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August 05, 2005

Danny Bakewell

Several months ago, a friend of mine passed on some information about whether or not there was a conspiracy afoot in Pasadena. It had to do with some apparent gentrification of a hitherto mostly black neighborhood somewhere on the westside of Pasadena, north of Orange Grove.

Apparently, real estate agents were driving white families as prospective homeowners, through this hood, much to the consternation of a few of the local residents. The letter went a little something like this:

...there is a "project" under way to buy out all the homes of black residents in Pasadena so that the whites can move there. He said that there is a white van with tinted windows that goes around the neighborhood regularly. It is filled with white people who are shopping for homes. I asked my brother what kind of price they are offering the residents, and he said market price. I don't know the details, but apparently they tell them that they are going to be developing the neighborhood, building new buildings, and this is how they can get away with doing this.

My final response went a little something like this:

What I do know are two things that may be relevant, having lived in the area myself.

#1. There is a brand new shopping center with a new supermarket and several new stores that is located on the corner of Orange Grove and Fair Oaks. I know that is the newest and nicest development in the part of Pasadena where a lot of working class people live. I also know that it was developed by a black man named Danny Bakewell who is the head of an old political organization called the Brotherhood Crusade. So if anybody knows what's going on with respect to blacks and real estate in Pasadena, it's Bakewell. So as a first test, I would see if your folks are aware of Bakewell, who he is and what he's done.

Bakewell is not above any stunt that embarasses whitefolks and yet he is not to be trifled with. He cut his teeth in the 70s by organizing a campaign that involved rented trucks and he practically shut down the Rose Parade in protest over whites in Pasadena not letting blacks buy property.

#2. There are so many black people in Pasadena and Altadena that there is no way that they are going to be dislocated to any signficant degree. The funny thing is, that I just went to church today in Pasadena - First AME on Penn & Raymond. Right on the plaque on the cornerstone, they have the date inscribed of when they paid off their debts. Blackfolks have been owning property in Pasadena and Altadena for a long time.

Pasadena has a lot of old properties that could be restored and sold for higher profits. And every day at the hardware store on Fair Oaks just north of the 210, there are Mexican day laborers hanging out looking for carpentry jobs and whatnot. And when I went to that lumber yard across the street and the hardwared store, there were no shortage of blackfolks. So I know that it's not particularly difficult for blacks to be into home improvement, and I know it pays well in Pasadena.

So I'd be interested to know where the new buildings are supposedly going up, because if you look at the houses around Raymond Avenue, they're all classic bungalows just waiting to be restored, and if gentrification is what's going on, Pasadena isn't about to sell its own history. That's the whole draw of the place.

There are lots of new condos on Walnut that have been built in the past few years, but if that was a black neighborhood it's news to me. There's also a huge new development in Altadena north of Loma Alta Park. That's been in development since '97 and my money says it's the biggest residential development in the area. That's not coming out of old black homes, that's new stuff dug out of the hillside.

I want to hear about cross streets, because I hardly believe this is a big deal. Now that I think of it, I think I've heard something of this conspiracy theory before, but I'm not sure. All anybody has to do is start a homeowner's association...

LA Observed has news that Bakewell is retiring from the Brotherhood Crusade, an organization for which I have volunteered some time back in my youth. It occurs to me that he must be one of the most powerful African Americans in Southern California.

In the context of black property ownership and other factors contributing to dismal pictures like this I do wonder what it is that goes through the heads of cats like Bakewell. I noticed last weekend that the old Great Western Savings building on Crenshaw and Angeles Vista is now called the Bakewell Building. I wonder if he's got retirement up his sleeve or focusing on a new level.

Posted by mbowen at August 5, 2005 04:20 PM

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