Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Roots

This is a great video by my good friend Karyn Moskowitz and New Roots. It highlights the lack of food options in West Louisville and what New Roots is doing to about that.

The video linky.

You should also sign up on their Facebook page as well. While you're at become a fan of CARR on Facebook as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Russell's History: Albert Ernest Meyzeek

Albert Ernest Meyzeek, the son of John E. and Mary (Lott) Meyzeek was born in Toledo, Ohio on November 5, 1872. His early childhood years were spent in Toronto, Canada. His father, an offspring of Huguenot French stock, married Mary Lott in Chatham, Canada, then the terminal station of the Underground Railroad.

Grandfather Lott, a Pennsylvanian by birth, often served on steamers traveling the rivers between Pittsburgh and New Orleans, where he saw first-hand the horrors and cruelty of slavery.
Later, settling on farms in the hilly country of Madison, Indiana, along the Ohio River, Lott, two of his former ship mates, and with the help of Henry Ward Beecher, then a young Presbyterian minister at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, organized the Ohio River Underground Railroad. Many slaves escaped along the highway were carried on the backs of these powerful men to hiding places on their farms, or were hid and fed in the grottoes, dells or caves surrounding Madison. The Rev. Beecher related many incidents of drowning and freezing while crossing the river to his sister Harriett Beecher Stowe, who gave exciting descriptions of these feats in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Young Meyzeek’s mind was greatly influenced by the stories of adventure related by his grandfather Lott who later escaped arrest in a Louisville jail, by the same underground route. Meyzeek’s grandmother gave up the Lott farm and traveled with her children in disguise by the same route to Chatham, Canada where they continued to receive runaway slaves. It’s ironic that this descendant of an Underground Railroad operator would make Louisville his permanent home.

Meyzeek’s father was also a vigorous agitator for justice and equal educational opportunities. He has been credited with the winning of two suits against the Indiana School Board to abolish unhealthy and inadequate separate schools.

In Louisville, A.E. Meyzeek showed the same fighting spirit as his forefathers. After graduating with valedictory honors from the old Terre Haute Classical High School, where he was the only “colored” student, Meyzeek’s first ambition was the law. Thinking that success at law might be doubtful, Mezeek entered the Indiana State Normal School for teacher training and later won a Bachelor degree from Indiana University; and a Master degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio.

Coming to Louisville, he passed a competitive examination for principalship and was sent to direct a large elementary school known as Booker T. Washington. A few years later, he was given a temporary assignment as principal of Central High School. Meyzeek, concerned about the lack of adequate reference and reading materials at his school, boldly took his students to the Polytechnic Society Library, where after a few visits, they were refused admittance. Outraged by his students’ humiliation, Meyzeek met with the library board and persuaded them to provide a “colored” branch library, with funds already pledged by the wealthy industrialist, Andrew Carnegie.

Meyzeek was different than some of the other black leaders in Louisville at the time. He charted a very independent course. The 1890’s and early 1900’s was the age of Booker T. Washington when accommodating to segregation as a means of making racial progress, particularly on economic terms, was the gospel that Washington preached; and what whites in power wanted to hear. While he might be willing at times to accept compromises, Meyzeek saw that ultimately segregation itself was the problem. Meyzeek, was much more in the vein of W.E.B. DuBois and Frederick Douglass. He believed that power conceded nothing without a demand. So Meyzeek persistently and persuasively agitated for equal access and opportunities. Most of his efforts were focused, one way or another, on trying to bring children into a new era, and trying to break down barriers that were in Louisville.

Summary of his other achievements include:
Treasurer and Director, Domestic Life Insurance Company; Director First Standard Bank; Director, Standard Building Loan Association; Chairman, Louisville Urban League; Chairman, Committee of Management, Y.M.C.A., 20 years; President, Kentucky Negro Educational Association; Member and one of the organizers, Kappa Alpha Psi; Executive Committee, Inter-Racial Commission; Executive Committee, National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools; Organizer fo Colored Branch, Y.M.C.A.; Masons; Past Grand District Deputy and Past Grand Senior Warden of Kentucky Jurisdiction; Political party affiliation, Republican; Religion, Episcopal Church; Residence, 1701 West Chestnut Street, Louisville, Kentucky.

