Wednesday, August 26, 2015

UPDATE: Historic Zoning Denied for America's First Black Housing Site, Advocate Releases Fact Sheet on Rosewood Courts Case

Though they were told the Commission approved historic zoning, the vote was actually 3-3 instead of 4-2 as advocates were led to believe before they left the meeting late Monday night. This is likely going to mean an appeal based on procedural abnormalities (what constitutes a quorum, vote changes after those bring forth the case left, etc.) . 

Here's an article on the case's final results: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2015/08/rosewood-courts-historic-zoning-denied/

Here's a statement released about the case from Preserve Rosewood Courts:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sensing Public Housing History: Historic Zoning Process for Rosewood Courts Advances; Austin Affordability & Preservation Debate Continues



Update on Rosewood Courts in Austin! Here's a little background on the Courts:

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/opinion/phillips-rosewood-courts-more-than-worthy-of-histo/nnN5h/

Here's a snippet of last night's (follow link) City Historic Landmark Commission meeting on the matter of it being designated a local landmark. See Item 7A 5

Item 7A 5



C14H-2015-0008 Rosewood Courts 2001 Rosewood Avenue Council District 1 Applicant: Fred McGhee; Historic Landmark Commission City Staff: Steve Sadowsky, Historic Preservation Office, 974-6454 Staff Recommendation: Do not initiate historic zoning. The Housing Authority of the City of Austin (owner) recognizes the historical significance of this site, and has developed a plan in conjunction with neighborhood input, to rehabilitate six of the original units, and to re-open Emancipation Park as part of their master plan. Staff instead recommends that the Commission endorse the Rosewood Courts Master Plan, which includes the preservation of original units of this public housing complex.



  Some thoughts...

I am longer on the commission, but its nice to see this matter advancing to the exploration or "initiating" of historic zoning phase. I feel strongly, that for this matter to advance, a myth central to this ongoing public debate be dismantled: That those in favor of a historic designation are against upgrades in public housing or a better quality of life for residents. 

One of my problems with historic preservation as a field and regulatory regime (on all levels of government) is the inability for us to have holistic conversations about the relationship between historic conservation and the preservation of quality, affordable housing. As you will see during the debate, so often we can only discuss preservation matters in a Landmark meeting and planning and development matters in another meeting. While it often works in the favor of preservation matters, it causes us (residents) to have what I feel are performative, intellectually dishonest, short sighted conversations about development.

 I hope that activists will continue to hold space for conversations about how historic preservation is also about how conservation of truly affordable housing. Too often redevelopment equals the elimination of truly affordable units (for extremely low income) that are replaced with semi affordable housing units (for those at median to above median income). These two issues (preserving units' history and affordability) are deeply intertwined and not opposed to one another. The federal trend toward declining investment in maintenance and increasing utility costs at public housing complexes are far more threatening to affordable housing stock in Austin than a historic designation, which amounts to a process of accountability, not prohibition of rehabilitation. In other words, a designation doesn't automatically mean air conditioning doesn't get fixed, or that children don't have safe places to play. It means we determine what aspects of the building and landscape need to be preserved in order to integrate it into the public history of Austin while we refurbish or retrofit existing structures. 

Here's why this matters. Demolition is too often undertaken in this town after the fact. And once historic buildings are gone, they are gone. Once affordable units are gone, they are gone. You'd be surprised at how cities have tried to get around the one for one replacement rule. An extra layer of accountability to extremely low-income residents can only help, not hinder access to affordable housing, slow gentrification, and preserve the community's cultural fabric. It slows down a process enough to shine a light on government-led (though often public-private) development. With the history of low income residents' relationship with HUD or federal projects, I would hope we would want local government to stand up for ALL residents and increase the visibility of Austin's local history. I encourage Austinites to continue to watch and speak out on this issue as it advances through Commissions and City Council.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sensing "Church Songs" - Remembering Childhood Church


I go through a little music withdrawal whenever I return from dissertation research in East Texas. These are just a few of the songs I miss hearing all the time. I hear them when I go to homecoming celebrations in East Texas, but not so much anywhere else. Some I remember being sung a little faster and with guitar, but its all good.

Enjoy!


























Friday, July 24, 2015

Sensing Summer Breeze (Isley Brothers)

It has been a very heavy summer of loss for friends and family (death, illness), Black bodies are under siege....I definitely need a summer breeze.



 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let Go of Your Blanket Linus! How the Confederate Battle Flag is Used to Manipulate & Exploit Poor Whites



“The standard image of Southern slavery is that of a large plantation with hundreds of slaves. In fact, such situations were rare. Fully 3/4 of Southern whites did not even own slaves; of those who did, 88% owned twenty or fewer. Whites who did not own slaves were primarily yeoman farmers. Practically speaking, the institution of slavery did not help these people. And yet most non-slaveholding white Southerners identified with and defended the institution of slavery. Though many resented the wealth and power of the large slaveholders, they aspired to own slaves themselves and to join the privileged ranks. In addition, slavery gave the farmers a group ofpeople to feel superior to. They may have been poor, but they were not slaves,and they were not black. They gained a sense of power simply by being white.”
Conditions of antebellum slavery 1830 – 1860, PBS

Ok. I can only take so much of this "don't throw away the Rebel flag of the confederacy, its part of our heritage" stuff. As a preservationist, I usually embrace the idea that we need to retain evidence of progress by retaining evidence of our failures. However, the flag confounds that line of reasoning for a few reasons. 

The flag is a lie that reinforces a lie. This is not figurative speech or hyperbole. The flag includes stars of two states that never formally seceded: Kentucky and Missouri. The state's legitimate governments never joined "The Cause". The Confederate Battle flag perpetuates false history, from its inception.

If the Confederate Battle flag symbolizes anything, it is the right of elite, land owning white males to own other human beings. THAT IS ALL. Not the rights of  your poor, sharecropping white ancestor. They didn’t fight to preserve anything distinctly southern or “a way of life” that reflected their circumstance or economic reality. They defended an aspiration to be associated with those complicit in their own exploitation. If anything, Confederate soldiers defended their right to continue to own slaves and grow wealth much the way some investment houses grow wealth today, at your expense. The housing crisis and economic collapse should have proven that. If anything, that flag represents the persistent exploitation of the poor to fight for and protect the 1%'s agenda.

Basically, your ancestors didn't fight for southern heritage, but a way of life that in no way reflected their interests or even southern things you and I love like food, rural culture, or politeness. No, poor whites are and continue to be used. I don’t care what color they were, slave or free, the confederacy rounded up whoever they could, bribed them with a piece of a pie from which they would never partake, and called it a noble cause to save face and not accept that it was a treasonous effort that almost dissolved the Union.

There’s no chivalry and honor in a cause that was built on the rape of Black women and children. Southern chivalry, protection of delicate white women that need to be put on a pedestal…besides being sexist it also belies the complete vulnerability of underage Black girls and women, constantly raped and forcibly bred like animals. This also was a component of the genocidal aspects of slavery. The constant attacks on Black women created a rate of miscarriage and child mortality in the 90 percent range at times. The Confederacy was formed to protect and sustain exploitation of Black women, men and children, the poor, and to reproduce an overall system of oppression. Note that most of the Charleston 9 were women, murdered right after the white supremacist mass murderer saluted the cause of protecting white womanhood.

The flag is a reminder that the rich use race to obscure the use of poor bodies of all colors to support the 1%. White brothers and sisters, they bribed you. They told you to fight for the right to be "white" to be “one of us”, and we’ll call all of that southern culture. We’ll let you appropriate it as you wish and include things like guns or xenophobia. Doesn’t really matter. Just so it keeps you holding onto a false sense of security that never threatens their hold on you politically. This aspirational identity is rooted in the need to feel superior to someone else. To never feel like an Other. If nothing else, powerful white supremacist forces hope you can console yourself with the false security of "whiteness" as the landed gentry or the Koch Brothers construct it.

Let go of your security blanket. Take down the seditious Confederate Battle flag. The Flag will not keep you warm, stop marriages from ending, get you a job, tell you who you are as US population browns, stop the meth epidemic, educate your children, or allow you to "take back" a country which never belonged to you exclusively anyway.

Let it go!


And preservationists and historians, there is no need to retain a flag to remember this phenomenon, this false American trope of southern heritage. Repeatedly the poor and people of color have been asked to buy into symbols and ideas that only sustain the worst rather than the best of who we are. These symbols, including the flag, are life jackets with holes in them. Like the Southern Strategy, these symbols, assumptions, and dog whistles have enabled Republicans to retain control of the south with a racialized platform. This is not new, the Flag simply changes form. If reactionary forces aren’t using the Confederate Flag, they use media to promote distracting platforms that includes the war on drugs, assumed criminality of people of color and the poor, and a false notion that America is a meritocracy unsullied by bias and structural racism. The flag is one of many tools used to distract whites from the fact that they have much more in common with people of color (especially the poor) than they are led to believe. 

The Confederate Battle flag is not southern heritage; it is American’s stumbling block, an impediment to truly progressive coalition building and organizing strategies geared toward dismantling the oligarchical and aristocratic forces that threaten any progress made on race relations, true gender equality, or economic justice. It IS hate, not heritage, because behind hate is always fear.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

bell hooks + Chirlane McCray on White Supremacy & Where Our Power Lies

I loved this discussion and Q&A session, because rather than focus on only white people, they are about confronting white supremacy in oneself & how it colors the choices we make: relationships, how you treat people, partners, jobs, places to live. How does white supremacist patriarchy color the decisions you make?