Friday, July 17, 2009

Segregation, Why Should I Care?

I was talking to one of my friends about my latest blog post and he said something interesting to me. "Why should I care about Western Louisville?" He liked what I wrote, and he understood where I was coming from. He just didn't see why he should care. So, I thought I would explain why he should care, or at least take an interest.

I can some up why you should care in one word. Demographics. If you care at all about this city then you should care about where the demographics and what they mean. In the not to distant future there will be more Black and Brown folks than White folks. The vast majority of kids under 13 are either Black or Brown. That's even true in Jefferson County. Did you know the US is the 5th largest spanish speaking nation in the world?

The city can't keep ignoring the neighborhoods in which the vast majority of these populations live. Why? Because they are the future of the city. The future of the country. If things don't change then more and more young Black and Brown will do like most of friends have already done. Move.

Almost every black kid I knew growing up has either moved to Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, and Chicago. Most of them to Atlanta. They moved because they wanted to be around other young black professionals. Something that you really don't see a lot of in Louisville.

I know a lot of young white kids move as well. We need to keep all of our young, bright, and talented professionals. The only problem is that the pool of young white talented kids are shrinking while the pool of young black and brown kids are growing. We can ignore the black and brown kids like we have been, but that would put us at a serious disadvantage going forward. Why do that yourself?

The other problem is that we don't treat all people the same. The years of racial and economic segregation have taken their toll on the Black community. This means it's going to take great resources to improve those communities. These are resources that we are going to have to spend if we want to remain competitive. Not just Louisville, but the nation as a whole. If Louisville can start now then we will have a HUGE leg up on every other community.

It's not hard to attract to young black professionals. You just have to make us feel wanted and that we have the same opportunity as everybody else to compete. The city may have to start to black chamber of commerce, or an arts center in Western Louisville. We have to do our part as well. It can be done.

When I was in high school and college all of my friends were telling me that Atlanta was the place to go. When I went to Atlanta for college i could see why. I had never seen so many young black professionals in one place. A few years later the hot cities were Charlotte, Houston, and Dallas.

Louisville can do the same thing. The West-End is a beautiful part of town. It doesn't have anywhere near the blight that black communities in other cities have. The foundation is here or are we afraid that Louisville may become to poor, old and black?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Are we a segregated city?

We form like Voltron....

Member of the Wu-Tang Clan

The quote I used above has been said by at least 3 different Wu-tang members. It refers to how the 9 members of Wu-Tang (each with completely different rhyme styles and on different record labels) work together as a single unit. Hearing that quote got me thinking about Louisville. How strong could our city be if its neighborhoods worked together as a single unit?

I'm not sure in my life time if I will ever know the answer to that question. I've been to every corner of this city and county. Prospect, West Point, PRP, Shawnee, Pee Wee Valley, and Shively. You name it and I've been there. From my travels around the city and county I can say one thing about us. We are still a very segregated city. I would even say hyper-segregated.

The West End is almost all black. Russell, Shawnee, California, Park Duvall, and Chickasaw are pretty much all black neighborhoods. The only West End neighborhood that is still predominately white is Portland. When I was a kid when you crossed Market street (the traditional dividing line between Russell and Portland) the neighborhoods went from all black to pretty much all white. It was literally that dramatic.

The same can be said for Eastern Jefferson County as well. You can almost the number of black families in Anchorage on one hand. But on the border of Middletown and Anchorage sit 2 small almost all black communities. Berrytown and Griffytown. NewBurg is almsot all black, while the surrounding neighborhoods are almost all white. Schnizelberg is almost all white while just a block a way Fort Hill is almost all black.

Don't get me wrong. There are semi-integrated neighborhoods. You're not going to find to many, if any neighborhoods with a 50/50 mix. Then again you wont in most cities. All of this segregation leads to an out of sight out of mind mentality.

The neighborhoods west of 9th street tend to get left behind when it comes to economic development. Left behind is putting it nicely. Usually, the only time the city talks about redevelopment of the west-end is when they want to move more light industrial into the area. Tear down whole blocks of housing and build chemical plants or warehousing. If you want to see an example drive South down 13th street (from Broadway) and take a gander. You'll see a big Porter Paint warehouse, and Sud Chemical among other businesses. When I was in high school this was once neighborhoods. I had several friends that lived on these blocks. Now, it's all warehouses and other such businesses. It wouldn't be as bad if most of the businesses employed people from the area. To bad they don't.