Albert Meyzeek's home in the Russell Neighborhood still stands today on the Northwestern corner of 17th and Chestnut. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Russell's History: Western Branch Library

The Western Branch Library, located at 10th and Chestnut, is the FIRST full service library dedicated to the education and enrichment of African Americans in the country. The Western Branch library was originally founded in 1905 and did not move to it's current location until 1908. In 1994 the Library was renovated and added an elevator, a new service desk, and most importantly a climate-controlled archives room to protect and preserve valuable African American documents and manuscripts.

The library was founded by Thomas Blue and Albert Meyzeek. Meyzeek, then the principle of Central High School, was concerned about the lack of reference and reading materials available to his students, so he boldly took them to the Polytechnic Society Library. After a few visits he and his students were refused admittance. Meyzeek was outraged. He and several other African American leaders put pressure on the Library board and convinced them to provide a "colored" branch.

The original library began in three rented rooms in a private residence in the Russell Neighborhood.  Thomas Blue (pictured above with his staff) on September 23, 1905 was chosen as it's first head librarian. Becoming the first African African to head a full service library. The Western Branch Library moved to a Carnegie building and its currently location in 1908.

In 1914, Mr. Blue opened the Eastern Branch Library, the second Carnegie library for African Americans in the Smoketown neighborhood. In 1919, the Colored Department of the Louisville Library system was founded, becoming the first of it's kind in the United States. The department included two Carnegie Buildings, two junior high schools, 15 stations, and 80 class room collections in 29 buildings.

Mr. Blue also created a library apprentice class which was held at the Western and Eastern Branch library libraries. He drew students from as far away as Houston. His work here in Louisville also led to the establishment of Hampton Library School at his alma mater Hamption Normal and Agricultural Institute (present day Hampton University). 

*The Eastern Branch Library is no longer in open. It was closed due to budget cuts. The Building still stands on Handcock street and is currently used a daycare.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Education, African-Americans and Louisville

The Greater Louisville Project just released a study comparing Louisville to it's peer cities with concerns to educational attainment of Black folks in Louisville. As you may have guessed, Louisville ranks near the bottom. Here are some choice quotes:

"More alarming: Based on three years of data from the American Community Survey, 30% of white adults held a bachelor’s degree or higher, but only 13% of African Americans did – the lowest among Louisville’s 15 peer cities. The racial gap in college attainment has widened since 1990, although the percentage of African Americans with either an associate’s degree or some college has increased."

To better illustrate that point here is the chart from that same report:

Yes, there we are dead last. We also aren't doing so well with high school graduation rates either. All of this begs the question. Why? I think I may have a theory. I would argue the main reason is that African-Americans that have college degrees leave Louisville, or if they graduate from a local school they leave. Let's be honest. Louisville isn't Atlanta. We just don't offer the same, or any really, opportunities for young Black professionals. Most of the people I grew up with left and will never come back.

Louisville doesn't have enough "middle management" jobs in the 30-60K range. The ones that are here you pretty much have to know somebody to get your foot in the door. That's the other problem. Louisville is a cliquish city. If you run the right circles you will always be employed at some level. If you don't. Well, sorry about your luck.

Cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, and Chicago make it relatively easy for young blacks to move to and plug themselves in. Louisville doesn't.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The green economy.

For several months I have been wrestling with this idea of Green Jobs and the Green Economy. Specifically, how can these jobs benefit me and my community? I also wanted to know what are green jobs. I hear politicians talk a lot about the green the economy, but nobody ever says what the green economy is.

