REVERING THE BIG DOG

We all knew his nickname; so it wasn’t surprising to see it in the headline of his obit.

Pete Garcia 2017I first met Pete “Big Dog” Garcia in 1989 when Chicanos Por La Causa hosted the National Congress for Community Economic Development [NCCED] annual conference in Phoenix. Little did I know at the time that it would become such a rich relationship.

My next encounter with Pete was as travel companions in 1991 on a NCCED tour of Scotland, Belfast, Dublin and Wales. Visiting community development initiatives in these countries furthered the bond of professional and personal connections.

Only a few years later, Pete and I would become fellow board directors for over two decades of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC]. Too many meetings to count; many good meals to remember.

Pete and his wife Sarah always welcomed us as family members. Pete went out of his way when our son TJ was doing his college search tour with lunch at ASU’s golf course and tickets for the USA vs Mexico World Baseball Classic game. His love abounded.

I invited Pete to be a keynote speaker at the 15th anniversary conference of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO] on March 8, 1994. His remarks then remain relevant today: Pete Garcia 1994

“Community development has to start at the community level. It doesn’t start at the mayor’s office or at the top of a bank building. It has to start in the community if it’s going to succeed. It has to have those partners with political and financial resources. Communities, at a certain point, have to develop themselves and the sophistication to be able to develop these partnerships with business and government in order to be successful.”

Pete’s been called home, after living true to his calling. Bless you Big Dog

We are called to act with justice,
We are called to love tenderly,
We are called to serve one another;
To walk humbly with God!

 

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FAILING THE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT TEST

FAILING THE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT TEST

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR Memorial

I think I’ve attended all the annual conferences of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] since 1992. This year’s theme was again “Creating a Just Economy” — an appropriate and timely admonition. FDR’s test surely is not being pursued in the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency.

After my countless trips to DC, I finally made time to visit the memorials for Dr. King, FDR and Jefferson. A very reflective hike on which I found particularly relevant quotes at each stop – none using the word “huge.”

The above FDR quote was etched by a sculpture of Americans forgotten in the Great Depression. Not sure those Americans who suffered the injustice of our most recent Great Recession haven’t already been not only forgotten but abandoned by the White House and Congress despite their votes.

But “creating a just economy” is not just a matter of federal policy or tax reform. A just economy is threatened locally by every decision in our communities to forsake those who have too little affordable housing and insufficient employment to raise a family. Equitable development is imperative for a just economy.

Given the challenges confronting Chicago’s Uptown community, where I now work as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA]-USA, I volunteered to moderate the workshop at this year’s NCRC conference, entitled Equitable Development in Gentrifying Communities. The four panelists shared similar stories from Portland, OR; Roxbury, MA; New York City; and Washington, DC.

Empower DC’s mission is to enhance, improve and promote the self-advocacy of low and moderate income DC residents in order to bring about sustained improvements in their quality of life. The presentation by its Executive Director, Parisa Norouzi, included a historical ICA surprise for me. The historic Ivy City community is re-establishing a strong Civic Association around several issues including the restoration of the Alexander Crummell School. Named for abolitionist, educator and clergyman Rev. Doctor Alexander Crummell whose life’s mission was the uplift of Black people, it was the first public school for African Americans in DC when it opened in 1911.

Ivy City was chosen in 1976 as a site for one of the Human Development Projects initiated by the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) along with other such initiatives across all 24 global time zones that became known as the “Band of 24.” Two ICA organizers moved into the Ivy City community who, following ICA’s participation model, assisted the community with developing and carrying out a four year Human Development plan. From 1976-1980, ICA and neighborhood residents created the Ivy City Preschool and the Ivy City Corporation (ICCO), which promoted commerce in the community. All activities were centered at the Crummell School, which had been closed in the ‘70s, and were documented in the Ivy City Voice, a newsletter which was published during that time.

More recently, the school building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and listed as one of DC’s Most Endangered Places by the DC Preservation League in 2013. Crummell abandonedResidents of Ivy City have long been on record asking that the school be turned into a multi-use center to serve youth and elders. They have endured years of testifying at hearings, participating in city planning meetings, and mobilizing community participation. They experienced many broken promises, and even had to file a lawsuit to block attempts to turn Crummell into a bus parking lot.

