May 30, 2006

Message to the People: Living in West End don’t make you ‘real’

Well, Derby 2006 is over. It would seem that cruising is, too — forever. Even my young former Padawan, Phillip Bailey (now a Jedi in his own right), was unable to turn the tide in the favor of the would-be cruisers with his “balanced” and “gentle” (I call it “hedged”) essay in LEO last month.Unsurprisingly, my rigid and clear position on the issue elicited a range of opinions. Some were in agreement that fighting for cruising wasn’t even a fight worth winning. One took umbrage that I didn’t recognize this was some kind of generative “organic” activity that should be respected. Still trying to figure that one out. One reader argued residents’ right to move freely in their own neighborhood was violated by local government. I fundamentally agree with the foundation of that particular stance, but the reality, magnitude and consequences of cruising makes the debate more complex.This reader made other viable points, but his/her basic problem with me boiled down to the belief that I am among a group of “outsiders looking in.” He/she questioned, “Do you live in the West End, Dr. Jones? I think it’s good that you make a trip down here every once and a while, but how much can you really care about the West End when you live in the ’burbs?” Basically, I ain’t “real”! This is an oft-heard refrain from many of Louisville’s black West End residents, and I think it’s time somebody called them on it.In the classic “Black Power,” Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and Charles V. Hamilton rightfully made the argument that many black folk in America suffer from three fundamentally oppressive conditions: political powerlessness, economic dependence and social isolation. Largely as a coping response to the last, certain segments of black America have bred and glorified the idea that “being from the ’hood” makes you “real.” If from Chicago, one has more “cred” if from the South Side. If you’re from the Near North Side and can add “Cabrini Green” to your resume, you’re automatically a street god. In L.A., Watts and Compton are the places where the “real niggas” roll.In Atlanta, the SWATs (Southwest Atlanta — where I grew up) is the ultimate proving ground. (Side note: since I don’t live in the West End now, my near quarter-century soldiering in Atlanta’s Carver Homes housing project raised by an illiterate grandmother doesn’t matter.) Anywhere in D.C. outside of the Mall will do. New York minus Manhattan is generally considered a hell-hole. So, if you’re from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, whatever — you’re all right. In Louisville, it’s the West End. Subsequently, anybody from there or who currently lives there believes they can proudly proclaim, “I’m from the ’hood, kid — the streets! I’m real, yo! I still live in the ’hood, homie! You don’t, so I’m realer than you, bruh! You’re soft, I’m hard! I care about black folk more than you because I live in the ’hood (even if I’m a bottom-feeding idiot). You don’t know shit about black folk because you live in the ’burbs!” Well, I have one word for all of you who sing this song ad nauseam: BULLSHIT! Is that “real” enough, “street” enough, “hard” enough for you?West End provincialism is destructive and misguided in a number of ways. One, a person’s socio-political orientation is not determined by where he or she lives. Given, there are some black people who live in certain neighborhoods and avoid others because of racial escapism, but this is not absolute. It’s not even the norm! The reality is, every black person who is a minority in his or her neighborhood doesn’t hate black folk and is not ignorant to the realities of the black community. Many are, in fact, quite committed to racial egalitarianism — and work for it. Conversely, every black person who lives in neighborhoods like the West End doesn’t love black folk.More importantly, internal racial rhetoric, which measures black authenticity along geographic lines, is not only segregative, but short-sighted and wrong-headed. Maybe if the “area-cred” champions of the West End expanded their ideological repertoires to include black people all over the city, their endeavors might gain a little traction (let’s be real — they’re woeful failures right now). Along the way, maybe they would stop exalting many of the so-called “community leaders” of the West End — many of whom, quite honestly, are little more than money-grubbing, strategy-poor, exploitative hustlers who prey on black suffering.Then again, I don’t live in the West End — so what do I know?Remember, until next time — you know the rest! Dr. Ricky L. Jones is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at U of L. His LEO column appears in the last issue of each month. Contact the writer at

NEGRO please

By rock7777

no one said you weren't 'real'

Dr. Jones. Living in the west end does not make you 'real,' but it doesn't hurt either, especially when you are trying to analyze the people who live their. Like ethnography allows anthropologist to see up close and personal what goes on in certain habitats, living in the west end would allow you to connect more with the people who live their...instead of just calling them 'fools,' and sitting back and expecting people to take your word for it...that’s the real BULLLSHIT!

I have tons of respect for you, but not because you have a PhD, but rather because you speak what’s on your mind and don't hold anything back. But, i can't help but to notice other black leaders who came before us, and their presence in black communities, ones much worst than west Louisville. For example, Malcolm X, a man who i love and admire would preach day after day after day on the liquor and drug infested streets of Harlem. Malcolm just didn't write the people on those corners off as 'fools' like you did to the cruisers, but instead he invested his time in going to the front line and preaching to the masses, face to face and not from behind a computer screen (no offense). And I’m sure his time spent on the blocks of Harlem did not fall on deaf ears seeing that he had such a positive affect on the lives of the people in that community.

So my only point is, since you are one of this cities great black leaders( i think), you could have, like Malcolm, used Broadway as a way to get your "message to the people." After all, i don't think black folks from the west end are flocking to read LEO anyway..but i may be wrong.

What’s wrong with going down on Broadway and talking to your brothers and sister Dr. Jones? I understand, that’s not what professors do these days, but maybe you could start a trend. maybe next derby you should give it a shot. Since you are from S.W.A.T, dealing with these little 'fools' out on broadway should be like cakewalk for you.

