by Louis ‘Hop’ Kendrick, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Allegheny County was created in 1788, some 230 years ago. Allegheny County is the second-largest county in the state of Pennsylvania. The census report indicated that in the year 1788 there were 189 slaves, but in the year 1830 there were none listed. Once Blacks became free women and men, full employment became a problem which exists today in 2019.
In the year 1949 (I was 17 years old), it was my introduction to a racist system that almost totally denied colored (not Black yet) people jobs, union and non-union. I remember two incidents that occurred many years ago (70 years ago) and I never forgot. Three Pittsburgh city trucks (sewer division) pulled up and parked and all of the drivers exited wearing short sleeve white shirts and ties. I was amazed at how they were dressed and said to the older persons standing there, “How do they clean sewers dressed like that?”
There were about six adults standing there and they raised their voices and stated, “you don’t know anything…they don’t clean sewers, colored men clean sewers, the White guys only drive the trucks.”
The following statement is what bothered me in 1949 and bothers me in 2019 because so many persons (not Black) echo the same words, “It’s always been like this and it will never change.”
The district I lived in was the 9th district, 3rd ward, and the committeeman was referred to as Mr. Charley and the Democratic Party labeled him as the best vote-getter in Allegheny County. There came an election that a Black man challenged him and that morning of the election an elderly Black woman smacked the fire out of the Black man and stated, “Who do you think you are to run against Mr. Charley?” Yes, an identical attitude Black mind can’t accept change, it’s always been like this.
The same song has been sung for the last 50 years, titled, “We must improve the percentage of Blacks sharing in the not only construction but goods and service contracts.” Those persons that we have elected over the last half century, Black and White, overwhelmingly have failed us, they talk that talk but fail to walk that walk. Those politicians in the seat of power compile statistics and then give to our colored representatives to read their communities, and too many of us fail to understand that statistics don’t lie, but those who compile the statistics are liars. I attended a meeting and was presented with some stats that indicated that 25 percent of all contractors on-site were minorities. My response was the stats were deceptive because only 2 persons were American-born Blacks so the percentage as it relates to Blacks is about three percent or less. Sixty years ago there were those of us who began to challenge the bigotry and racism that prohibited Blacks from acquiring their fair share. We watched our tax dollars build the airport (rebuilding it now), convention center, hockey arena, East Liberty, Strip District, Lawrenceville, streets, bridges, etc. Across America Blacks in the capacity of prime contractors have received major contracts…a Black man is building the airport in Atlanta, and a Black female is building the airport in New York City.
The present Allegheny County Airport, when it was built, stated that 15 percent of the contractors would be Black and three percent would be women, a total of 18 percent M/B/E… but in reality, only ONE BLACK RECEIVED A MAJOR CONTRACT, IT WAS CONCRETE. We have heard all of it before so we don’t have to apologize for being skeptical. In 1996 as the Director of Allegheny County M/B/E program in the company of seven other persons we attended a meeting at the Allegheny County Airport. In my position I asked the airport authorities, why did they fail to hire Black contractors? Our response was so direct that 30 days later a Black-owned engineering firm received the award of a $200,000 contract (unheard of). There are at least three of them still living that can verify what we were afforded the opportunity to do. The tragedy is the lengthy list of that which we are currently UNABLE AND UNWILLING TO MAKE HAPPEN.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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