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Michael Jones: This is Michael Jones. I'm with the Metropolitan Housing Coalition's Unfair Housing Oral History Project, and it's June 21st at 4:30 and I'm interviewing Manfred Reid who is the chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Louisville Metro Housing Authority. How are you doing today, sir?

Manfred Reid: Fine, thank you.

MJ: So let's start out. How old are you?

MR: I was born in 1936. I'm 84 and in September I'll be 85.

MJ: Okay, have you always lived in Louisville?

MR: Most of my life. Was born in Lothair, Kentucky. And we migrated to 1:00Louisville in 1944 during the midst of the Second World War.

MJ: Okay and why was that?

MR: (Inaudible 0:01:04.7) based on the part of my father which was chronic. He lived about nine months after we relocated.

MJ: So how old were you when you first came to Louisville?

MR: 8.

MJ: Was it a culture shock for you in the city?

MR: It was fascinating.

MJ: Really?

MR: It was--at being 8, and after living in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and you come to the city and you see that the land is flat, and you see airplanes flying over. That's large enough where you could hear and see the signatures on the planes. It was a fascinating experience for an 8-year-old child.

MJ: And where did you live when you first came to Louisville?


MR: 3236 Kirby Avenue.

MJ: What part of town is that at?

MR: That's around 34th--34th between Dumesnil and Woodland.

MJ: Then was that mostly a black neighborhood, or did that--

MR: Yes, it was a black neighborhood. There was no integration of neighborhoods at that time.

MJ: So were you aware that it was segregated? Were you conscious that the city was segregated?

MR: No. Our biggest interest at that time was being aware of segregation and trying to make yourself safe as you went out into the community. In many cases, you had to cross the white neighborhoods to get to your neighborhood. So that 3:00was probably the greatest concern is making sure that a child was safe and that he knew how to move about in the community on his own and not be entangled into problems that you would have in white neighborhoods. And you would always have that problem.

MJ: Did you have any of these experiences or know anyone who had bad experiences going through a white neighborhood?

MR: Quite a few, yeah. You had (inaudible 0:03:35.7) rejection. People want to know why you're there. And occasion they (inaudible 0:03:43.4) throw a rock or something at you. But that was the way it was within the temperament of the community at that time.

MJ: And where did you go to school when you first got here?


MR: Virginia Avenue Elementary School. And then I attended Madison Junior High School, which is--became Russell Junior High School, Russell Middle School. And then I went to Central High School and graduated.

MJ: Okay, so the schools that you went to were also majority black schools?

MR: Yeah. All of them.

MJ: When did you move to--I guess what's now the Russell neighborhood. Is that when you got older?

MR: 1988.

MJ: Okay, so you were--

MR: I was grown.

MJ: Grown when you--

MR: (Inaudible 0:04:39.6) children. Up and (inaudible 0:04:41.3) and so forth. Yeah.

MJ: Did you have a big family? Did you have brothers and sisters?

MR: I had one brother, one sister.

MJ: What did your parents do for a living?

MR: My father worked a coal mine, and when he left the coal mines, he worked for (inaudible 0:05:00.3) Railroad. But he didn't live but nine months until--in 5:00Louisville when we relocated.

MJ: And so after his death, how did that impact your family?

MR: Well my mother died 18 months later. And then we were--lived with an uncle who was a guardian, legal guardian of us until we got grown.

MJ: When did you start to get involved in like community activism?

MR: I was a real estate broker at that time, and I was--I think, 32 years old. I got involved (inaudible 0:05:52.4) conflict with a police officer. That threw me 6:00into a turmoil as it relates to the courts and so forth and being arrested. You lose all your wealth. Your licensures and so forth. Being forced into poverty like that, you begin to try to fight your way back. And the--

MJ: So were you convicted of something with the police officer?

MR: Well yeah. I was charged with criminal conspiracy or to destroy private property, and that led to the court battle. You were raised--well you might not have been born that time.


MJ: Yeah, I'm only 50, so.

MR: I see. (laughter) Okay. But the Black 6.

MJ: Oh yeah, I remember them. Okay. So you were one of the members of that one. Okay, with Sherry Brock Hamilton's mother and things like that. And so a lot of that came out of the uprising in '68 at the Parkland Neighborhood, right?

MR: Right, right.

MJ: Had you been active before? Like why would they pick you to--

MR: Well, no. I was basically in business and fortunate as a business person. This occurred as a results of trying to assist somebody who was being stopped by 8:00the police.

