There are so many problems in the world these days. And they are the same problems that have been around for a long time. Turn on the news or listen to the stories on social media and you will hear the cries for help. Gun violence, Drug addiction, homelessness, mass incarceration, Gentrification (or revitalization depending on who it is you talk to), displacement of communities the break down of respect, community, family, systemic oppression, broken education systems….
But where many people will talk about the problems… rarely do you see a solution offered. Or often when a solution is offered, it seems to be that the government should provide through the taxpayer’s money. As if things should be given for free without a plan or without something to be given back.
Dr. Justin Fernandes also known as Abdul Adil has been working to better his community for over 20 years, providing services for youth and the homeless out of his own pocket, but more interesting than that, in ways that create money and help the local economy in the community instead of draining from it, has a solution, CV World Presents: The Prosperity Fashion Show for the Homeless.
To be honest when I first heard this idea I thought, “That’s nice.” and when I saw that he wants to raise 180 million dollars I sort of laughed actually.
But when I interviewed Dr. Fernandes I understood the mission, His plan is not some pie in the sky, “Save the homeless” ideal. It is specific and honed plan that recognizes the mistakes that have been made in the past 20 years by the leaders of the communities in Boston that did not know how to negotiate with developers coming in. You see you truly can REVITALIZE a neighborhood and not simply displace it if you know how to ask and what for.
My first question was about the money.
Dr. Fernandes: “The money’s there. C’mon there’s always money there. There’s always been money there. There’s money to build three new hotels in Roxbury but there’s no money to build affordable housing? I run a youth organization that goes around and gets money from big corporations and uses it in a positive way to inspire kids to go and do something with themselves and inspire others.
Many of the people in the fashion show are people who will be homeless if something isn’t done. We want to raise money to build more affordable housing in our community. But the truth is all the problems in the community, gun violence, drug addiction, mass incarceration, displacement, gentrification, it’s all related. And lot of it is the fault of the community leaders who were supposed to be representing us.
Gentrification isn’t new. It started in the 80’s and its our leaders who have been selling us out. I have a file on a lot of the leaders in our community, about everything they have been doing throughout their political career. We have proof and a record of many of the community organizations that are supposed to be helping us and negotiating for the community that ended up behaving more like corporations themselves, getting a little tiny bit for some in the community.
I cannot even blame all of the developers. There are developers that come in and they want to build condos or a hotel to make money. Okay. But the people working in the hotel should be from the community, and they should be paid enough so that yes, if they have family visiting from Europe, they can use that hotel too. That way it’s fair. The developers still make money, They make a lot of money. But the community benefits too. But that’s not what happens.
Look, you want to build three condos, then help us build a supermarket for my people, that sell food to feed my people. Because my people are built different and require different nourishment. They cannot go into the supermarket with prices and food for YOUR people only or they might get looks and the next thing they get arrested just for walking in there.
You build your condos, we get a supermarket and you know what? We don’t have a problem! A lot of developers, they don’t want to have a negative story to go with their project. They WANT to do something for the community. They may even want more than just a nice story. They want to feel good that they are doing something right. They are waiting for the leaders to ask them for something. BUT THEY AREN’T ASKED! So How can they provide something for the community if the community doesn’t even negotiate for it?”
As we continued to talk Dr. Fernandes shared some of his views on the history of gentrification since the 80’s
Dr. Fernandes: “Look a lot of this stuff is not by accident. It is not just market forces. There are some very intentional things that happened both with developers and our own leaders, who sold us out. Let’s take what happened with Mandela Homes as an example. The former owner talked to me for three hours on the phone. I can share some of that interview with you. (link) But in order to gentrify that area you had to get the name off. The homes were supposed to be affordable and for our people. They were dedicated to Nelson Mandela at a time when he was still in jail and some of the money was to go to help get him out.
As long as that building had the name MANDELA on it there was no way that white investors were going to put their money. So they knew they had to get rid of the name, and now it doesn’t say Mandela anymore.
Look the first thing you do when you want to displace a community is to go after the youth. If you can get the youth to kill each other or if you can mass incarcerate them, then guess what? There is no future generation to pass the homes onto. That’s why I say all of it is related and a lot of it is definitely not by accident.
Why is it that when black people kill each other we are animals and that’s just how it is. When black people do drugs, that’s just a give and we need to be locked up. Look everyone has a mental stress. Why not treat us like white people. When they go crazy and kill or do drugs, oh, they are sick put them in the hospital. Now what if you did the same thing in our community instead of mass incarcerating our youth? Put them in the hospital! Treat them! Fix the problem! Find a solution.
But no the goal was to get us OUT in the first place, so that you can rent an apartment for more than $2,500 or sell a unit for a million dollars. It’s not everyone. It is a few people. Look up some of these names and look at some of the research I have done (link) or ask me. Come ask me about it and I will show you exactly what politicians have been doing what and have been in bed with whom since the 1980’s.
But I am not here to just complain. I am here with a solution. We are going to get affordable housing in our community and take back the economy of our community. Whatever stores are on the corner that’s who owns the community. So you have CVS and Western Union on the corner instead of a local business that’s who owns the community.
Now for kids killing kids. You take that kid with a gun in his hand ready to shoot someone and you give him $50,000 dollars for the purpose of helping him to start a business I guarantee you he will put that gun away and pick up the 50K, because he can make something for himself or herself.
And guess what? It costs 70K or more a year to lock him up, so even if you are a crooked politician you can still get 20k for your pocket. But some people need to take the whole thing!
There is another way to do this. It isn’t crazy. The money is there, it’s just about WHO is getting it. And also, nothing is for free of course. So you have to ask a certain way, and you have to know WHAT to ask for.
But this is going to spread. This isn’t just about Boston. With this Fashion Show and what I have been doing I want to stand out as an example and other cities that are watching us will follow. There is a way for these developers to make their money and also to even HELP our community, not just to leave it alone. But there is a way to do it. This is just a first step.
The Prosperity Talent Show for the Homeless will take place on April 21st 2018 at 6pm at the Strand Theater on 543 Columbia Road in Dorchester. Tickets are $20 a seat. The Go fund me to raise 160 million is here.”