In the May 12 edition of the Austin Weekly News, a commentator [Bring black communities out of political slavery, FRANK LIPSCOMB] took aim at black aldermen using an idea, “This bold new approach starts by replacing all present aldermen because most are not part of the ‘people’s team’.” This idea is not only disrespectful, disingenuous, but also outlandish.
Some History is needed. On July 23, 1969, the West Side Builders Association led by Woodrow Wilson, Luster Jackson, Roosevelt Betts, Alonzo Taylor, C.C. Turner and myself, joined with LPPAC Alliance for Better Communities and West Side Youth Organizations, along with other Teen Nations.
Rev. C.T. Vivian, advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, was our convener. Brenetta Barrett was our counselor. Meredith Gilbert and others met for hours every day. This effort was caused by the fact that there were millions of dollars of rehab construction going on on Douglas Boulevard, with no black contractors and a handful of black laborers. Our coalition ended up shutting down over $60 million in construction. Many people want to forget this, but the facts are there.
This change created hundreds of jobs for blacks who had been excluded because of racism. What would we have done if we had no aldermen to guide our protest process, such as we had with the late Ralph Metcalf?
If one wants to rant about who’s at fault today, take a ride around the West and South sides and see who the general contractors are. In most cases, they are white firms paying lip service to local community hiring. Our young brothers must be encouraged and empowered to enter the world of work. This is easier said than done. In the drywall taping trade, non-English speaking Hispanics have over 90 percent of the jobs?”that’s no alderman’s fault. This is a community’s challenge. Just as we had all white tradesmen in 1969, today we are seeing non-blacks and white females getting jobs our men need.
What to do? UBM invested $10,000 with Malcolm X in training young brothers and sisters to enter the world of work and pass the apprentice program to join a union. It was called Project Pride. These trained persons are still working in the trades.
UBM hired a brother within three weeks from his prison release. Allow me to list what he had to do to succeed:
1) He had been trained to do construction work while in prison?”under what was called a Pell Grant.
2) He was provided two 24/7 counselors to assist him with the challenges he faced, and they were many.
3) He was hired by a black firm, not a front, dedicated to his success?”and was given an experienced journeyman to mentor him.
4) He was honorable?”he borrowed $40 from me and in two weeks, paid it back as promised.
Governor Blagojevich, Comptroller Hines, Attorney General Madigan, and State Senate President Emil Jones are in a position to support similar programs. How did black firms get the jobs which allowed the young brothers to succeed with no recidivism? It was because of Ald. Ed Smith (28th Ward), who demanded that this black firm be involved in the project. This firm was not a front but a GC with the authority to make this work. With the deletion of the City’s MBE program, our aldermen became our strongest allies. They can deny zoning and other land requirements needed to start construction.
Before a project is allowed to even be discussed with Ald. Smith, he demands to know who will be the black contractor and local workers. Where else have we seen industrial development of this scope take place?
Ald. Smith spends more time ensuring that the Chicago Christian Industrial League is hiring sufficient local residents than he does eating long lunches. Instead of eliminating aldermen, we need to emulate those who fight for their constituents. Aldermen Beavers, Preckwinkle, Chandler, Tillman and Carothers pay attention to black economic development and job creation. We need to use our time to prepare young brothers to work and not go off with wild ideas of “replacing all present aldermen.”
It would be an excellent idea for Mr. Frank Lipscomb to meet with Ald. Smith to learn of his success and go out and visit some of his success stories and then write about it.