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Interview With Pastor E.V. Hill

MJ: Pastor E.V. HILL thank you for joining us today.

EHl: Thank you for coming.

MJ: Tell us about this building and what you do in this building.

EH: Well, this building is our church auditorium. This is where we

assemble; Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. These are the assembly...

This is the assembly room for worship, for other meetings, and next door is

our educational, administrative building, and our kitchen where we eat.

You can't have church without eating. And of course we've built a number

of other buildings. We have two senior citizens buildings, a board and

care, a World Christian Training Center, so we have a number of buildings

in the community.

MJ: Now this church is sort of a meeting ground for the black community

in Los Angeles... I see a lot of politicians here. Why is that? Why do

they come here to speak to you and your congregation here?

EH: Well, of course, Zion is one of the oldest... We are the second oldest

Baptist congregation in... we are 103 years old. So that means we have a

lot of roots. Not only the people who attend here now, but their mothers'

mothers who attended have grandchildren, so they would be influenced by

Mount Zion. And then I would like possibly to think that my activity in

the community, and that might be arrogant, pulls a lot of them here too. I

have been 2

very supportive, active in politics in the community, and thus when issues

come, they come here.

MJ: Tell us about your background in politics, as well as as a pastor.

EH: Well, of course when I lived in Texas, I was born in poverty. I was

reared in a log cabin. I finished high school in a log cabin. I went to

Prairie View University, I pastored my first two churches there. I was a

member of the... a charter member of the Southern Christian Leadership

Conference. I led much of the Civil Rights fight in Houston. And... Martin

Luther King and I... I nominated him as president, so we worked together

hand in hand. And they used to call me the "Hellraiser" in Houston when I

was a very liberal Democrat. I moved here the last week in 1960 at the

request of this congregation and at what I believed to have been the

leading of God; I came here.

MJ: You're very involved in politics here in Los Angeles.

EH: Very much so. I switched parties; I'm a conservative Republican now.

But I'm no longer a Democrat; I left that in Texas.

MJ: What kind of jobs have you held; positions here in the city


EH: I'm the past chairman of economic Development, which is the community

economic development arm of the city. I'm the past chairman of the Los

Angeles City Housing Authority, which regulates all city owned housing for

low income. I'm past chairman of the L.A. City Fire Commission, and I'm

past vice-chairman of the Los Angeles City Planning and Zoning which plans


the city of Los Angeles; I was vice-chairman.

MJ: And currently?

EH: Currently I am the senior policy advisor to the present mayor, Mayor

Riordon. According to the constitution, he can have two senior policy

advisors on his staff. I'm one of them. We're non-paid, but whenever

there is a policy or problem, I'm consulted.

MJ: Tell us about your background.

EH: My background is coming out of a very poor experience materially, from

Texas, reared in the country, brought up in a log cabin, finished a

four-teacher school, graduated and had a lot of aspirations, even as poor

as I was. Really didn't know I was poor, because in my community, and for

the most part the Afro-American community never, equated materialism with

poverty. Poverty was a matter of spirit, and we were always rich in

spirit. You know, the fact that I lived in a log cabin was not

embarrassing to me. The fact that my shoes had holes in them wasn't

embarrassing to me, because everybody else did. But we all said 'it won't

be that way forever'. And that's what our parents tried to drill into us.

MJ: How has that ethic changed between then and today in the community you

see here?

EH: Well, the emphasis has been switched. We have adopted the ways of the

white world and the rest of the world. We have adopted the ways, and that

is 4

that materialism is the god of this present world.

MJ: Money?

EH: Money is the god, and if you don't have money you can't be happy, you

can't enjoy yourself, you're not successful, and you're not important. And

these are all tragedies. These are dividing families, ruining cities, and

destroying communities. We could actually... We could actually be a better

people if we didn't have as much materialism as we have. Because, number

one, we would depend on each other for help. We'd help one another. See,

I know, I can remember the day when there was no poverty program. When

there was no aid to dependent children. When there was no Medicare,

Medicaid. I remember those days, and everybody helped everybody. And

every##body befriended everybody. Now everybody says, that, you know, 'if

you can't get it, steal it, or get it from the government,' you see, and

this has produced a tragedy in our community.

MJ: Is there something... What is it about the government aiding citizens

that is wrong? What is the negative downside of that?

