A few weeks ago I watched the BET Awards for the first time and what Black America received from actress Regina Hall, a native of Washington, D.C., was an ingenious display of satire that exposed how gentrification wiped out the Black community in DC. But there was nothing funny about the reality of the situation.
What has happened all across America are identical examples of the gentrification of Black neighborhoods under the “lets get-tough-on-crime” banner.
What’s worse, it was our very own elected officials, here in Miami, who agreed to these invasive campaigns, which allowed for a whirlwind of “anti-drug/gang” programs to sweep our neighborhoods with policies like the “Weed and Seed” initiative. In a nutshell, Weed and Seed was supposed to “weed” out drugs and gangs and replace that element with “seeds” of empowerment such as new businesses and jobs along with clean and safer streets.
After about a decade of “weeding” in the urban core, there are scores of Black men with lengthy criminal records with not a shred of evidence of a single “seed” being planted, anywhere.
Then there’s housing.
The Black community became the only place that the County and other municipalities came to and pilfered for land and housing. There needs to be a disparity study done on Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust on all of the disparity documentation that it has collected over the years. What was its plan of action to address those findings? Were those action plans funded and implemented and, if so, what were the outcomes of those action plans? How can an agency that was created for the sole purpose of helping Blacks, get so bogged down that it couldn't (or just wouldn’t) help the people who it was created and designed to help?
The administrators and politicians of Miami-Dade County found a loophole to take the mission of MDEAT off of its course. MMAP/MDEAT was created in 1983 after the unprovoked beating death of Miami businessman, Arthur McDuffie by several white metro police officers and the ensuing, infamous, “McDuffie Riots” that erupted in the streets of Miami after the acquittal of all police officers involved.
I was told several years ago that every law has a loophole in it; you just have to find it. Miami-Dade County did just that. In last week's column, I mentioned how the County spends over $200 million a year in construction projects, alone, and I'm quite sure that we haven't had our fair share of the economic pie since the days of Joseph Caleb.
The gains of the civil rights movement are fast becoming a very distant memory and have been all but washed out because the great thinkers and motivators of that era have basically become extinct. Meanwhile, the “Baby Boomers” and the self-crowned new leader “millennials” have become so self-absorbed with greed that they have left the Black communities as nothing more than abandoned wastelands. For a town filled with Black attorneys and thriving Black lawyer associations, the lack of civil suits on the issues that are destroying Black people and taking their land is saddening and jaw-dropping.
Where is the cavalry when it comes to housing, wages, zoning, “stand your ground,” direct filing of children to adult courts, the past 1,000 local elections, the chronic failure to provide basic safety for our children and families in public housing, and discrimination that you can find in just about everything else?
Where is the cavalry with agencies like JESCA – now, completely gone– the Georgia Jones-Ayers’ Alternative Programs (founded in 1982, also in response to the McDuffie Riots); chronically underfunded, understaffed and without legal eagles circling to protect them, and an agency like MDEAT awarding the bulk of their homeownership grant dollars to families who are not African-American in plain daylight?
With so much gentrification, poverty and death in our neighborhoods and our agencies, these local Black lawyer association galas, photos and celebrations tell us more about who you aren’t, than it says about who you claim to be. Whenever I hear an energetic, competent Black attorney lament about their “money” and “billable hours” as a counter on why there isn’t an onslaught of Black attorneys saving the day with lawsuits on behalf of Blacks in Miami, it reminds me of how lost our people have truly become. And it’s “OK” to say “pay me!” because that’s what Federal Judge Wilkie Ferguson and Florida State Rep. Gwendolyn Cherry would have said, right? When the smoke clears, it turns out that accountability is much higher than realized for counselors who have the power to act but don’t.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”