Who Is Marcus Turner – the New President of Ocean Beach Town Council?

by on May 10, 2018 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

To this day, Marcus Turner and his spouse, Priscilla, debate who made the first move when they met at the Sunshine Company a couple of years ago. “It’s contested,” Marcus told me, when I asked him which of them broke the ice while he and I sipped coffee during our hour long interview at the beach-side Newbreak the other day.

But apparently, he had told me, the attraction – “It was immediate.”  They’ve been together ever since and were married not too long after they met.

Both of them, both Marcus and Priscilla, sit as board members on the Ocean Beach Town Council. And Marcus was just recently elected as the new president, replacing Gretchen Newsom, who retired from the board after many years. “I know,” he said, “I have big shoes to fill,” referring to his predecessor.

He’s also very much aware, that in his new position, he’s the first African-American president of OB’s town council, formed 50 years ago in 1968. “It’s not lost on me,” he said, “being the first Black president of the Ocean Beach Town Council.”

He added:

I’m very honored – it makes me aware – it’s amazing to me to be part of this historic point in OB history.

Long Beach Polytechnic High School

For more of his own personal history, Marcus talked of his upbringing in Long Beach, his parents and his 6 younger siblings. He went to Long Beach High School. “We could see the ships in the San Pedro port,”from his high school he said. His father, Marcus Turner taught classes and was played double duty as the football coach. He also grew up in Long Beach and also came from a large family.

“My dad’s whole family still lives in Long Beach and the LA area”

“After 26 years of teaching, he’s still there,” Marcus said of his dad. And of course, Marcus – with his father the coach – played football in high school as corner and safety. He also played ball in college, at Stanford.

His mother, Martha, with so many kids, was a stay-at-home mom. Many of Marcus’ siblings, who range in age from 26 to 12, still live at home today. After the youngest was in middle school, Martha did go back to college and received a degree from UCLA. In fact, years earlier, his parents had met at UCLA when they were both undergrads.

Martha’s family is from El Salvador, she immigrated here as a child and grew up in Southern California. “In Oxnard and Point Hueneme,” Marcus recounted. “Her parents worked the fields, for a very long time,” he said. They saved up enough money and bought the house they lived in – and they’re still there. “My mother is very proud of my grandparents who saved the money to buy the house,” he said.

Marcus as a young lad, but on the beach.

The Turners lived on the west side of Long Beach, which was different than the east side, Marcus said. It wasn’t a class difference he said, it was differences in attitude, different gangs. “Snoop Dog grew up on the east side,” he said as an example. “The west side is close to San Pedro.”

Marcus recalled how his father gave him “the talk” – the universal discussion in African-American families, usually between parents and young Black men. He said his dad told him, ” ‘ when pulled over by the police, this is how you operate ….’ and ‘when you walk around you have to be aware of what you’re doing.’ It’s sad but it’s the reality,” Marcus said. His dad was a fan of Martin Luther King, but not a Black Panther he responded to my query. “He liked the movie The Black Panthers,” and we both laughed.

We discussed the history of segregation in San Diego, and I pointed out not until the 1960s could Black families buy property north of what’s now highway 94, and Jewish families couldn’t buy property in La Jolla until then. Marcus knew about the racial covenants in many old deeds for property in San Diego, prohibiting the sale to non-Caucasians, which of course is now illegal. That’s when Marcus told me he was very aware and honored to be the first Black president.

He added: “I see connections between Long Beach and Ocean Beach,” Marcus said. How so, I asked?

He ticked off a number of things. “They’re both beach communities;” he said; they both have “music scenes”, both have diverse people, and both have a “sense of roughness.” Long Beach has it, he said.

“You know you’re in OB, and you know when you’re in Long Beach.”

At Stanford, Marcus did play football for a couple of years as part of the practice team. “It was too stressful,” he said, and “academics was more important.” He did play rugby – and he graduated in 2012 with a degree in Sociology. But at that point, he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. Luckily for Ocean Beach, Marcus moved to San Diego.

In the summer of 2012, Marcus entered University of San Diego to play a year of football – “a lot of fun,” – and to earn a teaching certificate.

“I was very lucky,” Marcus admitted. As soon as he received his certificate, he subbed for 3 weeks at Millennial Tech Middle School which is near Gompers on 43rd Street, and was able to pick up a full time position. He ended up staying for 3 years.

Sometime around 2014 and 2015, Marcus moved to Ocean Beach, to an apartment on Niagara. Why?

“I really liked it here. I knew PB … there was something different here. I’ve still trying to figure it out – what it is ….” his voice trailed off into a smile – that knowing smile that OBceans give about the place.

Marcus now works at Innovation High School in Chula Vista as an English teacher; a charter school not part of the local school district.  “It’s an independent student high school,” he said. He has 44 students, ranging in age from 14 to 25 – all who didn’t or can’t do well in a traditional school setting, who’ve been incarcerated or who are parents themselves. He only meets his students on a one-to-one basis, by appointment and schedule. “I see some students once a day, others once a week – depending on their need.” “On a good day,” he said, “I’ll see 10 students.” For the majority of his students, English is a second language.

Marcus told me he likes English as a subject, and writes poetry, likes to tell stories and has been keeping a journal.

Back to the OB Town Council – how did he end up there?

In 2016 he recalled he felt he wanted to do something and get involved in the community; he had an acquaintance who used to be on the Town Council who encouraged him to check it out. Marcus did and soon found himself running as a candidate for one of the open board seats – and he won. Once on the board, he was selected as vice-president and almost immediately placed in charge of one the largest jobs the OB Town Council has – running the annual Holiday Parade. Which Marcus did in 2017. He was also the Santa who rode in the Fire Truck.

For the Town Council itself, he’s all about community engagement. “A lot of people still don’t know what we (the town council) do.” And he wants to remedy that. He wants to do things for the members of the OBTC, and he wants to work on bringing all the different community organizations together on some level.

The OBTC is part of a Town Council Coalition, which includes Clairemont, PB, Mission Beach, Mission Valley and La Jolla. The big issue for the coalition is short term vacation rentals. “STVRs brought us together,” Marcus said, “it’s a united front to represent District 2.”

I asked him what he liked about OB. “People here are awesome; they care for one another.” He also likes the physical attributes, the beach, the surf, cliffs …. What else, I asked? “I met my wife here,” he laughed.

“Part of the draw keeps pulling me in more and more; everyday I meet someone who is awesome.”

What doesn’t he like? Marcus was quick to reply: the parking – or lack of; the high rents; the short term vacation rentals.

“Priscilla and I are talking about buying property in OB – we talk daily – but they’re so high.”

If you had a magic wand, I asked, what would you change? Marcus knew right away; he would change the whole thing with short term rentals with better enforcement, and he’d like a move to a more “utopian culture where tourists can come and stay but they don’t destroy the community.”

“With another magic wand,” he added as we rounded up the tail ends of our discussion, “I’d lower the rents.” With that, we expressed our chitchat of departure, shook hands at least twice and parted company. Besides Newbreak was closing.

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