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As Malcolm X would say, “you’re been had, hoodwinked, bamboozled.”

Shortly after returning to Portland a few weeks ago, I was surprised to come across a recent article in the Daily Journal of Commerce titled, “Portland CBA Results Scrutinized”. The article takes up the issue of two Portland water bureau projects and raises several concerns in the process. The story refers to an independent evaluation report which portrays the pilot Community Benefits Agreement as not a “sweeping success”. It points to: high administrative cost for the same results; obvious financial conflicts of interest; overlapping and duplicating functions; poor management; inaccurate reporting; and weak compliance. That the city utilized this process and may still continue to do so in the future is troubling.

But it’s appalling to me that not many Black folks in Oregon know about CBAs. And even more importantly, they have no idea why they should care. A CBA is a modified version of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), proposed and utilized mainly by construction unions. In theory, it is intended to create program mechanisms that would force white contractors to hire minority contractors and workers. In this case, it is an administrative boondoggle and has by the numbers fallen on its face. Indeed, it’s been a sham orchestrated by unions for the real purpose of estabishing a monopoly on government projects.

The CBA agenda occurs under the guise of increasing minority participation. And anxious to solve the decades-long problem of so few minorities on city construction projects, the City has taken the bait. But if the City would have done a little more investigative diligence, they would know that the PLA nationwide is a tactic construction unions have used for decades to keep their memberships lily White. In the case of the local CBAs, the results are consistent with the national trend, demonstrating that Black are the least likely to receive any benefits from this contrived scheme.

In most cases, the Black community is not aware of how tragically these expressions of institutional racism by the City and Union representatives are damaging the economic fabric of our community. I am so worked up about this because for several decades, 36 years to be exact, I have been screaming about this connection between poor public policy and the impact it has on making black people poorer.

james-posey

I recently posted on my Facebook page an article from the Oregonian which declared that “…… half of all black children in Oregon live in poverty.” Sadly, many are not able to make the connection between the catastrophic social conditions in Portland’s Black community and the systematic denial of economic opportunity in its highly-profitable industries. In other words, the inability of Blacks to convert economic opportunity into community wealth assets means Black kids and families are relegated to a poverty status well into the future.

I’ll have more to say on this issue soon, as the reason for this blog is to inform and discuss what to do about this kind of a mess. Look for part 2. In the meantime, please respond and give us your thoughts and recommendations so far.

Black Portland stands up for JUSTICE OR ELSE

Portland was on the Mall.

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There is something absolutely thrilling about a mass group of black people coming together to:

  1. acknowledge our unique presence in the universe,
  2. share in the distinct condition we find ourselves in today as descendants of slaves in America, and…
  3. promote Black unity to craft a national plan demanding JUSTICE or ELSE.

march 1Most of us who attended the original Million Man March sought to recapture the excitement and promise of a better America that was stirred in us 20 years ago.

One could feel the resistance from both whites and blacks about the notion that independent thinking black people would have the audacity as group to challenge the oppressive status quo.

march 2

We keep thinking there will be a revolution in the minds of black people that says “we can do this.” Throw off the chains of our slave masters, claim the destiny of true freedom and breathe the fresh air of justice and equality.march 3

We can be especially proud of the Portland contingency who made special sacrifice to attend. Let’s see if we can live up to the challenge of helping to move the needle and lifting the aspirations of black people in Portland.

posey at the march

I, for one, am committed to doing so.  This is not my fight…its our’s.

Together, we stand.

Black Boys to Men: A Big Deal But We Need Much More

It is hard to understand why black people have not put more effort into cultivating the specific relationship between black men and boys. Among the many possible reasons given is the overall general knock on black men: a lack of sensitivity.

Well that certainly was not in evidence a few Saturdays ago when Donald Dixson held his annual Boyz to Men Breakfast at Jefferson High School. There is something inherently powerful when a significant mass of black men come together for the best of purposes. I often reminisce about the Million Man March, which will mark its 20th anniversary in October of this year. The symbolism of both events, equally peaceful, thoughtful, inspiring and challenging, is evidence of the powerful impact black men can have on each other.

