The Uhuru Movement, with Connie Burton at its leadership, beat back Civitas and the Tampa Housing Authority’s attempt to kick an entire community of Africans out of their homes.
BY SATEESH ROGERS
TAMPA, FL — It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Getting rid of African people in the Central Park housing projects was supposed to be easy. Nothing more than an African removal form here or there mixed with a healthy dose of lies and Tampa Housing Authority (THA) executive director Jerome Ryans would be cheered by white power as their number one “boy.”
The THA had all its ducks in a row, ready to pursue another Hope VI application to force African people out of their homes.
Hope VI is a federal housing grant used to dismantle public housing and disperse the African population. Most Africans in Tampa are familiar with Hope VI due to Belmont Height Estates. Using ridiculously high admission standards regarding credit, income etc., only 50 families were able to return out of the 1,200 to 1,300 families that used to live there.
So, when Ed Turanchik and his group Civitas (a Latin word for “get rid of niggers quick”) came along indicating that they not only wanted to get rid of Africans in Central Park but in Tampa Park Apartments as well, Jerome Ryans nearly wet himself in anticipation of getting into bed with Turanchik.
Turanchik had failed miserably in his efforts to remove Africans from prime downtown real estate using the 2012 Olympics as a smokescreen and has been banging his head against a wall for years trying to figure out how to “get rid of niggers quick.”
After his first failure, he assembled the Civitas group in order to approach African people’s removal from the private sector. Civitas’ board consists of individuals tied to the Bush administration and to the hijacking of African people’s vote in 2000 that got Jeb Bush’s brother “selected” to the White House.
Meanwhile, Turanchik courted Ryans. While in bed together, they found a way to service each other’s needs quite well.
Turanchik, who claims he is frightened when he comes into an African community, knew that African people were not likely to believe a paranoid white man who could not avoid or answer questions effectively.
According to the Tampa Tribune (12/7/2003), “…without community support, it [Turanchik’s plan] could meet the same fate as past failures. This cannot be perceived as a bunch of rich [white] guys in suits coming in to displace poor folks [Africans]. That will be the death knell of the project, if that is how it’s perceived.”
It was clear that Turanchik needed a few Negro sell-outs to be his front-runners. Ryans was seen as the ideal Negro.
Turanchik found a loyal servant in Ryans who he’d seen get his hands dirty in removing African families from Belmont Heights. Ryan had further proven himself as “Turanchik’s kind of boy” with the monetary scandals and schemes he left behind as a housing director in Memphis and his notorious reputation for separating Africans from their homes using the “One Strike” law that evicts Africans if they’re ever accused (not convicted) of “wrongdoing.”
Ryans, on the other hand, saw his ability to be the “Negro Hero” that white people would view as a responsible negro citizen — placing him in a good position for a future public office and/or future consulting projects that require the services of a negro front-runner.
The reality, of course, is that this neo-colonial (white power in black face) sell-out tactic is nothing new. Any sell-out can prove to white power his/her value — like Betty Wiggins, “a black community activist” on the Civitas board — by placing a lip-lock on the rear end of white power and taking part in exploiting African people.
In order for companies and businesses to maximize their profit and for the economy to grow, the U.S. capitalist economy needs cheap labor and poor, unemployed people (a role designed to be filled essentially by Africans and Mexicans). It has to have this element if the economy is to succeed. Why? Central Park is a perfect example:
Let’s say I live in Central Park where, according to the THA, 75% of our people live at levels considered to be “extremely below poverty,” with an unemployment rate that is sky high.
Assuming that I’m able to find a job, I’m not going to make enough money to live on. A $5.15 minimum wage doesn’t cut it for anyone. There aren’t enough hours in a day, week or month that I can work and make enough to take care of my wife and three kids.
