“We need the vision to see in this generation’s
ordeals the opportunity to transfigure both ourselves and
Our present suffering and our nonviolent struggle to be free
may well offer to Western civilization the kind of spiritual
dynamic so desperately needed for our survival.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Strength
to Love,” 1963.
“Imagine…if the movement’s vision of freedom were completely
to envelope the nation’s political culture. If this were the
case, then the pervasive consumerism and materialism and the
stark inequalities that have come to characterize modern life
under global capitalism could not possibly represent freedom.
And yet, freedom today is practically a synonym for free enterprise.”
– Robin D. G. Kelley, “Freedom
Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination,” 2002.
Great social movements may be sparked by outrage, but they are
sustained by dreams. For generations, Black folks dreamed of the
death of Jim Crow, finally marshalling extraordinary energies to
end legal segregation and, in the process, transform the nation.
Now the tyranny of concentrated wealth threatens to moot the democratic
rights won so dearly, forty years ago.
In the previous era, the sum of many oppressions
came to be symbolized by the image of one man: Birmingham Police
Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor,
the epitome of southern, racist state violence. Today, the corporate-propelled
economic Race to the Bottom has, not a face but, more appropriately,
a logo: that of Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest and most rapacious
Like “Bull” Connor, Wal-Mart’s malevolence has galvanized a deep
and broad opposition. As Connor personified centuries of racial
oppression, Wal-Mart is truly the “model” of predatory, global
capitalism – the “destructive force” that “rezones American
cities, sets wage standards and even conducts diplomacy with other
There is outrage aplenty in Chicago, as the
mega-retailer attempts to steamroll its way into the South and
West Sides of the city,
a conquest that would extend Wal-Mart’s suffocating embrace to
all of the top ten U.S. markets except Detroit and New York City.
The coalition that is assembling to oppose Wal-Mart and its hyper-aggressive
corporate model – in Chicago and elsewhere across the nation – has
the potential to transform itself into a genuine anti-corporatist,
Black-led movement. Yet, as many of the organizers are aware, the
Wal-Mart offensive must be countered by more than popular outrage.
To sustain a movement, the people must be given reasons to dream.
The civil rights dreams of Dr. King’s day did not prepare African
Americans for the machinations of capital – although King himself
was clearly on the cusp of a larger social vision when he was cut
down, in 1968. With few exceptions, the men and women that assumed
Black political leadership were (and remain) bereft of any notions
of urban development other than to accept what is offered by the
federal bureaucracy or corporate developers. They have seldom thought
beyond patronage and “piece of (somebody else’s) pie” politics,
and believe their job is to accept whatever is on the corporate
menu – and be grateful.
After three decades of such “leadership,” the very idea that democracy
can turn people’s dreams into realities in their own neighborhoods,
is alien. Is it any wonder that the Black public sees no relationship
between democratic processes and their surroundings? Yet only an
organized people, energized by their own dreams, can resist the
designs of organized wealth. They need to believe in a “freedom” that
affirms the people’s absolute right to prevail over any corporate
scheme, and to know that people’s dreams can transform neighborhoods,
nations, and history. Especially when the relentless corporate
juggernaut called Wal-Mart, with sales of $250 billion a year,
comes banging at the city door.
Slaying the dragon
“Living wage Yes – Wal-Mart No!” About 30 young ACORN
activists in red T-shirts arrayed themselves like a street-wise
the right wall of the St. Sabina Catholic Church auditorium, punctuating
a May 1 afternoon of speeches with righteous, sloganeering fervor.
St. Sabina has for decades been a progressive venue on Chicago’s
South Side, a place where it seemed quite normal to hear visiting
United Church of Christ minister Rev. Reggie Williams, Jr. open
the mass meeting with the words, “We pray that you will bless those
who have been cast out – by corporations.”
St. Sabina’s Father Michael Pfleger challenged the 300-strong
crowd: “Let’s not let Chicago be embarrassed by allowing here what
Inglewood has already said no to.”
Three weeks earlier, the mostly Black and Latino city of Inglewood,
California voted two
to one to shut its doors in Wal-Mart’s face. At stake was the
democratic process, itself. Wal-Mart spent more than $1 million
on a ballot initiative to override local and state regulatory powers
at its proposed 60-acre Inglewood site. Until just a few weeks
before the vote, it appeared that Wal-Mart would prevail, with
the support of Inglewood’s groveling Black mayor, Roosevelt Dorn.
But a labor-community coalition – backed by the city council and
the tireless efforts of Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters
and a host of national notables – won the day.
