My friend Jan inspired me to blog almost 5 years ago. Her recent blog Last Night on Outreach should be read by every Presidential candidate and every voter to fully understand that America can not be great until there are no homeless in need of blankets.
“It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy respects no such borders. And the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs: coup d’états and convict leasing, vagrancy laws and debt peonage, redlining and racist G.I. bills, poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.” Ta-Nehisi Coates before US Congress, June 19, 2019
I had already decided to use “Plundered” for the title of this blog. But Ta-Nehisi placed it in an even broader context in his historic Juneteenth testimony on the necessity for our nation to discuss what steps should be taken toward restorative justice for Black communities, including the topic of reparations.
I had already been inspired by the May 30, 2019 Chicago Sun-Times story by Carlos Ballesteros: ‘Plunder of black wealth’: Predatory housing contracts gouged Chicago’s black homeowners, new report says.
The report — “The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago: New Findings on the Lasting Toll of Predatory Housing Contracts” — was produced by a dozen researchers from Duke, Loyola University, Roosevelt University and the University of Illinois at Chicago and published by Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.
It is the first study to put a dollar amount on how much wealth was extracted from Chicago’s black community in the 1950s and 60s through home sale contracts. “The total amount expropriated from Chicago’s black community due to land sales contracts,” the report concludes, is anywhere “between $3.2 billion and $4 billion.”
I have blogged before about the predatory rip-off of “contract sales.” I noted Beryl Satter’s book “Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America” about the work of her father Mark Satter, an activist attorney seeking justice. I commented in December 2014 that in these current turbulent times “it merits remembering that justice has been sought for decades.” Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us that it has been over 150 years.
Mark Whitehouse in his June 17, 2019 Bloomberg Opinion, Black Poverty Is Rooted in Real-Estate Exploitation, recaps the continued plundering in the 1970s. The federal government offered Federal Housing Administration [FHA] as an alternative loan that blacks assumed was a good product. Instead it too was used by sleazy real estate brokers to “block bust” and sell shoddy homes to unsuspecting black buyers. Whitehouse cites the FHA scandal of the 1970s, in which indiscriminate federal lending and outright corruption enabled speculators to sell inner-city homes to blacks at inflated prices, resulting in widespread foreclosures.
This is where the vicious cycle of plundering was when I began my organizing career in 1974. Whitehouse embeds in the word scandal above a link to Cities Destroyed for Cash: The FHA Scandal at HUD published in 1973. As a volunteer graduate student, I was inspired by Brian Boyer, who investigated and wrote this book, when he spoke to over 1,000 multi-racial community leaders from across the country gathered in a Chicago Catholic school hall.
When he was done, Gale Cincotta [a white ethnic Greek] told the extraordinarily for the time diverse crowd: “We have met the enemy and it is not us. It is our own government.” Witnessing the launch of a national movement, that would take on the American Bankers Association, the Federal Reserve Board and the US Department of Housing & Urban Development, was a career motivator. Having Gale as a mentor for over a decade was worth the PhD I never got.
Whitehouse embeds in the word enabled a link to a 2014 blog that quotes Beryl Satter from her book:
“The scandal involved the abandonment and ruin of over 240,000 units of housing nationwide—enough to house over one million people. In Detroit alone, more than 25,000 houses had been abandoned—about 10 percent of the city’s housing stock. The cost to the U.S. government was estimated at close to $4 billion, in preinflationary, early-1970s money.”
Most recently, we had the plundering of the subprime boom of the 2000s. Whitehouse justly condemns it for steering blacks into “inappropriately expensive loans that enriched a whole ecosystem of mortgage-industry professionals, but often left borrowers with nothing but an eviction notice and a bad credit history. In the wake of the subprime bust, investors including private-equity firms have again targeted the same neighborhoods, buying up houses on the cheap and renting them back to black and other minority tenants — sometimes under contracts very similar to those of the 1960s”
This Whitehouse embedded link takes us to Old Wine in Private Equity Bottles? The Resurgence of Contract‐for‐Deed Home Sales in US Urban Neighborhoods by former colleague Dan Immergluck from my years at the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO].
