Extrapolating Black Economic History Patterns From Washburne and Pruitt Igoe

Young African-Americans under 40 are facing a harsh economic marginalization that been generations in the making. In this article, we are going to look at two case studies from the late 1960s and early 1970s and use those events as teachable moment for the current generations of brothas and sistas to change the course of our direction towards entrepreneurship, empowerment and everyday quality of living in the 21st century. However, one of the biggest indictments and things Black people and the Black community have to accept is plain and simple, it’s our own fault why we are in economic condition we are in today. It was the Black community paternal-seeking behavior of seeking validation and acceptance from the White community that discriminated against us, worshipping their image of God and internalizing their hatred of us into hatred of ourselves as the core foundation of the Black community problems. The end goal and what I hope people take from these two events we are about to discuss are several. First, we have to reject and disavow and rebuke so-called religious-based and status quo Black leadership where cats call themselves Rev. or Dr. PhD or whatever. Second, we got to look at ourselves and look at real-world 21st century economic solutions right here and right now and realize we cannot create future Black success from our past history of Black failure. In Chicago, there is a movement being led by Ed Gardner regarding urban development in the Black community but they do not have Black people working on these construction sites. There is a history and reason for that and we will go into the root cause. Second, many of yall grew up in high-rise housing projects but do we truly know why these structures deteriorated into the worst nightmare of a highly dense concentrated Black community filled with violence, gangs, drugs so fast? These are what I want brothas and sistas under 40 to understand so we can acknowledge the mistakes and move forward in the right direction. Washburne Trade School in Chicago My attention was caught by an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, an establishment anti-Black newspaper that instead of providing information that empowers, exploit negative information on Black people to sell to a bigoted audience. Here is the link to the article written by David Roeder in the business section and a snippet of what they were talking about: The West Side is one of Chicago’s “food deserts,” so named because it lacks full-service grocery stores. Cheers went up from people in the neighborhood when the city sealed a deal two years ago to bring one to Madison and Western. Pete’s Fresh Market, a South Side-based chain, got the authority to buy city-owned land at the southeast corner and build there. It was hung up in the city bureaucracy for a while, and work on the site, a half-mile from the United Center, finally started this month. That’s when real trouble started. Two weeks ago, according to Pete’s attorney and other sources, a large group of people arrived at the construction site and threatened the crews. One person allegedly showed a gun. The grocer’s lawyer, Endy Zemenides, said it was a clear shakedown. “What I would characterize as professional agitators stormed the site and made some very open threats to our construction crew,” he said. Zemenides said it happened on consecutive days, the 12th and 13th, with about 40 involved the first time and close to 100 the next. He said they talked about jobs for blacks but, when given the chance to fill out applications, had no interest in that formality. Notice how David Roeder of the Chicago Sun-Times framed his story to sound like Pete’s Fresh Market is the savior to the West Side of Chicago “food desert” solution but is being attacked and harassed by mobs of Blacks demanding money instead of jobs and brandishing guns. In addition, David Roeder source was some lawyer and he stated he did not get any information from the other side but he printed this half-ass researched story in the Chicago Sun-Times anyway. Now we find out later, there is a protest movement is being done on the South and West Side against construction sites in the Black community that appear not to hire Black workers. One of the members of the protest movement the media is attempting to personify is Ed Gardner the founder of Soft Sheen products. Obviously, we know what’s going on and that is to make Ed Gardner the leader of this protest, attack and wear Ed Gardner down and hopefully wear this whole protest about these construction efforts in the Black community not being done by people in those communities. But that ain’t going to work because we got enough good Black bloggers and other media insurgents around the world that can put work on Chicago media like the Sun-Times and other bigoted outlets like CBS 2 news over there. But what I want brothas and sistas to understand is the context behind this whole construction job thing. It goes back to a high school known as Washburne Trade School that was a Chicago taxpayer funded public school where unions would teach students to be an apprentice to work in union jobs such as construction. Washburne handled all of the vocational apprenticeships within the Chicago Public Schools. However, problems began to arise. Prior to the mid to late 1960s, the school was primarily white. When the school began to be desegregated, unions began to pull programs. There were 17 different unions at the school in 1965. A mere 13 years later, the number of unions had been cut nearly in half, with 8 remaining. By the time of the school’s first closure in 1993, only 2 programs remained. Source: http://forgottenchicago.com/articles/the-last-days-of-washburne/ The unions wanted Washburne to remain a “White school” under the Chicago public school system and when desegregation was ordered, the unions basically packed up their bags and left. They were not going to teach Black people how to be construction workers, carpenters and so on or join their unions. What they did was pulled out of the Chicago Public School system and setup shop in the suburbs to keep the union intake as White as possible. This was the early 1970s when this occurred when the unions started pulling out and it just dragged on to 1990s. Black people in the community like my father learned how to work labor jobs and fix machinery and did work in the hood because they could not get jobs from these unions. These are the same “unions” you see this fake Rev. Al Sharpton standing with and supporting right now. This didn’t happen in just Chicago, this happened in a lot of places up North. You have to understand what’s at play here – the organic path to economically develop our own