Black Perspectives; Housing and Employment 1990 and Beyond with Dr. Toye Brown
Good evening welcome to black perspectives a half hour feature focusing on black issues information and lifestyles in the communities of Boston and the south shore. I'm your host for a part in tonight's edition of black perspectives we're going to delve into the issue of employment and housing and other issues with the president of the Freedom House Dr. toy Brown. So Toya Welcome to Black perspectives. Thank you Phil. I want to tell our audience a little bit about the kind of career pathway that led you to your current position as president of the Freedom House. Well I first have to say that that career pattern was not straight it was kind of good. Jagat I've worked at Freedom House 20 years ago. In fact I've been in education I guess activist for over 20 years at that time was very active with the Urban League. And we work with parents on desegregation of the schools that was the issue and getting more blacks into the Boston
Public School system at that time and then mid 1960s there were no black principals headmasters no blacks in the administrative level at all anywhere. Things that you see the day that people take for granted simply did not exist in the 1960s and prior to really prior to the 1970s. So as a consultant to Freedom House I was a student at that time at Brandeis University. I did a number of research projects primarily with a focus on parent participation in the schools. So then I left Boston when I graduated from Brandeis and went to Washington. At that time I spent about a decade in Washington primarily in the area of. Child Development and. Then I moved into minority development Minority Business Development and International Development but always a focus has been
on working with people. Masses of people and generally people of color to get them into the mainstream of society and I won't be going back here in Boston I came back to Boston in January of 87. Yes and was remembers a truck stop going back. Well how I was. Yes I was recruited from several board members of Freedom House Freedom House. As many of you probably know has been an activist organization in this community since 1949 and it has very ably headed by a husband and wife team Otto and Mariel Snowden. Until 1984 and they they retired at that time. There were some some very famous people have come through Freedom House in terms of. Activism like Sen broke. Ellen Jackson who when
Operation Exodus a number of the the activities and organizations that are now operating Medco all these organizations were conceived of in play and for right there at Freedom House. And so we're very proud that my house is really a landmark for the activism that has occurred and trying to keep some movement of black people into the mainstream. So you mentioned before we won the year of the Freedom House is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Anything special The Freedom Marches doing. Well I think every day is special because we we are very growing organization when we are operating under something called New Directions which is positive thinking. We're working with people to help them manage their own personal development. Freedom House has been through several
waves of focus. Up early on housing and home ownership back in the late 50s and early 60s was a primary concern of the snow was in fact the first. Home. Home ownership programs like Charlemagne court and what have you that exist in Roxbury also grew out of Freedom House the Freedom House organized the Washington Park planning the Madison Park High School. All of those kinds of structures and infrastructures that are currently in rock Square were part of the planning that took place out of Freedom House in the whole area of property development. Then it moved to affirmative action and it was sort of the organization that the corporate community turned to when they decided that perhaps it should open its doors to people of color and Freedom House was successful in identifying a number of qualified well-trained people like U.S. attorney Wayne bud for
example who's been on the board of Freedom House for many years. There are numerous other leaders in the corporate community that came through freedom and. Now who are some of your current board members. The chairman of the board is a banker and investment broker Harry Stirling and Harry has been in the banking community here in Boston for 15 years. Some of the other board members that have been around for quite a while Frank Morris people now is an architect a lawyer who knows a lot about housing. We have just brought Jamie Adare Kamara who's at UMass Boston Public Service College of Community Services and Sylvia Watt who's with the Taylor Development Corporation. We are
attempting to attract the upwardly mobile who wants to give back to the community and we have a lot for them to do. Tell us about some of the other well we're going to see on other programs tell us about your personal development program you have a name for that was a very how do you know now we well our. Our vision is for a developed community economically socially and educationally by the year 2000 and we spell that vision such as a generation of youngsters that complete school right of first grade to 12th grade successfully complete school. But we're working very closely with the Efficacy Institute which is headed by Dr. Jeff Howard a psychologist educational psychologist who has developed developed a number of