Whitehouse opens his column with the question that every Presidential candidate should answer:
One question is — or should be — central to any assessment of the state of America: Why, more than a century and a half after slavery ended, does the typical black family remain so much poorer than the typical white family?
My answer: They continue to be plundered. It is in all of our interests as a nation “indivisible” for it to STOP to assure “justice for all!” That’s the country I pledged my allegiance to.
I’ve told stories before but not as well as the storytellers that shared theirs at Old St. Pat’s [OSP] last week. I’ve used this blog to tell stories about OSP. I’ve blogged about the early days of my community development career in the ‘70s capturing the “From the Roots” stories of community leaders throughout the country striving to fight injustices and improve their communities.
But there’s nothing like hearing good stories being told verbally — an ancient but perhaps the most persuasive social media. The OSP Encore storytellers recounted their journeys from one of the last person out of the path of Katrina to now leading the North Lawndale Kinship initiative here in Chicago. Another connected her Japanese-American heritage from the World War II internment camps with Trump’s Muslim ban and migrant deportations. One shared her family’s heated dinner conversations in the late ‘60s regarding Dr. King’s marches for civil rights and the next generation’s passion at holiday dinners for more recent social justice campaigns. An additional story was on planning a funeral.
Unfortunately, our Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] community has had to memorialize two colleagues recently. Jean Long passed away in April just before the April Sojourn for ICA’s Global Archives that she was planning and so looking forward to working with her colleagues to further prepare this year’s launch of its website with nine collections of archival material from ICA’s 57-year history. The memorial dinner during the Sojourn week not only shared stories of Jean’s time in India but also her folk singing career with “The Other Singers.”
This past weekend, I attended the memorial service for Sally Stovall, who with her partner Dick Alton, started Green Community Connections and co-founded the successful One Earth Film Festival with screenings every March across communities in metro Chicago. Again many stories were told of Sally’s career as a climate activist and organizer. Her fellow members of the Euclid Avenue Methodist Church in Oak Park clearly mourned her sudden departure while celebrating the gifts she brought to all she encountered.
Sally’s service sent forth those attending with the “Rule of Life” attributed to John Wesley. Please indulge this Catholic-raised blogger of U2Cando, who now serves as CEO of ICA and The Ecumenical Institute, to share this core Methodist value as a call to you to “do all the good you can” and tell your stories so others can hear.
Do all the good you can, By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, In all the places you can,
At all the times you can, To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
This has been a memorable month since my last blog posting. I completed four years as the CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] and extended my employment as such for another 12 months. I would have to say it is even more stressful than when I first blogged about accepting the position. So I did renew my meditation classes this month. Yet, the prognosis for success at ICA-USA remains hopeful.
I had dinner on April 2nd with two colleagues, Helen Murray and Ed Shurna, from my first job in Community Development 45 years ago when we all worked for Gale Cincotta fighting redlining and succeeding in passing the federal Community Reinvestment Act [CRA].
Little did I know then in June 1974 when I transitioned from a volunteer grad student to launch Gale’s national newsletter DISCLOSURE, I would find myself still advocating for equitable development today.
As we had dinner, I followed Twitter feeds that Chicago had overwhelmingly elected Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s Mayor. It was 35 years ago that I left working for Gale to become CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO]. One reason, besides coming off the road for future family reasons, was to work full time in my home town with Harold Washington as Chicago’s first African-American Mayor.
Little did I know then that when I first encountered ICA providing strategic planning for the City’s non-profit delegate agencies that I would find myself today promoting ICA’s Technology of Participation [ToP®] methods.
My third professional job in my community development career was at the Local Economic & Employment Development [LEED] Council, subsequently rebranded as North Branch Works. This CANDO member pioneered Planned Manufacturing Districts [PMDs] to save jobs and create employment opportunities for Chicagoans in need.
The original PMDs were dismantled by the Rahm Emanuel Administration and in his last City Council hearing on April 10th what is now branded Lincoln Yards was approved for the largest public subsidies to a developer in Chicago’s history.