MJ: Okay.

MR: Which led to an altercation with the police because he asked us to get out of the street as we begin to move out of the street, he attacked us. So that's how that developed.

MJ: Okay, and what got you interested in real estate?

MR: Let's see, let's go back to 1963. I was a psychiatric aide at Central State Hospital. The aides attacked a patient. I resisted their attack on the patient and they fired me. So I was studying real estate under Lincoln Cosby at that 9:00time, and I took the state examination and passed it. And so I went on into real estate.

MJ: What was the real estate market like back then for black families?

MR: The real estate market was in transition from white--what do you call, white flight? And there was tremendous market demand for housing by blacks. And so the market demand led to an open opportunity for anybody who wanted to be in real estate to get into it. The finding, contacting people in the neighborhoods, and 10:00getting the listing, and then recruiting people to come and view the homes see if they wanted to buy them. (Inaudible 0:10:13.4) houses.

MJ: Did you have a certain area that you focused on?

MR: All the West End.

MJ: And so was it just understood then that black families would stay in the West End, or--

MR: Well most black people didn't live in the West End, and you had your public housing population, and you had those Smoketown, Newburg, and so forth. And mostly people who were renting. This was their first opportunity in purchasing your home. And so you had a strong market at that time. Very strong market.

MJ: And this is like pre-urban renewal, or was--


MR: It was during urban renewal.

MJ: Okay.

MR: Urban renewal started in 1960 and it lasted for about 10 years.

MJ: There's a lot of talk now about redlining and the impact of redlining on the community. Is that something that you saw the impact of when you got into real estate?

MR: It was a fact of life. Yeah. It was a fact of life. You were in these boundaries. The West End was in transition, so the home sellers were white people and the home buyers were black people. But we had to deal with deed restrictions, such as there were clauses in deeds that they could not sell their home to a person of African descent. And so usually we had to go to court and 12:00get the court to overrule that restriction so they could convey the property legally to a black person.

MJ: We never really think about that today, that I've heard of deed restrictions and things like that, but the fact that you had to go to court to do that. And it was just common practice at the time?

MR: Yeah. We would usually retain legal counsel, and whenever we had a case, we'd go to that particular person and they would take it before the courts.

MJ: And so you said there was a lot of opportunity. Were there a lot of black realtors when you were getting into it?


MR: Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah you had--I was a broker. Lincoln Cosby, Butler, Catheryn Gates, I'm trying to recall them now--

MJ: Yeah, I know it's been a while. And so what were the feelings in the community about urban renewal? What was going on?

MR: Mostly it was passive, but there was no uprising about urban renewal. Everybody just seemed to accept it. It's only in the last 30/40 years, and 14:00looking back we began to analyze and see where that urban renewal and infrastructure development as it relates to interstate highway system was an intentional act to eliminate the fundamental economic infrastructure that was in its infancy in development in the black community following the transition of the West End.

MJ: And so when did you start thinking along these lines? When you start realizing that the economic development in the West End was decreasing?

MR: Around that time, 1960. Yeah, we saw the difference. You didn't have a basic social foundation by which that you could develop dialogue. Mostly people 15:00believed that when you brought these things up, you're creating trouble. Oh, and that was blacks and whites. So there wasn't a basis by which you could express yourself clearly at that time. The riots in 1968 really opened the door by which we begin discuss issues.

MJ: Were you there when the riots started? I know there was a speech that was going on and there was--

MR: Yes, I was there.

MJ: Okay. And so I've talked to other people who were present, like Mattie Jones, who said a lot of the tension was caused by the police presence because 16:00they were ready.

MR: Yes, that's true. That's true. There probably wasn't any disturbance until I think the police came through there with automobiles and sirens and so forth and incited the crowd, and it went on from there.

MJ: Until this day that part of Parkland is still recovering economically from that.

MR: When I compare it to what happened to Haiti after the fall of Toussaint Louverture, and they have never recovered. They have never--the western society (inaudible 0:16:43.1) in the United States, has never give reparations for what they did to Haiti. It's to my judgement, that form of neglect is a form of punishment and denial for your resistance.


And one thing I've learned about the attitudes of people in Haiti and in the United States is that resistance creates pride, and it blocks the individual (inaudible 0:17:19.6) from even having a desire to appeal or ask or beg. It strengthens your resolve. So that's pretty much where I see the West End.

