and have a clear understanding that we’re not going to tolerate any form of discrimination or keeping Black folks off for juries. Thhat’s very critical.
That’s very key because it talks about the long term history and an economic lifestyle of Black people because of once we get into that system, then we’re not able to aptly take care of our families and have positive role models in our communities and/or male or female because you’ve been incarcerated and malign while you’re in there. Then you come out and you do it to your family. So we are busy, we have a lot to do. We have lot of CPAs, CPS issues related to children being removed from the home, you name it, is happening in Stockton. And we are doing our level best to be a part of correcting or protecting the African American community knowing that others are going to be manufacturers.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. Well, and thank you so much, President Bivens. I know you humbly talked about the first Vice president, [inaudible 00:57:39] Davy, the award that was provided to the Stockton branch. And yet of course you did not talk about your own President’s award that you received. And I know your name is now in the congressional record and you were awarded a Freedom Fighter award last year from Congresswoman Maxine Waters. You are a powerhouse and we are so thankful to have you here in Stockton and really serving San Joaquin County under the Stockton branch. So I just want to thank you for your continued and continuous work and I look forward to continuing to work alongside of you. And thank you so much for all you do in the community.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Well, I want to thank you for allowing me to be here to participate and I look forward to your continued support working alongside. And for those of you that don’t know it, Melissa is now the third vice president of the Stockton branch. And so the team just got stronger and bigger and better. So thank you for accepting. God does the work. I’m just the vehicle here on earth. And if we’re not for him, we wouldn’t have the knowledge or the willingness or the strength or the courage to do the work that has to be done. So I’m a servant. That’s what God put me here for. And as long as he keeps me here, I suppose my job is to keep on doing what I’m doing until he says, “Enough, you tired.” And I don’t want him to say that no time soon.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s it. That’s it. Well, thank you again so much for being here. I can’t wait to have a conversation with Mrs. Bivens as well and you all are just doing things that I think are impacting the nation in a way that people just are unaware. So again, I thank you and I just celebrate you and Mrs. Bivens as well. So thanks for being here on the Jolly Podcast.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens: Thank you. God bless you. Good evening.
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.