Living in Western Louisville is sometimes like living in a separate city. Every year Crusade for Children collects money on every major street corner in Louisville. Except the West End. There were zero Forcastle posters west of 9th street. IF it weren't for the handful of LEO newsstands in the West End we would have no idea what happens in the rest of the city.

When I was president of YPAL's diversity committee I would sometimes hold meeting Nia Center on 29th and Broadway. Out of a committee of about 100 people how many do you think showed up? 1. 2 if you count me. The most people I ever got was 5 at Expressions of You coffee house. I could go on and on, but I think you see where I am coming from.

You would think in 2009 things would be different. Not only is Western Louisville segregated by racial make up from the city of Louisville, but it is also segregated financially as well. If you don't believe me take a look at this study here.

There is a lot of potential here in Western Louisville. A lot. If the city would just help in the re-development of Western Louisville the city as a whole would benefit. If property taxes go up in the West that means more money for schools. If the residents can find better jobs then the tax base goes up. You get the idea. Unfortunately, Western Louisville is just the dumping ground for the city's poor, drug addicts, and other people that the East end doesn't want. Maybe one day the city honestly will try and reconnect the West-end and it's other minority communities to the rest of the city. Maybe.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action!

I was reading PageOneKentucky today when I cam across several articles about jobs in Kentucky. One is from Huffpost and it list the cities hit the hardest by unemployment. If look at the map they provide you notice that Jefferson, Co and some of it's surrounding counties are in the hardest hit section.

The next article I read was about where Kentucky ranks compared to other states on wide swath of health issues. I'm sure it doesn't surprise anyone that we are near the bottom in most categories. We are #1 in smoking, 7th fattest, #2 when it comes to adult physical inactivity, and #6 when it comes to over 15% of kentuckians living in poverty. The original article can be found here.

If you read the entire article and scroll down to the bottom you find something very interesting. It list the states top 5 industries. #1 manufacturing, #2 government, real estate (rental and leasing), health care, social assistance, and retail trade. A very interesting mix. i was surprised that none of the Kentucky's signature industries were listed. Horse industry. No. Bourbon. No. Coal. No.

Looking at the list of Kentucky's top 5 industries it's no wonder why we are in the shape we are in. It's also no wonder why Louisville is in the shape it is in. Louisville is still grappling with the transition from manufacturing economy to the new age/information/service economy. We are still trying to use our geographical location and our history as a transportation hub to our advantage. We are trying to become the logistic hub of the south/west/ and midwest. That's not a bad idea, and it's one that should be a top priority for the city. However, the city should also find a way to transition and brand itself for the new world.

We are Possibility City. I think that is a perfect brand for the city, now we just have to live up to the hype. I think the city should set aside $200,000 and start the Louisville Film Commission. There are a lot of filmmakers here in Louisville, and they could use our help. I think the first thing the film commission should do is just get a handle on what exactly is going on in and around Louisville. I don't think there is one agencies in city government that can tell you how much is being spent on film in Louisville. That needs to change. Once we get a handle on how big the industry is then we should try to expand what we have. The commission could hold workshops on how to get financing from venture capitalist. Walk them through pitching their ideas to the Venture Club of Louisville. The commission could then help raise money for Fund for the Arts, as long as the funds raise go towards filmmakers. These are just the initial steps. As the commission gets a handle on the local scene then we can look to attract outside filmmakers, and starting a film school. I would also advise the commission to advertise Louisville in indy film magazines.

I like the idea of the film industry a lot in Louisville because it's such a natural fit. We have one of the best theater companies in the world with Actor Theater of Louisville. Film would be a great tie-in. The Film industry also needs carpenters, caterers, tailors, electricians, drivers, and a ton of other skilled/non-skilled jobs. It touches so many other industries that Louisville already has.

The Film industry also has something else going for it. It attracts creative people. Creative people attract other creative people. Painters, musicians, directors, tailors, chefs, 3D computer artist, and many other creative sorts attract each other. We each feed off of the creative energy of other creative people. The film industry would be another piece to Louisville's creative puzzle. I think it could be the biggest piece over time.