Now when Malcolm X lived in Harlem, I’m sure he wasn't doing so to be seen as "hard." but i definitely think he earned the respect of the youth who saw him day after day after day after day with their own eyes. They could actually reach out and touch him. and that’s one of the things that made him a great leader.

Living in the west end does not make you hard, you are absolutely right. But when you see little children getting shot and people getting murdered week after week, it certainly does not make you "soft." Maybe watching these things on the news from way out in the county somewhere, allows one to feel safe from this nonsense, but when you live down the street from a murder scene it will defiantly have an affect on you. And i'm sure you know this coming from S.W.A.T

But the burbs’ are nice though lol

P.S. No one is testing your "street credibility." I have tons of respect for where you came from, and how you got to the position you are in now.

But i just want to know, since living in the west end doesn't make you "hard," (and i agree), what does it make you?


Good Article.

By thebloom

i think the Doctor has some very good points. However, i do beleive there is an atmosphere in the West end that does force young men to create a "hard" persona. I think its more of a defense mechanisim, if anything. In many areas of the west end 'big fish' eat 'little fish.' And as a result, a lot of black men in those areas have to act 'tough' in order to survive. Now does this mean that makes them better than black people who live in the Suburbs? Hell No. could it mean they face more obstacles from day to day than black people who live in safer areas? Probably so. Does this mean Dr. Jones is anything less just because he may not live in the West End? Hell No! So whats the fuss about?

I think Hip Hop music also fuels this 'hard' mentality that has taken the minds of many black men in the west end. Someone needs to tell them that they don't always have to act so 'hard.' But the sad reality is, there are very few people around to tell them that.

But contrary to belief, the west end isn't all rough and tough. And neither is SW Atlanta. In both those areas you can find affluent black people. For example, the west end has the chicasaw park area. Yes, even that area has a few problems, but its still relatively safe and nice. and in Atlanta, there are tons of affluent blacks in the SWATS. I used to live there for a matter of fact.

the broadway shutdown was inexcusable!!

By thebloom

now that some of the facts are coming out about the affects of the shutdown of broadway during derby, i am finding myself becoming very pissed. Pissed at the city for allowing it, and pissed at "black leaders" for sitting back and calling people 'fools' while covering their eyes as the west end was being raped.... Maybe Rock was right. If you live out in the suburbs, you probably have no clue of how much the crackdown on broadway hurt West End businesses.

its being reported that nine west louisville businesses made less than $100 during derby weekend. Thats unexcusable. And anyone who says the folks who run businesses on broadway were "fools" because they complained and "worried" about the shutdown of broadway is just plain out of touch with reality.

Lee's Famous Chicken made 12,000 bucks last derby, but only made 24 dollars this derby! What the hell is that?? The numbers are even worse for other businesses along west broadway.

Now do you see why the 'fools' were 'worried about cruising' Dr. Jones?

A new tribalism

By Phillip M. Bailey

When people read things they don’t want to hear or cannot contest what they’ve read they'll often bring up issues of authenticity to distract their flawed arguments. When Dr. Ricky Jones called out the foolishness of rallying around cruising, which was civically irresponsible at best, people got upset. I can understand that, there have been moments were Dr. Jones has publicly and privately hazed my stances. Any good mentor does that to a pupil they really care about. No one likes to be called a fool, publicly or privately. I think it’s safe to say that if you supported cruising as a rallying cry you certainly were one. I know, because I did it in the beginning too. Instead of evaluating that strategic error, people now want to raise the issue of Dr. Jones living outside of west Louisville. I guess he hurt their feelings. As a lifelong resident and lover of west Louisville, I feel it necessary for me to break a few myths.

One, experience does not always bestow wisdom. Just because people live in west Louisville doesn’t qualify them to know what is best for that community. Are we to believe that living in west Louisville alone makes a person better suited to address issues and/or know what the better direction should be? Think before you answer. We’ve got enough profiteers, hustlers and demagogues who skate across criticism simply because they brandish “the streets” and “coming from the hood” and living in “west Louisville”. Instead of calling out those charlatans, folks want to ridicule someone for living in the suburbs? That’s not a legitimate argument, it is tribalism. I’m assuming this west Louisville tribalism also disqualifies black folk who live in Newburg, the Highlands, Berrytown, Shivley, Valley Station and across the city from the conversation. I guess that means we ought to boycott the Muhammad Ali Center, because Ali hasn’t lived in west Louisville for decades. No more shopping at Full Court on Broadway, because I’ve seen Derek Anderson’s house and he lives miles from the ‘hood. Come to think of it, how many of the Broadway business owners live in the community? Shouldn’t the tribe go after them first? My point is simple, the physical location of a person makes them no less “real”, authentically black or less in touch with reality – or does it?

Second, this represents a recurring myth that if professional blacks would just move back to the ‘hood then we’d all be better off. Okay, whatever. I’d like you to talk to the current middle-class professionals who live in west Louisville and ask them if the thugs and gangs stop killing because of their presence. Critics argue – using Malcolm X – that professionals should have used Broadway cruising as a platform for a message of social change – and who is out of touch with reality?

Lastly, no one has attempted to create a social theory for authentic blacks in west Louisville and probably never will. What should a real west Louisville resident act like? How should they spend their money? How should they vote? When west Broadway businesses were adversely affected by the police shutdown, questions like these are important. By the way, what is a west Louisville business? Is it just a business that occupies a physical space in the community? How much of its annual revenue does it put back into substantive west Louisville programs, organizations or initiatives? I’m interested to see if those who criticize Dr. Jones for living in the suburbs are truly building community or just want to thump their tribal chests.