Affordable housing, you ask? Insufficient. Job connections? Currently inadequate. Time for a new sheriff? You bet.
While there are multiple stories from the past still to be shared and cogent political points yet to be made about the future, there are also some very key personal moments to look forward to in the coming months.
My wife Lynne & I met in the summer of 1975, when she was a grad student working with Gale’s national community network. We will be celebrating our 40th Wedding Anniversary in July at Wrigley Field, of course. She started working there this past week in Guest Services; but will be asking for the day off to celebrate our anniversary with 17 family members.
In December, I will be celebrating my 70th birthday and hoping that Social Security remains solvent.
But the most momentous event of 2019 will be celebrating with our son TJ and our daughter-in-law Maureen, who were married after Thanksgiving last year, the birth of our Grandchild in late September! Another Cub fan in time for October playoffs! We’re all looking forward to celebrating the future generation.
To prevent displacement, communities need responsive lenders and investors to finance community anchors that can provide a range of services for the vulnerable, expand businesses, and assure real affordable housing. It will also require reawakened politicians to embrace real community participation. That was my message in session remarks to colleagues from across the country at the 28th annual conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] this month.
There is more urgency to this next chapter in the saga to preserve the federal Community Reinvestment Act [CRA]. Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard opened her keynote noting: “CRA is highly valued by banks and communities, and could be even more so.” Certainly that’s more astute than Alan Greenspan allowing predatory lending to destroy communities on his watch.
Yet the urgency is not only driven by pending CRA Reform proposals, it’s exacerbated by the on-going financing of non-affordable housing with the blessing of local government and taxpayers’ subsidies. One attendee in the Preventing Displacement session tweeted my rhetorical question: “How many more luxury apartments can the market bear?”
I learned new terms at this session: “serial eviction developers” and “displacement enabling lenders.” The California Reinvestment Coalition has been researching the pervasiveness of such incidents and has formulated an Ant-Displacement Code of Conduct for lenders to vow not to finance landlords who use loopholes to evict tenants, but instead to invest in affordable housing.. They are tracking the imminent invasion of New York by California’s most egregious displacement lender.
In my remarks, Crafting New Narratives for Communities Taking Charge of Change, I shared the history of Chicago’s Uptown and its challenging future. I commented on inadequate Chicago ordinances that only further racial and economic segregation. I remarked that Chicago’s history does provide justification for community skeptics to question “Planning for whom?”
As we await the election of Chicago’s first African-American woman Mayor on April 2nd, we are still confronted with a tale of two cities. There are now multiple billion dollar development projects rushing to get through Chicago’s City Council before there is a new sheriff and a new City Council that ends developers’ perceived notion that they don’t have to directly provide affordable housing. Meanwhile Uptown’s diversity is increasingly threatened by developer greed, when Uptown could and should be a national model of inclusion.
If it ignores the lens of “equitable development,” CRA Reform could accentuate CRA credit for loans to luxury and market-rate housing in economically and racially diverse communities that will only further real estate speculation, displacement and lack of affordable housing for those Americans who should benefit from CRA lending. Banks fueling displacement should be downgraded on their CRA evaluations.
The Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] USA has called Chicago’s Uptown home since 1971.
ICA’s anti-displacement strategy is to sustain spaces for the vulnerable population of Uptown. Our Chicago Landmarked building, which we now brand as ICA’s GreenRise, is a community anchor that provides affordable space for two intentional residential communities and 25 social service agencies which serve over 1,000 low income and homeless persons per week. An ICA colleague captured ICA’s community vision in mural art: “Uptown: Where Diversity Brings Success.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the key moment at this year’s NCRC conference when the Senator William Proxmire Lifetime Achievement Award [first established by NCRC in 2006 in honor of the US Senator who authored the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977] was presented to civil rights leader Stella Adams. A longtime member of NCRC’s board of directors and the organization’s Chief of Equity and Inclusion from 2016 to 2018, she was honored for her leadership and advocacy for fair lending practices and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act across the country.
