Over 2,000 years ago, under the whiplashes of the pharaohs, Blacks built one of the seven wonders of the world, the giant pyramids. In the year of 1881, under the guidance of Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Institute was built. In Atlanta, Ga., the first Black Mayor Maynard Jackson provided a Black contractor the opportunity to build the Atlanta Airport. The executive director of Kingsley Association, Malik Bankston convinced Kingsley’s board of managers to hire a Pittsburgh-native born Black, Irvin Williams to build the $8 million Kingsley Complex. We recall the terrible fire that destroyed Ebenezer Baptist Church on Wylie Avenue, and under the direction Rev. J.V. Alfred Winsett, a Black demolition company razed the building and a Black contractor, Louis Waller erected a multimillion dollar edifice on the same site.
I have highlighted these examples to prove that ability, competence and opportunity go hand in hand. There has never been a more critical time for Black voices to rise up and say to the city fathers that we will no longer allow you to come into our communities and appoint whomever you want to develop and rebuild and ignore our input. The ninth district, which includes Larimer and Homewood is the last bastion of opportunity left in the city of Pittsburgh that can provide Blacks with the opportunities to grow their businesses and decrease unemployment. And with higher percentages of gainful employment there is a higher rate of stable homes, lessened drop out rate of young Black males and a definite growth of pride. All contracts must be questioned and analyzed by community spokespersons. A person asked me the other day did I realize a Black corporation was in the mix to develop the community? My response to him was that pigmentation does not qualify you as being Black, because Blackness is more than color, it is a state of consciousness. Allow me to explain to those of you who may not be clear on how the process has failed to work. A Black corporation is given a contract for one million dollars and he hires a number of Black sub contractors, and at the conclusion of the job the Black contractor is not provided with the opportunity to grow and because of this experience he is in the same situation that he would have been if he had done a job for a white contractor. So color of skin does not automatically mean a difference. Blacks in the ninth district must remain vigilant and constantly stay focused on what we must do and always remember a Black foot on your neck hurts as bad as a White foot. I would hope that the readers of this week’s column, particularly those of US who live in the Larimer/Homewood area, must never fail to understand this is OUR fight. These are OUR problems, these are OUR communities, and a fair share of contracts and jobs must go to OUR families and neighbors. One of the arguments of those who represent not only old massa but the new massa will claim we lack a properly trained Black work force. To a degree that is valid but money for these projects is a long way off, and by the time the money arrives we will have a trained Black work force.
What are some reasons OUR voices are so silent?
l. If I open my mouth I may lose my job or the opposite, I won’t get hired if I open my mouth. 2. If I remain silent I may get a contract or at least a piece of one. 3. Too many are willing to allow someone else to be out front and 4. I will do whatever is necessary: lie, Tom, whatever it takes to be H.N.I.C.
The silence is unbelievable in the 9th district and if we are to be respected as a people then the time is now for an outcry that may duplicate those of the 1960’s “Ain’t going to take it anymore!”
This opportunity will never come again. I am often asked the question don’t you get tired? You have waged this fight for equal opportunities since you were 17 years of age. My answer is I get angry but not tired, because it is my conviction that there are many persons, who feel as strong about the issues as I do. I sincerely believe that there are untold numbers of persons that will answer the call if we speak up and out. These persons are the unemployed and underemployed; those with criminal records that deny them a right to a job, diplomas, GEDs; persons with union cards that very rarely get a call from the unions; 501C3s and churches, whose members are hurting; and community organizations whose funds have been cut. Collectively WE WILL BE A POWERFUL VOICE.
It is my fervent hope that some committed person or organization will read this column and call whomever and say “It’s long overdue for the ninth district to escalate their voices so downtown will hear it.”
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)