Dr. Lulamae Clemons first introduced Sylvia Martin to me in the 1970’s during my employment at Kaiser Hospital Fontana when I wanted to hire some high school students from Riverside for summer employment. This predates the Riverside Kaiser Medical Center, and I was responsible for Fontana and Riverside. Sylvia was a very close friend of Dr. Clemons and worked as a teacher for the Riverside Unified School District teaching the students that met our demographic criteria.
That was the beginning of a friendship that has spanned decades with her and Cheryl becoming very close as well as our children.
Sylvia was one of the many women from the Inland Empire selected by the Black Voice News staff as an outstanding Woman of Achievement. She also worked her way into the paper as our unofficial “Riverside beat” reporter. She knew she could call us day or night at all hours and provide us with a news story.
Being the advocate that she was, she convinced Cheryl, as a businesswoman, to adopt Lincoln Continuation High School on Victoria Avenue. This suited Cheryl and Sylvia very well because it brought the paper closer to the students and inspired some to write while inspiring them to achieve their dreams.
As an alumnus of UC Riverside she brought the Brown family and the newspaper into that world. Sylvia had a way of pushing us behind the scenes to tell the important stories to push Civil Rights issues without offending the people who most needed to hear the message.
She was at the center of every major social justice event in Riverside over the past four decades and never wanted the spotlight or headline for her work. She did not want the credit but wanted the wrong to be made right. I know because many of the stories we published in the paper were because of leads from Sylvia Martin.
Sylvia also loved to entertain by inviting all of her friends over during the summer to just eat good food, talk and laugh. I loved to attend her parties and went until I could no longer attend due to my physical condition. That did not keep me from knowing what was going on because Sylvia would call me and say, I don’t want to keep you Hardy but did you know… and a half hour later we would get off the phone where she would say don’t forget to tell Cheryl what we talked about.
We will miss the braided hairstyle that only she could wear, her laugh and phone calls to say “I don’t want to keep you long… but did you know…”