Thank you. Thank you, Councilman Jones. You're so quick.
After reading the Sunday Inquirer, I proceeded with my morning household chores when it struck me that this cannot be business as usual. Two front page articles scream for attention from all people of color in Philadelphia and African Americans in particular. The story about OARC and Daniel Devers' excellent rebuttal to Philadelphia Magazine's latest and continued assault on black Philadelphia calls for, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, the fierce urgency of now.
I have had the occasion over the past year to speak to two business people who have come to do work in Philadelphia. One hailed from the South and the other from the Big Apple. Both are unknown to each other, but what they have in common is an observation that there is very little wealth in black Philadelphia.
I'm going to make a quote. "Them that's got shall get. Them that's not shall lose. So the Bible said and it still is news. Momma may have, Papa may have, but God bless the child that's got his own. That's got his own," end of quote.
Which brings me back to Sunday's article on Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation, or OARC, in which the Inquirer wrote a story about alleged misuse of state funds. If you look beyond the deliberately misleading headlines and the numerous inferences and innuendos, there is not much there in their story.
They reduced 30 years of Dwight Evans' hard work to revitalize this formerly blighted community to a headline of indictments. Quote, "The Northwest Philadelphia non-profit founded by State Rep Dwight Evans misspent or mismanaged portions of state grants worth $12 million since 2006, violating fed rules and made questionable real estate purchases with taxpayer funds, according to a state investigation," end of quote.
For the record, State Representative Evans founded OARC 30 years ago with a mission to revitalize an impoverished, blighted neighborhood. Beginning as a young legislator, he worked tirelessly over the past 30 years to turn around this formerly economically distressed, crime-infested, and blighted neighborhood into a vibrant community with bustling commercial corridors, improved housing stock, educational options, training programs, and business and neighborhood attraction programs.
If he were a white legislator and this was a white neighborhood, the Inquirer's headline would read, Committed State Legislator Turns Neighborhood Around After 30 Years of Hard Work.
Dwight Evans worked his way up to the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives through hard work and perseverance. In the 20 years he held this position, he was arguably one of the most powerful state legislators in the Commonwealth, respected by both sides of the aisle for deliberative leadership and bringing home the bacon to his members and their constituents, all members. Philadelphia as a whole did well under Representative Evans, who held the top appropriations leadership position through both democratic and republican administrations in Harrisburg.
Moreover, Philadelphians, black, white, Latino, Asian, and others residing in neighborhoods across this city, are still today benefiting from the appropriation decisions made by Representative Evans. There would be no Convention Center or its expansion without Dwight. There would be no urban supermarkets in Philadelphia or in various urban areas across this country without Dwight. There would be no Barnes, Jewish Museum or Please Touch Museum without Dwight. There would be no Avenue of the Arts North without Dwight. And we would not have had many of the new recreation centers, playgrounds, health center expansions, and arts and cultural facilities without Dwight Evans.
The former Appropriations Chairman has bumped heads with many over the years, and at the core of these battles is his dogged determination to improve the lives of the disadvantaged and the underserved through public policy and fair access to government resources, resources that heretofore had been denied to minority communities through public policy decisions that encourage redlining, gerrymandering, and a denial of adequate funding for local schools.
Representative Evans learned the rules of the game over a 30-year period while serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He learned that holding the purse can affect public policy decisions. Businessmen, labor, community groups, members of civic groups, and a variety of stakeholders lined his Capital office waiting room daily for a chance to speak with him to advance their interest in the state budget. However, a confluence of shortsightedness, petty jealousies and animus led to his tumble from the top perch of Appropriations Chair.
Money you got, lots of friends crowding around your door. When you're gone, spending ends. They don't come no more. So when two total strangers to the City ask, Why is there so little black wealth in Philadelphia, the answer lies between apathy and petty jealousness, corporate greed and the political benefactors, liberals who are comfortable with blacks on their backs than in the boardroom, and a press that exploits and sensationalizes the misfortune of the black community on one hand and the demonizing of those who dare to craft solutions.
There is a saying in the black community that whenever we learn the rules of the game, the game changes. Representative Evans learned the rules of the game in Harrisburg, and he was a very effective steward of our resources.
There is a notion that the African American community is not entitled to participate in decisions of allocating revenue and government resources, we need to somehow be closely monitored and that government in our hands is suddenly more corrupt. The press perpetuates this myth by sensationalizing leaked allegations. We all know that the press gives some political leaders the presumption of innocence and requires a higher bar of evidence before printing allegations of alleged improprieties. If this story was about former Governor Rendell, the Inquirer may have investigated the motives of a republican administration leaking stories about an audit, which the administration refuses to share with the organization named in the report.
They may have questioned the aim of the audit is to correct deficiencies or bring down the legacy of a more popular predecessor or an attempt by Corbett to win reelection in 2015. They may also ask why couldn't the Corbett Administration want to share the audit and work to correct irregularities. If there is a real smoke and gun, where are the charges? Or is it the true aim to kill off these effective organizations by rumors, allegations, and legal fees, death by a thousand cuts.
Years from now, long after these organizations are gone, we'll learn that their demise was part of an organized strategy to weaken the political and social safety net in Philadelphia's African American community, much like the national attack on ACORN.
This month's Philadelphia Magazine front cover story, Being White in Philadelphia, is just another example of the ongoing attack on black Philadelphia. Considering the recent census, African Americans can hold political power for years to come, but if they remain economically disadvantaged, they will never be full partners or independent.
Rich relations give crust of bread and such. You can help yourself, but don't take too much. God bless the child who's got his own.
Thank you very much.