EH: The negative downside of it first of all, is the manner in which the

government helps people. If you're going to help them by providing

education, fine. If you're going to help them by providing job training

opportunities for the unskilled who will not go on to college and what have

you, fine. If you're going to help the blind, the lame, the old, the

crippled, and the one-


armed, fine. But if you are going make it possible that a person can

arrive here on Monday, and be on general relief by the next Monday, and get

a check twice a month, or if you're going to raise welfare to such a level

that it's a way of living, and it's a comfortable living... Welfare was

never intended to be comfortable. Government assistance was never intended

to be adequate. Even Social Security... It was a supplement. The

presumption was that you yourself would be making some things, and save

some things for the old age, but it might not quite be enough, so they

called it government assistance. Now they want to say that the government

owes them a comfortable living. I don't believe in that.

MJ: We are right in the heart of South Central Los Angeles.

EH: You're right in the heart of South Central, the old Afro-American

community, which is now turning to be the Hispanic community. We are

moving west. We used to stop kind of at the Harbor Freeway. We go all the

way to the airport now. And we are sandwiched, because the airport

community is so very expensive; West L.A., the UCLA crowd, they're so

expensive they're pushing us eastward. And the Hispanics that used to not

cross the tracks, are now pushing us westward, and we're caught in the

trap, and that's why in the last ten years, according to the New York

Times, 600,000 Negroes have left the west coast, because the price of

housing and the price of rent has gone up such, the price of medicine so...

until they have returned to the South, and


that's why most Southern states now have from 40 to 60 percent

Afro-American population.

MJ: How has this city changed from when you arrived in 1960?

EH: Well, first of all, we have many, many more organized minorities. And

they are independent minorities, which I think is tragic. I remember

Barbara Jordan addressing the Democratic convention, 16, 17, 18 years ago,

when she said that if we all become interested only in our personal

interests, then who's going to take care of America? If management is only

interested only in management, then who's going to take care of America?

If labor is only interested in labor, then who's going to take care of

America? If whites are only interested in whites, then who's going to take

care of America? And if blacks are only interested in blacks, then who's

going to take care of America? Now since those days, in 18 (years) we have

seen a great uprise in minorities. For instance, when I came here, the

Japanese population was very small. It is now grown. It's powerful. It

owns... I think the last time I heard, 14 of the major buildings downtown

are now owned by Japanese. But if Japanese are going to only be concerned

with Japanese, if Koreans are only concerned with Koreans, if Chileans are

only concerned with Chileans, if El Salvadorans are only concerned with El

Salvadorans, then America may one day not be able to afford any. If our

purpose here is only to gain materialism, to transfer it back to wherever

we came, whether it's the South, or whether it's El Salvador,


then who's going to take care of the United States of America? And so we

have not had the tragedy of minorities, which would include the Japanese

community - we have not had the blending. We have not had the blending; we

have not worked together on common interests.

MJ: What would you say to a new immigrant? How should he or she go about

the process of blending that they're not doing now? What would you

recommend to an immigrant?

EH: Well,I don't know if there is an individual approach, as much as

there is a corporate approach. We are all organized. The Polish are

organized, the Hungarians are organized, the Liberians are organized, but

we never touch. We never touch. Unless there is a common disaster, we

never touch do you see? And that's the tragedy of our community. We're

going to have to touch. I'm not saying that individuals should go out and

try to be individual crusaders, but we've got to touch. We've got to touch.

When I walk into a bank, and it's owned by a Korean, my business should be

wanted. Tragically that isn't true. And we had.. We had... We have self

evidence of that. We had a black bank bought by Koreans, and in so buying,

to get the license to buy, they promised integration at the point of loans

and services to the community, and employment. As soon as they got the

license to own the bank, they moved it out of the community, you see. To

serve their community. And if you go there now, and I was there, because I

still have an account there


- if you go there now, there is only one Afro-American employee, and you

can stand there for the longest, and you won't see any but Korean


MJ: I want to ask you about the riots.

EH: Yes.

MJ: You were here in '65.

EH: Yes.

MJ: You were here in "92.

EH: Yes.

MJ: People... A lot of people talk about the root causes. What do you see

as the root cause of those happenings?

EH: Operation Frustration. The committee that... the Supreme Court

committee named after him. I forget his name now. They interviewed a

whole lot of us, and they brought a list here, they had poor housing, no

jobs, no this, no that, no this, this. And when he got through saying...

showing me the list, he said, "Now pick which one of these caused the

riot." I said, "You don't have it on there." And he said, "Well, then what

is it?" "Operation Frustration." Lyndon Johnson made a tragic announcement

in his State of the Union... first State of the Union Address. He said to

Congress, "Give me the money, and I will bring heaven on earth. That

raised the expectations. And then announcement after announcement... Well,

a good example would be the announcement yesterday by President Clinton to

the people of Mexico


that "I can't get the money from Congress, but I got you some money."