MJ: Okay, so after you had your kind of political awakening, what kind of things were you involved in--

MR: Well probably for 20 years after that, it was a struggle to live. The individual pressure to me was greater.


MJ: So did you lose your license?

MR: I lost everything, family, life, that's what happens to you. You lose--I had considerable wealth in terms of property ownership, sale of real estate, and so forth and investments. But I lost all that. And in the course of those things create rifts in your family and it leads to divorce. And so I lost my kids, family, all that. That went on for 20 years. Well still going on (laughter), but the worst of it was 20 years after that.

MJ: Okay, and is it at that time that you first moved to Russell?

MR: 1988.

MJ: Okay, so a little bit afterwards then. And so do you remember when people 19:00started calling it Russell?

MR: Yeah.

MJ: The neighborhood, because--

MR: Well, there was a plan by the state that they began to identify and name neighborhoods and set boundaries. Russell was a school teacher.

MJ: And what Madison Junior High was named after him? They renamed it Russell?

MR: Yeah, yeah, yeah they named it after him. He had a couple of kids. I think Blaine Hudson was his grandson, or something like that.

MJ: Okay, I didn't realize that.


MR: Right, right. He lived on the corner at 24th and Madison, on the southeast corner.

MJ: So in a lot of that the neighborhood boundaries came out of the poverty programs in the '60s was it? I talked to Ken Clay and he said that that's--they had named the neighborhoods after some of the junior high schools--

MR: Yeah, that's right.

MJ: --when they set the boundaries, things like that. And a lot of--one of the things that we've been looking at is housing has a lot to do with other aspects of a person's life: employment, schools, things like that. So had you noticed that once out of the segregation like other problems developing in the community in the West End because of this, the redlining and the what, the impact of urban renewal?


MR: Well it's always been there, historically. It really--you wasn't really conscious of it until, like I said, after 1968, issues begin to come up and people became conscious of what we needed to do. The housing issue in Louisville became conscious and relevant at the time when Wade--

MJ: Andrew Wade?

MR: Andrew Wade bought a house in Shively under the auspices of Anne and Carl Braden. That brought housing into the issue, and I was practicing real estate at that time. So people became aware of the redlining at that time. Other prior to 22:00that, everybody had settled into whatever it was following the Civil War (inaudible 0:22:14.5) about 1864. But in the 1950s and 1960s, we became aware of that, yeah.

MJ: Okay, so you said earlier that when people brought up these problems, they were considered trouble makers. So this was just considered the way it was.

MR: That's the way it was, yeah.

JONES:That segregation in housing and in education was just something that people accepted?

MR: Well like I said before, that was resistance, but resistance brings pride. 23:00So that was that pride against that type of restrictions and redlining. But there was not necessarily a sad story. Everybody worked with trying to improve themselves. But as the--really the pressure of the denial in the expansion and growth of neighborhoods was the underlying cause. Although they didn't focus on that in the dialogue but structurally that's what it was.

MJ: When they kind of codified that the boundaries of the neighborhoods?

MR: Well they were already there. (laughs)

MJ: It was just not official--

MR: Right, that's right.

MJ: --until the poverty programs came through?

MR: Right.

MJ: So overall, how would you characterize race relations prior to '68?


MR: Race relations in Louisville was typical of race relations throughout the South. You wouldn't find in Louisville a noticeable military or police brutality of blacks because of--when you get into the history of Kentucky in the Civil War, Kentucky identified with the South. But they would never join the Confederacy, and so when you get into the relationship between the slave and the slave master during that time, there wasn't any particular uprisings here in Louisville of any considerable degree.

There were conflicts, for an example, immediately after the Civil War, there was a suit filed under Jefferson Circuit Court against discrimination in bus riding 25:00in public--

MJ: Street cars.

MR: Street cars, your public transportation. Immediately after the Civil War, the General that went to Texas and--Juneteenth? General Howard came to Louisville. He met blacks in Quinn Chapel there at 9th Street. He informed us of freedom and appealed to blacks about to pick up arms against whites. The development of race really began from that time as it relates to blacks trying to achieve justice and equality according to the law.

MJ: A lot of that language from the Civil War seems to be resurfacing. You 26:00always hear talk about race wars and things like that, that was--

MR: Society, societies have retrogressive skids where they slide backwards. That's where we are today. We're right back where we were in 1864. And we've got to re-fight that battle. Right now the development of the suburbs come out of World War II, divided the nation even more than what it was geographically. This is a growth of widening the gap from that time to today, and of course like I 27:00said, it goes back to the state psychologically and socially and politically what we were in 1864.

