The Death of Little Africa

By: C. Patience Summers
(760) 317-8854
patiencepoet@ymail.com

San Bernardino City Council voted 4-3 in favor of a redevelopment project for the little, East-side neighborhood, better known as the “Arden-Guthries,” or “Little Africa” on Monday, July 20th.  The project would vacate the existing families from their existing residences and bring in the “non-profit,” low income housing company, “Mary Erickson Community Housing,” (better known as MECH).  The Federal Dollars intended for this endeavor are only legally available for foreclosed or abandoned homes; however, there is one problem with that: there are families living there.

It’s called “gentrification” and it’s happening all over the United States of America.  Essentially, a politician will see an area that is inhabited by impoverished people they want for other purposes and they will do anything to obtain it: usually resulting in arresting out the poor and moving in the rich, or the program that feeds the rich.  Regardless of legalities or morality, the government takes what it wants.

Sir Isaac Lindsay, running for Mayor of San Bernardino against Patrick J. Morris, led the rallying of citizens who lived in the small, disadvantaged neighborhood to City Hall.  None knew about the project prior to his visit to their streets on Saturday, July 18th.  When Mr. Lindsay was asked what he was in favor of, he replied, “I’ve got my own ideas on what should and shouldn’t be done here, but I’m just here to help these good folks be heard.  They’ve got to live here, after all: right?”  Sir Isaac Lindsay helped drive those without transportation to the meeting on Monday, as well as his trip on Saturday to inform the residents of what was happening.

This reporter interviewed Ms. Susan McDevitt (representing Mary Erickson Community Housing) and was able to obtain a copy of the program plans, as well as the rental agreement most residents will have to sign in order to live in the housing planned for the area.  When asked why the people would have to submit themselves to life skills training, as if they were in some sort of druggie program, Ms. McDevitt replied that it “will only be about six times a year and not that intrusive.”  She was unmoved at the pleas of the current residents in their addresses to the city council on how they did not want this program in their area and did not want to be thrown out of their homes.

Mayor Patrick Morris called the people who did not live in the area first (for the most part).  Most people shared the opinion that the neighborhood needed to be torn down because there was nothing but drug addicts, prostitutes and pimps there; however, the words of two young girls who shared the speaker’s podium together resonated through the audience.

“I am, in fact, human,” said one to the remarks people had been making.  “I am an honor roll student.”

“There aren’t any prostitutes there,” said the other.  “I am not a prostitute.  I don’t do that.”

“We don’t wear that jacket,” said their mother.

Chaz Kelly, Wendy McCammack and Esther Estrada all felt the monies could benefit the city in many other ways.  Tearing down the entire neighborhood, leaving many families homeless, was not an option that seemed attractive for the three councilmembers.  Wendy McCammack spoke of ways to make the people in that area homeowners with the money.  Chaz Kelly fidgeted in frustration as he gazed upon the faces of the honor roll student and her sister.  Esther Estrada thought long and hard before casting her vote in favor of what the residents wanted: no MECH.

Tobin Brinker, Dennis Baxter, Rikke Van Johnson and Fred Shorett were unreachable.  For a moment, this reporter thought there was a glimmer of hope in Tobin Brinker as he kept looking to Patrick Morris for what appeared to be a change of heart, but it was not to be.  Regardless of legalities or moralities, they voted to move forward with tossing these families out into the streets.

Apparently, there will be relocation benefits applied to the families tossed out; however, we all know how the government likes to pay it’s bills.  It is doubtful that these residents will be paid enough to cover the cost of their relocations.  Wendy McCammack is said to be searching for further assistance for the involved families.

Though surrounded by such tragedy as this, one thing is certain.  To quote Chaz Kelly, “There is no Little Africa.  This is the United States of America!”  Little Africa is dead.

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