In response to the Black Community-Mayoral Covenant, authored by the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance’s (BCCLA), Leimert Park merchant Jackie Ryan, offers some provocative observations and pointed suggestions for the LA mayoral candidates on sustaining a viable economic process for African Americans.
First of all, the word “development” usually rates to rich developers in the construction industry. In my opinion, it is a key word for leaving African Americans out. When it is used, watch out, mostly, it’s not meant for us.
Second, we have to address rent and mortgages. For African American businesses, a recent CNN poll, ‘Worsening Wealth Inequality by Race” indicates rents all over Los Angeles should be substantially lower than the “market rate.” The poll shows the median household worth of whites is $110,729.00 Asians, $69,950.00, Hispanics, $7,424.00 and African Americans, $4,955.00. The net worth for African Americans dropped 60% between 2005 and 2010. Historically,(and today) African Americans have always had lower incomes, higher unemployment and less education than whites, making it more difficult to make and save money and put their limited capital towards building a substantial income. African Americans will never get a toehold in sustainable entrepreneurship until the savage conditions posed by “real estate rules” are overturned. As we are witnessing, most African American businesses in virtually every major urban city in America have failed largely because rents and leases are too high. Generally, in Los Angeles, $1600.00 a month is too high, so charging $2000, $3000, $4000 and higher is ridiculous, but it happens. And this is true for most African businesses trying to maintain both commerce and culture in their neglectful, unresponsive cities, Los Angeles chief among them.
In order for African American businesses to survive, they must be protected from the savagery of real estate owners, developers and brokers. I suggest the property Blacks rent should be put in a land trust—hopefully owned by the state or federal government so that they get the same protection as state and federal parks. As it is, the city of Los Angeles is only listens to listen to the rich developers. Apparently, African Americans are thought to be “crazy” or “out of line” in suggesting “impertinent” remedies that actually benefits Blacks. We also need to have protected African American cultural enterprise zones, or districts, in Los Angeles to protect us from being wiped out. Real estate owners throw out perfectly legitimate businesses based on their own greed, without any concern for culture or local commerce, especially for African Americans. Other cultures are allowed to come in and stomp all over the place in the city of Los Angeles, but African Americans are deliberately locked out and confined to less desirable space. Heretofore, African Americans in Los Angeles have not really been able to articulate their needs or hold political candidates accountable, mayoral or otherwise. (A Black Community-Candidate Covenant promises needed sustainable change.)
Ideally, the mayoral candidates would have put in place, by now, a plan to reduce homelessness and joblessness in the city of Los Angeles. Currently, the city seems to be confused about what to do with these groups but is clear when it involves the rich or influential; the democratic process works perfectly for them. Is anybody sick of it? I am.
There must be a Leimert Park Crenshaw/LAX station and it must be below grade between 48th and 59th Streets. And guess who made Leimert Park the heart and soul of Black Los Angeles? : The Leimert Park Merchants and the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association. (The neighborhood includes the African American Cultural Center, whose director, Dr. Maulana Karenga, created Kwanzaa, the International holiday celebrated by millions all over the world.) And we all did it with no money and no thanks from the city. The Leimert Park Station will bring billions of dollars to the city’s coffers, yes billions, some of which should be allocated to the Leimert Park pioneer mom and pop business owners who have been toughing it out alone over the past twenty years.
We all realize African Americans need better-paying jobs in Los Angeles, better training, and not just better education, but superb education. We also deserve better housing, not just flimsy structures thrown up as an afterthought, but quality housing built with sufficient space and other amenities for children and a comfortable family life. This can happen with some of those billions of dollars from transportation coffers. We also need top-of-the-line mental health facilities; the relatively few mental health facilities we do have do not nearly meet the community’s needs. . We also need a state of the art hospital in the Crenshaw area as well as high employment and good-paying jobs.
Let the two mayoral candidates duke it out without an endorsement. Both have promised African Americans the same thing, nothing! So why keep “genuflecting for crumbs”? African Americans must demand targeted consideration in Los Angeles, the same old rhetoric of concern is no longer acceptable and some major changes need to begin soon, not years from now. African Americans have shown remarkable resilience in this city and must be accorded the proper respect and resources necessary for safe and fulfilling lives. We deserve no less.
Jackie Ryan, Los Angeles
Jackie Ryan is co-owner of Zambezi Bazaar with her brother and sister, Alden and Mary Kimbrough.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org