educational to help people overcome things like Learned helplessness that may be derived from segregation pendency to help people deal with the issues of racism their own sense of self-worth and self-confidence character building and so efficacy is an and intricate part of all of our programming. For example when people come in. They say what we want to come to Freedom House because we need help. Well what we say is only if we find out whether it's a student in the sixth grade who needs massive basic skills or what have you. But. When you feel that you really do have to teach people to fish rather than just give them the fish. And we are working at every level whether it's an adult who complains about the fact that their their rent is going up
a one bedroom apartment 650. So we say if you paint 650 You should be paying your mortgage not somebody else's mortgage what you consider own want to ship. They say things like well I don't know how and what had us so we started for example the Roxbury homebuyer savings investment club which has right now about 50 people who have been working for over a year as a group being exposed to issues like credit clean up how to how to get your credit so you can qualify for even mass Housing Finance Agency loans because what we've found is most of the people that come to us have been turned down by everyone. But they have steady jobs. They have people that you see you know every day. And because it hasn't been a tradition. In the black community in Boston it has been around other parts of heritage. People just don't know. But there are a lot of programs out there and we intend to increase the number of
black homeowners in this city. Yes I think as you're suggesting it's really to a certain extent a matter of overcoming past practice and tradition. That is if you look at the rate of home ownership in the black community in Boston relative to other cities it's on the low end. Right. And there really needs to be something like that so I mean we need to address that. Yeah and the other aspects of it that well you know the whole idea of personal development and as I said Argo is a developed community and. We think that developed people. Plus resources to develop community and so our programs and our activities focus on people on helping people develop and learn to manage their own process for educational social and economic development for our youngster it means staying in
school keeping up with it becoming the best that you can be regardless of your current circumstance. We have a program called Project reach which is a scholarship and youth development program. And we start recruiting youngsters in grade 11. And what we say to them is we will if you successfully complete high school get accepted to a college anywhere in the United States. We will pay for your your schooling too for whatever years it takes. And so there that's a very clear commitment and we have a we have funding to do that. But also there are some conditions with there which is that you have to try to be the best you can be. You have to bring sees to be nice and you can do it. And if you can make babies you can make a case. You have to set goals for yourself. You have to be willing to serve the community. That's
both the community in which you reside as well as the community wherever you happen to go to school. And we we have the students go through the efficacy training which they all sort of love and want follow up from it because this is before some of them is the first time that anybody has really focused on the whole issue of self-worth and giving them the tools to manage their own development because nobody else is going to help you through life. I mean you've got to you've got to master the skills of responding to stimuli in your environment regardless of what that stimuli might be. And that's what that's what we focus on. So a large part of it seems to be pointed towards self-sufficiency and motivation. You can come from a family that has been two or three generations of welfare. But if you are motivated to to get off welfare you care. I mean it's you
see the immigrants coming into this country from other very very poor countries and within several years owning their own businesses sending their kids to college and all that that's what America is. And we as black afro African-Americans or black folks have to get a piece of that also. Now you you also have a mentoring program. Yes it's extraordinary as a part of the service is part of the issue of introducing youngsters inner city young youngsters to people. People of color who have come from environments that in some instances were poorer than they are who made it and they realize they made it through college and they explained to them. How they did it. They graduated from from Harvard maybe didn't graduate with with days and days but they got through Harvard. Or they got to be
you or what have you. And that's what's important for these youngsters to know. So we asked people who are successfully into the labor market now who've been through college to volunteer some time just with a student is not tutoring. Yeah it's just exposure like cross-cultural exposure for these kids. Now were are some a source of support at Freedom House. Well we are 100 percent funded by private donations. You know corporations foundations or individual donations and pretty massive United Way money. You know we do know we don't get you know way or government monies 100 percent and 100 percent. Well we take a break right now and I will come back in a minute stay turn for this brief intermission here on WNBA FM ninety one point nine You're listening to black perspectives.