"They can't trick cities and communities into giving away
the store, getting everything they want without any oversight,” said
Madeline Janis-Aparicio, leader of the Coalition for a Better Inglewood. “They're
going to have to do business differently if they want to do business
Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott brushed
aside the defeat: "It's a single store. We have lost
votes on single stores before, and I would assume in the future
we will have some we lose."
On to the next victim: Chicago, the second-largest
Black population center in the United States, heavily union,
and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s
home base. Jackson, who lent his voice to the Inglewood resistance, denounced Wal-Mart’s
intrusion into the South and West Sides:
“I urge Chicago and communities across the nation to stop
the Wal-Mart-ization of our economy. Some may say ‘these jobs
are better than no jobs,’ and are attracted to Wal-Mart's promise
of ‘jobs and low prices,’ especially in these times of high
unemployment and the need for community economic development.
But a closer look at Wal-Mart exposes it as a Confederate economic
Trojan horse. On the outside, it looks like a show horse. But
open it up and what do you see: jobs at welfare level wages;
jobs without health care benefits; jobs without the right to
organize; a Wal-Mart that forces out local small business and
throws their workers into the unemployment lines….
“This month, the communities of Chicago
must place their vote in Wal-Mart's path. It will be a signal
to communities everywhere
that the giant monopoly Wal-Mart, the largest private sector
company in the world, with all of its economic power and wealth,
can and will be defeated. We must stand up. Let us not forget
that Dr. King spent his final days organizing for the right
to organize, for livable wages and health care benefits for
all. The shadow of his life obligates us to fight Wal-Mart;
we will not change our course. Wal-Mart must change its course.”
Wal-Mart is not about to change course. It
is the most ideological corporation on the planet, and refuses
on rightwing principle
to sign any agreement that would dilute capital’s divine right
to do whatever it pleases (although the company does on occasion
sucker communities with non-binding promises). The mega-chain
rings the Windy City with suburban boxes, and has secured the
tepid endorsement of Mayor Richard Daley. And unlike in Inglewood,
Chicago’s Black councilpersons include some of the most backward,
buyable, and just plain ignorant examples of post-civil rights
politicians, anywhere in the nation. They are the faces of abject,
A deep, ugly cynicism
When Wal-Mart’s proposed West Side store came before the Council’s
Zoning Committee in late April, Alderwoman Emma Mitt dismissed
evidence of the company’s fierce anti-labor practices: "I
don't know about them because I go in there and shop. I'm not
trying to get into their business."
When a people’s representative doesn’t think it’s her job to “get
into” Wal-Mart’s “business” – Mitt’s ward includes the proposed
site – then we must realize that a vast void has been allowed
to descend on the Black political conversation. Mitt’s outrageous
remarks reflect much more than a deep, ugly cynicism. Rather,
they are comprehensible only in the context of a 30-year-long
failure to address Black community development as an issue
of democracy. More important than the fact that she has been
bought, Mitt and her amen corner cannot conceive of democracy
playing any role in development, which she perceives as the “business” of
Wal-Mart and other corporations.
Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis
Gannon demanded that Wal-Mart sign agreements before gaining
entrance to the
city. Alderwoman Carrie Austin made sense by mistake when she
countered: "And how many other people have you asked to
put it in writing? Did we ask Target? Did we ask Home Depot?
Did we ask Menards?"
Although Austin’s question sprang from the same slavish corruption
as that which oozes from her colleague, Mitts, she had hit on
an essential fact. No city in America is prepared to negotiate
with developers except on a case-by-case, episodic basis, because
no city has anything that could be accurately called a Plan for
development, informed by an exhaustive audit of its strengths
and assets, and arrived at through genuine democratic processes.
Without a audit and plan, there is no sound, civic basis for
negotiations. Alderwoman Austin may not want to set standards,
but she knows when there aren’t any – which frees her to wallow
in the pig sty with Wal-Mart.
The committee approved and forwarded Wal-Mart’s
plan to the full council.
Corporations, unlike cities, always have plans. They come armed
with facts and figures that cannot be disputed by even well meaning
politicians who have no countervailing facts of their own. As
we wrote in the September
4, 2003 issue of , “Owning
all the data, corporations literally feed urban politicians the
growth and job projections that are then inflicted on the public
as official (and campaign) literature, tightly closing the information
loop and smothering democracy in its crib – a prime source of
pervasive urban hopelessness.” Mayor Daley buys into Wal-Mart’s
A fighting model
The roaring fury of Wal-Mart’s rise to become the world’s business “model” has
caught progressives, labor and, especially, Black America flatfooted,
scrambling for a response. The citizens of Inglewood, California
were fortunate to have access to another “model” – an evolved
practice of negotiating Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) with
developers, designed to set a “baselines” for corporate behavior
while financing needed services to those directly affected by
development projects. The strategy – part of what has made California
standard” for “community grassroots organizing” – was developed
by the decade-old Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE).
