August 21, 2009
When you hear the word segregation many persons think of the South. It bring back memories of lunch counter sit-ins, the March to Montgomery, Selma and other civil rights battles of the 1960s, but a better example can be found right here in the Bi-State region, particularly in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Despite what the surveys disclose St. Louis is one of the 10 most-segregated metropolitan locales for blacks in the nation, and it will probably continue to be.
The issue of racial disparities in St. Louis and the Bi-State region is emerging as one of the most pressing social and economic concerns facing African Americans, because the nation’s inner cities are being gentrified at an alarming rate, displacing a large section of our population.
African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Latinos, and members of other communities of color are not always included in Missouri and Illinois success stories.
Gentrification can only occur in neighborhoods where there is low ownership by those that live and do business in the neighborhood, and as we know, we do not own very much
The decline of our cities, the flight to the suburbs, private and charter schools, teacher shortages, and the outplacement of jobs to other countries, economic downturns and declining tax bases and many other factors have contributed to our current situation, but how and why did this happen?
Many blame it on what is commonly known as The Team Four Plan.
Team Four, Inc. was hired by the City’s Planning Commission in 1973 to prepare a city-wide comprehensive planning study, an update to the City’s 1947 Comprehensive Plan. This plan recommended “A New Concept for a New Town in the City."
This proposal included an Area of New Development: to the North, Delmar Boulevard, to the South, Lafayette and I-44, to the East, the North-South Distributor and to the West, Vandeventer and Thirty-ninth Street.
The concept of a New Town in the City was based primarily on the idea of creating a quality environment that incorporates the luxury of suburban living with the convenience and vitality of city living. The plan was backed by the Urban Growth and New Community Development Act of 1970, which supplements existing city, state and federal mechanisms to encourage major new private investments.
Public records illustrate the process of creating a new town in the City of St. Louis. The documents tell "It would be located in the midtown area just west of the Central Business District including Lafayette Square, Laclede Town and the proposed area of new development. The "New Town" would cover a total of 1250 acres; with units estimated at 18,500, this development would house 40,000 to 50,000 people of various socio-economic backgrounds." Do you recognize the results of this plan? Can you tell the plan was implemented?
Who was excluded? What neighborhoods and communities would NOT and did not benefit from these illustrious plans? What community was and will be underserved or have services depleted or curtailed? What hospitals and schools were targeted to close? Whose tax base was targeted for erosion? Where are the industrial parks being built? Who recommended the reduction of Aldermanic Wards in North St. Louis?
What we witnessed and are now experiencing is another form of gentrification and red-lining. Are you aware the FHA underwrote mortgages only in predominantly white neighborhoods, excluding blacks from the "largest wealth-building program" in the history of our country? Did you know the Federal Public Works Program divided thriving black and ethnic white neighborhoods?
North St. Louis was and is the victim of a U.S. Government conspiracy. In the area of unfair lending HUD took the leading role in the history of racial discrimination in mortgage lending.
Redlining is a reality in African American communities across the United States. It is a practice which discriminates against Blacks of all economic sectors when they apply for home and business loans and consumer credit. Blacks, more than any other racial or ethnic group receive less credit.
The federal and local Urban Renewal programs, that moved people from homes to public housing projects, was soon referred to as Negro Removal.
Following World War II, and continuing into the early 1970s, "urban renewal" referred primarily to public efforts to revitalize aging and decaying inner cities, although some suburban communities undertook such projects as well. Including massive demolition, slum clearance, and rehabilitation, urban renewal proceeded initially from local and state legislation.
Urban Renewal or Negro Removal also destroyed the Mill Creek Valley area.
According to city records, "in 1951, Missouri Governor Forrest Smith signed the Municipal Land Clearance for Redevelopment Law, which brought state aid to the urban renewal efforts of Missouri's cities." The law also created the St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, whose job it was to oversee urban renewal in Saint Louis and manage its funding.
Under the 1954 Federal Housing Act - which provided federal aid for renewal projects - and the passage in 1955 of a $110 million bond issue, Mayor Tucker and the City of St. Louis began the clearance and demolition of slums in Mill Creek Valley.
The most of the bond revenue went towards construction of new expressways, some of which cut through parts of Mill Creek. Roughly $10 million was utilized for slum clearance. The clearance of the area would involve the relocation of many residents and businesses; most residents would never return and many businesses would cease operations.
Was this the model for Team Four? Do you recognize how the Federal Works Programs devastated the African American community? It divided the African American community and sapped the strength from the political voting base.
Did Highway 40 and Highway 70 make life better for you or just more convenient? This program polarized the city and created divisions we are yet trying to amend. The voting strength of the African American community was ruined.
This is all of public information. It is mostly hidden, but it is public.
Please listen to my radio talk show, along with my co-host State Representative Rev. James T. Morris where we will be discussing these and other issues that are important to you. We can be heard Monday through Friday from 7 am -8 am on WGNU-AM 920 AM, following The Doug Eason Show.
I can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great day.