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It's for the impact that it's had which has been great particularly in the areas of education advocacy and affirmative action. It appears to be a much bigger organization. But we have. I think the strides we've made in the last three years for example we served we had 30000 visits into the building last year. We served consistently. About five hundred people last year in 1988. Which means of a came for a particular program repeatedly the same the same person. We also have many facilities and community organizations that are working in any any range of areas whether it's in employment education training housing youth youth issues drug issues what have you can use Freedom House. They can rent Freedom House for the
cost of maintenance and security to hold to hold meetings we also families hold a union's birthday party for weddings wedding receptions. We've become like the settlement houses used to be. In the early days it's hard to stand Freedom House probably currently have 12 full time people and a total of 25 people. There are a lot of lot of part time people. We also depend a great deal on volunteers like the mentors. We have senior citizens that come in for the golden era's program. About 100 of them a week come in and they do a lot. They cook. They they will man the switchboard for things like that. So they're very helpful. If someone wants to volunteer we invite them to call freedom house at 4:00 for 5:30 700 here in Boston we're also located at 14 Crawford street in Dorchester.
And now in the recent past there's been some of us it was perhaps you or your board made some suggestions about freedom house doing some some development itself in terms of housing development. Is is that something the three mouse sees itself doing. Definitely we in fact we are just part of a group that met with the mayor and the governor on Saturday regarding the location of mass water resources in Roxbury at the Ruggles station where a parcel 18. We also are part of the Grove Hall Community Development Corporation and we envision that in the next decade Grove Hall will in fact be revitalized and a very viable commercial and residential community as it was the turn of the century. Freedom House needs a new facility. We are bursting at the seams in terms of just utilization of our space because land
next to us that has not been developed and we are hoping to develop that for with housing wealth for seniors number of our seniors are in dire need of decent housing and modern housing. As well as attracting the new upwardly mobile middle class. So whether it be with the project involves renovating the existing Freedom House and maybe creating additional space in addition to the housing on a parcel of land next to us it would in my even mean replacing the current building is very old and I say I'm not so sure we are told in a building there. So what. No you made some reference to grow Paul. And obviously given the location of Freedom House it's been one of the focal points of concern of the Freedom House. How do you see the Grove Hall area. Revitalizing it so over the next 10 years or so.
Well first of all the Grove Hall is in the middle of between downtown Boston and the new Boston and Boston state hospital grounds in the communities. That way the suburban communities. I think that this city needs to develop that land and it needs to develop that land in much the same way that they've done in other cities like Washington D.C. where they built Columbia Maryland. Sort of a new town in town if that occurs then Grove Hall will be a very strategic community between downtown and that part of the city. There's no question that it will be developed and we want the the current residents not to to be relocated but to to be a part of the redevelopment process and to build there. Obviously one of the problems plaguing our communities and I was crime
and drug abuse and juvenile delinquency and some people say the rise of gangs as a Freedom House play any role in terms of trying to intervene in those kind of social problems in our community. Well we see it every day our children are affected every child that they couldn't leave home during the day. In fact a lot of it is occurring in their homes. You know those are the youngsters we're working with. We are. Forced to live in a drug economy. It's much bigger than a social problem. It's an economic issue. And young black men and in some instances women have now understand they can make money on the drug culture and I mean more so than has ever been anticipated. So until somebody recognizes that that was what we were up against as a drug economy and decide to do some planning to provide some
alternative economic solutions then the problem is going to exacerbate it's going to get any better. One of the concerns that we have is that. All of the young people are not involved in growth and related economy. Perhaps maybe 10 15 percent of the youngsters involved there's probably another 10 or 15 percent that are in the peripheral of this group and they're the potential recruits. But by and large 70 to 80 percent of our young people. Are not getting any attention at all because the institutions like the schools and the need for like cultural programs like Elma Lewis school and those kinds of things are not being funded anymore. And so those young people are not getting the kind of developmental experiences that they should have either. And the focus is in the paper is on the criminal element and the violent
element. In the meantime nothing really is being done except the small efforts by some of the community agencies. Do you have any recommendations not not necessarily in and light of the Road to Freedom House but ways that you think we as a society can begin addressing this particular problem of the drug economy. Well I think we have to deal with with the isolation the racial social and economic isolation that exist in this city as well as other cities. And we've got to begin to work on economic solutions for for the people of color. We've got to open up. We've got to open access we've got to improve the public schools so that young youngsters can get into the universities and get training going to get more blacks into computer in the computer area and clearly training.
