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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Monrovia Weekly / A conversation with Monrovian, Ralph Walker, on racism

A conversation with Monrovian, Ralph Walker, on racism

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Ralph Walker is many things — a KGEM host, a friend around town, a reader and thinker — but what he is most is an African American male.

He said, “I could hardly watch it. I knew George Floyd would die. That officer that had his knee on Floyd’s neck, he had the look of death. I knew. There are so many already on ‘The List’ of victims that if you name one, you do injustice to all the others. There have been so many men, so many women, and even so many children whose names are on The List.”

Some othermen of color on The List include Mark Edward Allen of Monrovia; Lt. Col. AllenAllensworth who was mysteriously killed on Myrtle in 1914; and Gilbert Kiihoaand James O’Balles who were beaten by Monrovia Police in December of 1947. Walkersaid, “I admit I’m obsessed with Mark Allen. I want Monrovia to remember thatname. Mark was only 13 when he was found dead in the Monrovia jail in 1971. Ican show you his grave at Live Oak Cemetery.”

Walkercontinued, “I’m so tired of people suggesting there are just a few ‘bad apples’in police departments. Let’s admit that most police departments are corrupt.Dr. King said, ‘There comes a time when silence is compliance.’ And too manypolice and people in authority don’t want to cross the blue line. They put morevalue on hurt feelings and their own pensions than they do on the lives ofAfrican Americans.”

Ralph wasmade to understand that he was Black when he was about 8 years of age. “We werecoming home from school, and we saw this overwhelming crowd at the AA RaynerFuneral Home on 71st Street in South Chicago. My mother then had me and mysiblings sit down to watch the TV coverage of the funeral of Emmett Till. Mamashowed us that Jet magazine article. I then looked at the color of my own skin,and I realized that it is dangerous to be Black — even in the North.”

Ralph said,“My grandmother was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., and she knew racism. She toldus a lot of stories.” Still, Grandma would not be intimidated. “She would takeme on the bus with her to go to downtown Chicago’s State Street. She would warnme not to say anything. Grandmother purposefully sat in the front of the bus.We got a lot of looks but she wasn’t going to move.” Grandmother was anentrepreneur that ran O Boy Ice Cream and a wig-weaving business, Mayes HairBox, in South Side Chicago.

Young Ralph saw the fury of the Chicago Police against the demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

“My friend, Cornell Rycraw, and I were there but we were afraid to get out of the car. We knew the police would beat Blacks unmercifully.” Also in 1968, Ralph got drafted to go to the Vietnam War. “I wasn’t going to go. If Mohammed Ali wouldn’t go, I wouldn’t go either. I was found guilty, and the judge sentenced me to three years federal probation. I couldn’t get jobs but I attended Malcolm X Junior College before graduating from Loyola University of Chicago. After the 1979 Chicago blizzard, I had enough. I left for Los Angeles.”

Being AfricanAmerican in the West has its own set of problems. Ralph had a difficult timefinding work as an educated African American even in the 1980s. “I thought as Iwas educated, polished, and articulate, I would have no problems finding work.But I was so wrong. I was blatantly rejected by the Pasadena telephone company,by a South Pasadena blood plasma company… I finally found a job with Bell andHowell — in shipping and receiving. I worked hard and I got promoted into the purchasingdepartment where they wore business attire.

“In the1990s, with the Gestapo tactics of LAPD’s Daryl Gates, Blacks knew ourboundaries. Rodney King proved that. Then there was Latasha Harlins. She was only15 years old and the fight that caused her death was over $1.79 worth of orangejuice. She reminded me of the four girls blasted at the 16th Street BaptistChurch in 1963. I have three beautiful daughters of my own. When you are Black,you got to warn your kids. My grandson is now 4 years old. What am I going totell him?”

“Mark Allen’sstory touches me,” said Walker. In November of 1971, Allen was arrested for allegedlyshoplifting a coat from Ron’s Men’s Store on Huntington Drive. He was booked at5:11 p.m. by Monrovia officers Claude Sprinkel and David Bauchop. He was founddead in jail cell #M4 by 6:25 pm. “The police said he committed suicide! Theysaid he hung himself with his own blue jeans! Who even arrests a 13-year old boyfor shoplifting? Mark Allen reminds us that Monrovia was like Mississippi.There were restrictions where African Americans could go and where theycouldn’t go. After Mark’s death, the community was angry and Monrovia hadburning and riots like Chicago and Mississippi. Mark Allen is Monrovia’s groundzero.” In 1971, The NAACP and community members demanded that Monrovia hiremore African American officers; they had two African Americans on a 59-memberforce under Chief Ray Ellis. “I want to find a picture of Mark Allen. Has thiscity forgotten our boy?”

The KGEM hostalso said, “African Americans don’t want revenge, we just want to be treatedfairly. We just want human rights. We just want peace and justice. There havebeen so many many campaigns for peace and justice. The new slogan is ‘We can’tbreathe.’ But this is a sad continuum of over 400 years.”

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