Last year, Empower DC worked with Ivy City residents and partners to submit a proposal that would turn the historic Crummell School and 1 acre of the site into a Community Land Trust, keeping the grounds open for community recreational use (with a playground/splash park, basketball court, walking trail, and garden) and opening the school as a nonprofit Community Center with a mix of programming to meet the needs of youth, adults and seniors. The school building would become a community square surrounded by new affordable housing. Alexander Crummell SchoolUnfortunately, local government is forsaking Ivy City’s community dream and choosing another high-end development striving to be DC’s newest “hot” real estate.

When President Trump tells us in seven days how “huge” his accomplishments have been in his first 100 days, let’s ponder the “huge” decisions being made in Planning Departments and Mayors’ Offices across our country to not provide enough [housing & jobs] for those who have too little. Many politicians are failing the equitable development test. Our civic duty is to grade accordingly.

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

“When I first came here, people on both sides of what is ironically called the peace line told me, without any rehearsal, exactly the same thing – that there was direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment.” – Senator George Mitchell, June 25, 1996

Mitchell & Ted Belfast 1996That was former U.S. Senator Mitchell’s welcoming comment, as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Secretary of State for Economic Initiatives in Ireland, to our delegation in Belfast at a three-day conference on Work, Education & Training for which the US State Department had invited us as participants. As CEO then of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO], that quote resonated with me and I shared it in for my article entitled, “Rainbow Over Belfast,” in CANDO’s 1996-97 Annual Report.

Now over 20 years later, there remains a direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment in Chicago. A lesson repeatedly revealed in every morning’s news headlines.

Senator Mitchell was in Chicago this past St. Patrick’s week as the narrator for Old St. Patrick’s Church’s 21st Annual Siamsa na nGael. This year’s theme was “A Bridge Over the Troubles: The Peacemakers.”

Yes, the choir did sing that Simon & Garfunkel song; but they also sang my favorite hymn, Canticle of the Turning, and my favorite Broadway tune, Make Them Hear You from Ragtime. I have used lyrics from both for previous blog posts.

Senator Mitchell’s narration shared many stories from his “few months” assignment that became five years. I had already read some of them in his memoir, The Negotiator, and look forward to more as I start his book, Making Peace. I particularly appreciated his reflections on John Hume, who not only won the Nobel Peace Prize but also the Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards; the only person to have earned all three.

When the audience entered Chicago’s Symphony Center for the concert, there was a large screen hanging over the orchestra with a quote from Hume’s Nobel acceptance speech. Hume quoteAgain, a lesson learned 20 years ago in Northern Ireland that the US remains in dire need of remembering today: “most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Composer Scott Stevenson was commissioned to write the “Hymn of Unity” from Hume speeches with lyrics that ring out as a call even more acute today for us.

In this land, this land of ours, by difference torn apart
We pray for strength and wisdom to discern our common heart.
A heart with ample space for many different minds,
A heart that is open to the whole of human kind.
A heart that breaks down ancient walls,
because we share the same bright sun
by which we walk together towards tomorrow.
From many, we are one!

 

CONFRONTING ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION THEN & NOW

CONFRONTING ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION THEN & NOW

”The Chicago problem is simply a matter of economic exploitation. Every condition exists because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The MLK Fair Housing Exhibit Center at 1558 S Hamlin details Dr. King’s time in Chicago in 1966 and speaks to his influence on the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Dr. King ApartmentsRemembering this 50th Anniversary, the Center’s goal is to build community awareness of the legacy that Dr. King left in the Chicago area during his residency in North Lawndale.

Six months after the Selma to Montgomery marches and just weeks after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a group from Martin Luther King Jr.’s staff arrived in Chicago, eager to apply his nonviolent approach to social change in a northern city. Once Dr. King 1966there, King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined the locally based Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) to form the Chicago Freedom Movement.

My wife & I participated in Old St. Patrick’s Kinship Initiative promotion of the Center’s “Continuing the Dream” weekend by attending two book discussions there on Saturday morning July 23rd. One covered the past exploitation of North Lawndale through the battle waged by the Contract Buyers League as told by Beryl Satter, author of “Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America”. Beryl’s account of Chicago in crisis over 50 years ago, with religious leaders and community organizers battling slumlords and speculators, is also the story of her father Mark Satter, an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers.