LAANE takes credit for creating “a powerful coalition of community
organizations, unions, religious leaders, academics and elected
officials” – the same coalition that defeated Wal-Mart in Ingleside.
Madeline Janis-Aparicio, leader of the Coalition for a Better
Inglewood, is also a LAANE activist, and co-authored the definitive,
how-to document, “Community
Benefits Agreements: Making Development Projects Accountable,” along
with Greg LeRoy of Good
Among LAANE’s closest allies in the Inglewood confrontation
with Wal-Mart was the United Food and Commercial Workers union
(UCFW), battered by a three-month strike and lockout with supermarket
chains bent on following the Wal-Mart “model” of labor relations
in southern California. (See , “Remaking
America in Wal-Mart’s Image,“ February 19.)
Wal-Mart’s defeat in Inglewood buoyed spirits among union and
grassroots activists in Chicago. Bracing for Wal-Mart’s assault,
they borrowed a page from LAANE’s strategy for dealing with developers,
creating their own “Community
Benefits Agreement for Wal-Mart in the City of Chicago.”
No contract, no sales
"Right now, we have to organize and tackle this beast," said
Elce Redmond, as he presented the draft agreement on Wal-Mart
to the May Day crowd at St. Sabina Catholic Church. Redmond is
a leader of the South Austin Community Council, and one of the
drafters the Agreement.
“Even if they sign, we’ve got to push them nationwide,” said
Rev. Reginald Williams , Jr. Williams is associate pastor of
the 8,500-member Trinity United Church of Christ congregation,
today he was
ministering to the “movement” gathered for a Chicago
Workers’ Rights Board hearing on Wal-Mart.
The 12-point Community Benefits Agreement is a model for corporate
behavior and accountability that could be applied or amended
to fit a wide range of development projects, not just Wal-Mart.
The points include: no public subsidy for
the project; 100 percent union construction, demolition and
remodeling work, with 50 percent
of the work performed by contractors from the community surrounding
the site; 90 percent of employees must be Chicago residents,
including management; a living wage with affordable, comprehensive
health benefits; compliance with all workplace laws, and nondiscrimination
in hiring; no retaliation for union activities, management neutrality
on union representation issues; no inquiries on immigration status;
a halt to predatory pricing; the site will be made immediately
available to other retailers if abandoned by Wal-Mart; mandatory
participation in a “Community Commission” to monitor compliance
with the agreement; regular contributions to a Community Improvement
Fund to be administered by the Community Commission. Violation
of the agreement would subject Wal-Mart to fines and “possible
waiver of future zoning variances for other developments.”
“From this day on we will not be a whore anymore for any kind
of corporate pimp,” vowed Rev. Williams. Hundreds said Amen.
Truth gets a hearing
It was time to “testify” in church, and for the
Board’s secular record. “Anyplace that Wal-Mart has been let
into a community, conditions have gone down,” said Mary Finger,
UFCW International Vice President and the union’s director of
Civil Rights and Community Relations. “Those that lose jobs will
have to go out and get public assistance…and the jobs that we
have now will be turned into Wal-Mart jobs. Are you going to
lay down and say, that’s all we deserve?” A voice in the crowd
said “Hell No” to that, and all agreed.
Wal-Mart’s appeal, in the ghetto and elsewhere,
is that it creates jobs, as if out of thin air. However, a
report completed in March
by the Center for Urban Economic Development (CUED) at the University
of Illinois-Chicago, projects a net loss of jobs if Wal-Mart
is allowed to build its big box on the West Side.
Wal-Mart “will displace more jobs in the general merchandising
sector than it creates for Chicago residents,” said the CUED’s
Chirag Mehta. “We estimate that the store will lead to a net
loss of 54 jobs inside the general merchandising sector and 11
jobs outside the general merchandising sector for Chicago residents.
The jobs, once lost, will lead to an annual loss of $1.2 million
of income in current dollars for city residents.”
