Eastcoast Trek 2020


A word about the above photos. The head photo was taken at Black Lives Matter Plaza showing a lady who was doing a “power salute.” The second photo is a Frederick Douglas bust located in Fell’s point. It is a tremendous piece of art as it showcases Douglas’ time spent in the inner-harbor.

The worldwide novel corona virus pandemic added a new dimension to this year’s trek. From hotel’s to restaurants and other places we visited were very sensitive to safety and other precautions.

This trek started years ago as it was simple gesture of paying respect to the March on Washington. This year was the 57th Anniversary and Rev. Al Sharpton through his National Action Network partnered with Martin Luther King, III as well as many other social-action groups to host the event. They did an outstanding job in organizing as well as adhered to safety guidelines.

One more thing about trekkers.  They have an adventurous personality.  We did everything we could to make sure we were protected.  Our flight was dirt cheap.  The jet was approximately 65% full as most of the middle seats were vacant.  The hat-trick was both going and coming back were nonstop.  Another important note is we DO NOT rent a car.  Instead we use the MARC, METRO and/or other public accommodations.  On rare occasions we opt for Uber/Lyft but part of the journey is experiencing people at a basic level, and that is found when you use public transportation.  Plus, with all of the food we consume walking and moving about is a great way to keep a check on those calories!

Click here for some of our photo gallery>>> 57th MOW


Everyone loves photos!!!


Traveling offers many adventures. One being experiencing the variety of foods offered as you go from region to region. Here is a list of places we visited during this trek.

FOODIE EXCURSION

Supanos – Baltimore, MD

Supanos is located near the Inner Harbor or adjacent downtown, next to the Marriott Residence Inn located on Light Street.

The Rat Story

You enter from an alley-like walkway. Covid 19 has added a new dimension to restaurants which are open. Fresco or outdoor dining is the most popular way customers are served. Outdoor dining is great, however the issue you must be aware of, especially at night is nocturnal animals such as rats, which is common around the globe. We arrived a little after 11 pm and were happy to be quickly seated. In the alley there are many other businesses/buildings squeezed together. As we were seated outside I could look over approximately 30 yards and noticed trash overflowing from bins (my wife later informed me it was from the Burger King). Something caught my eye and I noticed a nice size rat scurrying in the alley and headed to the restaurant which was next to Supanos.

I degres. I ordered what I thought was a soup and salad combo but it was basically two bowls of soup. Both were tasty but appeared loaded with a bit too much salt. My wife ordered to chicken fettuccine. The server was overwhelmed as actually even though it was nearing midnight there were quite a few guest, like us looking for a meal.

During our treks we visit the Inner Harbor quite a bit, however that was our first and last time going to Supanos.

Barley’s Backyard – Baltimore, MD

We visited Fell’s Point and stumbled into Barley’s Backyard. We were looking for something light and this place was perfect. Service was great and the food was very tasty.

Ceasar salad

Cream of crab soup

Ethel’s Creole Kitchen – Baltimore, MD

Judith & Fred hosted two dear friends, Renie Hale & Dr. Wilmer Leon

I found Ethel’s approximately five years ago. When I am in Baltimore it has become a must-stop. It is in a very quaint part of Baltimore called Friendship Heights. The great news for us is it is right off of the Marc Light rail. The food is very tasty, however as you might imagine when you bring folk with Louisiana tradition there is a new level of critique. The crab dip was amazing. The red beans and rice dishes could have used a bit more juice and the gumbo seemed a bit too thick. On the other hand, the fried Oysters were perfect. Of course with Covid, we were relegated to outdoor seating and the servers made adjustments to make sure our visit was pleasant.

Crab dip appetizer

Red Beans & Rice w/grilled chicken

Red Beans & Rice w/sausage

Fried Oysters

Gumbo

Side of collard greens

Phillip’s Seafood – Inner Harbor – Baltimore, MD

Phillip’s is well-known in Baltimore. Unfortunately many locals have come to define it as a “tourist trap.” We learned the hard way. Looking for something light I opted for a crab sandwich and Judith wanted her basic ceasar salad. It was only about 7pm and we both were surprised when the waiter came back to inform us there were no more ceasar salads!!!! How does a large restaurant in a popular spot run out of romaine lettuce?

Anyway, our first and last time at Phillip’s.