If it's building solar cells and wind turbines, well, that sounds a lot like the old Blue collar economy except we are building "green" things. I've read hundreds of articles on the green economy, but nothing that has really addressed my questions. Then I cam across ARC. ARC is the Applied Research Center. Their focus is on "racial justice through media, research, and activism." while reading their website I came across a report/ call to action they did called "Green Equity Toolkit: Advancing race, Gender, and Equality in the Green Economy." This was exactly what I had been looking for.

Not only do they define what a green job is, but also how people on the lower end of the income scale, and in neighborhoods like mine, can get these jobs and how they will benefit the community as a whole. It is a good read and I suggest you at least glance over it.

If this is the green economy I can get behind. This is what we need.

PS. They define a green jobs as: Well paid, career track jobs, that contribute directly to preserving or enhancing the environment. If a job improves the environment, but does not offer a family-supporting wage or a career ladder to move low-income workers into higher skilled occupations, it's not a green job.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Russell Fall Festival

The Russell Neighborhood Fall Festival
Saturday Nov 21st 5-9PM
18th and Madison.
(right behind West Chestnut Baptist Church)

Live Music and Free Food!

Come and here one of Louisville's Best Jazz/Funk/R&B bands 502

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Can we do this in Russell and or downtown Louisville?

Sorry for the long time between postings, but my radio show has been taking a tremendous amount of my time. But I'm back and will be posting more often.

I'm pretty sure getting a developer to build something like in Russell is pretty much nil to none. However, I would love to see new housing built in Russell that really resembles the style of architecture that is already here. Something that would really convey the urban feel of the neighborhood before Urban Removal..I mean Urban Renewal put the wrecking ball to Russell's eastern half. Here is an example of what I'm talking about in New Jersey. Can you imagine something like this on Market Street. How cool.

Speaking of new developments I was reading one of my favorite blogs Broken Sidewalk and cam across this post on Big Box living in the city. I've seen a couple of these in Chicago, but this article reminded me of what Louisville could do. We all know that there is a serious lack of retail in downtown Louisville. We also know that if we were to get any big box retailer they would need a ton of space and parking. In other cities they solved this problem by putting the retailer inside of these large condo/office buildings. Parking is located either underneath the building or a garage is built in the structure it self. Take a look at the pics below. The first pic is of another condo/office building in Vancouver. As you can see there is a Home Depot and a grocer on the ground floor. The really cool thing is that there is rooftop garden/ green space on the roof. The second pic is from Broken Sidewalk and features a condo office building with a Whole Foods on the ground floor.

Monday, October 5, 2009

KC arena makes money, Louisville economic trends, and transportation around the country

This is pretty interesting. Most of the arguments against sports arenas is that they don't make any money. Well, the Sprint center in Kansas City just did. I wonder if our arena will do the same. Here's the link, and some of what the article says.

"Kansas City is expected to cash in on a rocking year of concerts and events at the Sprint Center to the tune of $1.8 million.

The surprise boost comes from a profit-sharing section in the development agreement between the city and the arena’s operator, Anschutz Entertainment Group.

It specifies once that AEG turns a 16 percent profit at the building, the city gets half of any additional proceeds."

If you are interested in how Louisville is doing economically then check out Bureau Of Economic Analysis website they have some very interesting stats. If you don't feel like combing through all of the charts and then analyzing the data then read this post from the Urbanophile. He does a pretty good job for you.

Last but not least. Here is a list of all US rail transit projects from 2000-2009. I wonder what city we all know and love is missing from this list?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The New Economics of the New Economy Pt 1

I've been reading with great interest about the state of the economy. I, like most Americans, are worried about what's going to happen. Will these jobs that were lost going come back? If they don't what will take their place? There is a lot of uncertainty out there and it makes me nervous. I was reading this article on titled the Great Recession transforms the workplace. The article talks about how many of the jobs that were lost aren't coming back. Most of them have been outsourced to other countries where the labor is a lot cheaper and many environmental and workplace regulations don't exists. It then goes on to say how American workers will need to be retrained for the specialized jobs that will be created. However, it really doesn't say what jobs will replace the ones that are lost. From my experience (and from what I have read) these new jobs wont pay as much as the ones they are replacing and the benefits will be much worse.

