Friday, November 24, 2017

Ain’t It A Shame

September 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Community

BY LOUIE OVERSTREET

Louie Overstreet

In my book “Black Steps in the Desert Sands,” I documented that there has been a black presence in Las Vegas since the city was founded in the first decade of the 20th century.

Blacks owned businesses in downtown Las Vegas in the 1910s and 1920s. However, when gambling was again legalized in Nevada — in 1931 — a bigoted mayor named E.W. Cragin forced blacks to sell their properties by refusing to renew their business licenses. He herded us into an area “west of the railroad tracks,” which became the only area in the city we were allowed to live in until the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

We made lemonade out of those lemons. The “Westside” thrived as a cultural enclave for blacks for decades, and as a community base for electing blacks to public office. However, the last decade has seen a rise in crime — and economic activity is no longer initiated or influenced by black officials or community-based groups. These groups are shells of what they were dating back to the 1930s, when the local NAACP lobbied the Roosevelt Administration to hire black construction workers on the Boulder (Hoover) Dam project.

Adding insult to injury, black workers are as scarce as hen’s teeth on construction projects now underway on the Westside.

Here’s my initial three-point plan for improvement:

  • Black elected officials should hold a joint press conference with the police department to announce a community partnership on effective ways to reduce crime
  • The NAACP, Urban Chamber, and Urban League should agree to host an annual fundraising event, featuring a major entertainment attraction. The profits could provide annual operating funds that far exceed the meager amounts currently be raised and allow them to meet their mission statements
  • Both #1 and #2 could support Lou Ragland’s effort to develop a hall of fame/entertainment venue on the Westside.

It wouldn’t be a sin if those steps aren’t taken — but it sure would be a shame!

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