Allow me to enlighten some of the readers about our lack of positive action over the decades and how it has translated into continued mistreatment of Black Americans, and highlight how much the need for moral and positive change remains. This column will focus on the city of Pittsburgh, which often is referred to as an Up South city.
In the 1920s, we were Negroes and colored and we began moving to Pittsburgh seeking a better way of life, inclusive of better employment opportunities, decent affordable housing, treated as first-class citizens, equal job opportunities, political jobs and positions that we were denied in the racist South, better schooling opportunities and overall better way of life.
Time goes by rapidly and now it’s the 1930s and the country is in the throes of depression. Colored persons who had registered were overwhelmingly Republicans, allegedly because they were grateful because a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves in 1863.
In 1936 colored voters left the Republican Party and flocked to the Democratic Party whose standard bearer was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I witnessed colored voters put FDR on a pedestal and equate him with the messiah, Jesus Christ. The Democratic Party in Pittsburgh has been able to depend, count on, and take for granted the colored voters who voted straight Democrat ever since 1937 (a total of 80 consecutive years). Colored Democrats have proven to be the most loyal and consistent bloc of Democratic voters.
Now it’s the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and colored citizens are still seeking mortgages, job opportunities, more access to unions, unemployment in the now-Black neighborhoods is staggering, lack of affordable housing. Blacks no longer vote in the percentages they once did, but they still vote straight Democrat.
It is the 1970s and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the modern-day messiah, has been assassinated.
Now, those who were never advocates of turning the other cheek began to act their anger and frustration out, they set major cities on fire, began to rob, loot, even resorted to using machine guns, crying out, “Ain’t going to take it anymore.”
Across the world, images of America burning tarnished the image of the home of the free and the brave. Those individuals who are nameless, but control the world ordered those who occupy political position to move instantly and put those fires out. Almost instantly, the federal government unveiled a brand new program titled, “The Great Society.” For untold numbers of years there were those who had ideas, thoughts, visions, dreams, and ambitions that focused on improving the quality of life for a people, Black people who had been subjected to mistreatment for too long, now had an opportunity to make gigantic changes. They formed 501-c3s, became CEOs, directors, presidents, chairpersons, who were now paid five-figure salaries and upward. The time frames of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s saw those persons living in suburban neighborhoods driving Mercedes, Jaguars, etc. Like George Jefferson, they were “moving on up.”
I became involved in recognizing and attempting to develop solutions to the multitude of problems that suppressed the Black communities across the entire city of Pittsburgh starting in the year of 1949 (17 years of age). In recent meetings held in the current year of 2017 elected Black officials without hesitation stated their “First obligation is to the Democratic Party,” not those of you who voted for them. Yes, in the year 2017 Blacks are still confronted with major ongoing problems in Pittsburgh that have confronted us since the 1920s. Namely the high rate of unemployment, and unbelievable non-existence of affordable homes. An astronomical 50-year problem continues to exist, namely ineffective MBE programs. The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, openly stated that Pittsburgh is in an almost identical situation. A new appointment by the URA is clearly an admission that the Pittsburgh MBE program is a non-viable program.
There have clearly been some positive strides made in the City of Pittsburgh, but as you read this column, look around your home and neighborhood, what about your work environment, how many Black judges are presently in Allegheny County, billions of government dollars are being spent in neighborhoods and not one Black contractor received a major contract. Major changes in the condition of Blacks in Pittsburgh will never occur until WE drive the changes.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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