We have a major program and a lot of. Young black men and women who have been in so Service domestic those kind of jobs are picking up computer training in an almost within a matter of weeks getting into a whole new career. So it's possible but you've got to have companies like Digital Equipment Corporation This willing to bring up computer bussin in-house slot and actually train people right on the bus. And those are the kinds of solutions that's best training in basic skill development that leads people to honest and healthy economic development. So would you characterize yourself as generally optimistic or pessimistic. You know I'm I'm I'm optimistic I think that we are going as we look at and I want to solve. We're going to get the drug problem out of Roxbury. And we're going to do it through economic development and developing the people helping
people manage their own personal development. So now you share with me your annual report which is Freedom House the year 2000. Cato is a little bit more about some of the programs that are mentioned here for example several of my neighbors are in the golden hairs program. Tell us a little bit more about the Golden they are the golden years for program is older then Freedom House. They have been meeting over 40 years. They fact they started a community center that is now out of existence and came to Freedom House about 35 years ago. But it's basically a person 55 years and older who want to get out of the House and in to activities such as well kinds of recreational cultural activities they go to on to hers and trips all over New England. There it's a educational and information source I would like to see the golden years become more politically involved to start dealing with issues that are
affecting the aging such as violence and crime in the streets housing housing is probably the critical issue. But the more they come out and the more they are. Are involved with speakers in that sort of thing the more they get interested. So is happening also the get more men man over 55 to 60 involved. Yeah so that's what the golden ears do. We also service middle school youngsters in an afterschool academic unhandsome and program the program started out with a focus on using computers to get pre dropout youngsters involved in the learning process. What has happened is that some of the smartest kids are out of three jobs the public school system. And now we've got some real computer buffs ages 12 13 and 14.
I don't think going be turned around now these kids are really doing well. Very sort of the people who come for the golden era's program have any contact with you so the children from a middle school program they have a lot of contact because everything in Freedom House is sort of open the golden ages and they have a meeting in the boardroom and the youngsters have to pass a boardroom to get to the second floor all the other exciting thing is that the golden heirs now have a class of 15 people in computer training. And so they're getting word processing and working so I love it. And so those are exactly the same equipment. They're learning they can write letters to their friends they can do their menus and word process you know that's great. Yeah. We'll talk we have about a minute or so left and the last words you want to leave your audience with. Well we again appeal for volunteer support and donations because Freedom House does stay alive
because there are people out there who feel that what we're doing has to get done and that is helping people learn to manage their own development and become leaders. And work on improving the schools become homeowners instead of renters and taking more responsibility for development of our community. So I'll just give our audience the telephone number and address me for support either a volunteer or financial call for four five thirty seven hundred or stop by and visit us at 14 Crawford street Dorchester Mass. Two one two one. OK Thank you Tory I want to thank you Toya Brown for joining us this evening you've been listening to black perspectives here on WNBA finale 1.9 and again I want to extend a gracious thanks to my guest Arthur toy Brown as we focus on the issue of employment and training and many other issues with the president of the Freedom House toy Brown. Special thanks to Tiger Warren for technical assistance and of the producer of book perspectives Gary Pierre Louis for any
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- Philip Hart interviews Dr. Toye Brown, president of Freedom House. Brown discusses her background as an education activist, Freedom House's history as a hub of local organizing/activism for Boston's black community and its mission to promote self-sufficiency; Freedom House programming, including personal development and homeownership programs; and the organization's funding and governance structures. Brown also discusses development in Grove Hall, including potential housing development at Freedom House; and solutions to solving drug and criminal activity in the neighborhood.
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- Chicago: “Black Perspectives; Housing and Employment 1990 and Beyond with Dr. Toye Brown,” 1989-11-29, WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-91fj706c.
- MLA: “Black Perspectives; Housing and Employment 1990 and Beyond with Dr. Toye Brown.” 1989-11-29. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-91fj706c>.
- APA: Black Perspectives; Housing and Employment 1990 and Beyond with Dr. Toye Brown. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-91fj706c