So, I go to my boss at McDonald’s (the largest property owner in the world) and I say, “Boss, I could really use a one dollar raise to take care of my family. Can you please spare a dollar?” His/her response to me would be, “Nigger, you better get the hell out of my office, because there’s a whole bunch of unemployed niggers out there who would work for $4.15 if I let them.”
So, either I shut up and take what he/she gives me or I’ll be unemployed again.
In other words, after 400 years I’m a slave — with a raise of $5.15.
The problem with slavery was not that “massa” wasn’t paying us $5.15. The problem was that we used to be a self-determining and independent people — with our own land, our own economy and our own damn freedom.
With the help of what Malcolm X referred to as “house negroes,” or “negro-colonialists,” white power has stolen all of it and will continue to bleed us dry until we destroy this 400-year-old relationship.
Civitas, THA and negro lackeys exposed
The attempt to silently bleed the African community of downtown Tampa to death has met with fierce and growing opposition from the Tampa Branch of the Uhuru Movement, led by Connie Burton.
A supremely well-known African freedom fighter, Connie is loved by those who she represents, as well as feared by those that attempt to move against the African community — be it white power itself or white power in black face (Uncle Toms).
Utilizing the combination of a weekly radio program which Connie hosts on WMNF 88.5 every Sunday at 9:00 a.m., massive leafleting, bullhorning, protests, participation in weekly THA meetings and mass meetings at the public library down the street from Central Park, the Uhuru Movement exposed white power and all if its hand-picked Negroes.
Most people already knew what the plans meant for the African community.
“I think it’s dead wrong,” said Gwen Bryant, who is unemployed. “We can’t afford it. They need to fix it up and let us stay. There’s no place to put us as it is.’’
Taking this general understanding of the entire community, the Uhuru Movement began what effectively was a slash and burn campaign through the verbal web of lies woven by white power and its Negro lackeys.
We exposed Jerome Ryans first and foremost, who lives at Fish Hawk Ranch, a complex built by the managing director for Civitas, Bill Bishop.
His intentions were to rebuild Central Park for his buddies at Civitas, not for African people. Out of 484 units that exist now, only 156 would be rebuilt as public housing, while thousands of units would cost between $125,000 and $600,000.
Ryans intended to lie to people and take advantage of their desire for better housing, when the truth was that it would have been more difficult because of new credit, income and “cleanliness” require ments among other things, for people to re-qualify for housing not only at the 156 units in Central Park, but anywhere in THA!
That’s why Belmont Heights is half empty, even though thousands of people are on a waiting list for housing.
The THA is attempting to destroy public housing and become more of a real estate company.
The St. Petersburg Times reported on (12/13/03) that, with Turanchik, “…the authority would move from being a landlord of the poor that depends on federal dollars to being a developer, which could generate [more] revenue…” from higher rents that can be used for higher salaries for the THA.
But Jerome Ryans was not the only one in bed with Ed Turanchik. Several THA board members and “black leaders” were also lip-locked to Turanchik’s rear end.
Hazel Harvey, Sybil Wells and Robert Shimberg, all of whom are THA board members, stood to gain millions of dollars from the removal of the African community because of their business or personal relationships with Civitas.
Karen Peoples, another THA board member, gets all of her rent paid by the THA, plus a $65 utility check. Because of her loyalty to the THA’s plans, she did not have to go through a “One Strike” eviction when her son came under investigation, unlike what would have happened to any other African in public housing.
Uhuru was on the move, exposing everything behind the lies and secrecy of the THA and Civitas.
After one of the meetings where the Uhuru Movement was taking the THA to task, Fred Hearns, another “black community activist,” asked Connie Burton in a timid and cowardly voice, “Well, you know, wuh… wuh… what we s’posed to do Connie, what we s’posed to do? You know…the money Connie — the money talks…I mean what we s’posed to do?
In front of everyone, Connie told him “Nigga, grow some balls — stand up for the people, instead of selling them out — that’s what you ‘s’posed’ to do.”