The employment-destroying logic of Wal-Mart’s predatory model
is inescapable – although the facts are drowned out of public
discussion by the sheer volume of the corporation’s “jobs, jobs,
jobs” ad campaigns. Although the proposed West Side store “will
expand the pie slightly by pulling in customers currently shopping
in the suburbs…for the most part, Wal-Mart will only take away
customers from existing retailers,” Mehta testified.
"In the 28-mile area around where the proposed store
will open (the typical market area for a big box retail store
in an urban market), there are 763 retailers that do business
in one or more of the retail sectors that competes directly
with Wal-Mart. Among those, there are 61 general merchandising
stores and the 40 discount retailers that will likely bear
the brunt of job loss…. Without a doubt, the vast majority
of the residents who live within the expected service area
of the proposed store already have comparable retail options.
If the proposed Wal-Mart store opens, the retail options will
undoubtedly decline as will the total number of jobs in the
”In terms of the fiscal impact…the City
of Chicago should see a slight increase in sales and property
there will be a net tax gain for the city, albeit only a slight
gain over the life of the project.”
So much for Mayor Daley’s rational for selling
out the city to Wal-Mart.
Carefully calculated oppression
Gonza Kaiijage worked for Wal-Mart while
a college student in Carbondale, Illinois. She thought she
was a part-timer. “Getting
more hours than you asked for probably sounds like a great situation
to a lot of people, but the point is that they wanted me to work
38 hours a week, and still be defined as part-time with no benefits
and no health insurance.” What Kaiijage described is Wal-Mart’s
science of squeezing maximum hours from workers for minimum pay – all
carefully calibrated in Bentonville, Arkansas, along with the
exact temperatures in each of the company’s thousands of stores.
Wal-Mart pimped Ms. Kaiijage and hundreds of thousands of part-timers,
keeping her just two hours shy of the (meager) benefits kick-in
point. Kaiijage couldn’t live with that, and no other employer
can compete with that – although in time they will learn if the
Wal-Mart model is not defeated.
Former Miss America Carolyn Sapp flew in
from California to report on the largest active class action
suit in the nation,
seeking injunctive relief and punitive damages for Wal-Mart’s
systemic discrimination against women. Ms Sapp cited “voluminous
data” showing men are paid more than, and promoted over, women
as a matter of corporation-wide practice.
Thus, Wal-Mart is an engine of the “feminization
At age 80, Mississippi-born Rev. Addie L. Wyatt is a legendary
activist, having served as the first woman local union
president of the United Packinghouse Food and Allied Workers.
Wyatt breathed fire from her wheelchair: “Wal-Mart acts like
they can come into our city and think that slavery is still
alive. I cannot believe that any of you would allow yourselves
to be treated as a slave.”
Among the notables seated at the dais were
several city and state officeholders, including state Rep.
Mary Flowers. "I'm
for jobs in this community, but I have an insult level," she
said. "People need a livable wage. As an African-American
woman, I once worked for $1 an hour. I'm not talking about what
I don't know."
But Wal-Mart is truly something new on Earth,
a super-exploiter that devours the competition, lowers labor
it treads, and rearranges economies to create conditions most
beneficial to itself. Already the biggest corporation by any
measure, its influence is further magnified by example. “Wal-Mart
makes others mimic its way of doing business,” said James
Thindwa, testifying for Chicago Jobs
With Justice, one of the prime movers of the hearings. Wal-Mart’s
model leads to a “proliferation of sweatshops in other countries.”
Wal-Mart beckons falsely to the unemployed while wreaking havoc
in bargaining sessions at unionized workplaces. Mike Jackson,
a UFCW shop steward at an Osco Distribution Center, testified:
“It seems to me that by targeting minority areas, providing
weak pay with poor benefits, they are targeting those that
need good jobs the most….
”I have witnessed first hand the effect that predatory competitors
have on our contracts. Management always says that they cannot
afford to continue paying us decent wages because they have
to compete with retailers that sell everything at discount
price. We are constantly told that they must lower what we
receive, in order to lower their prices, retain customers and
remain competitive. This is low-road employment”
The Low Road
“Retail and other business are forced into Low Road practices
to compete with this predatory giant,” said veteran activist
Dan Swinney, Executive Director of the Center for Labor and Community
Research CLCR). “Wal-Mart will accelerate the de-development
of our communities, further drain scarce public resources, and
encourage anti-labor actions and sentiment.”