Phillip’s famous crab cake sandwich

Popeye’s – Baltimore, MD

After a visit to Morgan State University and Memorial stadium we headed to Penn Station to pick up MARC tickets to DC. On the way, we decided to swing by Popeye’s for a their popular chicken sandwiches. I know there is a lot of buzz throughout cities about chicken sandwiches, For the money, Popeye’s is a steal. Tasty and under $5 bucks while just about everywhere else people gladly pay $8 to $12

Lot 38 Espresso Bar, Washington, DC

Located in the Navy Yard section of DC. Not a bad option for espresso, a bagel sandwich or pastry.

Chipolte, Washington, DC

Located in the Navy Yard, a reliable option when you are looking for a quick meal to take back to your room.

Florida Grill – Washington, DC

With our dear friend Renie Hale who is Foodie extraordinare

A DC establishment but Covid has a way of humbling even the best of them. They just started serving breakfast from 9am – 2pm – takeout ONLY. However, if you are lucky there are tables adjacent the window where you pick up your food. You order from one side of the building and around the corner is the pick-up spot. BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR ORDER. Even though it is take-out you want to make sure you have all of your condiments, utensils, etc. We had to ask for the syrup (pancakes) and the muffins were missing, which we found out they had run out but did not inform us at time of order? As we waited for our order, a peculiar thing occurred in all of my years I had never experienced. Some ladies had ordered and upon looking in their bag they discovered the grits were missing! The person manning the take-out window belted it, “there are no more grits and the cook said she isn’t making anymore!!!!” What??? An African-American restaurant running out of grits and it was only about 11:30 AM so they had a good 2 and one-half hours to go!!! Wow. Anyway, since Florida is an institution I’m a bit more forgiven and will chalk up this experience to a rarity. I have been before and the food and service is usually on the money.

Po Boy Jim – Washington, DC

NoMA District

Located in the NoMA district of DC, Po-Boy Jim offers a Louisiana themed menu. Service was good and the food was very tasty. Upstairs is a nicely appointed bar.

Po Boy Jim on H

Gumbo

Busboy’s & Poets / Anacostia – Washington, DC

Busboy’s & Poet’s has transitioned to a DC institution due to it’s good basic food, combined with literature and a great theme paying homage to African-American literary giants. This was our second visit to the newest location which is in the Anacostia community.

Chicken Nachos

Vegan Stir-Fry

Due South – Washington, DC

Due South located in the Yard neighborhood

Due South was this year’s new find. Located in the Navy Yard district, the area has been transformed to one of the more trendier neighborhoods in DC. Nationals Park is the main attraction but many new restaurants have popped up. Due South offers a southern theme and a nice variety of food options.

Southern Fried Chicken w/Mac & Cheese and Collard Greens

Appetizer special – smoked wings & collard greens

Ben’s Chili Bowl – Washington, DC

Iconic building which is anchor of historic “U” District

Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC institution. Hungry or not, it’s a place you must stop by. Half-Smokes are an Eastcoast thing and Ben’s has mastered it. Seating is available in the alley.

Outdoor seating in alley with spectacular mural on each side of wall

G & M Crabcakes – Lincicum, MD

G & M is a Baltimore institution. I should have listened to my brain and ditched the notion of ordering from Grubhub! I was a bit pooped from the train ride from DC to Baltimore so I decided to give Grubhub a shot. Advocates of Grubhub stress the convenience but for what I received I should have simply gone to the restaurant. In addition to the service fee, delivery fee and tip there is also the hidden hustle of them surcharging each item for yet more of your money in their pocket. This was revealed once I returned home and was reviewing my receipts. Interestingly G & M had placed my receipt in the bag and my total came to $42. However, by the time I reviewed my Grubhub bill the total had jumped to $77!!!!!! I should have known better. Anyway, G & M has a nice menu and they are worth visiting in person, unless you have an extra $35 to throw away.

Citizens Redistricting Commission – What it means to you


[Expo Park]  Urban Issues Forum is an organization at the vanguard of presenting political information in the Los Angeles area.  The leadership primarily focuses on issues affecting the African-American community.  Led by Dr. Anthony A. Samad the group is part of the esteemed Mervyn Dymally institute currently headquartered at California State University Dominguez Hills.


This morning at the California African-American Museum the group was host to California Citizen Redistricting Commission.  The focus was to discuss the upcoming 2020 census and to appeal to the community to apply to become one of fourteen members that make up the Commission.  Ms. Margarita Fernandez delivered a very informative presentation about the Commission and why it is critical for people to think about applying to join the organization.  She was joined by M. Andre Parvenu who is part of the first Commission which started in 2010 and since he is from the Leimert Park area stressed the need for those in the community to participate.


WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 26: A Fair Maps Rally was held in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. The rally coincides with the U.S. Supreme Court hearings in landmark redistricting cases out of North Carolina and Maryland. The activists sent the message the the Court should declare gerrymandering unconstitutional now. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)


Being a part of the Commission requires a ten-year commitment and the work is crucial in creating a panel which is diverse and representative of the State and its many communities.  The process is pretty straight-forward but applications must be submitted by August. 9th.

For more on the 2020 Citizens Redistricting Commission

Contrary to belief – HR40 does not give every Black person a check


Despite what is regularly reported the House of Representative have been busy creating legislation, holding hearings and seeking solutions to benefit the lives of all Americans.

Today, was a hearing on HR 40.  It was not a day where all black people where given checks.  What is was as the nation celebrates Juneteenth was a hearing to determine if a commission is warranted to study the issue of Reparations.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 19: Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee debated the H.R. 40 bill, which proposes a commission be formed to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)


WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 18: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after attending the Republican weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill June 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. McConnell spoke on several topics including Iran and compensation for 911 responders. Additionally he displayed his sheer ignorance regarding the issue of Reparations by claiming he had nothing to do with slavery. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

For more information please read HERE

 

 

Ghost of Mississippi: The Hyde-Smith, Espy race


Above photo caption.  Phil Carlos Wilson took this photo of Claudia Bivins wearing the flag.  "As I laid the rebel flag down across Vernon's grave, I told my grandson what it represents -- our hope that racism and hatred would die," Bivins said. "That it would be killed at the root of our hearts, minds and souls."

Click HERE to read more about Bivins tribute to Vernon Dahmer


Ballot Box – Election – MISSISSIPPI, USA

The final tally is pending official certification but this past Tuesday Republican candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith beat her opponent, Democratic candidate Mike Espy: 473,109 to 404,640.  While a victory is a victory the margin is yet another warning bell for the GOP (Grand Old Party) and President Donald Trump’s waning popularity.

People protest and march against US President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in Robert Mueller’s investigation in New York City on November 8, 2018. – President Donald Trump was accused on November 8, 2018, of pushing America toward a constitutional crisis after his firing of the attorney general cast doubt over the future of an explosive probe into election collusion with Russian agents. (BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)


In a state where voting is polarized among ethnic and party lines, in a normal environment voting experts felt the race should not have been close.  Even though Hyde-Park will remain in Washington, DC as Mississippi’s second Senator, she was not viewed as a strong candidate.  In the run-off with Espy two blunders cost her more than a few votes that reminded people of Mississippi’s past.  Many voters voiced consternation about having to vote for Hyde-Smith but felt their loyalty to the GOP was more important to the state’s legacy.

Vestiges of Slavery

For some slavery is a thing of the past.  Not every White person owned slaves and not every African-American was a slave, although a good many were.  Fast forward to 2018, data shows our society is more congenial than ever.  However, there is still an attitude that persist with many Whites that African-American’s can never be their equal.   It will be denied but simply look at the social fabric of the United States and inequality remains a persistent thorn in our image.  That attitude is a direct result of the legacy of slavery and racism where one race was dominant over the others.

 

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”  Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President

 

Segregation Academies

Brown v Board of Education was a landmark case in a pivotal time for the United States.  Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling public schools across the nation were ordered to end the practice of segregating students based on race.

 

While some accepted the ruling as the “law of the land” there were just a many who resisted.  The resistance came in many forms and the basis was race.  Many Whites who were part of that population didn’t necessarily define themselves as racist but through their ancestral inheritance they could never fathom direct association with African-Americans, let alone attend the same school with them.

 

Year after year, resistance took many forms.  Across the nation and specifically in Mississippi leaders developed a plan to thwart the ruling.  Rather than open their schools to all ethnicities they abandoned them and set-up private schools known as segregation academies.  The result was the assurance those with financial resources could opt out of public education and not have to attend classes with non-Whites.

 

In 1975, Cindy Hyde-Smith was a minor and she attended Lawrence Academy, which was a segregated academy founded in 1970.  More than likely the decision was made by her parents.  It’s one thing to aspire for a quality education but it is another to do so while minimizing your socialization with other groups?  Apparently Hyde-Smith enjoyed her school experience because to maintain the tradition, as an adult she enrolled her daughter in the same environment.