MJ: Well today we're sitting in your apartment in the renovated Beecher Terrace. The Beecher Terrace was first built during World War II for black defense workers. Were you involved in the whole revitalization effort here?

MR: Well I'll be (inaudible 0:27:40.6) for over 20 years. So when I became chairman, they were in the midst of planning the development of Park Duvalle. So yes, all of the new facilities that we've had, I've been involved in them. However the supply of decent affordable housing during that era did not generate 28:00economic growth or provide economic opportunity for blacks. Our wealth--this is about the same as it was then.

We don't--the neglect by the city and loss of opportunity has led to the deterioration of the neighborhood due to people not being able to pay their taxes, leading foreclosure crisis in their life due to unemployment and layoffs. And the black communities always suffered from cyclical layoffs.

When I was young in the labor market, you might get four or five months of work 29:00at American Standards or (inaudible 0:28:59.2) or International Harvester which were big production facilities at that time, and then you'd be laid off for the rest of the year, and you didn't have unemployment insurance. It was there but we didn't get it.

MJ: And so that kind of led to places like Beecher Terrace becoming like permanent housing, because originally Beecher Terrace was temporary housing and was kind of supposed to be a launch into the middle class but it didn't work out that way.

MR: No it didn't. No it didn't. The reason why was that economically it was structured to fail in terms of managing the shift into an area of economic gain and higher wages and the right to live with middle class and afford a 30:00house--afford a home. This is why we look up on urban renewal as that turning point in the retrogression skid economically and socially.

MJ: You would chart from urban renewal till today is when that decline--

MR: Well we're dealing with social cycles of development since the end of slavery. That was a growth period during the reconstruction era. It was fruitful. For an example, the Pythian Brothers from (inaudible 0:30:48.8) built the YMCA at 10th and Chestnut in 1910.

They had a social structure laid by the church that brought about social 31:00regimentation in the form of bands--marching bands, choirs, physical athletic activity, here in Louisville in the--matter of fact, the library at 10th and Chestnut is one of the first libraries built in Kentucky and in the United States. Public library.

MJ: Yeah, for African Americans, yeah.

MR: Simmons College was organized during that time. So there was considerable cyclical growth, ups and downs.

JONES:And we had Walnut Street Business District also.


MR: Yeah (inaudible 0:31:55.3) '20s and '30s. To show you the restraint in terms of economic growth, when urban renewal came through, Walnut Street was a functioning economic hub. No blacks owned a property. They leased the property. So when urban renewal came through, they paid the homeowners or the property owners for their land. And so blacks didn't get any economic (inaudible 0:32:39.7) out of urban renewal, and it destroyed our social and political infrastructure. All the doctors, builders, business people.

MJ: Yeah, Joe Hammond was one of the few who was able to survive that.


MR: Yeah, yeah. Right, that's right.

MJ: That's something I never thought about is that those businesses--because you always hear about the black businesses on Walnut Street, but I never realized that most of them were renters.

MR: That's right, that's why that eminent review. There was no--that was intentional. That was an intentional effort to destroy, and if you look through the records there's a tape which was a government tape at that time, I think, the mayor--

MJ: Farnsley, the mayor.

MR: He--right, have you seen that tape?

MJ: Yes I have where he's driving around looking at it and he's talking about it, and do you think that part of that was political? Because from what I've researched myself, they were worried about the political power of the black 34:00community then.

MR: That's right. Their intent was to replace it. Remove it. Destroy it. That was their intent. That was the intelligency of Louisville.

MJ: Is it Sneeter, the guy who owned the Galt House? I know he was really involved in urban renewal at the time. Too is a lot of developers were--

MR: Well there were a bunch of them. First National Bank, Citizen Fidelity Bank, Liberty Bank, Bank of Louisville.

MJ: So you were in real estate then, so you knew what was happening.


MR: Right, yeah, you could see it. And I wondered if you had the insight when I came from being educated to a certain extent. But Kenneth Schmied was the mayor. Prior to Schmied you had Scholtz was the mayor. They're the ones that let it--in cooperation with the banks and larger businesses.

MJ: But they didn't actually remove all of the black populations like they just took out the economic engine of the community. Because of urban renewal when the Russell Revitalization Effort started, there was a lot of suspicion of the 36:00effort among activists. And there's--

MR: There wasn't suspicion. It was recognition of reality. Yeah. That wasn't suspicion.