Well, that raised hopes. Stock markets went up. Do you see what I mean?

Now suppose the average Mexican-American In Mexico heard that announcement.

Now, you know as well as I know that very little of that will trickle down

to the hungry, to the homeless in Mexico. That will be caught up in the

political and corporate world. So... the people of South-Central as well

as the people of other places looked and looked and looked for the Great

Society, for the poverty program. We heard about the appropriations, we

heard about them voting. We heard about them saying "We're going to have

this, and we're going to have that." But every time we would go out with

our buckets, no milk, you see? And there came a point in time where there

was an incident where the frustrations of Operation Frustration could

explode. Could explode. And that's what happened in 1965. The People

waited. People looked, and it didn't happen, and so they spoke the only way

they thought they could speak, and that is pick up a brick and throw it at

somebody. And unfortunately too many of them picked up bricks, and too

many of them set torches to various places.

MJ: You've been involved in the rebuilding from the last one.

EH: Yes.

MJ: How have you been involved in that?

EH: Well, of course, naturally, during that time I was a commissioner on


several commissions, and one of the things that people don't understand is

that you can literally flatten this building in the next couple of hours.

You can bring in a wrecking crew, and in the next couple of hours this

building can be flat, and by tomorrow it can all be hauled away. But to

rebuild it would take a year to plan it, a year to get permits, and then a

year to build it. Now in that three year period, people have the patience

to tear down something, but they don't have the patience to wait only three

years. So I've been involved at the point of community meetings, planning,

urging, and I would like to think that I've been involved most of all

trying to interpret to the community the difficulty that we're going to

have. You can burn that building down if you want to. You can blow it

down. There were people in 1965 saying, "Let's burn everything down so

that by this time next year, it'll be all new." I can take you to blocks

now, that's been (since) 1965, haven't been built back yet.

MJ: Are the riots... Is it a symptom of a material crisis, an economic

crisis, a spiritual crisis, what are the underlying reasons for that?

EH: I think the main reason... The main reason is that it has been adopted

as an instrument of protest. And that's tragic. I can name a bunch of

other ways that we did it in the South that didn't burn down the buildings

where we were working. But it has been adopted. Across the nation. In

Japan. In China, as an instrument of protest. I would suggest to all who

use that, that that's not a good instrument. First of all, the people who

are very wealthy are 11

seldom touched. People who burn down old homes and grocery stores in this

community don't go to Beverly Hills to shop. So Beverly Hills hasn't been

touched. So... So in 1965 when the Afro-Americans said, "We're really

getting whitey," whitey was out in the Valley, seeing his building burn,

knowing that he was going to get insurance, and small business loans, and

move to Nevada, you see? And so they didn't come out to try to stop it

from burning. "Let it burn." 65 percent of our homes and businesses are

absentee landlords... absentee landlords. So the reason why you're seeing

many that have not been rebuilt, is because, and the same thing in the last

riot, with the Koreans, the reason why many of them haven't rebuilt is

because they got the insurance, and they got the S.B.A. (NOTE: Small

Business Administration) loan. And the S.B.A. loan did not require that

they build back where it was torn down. So they went on to a safer

community, a whiter community, and here we are left without jobs, without

buildings, and without housing, saying, "What is the government going to do

for us?"

MJ: What do you see as the solution to all these problems?

EH: Planning. Planning. And I want to give you an illustration. When J.

Edgar Hoover was the director of the FBI, he used to call in about 200

leaders that he considered leaders across the United States. I was very

young, so I don't know how he called me in, but he did. And in a meeting

we were having, he was telling about the effects of the right wing and the

left wing


influence in the communities. And he told us about how the Black Panther

Party was just about to ruin New York. I mean you had to close the stores

at four, four million white people would go across those bridges, trying to

get into suburbia before four o'clock. Stores would close, Central Park

was no longer lover's lane, people wouldn't walk through there during the

evening, churches couldn't have church at night, because of the Black

Panthers, the Black Panthers. I asked a question. I knew the answer, but I

asked a question. "How many Black Panthers are there, that's running havoc

with seven million people?" Seven million people have to alter their way

of living and everything because of the Panthers. I said, "How many?"