 

Creatures of habit

 

Some may think what is the big deal of wanting to attend a school with people like you?  The problem arises when you claim to want to represent a state made up of all types of people.   One’s socialization is in the spotlight of how you communicate with others.  In Hyde-Smith’s case, her past sheds light of some of her comments during the campaign where she appears to favor one group over the other, while claiming to be the representative for all!

 

The Ghost

Many Mississippians acknowledge their past history.  Since its opening in December 2017,  the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum has become a destination for locals and visitors to the state.  It showcases the resilience of the African-American experience in Mississippi but it also puts a spotlight on the injustices they had to deal with.  Part of the exhibit is the state’s history of lynching.

 

People from all walks of life make comments which may be viewed as racially insensitive.  Certain topics are taboo or better left unspoken.  One of those topics is any mention of lynching’s.  It conjures up all types of negative feelings and emotions.  For African-Americans who were oftentimes the victims, especially in Mississippi one would assume any comments would be held privately, let alone those who hold public office.

Hyde-Smith attempted to minimize her comment about lynching, instead employing the typical strategy of blaming those who brought her remarks up, as having some ulterior motive against her, instead of simply accepting the fact the remarks came out of her mouth?

 

The lynching comment and the fact of her likeness to segregated schools give pause to her mandate of successfully and equally represented all who claim Mississippi as their home state.

 

More perplexing is Hyde-Smith’s comments during the run-off debate on November 21st

 

 “WE HAVE TO DEFEND OUR CONSERVATIVE VALUES. WE HAVE TO DEFEND OUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS. WE HAVE TO DEFEND THE UNBORN CHILDREN IN MISSISSIPPI. I’M THE CANDIDATE THAT CARES. I’M THE CANDIDATE THAT HAS BEEN THERE SIX. I’M THE CANDIDATE THAT DONALD J. TRUMP HAS SAID WE NEED YOU BACK.  Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Nov. 21st.

 

Mississippi acknowledges its past racial history.  Indeed, through the years it has made progress.  Hyde-Smith’s challenge will be her allegiance to all Mississippians, not just those who espouse the Conservative values she emits.  She also must reconcile her attitude for using lynching as a reference to someone she has affinity for.  Then, she must use her power to deal with the education schism the state is known for and one which her parents and she perpetuated by being active participants.

 

In the meantime, those who voted now can take a break and ponder if they are willing to adjust their own racial bias.

Special Report – THE DEVALUATION OF ASSETS IN BLACK NEIGHBORHOODS


Above photo The Brookings Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that analyzes public policies and publishes its findings in relation to scholarship and public policy. (Photo by © Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)

[Washington, DC]  This special report is provided courtesy of the Brookings Institute and explores the case of residential properties.

Presented by the following authors:

  • Andre Perry
  • Jonathan Rothwell
  • David Harshbarger

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

2018.11_Brookings-Metro_Devaluation-Assets-Black-Neighborhoods_final

The last time I saw “The Queen of Soul” – Mrs. Aretha Franklin perform


Mrs. Aretha Franklin

March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2009


I’ve been fortunate to hear “The Queen of Soul” – Mrs. Aretha Franklin perform in person a couple of times.  The last time was the most memorable.

It was that majestic Tuesday morning on January 20, 2009 as millions were on hand for the inauguration of president Barack Obama.  As the “Queen” made her way to the podium you knew you were witnessing history.  Her rendition of My Country Tis of Thee was precious.  Her impeccable precision and the way she performed the song lifted your spirit.  The special hat she donned added to the regalness of the event.

As a matter of fact, many will remember the weather was brisk as the D.C. winter chill hovered around 15 degrees.  Days after the great event, Aretha mentioned the chill affected her voice and in her great fashion she re-recorded the song in a more professional setting.  It became a huge success and this tidbit added to the lore of why Aretha proudly wore the crown as the “Queen.”

Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story – An analysis


photo credit: Tasos Katopodis / Getty

Shawn Carter (affectionately known by the world as Jay-Z) and Cinemart have given reason to tear open the scab that was created from a painful wound of the Trayvon Martin verdict. Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story aired the first of its six part docuseries this past Monday, July 30th.  The tally is unofficial but at least 1.2 million viewers tuned it and were taken back five years when George Zimmerman was found not guilty in killing Trayvon Martin.

