Fifty years ago, when Ray Dones set up the National Association of Minority Contractors, there were 350 Black construction firms in Oakland; today, there are fewer than 100. Black contractors are on a path to extinction.
The old rhyme, so well known in the nether regions of American slums, is certainly apropos to minority business conditions in Oakland: “If you’re white, that’s all right; If you’re yellow, that’s mellow; If you’re brown, you can stick aroun’; But if you’re Black, get the Hell back!”
As San Francisco Public Utilities Commission officials focus on developing a new property at Evans Avenue and Third Street in the Bayview, its facility at 1800 Oakdale Ave. sits in virtual suspense, putting in jeopardy the hard-won benefits intended to compensate for expanding sewage treatment facilities in the neighborhood since the 1970s. The handsome building at 1800 Oakdale, opened in 1987, exists only because community leaders demanded it be built in exchange for the community’s reluctant agreement to the City’s plan to treat 80 percent of San Francisco’s sewage in its Blackest neighborhood.
“Three African-American construction workers said this week that they were targeted by racial slurs and death threats, including black dolls hanging from nooses in the bathroom, while working on the site of a San Francisco high-rise,” reported the New York Times after renowned civil rights attorney John Burris, who’s representing the workers, held a June 21 press conference. That the issue is important enough for a major story in the New York Times will, we hope, catch the attention of the powers that be in San Francisco.
“The winning team, Dragados USA, Inc., Flatiron West, Inc., and Shimmick Construction Company, Inc., collectively known as DFS, brings the necessary team experience to successfully complete the California High-Speed Rail Construction Package 2-3 Project,” the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced Monday, Dec. 29. A consortium of 19 minority and women owned firms of all types – 13 Black – is part of the winning team for the $1.5 billion contract.
The Jackson Rising Organizing Committee and Cooperation Jackson sincerely thank all who attended and all our supporters for helping to make the New Economies Conference a total success. You, along with more than 500 other participants, helped to secure the legacy of the Lumumba administration and establish a solid foundation for the development of Cooperation Jackson as a vehicle to build economic democracy in Jackson, Mississippi.
I saw nothing in the Zimmerman case that surprised me. The system worked as it was intended. Zimmerman, a White man, was tried by a White justice system for killing a Black boy. The outcome was predictable. Many White people saw this as a non-racial event. As an angry old Black man I have seen the diminution of racism in my lifetime. We are not there yet. It is unlikely that we will get there in the lifetime of my grandchildren.
In late August, Aboriginal Blackman United organized over 30 unemployed union members from Bayview Hunters Point to protest construction at Bayview’s Willie Brown Academy. We did not protest because we disagree that our public schools are much in need of repair or with the $531 million that the San Francisco School District will spend to upgrade our public schools. We protested because, despite this historic opportunity for the School District to work with local communities to rebuild our schools, there are no Black workers and no Black contractors at Willie Brown Academy. And at ABU we say that if we don’t work, nobody works.
The nation has lost one of its unsung civil rights heroes: Ray Dones was the Martin Luther King of the construction industry. We lost Ray at a time when his kind of leadership is most needed. We all recognize now that the best way to fight violent crime is with a well paying job.
My sorrow is for what’s happening to the Black contractors and their crews in the Bay Area trying to get bonding but being rejected by the bonding companies. The Black and Brown vote is too large for us to keep on being set aside and ignored.
The BMW - Black Man Working - campaign is underway. It is no longer acceptable to take money out of our community without putting some back. We will make this an uncomfortable business environment for those who do not return community benefits as we define them. The Bay Area Black Builders meet Saturday, March 13, 12 noon, at 1099 Sunnydale, SF – contractors, workers, jobseekers welcome.
My call last month for an end to the lockout of Blacks from construction is catching fire. This month, let's get some work! Everyone who wants to work construction, pack the BART board meeting Thursday, Jan. 8, 9 a.m., Kaiser Center, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland. Dr. King taught us, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle."
When the new First Family takes up residence in the White House in January, Barack and Michelle Obama and their daughters will be living in a historic mansion that was built in large measure with slave labor.
This is a great time to make a long overdue change. Construction unions are the most racist organizations in the nation. Let's make them integrate.