A Loss of A Community Friend

Longtime Los Angeles community activist Harold Hambrick Jr. and Wendy Raquel Robinson
Longtime Los Angeles community activist Harold Hambrick Jr. and Wendy Raquel Robinson. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Well, the city of Los Angeles lost a community treasure in Harold Hambrick Jr. Hambrick, who passed away recently, was one of those guys, working quietly behind the scene, always making sure stuff was done right. He was the glue to the black business community and the driving force for small companies to get their share of the financial pie.

Always thinking one or two steps ahead of the next man, Hambrick was a genius in the way he looked through the prism of life in the Los Angeles community and tried his very best to make things all-systems go when it comes to vitality and quality of life for businesses and entrepreneurs.

The man responsible for making the longtime staple The Los Angeles Black Business Expo (BBX), a success, was a pillar of strength for many people.

“We allow folk to use their God-given talents to help us pull off one of the largest events held in celebration of the Black family,” Hambrick once said.

Hambrick was a man of few words and plenty of action. He firmly believed in the old-school philosophy of little talk, big walk. This is not just a business article for this writer. Hambrick was my friend. Then again, Hambrick had plenty of people he called friend. He was that kind of man. If Hambrick had a hunch about a person-he’d let you know it.

But for the most part, Hambrick was always the encouragement many people needed when they were down on their luck or had a rough go of navigating through the difficult stretches of life. I remember going up to Hambrick’s small, but cozy office he occupied on the second floor of the OneUnited Bank on Crenshaw Blvd. in South Los Angeles to discuss ideas on how to best capture the essence of the Black Family.

Whether it was through art, editorial content, projects that range from banking to selective business venture, Hambrick seemed to always be ahead of the curve with innate people-to-people acumen. I learned a lot from those meetings. One of the most powerful things Hambrick always drove home in my head was how to tell the narrative of the Black Family, and that I held a certain responsibility to do so. Hambrick didn’t mince his words. He said what he meant and meant what he said.

History and the wellness of the Black Family was something that always hit home with Hambrick, who offered many doses of gut-check reality and hard-line examination of one’s consciousness. He constantly fought for levels of equality-be in the food and retail industries or simply regarding housing, business opportunity and the recording of history.

I was always blown away by his seemly endless knowledge about the plight and success of the African American community, whether it was here in the Los Angeles area or regarding his back home roots in Louisiana. Hambrick was a lot more than the behind-the-scenes presence at a community book fair or an art marketplace; he was a walking history encyclopedia who reveled in getting the community to know more about themselves than their day-to-day existence.

If there was something that needed to be done in the community, Hambrick, former president of the Watts United Credit Union, more or less had his hand in on it.  He did that in many ways, founding the Western Association of Community Health Centers and the California Community Health Institute (CCHI), re-introducing a sit-down restaurant in the Watts community (Watts Coffee House), being part of the Tom Bradley Business Institute, Watts Health Foundation and other civic activities.

One of his pet projects was the River Road African American Museum that he and his sister Kathe founded in his native state of Louisiana. Accolades and achievements don’t do Hambrick justice as a person and a man. He was the community friend that many needed and counted on. For more than four decades, Hambrick dedicated his himself to changing the lives of others and the surrounding environment they lived and worked in. It is now on us to pick up the torch that Hambrick left for us.

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