Whatever your feelings regarding the tragic incident which cut down the young life of Trayvon, the opening airing was riveting and offered some powerful scenes, some never shown before.

For me the February 2012 incident was personal.  Our son was in his final semester at Bethune-Cookman University which is located in Daytona Beach.  We were preparing to see him at graduation in May.   When news of the incident fanned outside of Sanford I called my son to ask if he had heard of the news?  Indeed he had and reminded me when we visited, Sanford was only thirty miles from Orlando was right off I-4.  His graduation was slated for May in 2012 so we agreed to visit the site and research the incident, including Martin’s movement to the 7-11 and back to the site were he was gunned down.

Some may dismiss the docuseries but from the first showing I would encourage people to tune in.  All along, from carefully following the incident including the subsequent trial, I concluded the prosecutor’s simply did a poor job in presenting the facts of the case.  Notwithstanding while the prosecution blew the case in holding Zimmerman guilty of the killing, Martin’s parents; Tracey Martin and Sybrina Fulton did win several civil legal settlements including the homeowner’s association who was guilty by having Zimmerman associate with them as their pseudo neighborhood watchman.

Next airing: Aug. 6, 10pm (est)

 


**REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE URBAN BLOGG, ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 13, 2013**

Whether it was the State who didn’t get their message or evidence across, or the Defense who put up road blocks that verified doubt, the bottom line is the 6 women Jurors found George Zimmerman not guilty.  Or, could it be they just couldn’t find sufficient evidence to find him guilty?

While the news is surprising, as in my mind I have no doubt George Zimmerman was guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin and should have been found guilty…..I was not a juror, so the struggle must go forward.  Your thoughts???????

cartoon courtesy of www.rippdemup.com
cartoon courtesy of http://www.rippdemup.com

For Zimmerman supporters, the news brings joy and their voice will recant this case never should have been tried.  For supporters of Trayvon Martin and his family, including me this is a travesty of justice.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL RECAPS

 

 

Recap: “Evolution of View Park: Making Sense of Gentrification”



[Expo Park – Los Angeles, CA]  Last Thursday the California African-American Museum hosted the final symposium series on gentrification. The event was created by Karen Mack of L.A. Commons. “Evolution of View Park: Making Sense of Gentrification” featured great audience participation, some solid questions and an excellent presentation.

South Los Angeles is ripe for gentrification as the average home price sets at $375K

Complex topic

As mentioned in previous articles on this series; the gentrification topic is very complex and one that can be quite emotional in discussing, particularly from the brave souls in attendance who offered compelling anecdotal commentary.   These types of events are eye-openers as the commentary offered by the audience oftentimes transforms into a venting session which is necessary to put the topic front and center.  However, it can be precarious as the venting can go on and on…….leaving very little room for solutions based strategies to be communicated.

 

“This series has been so successful Karen should take it on the road” Robert Lee Johnson, Community Author

 

The event started at 2pm and once again the venue was packed to the brim.  As predicted due to the primary area of discussion; View Park, the majority of those in attendance were African-American.

 

Crack epidemic in the 80’s

 

The civil rights movement of the 1960’s as well as the dismantling of racial covenants which previously kept African-Americans from moving into certain communities was critical as there was an increase in the movement towards achieving middle class status through home ownership.

 

Families grew at an impressive clip.  What gets lost in the whole gentrification discussion, particularly trying to answer the question of if certain neighborhoods or property was hard to achieve why did some of those same families leave and flee to the suburbs and other areas?  For those who cherish Ronald Reagan as an icon of growth while perpetuating the “American dream,” those from the African-American communities have a different perspective.  It is well documented funds needed to fight the Nicaraguan war as well as other conflicts in Central and South America came from the purchase of the readily supply of cocaine.  The product found haven in urban centers across America.  The result was turf battles, killings and other negative consequences which dismantled neighborhoods that were once beacons of progress and hope.  As those areas decayed, it became ripe for reinvestment to replace current occupants.

 

Legacy and affordability

A key theme or issue which many were seen nodding their heads in agreement was the notion that offspring of those who purchased property in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond have great difficulty in being able to purchase their own home, today!  While that is a statement many seem to affirm, it raises many questions.  Did those parents who originally purchased home not do an adequate job in helping their offspring achieve financial literacy?  Due to their successes, did they seem to project a road that their offspring would not have to work or sacrifice like they did?  Why do they assume their offspring cannot qualify for financing, while admitting their incomes are perhaps higher based on the age they first purchased?  It is more complex then assessing those who grew up in the area cannot afford the very area they grew up in.

