Community Organizations Project

Documenting the Grassroots Organizations that Strengthen Our Communities

The Community Organizations Project began in 2014 with the purpose of documenting the most influential African American grassroots organizations in the Inland Empire, past and present. Organizations were identified and researched, and representatives of these groups were approached for interviews. The Bridges That Carried Us Over archiving project continues to collect the histories of these groups as told by their founders, officers, and participants who benefited from their work. Videos and written histories will be uploaded continuously.

Black Future Leaders

Black Future Leaders, Inc (BFL) is an organization for African American youth in the Inland Empire geared towards academic excellence, leadership development, and community service. The idea for Black Future Leaders originated with Dr. Jean Peacock in 1985. She recommended the program, which focuses on academic scholars as opposed to at-risk youth, to several community leaders: Lois Carson, Jim King, Marion Black, Georgia Morris, and Jack Clarke, Jr. The structure for the organization was modeled after Latino Future Leaders (aka Inland Empire Future Leaders), which was founded by Dr. Tom Rivera.


Black Future Leaders provides an opportunity for students to take part in a week-long Summer Residency Program on the Cal State San Bernardino campus. While on campus, students participate in development training which includes classes on leadership, parliament, cultural awareness, college preparation, career choices, responsibilities, and public speaking. Students from public as well private schools in the Inland Empire are able to apply to the program during 9th or 10th grade. Students can remain a part of the organization until graduation, providing they maintain a 3.0 GPA and re-apply annually.


Every summer upon registration, students must submit an essay based on selected themes. Students are required to discuss topics such as Black scientists (STEM), the Negro National Anthem, continental Africa, and community assessment. The best of the essays are showcased at the annual Black Culture Foundation Banquet. In addition, Black Future Leaders students participate in routine meetings and field trips during their academic year. Alumni include 3 PhDs, an architect, a writer, lawyers, doctors, an English teacher in Japan, and many others.

Kutania People and The San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame

Kutania People, Inc. was founded by Wilbur Brown in 1972. Kutania People (Swahili for “people helping people”) was a California Nonprofit Organization formed to initiate, support and sponsor community service projects and programs. The organization sought to foster the development of young people by offering internship programs and camping experiences. The group also sponsored a Black Art Exhibit and the Black History Queen Pageant among other endeavors.


In 1972, Kutania People, Inc. joined with the Sportsmen Athletic Club, Inc. to co-sponsor the San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame (1973-1986). The joint venture honored outstanding athletes and raised scholarship funds for college-bound athletes. Each year the Hall of Fame Committee produced a commemorative booklet documenting the event. These booklets were the primary source for several blog posts that attempt to recount this storied event in Black San Bernardino history.


Key aspects of the Kutania People, the Sportsmen, and the San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame:

  • The joint venture between the Kutania People and the Sportsmen Athletic Club set out to honor outstanding athletes who got their start at San Bernardino high schools and secondary schools.
  • The Sportsmen Athletic Club, Inc. was founded by Leonard Jacks in 1972. The members were themselves former athletes from the San Bernardino area. The group counseled student athletes and worked to develop city and county wide interest in recreation and athletic programs.
  • Kutania People, Inc. sponsored an Intern Program for 11th and 12th grade High School students that provided job experience in office environments. These students also assisted with the Hall of Fame Program.

Inland Empire Kwanzaa Group

The Inland Empire Kwanzaa Group is a local organization that holds its annual Kwanzaa celebration at San Bernardino Valley College. Kwanzaa is an African American celebration of family, community and culture. The 7-day celebration of Kwanzaa is a time for ingathering of African Americans for celebration of their heritage, and their achievements, reverence for the Creator and creation, commemoration of the past, recommitment to the cultural ideals and celebration of the good.

Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast

The Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast is a community event held annually in honor of the spiritual legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Prominent leaders are invited to speak at the Prayer Breakfast, and, every year, a rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is delivered.


The first prayer breakfast took place January 15, 1982. The impetus for the breakfast was an informal meeting called by Pastor Valerie Pope-Ludlum who was joined by Vivian Nash, Vice President of Dukes, Dukes and Associates; Wilbur Brown, President of Kutania People; Jimmy Jackson, then President of Westside Action Group, Wilmer Amina Carter and William Ratibu Jacocks who worked for Congressman George E. Brown and Senator Ruben Ayala, respectively. Minister Sharon Cooper was also in attendance. This core group, along with Marie Brashear, Secretary of the San Bernardino NAACP, would form the first Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast Coordinating Committee. Ludlum et al. were concerned about the state of the Black community. They believed that Martin Luther King’s ideals of social and economic equality could serve as inspiration for the community.