Yet Swinney believes there is a host of companies
that are willing to cooperate with community groups and local
government – to
resist Wal-Mart’s slash-and-burn mode of business. “There are
existing stores like Costco,
Dominicks, Jewel, as well as thousands of smaller, locally-owned
stores that can be part of a High Road retail sector that meets
the needs of our local consumers.” These High Road businessmen
and women, says Swinney, can potentially become allies in the
quest for rational, people-serving urban development strategies.
Rather than allow Wal-Mart to pollute the political, social and
economic environment of cities, politicians should encourage
good corporate citizens and penalize Wal-Mart and its acolytes.
“It’s a business argument,” Swinney explains. “It
is simply the obligation of good government to find and reward
the retail sector who operate on the High Road and will generate
a positive return on investment for the city.”
Later, after the hearings were over, Swinney
elaborated on CLCR’s “Building
the Bridge to the High Road” strategy, which focuses on "people
stepping" in to grapple with the “anarchy” of urban economies.
The key, he says, is creating “early warning systems” to gather
accurate information on which businesses are closing, or in
danger of shutting down. CLCR has found that “40 percent or
more” of urban businesses that close or leave the city do so
because of “the issue of succession” – typically involving
elderly owners whose children don’t want to run the business.
Swinney’s group helps find neighborhood people “who want to
take over the company” and assists workers and entrepreneurs
seeking companies to buy.
According to Swinney’s ”High Road,” progressives
must recognize that sections of the business
community share the fundamental objectives of our High Road.
And a broader segment of the business community has at least
a material interest in the success of building the economy, no
matter what strategic alliance guides development. Business people
bring indispensable skills and resources to the process, and
must be attracted and recruited to our efforts. In return for
their work, they must be rewarded with fair compensation and
return on investment, with partnerships that enhance the performance
of their companies, and inclusion in all aspects of our community.
“But,” as Swinney said in the final words of his testimony at
St. Sabina Church, “the first step is to stop Wal-Mart from coming
to our city.”
Showdown on May 26th
The dreadful Alderwoman Emma Mitt brought
about 100 supporters to witness her buffoonery at the May 5
City Council Meeting on
Wal-Mart. Consumed by an idiotic megalomania, Mitt worked her
crowd. "We want to take the worst retailer in the world,
the worst, as they say, and make it the best," said the
crazy woman, imagining she could tame a company that punishes nations. "But
you know something? To make them the best, you've got to have
Two hundred of Father Michael Pfleger’s troops waved “No Wal-Mart
in Chicago” placards as the priest pushed the Community Benefits
Agreement: "We have to demand jobs. We have to demand good-paying
jobs and benefits and unless we set a standard, we then accept
whatever's thrown out by any company that says, it's better than
Wal-Mart had by now mouthed promises on local
hiring and “average” wage
levels, but it wasn’t negotiating with anyone (except in Alderwoman
Mitt’s imagination), and will never set the precedent of signing
a binding agreement that might slow down its finely calibrated,
global Race to the Bottom.
As 38th Ward Alderman Thomas Allen put it: "They
won't put anything in writing, they won't agree to anything,
lip service, they hoodwink and they bamboozle people. It's like,
'Line-up. Drink the Kool-Aid. It's good for you. You're gonna
Richard Daley forgot whose mayor he was,
appearing to base his support for Wal-Mart on suburban opinion. "What happened
in the suburban area? What happened? Where's the voices? Where
are the voices? Where are the people?" said Mayor Daley.
According to this logic, Wal-Mart must be a fine company, since
folks from the suburbs weren’t demonstrating at Chicago’s City
Through deft maneuvering by anti-Wal-Mart alderpersons, the
vote on the West Side store was postponed until Wednesday, May
Organizer Jim Bakken thinks the Community
Benefits Agreement strategy, borrowed from Los Angeles, is
working. “There are some
alderpeople who are completely opposed to Wal-Mart,” he said. “There
is an even larger group that wants to see some written agreement,
or they will oppose it. There is a groundswell of opposition
to these stores. The more the aldermen learn about Wal-Mart as
a company, the more they oppose it.”
More than any recent event, the supermarket
strike and lockout in southern California – considered a “Wal-Mart” strike even
though the Walton family’s outlets were not directly involved – has
galvanized labor against the Wal-Mart model, creating a more
activist-friendly environment in labor circles. Giant predators
have that effect on people.
Wal-Mart’s belated drive to fully penetrate the nation’s inner
cities exposes the utter failure of post-civil rights politics
as actually practiced in much of Black America. The wave of African
American urban electoral victories did not give rise to a strategy
that would leverage the cities’ inherent – and inherited – strengths
and assets. Instead, opportunistic elites within the community – and
gutter feeders with even baser ambitions – saw the cities as
places to be stripped and sold off or even given away.
