A warrior is gone
Jerry Tyler, Robert Andrews and Bond (Jerry’s brother)
A warrior is gone. A couple of weeks ago Jerry Tyler passed but I am not sure he understood that he was a warrior (he might have thought he was just a hard-working Black man). He was the “J” in J&R Trucking, part of the TRIAD of the Black dump trucking firms working on the NE Interstate Light Rail project (NE Urban Trucking Consortium 2001). Jerry Tyler and Robert Andrews of J&R Trucking were on the team of black truckers who endured the racist attacks by white truckers and a system that tried everything to exclude us from working in the industry. Work Horse Construction, Rock and Road Construction, and J&R Trucking were Black firms forming the base of the consortium.
They called us “Niggers” in raggedy trucks on the CB radios and tried to tear up our trucks in the loading and dumping process. They did everything to discourage us from working on that project. But thanks to Fred Hansen the TRI-Met administrator, and Bill Bruce, a white Stacey &Witbeck project manager at the time, we not only survived, but we eventually thrived. This is the point where TRI-Met becomes the region’s premier public agency promoting true economic equity and inclusion for Black contractors.
The consortium dissolved after the project and most of us are now retired but racism throughout the region remains. A new generation of Black construction businesses is now on the scene. But keep your eye on the procurement process involving the remodel of Jefferson High School if you want to see a case study of modern-day racism. More to come on that project.
Funding for the Black Community: No Excuses
Watching Portland City Council today 4-12-23 in determining how monies originally dedicated to empowering the black community with investments were characterized and maligned in the discussion. One thing for sure is that when allocating resources to help black people it seems like there is always a controversy. I don’t imagine that kind of controversy allocating funding for a dog park would conjure up that kind of controversy. What is starkly clear, is that the City has been criminally dysfunctional when it comes to moving any positive agenda for black people.
Commissioner Rubio was emphatic about the original intent and purpose of the disputed resources. She outlined when, who, and why the money was allocated. She was spectacular in her defense of retaining the resources for Reimagine Oregon and Imagine Black. Even the Mayor attempted to be creative in finding a way to honor the city’s commitment to doing something right for the black community. His longevity and experience on City Council was a sign of his political maturity. The commissioners who voted to redirect the money didn’t seem to understand the real and symbolic harm and impact of their decision to redistribute promised black dollar commitments. Nevertheless, the black community has more work to do to emphasize the catastrophic damage inflicted on the black community and the need to find every avenue to remedy past harm and hurt.
Of course, the black community bears some responsibility to move initiatives aimed at supporting and restoring black livability and economic growth. We can’t afford to think the system will automatically respond and take of us. We need to step up to the plate and get it done, no excuses.
A few days ago I returned to Atlanta GA for the funeral of a giant in the Black construction field. Art J. Queen’s influence was not limited to the construction industry, he was an exceptionally good man in all aspects of his life. He never met a person he did not want to help. He would give you the shirt off his back. I could only attribute his goodness to his Christian values which he wore on his sleeves with pride. I am so thankful that I had a chance to know this man and regret I did try to spend more time in his presence.
I had not been in Atlanta in a while but it did not take me long to feel at home. And I was elated and exceedingly happy to be surrounded by so many Black people. It was almost like I could breathe again and a sense of my African/Blackness rushed in to revive me. There is nothing like being around Black people in mass and immersed in their authentic selves. You get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and most beautiful in all our variations. For me, it was breathtaking and make me know how isolated I am from my roots. For a minute I saw the awesomeness of their material accumulations and spectacular political/social achievements but what was most impressive for me was that they seem like they were in control of their environment and had a spirit of wholeness. I might have just been intoxicated by the intensity of being around so many Black people. But whatever the case might be, I know I wanted more and was sorry to leave this Black Oasis. I know I had my rose-colored glasses on because I could see over in the distance that everything was not straight in the ATL. One wrong turn in the wrong direction could have changed my perspective one hundred degrees. I just know that when I left ATL it was as if I had not finished a delicious meal. God knows that being Black is a precious earthy attribute and I went to the ground in Atlanta.