"81" Now, if 81 Black Panthers could plan the eruption of New York, could

not 81 people plan the construction of New York? And so planning, planning,

people who have the influence should come together across racial lines. I'm

a born again Christian but I'm willing to cross religious lines for the

good of the whole of the community. Eighty something people could come

together and decide which way do we want L.A. to go and they have to be

people of such influence that when they write a councilman when they write

a congressman he'll read the letter you see? Now there's a term that you

may be old enough to remember. It was termed 'the fathers of the city.' we

no longer have it. There used to be a time when there were the fathers of

the city of Los Angeles of Houston of Dallas who determined which way

Dallas went. And if these fathers called on the


mayor these fathers called on the city council and if these fathers spoke

to the community that's pretty well the way it went because they were the

fathers of the city. We don't have many cities that have fathers of the

community. In our own community now the Hudson's and the Judges and the

Houston's and the Beavers and the Peters and the Henderson's who were the

fathers of this city who if they called a press conference and spoke the

Negro community heard. We don't have it now. We have been....and I charge

the media responsible for this....they have been replaced by the voices of

radicals to whom nobody listens to....council, mayors nor the general

public yet they have a following but it's a small following.

MJ: There are some people who say that religion and politics-church and

state shouldn't be mixed. You obviously mix it quite a bit why?

EH: It has to be. It has to be. The United States-contrary to what a lot of

people now argue but I give them an "F" in history. The United States was

founded by Christians founded by Christians who were searching diligently

for a land where they could worship God as dictated by the Holy Spirit and

not controlled by the state. The constitution was never an instrument that

sought to control the church. It is an instrument that tells the state to

leave the church alone. And that's what our fathers were hunting for. And

across this land-and I might admit my prejudice at that point-across this

land where Christ has been honored and where Christ has been worshipped and

where that


philosophy of a church free to be a church without interruptions from the

state that country has prospered.

MJ: Tell us what happens in this building on a Sunday

EH: All right on a Sunday at 8:45 you'll have around 200 people in here

praying and we're praying for the entire day's worship. Then you'll have

about 450 students who will be in what we call church school. Then at 10:30

will be our morning assembly and it will last from 10:30 to 2:00.

MJ: 10:30 to 2:00?

EH: 10:30 to 2:00. We will sing. We will pray. We will welcome people. We

will ask who are you? Why are you here? Welcome to our church. The pastor

will give his pastoral message which combined with the announcements will

last 45 minutes.

MJ: Pastor that's 3 1/2 hours.

EH: Yes, yes. But his pastoral message deals with what are we gonna do,

what are we trying to do, who do we need and what have you. Our order that

to call a church together and pray with it and preach to it and give it no

marching orders is not New Testament. In the New Testament they had church

all night all day everyday. And so we can at least have it three hours.

Then our choir sings then I come back and preach an evangelical Gospel

sermon where I invite people to come and accept Christ. And it's right at

2-4 hours-and then we may have to have the blessing of babies and then 15

or 20 people might


come down to accept Christ. Well you have to give them at least 2 minutes

a piece to express their confession so I can only guarantee here what time

we get started-I'm not in charge of the close.

MJ: Now, I heard that you got a collection together from this church to

send to Japan for the earthquake fund....

EH: Yes, we do it an all occasions. This church and we're in the poverty

section-the average income is between Skid Row and welfare I tell people.

But this congregation raised more than a thousand dollars Sunday to send to

Japan to the Red Cross there the rescue mission. The Sunday two weeks ago

in an after offering we raised $3,500 for the flood conditions of

California which is basically the white community. But we raised that much.

MJ: Let me get this straight pastor...you....this is one of the poorest

communities in America.

EH: It is.

MJ: You've got that "H" falling down up there and you've got the...a couple

of letters missing. You need a paint job. Why would you be sending money to

a country like Japan or to the white community in Los Angeles when you need

repairs and work done in this very building?

EH: It's because of our priorities. Someone visited this church and pointed

out just what you did in a letter and I wrote him back and said the one

thing you didn't do is send a check along to put that "H" back up and put

that "E"


back up. We believe that the crisis...no Christian can look at what

happened in Japan and not look for his pocket book. You just can't be a

Christian and not do that. I don't care if they're Japanese....we sent

$3,500 to Bangladesh the year before last when the flood washed all of them

out. We've sent I don't know how much money to the African countries. So

everybody knows here that's members of this church that if there is a

crisis anywhere in the world we're going to have an after-offering Sunday

so they come prepared to give an after-offering for that crisis. And it's

our priority. We'd like to have a better building, we'd like to have a

painted building but we would like for the people of Japan to be recovered

more than anything.