communities begins with construction by people in the community themselves. That is the first line of jobs to be created but the way they trying to set it up is they want “unions” to come in and construct jobs in our communities, the same unions that excluded Blacks from being an apprentice or train them to do these works because they didn’t want to see Blacks qualified. And that’s the commentary you see on these bigoted Chicago news comment section: why don't they just march and chant what they reall want? "give us free stuff" give us a job without qualifying" GIve us white people's money and their women". When I was working everytime we was made to hire black for job. We found that all they want to do was nothing or not show up or just level and wanted to just get pay for nothing! How about hiring the best people for the job, irrespective if they are black or white or yellow? I know too many blacks and hispanics that don't want to work, but they get hired because they are minorities. It's time to stop the quota hiring and just hire the people that want to work; not because you have to hire them. Now Mary Mitchell came back in the Chicago Sun-Times and also tried to blame a personification for the underlying issue: You can trace this problem back to Fred D. Hubbard, a disgraced 2nd Ward alderman. In 1973, Hubbard pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $100,000 from a project sponsored by the Chicago Building Trades Council and backed by federal funds that was designed to get more blacks into the construction trade. I’m sorry but that was way after the unions started divesting from Washburne Trade School due to desegregation. It is important for you brothas and sistas to understand the real problem. The real problem is the Black community did not collective create our own union and create our own trade schools to create and control job opportunities in our community. You can see these Chicago cats are protesting for jobs, but the truth is, they are begging for a job from an outsider to do work in their own community. We Black folks need to call a spade a spade and we don’t own anything and to this day, still not working to own anything. What’s so hard about starting a trade school in the hood? I mean real talk – you cats are begging to pour concrete and ish for $30/hour and have a union card so you can smile with all your teeth showing that you got a job working for the man! We got to take charge of our own destination in our communities or we will pass this same crap we are suffering down to our future generation and it will be worst for them. You cats are now complaining not just Whites on these construction sites but Latino and Indian workers meaning they already bypassing you brothas and sistas. You young brothas and sistas cannot rely on these out of touch protesting clowns who are begging for a job. They are old and don’t know any better but beg for a handout but you as a young brotha or sista do know better to not repeat their mistakes. You need to start up your own trade school and learn how to work in these industries yourself and do it with the purpose of rebuilding your community the way you want it done. Woodworks, metal works, plumbing and electricians are things that Black folks would hustle and provide for each other in the hood. A lot of cats who been incarcerated got these skills and can teach others. The real task is creating real Black collective movement to create organizations without all the infighting, egos and bickering to ramp up brothas and sistas to work these kinds of jobs. The unions, the same racist Democrat unions that support President Obama only because the Republicans already wrote the unions off never wanted to educate or employ Black folks. Stop trying to assimilate with them and create our own unions and trade schools to serve our community! This is no different than the technology industry with that Black Web 2.0/NewMe crap trying to beg Venture Capital firms that are avoiding Black people to finance Black tech entrepreneurs – stop begging people who don’t like us to do for us and focus on learning how to do for self! Pruitt Igoe Housing Projects in St. Louis Over the weekend on Netflix, I watched the documentary called Pruitt Igoe The Myth on Netflix Instant streaming and it was one of the best documentaries I’ve seen covering public housing projects. A lot of cats like to brag they grew up in the projects but do not have a clue or understanding about the environment they came from. I think African-Americans can learn a lot from this documentary and careful analysis of teachable moments from the Pruitt Igoe housing projects in St. Louis. This documentary explained how this Pruitt Igoe housing project that was created in the late 1960s devolved into a nightmare that was demolished completely in the 1970s as it deteriorated into crime, violence, drugs and other negative environments. Many high-rise housing projects from New York to Chicago and other cities have the same issue. Keep in mind that we are discussing high-rise housing projects or Towers similar to what you saw in Good Times, not the smaller duplex style housing projects. What I saw from this documentary is how they described how during the Great Migration, many Blacks were living in slum like conditions where a brownstone that was only meant for 2 families would be rented out by the room and have about 5-6 families. So what the Federal Government did as part of the Housing Act was to create these housing complexes for these families to have a place to live and be comfortable. And they built these places in areas where Whites were pretty much already established. So the federal government builds a large high density housing project in a community once dominated by Whites with their businesses and recreational areas to force desegregation upon. Now, what did the government expect the White community that originally created the segregation community to do, run out with open arms and flowers to greet and welcome their new country ass Black neighbors? No, they moved out of the city and divested their business from the area and ran out to the suburbs and build up middle working class suburbs to get away from those people. So here is where the problem and flaw occurred with every housing project ever developed. People in the housing projects could not find jobs and was far away from jobs. If they listed their address on the job application and they see it was the housing projects, they would not call them back for an interview. Now the sistas got to go on welfare and the fathers cannot be in the household, creating a divided household and Black women started talking like they the head of the household and Black fathers stop being there for their kids so they can get welfare payments. But