Black Self-Determination - Arthur M. Brazier

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This book really hammers home a couple themes through the use of the various examples/projects that make up the chapters of the book.   One main theme of this book is that black people have to demand their share of power in order to find their rightful place in society.  Secondly, the book emphasizes that black people have to fix the problems of their collective communities in ways that take into account the unique problems of those communities. As a corollary to this, Brazier highlights the need to solicit input from the participants of a project when constructing the project.  Finally, Black Self-Determination argues that the church should be deeply involved in the problems of its community and not merely perform its obligatory spiritual duties. Brazier uses the development of The Woodlawn Organization as a tool to both guide the book and provide examples of his various themes.  Two examples stood out to me as particularly poignant - first, TWO took on as its first issue unethical business practices in the community; TWO used a unique program whereby it set up scales in front of shady businesses to compare the store weight to the real weight.  TWO also listened to complaints by individual members of the community and organized boycotts against businesses that had slighted its customers.  With time, these procedures forced businesses to comply with fair business practices.  This example shows the first two themes discusses above - TWO took it on itself to solve the problems of Woodlawn's unethical businesses; TWO relied on the people in the community boycotting the blacklisted businesses in order to make things better for the community as a whole.  The second example was the Youth Demonstration Project - TWO again created a unique project that used the organization of the gangs to its benefit.  By all measurements the project was a success, but it was heavily criticized for this component by people who seemingly did not understand the inner workings of the Woodlawn community.  The project was an excellent example of Brazier's central themes: (1) it again shows TWO (and the gangs) working to fix the problem of Woodlawn's unemployment (2) the program uniquely catered to the people it serviced and asked for input from that group. 

Questions:  

 -In his description of the gangs/youth organizations Brazier described their corporate-like governance structure (i.e. leadership board of 21); compare this real-life description to the satire The Spook Who Sat By The Door?

-Could the Tribune's one-sided reporting of TWO job training program have been the product of anything but racism/misunderstanding the situation due to lack of understanding ghetto culture?

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  1. Mar 10, 2008

    millera says:

    I came across a book review of "Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes...

    I came across a book review of "Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets" by Sudhir Venkatesh, which reminded me a lot of what Brazier said about the Woodlawn Gangs.
    Venkatesh was a sociology grad student here at U of C in the late 80s and early 90s. He did most of his research in and on the Robert Taylor Homes (on State Street between 39th and 54th), which at one time was the largest housing project in the United States. Venkatesh spent seven years in particularly close contact with JT, a fairly high up individual in the gang the Black Kings, which provided most of the 'law and order' in the Taylor Homes.

    I don't want to summarize completely the article that I read, but I highly recommend looking at it. It gives another (yet surprisingly similar) perspective as gangs as community organizations on the South Side.

    http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/02/28/gang_leader/