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Bernds Story - Page: 2 of 14

I was mentally taking up the fight for African Americans of getting respect and equal rights and was heavily interested in the Black Panther Movement, which came out of Oakland, California in the 60´s. My life partner, Joyce, was a lady from Jamaica. I made acquaintances with a number of people from the West Indies and Africa. I relocated to Los Angeles, California at the end of 1969, and was living in South Central L.A., getting fully involved with urban life. During this time, I met the REVEREND A. ALPHONSO SMITH, who was pastor and mortician for ASHLEY GRISBY MORTUARY in Watts on South Central Avenue and East 99th Street. He and many others in the African American community became very fond of me as a human being. I guess they never met a German guy like me before who just lived among them.

When I came to L.A., the Funky Chicken was the popular dance, while during my time in Vancouver, the popular dance was the Boogaloo. The most prominent phrase in my mind was James Brown´s, "I´m black and I´m proud"; it was in L.A. then, to me, Sly and the Family Stone, with "Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself - Again". Life in the ghetto was not easy then and is not easy now. At that time, the Los Angeles Police Department had a very racist attitude. I had my own experiences with them. When I arrived, the Watts riots were just four years earlier and things were going on between the system and the Black Panthers in 1969. The mortuary was the most successful business in South Central L.A. and Watts. They were sponsoring churches in the area. Alphonso was going from church to church in his limo on Sunday mornings, preaching over the radio on KJLH, Compton, California. I went with him a lot of the time. It did have an everlasting spiritual effect on me. The Rev. A. Alphonso Smith talked about me, his German godson, over the airwaves back in 1970 all the time. Mary Preston, Billy Preston´s mother, was singing for them.

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