One of the most treacherous people involved in this whole deal who got exposed was Mary Williams, president of the resident council, who was guaranteed certain things by the THA for supporting Ryans and not the residents.
Since the day she took office with about two votes, she began calling the police on people, trying to get them evicted.
“Out of 484 units that exist now, only 156 would be rebuilt as public housing… Ryans intended to lie to people and take advantage of their desire for better housing, when the truth was that it would have been more difficult — because of new credit, income and “cleanliness” requirements among other things — for people to re-qualify for housing not only at the 156 units in Central Park, but anywhere in THA!”
Williams has acted against the residents’ interests again and again. Even before she endorsed the Hope VI and Ed Turanchik plan, residents had organized to impeach her, but Ryans kept her in place.
“A whole lot of people don’t deserve to come back. They do drugs and other things, and they don’t need to live here. We’re trying to move on without those kinds of people,” said Mary in a THA meeting in Central Park.
Then you have Mayor Pam Iorio, the darling of white liberals and Uncle Toms. Iorio, a good friend of Ed Turanchik since back when they were both County Commissioners, has known about “Turanchik’s development plan since before she took office in April,” according to the Tampa Tribune (1/11/04). By the time she did take office, Iorio discreetly let Turanchik know that she was committed to him during her April 1, 2003 inauguration speech. She stated, “Before this decade is out, we will make our downtown a neighborhood. A neighborhood where [white] people live and work.”
With that, before she even had time to get her flat behind warm in the Mayor’s chair, she had unleashed special military (police) programs against African people in the form of Operation Commitment.
Her silent “commitment” was to Turanchik’s plan for wiping out the African community by using the police and code enforcement to arrest Africans and declare eminent domain over our homes.
She was careful however, not to place the same pubic lip-lock on Turanchik’s backside that the Negroes did. The city of Tampa has a long history of allocating tax dollars and support to private developers like Civitas — projects that turned out to be shining examples of the word “failure” — and damaging a lot of political careers in the process.
The latest example is Centro Ybor, a tourist complex that has failed to generate any revenue. The white developers can’t afford the complex, so it will be paid for with $16 million in loan guarantees from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — money that is supposed to go to the African community. But there are other similar examples as well.
As reported in the Tampa Tribune (1/12/04), there’s the Ybor trolley that cost $56 million that doesn’t go anywhere and the $100 million convention center that was “outdated and too small as soon as construction was complete.”
The last mayor, Dick Greco, carried out all these incompetent projects, all at least partially funded with money supposed to go to the African community.
Iorio didn’t want to have the same types of failures on her record. Stealing from the African community and not using the stolen money in good investments would result in attacks from both Africans (for stealing) and whites (for not using the stolen money correctly) and would be disastrous for her career.
In order to avoid certain doom, the plan was to launch the specific part of the war against the African community led by Civitas, the THA and Iorio without making too much noise.
But by the time the Uhuru Movement reached mid-January with the slash and burn campaign, all Civitas’ original plans began to crash and burn.
Turanchik found himself having to expose more of his plan than he wanted. If he had his way “the company would still be working behind the scenes,” according to the Tampa Tribune (1/11/04).
The floodgates of public pressure, burst open by the Uhuru Movement, resulted in daily changes in Turanchik’s plan and a tremendous amount of fear on the part of city and county government that they would be seen and held accountable for giving Ed Turanchick African people’s homes, an $80 million check from taxpayers, plus 40-50% of the city’s yearly tax revenue. This would be one of the largest corporate welfare checks ever given away in the history of the city of Tampa.
Hundreds of Africans signed petitions against Hope VI and Ed Turanchik, and as the white people heard about the opposition, they refused to go down another private developer’s dead end road.
The Uhuru Movement caused a crisis so deep that the THA wouldn’t vote until the county and city voted — pushing the deadline right to the wire. No one expected African people to have a voice of their own.
But it got deeper still. The county refused to vote until the city voted — placing all the pressure directly back on Pam Iorio, who was hoping that if she remained silent, some other agency would be the first to throw their body on the grenade.
