On Becoming a Community Leader
At the time,
I hadn't the faintest idea that being a leader, that there was anything
like that in my character or in my abilities. In the process of
working with my pastor, he got me involved in what we call liberal
church work. There was no WACO (Western Addition Community Organization)
at that time but there was a meeting of concerned people, mostly
homeowners, and low-rent housing types and welfare recipients. I
was sitting there in the meeting and had never opened my mouth in
public in my life. I listened to them and their complaints. I don't
know where I got a rapport with them but I felt empathy and I got
up and began to speak. In embracing their cause and speaking out
about it, I suddenly became a charismatic leader right out of the
clear, blue sky. They liked the way I spoke and I got drafted into
the job. Everywhere we went from then on people said, "We want Hannibal
to be our spokesman."
on the Redevelopment Agency
We thought we
could win. I had a treatise that talked about the possibility of
poor people organizing as though they were a union, and as a union
that could go on strike, that could picket places, and that could
demand of other labor unions that they respect our picket line.
We had this idea behind our organizing. We sued them and we won.
We didn't win an all-out victory but we stopped two parts of the
process: we stopped demolition and we stopped the acquisition of
homes. It didn't give us an absolute right to stop them but it did
give us consultative rights. We slowed the agency down, but in the
end, Urban Renewal became what we feared it would: it became Black
African Americans and the Redevelopment Agency
thought that anybody who went to work for the agency was the enemy.
The agency started out with practically no black employees. The
longer we fought them, the more blacks they hired. So we were instrumental
in creating all kinds of job opportunities, upwardly mobile opportunities,
for black people. I could name person after person who went to work
for that agency, who rose up through the ranks. I crossed over as
a Redevelopment Agency Commissioner. I had endorsed Moscone and
he turned around and named me commissioner. One of the reasons that
I served one term, and one term only, on the Redevelopment Agency
is that I became a spokesman for the interests of the people. I
was a voice in the wilderness. So when Moscone was reappointing
folk, he didn't reappoint me.
click for larger
Photo Credit: KRON
Jim Jones and the Guyana Tragedy
times were right to produce a man like Jim Jones. The circumstances
of a community that is broken up, when the relationships that
bind people together fall apart, the time is always right for
a religious scoundrel to take advantage of our credibility. Justin
Herman literally destroyed the neighborhood and in the process
he made the neighborhood ripe for anybody with any kind of solution.
People were desperate for solutions, something to follow. Jim
Jones was another solution. He had a charismatic personality that
won the hearts and souls of people. And people followed him to
hell. That's where Jim Jones went. That's where he took the people
who followed him.