Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Changing Neighborhoods-- A Letter to The First Lady...

May 3rd, 2014 Saturday.

An Open Letter to The First Lady of the United States of Native America:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue North West
Wash D.C. 20500

Attention: Mrs. Michelle Obama

From: Fellow Organizer and Humanitarian, Brother Tracy Gibson of Philadelphia…………….

Reason for This Letter:

To Talk About My Frustrations as an Activist concerning the issue of Gentrification…… Reclaiming Black Neighborhoods for the Black People who have traditionally lived here.

First I want to say I was a landlord for over 25 years and have a propensity towards land ownership, owning property and making reasonable financial advances from property. My Father, The Late Mr. Charles S. Gibson, was also a landlord and was such for over 55 years.  He owned about seven different properties during His lifetime, but never made it big like He had envisioned. He basically collected rent and did quite a bit of His own fix- up work on His own.  He also depended on major White contractors like Home Depot for major jobs such as new roofs; major plumbing needs; and major electrical work. I never understood why Dad didn't buy stock in Home Depot because He owned other stock and liked to purchase stock.  He also definitely LOVed Home Depot and was a loyal customer for decades.  When He passed, He owed Home Depot about $150,000.00. I never understood why I didn't prod Him to buy stock or why, with Him loving the company's concept and all, why He didn't invest in it.

When I went into the Real Estate business, after a Jewish Friend of my Dad's--a Mr. Golden--lent me about $800.00 to buy my first property at 5323 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia. His name was Golden and I am, forever thankful and I was very happy to re-pay the loan in a timely manner. I made about $300,000.00 from the ownership of about 5.5 properties over the 25 years I owned property.  There was usually some long-term contention between my Father and I, but it was generally typical Father - Son issues that I had to resolve through the difficult, uncomfortable and edgy work of therapy.  I forgave Dad and He forgave me. I was never very good at what Dad called ``beating and banging'' --the hard work of fixing property where, if you can put in the so-called sweat equity, you can cut corners financially and save enough money to put some money away for the future. Luckily for me, [and my Dad's Good Spirit may well have helped], I had some good tenants and was able to get some good people to work for me.  I also had a job at TV Guide Magazine. This helped me finance some of the investment.  It was a lot of work and I have vowed to not allow myself to re-enter the Real Estate market again unless I do so at a higher level where I can afford to own better properties and have more professional people do the work for me.  Ultimately I would LOVe to have my own construction company to do the work for me and also manage other People's properties for them for a fee.

At the same time, I am basically a writer, so I don't want to spread myself too thin AND HAVE TOO MUCH ON MY AGENDA.  Then again, everyone concerned with their own future should consider Real Estate as a buffer for a more stable financial life. Dad used to say: Location, Location, Location, in mentioning what was the most important concept to keep in mind when working in the Real Estate Industry. I think He was right, in one Way, but I think it is important to locate up-and-coming neighborhoods and invest as neighborhoods change and more stable investment helps create more professional jobs and keep up the education system and other established neighborhood institutions.

As an investor and a serious Community Activist, I am very concerned with forcing out or pushing out indigenous People such as Latin, Black, African and Caribbean People who may be renting and not owning property.  Unfortunately it comes down to race sometimes. As an activist for many People in the Community and many issues in the community, I once testified about gentrification in CIty Council and how it has ravaged our inner city neighborhoods in Philadelphia.  I DON'T WANT TO BE A PART OF SUCH DISPLACEMENT OF POOR, BLACK AND TRADITIONAL NEIGHBORHOOD PEOPLE!!!  I have attended many of these Real Estate seminars where they go after the dollar like crazy and forget about the people who are sometimes displaced due to their losing their property as mostly White people move into Black neighborhoods from Center City Philadelphia or Suburban areas. I covered the issue of gentrification along with several other issues when I was a reporter -- photographer for the Philadelphia Tribune [ My Mom told me to use the name Trace Gibson for my by-line so that is what I did. I was there from October 1979 to Circa 1981]. Gentrification was a new concept back then, but it has continued to impact greatly on Black neighborhoods ND Black people--including children and families--because more people have moved into urban, inner-city areas due to raising costs of property, utilities, housing repairs and transportation.

I find myself wanting to see neighborhoods fixed up and jobs created but NOT at the expense of people who have lived in traditional Black neighborhoods losing their homes and being forced to live in the suburbs and chasing dollar bills that never seem to evolve into the American dream. I know about this because I have LIVED IT!!!  I lost a home in New Castle, Delaware to foreclosure and left about $16,000.00 worth of valued personal items there. I had to move back into my Dad's home so I am very, very empathetic to people who have to contend with the gentrification issue, even though I want to re-enter the housing market again in the near future.  When I do, I will be super concerned about the indigenous Black neighbors keeping stable neighborhoods and not getting forced out.

I was wondering if there are any Federal Programs dealing with this housing loss issue and how we as activists who care about and advocate for poor and disenfranchised Black people can not allow such people to be displaced while still making a small profit and helping neighborhoods stabilize, create stable jobs and balance our schools to be more community-based and useful to traditional community and inner city people instead of mini-degree mills where teachers don't care about children & their issues and students don't get the advantages of a real & positive learning environment.  Please contact me in the Ways listed below:    

Mr. Tracy Charles Gibson; President, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of--The Black Millionaire's Network; Post Office Box 42878; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101-2878. Or call: 1 215 921 20 65; Or E-Mail us at:

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