 

Reverse racism?

 

The interest in the symposium topic was obvious based on packed crowds at each event.  There was a strong sentiment of how homeownership was achieved and how it was critical for them to create a legacy for their heirs.  More important was the need for African-Americans to maintain those neighborhoods.

 

United States history is ripe with laws, regulations, discrimination and other tactics to deprive groups such as African-Americans from owning property or relegating them to specific communities.  Some in attendance were quick to point out their pleas to keep neighborhoods in the hand of African-American should not be construed as defining them as racist.  Technically that would be impossible as racism is using race to oppress other ethnic groups.  African-Americans are not creating any laws or systemic maneuvers to keep any out.

 

Solutions

As mentioned due to the venting there was more assessment of the problem versus solution.  However, that is to be expected as what Karen Mack organized was a starting point to discuss the issue and that is crucial for stakeholders to speak to their issues.

 

One important theme offered by those presenting possible solutions was the need to become organized and take a more active role in legitimate organizations.

 

Due to time the event had to conclude but many in attendance committed to taking this discussion offline and continue to address issues to combat the negative reality of gentrification.

 

Readers are encouraged to educate themselves on this topic.  Karen Mack may or may not agree to a road show, in the meantime those interested must stay engaged in community platforms such as the one which brought folk together for this series.

Racism: White Flight: Gentrification – A discussion about View Park and surrounding communities


[Exposition Park – Los Angeles, CA] This past Thursday the California African-American Museum (CAAM) hosted L.A. Commons and Mrs. Karen Mack in a community symposium titled the “Evolution of View Park.”  This was the second of a three-part series focusing on “Making Sense of Gentrification,” highlighting the community of View Park (Los Angeles), CA.

Mrs. Karen Mack welcoming attendees. photo courtesy of fredyt123

A standing room crowd came out to hear and discuss what is one of the hottest topics in the past twenty years.   Gentrification is not an easy topic to discuss.  The word evokes emotion and for many has a negative meaning.  Although from my lens those in attendance were predominately African-American, homeowners and female, for the most part there was a good degree of diversity from other ethnic groups.  What also made for a good discussion was the span of age groups.  In addition to the focus on View Park, some who have called the community home represented multi-generational families.  You also had representation from neighboring communities such as Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, West Adams and Venice, just to name a few.  Additionally, there was representation from cities such as District of Columbia, Baltimore and other cities on the east coast.  Sprinkled in the audience were a few millenniums who were courageous to share their perspectives.

Mrs. Mack brought quite a team to inform those in attendance but to also motivate dialogue which is essential in fostering honesty about the subject matter.  She was joined by economist Dr. Devin Bunten who has researched the effects of gentrification throughout communities in the United States.  The data he was able to cull together to add to his presentation was unapologetic as it was supported by solid documentation.  This helped the audience frame a better understanding in answering the What and the Why, as well as the How of Gentrification.

View Park and neighboring Windsor Hills are just two enclaves where today African-Americans maintain over 70% occupancy.  They are treasured communities due to property type and proximity.

To view some of his presentation click here Gentrification and View Park


Also, joining Mrs. Mack was local community historian Mr. Robert Lee Johnson.  The grassroots work he has done was well received because he was able to dig back to the evolution of various communities and discuss how they have come to define themselves in 2018.

Lee pointed out how African-Americans migrated from the south.  For housing they were relegated to Central Avenue or the “eastside.”  Legal segregation was a reality.  However, as legal victories were achieved in the 60’s and racial property covenants were ruled unenforceable, African-Americans were afforded housing opportunities that those before them could not enjoy.  Many find it hard to believe that Compton, CA was once all white!

Those who were stacked in the Central Avenue corridor took advantage of the legal victories and moved in all directions.  Some went west to West Adams, Leimert Park as well as View Park and Baldwin Hills.

 


The motivation

Gentrification primarily occurs in the urban core and surrounding communities.  Communities such as View Park are desirable for a variety of reasons.   As beautiful are these areas are, for those looking to move closer to the urban core they must contemplate life in a more multi-cultural environment versus an area they may have grown up in, such as the Westside or other bedroom communities in the suburbs.