it got worse and turned into a complete trap game because even with welfare payments, the families are realizing 75% of their income is going to rent in those projects and now they are trapped and stuck in poverty. The buildings are now poorly funded and breaking down and elevators are not working and people don’t got jobs and the area is all concentrated. Now it goes down into drug dealing, turf wars and everything else under the sun that is negative in these highly dense hi-rise concentrated projects. So what happened is these hi-rise concentrated hi-rise towers became an eyesore and something the White community and media outlets like the Chicago Sun-Times can point to and say our people are f*cked up. So the effort has been to tear down these hi-rise projects and that is what happened to the Pruitt Igoe in the 1970s while it took decades to tear down other hi-rise projects in other cities. But there is a slight issue I have with the hi-rise projects and the problems. The problem that I’m having is the New York hi-rise projects are actually doing fine! They have hi-rise projects in Japan, Brazil, East Europe and these are also doing fine! Why are these high density hi-rise projects doing fine in these other areas instead of the Black community and this is an answer that brothas and sistas under 40 need to understand. The reason why the hi-rise projects did not succeed and turned for the worse is because there was no economic solution to go with the housing solution to sustain those hi-rise projects. In other countries and other places, these hi-rise projects had a supporting urban economy to provide jobs and taxes to pay for services and infrastructure upkeep. In the Black community, our people were looking for jobs instead of focus on self-sustaining organic economic development to maintain our own communities. Theoretically, you could have created some serious manufacturing jobs from the work pool of those hi-rise developments. I mean, look at China and they got hi-rise housing projects of cats making stuff for Wal-Mart and mobile phone and computer companies. Have you ever been to where they make clothing – those places are just like the projects with hi-rise spots! See, if we brothas and sistas built our own economic models to support our own environment with that many people, we would have created not only tons of jobs and tons of products to sell and distribute, we would have been the manufacturing leaders in the world right now. What Young Brothas and Sistas Should Take Away Black people have been living in this crazy mode of thinking regarding people who don’t like us but at the same time asking those very same people for jobs or subsidies. The older African-American/Negro/colored people won’t admit to this crazy thinking but you cats under 40 have to call a spade a spade against the older generation of Blacks and accept the responsibility our people got to do for self from this point. You saw how the unions were all in Chicago training White students to be apprentices at Washburne for carpenter and other trade jobs excluding Black students but as soon as desegregation occurred in the 1970s, they moved their operation out of Chicago and as far away from Black people. You also saw how they created these hi-rise housing projects and as a result, Whites fled to the suburbs taking jobs and businesses with them. But the real analysis is from 1970s to 2012, can we brothas and sistas blame the bigoted Whites from those days or blame our earlier generation of Blacks for not building a framework for us to build upon? We got to be honest – the Black generation of the 1970s made economic planning mistakes that we are paying for today. Look at us in 2012, marching and begging people on construction sites who building businesses in our community with the goal to take our money and we have to beg them to give us jobs. That is the result of us not creating our own trade schools, not creating our own unions and not creating our own businesses. Note: Notice these kids in the Pruitt Igoe housing project build a papercraft model of their community and created a vision of how they wanted to improve it back in the 1970s. See, and I see this today is we African-Americans are straight BSing and not planning long-term and every time we do this, we suffer and our children are going to be made to suffer when they grow up. Cats want to front, act funky, act like they arrived but we have no real infrastructure or framework in place and basically thinking no one is coming up to take what we got. One of the things the cats in the documentary said was the housing projects did not have an “urban economy” to sustain itself and that is the core of our problem. Brothas and sistas under 40 need to be extremely serious about creating an “urban economy” and this is what we been stressing at the blog for the longest time. An “urban economy” is creating businesses and services that support our immediate high-density communities. Let’s look at the kind of urban economies we brothas and sistas will need to establish in our own communities: Urban Manufacturing Economy. This is creating assembly lines and plants to export our products worldwide to cats in other countries that do appreciate African-American quality and craftsmanship and willing to pay premium. Urban Technology Economy. Establish technology services to enable processes and workflows such as mobile payments, IPTV and so on and establish marketing and advertising systems. Urban Services Economy. This goes beyond barbershops and lounges and need to extend into tourist attractions and hosting events to bring in consumers to spend money in our community. Urban Retailing Economy. These are shops that offer stuff that people are willing to travel to and buy and hang out. Overall, brothas and sistas need to take our situation serious and stop delaying pursuing economic development. The longer we continue to wait for others who will never deliver, the worst it will get for our children, if it isn’t bad already.

2 thoughts on “Extrapolating Black Economic History Patterns From Washburne and Pruitt Igoe

  1. Ed, you have just laid out the truth about the state of too many Black communities all over, the solutions and framework on to correct this dismal reality and to rebuild our selves and requirements synergistically for change.

    Thanks for teaching truth always and for resetting the new path for proper thinking (original thought) that the 40 and under generation can use as a blueprint to act upon together to save themselves and older generations to get an understanding they must adopt in order to do whatever it takes to support younger generations and do for self.
    Older men for counsel young men for war.

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