MJ: So do you have your own concerns that that people will be moved at that--black people will be moved out of the West End or certain areas of Russell so developers could move in?

MR: Well right now we're talking about economic development in the strong sense, and we don't have what was destroyed as a results of urban renewal. We don't have the political infrastructure to be able to develop, negotiate with 37:00government, develop a capital base, a capital funding for projects. We've lost the academia of our neighborhood. Prior to that era, we had doctors, lawyers, business people of all types and description.

We don't have that today. No there are doctors in the city for the blacks. They don't live here. They don't have--there's no (inaudible 37:43:0) of community or neighborhood medical service other than the clinics. They're all run by the Board of Health and white people.

MJ: And at one point, didn't Beecher Terrace have its own clinic?


MR: Yeah, when I was a kid there was a clinic here, and I came here and got medical healthcare. Dr. Bell was the physician. Dr. Ballard and Dr. Hubbard, and there was several other doctors that were here. We had Red Cross Hospital, blacks only Red Cross Hospital. All that was taken away or destroyed, and it's fascinating because Red Cross Hospital was out at Preston Street.

Anyway all anything blacks owned was taken. (laughter) So it was more than just urban renewal as we perceived it to be. It was an intentional destruction of the economic base of a growing and developing neighborhood.


MJ: How did the community change after urban renewal as far as like homeownership rates and things like that?

MR: Well there was an increase in homeownership in terms of buying houses. But the decrease in available loans that made it possible people to progress. In other words, let me give you an example. The average home that was sold in the West End was 60/70 years old when they bought it. Mostly were shotgun houses. 40:00Now when I went in the real estate business, the average cost of affordable housing was $8,000/$8,500. And they range anywhere from $8,500 to $12,000/$14,000.

You got an FHA loan, and the city passed codes around 1965/1967. You couldn't have a Bunsen burner furnace in your house anymore. You had to have a gas forced 41:00air furnace. And there were code restrictions on home improvements, such as roofs. So when you bought a house and you was in it for three or four years, and the city said that you can't--you got to buy a new furnace. So what you did is you went down to the small loan company and borrowed $300 and put a furnace in the house.

Okay. So that's a five-year note. Two or three years later, the house leaks. So you had to go back to the small loan company because the banks wouldn't loan you the money, refinance that note, and put a roof on the house.

MJ: And you're paying higher interest because it's not from a bank.


MR: The interest is 12/14 percent at that time. Now that drained the community of where they were potential wealth you could have. And it's the--I look up on it as this, the average white family that left the West End, they were raised in a (inaudible 0:42:29.0). And a (inaudible 0:42:32.1) is a shotgun house that his granddaddy--that his father built themselves. They sold now, they've never had a mortgage, they sold the house for $82,000.

When out there and bought a house in the suburbs and a car. There's an 43:00initiative to that type of activity. It was called Levittown, Pennsylvania, and that was the first environmental subdivisions in America. And that spread over the United States and it still today the tradition by which the (inaudible 0:43:25.1) themselves. They buy a house with the car.

The (inaudible 0:43:30.9) called it starter houses, and then when you lived there four or five years, sell the house and go in the suburbs. That was started during the urban renewal era. Okay, and so you never got a chance to have an economic footing because the system was structured to deny you the financial opportunity by which you can raise yourself up. That's why integration became an 44:00issue. Because all of a sudden, we hadn't been in our own homes more than a generation, and we'll begin to reject them because they were falling apart.

MJ: And then property values start to decline.

MR: The economic system forced property values down, that's right. But the city never did lower the taxes. They kept raising taxes. So the system was structured to create economic oppression under the deception that you was living in a decent neighborhood.

MJ: The decline that we saw in the '80s and the '90s was a result of what had 45:00started with urban renewal.

MR: Yes.

MJ: Is that?

MR: Yeah.

MJ: And that's kind of where I came in. (laughs)

MR: That's the after effect. Cause and effect.

MJ: But we saw the symptoms of it but not the cause.

MR: We begin to recognize what it was. And it took time and generation to digest that and really understand it. Most people--black people did not have the experience of academic economic education. So what all was happening to them, they looked at (inaudible 0:45:42.1) as, "Will I get to get this done." It wasn't opportunity. It was oppression.

MJ: So how do we reverse this? What do you see in this revitalization effort?


