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Elaine Brown’s “A Taste of Power,” a memoir which chronicles her leadership of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense when co-founder Huey P. Newton is imprisoned, still resonates with me. The idea that a Black woman is nominated to the leadership position of the most powerful civic organization in the country at that time is still remarkable and speaks to what Kathleen Cleaver calls revolutionary imagination.
Against all odds, a grassroots coalition defeated a plan to build a new, 384-bed downtown jail at a cost of $240 million – up to $465 million including 30 years of debt financing. In what the No New Jail Coalition called “an historic moment in our long and difficult fight against jail expansion,” the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Dec. 15 to reject the new jail plan.
Some financial observers attribute the Black community’s economic woes to our unwillingness to financially support Black businesses. Well, back in 1921, in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, community named Black Wall Street, a dollar circulated 19 times before leaving the community. That was before a white mob destroyed the town. Given the ferocity of the attack and the complicity of Oklahoma police, one would think that by now survivors would’ve been compensated for what they endured, but they haven’t been.
Another Black History Month with pomp, circumstance and countless hollow speeches has been taking place all over San Francisco. Does anyone notice it is only a matter of time until Black people living in San Francisco will become history? The 1970 Black population of “everyone’s favorite city” was a hundred thousand, according to city records. The latest census says Blacks account for just under 47,000 of the city’s 825,000 people.
All too often, apologies are just empty words that aren’t worth the air they ride on. But there are times when an apology actually has meaning and impact. That was the case on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Chief Chuck Jordan of the Tulsa Police Department apologized to the Black people of the city for the 1921 attack on “Black Wall Street.”
It’s been 33 years, but Ed Donaldson can still see the anxious look on his mother’s face when she was told she had to move. It was 1976, and Donaldson was only 10 – the youngest of three children – when the family received word from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency that they were being kicked out of their Hunters Point apartment.