By selecting to relocate patient buyers are rewarded with savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The biggest issue they face in coming to the new community is the realty of instead of being in the majority, they find themselves in the minority.  Also, part of their acceptance in relocating is understanding services they have come to accept, might be lacking in the new neighborhood, however they can be transformed.  Blending those needs into their new community is one of the biggest challenges of gentrification.  That is, making sure the new services are appreciated by the current residents so they don’t feel like outsiders.


After the presentations those in attendance came prepared to ask questions and provide their anecdotal realities.  The discussion was very candid and became quite emotional.  Some felt the current gentrifi’ers are more like invaders.

 

“THEY WALK THE NEIGHBORHOODS WITH THEIR DOGS AND TARGET PROPERTIES WHICH ARE VUNERABLE, PARTICULARLY WHERE SENIORS MAY BE LIVING ALONE”

 

“THEY COME TO THE COMMUNITY WITH A HAPPY FACE AND BRING COOKIES AS A RUSE TO DEVELOP FRIENDSHIPS BUT THE REAL MOTIVATION IS TO GET THE HOMEOWNER TO FEEL COMFORTABLE IN DISCUSSING PURCHASING THEIR HOME.”

 

“THEY WORK WITH LOCAL CODE ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES WHO SCOUR COMMUNITIES LOOKING FOR VARIOUS VIOLATIONS WHICH RESULT IN THE CURRENT OWNERS FEEL THEY ARE HARRASSED.  OR THEY RECEIVE FINANCIAL PENALTIES WHICH JEOPARDIZE THE CURRENT OCCUPANTS ABILITY TO PAY.”

 

“WHILE EVERYONE WANTS A POSITIVE COMMUNITY, THOSE WHO ARE ABLE TO MOVE IN HAVE THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND POLITICAL VOICE TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS THAT CURRENT OCCUPANTS MAY HAVE LACKED.  CONSEQUENTLY, AS COMMUNITIES ARE ENHANCED AND DEVELOPED THE RESULT IS HIGHER TAXES WHICH THREATENED CURRENT OCCUPANTS BASED ON THEIR INABILITY TO HAVE THE INCREASE IN INCOME NEEDED TO REMAIN IN THEIR PROPERTIES.” 

 

“THERE IS GREAT CONCERN CURRENT FAMILY’S WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SUSTAIN A LEGACY FOR THEIR CHILDREN AS BASED ON THEIR FINANCIAL PLIGHT, BATTLING RACISM AND OTHER SYSTEMIC ISSUES MAKES IT VERY HARD FOR THEM TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD THE WAY THEIR PARENTS DID.”

 


 

The majority of issues raised by the audience was well received as you could see many heads nodding in approval.  At the same time, some issues were like self-inflicted wounds as some claimed to be unfairly targeted or harassed.  Based on what they were representing their behavior is the type that falls prey to being targeted.  Illegal add-ons or other enhancements which might have made the property more livable, in fact are out of code.  The result may lead to financial penalties or decrease in value based on what they represent their properties to be.  The key, and most homeowners understand this, is to make sure their property is within code or not a target from any scrutiny, let alone a gentrifier who may feel their property is a potential purchase.

 

The bottom line is Mrs. Mack provided an opportunity for folk to gain information, network and become more empowered.  Gentrification may have a negative connotation but understanding how it works is essential so that one has a workable answer why and how groups are reclaiming parts of the city.   In the meantime, while people continue to move or relocate for a variety of reasons, much of it justified, those who remain are encouraged to take a page from the 1960’s which saw one of the early migrations of folk leaving the city for what they perceived as “greener pastures.”   Don’t Move!  Improve!!!


 

A Historical Perspective:

Racism, White Flight, Gentrification

 

As mentioned Racism, White Flight and Gentrification are words many have a difficult time discussing.

Racism is not a new clothing line!  White Flight is not a new dance step!  Gentrification is not a new gelato flavor!

Racism is a by-product of white supremacy.   Gentrification is the reverse of White Flight but still a by-product

Racism was most attributed to those who identify as “white” and whose ancestry is primarily European.  A construct or a system was created where their race was used to dominate other races and otherwise maintain superiority over others through oppressive tactics, hence the birth of white supremacy.

 

“IF YOU’RE WHITE, IT’S ALRIGHT……IF YOU’RE BROWN STICK AROUND….IF YOU’RE BLACK GET BACK!!”

the original jim crow character. It became the symbol of institutionalized racism in the united states

 

Racism became a world phenomenon as whites used their domination to conquer many ethnic groups.  The result was colonization.  Over the years some may have thought racism was eliminated by groups reclaiming their cultures, however EVEN in 2018 it still festers in our overall society and is quite prevalent.