And while sensitivity, caring and understanding was clearly demonstrated at the Saturday breakfast, one could not help sense the raw awareness that these types of meetings may eventually determine the very survival of black men. The statistics on us are utterly depressing in just about every area, unemployment, low education levels, poor health, little business ownership, substance abuse, and incarceration. These relationship building meetings can certainly be part of the solution.

And that Saturday meeting presented a ray of hope and inspiration for me and many others in the room. Given that the meeting was a structured event with an opening, orientation, actual breakfast, exercises designed to solicit information, a getting acquainted session, substantive dialogue and a closing, the allotted three hours went by fast. It was a clear acknowledgement that as a group, black men are in trouble and must work extra hard and do all we can now to save ourselves.

The question is, will we mount a full out campaign to make these efforts, or will we revert to the same old model of asking other to do for us what we will not do for ourselves. Convening regular meetings to have discussions is important and a good first step. But how do we strengthen these relationships in our everyday activities at work and play. It will not take much to implement the play elements if we bring the resources together. But the work piece will require mammoth effort, organizing and commitment. Here are a few not so radical ideas to consider: targeted career interventions; individual youth career advocates; regional coordinated career pipelines; long term tracking and evaluation schemes; and finally, maximizing and expanding residential training centers like Job Corps.

The Donald Dixon event’s driven approach is very much needed, but it needs to be a part of a long range continuum. It has to be connected to measurable outcomes that make a substantial difference, and we must start now.

Does Diversity “Equal” Equity?

not equalCan black people really believe there are serious efforts to erase decades of racial discrimination impacts through a current push for diversity? Are Blacks in Portland being asked to sublimate their race issues in favor of a white-controlled and -perpetuated diversity agenda?

This might also explain why black people are so passive in demanding their rightful share of what they’ve worked for and deserve as black American citizens. Just who is comforted by this diversity label? For whatever reason black people are engaged in seeking fairness for other groups rather unwaveringly seeking results in their own interest

For example, recently a few black people, citing a lack of diversity, challenged a newly-developed seven-member minority business commission which included four black members. Can it be only in Portland where Blacks in a public meeting have the audacity to complain about the over-representation of other Blacks for the sake of racial diversity? But as we have seen in Baltimore, racial composition does not necessarily translate into equal treatment. To say it another way, having black faces associated with an issue does not necessarily guarantee satisfactory results for Blacks.

On the other hand, and similar also to Baltimore, we have seen what happens when black people are treated like caged rats: there’s explosive responses, outrage and expressions of violent contempt for their horrendous conditions. In the intervening periods, how does one explain black people’s incredible ability to tolerate endless indignities and humiliations until pushed to the brink?  Maybe we can blame it on what Portland’s own Dr. Joy DeGruy describes as “post traumatic slave syndrome”. Or maybe it is just a perverted version of the Stockholm syndrome. But can we correctly conclude that white people’s indifference or complacency is because of black peoples’ passivity?

I’m no sociologist but I do know if a people are treated like animals, eventually they begin to behave like them. Anyone who has spent time in the ‘real’ Baltimore knows that many blacks, like in many other urban cities, are truly living like animals. No one condones violence, but we understand why it exists.

This is why it’s important to keep asking this all-important question. Can Portland buck the national trend and treat its black citizens as equals in all respects?

Image credit:  BOONDOCKS © 2005 Adelaide Productions, Inc.

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Cozying Up to the New Governor

In the wake of former Governor Kitzhaber’s demise, there is an all-out effort to cozy up to the new governor, Kate Brown. This should not be surprising, but what is most revealing in the entire process is the notion of political loyalty. With Democratic friends like those who turned on Governor Kitzhaber, who needs Republican enemies. It was quite astounding to watch this mass abandonment. Continue reading Cozying Up to the New Governor

Can Black people connect the O-DOT’s?

How do these recent events impact black people:  Mayor Charlie Hale’s 2015 priorities; the recent firing of Catherine Mater, the chair of Department of Transportation Commission; Carol Smith’s Portland Public Schools reorganization plan, and the Governor’s vision for the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act?  They all have huge implications for black people, both specifically and as they interrelate to each other. Continue reading Can Black people connect the O-DOT’s?