If you do a little research several things become very apparent. Things like real wages have been on the decline or either stagnant for the past couple of decades while inflation has steadily gone up. The income gap between the bottom 99% and the top 1% is wider than it has ever been in the US, and it's getting wider. New housing sales plummeted, and prices tumbled with them. Then the foreclosure and banking crisis have driven many people to economic ruin. So much so that the poverty rate in America has skyrocketed. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

Amid all of the horrible economic news our cities, Louisville included, are struggling to stay afloat. The future also doesn't look bright either. Once this recession is over I think you will see some major differences between this recession and past ones. The biggest differences will be that real wages will continue their downward trend and more people will be out of work. A lot of the jobs that were cut during this recession will be lost forever. When people do find work they are going to be making less money. In a lot of cases a lot less money. We are getting poorer as a nation. We are getting to a point where even with 2 incomes it wont be enough for most people. Cities (and states, but my focus is on cities) are going to have to restructure their entire tax systems or find ways to expand their economies in such a way that it will encompass a majority of their populations.

As you may have figured out by my previous post I don't like to dwell on the negative to long. i want to find some solutions. One place I don't think we will find any solutions is the federal government or our state government. There is just to much lobbyist money in Washington and Frankfort for their to be real change. We are going to have to figure this out on the local level. Which is hard because as we get poorer we are going to put more of strain on our social services. Which happen to be funded to a large extent by the state and federal governments. So, what should we do?

The first thing we need to do is recognize the problem and develop a comprehensive plan to deal with it. We then need to follow through on that plan. This is something we haven't to well as a city. Case in point. When Dave Armstrong first came up with 4th Street Live, and put it in motion he also had a large part of money for the re-development of the rest of 4th street going south. That money was for the development of local business to compliment the national chains. The plan was never really followed. We need to follow it.

Here is what I would do.
1) Keep Louisville weird, but expand that thinking to west and southwest jefferson county. If one part of the county is behind it slow down everything else. I would do this by setting money aside for micro loans. Loans in the amount of $500-$2500. I think there is also room for innovation here as well.

If you drive through western Louisville there are a lot of abandoned lots especially streets that should be business corridors like Market St and 18th/Dixie Hwy, Using some of the Hope IV grant money I would build multi-use building like the ones in Park Duvalle. Retail on the bottom with mixed-income units above. Parking in the rear. You can do this because if you tear down a "housing project" you have a place for the old residents to live. Some of these retail spaces would be offered "rent free" to entrepreneurs who go through a business class and qualify for the micro loan. The city will furnish the space and credit card machine/cash register. For the cities effort the city will take a percentage of everything made. If the business fails no biggy. The city just finds a new tenant and reuse the same equipment. The city doesn't have to use new computers or credit card machines. Louisville could use some of the surplus equipment that is just sitting in a warehouse someplace.

2) Like I said in my past blogs I would also push for Louisville to expand it's economic sectors. I believe the film industry is a natural fit. I would also make a big push for minor league or lessor known sports. I don't mean just getting big sporting conventions or NCAA tourneys, but try and become a "mecca" in an alternative sport. A good example would be wrestling. Louisville is home to one of the best wrestling schools in the nation. We should work on getting some of the smaller wrestling promotions to call Louisville home. Why not. Another big one is MMA. We could be the mecca the MMA in the midwest/east coast. That would mean thousands of young men and women training and living Louisville. Thousands of young professional MMA fighters making a decent income living here. using our airport to travel to fights all over and visa versa.

I think this is enough to chew on for part 1. In part 2 I'll touch on density, transportation, other sectors Louisville can look into.