On January 15, Iorio attempting to avoid certain political suicide, recommended to City Council that they not support the entire plan, but just “investigate” it. Her reluctance to commit and comment publicly on the matter, left Hillsborough County Commissioners very uncomfortable about being left on the hook for approving the plan. The County had the final say in creating the tax district, to give Turanchik and his program what amounted to $256 million over the next 30 years.
“You have a certain way of asking questions, and I have a certain way of answering them,” replied Iorio to the questions County Commissioners were asking her regarding what she knew. Iorio was obviously nervous as she attempted to avoid direct answers.
Because Iorio was not willing to directly throw her body on this political grenade, thrown at them by the Uhuru Movement, the County refused to take the fall for Civitas — the deal was dead. As Turanchik, and his negros held each other close, some of whom were in tears, the people of Central Park, were encouraged by this important victory.
“I’m glad they didn’t get it. There would not have been anywhere for us to stay. I didn’t think we would win against them, but we did. This was real important, real important,” said one of the residents from Central Park.
White power and the black middle class were politically outdone by the Uhuru Movement and the resistance of the African working class in its most impoverished sectors. Now the struggle begins to truly improve the conditions and lives of our people.
Like Iorio, every mayor across the U.S. has said that they won’t use the money that is supposed to go to the African community for the African community because of the ongoing War on Drugs. Traditionally, this war has served as a convenient excuse to funnel money to white developers while justifying the massive imprisonment of African people on drug charges — drugs that the government is responsible for bringing in our community. The lack of resources forces Africans into the drug economy, prostitution etc. and provides the local government with a cover for massive arrests and the denial of economic development.
This tactic works when the Uncle Toms are around, but the Uhuru Movement has changed the entire political landscape in Tampa, exposing the real crooks and organizing our own people to defend and fight for our own interests. Most Uncle Toms will find it hard to show their face as the strength of the people emerges.
The residents must have right to elect their own management and use rent toward ownership
According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 970.13, residents have the right to organize their own management and use the money paid in rent toward co-operative ownership of the property.
Using a management group elected by the current residents, we can move in accordance to CFR 970.13 and leverage the millions of dollars in property value to rehab our homes and create other businesses run by the residents.
Furthermore, as more people join the Uhuru Movement, we can launch an even more devastating fight for the millions of dollars that are stolen from us each year. These resources can be used to create an African Festival Market (AFM) where vendors can sell their goods, likely leading to the creation of businesses for the vendors as was the case with the AFM in St. Pete.
We can open barbershops, restaurants and bookstores. We can create an outdoor African entertainment tourist venue for hip-hop, jazz, dance troupes and bands. These types of things would draw people to the African community to spend their money, transforming our community for the better through our own labor and our own efforts. The city of Tampa would also benefit — this time because of the African community instead of at its expense.
Because she represents this type of vision for the community, the THA has spent almost a quarter of a million dollars trying to evict Connie Burton from Robles Park public housing.
They have failed to evict her because of the power of the people and their support.
We must grow our ability to fight for and in defense of our community against its enemies.
During the 1960s, while you had some Negroes talking about “let’s integrate and sit next to the white people on the toilet, and hope to smell some of the shit white people stole,” the masses of our people rose up, demanding Black Power, African freedom and all the resources stolen from us!
This is the current work of the Uhuru Movement. No sell-outs ride this train; this is the organization that fights uncompromisingly for the rights of African people to be self-determining and independent. If you haven’t joined the Uhuru Movement yet, what are you waiting for? We call on all African people and their allies, to join the Movement and fight for bread, peace and black power! Hope VI has suffered some serious blows in this fight, but the battle is not complete, so we’ve got to get organized! Our future is ours to make! (Call 727-821-6620 and ask for Connie Burton.)
Uhuru Means Freedom!
Join the Uhuru Movement!