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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosetta E. Brown loves politics. She's been involved in them in one way or another for at least half a century.
Civil rights, jobs, education, housing, voter registration -- she was part of that grand sweep of change, even if she never led a march or spent a night in jail.
These days, her politics are confined to the 3-5 p.m. MSNBC time slot for PoliticsNation and Hardball, neither of which she misses for anyone or anything.
Except Tuesday, her 95th birthday, when her life is being celebrated and her influence on generations of Bakersfield residents acknowledged by family, friends and acquaintances.
She has lived in the same house on Murdock Street for 62 years. It's the house where she raised her five children and the house where she now lives with a granddaughter's family, including a great-grandchild.
From that house she campaigned to get sidewalks and streetlights in east Bakersfield, helped get the first black girls accepted to Bakersfield College, helped get the public library opened on East Brundage, helped mentor neighborhood kids in both a Brownie Troop and Cub Scout Pack, with slumber parties or with a hot meal.
It's not uncommon for children she helped -- themselves now retired -- to stop by and say hello. One of those neighborhood kids was Patricia Wright, who later became a daughter-in-law. Through Brown's work with the Golden Poppy Order of Eastern Star, Wright received scholarship money to attend Bakersfield College.
"She was one of those people in the neighborhood who was very active," said Wright, who lived in the same block. "If I would walk by she would talk to me. She was likely to talk about the community and the type of things going on in the community."
The granddaughter of slaves and daughter of sharecroppers, Brown came to California from Oklahoma in the late 1930s, chaperoning an older sister's four young children on the long train trip. Once here she picked grapes and chopped cotton. She tried for years to secure a job to support her growing family, but lacked a high school diploma.
She earned a diploma in 1962 by attending adult education classes at night after a full day of working. While raising her family she ran a cafe for several years -- Soul Sister on Lakeview near Virginia -- specializing in sandwiches for lunch and recipes like collards and neck bones for dinner.
Not until 1972 when she was in her 50s did she secure a full-time job. Hired by the Kern County Department of Human Services as an eligibility worker, it connected her with scores of families with a variety of needs.
Some people she met didn't know how to keep house, cook or shop for food. She taught them. Traveling through the city she saw white neighborhoods with sidewalks, streetlights and libraries, and pushed for the same in east Bakersfield.
When qualified black female high school graduates weren't being accepted to Bakersfield College, "she basically raised hell with them," said her second son, Edgar Moreland, and got them admitted.
Through more than three decades with her church -- Saints Memorial Church of God in Christ -- she distributed food to needy families.
Moreland remembered the way she challenged kids to reach their potential.
"You never did say (to her) you couldn't do something," he said. "She called it 'taking yourself out of the game.'
"Her way of life and her struggles went to help people."
These days, slowed by chronic pulmonary disease, Brown contents herself with politics on TV, counting the days until her beloved Los Angeles Lakers tip off for a new season and visiting with her 16 grandchildren, 30 great-grandkids and one great-great-grandchild.
"I'm grateful I was able to help so many people," she said. "I feel blessed."