The politics of an LA-based citizen protest
David L. Horne, Ph.D | 9/26/2019, midnight
Lately there’s been plenty of anger and venom thrown around by Black folks at other Black folks in the community. The AFIBA Center (African Firefighters In Benevolent Association) operating group has been issued an eviction notice by the city of Los Angeles, after more than 20 years of reliable, consistent and solid service to the community.
And the leader of the evicting group is Eighth District Councilman, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, himself. Already, there have been several public protests at LA City Council meetings, where Councilman Harris-Dawson has been roundly criticized as a Black agent of gentrification, and a person not seemingly in rhythm with the concerns of the Black Crenshaw residents who mainly frequent the Center.
Interestingly, the councilman made his bones by being a top-notch community activist and organizer for several years in this same community as part of renowned Rep. Karen Bass’ Community Coalition.
Now, however, the tables seem turned against him, and he has a re-election bid coming up in a few months (2020) which will now not be a walkover, and he may even lose.
The issue is straightforward in many ways. Brother Jabari Jumaane, the founder of the African Firefighters in Benevolent Association (AFIBA) group that has been responsibly operating the AFIBA Center at 5730 Crenshaw Blvd. for over 20 years has recently received an eviction notice from the councilman’s office (actually, from the City Services Department) based on several unanswered complaints from city workers.
One of these, as ticked off by radio station announcer Dominique Diprima on a recent Front Page forum with Mr. Jumaane, was the lack of maintaining proper insurance coverage for the community groups allowed to use the AFIBA Center’s rooms. Another was a charge that Mr. Jumaane and his staff had not allowed a wide variety of community groups (other than Black activists) access to the facility, that Mr. Jumaane and his staff were charging fees for use of the building, and that staff from the city could not get regular access to Mr. Jumaane and the building when needed.
Though Mr. Jumaane has thus far not offered any definitive defenses of these, and other charges, Mr. Harris-Dawson and his staff have reportedly said the door is still open to negotiate and mediate the problems they have identified. According to the councilman’s office, he and his staff would prefer to work this all out and not evict Mr. Jumaane and his staff from the AFIBA Center.
Thus far, though, for the past few weeks it’s all been about name-calling, emotion and bombast. The eviction date (Sept. 7) has, however, come and gone and Mr. Jumaane and staff are still operating the AFIBA and there’s been no visit by police authorities to put them out into the street.
This is clearly a case that should have already led to a sit-down, respectful discussion and resolution between the opposing sides, and which must get to that point now as soon as possible. There is no point in Black folks who are doing something positive for the community getting into nit-picking, name-calling fights that cripple or destroy both sides. We need continued positive work from all concerned.
Although Mr. Jumaane, who is a registered, active member of the L.A. fire department, had in 2015 tried to buy the AFIBA Center with funds from his second successful civil lawsuit against the city for racial discrimination and other behavior, may feel privileged in his long-term position as operator of the AFIBA Center, the fact is, the city of Los Angeles owns the property and can call the shots about how it is run. If both sides stay hard-headed and macho over the issues now, there will be no winners and the community itself will suffer.
That will benefit no one, and we do not need any more of that.