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Repeating History the Wrong Way

African American news from Pasadena - EditorialI have written many times about one of the first things that the old slaves did as soon as soon as they got the news that they were free. They went out and acquired any piece of land they could get. Sometimes they bought the land and sometimes they got it the best way they could because they realized even as slaves that land could be an asset if it was an income producing asset. Otherwise, it was just another burden, with mortgages, taxes and upkeep. If land could be farmed or it rented, it could provide a location on which to build a store or office to receive an income and produce jobs on the land, it was an asset.

In September, 2001 I wrote an article entitled, "The Word For Today Is ASSETS...Can You Say ASSETS? " This article may also be found in my book, I Will Not Apologize, next to the last chapter. This chapter makes an effort to teach about how money should be spent on things that reproduce income. This chapter is especially instructive in today's economy when businesses are failing.

Those that are not failing are selling off or leasing their assets to survive. Reverend Robert Schuler, the pastor of The Crystal Cathedral mega-church, has identified a drop in income related to the members losing their jobs and homes. Their plan B was to sell off 170 acres of property they owned and lay off 50 employees as well as cut back on the airing their "Hour of Power" T-V show on some stations. The point is that they have assets, i.e. land that they can sell. The city of Los Angeles is looking at ways to survive this depression we are in. They are talking about selling off some of their assets, i.e. land, including possibly parking lots or other landmark properties to make ends meet.

Locally, the Pasadena Playhouse has closed because people aren't giving donations or buying as many tickets. And the city of Pasadena is cutting back by furloughing employees and giving pay cuts. The Pasadena Unified School District is cutting back and trying to figure how to survive its loss of income related to the state's loss of income. The Domino effect should give us all pause to figure out what is our plan B in case the depression negatively affects us. Are we planning or just spending as if there is no tomorrow, as my dad used to say.

I am still amazed that the NAACP charter still has not been amended to drop the part that says they cannot own land. Even the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts own land. Because they run camps that are also income producing assets. They produce jobs, recreation and educational opportunities for their program participants. Where are our income producing assets?

The last chapter in my book is called, "Would Forty Acres and a Mule Have Made a Difference?" Sadly, between the two chapters, they disclose many ways Black Americans would have lost or gave the forty acres and a mule back to the previous slave owners.

The Slaves knew that the mule was an asset because it was a tool of business. It was to work the land and make a living. In today's jargon it would have been a truck, and many of us would probably have been traded in on a luxury car, for show. Next, the former slaves acquired land and built a school because they understood that the best anti-poverty program, even then, was an education. When I open the Jewish Journal, which I read regularly, the dominant advertising is done by their schools. Where are our schools Black folks? The American Jewish University is here in California. Don't we have enough churches that can join together to build at least one school in California? One college? One high school? Maybe it exists and I am just not aware. Hopefully, there are and I am wrong! Many of us own mansions but where are the private schools for our future?

The Catholic Church has schools in every state. TheJews have Saturday schools in every state. But I can’t identify many schools for us.  Where are our clubs, like the YWCA’s, YMCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs, or teen centers? Show me. I am willing to be educated, but it doesn’t look like we are being good stewards as a group. In Pasadena there is the Pasadena Youth Christian Center, created by the late Ed Bryant, on North Raymond Avenue, and the Harriet Tubman School in Pasadena. We had Omawale School, but we didn’t support it  The community needs not only to support these schools and programs, but they also need to duplicate them.

My wife and I have been blessed, and we practice what we preach. My office is on urban land that we own. We get rent from it as we try to help create business opportunities for others. We live and work in the community that provides a living for us. And yes, our little Institute provides schooling for some who want to train as paralegals and want to be exposed to other professional careers. Also, my son offers Bible training at his J.D. Bible Institute. One day we hope to expand the Institute.  My Dad used to say don’t worry about what I am doing, what are you doing? Actually he would use farm jargon and say, “Don’t worry about the mule going blind, you just hold that line.” If you don’t get that, ask some old Black person who worked the farm. My wife recently rented a suite at a hotel and conducted a seminar for a group of teen age girls including our granddaughter on what kind of decisions they need to make for a successful life. We have done Youth Marketplaces where we had youth vendors in our office parking lot and patio.  Many of the products they sold, they made themselves. They sold lemonade, cookies, jewelry, t-shirts, and crafts.  They learned the value of commerce and entrepreneurship.

If you’ve been blessed, it’s your turn to do something. Somewhere I heard, “To whom much has been given, much is required.”  And if you think I am bragging, I’m not, but that’s ok.  My mother taught us that it’s a poor dog that won’t wag his own tail.

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