MR: It's not reversed. It's the same as it was then. We need the support of government to restructure the economic and political infrastructure. Let me give you a classic example. During the era I'm talking about, small cities like Shively, Prospect, St. Matthews. They were struggling with the city as well for growth. Make a comparison between the black community then, the small cities at that time and look at them today, and look at the West End.

MJ: Do you think merger has played a role in this too?


MR: Merger is more of a continuation of the same pattern. It wasn't new in terms of congregating power and shifting it to the white community. It's not new. It was just a continuation of the same oppression, and a lot deception had to come about because we became conscious. At least these days when we're getting to raise questions. So that made us think that merger would be better for us.

But what did they do? They eliminated the precinct system politically. That was our basis for political power was precincts because you control voting in your neighborhood. And we look at it and we fight voting, we're still (inaudible 48:000:47:58.0). It hasn't changed. We go on the perception that we're making progress. No. We're still subjected and dependent on the larger white community and government for social sustainability. That's a fallacy in America.

MJ: Now coming out of Covid, a lot of the black community is worse impact on it because our community wasn't doing as well before Covid and now with the situation the way it is, and then we also had the riots going on and so how do you feel like what's the city need to do? What's the black community need to do as far as to--


MR: The change has to be generational. You're not going to rebuild a ruling class by saying it or thinking it's going to happen in the morning. All right? It takes generations to build character. All right? A banking system. An efficient-- efficient educational system. Commercial development. In other words, economic growth comes out of the leadership that's developed, supported 50:00by government to give you the management capability to achieve the goals that you intended for your people in your community.

If you don't have that, if we don't have government input, it's not going to happen. Historically let's look at the development of cities in America which began with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1800. In 100 years there've been all these cities to include New York, Chicago, and all the rest of them. We have to have that type of commitment from government. This is why that 51:00Joe Biden is talking about, along those lines. That's what reparation really is.

MJ: You mentioned the school system, and I talked a lot of people who I've interviewed so far have talked about the connection between where you live and education. Is that something that when you were selling real estate that you really thought about? Or was that a topic that came up as far as where you live, like where are the kids going to go the school? What kind of education?

MR: Well since Brown vs. the Board of Education, we've been caught up in 52:00integration. When we look at integration objectively without bias, we have to raise the question: was social integration in the best interest of black people? You have to raise that question. Right today, our children have not been educated. Our children are killing one another.

Our homes are divided based on the social programs that they claim would help, such as child support. They divided family, husband against wife based on a dollar, receiving a check. All of that was part of the destruction of the 53:00economic viability of black people in Louisville, Kentucky and around the nation. Now deception is an awful enemy. When you think you're making progress, but when you look around, you see that you're 100 feet behind where you started. And we call it the system was rotten.

MJ: Busing, which was a big controversy in the early '70s in Louisville grew out of the city's segregate housing segregation, because of they needed to I guess have the demographics in each of the schools and things like that. You were out 54:00at real estate at the time that busing came around but were you involved in any of those disputes?

MR: No.


MR: I sure wasn't. I'm not--my orientation is Booker T. Washington and the Lincoln Party. You know about the Lincoln Party?

MJ: Yes.

MR: Okay. All right. Social sustainability. The Honorable Elijah Muhammed's philosophy of do for self. Booker T. Washington throughout said, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps." That's where I'm coming from, I've never been an integrationist. I just had to live with it. And you had to suppress your ideas 55:00about self-sustainability and the independence of black people because our people accepted integration as a solution.

And as I say, we've got to take a good look at that. We've got to take a good look at our children, and we've got to take a good look at the hate that has been generated by this social experiment that's been going on now for 50 years. There's been no resolution as race issue in America because of integration. Look at the Congress? The members of the Congress, by 8 and 10 years old when the busing crisis started, look at them. You have to raise the question, "Did the social experiment work?" The answer is no, it didn't work.


MJ: So how did you get involved with the Housing Authority? What was that?

MR: When I had to--I was financially destitute in the--I had a building and they tore my building down. And the relief as a results of that was I had an opportunity to go to public housing.

MJ: And was that Beecher Terrace that you came in?

MR: Beecher Terrace. And I became president of the Resident Council.

MJ: And what was Beecher Terrace like in the '80s?

MR: It was a solid community. Yeah. Very solid community. Once again, social 57:00entitlements, drug proliferation, increased police surveillance, these social programs (laughs) destroyed the quality of life in public housing. So that what it was.

MJ: Okay, and I interrupted you, I'm sorry, when you were talking about how you got involved with the Authority.

