S. E. Williams
Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, representative of California’s 47th Assembly District covering Colton, Grand Terrace, Rialto and Fontana and a segment of San Bernardino recently reflected on the strength, hope and togetherness of a wounded community.
In an exclusive interview with The Voice, Brown was asked how she first learned of the attack. “I was scheduled to chair a select committee meeting for girls and women of color at a conference in Los Angeles where state leaders from across the nation would be attendance,” she replied. “My assistant and I were about to drive to Los Angeles and I had just put my bags in the car when I learned of the attack.” she continued, “I heard it first on the news and then I received a call from Congresswoman Norma Torres.” According to Brown, Torres called to confirm what she had also just learned. (Torres who represents California’s 35th U.S. Congressional District, was previously a California state representative.)
“I didn’t believe it,” Brown said. However, almost instantly momentary disbelief merged with her intuition and gut-check reality and the Assemblywoman re-ordered her priorities for the day.
She soon made her way to where family members of the victims were gathered and did what she could to help bring them comfort in every way she could whether it was listening, talking or praying. Fellow Assemblyman Marc Steinorth was among the leaders who joined her there. Steinorth represents the 40th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Rancho Cucamonga, parts of San Bernardino, Highland, Loma Linda, and Redlands.
The following day, Brown extended words of comfort to all of her constituents via electronic messaging. The communication offered important information to help those in need connect with grief counselors and the Sheriff’s crisis line. She also made her district staff available to assist constituents seeking additional resources.
When asked whether she felt the catastrophic event would change the nature of the community at-large she replied, “I hope it changes it for the better.” And continued, “So that people will get along better, make an effort to understand each other more and make our community better.” Brown was firm in her optimism and yet also acknowledged, “There is a lot of work to be done in our community.”
Brown not only talked about doing the work needed to help make the community a better place, she demonstrated how to “reach out” and bring all members of the community closer.
She gave one of the clearest examples of how this could be accomplished when she asked for ways the community could work together to help assure local Muslims are not ostracized because of this tragedy.
“That’s one of the first things I did,” she responded. “On Thursday morning, I went to Fontana and met with the Police Chief, Rodney Jones, to talk the about the Muslim community.” Brown went to Fontana because it is home to the Ar-Rahman Islamic Center.
Jones, according to Brown, began meeting with mosque leadership in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Brown described the meeting she and Jones had with Muslim leaders. “They felt so much better that someone understood them as minorities.” According to Brown, the Muslim community also expressed concern there was no interfaith council in the Inland Empire region.
“I went back and discussed it with my own pastor,” she explained. “By Friday morning, my pastor announced, ‘we are starting an interfaith council’.”
I listened to what they wanted,” Brown shared regarding her interaction with Muslim leaders. “I did not want to tell them what to do. Once I found out what they wanted, I put the plans in place.”
Brown invited members of the Ar-Rahman Islamic Center to join her at a 6:00 a.m. service at her church. “When I got there at 5:30 a.m., they were already in the pews,” she said warmly and continued. “Somebody cared and understood how frightened they are.”
Jones invited Brown to accompany him to services at the Fontana mosque. “They wanted me to come,” she said. Brown discussed how she entered the mosque without shoes and with her head covered as a show of respect for Muslim traditions.
“I was very impressed with the message delivered by the Imam,” she said. “He gave a message much like our messages,” Brown continued. “He spoke on Jonah and the Whale.”
Jonah is a Hebrew name. It means dove or peace. The tale of Jonah and the Whale is common to the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Critics of Islam often are unaware, all three of the world’s great religious traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are rooted in the very same foundation.
The tale of Jonah and the Whale is about the spiritual transformation experienced by Jonah in the belly of the whale. The symbolism of three days spent in the whale’s belly is reflective of the mysteries of death and rebirth that resurfaces in a different story in Christianity’s New Testament and is recorded in the sacred stories of a number of ancient religious traditions.
The Imam invited Brown to speak to those in attendance at the mosque that day and she did. “I told them not to be afraid,” Brown stressed. She also asked them, “If you see something, say something.”
The San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health has established a crisis line to assist those in need. The phone number is (909) 421-9495.
For more information regarding Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown visit http://asmdc.org/members/a47/.