In 2003, the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches (IECAAC) took the reins and began coordinating the event. The breakfast has been held at increasingly larger venues, including various churches, the Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino, Arroyo Valley High School, and Cal State San Bernardino’s Coussoulis Arena. After the breakfast, attendees make their way to a rally held each year at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at San Bernardino’s City Hall.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has a storied history in the United States, but has also played a role in the protection and advancement of persons of color in the Inland Empire. The NAACP currently has 4 branches in the Inland Empire: in Riverside, Lake Elsinore, San Bernardino and Rialto/Fontana. The organization continues to fight discrimination based on race, fighting for the rights of all people, and developing the economic value of all people.

NCNW Inland Empire Section

The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) was founded by Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935. Bethune sought to create a coalition of sorts that would bring disparate Black women’s organizations together under one umbrella. It was her friend, civil rights activist and suffragette Mary Church Terrell, who proposed forming a “Council,” thus creating one “national organization of national organizations” to enable networking and coalition building across a myriad of grass-roots groups across the United States.1 The power of coalition building is reflected in Bethune’s famous statement:

“If I touch you with one finger, you might not know that you have been touched. If I use two fingers, you just might feel it. But if I bring all my fingers into a fist, I can give you a mighty blow.”2


NCNW holds events such as the National Biennial Convention, Bethune/Height Recognition Program, National Affiliates Assemble, and the Uncommon Height Gala – held in honor of Mary McLeod Bethune and the organization’s 4th president, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height. The organization’s mission is to “lead, develop, and advocate for women of African descent as they support their families and communities.”


Following the spirit of the parent organization, NCNW Inland Empire Section has played a vital in role in training and assisting women, children and families in Inland Empire Black communities. Some of NCNW Inland Empire’s historic programs include:


  • Checkmates – Similar to volunteer “candy striper” programs, Checkmates provided Black and Latino young adults the opportunity to enter into the nursing while working in Senior Care facilities.
  • Creative Careers for Youth – An expansion of Checkmates that trained both males and females in office work and other fields.
  • Bethune Youth Center – Offers job training and placement assistance to youth and young adults. Participants learn how to seek employment and stay employed.


1”NCNW History.” National Council of Negro Women, n.d. Web. Accessed 20 Apr. 2017.

2Height, Dorothy. “Working with Mary McLeod Bethune.” Freedom in My Heart: Voices from the United States National Slavery Museum Ed. Cynthia Jacobs Carter. National Geographic, 2009: 202-03.

3 NCNW Home Page.” National Council of Negro Women, n.d. Web. Accessed 20 Apr. 2017.

Rialto Black History Committee

Founded in 1988 by Hattie Inge, the Rialto Black History Committee is a nonprofit charitable organization. Each year the Committee awards scholarships to students from the Rialto Unified School District. Students are honored at their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon.


S.E.L.F. stands for “Self, Education, Law Enforcement, and Family”. S.E.L.F. was a youth mentoring program founded circa 1992 by San Bernardino County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Hill (1962-1994). The program was designed to steer African American boys aged 9-18 away from negative influences and train them for manhood from an African cultural perspective. Mentors were drawn from the law enforcement community.


Here, Terrance McMillan, a retired San Bernardino County parole officer, discusses his role in the S.E.L.F., and his own Bakari Rites of Passage youth program (1995-1997). Interviewed by Stefanie Crump, April 28, 2016.

In this interview, Beverly Jones Wright and her son, ChaChe Wright, talk about their experience with S.E.L.F. Beverly discusses what led her to include her son in the program, while ChaChe relays the life lessons learned as a S.E.L.F. participant and talks about his mentors – counselor Terrance McMillan and community leader, Ratibu Jacocks. Interviewed by Lea Michelle Cash, June 9, 2016.

San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation

The San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation (formerly the Black History Parade Committee) was formed in 1969. Each year the Foundation recognizes individuals and organizations that have made a positive impact in the community with its annual Black Rose & Humanitarian of the Year Community Service Award Banquet. The Foundation also holds the Miss Black San Bernardino Pageant. 