In the first installment of ’s
ongoing series, “Wanted: A Plan for the Cities to Save Themselves” (August
14, 2003), we described how urban politicians “extend permanent
invitations to private capital to do whatever it wants with their
constituents’ property and futures, but please do something!
Rarely do they have anything resembling a plan of their own,
beyond a firm determination to accept whatever capital offers…” Although
we were (and remain) focused on the larger issues of frenzied
gentrification and corporate rip-offs subsidized at the
expense of existing urban populations, the Wal-Mart urban offensive
brings the contradiction into even starker relief. Chicago’s
Alderwoman Emma Mitt serves as a perfect example (or straw woman)
of the abysmal ignorance and moral corruption that has resulted
from thirty years without a plan for the cities. These are the
fruits of an historic failure of Black politics.
History sometimes dispenses second chances.
personality, as offensive as it is destructive, has placed a
logo on the generalized crisis into which concentrated capital
is plunging the nation and world. It is no coincidence that the
company that is leading the global and domestic Race to the Bottom
is also controlled by the most blatant, public reactionaries
at the top of America’s billionaire pyramid – Sam Walton’s heirs.
Black folks can identify the enemy more easily when they hail
from places like Bentonville, Arkansas. That tends to get people
in the mood to fight back – but it does not, of course, provide
a strategy for resistance to the relentless corporate absorption
of the people’s space and rights, in which Wal-Mart is only one
The nightmare with Wal-Mart’s name on it – a process that Dan
Swinney calls “de-development” and which in other forms results
in urban ethnic cleansing – can only be successfully countered
by building a movement that is fueled by the people’s dreams. Dreams
are what development is all about. Yet in 21st Century America,
only rich men’s dreams are allowed – Thou shalt have no other
dreams but mine, says capital. Black politicians have collaborated
in this people-stunting politics, believing the cities in which
they wield at least nominal power are worthless. Why else would
they so eagerly transfer urban assets for a song, or for nothing
at all, or in Wal-Mart’s case, for a job- and community-destroying
The new urban politics must be rooted in
a development strategy that calls upon the people to imagine
a city that fulfills their
needs, a politics that provides them with the tools to transform
their surroundings in ways that they choose, through a process
that affirms the value and power of democracy – the value and
power of themselves. If people can dream a city, they will fight
to make it real.
The Los Angeles Community Benefits Agreements,
now part of Chicago’s
progressive political arsenal, are flexible templates for campaigns
for democratic development. The Agreements create a process
of thought and action that places the people’s needs and desires,
as expressed by themselves, at the center of the urban development
question, which is, at its most basic: What kind of city do we
want to create?
The LAANE Agreements are marvelously malleable; they encourage
the movement to grow in scope:
“Ideally, cities should
make a community needs assessment and baseline community benefits
part of every subsidized
project. A citywide policy for subsidized projects could do just
that. This would promote uniformity, avoid lengthy and repetitious
project-by-project battles, and ensure that all subsidized projects
in a given jurisdiction provide some basic community benefits.
A push for a citywide community benefits policy also provides
a valuable opportunity for coalition-building and strengthening
LAANE’s approach also fits well with Dan Swinney’s “High Road” strategy.
At the end of the day, the people’s “corporate ally” is the one
who will sign a contract.
The power of dreams
The global and domestic economic crisis with
on it has forced a closer collaboration within the coalition
that can forge this new urban politics. It will be an essentially
Black-led (and increasingly Latino-oriented) movement, as was
glimpsed in Chicago and Inglewood. Black labor will take the
point position, goading and guiding their union fellows towards
decisions and confrontations that can no longer be avoided. Black
labor is also the key to placing large sums of capital at the
service of democratic development, through the billions of dollars
in union pension funds that are currently controlled by corporate
Many white progressives have proven capable
of formulating strategies and inventing tools that serve the
larger mission: to create
the conditions for a social democracy in which human destinies
are not determined by privilege. Still, it will be up to African
American progressives to nurture and help articulate a democratic
vision among the Black urban majority – to encourage, demand,
that they dream cities, and act collectively on those dreams.
We dreamed in concert, once, and won citizenship
rights that we never fully used. In that sense, half the battle
forty years ago. It’s time for the next step.
here to read Part 1 of this series.
here to read Part 2 of this series.
here to read Part 3 of this series.
here to read Part 5 of this series.