The second book addresses the urgency of today as told by Ta-Nehisi Coates in his message to his son in “Between the World & Me” of the perils of living in a country where unarmed black men and boys are dying at the hands of police officers. The discussion was co-led by Xavier Ramey, whose day job as Senior Assistant Director for Social Innovation and Philanthropy at University of Chicago, is complemented by his social justice passions. It turns out that I knew his father Paul as an impassioned activist and advocate for North Lawndale from my CANDO days in the ‘90s.

During this past month of political conventions, I can’t help but ponder this continuing link between racial injustice and economic exploitation and remember the martyrs we lost in 1968. RFKIn the words of solace that Robert Kennedy offered April 4, 1968 on the assassination of Dr. King:

“What we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but is love, and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

 

 

REUNITING & REBOUNDING

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
— “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne

Yes, I know my June blog is a few days late. But then I’ve been planning to write about my 45th Reunion of the Province College Class of ’71 since the first weekend of June. I just waited for the June 30th concert by Jackson Browne and James Taylor at Wrigley Field.James & Jackson at Wrigley I bought tickets months ago as an early 37th wedding anniversary present. You see I did “find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means” and we’ve been filling in the “missing colors in each other’s paint-by-number dreams” since we met in 1975.

Lynne joined me for this June trip back to PC. Five years ago, I went by myself to reunite with classmates and catch up on our respective lives. She had met a few of them over the years but had not really seen where our college formative years played out. We both enjoyed the long weekend in Rhode Island, the conversational flow of memories and the ‘70s soundtrack.

There were classmates missing because of distance or early death; spouses who have left widowers; and health concerns that persist. But for a few hours over three days, the years did not seem that long ago.

I had a prelude to the memories in April when I was asked to speak at my high school, Fenwick in Oak Park [IL] to seniors who had been admitted to Providence College and were now on the clock to choose. Since both Fenwick and Providence are Dominican institutions, that makes me a “Double Friar.” For someone raised by the Order of Preachers, speaking is not that challenging. Picking the right points does require some thought. Hopefully, sharing my vocational experience at PC was helpful to those Fenwick students making their first major life decision.

It seemed to surprise some, as well as a slightly younger woman PC grad on the June golf cart tour of campus, when I shared that one of my first organizing campaigns was protesting at my college graduation urging the trustees to approve making PC co-ed, which they did. I hadn’t thought about that in decades but I guess equal access was embedded at an early age.

We did our best to avoid talking current politics at the reunion given some strong opinions just under the surface. But there were multiple memories we all had of Draft Lottery night in the midst of the Vietnam War. Many of us had met and bonded as ROTC candidates.PC Class of 71(2) Then came that day junior year in September 1969, when we each on our own had to decide to sign-up or not. I chose to start questioning the war which led to questioning many subsequent governmental actions over the years ahead.

I heard a James Taylor song for the first time this week, even though he wrote it over 25 years ago. When I blogged weekly for a year, I would add to the U2Cando playlist with lyrics to end each blog. These lyrics seem to be a good fit for remembering the past as well rebounding for the future.

And if Jackson asks, I’m not ready to surrender. Love could still be a contender.

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.
We are bound and we are bound.
“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor

CREATING A JUST ECONOMY

CREATING A JUST ECONOMY

“You have people who really believe in what they’re doing, that believe in their community, and they’re truly there for their community.” – Gail Burks, former CEO, Nevada Fair Housing Center & former Chair, National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC]

Gail wasn’t there for the “Past Chairs” photo at NCRC’s 25th Anniversary dinner in DC earlier this month. I wrote a eulogy to Gail in my blog last month. We rose and toasted her when her photo appeared in what is unfortunately becoming a longer “In Memoria” for those champions of justice who have left us.

NCRC Chairs

Left to Right: Irvin Henderson (NC), Hubert VanTol (Rochester, NY), Bethany Sanchez (Milwaukee), Gene Ortega (Albuquerque), Founding NCRC Chair Bart Harvey, Ted Wysocki (Chicago), Current NCRC Chair Bob Dickerson (Birmingham), Lee Beaulac (NY).

But while she wasn’t there for the photo, Gail was certainly there in spirit and her belief in community people. The above quote was published in NCRC’s anniversary report, 25 Years Opening Doors to Economic Opportunity. The retrospective brought back many memories. The conference underscored the challenges we still face in “Creating a Just Economy.” Hopefully, next year we won’t be facing a “Trumped-Up” economy.