Many voting age African-Americans had accepting the notion in their lifetime a fellow African-American would never ascend to the office of President.  That is why in 2008 they were happily stunned when Barack Obama was elected the 45th president.  Likewise, as long as racism has been around many feel it will not be eliminated in their lifetime.

 

“When we discuss the word integration, what we are stating is the sharing of: Resources, Power & Responsibility”  Rev. Dr., Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Racism is often confused with prejudice and other biases.  Disliking something or someone for whatever reason is much different from using race to oppress other groups.  Most people have prejudices but not everyone is a racist.  Therefore, many whites are not racist, per se.  However, the legacy they inherited shows up in many forms of behavior as other groups attempt to migrate into the larger society.

 

In the 1940’s, 1950’s, the 1960’s and beyond another phenomenon was created which has it roots in racism.  White Flight was the result of primarily African-Americans and other groups moving into areas once primarily occupied by whites.  While there are many reasons why whites fled communities and neighborhoods they once proudly called home, the common denominator was their dislike or being uncomfortable sharing space with those such as African-Americans or those who were not like them.  In other words, on the periphery they may have had friendly relationships with them, but living next could not be tolerated, thus they fled and established new communities, commonly known as suburbs.

 

A vital element of White Flight is acknowledging Whites or no group wants to be confined to neighborhoods were property values are decimated, or where there are inferior stores, shops or business opportunities, or where their children suffer the blow of an inadequate educational system.  Most important feeling fearful because of the lack of basic services.

A critical element of disparity

 

Racism has a specific pecking order or domination over others.  From economics, employment, housing, education and other factors necessary to fulfill the ideal of living, whites receive higher pay, better employment opportunities, more access to lending as well as better educational opportunities than non-whites.  That pattern still exists today as while many groups appear to enjoy a positive lifestyle, typically the person who is white is in a much better economic position, much of it the result of racism or white supremacy.  However, one must be careful to not assume whites do not make sacrifices in achieving a better lifestyle.  They too work very hard and are dealt some of the same blows as anyone else.  In our society they just do not have the burden of being considered “less-than” or other pitfalls which systematically stymies their growth.

“All things being equal if one could insure steady employment, thus steady compensation they too would be in a position to pay their debts in a timely manner resulting in stellar credit”

 

Gentrification

 

White Flight does not mean every white person left their community as soon as a non-white showed up.  However, as the dominant group shifted, communities across the United States, particularly those in major cities or those known as large urban Cities started a slow process of deterioration.  As whites left, they rightfully took their resources, especially in the form of a thriving tax base.

 

Compounded with the reality of a disparate economic condition, non-whites simply had an inferior economic standard based on the pecking order of racism and discrimination, so living standards were directly compromised.

 

Those urban areas once occupied by whites were always technically called ghettos.  However, the connotation drastically changed once non-whites claimed the space.   As resources necessary to maintain those areas took on a slow stream of deprivation, the result was the creation of blight and other negative consequences as well as social forces such as crime and a variety of factors which rendered those areas unattractive.

 

Gentrification is a subtle, yet specific process.  Communities which were defined as deplorable are stimulated with resources as they are redefined.  People who are part of the reclamation are for the most part white, and interestingly the off-spring of the very families who fled during White Flight.  Through the systemic reality of racism, they are in a better economic and educational position than those who will greet them as neighbors.   Thus, rebuilding the communities becomes strategic and transformational.  So instead of day-to-day survival, due to their economic standing they are able to execute a more sustainable lifestyle.

 

The core reality of gentrification is many who remain in those areas which are being reclaimed or who have paltry resources eventually are dealt the blow of being dislocated.  This is created from the basic notion of being priced out due to higher taxes or not fully comprehending the windfall they might receive for their property is never enough, thus communities are broken up; literally one house, one block at a time until it is transformed into an oasis for the current occupants.

 

Video courtesy of Victor Allen’s Local Zone


Additional resources:

Dr. Frances Crest-Wesling:  Definition of racism and white supremacy

Mrs. Karen Mack, LA Commons

Dr. Devin Bunten, Professor M.I.T University

Mr. Robert Lee Johnson, History Council – CAAM


Fred Thomas, III and his wife Judith have been residents in the West Adams community of Los Angeles for the past forty-two years.