MR: I led the Resident Council about four or five years, and the residents, they had to have the law says you got to have President of the Public Housing on the Board of Commissioners. They recommended me and that's how I got on.


MJ: So you've been on the Commission since then?

MR: Yeah. Since 1999.

MJ: What is your view of how the city has handled the housing situation, especially public housing, since you've been part of the Commission?

MR: Well we brought about an awakening. You could see that the dialogue is beginning to change about investments and how we would direct those investments toward substantive change. But housing gets political. It's greatly political. And the transition is going to take time. We have to be vigilant in our pursuit 59:00of decent affordable housing and economic growth. We have to be vigilant as it relates to land use rights.

We can't build the way we want to because of the city codes. I'll give you a classic example. If we wanted to have wide lots for home construction, it would reduce the number of lots within that area and lower the tax revenue that the city would bring in because you wouldn't have as many lots. So we're denied the right to make a determination as to how we want to structure and build our 60:00neighborhoods based on the city's demand.

Now it's fascinating because when you look at history, you go back to the turn of--from 18th or the 19th century. Cities have had a consistent battle with the state about the same rights. I mention St. Matthews, Prospect, and all the suburban communities. It was a generational fight.

Another classic example, at that time you didn't have roads, you didn't have paved streets, they were putting in railroads and the development of the utility system, they were building poles and finding ways the whole concept of easements 61:00came up and land use development. The state would just come in and just use eminent domain. That's the Governor's right to buy property. And at that time, the power of eminent domain is huge because they pay you what you want to. And urban renewal was a classic example.

We didn't get no money out of it. Now the principle of eminent domain hasn't changed because we haven't understood land use rights. Instead of talking about 62:00social rights, (laughter) we should have been fighting for this land. But that's history. We can romanticize the Civil Rights Movement but in the process whatever gains we made from entering the Civil War during the Reconstruction Era, we lost it during urban renewal.

JONES:And so when you start working with the Housing Authority, they were starting--that's when they were starting to think about changing the way public housing--

MR: It took 20 years. Not when I started. It took 20 years to do that. All right.

MJ: Okay. So just for them to start talking about it, or for them to start--

MR: (Inaudible 1:02:50.4).

MJ: --yeah, okay. And what were those discussions like is--


MR: Well it wasn't--you can't take that dialogue publicly. It's in-house. It's between me and Executive Director. I had to use my skills of communication and understand the politics to be able to survive in the position I'm in for this loan. Because I constantly brought it up, but it was always an amicable conversation and we'd laugh and joke and blah, blah, blah. But it took 20 years.

MJ: Now the last of the Old South Public Housing is Park Hill. Are there plans to revitalize that area?


MR: We're going to tear it down.

MJ: Okay.

MR: And we're not going build there anymore. That's an industrial zone. See when I was a child, Park Hill was white. It's during--after urban renewal, it became black. We need to rebuild the whole area for an industrial development to include housing. But if I brought that up--Riverport, are you familiar with Riverport?

MJ: Yes.

MR: Have you been out there?

MJ: Yes. I live in the South End, so--

MR: It's classic. You can do that at the same location. You've got the railroads there. You've got better truck beds for industrial shipping within the city then 65:00you got out. It's number one railroad track that goes out there. (laughs) You see what I'm saying?

MJ: Yeah.

MR: Now although (inaudible 1:05:12.5) switch from an earlier period of economic growth into today, the infrastructure for economic dev--is still urban. You don't see a no city them taking up the railroad tracks (inaudible 1:05:31.50. Have you noticed that?

MJ: Yeah.

MR: Very seldom you'll see a train come through 14th Street. When I was a kid, that train was going through all day.

JONES:Yeah, and there's always talk about light rail.

MR: That's right.

MJ: And bringing it back.

MR: There's no economic infrastructure being developed for the purpose of changing the use of the railroad bed system for social, industrial, and commercial gain within the city itself. That's intentional.


MJ: And why do you think that is?

MR: The same thing we've been dealing with all along. Let me give you an example. (1:06:20.2) was raised up around here. (laughs) American standards, that was (inaudible 1:06:27.0) High School as his family. They became super millionaires. As a result for opportunity within the industrial infrastructure of the city. This isn't the (inaudible 1:06:48.9).

MJ: You feel like we're still not taking advantage of the opportunity that's--


MR: Well we haven't been educated. We haven't been educated in this.

MJ: Urban land use?

MR: Right, we haven't been educated in this.