One workshop in particular brought this home to me in my current work as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Chicago’s Uptown community. The topic was promoting integration in gentrifying neighborhoods. The question yet to be answered is: Are we fostering another cycle of re-segregation or creating opportunities for economic integration?

The latest luxury apartment project awaiting approval in Uptown promises a contribution of $5+ million to Chicago’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund but will provide only 20 affordable units on site out of 631 apartments. Yes, Chicago’s south and west sides need affordable housing finance. But as Chicago’s most economically and racially diverse neighborhood, Uptown needs affordable units too.

Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant HUD Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity, was the closing luncheon speaker. He encouraged the audience with his success on brokering fair housing settlements. However, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t time for HUD to be filing fair housing suits against City Halls that enable profiteering developers to buy their way out of providing affordable housing on site which only furthers segregation and deny equal economic opportunities. Start dinging federal allocations to cities for failure to meet their mandate to affirmatively promote fair housing and we are likely to see new urban policies or at least new mayors who are committed to equity in community development.

The conference closed with perhaps the most significant plenary in NCRC’s 25 years announcing a landmark $16.5 billion community benefits agreement with KeyBank. Beth Mooney, KeyCorp’s Chairman and CEO, and John Taylor, NCRC’s CEO, were joined at the signing by community leaders from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, and Maine.

NCRC & Key Bank 3.18.2016

The commitment includes mortgage, small business, and community development lending, and philanthropy in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities over five years, beginning in 2017. NCRC’s CEO John Taylor noted:

“This commitment is the result of a collaborative process with community members and bank leaders after months of give and take, resulting in a substantive and detailed commitment of resources and services to communities throughout the KeyBank and First Niagara Bank footprints. This is in contrast to several banks’ recent announcements of commitments that did not engage community leaders or have a system for evaluating the success of that commitment.”

I’ve written before about Irvin Henderson, my friend and also a former NCRC chair. The 25 anniversary report has a quote and photo of him with President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn from the July 15, 1993 announcement to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and to create Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

“Despite their challenges the poor and underserved of this nation have great potential. They need training; they need access to capital; they need leadership; and they need a chance to participate in the American Dream – a dream that is not dead, but must be revived.”

That’s the political lens we should be applying this election year at every level of government: Am I voting for a candidate who is committed to creating a just economy?

So What’s With All the Lighthouses?

I don’t remember when I saw my first lighthouse. What I do remember is this photo of the lighthouse in Evanston, IL that my father took.  He was a semi-professional photographer who took on photography jobs for extra income. This photo hangs in our living room today along with three others of my Dad’s.

Evanston, IL

Grosse Point Lighthouse 1873 Evanston, IL

My first impression of lighthouses was they are a public service. Maybe I was a keeper in another life time? Like a church, lighthouses offer a connection to those seeking refuge.

This past April, my wife and I travelled to Spain.  Of course, I planned an afternoon touring lighthouses along the Basque Coast, which included Santa Catalina in Lekeitio that I have posted as my blog’s header photo and another outside of San Sebastian that is included in my blog’s photo gallery. Given Basque history, these lighthouses exemplify persistence throughout troubled times.

When choosing a logo for my consulting business, U2Cando, I went with a photo of the Key West Lighthouse that I took from the veranda of Ernest Hemingway’s house [included in my photo gallery]. That’s what Ernest saw when he walked out on the veranda to his study.

My favorite lighthouse experience was staying in the Big Bay Point Lighthouse B&B along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We would go to the top catwalk to read and for sunset.

Lighthouses have always been guides to that proverbial port in a storm. We certainly can use more guides in our current economic storms to light the way to safe harbors. But while they may light the way, you still need to chart your own course. Sometimes that is still challenging.

My most recent lighthouse visit was this August to Whitefish Point also in the UP. Located there was the Shipwreck Museum as testimony to those lost at sea in Lake Superior including the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  A museum plague quoted Dennis Hanson from the August 1987 Smithsonian:

“Clearly there is something special about lighthouses that goes far beyond their utilitarian purpose. They are… beacons of hope and homecoming. They stand for integrity and reliability.”

As we journey to improve our communities, I hope your voyage is a safe one, well lit and the wind is at your back.

Ted Wysocki, U2Cando

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald”