In cleaning up some files while moving to a new computer, I came across this note from Tony Barnicle, an old colleague, now gone. Tony introduced me to the importance of finance and record keeping to successful community development. He was also one of the most ‘out of the box’ thinkers and inspirations in my life. His commentary also has insights on race relations and joining with community.
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2014 7:00 AM
Subject: September DROPPINGS
DROPPINGS FROM THE BARNICLE Volume XIII, Number 9, September, 2014
“WE | THEY” (WORDS ON THE TOP OF A BRIDGE SCOREBOARD)
On Friday night, January 15, 1972 Lorraine and I were wed. On the following Monday I reported to work at the Brightwood Economic Development Office. By 10:00 in the morning one of my “certified disadvantaged” clients punched me in the nose and broke it. Several days later someone threw an iceball (a snowball turned to ice and filled with rocks) at me which missed my nose by a centimeter. On Friday night I was the only staff in our office building when another “certified disadvantaged” client barged into my office and slammed the door behind him (cutting off my only exit). Even more intimidating, he brought another “certified disadvantaged” person with him who immediately opened my file cabinet and began trashing my files.
That night, Lorraine and I talked about my job. I was the third director in the six months since the Chamber of Commerce took the contract. I didn’t like the job but decided it wouldn’t work unless we would move into Brightwood. Within a week we found an apartment there.
The results of this decision were astounding! The day after our move I was called into the Program Redevelopment Director’s office to be chastised for breaking an unwritten law. Social workers don’t live in their client’s neighborhoods. His biggest worry was we would start something. His worry was founded. Simon and Sue, John and Peggy and many other organizers followed us into the neighborhood. The threats and intimidation from my clients ended.
Within a month I gave the “jobs” program to staff and began talking with my advisory board about changing our program goals from neighborhood jobs to neighborhood wealth.
If we hadn’t moved to Brightwood, I couldn’t have started the Chores Corporation, built the Brightwood Shopping Center and founded the Brightwood Development Corporation. If I hadn’t been a neighbor, I couldn’t have helped my neighbors build CASA Credit Union to a $2,000,000 + credit union which helped Brightwood break out of its “red lined” walls. These events are described in Chapter V of my book, WHAT A LIFE, WITH MY WIFE ….
The psychological and spiritual results were more profound. Anyone who plays bridge knows WE = us. THEY = the enemy. In 1972 we had dared to move from the WEs to the THEYs. Because I had moved in with them, I was able to accomplish the measurable results listed above. But, a collateral effect of our move was the way it changed forever the way we think. As we watch the experts on National TV suggesting ways to solve the riots dividing WEs and THEYs in Ferguson, we can’t help remembering the police brutality we witnessed in Brightwood. Until you move, and lived, as we did for four years, with the THEYs, you will never understand the almost unbreakable wall we have built around them and the terrible divide this wall has caused.
I hope the Ferguson riots don’t end with another Blue Ribbon Commission telling us we live in a divided America. I hope it doesn’t end in another affirmative action program to put more blacks on the police force. I don’t think hiring blacks living in Ferguson to replace whites living outside Ferguson will solve the problem. If anything, I think it will exacerbate the problem. But how about persuading two or three or even more Ferguson Police Officers to move into the community? How about a program that will offer attractive home mortgages to young officers with families? What a difference would it make if these officers witnessed their fellow officer shooting their unarmed neighbor’s son? Imagine an officer marching in a demonstration with his son on his shoulders as I did one time in Brightwood. What a benefit it would be if these officers’ children attended Ferguson schools.
How the chemistry would change if the wife of one of these officers served on the Ferguson School Board.
I remember the night two lawyers came “down to Brightwood” to sell my neighbors on the benefits of bussing their children. Their idea was going nowhere when I suggested they should consider moving to Brightwood. ‘We would love to have lawyers living in our community.’
After living with THEYs for years, we never stopped being WEs. But you don’t forget. We had just moved back to our WE neighborhood in Jefferson City when Rob, my oldest son, saw a black boy and shouted, “Dad stop the car. I see a real boy.” He ran to a house, knocked on the door and asked if he could play with him.