John Taylor, President and Founder of NCRC, lauded Stella as “a true soldier in the complete sense – somebody who is willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to get the truth and to confront power and to get at change – social and economic and civil change – that creates a better society.”
In accepting the award, Stella implored:
“Every day we fight against injustice, inequality, racism, sexism, all the isms, and we lose sight of what we are fighting for. We are so busy fighting to preserve and protect past gains, and let’s be clear, all our gains are at risk, that we fail to plan for this future where we live out the American dream. That is what we are striving for. I need you to fight for your future. Fight for equity.”
Stella, thanks for your service and your inspiration. You are a true Champion & Warrior for Justice.
“When we no longer work to sustain our own points of view and work toward community ownership of change as accountable partners, we will discover that what endures is the fire of inspired action.”
— Jennifer Vanica, Courageous Philanthropy: Going Public in a Closely Held World
When I first met Jennifer Vanica in May 2017, I was not aware of her history with the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] and her use of our Technology of Participation [ToP]® methods. I did know of the Market Creek Plaza from a presentation several years ago at an annual conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC]. This once abandoned 20-acre factory, at the heart of San Diego’s Diamond Neighborhoods, was transformed into a diverse community focal point, incorporating cultural traditions, arts, and entertainment with necessary community retail and services.
Jennifer first shared this story with SHELTERFORCE readers in October 2014 in her article “Residents Need to Own Community Change.” Now Vanica’s book, Courageous Philanthropy, recounts the full 20-year journey of not just this project but also of this community and its unique partnership with the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation (JCNI) and the innovative capital structure required to bring the Plaza to life so the community could enable itself to thrive.
First let me disclose that as CEO of ICA-USA, it is my job to market our ToP methods as tools to build real consensus for real action. I first encountered ICA when I became CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO] in 1984. The Harold Washington Administration had contracted with ICA to provide strategic planning for its non-profit delegate agencies. Given our current Mayoral Election, Chicago’s neighborhoods can only hope the winner is as committed to equitable planning and development as Harold was.
Jennifer acknowledges that ToP’s “power of participatory planning became one of our first and most important tools” and continued to guide work for nearly two decades. The key was resident working teams engaged with Jacobs Center staff to plan, design, build and OWN the Plaza. One chapter title quotes a resident: DON’T DO ABOUT ME WITHOUT ME.
My second reflection is that I am confronted today with the same challenges of raising capital and philanthropic support that Jennifer writes about. I am both in awe of the creativity and distressed by the multi-year saga told in this book. I have only been working four years to restore ICA’s GreenRise in Chicago’s most economically and racially diverse community, Uptown. Personally with 2019 being my 45th year in my community development vocation, I’m unclear on my ability to persist another 16 years.
In a chapter entitled SAILING IN HIGH WINDS, Jennifer remarks that the need for risk capital to support community change remains largely unmet. While financing community change requires learning how to blend types of capital, the field of community change, she proclaims, is “calling out for a reawakening and resurgence.” Readers can only be envious of Jennifer’s mentor, Joe Jacobs, as the indispensable “angle-entrepreneur-philanthropist, willing to take the risk position and provide the patient, flexible resources needed.”
My third interpretation of Jennifer’s message for us all is the prerequisite of “working at the intersection of social responsibility and market–driven approaches.” But to do so requires us to “Lead – not with answers – but questions.” As Jennifer observes, “we stopped being program developers and had become process designers and facilitators.”
My fourth observation is the imperative of Jennifer’s challenge: “It’s about getting at underlying contradictions and barriers that keep disinvested communities stuck.” The captivating chapter, THE PEOPLE’S IPO, starts with this quote from a resident on the Ownership Design Team:
“We’re allowed to buy Lotto tickets and that’s got to be a riskier way to make money than land in our own neighborhood.”
Invest, Participate, and Own; together they formed an IPO like no other.
After six years and three state applications, The People’s IPO was finally issued on January 6, 2006. It closed less than ten months later with $500,000 raised at an average investment of $1,176 from 415 investors [78% African-American, 11% Latino; ages ranged from 8 to 85].
Four years later at the end of 2010, total economic activity generated was $47.8 million with 215 jobs created at the Plaza [65% from the community; 84% people of color]. Of its $10 million in construction contracts, $7.8 million went to minority contractors. Once known for its “Four Corners of Death,” the community became home to 14 major cultural events, attracting nearly 25,000 people.
Vanica counted nearly 4,000 visitors from 31 states and 17 countries for learning exchanges with the resident teams while she was part of the Market Creek experience. I’m sure that number continues to grow annually.
Yes, the book is long; but it is certainly worth the time. Being the community development geek that I am, I enjoyed the chapters with the organizational structures to address the “theory of thirds” and the evolution of a Citizen-Centered Learning Model and the capital stack chart. If only there were five foundations today actively seeking Program-Related Investments [PRIs] for community anchor projects.
Having interviewed community leaders nationally for almost 12 years in my first job, I enjoyed every one of the stories Jennifer shared. I enjoyed their embracing of her story telling in the video from her book launch.
I especially relate to her Top 10 List for thriving in the face of complex community change. My four favorites are:
#2 Choose to act; aim at a headpin
#7 Look for the clearing
#9 Refuse to be defeated
#10 Leap and the net will appear
The lessons she details are especially relevant to philanthropy and the community development field at this point in our history. For example:
• Embrace people as citizens, not clients
• Accept the obligation to hear a public voice
• Form a platform to work together across divides
• Build a collective vision
• Craft new narratives for communities taking charge of change
• Create a culture of ownership
“You must align the work of community regeneration with the heart of democracy by lifting up the chorus of voices within neighborhoods as worthy, mindful and equal at the table…”
Jennifer’s biggest lesson to remember? “When transformational change is needed, courage is required.”
I had my last Mindfulness Meditation class last Saturday as I entered another birthday week. I enjoyed the morning classes not only as stress prevention for the workday ahead but also as learning a tool to deploy when my a-fib speeds up even more irregularly. The last class centered on a mantra that I found able to sync to my breathing: “I open my awareness to wholeness.” Sounds like a good New Year’s resolution to adopt.
I don’t think I have shared in my blogging that I also keep a journal, writing while traveling or on vacation. Since there is no trip this birthday to Michigan or somewhere milder, I’m going to put this month’s blog into the journal as my year-end entry. I did the same last year with my January 1, 2018 blog: JOINING IN A GREAT EXPERIENCE.
On June 15 this year, I started a new journal that was actually a birthday present from my wife Lynne in 2014. I was still writing in my previous journal that I started on July 7, 2003; so it took me awhile to get to this present.
But that June entry was a great moment of Hygge, since it was on a train from Oslo to Bergen, Norway and the beginning of a trip that I captured in my July blog this year on BEING NOT HAVING.
My birthday horoscopes for the unknown year ahead offer the following insights:
• Gain wisdom through community and friends this year.
• Nurture relationships you value.
• Service to others is your theme this year.
I’m unclear how many trips there will be in 2019 for more journal entries. But I do plan to strive for more discipline in grabbing more time to meditate. That would enhance my hygge as well in the year ahead.
Harmony, Hope & Healing is a choir which performs every month at our church, Old St. Patrick’s. They provide creative, therapeutic, and educational music programs for homeless and under-served women, children and men in the Chicago area.
They introduced me to this song over three and a half years ago. I first added “One Day” to the U2Cando playlist in May 2015. HH&H performed it at Sunday mass earlier this month. I think it’s an appropriate tune to end 2018 and offers a mantra for us all in 2019.
Sometimes I lay
Under the moon
And thank God I’m breathing
Then I pray
Don’t take me soon
‘Cause I am here for a reason
Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So when negativity surrounds
I know some day it’ll all turn around because…
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
For the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
There will be no more wars
And our children will play
One day, One Day, One Day
One day, One Day, One Day
[Thiam, Miller, Hernandez, Levine, and Lawrence]