MJ: And is that just we as a city or you think that black people haven't been educated in that?

MR: Nationwide. You wouldn't--if we had been properly educated, there's a bigger error from the end of the 1930s on the end of World War II up to today, you wouldn't have no social entitlement programs like Welfare because we'd have our 68:00own economic base. But when you say I'm going to take care of you, you become a slave. Economically that's what you are.

You could dress it up, give them a nice place like this, but if you're dependent on government, you have no freedom. You can call it what you want to. You can put guys like me after and say, "You know, hey, hey, hey." But whenever you get through with it, we're subjected to government, we have no freedom. And we have to look at it like that. It might be rejected if I would say, "The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, to include Martin Luther King, were in error, and the church."


But it's not to say that they didn't do the very God given best that they had during the times that they were built. And during the times of their experience and trying to provide the leadership that was necessary to provide a better quality of life. I believe to the bottom of my heart, their death was an example of what (inaudible 1:09:29.8) to a higher level of thinking. But it took that to get there.

My suffering in this community is a part of what's reaching a higher level of understanding. What happens to us when we stand up? That don't mean you stop standing. You don't find the comfort zone in your misery. That's why I don't 70:00believe in pity. You get up and fight back. Right now when I fight, we're begging. That's our tragedy. That's our greatest loss in the world.

I've heard women say, "I'm not going to give up my food stamps. Get this nigger into the street." I've heard that. It hurts when you hear that. We were divided by the system, and we're still divided.

MJ: I've interviewed some people who were Beecher Terrace residents who have been relocated, and they aren't happy with the relocation process. And I 71:00wondered if you had heard that too that as far as the Section 8 program, even though they could use Section 8 that they're limited to certain neighborhoods. So it's not any different than what they were experiencing before.

MR: Well the one thing we have to look at when we look at these rules. These are HUD rules. The government has a massive responsibility to provide quality of life for the American people. As it relates to black people, it's damn near 72:0097/98 percent of the black community lives under entitlements of the government as it relates to affordable housing. So what the community's complaining about is the disparities within the system.

That has nothing to do with the universal picture. It's complaints based on how they're treated within the system. In other words, it's like being on a plantation. (laughs) And you want to build a house on the master's land and you complain about it. That's the way I look at it. Yes, I'm Chairman of the Housing Authority, but the real crisis is not the way we're treated, is that we're not actually advancing economically based on our own economic initiatives.


You can't face the future with hate and conflict. Hate is a disease. It kills or it cause to be killed. We have to build from within. The initiative for change has to start here. Our influence in getting this type of facility is a form of initiative. But we didn't get the capital gains coming out--this is a $32 million building. This whole project costs $32 million.

MJ: I know it's beautiful--

MR: There's over $200 million being spent by the government in the neighborhood of the West End. We're not any wealthier than what we were when we started. 74:00We're at the same poverty. The economic gains are going to the east based on low income housing tax credits. And that was started by a black woman, Mae Street Kidd. So what I'm saying is as I make these interviews, I try to be able to broaden the perspective as to what really happened and what needs to happen for us to eliminate poverty.

It is not about building a new Beecher Terrace. It's about quitting a commercial opportunity and raising up the management class from primary education all the way up to be able to manage and control the economic needs of our neighborhoods. We don't have that.


MJ: So that's all the questions I had for you. Is there something I asked you about that you think is important that people know or that it's part of the discussion about housing in this community, especially in the black community?

MR: Well, as we move into the future, we have to create housing as we know we need it. As we know what the quality of housing should be. For example, the future of housing won't be the same as it is today. Well, you will have high technology in housing. Housing becomes self-sustainable. You won't have to do nothing to a house too much if you got electric or energy efficient housing.

New materials and the environmental crisis prevents us from using wood as a 76:00source by which we build houses. And so the mayor actually planted a million trees around here. We have to stop using or abusing the ecology in order to have what we want. So we have to develop the skills within the workforce to be able to use new technology and home development, and that's going to be an economic clash between utilities and the people as it relates to the tie-in to the grid as it results of solar energy.

But we're not a part of the education of the academic initiative to develop 77:00these skills and insight into housing production and employment and economics. We need to be a part of that. And that's not even been talked about. And if you bring it up, you're in trouble. (laughter) So, you know.

MJ: All right, well thank you very much for your time.

MR: You're more than welcome. You're more than welcome.

MJ: This has been real thought provoking.

[End of interview][1:17:24.4]