MJ: What would you say to those who say you should help yourself before you

help others?

EH: Well, we do that. We feed from two to five thousand meals a week at our

kitchen-we have the Lord's Kitchen right on 59th and Main and we'll feed

two thousand people this week. And we feed them free. We have a clothing

store-we gave away 109,000 pieces of clothing so we do both.

MJ: Tell us a bit about the tensions in the community-what direction do you

see that heading in?

EH: Well of course if we don't become this corporate unity and start

meeting with each other the tension is going to grow greater and greater.

As you well know we've had tension in our community with the oriental



and there's understanding that needs to be done. For instance just the

very speech of an oriental who doesn't mean anything at all. But his tone

to us sounds like he's talking down to us. Well we need somewhere to say

that. Do you see what I mean? For instance to build a business in our

community and to not hire none of us and to hire only Hispanics that's an

insult to us and we need some where to say that. Do you see? That shows no

sensitivity. No scholarships no nothing, no sensitivity to our community

and yet 99% of the business coming out of our community. So that shows

insensitivity to us. Now we need somewhere to say that-we can't say it

individually cause we can't get around. Now, the hostile element such as

the gangs-they don't know how to express it the way they ought to express

it-so people on our same level who are leading people in their community

must have often meetings. For instance once upon a time in the south one of

the most insulting things a white man could do to a Negro community is to

go into his house and not take off his hat. And he wouldn't take off his

hat. And so one Sunday a white man came in here and was attempting to walk

in here with his hat on and before he could look around 4 or 5 people had

him-you don't walk into our church with your hat on. He didn't mean any

harm he forgot to take off his hat. But yet when it was all over he said

"well what was the great big deal about?" and I had to give him the

history. So I'm sure there is a history coming from the oriental side as to

some things we do but there is a history


coming from their side, do you see what I mean? And somewhere we need to

talk about it. When I first came to this community the chief of police

Chief Parker was a good chief, but he pronounced the world Negro "nigra."

And everybody hated it. And so one day I was in a meeting with him- I said

"Chief I have a suggestion for you-follow me say 'Negro'" he said 'Negro.'

I said 'fine,I said no

w don't say nigra because the Negro community really think you mean to say

nigger." And so on his next television program I was very proud to hear him

say "Negro." So we need this exchange. But the hostility is there and the

hostility may grow because the leadership of both communities is in the

hands of gangs of people who can't bring about a solution of people who

don't want a solution while the people who want a solution stand back.

MJ: Tell us a bit about your family.

EH: Well I'm very fortunate this week in that all three of my grandsons are

at my home. My son, my daughter, my wife-my first wife passed away about

eight years ago-I have been remarried for three years. So we're kind of

having a little family reunion with their new mother this particular week.

My daughter is an attorney from Boston. She's married to an attorney who

lives in Boston and my son is a graduating senior from Talbot seminary .

MJ: How old are you?

EH: 38 and 28 How old are they?

MJ: How old are you?


EH: I'm 61

MJ: 61?

EH: Yes, I'm 61.

MJ: Do you have any plans to retire?

EH: Yes from the pulpit as pastor but not as preacher. I've asked the

Lord-and I hope He will-I've asked the Lord to let me live 'til 75-80. If

so I'll have about ten more years of work to do here.

MJ: And then what? What would you like to be known for when you pass on?

EH: As of now I have licensed to preach 148 men who are all over the

country and out of the country. I'd like to spend about 8 years going from

house to house in a road mobile you know, and visiting them helping them,

preaching for them, letting them give me some money and go on to the next

one. That's the way I'd like to kind of spend it.

MJ: Pastor have you had a chance to travel to Asia or Japan?

EH: Not to Asia and not to Japan. It's just a little bit far for me and I

have claustrophobia. I want to go and if I did go I would like to have an

opportunity to say to the people of Japan that the Afro-American community

in particular is not a hostile community against Japan. Number 2 I would

like to urge the Japanese to include in their participation in America and

their investment in America the minority community. And third which would

be my


message all the time to any community that we're all one blood-we came from

one Creator who gave us one Savior Jesus Christ our Lord and that's what

I'd like to say.

MJ: Thanks for joining us today.

EH: Thank you




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