Riding an extraordinary wave of good will Tuesday, Pasadena civic leaders hailed a decision to bring minorities and women into the top leadership of the Tournament of Roses as a historic gesture to bridge racial and gender gaps.
"The doomsayers are saying that diversity won't work, that our problem in Southern California is that we just can't get along," Mayor Rick Cole said. "Today, we have proved them wrong."
The tournament, which stages the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game on New Year's Day, announced the appointment of five new members to its executive committee, including two African Americans, a Latino and an Asian American. Two of the appointees are women.
The committee, whose membership has been white and male for its entire 99-year history, is the top leadership group of the organization. Its members make important policy and operations decisions, including how to spend millions of dollars to stage the Rose Parade.
The five new appointees are Linda Klausner, a riding instructor; Don J. Wilson, a Los Angeles City College dean; Ly-Ping Wu, a hotel management consultant; Gerald Freeny, an employee of the state Department of Insurance, and Ralph Gutierrez, a Pasadena City College professor. Wilson and Freeny are African American and Gutierrez is Latino.
In an apparent compromise between the protesters and tournament old-timers--who often had to work for decades to earn top leadership positions--new appointees will serve a maximum of two years before making way for other appointees, according to a tournament spokeswoman. The other eight committee members can serve up to nine years.
In addition, although the newcomers will have full voting rights, they will not immediately be in the succession for the organization's presidency, the spokeswoman said, although the committee could change that policy.
The agreement to integrate the tournament committee culminates two years of negotiations, concessions and occasional hostilities between the tournament and representatives of Pasadena's black community.
City officials and community leaders who participated in a monthlong mediation process said Tuesday that they had to overcome "a lot of raw emotional feeling," as Cole put it, to reconcile the two sides.
But at a news conference Tuesday at Tournament House on South Orange Grove Boulevard, where protesters had disrupted traffic and held a candlelight vigil last month, leaders of the tournament and the Coalition Against Racism triumphantly joined hands to celebrate the agreement.
The coalition, led by Brotherhood Crusade President Danny Bakewell and Pasadena developer Jim Morris, had threatened to disrupt this year's Rose Parade with a "counter-parade" unless minorities and women were added to the tournament's top leadership.
"There's no need to carry out the action," an ebullient Bakewell said Tuesday. "We want to acknowledge our support of this year's parade."
"We have turned the corner," a visibly relieved tournament President Michael E. Ward said.
The protests and threats had begun to divert the tournament from its primary task, Ward said. "We have 30 days to put that parade down the street," he said. "It's time to get on with it."
Later, at ceremonies at City Hall, Ward urged several hundred tournament volunteers to support the "new direction." He said that the organization in the last two years had been "stripped naked, scrutinized and accused of every injustice ever perpetrated in the history of mankind."
But he described Tuesday as "a healing day in Pasadena's history," partly because of the "symbolic impact this action will have in sending Pasadena's message of 'bringing people together' throughout the world this New Year's Day and every year for another 100 years."
The volunteers responded with relief that the Jan. 1 parade, the city's 105th, appears to be on a more peaceful course.
"The important thing right now is a reduction of our stress level," tournament volunteer Dale Lewis said.
The announcement was preceded by a month of delicate behind-the-scenes negotiations, with Cole and Vice Mayor Kathryn Nack convening a group of community leaders.
"It was our view that this was not getting any better," Cole said, "and the price was going to be very damaging, not just to the tournament and its critics, but to the entire city."
Bakewell and Morris were not only leading demonstrations, but they had threatened disruptions that would be broadcast worldwide on New Year's Day and were pressing float sponsors to withdraw support for the pageant.
At the same time, the tournament appeared to be hardening its position, citing its many concessions to minorities--including shepherding them into the organization's general membership in unprecedented numbers and appointing them to positions of responsibility.
Protesters dismissed all of those moves as tokenism, saying that the tournament should appoint women and minorities to the committee, where the true power rests.