Here, Margaret Hill, Genevieve Echols, and Troy Ingram discuss the history of the Black Culture Foundation, formerly the Black History Parade Committee (formed 1969), as well as transitioning leadership in the organization. Troy Ingram is the current Chair of the Black Culture Foundation; Hill and Echols are former Committee Chairs. Hill, Echols and Ingram were interviewed by William Ratibu Jacocks, April 28, 2015.

Social Lites, Inc.

Since its organization in 1956, the Social Lites Inc. (aka Social Lites Social and Charitable Club) has been an active, charitable presence, contributing to community needs and presenting over $500,000.00 in scholarships and awards, mainly to the young men who participate in their Beautillion Scholarship Ball. The Social Lites’ commitment to young men was fostered in the belief that the positive endeavors of young Black men were far too often overlooked. The Beautillion provided an opportunity to recognize potential leaders and cultivate them through mentoring and opportunities for community involvement.


In addition to producing the Inland Empire’s only Beautillion, the organization was also the first to donate a $1,000 scholarship to what was then California State College at San Bernardino.  Each year this donation is recognized at California State University, San Bernardino’s annual Pioneer Breakfast, coordinated by the Black Faculty, Staff, and Student Association.


Members of the Social Lites, Inc. are also involved in the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and the San Bernardino Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the Social Lites present the Ebony Fashion Show, which provides scholarships to young women.


In this video, Edna Noble, Helen Thomas, Betty Brewster and Joyce Smith discuss the past, present and future of the Social Lites, Inc. The women were interviewed by William Ratibu Jacocks, May 12, 2014.


The Swans are a charitable group formally organized in 1960. Its founders, Mrs. Bobbie Whitehead and Mrs. Shirley Foster, were among a generation of women who migrated west seeking a better way of life for themselves and their children. They wanted their children to have educational opportunities, have access to jobs, to own their own homes, and build strong communities. They heard the stories from all points south, and believed California would allow them to seize these opportunities. They used the skills that they had to teach the values that they knew would last their children a lifetime. Many worked as maids in the hotels of Palm Springs and San Bernardino, saving their earnings to send their children, and the community’s children, to college. In this sense, they understood the value of the collective. To further their goals, The Swans began organizing a Debutante Ball to raise funds for young ladies in the community. To date, over 450 Debutantes have received thousands of dollars in scholarships and awards.


Along with Mrs. Whitehead and Mrs. Foster, the early club members included: Mrs. Betty Anderson, Mrs. Lottie Carr (deceased), Mrs. Louise Estes, Mrs. Lois Green, Mrs. Esther Primm, Mrs. Princie (Clark) Smith, Mrs. Precious Wesley (deceased).

Westside Action Group (W.A.G.)

Westside Action Group, or WAG as it is commonly referred, was originally formed as the Black Fathers in 1972. The Reverend William Dillard was chosen to lead the group that protected Black students being bused to predominately White San Bernardino area schools. A few years later, Robert Parker would take over as president of the organization.  Members of the Black Fathers would eventually form WAG under Parker’s leadership.


Parker, a businessman who was denied membership in the Rotary Club, envisioned a civic-oriented organization that would serve the Black community. The group met weekly to address issues in San Bernardino’s Westside, providing a forum for community leaders, politicians and others to share their views. The group saw a need for a service organization that differed from the NAACP. According to Hardy Brown Sr., the group’s main agenda was to “recruit, train and raise money for aspiring Black political candidates.” These civic-minded men believed that they could alter some of the economic conditions in their community by supporting people who could change the political landscape.


WAG has a history of meeting hot-button community issues head on: school integration, police harassment, race-based exclusionary practices, etc. WAG famously marched against the Ku Klux Klan in Fontana after the fatal shooting of a telephone lineman. WAG joined with the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the local NAACP, and Khalid Muhammad of the Los Angeles Muslim Mosque. The Nation of Islam provided security.


WAG continues to meet weekly to share ideas and provide support for its members and the community. The group also donates funds to local foundations and charitable organizations.


Here is an excerpt from William Jacocks’ (AKA Ratibu Shadidi’s) Book, “Incidents, Struggle’s, and Divine Interventions”. Additionally, this is a transcript of an interview with Hardy Brown, founding W.A.G. member, for the San Bernardino Oral History Project (2003).