“Then in 1972, a real estate scandal of national magnitude gave additional confirmation of the abuses pervading the housing market. Involving the newly merged FHA and HUD, it was so massive in scope that it made the doings of Chicago slum landlords look picayune. The scandal involved the abandonment and ruin of over 240,000 units of housing nationwide—enough to house over one million people. In Detroit alone, more than 25,000 houses had been abandoned—about 10 percent of the city’s housing stock. The cost to the U.S. government was estimated at close to $4 billion, in preinflationary, early-1970s money. James M. Alter, chair of the Governor’s Commission on Mortgage Practices, commented, “Outside of Watergate and Viet Nam, there is no greater scandal than in FHA and HUD housing. The cities are rotting and nobody seems to be responsible.”

This FHA-HUD scandal was actually a series of scandals involving the exploitation of several different programs that had been created as a part of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. U.S. cities were most affected, however, by the misuse of the FHA’s 223(e) program, the one explicitly created to extend FHA mortgage insurance to low-income urban areas.

The Section 223(e) program should have been a godsend to American cities. A buyer of limited income but sound credit history could now apply for a mortgage to buy a home with as little as $200 down. Mortgage bankers were willing to lend the remainder of the purchase price to the qualified buyer, since their mortgage loan was 100% guaranteed by the FHA. In theory, both the buyer and the lender knew that the home was sound and the price fair because the FHA guaranteed loans only after inspection of the premises. In thirty years the buyer would have paid off his or her mortgage, becoming the proud owner of an investment that could be passed on to the next generation. And if, for some reason, the buyer defaulted on the loan, the mortgage company was protected from loss. It would secure the defaulted buildings from vandalism and collect the remainder of the loan from the FHA insurance pool. The FHA would then sell the vacant but protected building to another buyer.

But the program did not work out as planned. As noted, some contract sellers took available of the newly available FHA-guaranteed mortgages to “settle” with contract buyers and get the full, grossly inflated price—or something close to it—for their properties. Section 223(e) also became the linchpin of an entirely new scheme of exploitation. Much like the contract-sale scenario, this new scheme enabled speculators to buy low from whites and sell, at a triple to quadruple markup, to blacks.

It worked like this. First, the “suede-shoe boys,” as the real estate speculators were colloquially called, scoured urban neighborhoods looking for decayed buildings they could buy for the lowest possible price—say, $5,000. Next, they bribed FHA appraisers to value the buildings at vastly inflated rates. A typical corrupt FHA appraisal might claim that the speculator’s crumbling $5,000 house was actually worth, say, $20,000. With the corrupt appraisal in hand, the speculator could easily sell his slum building for quadruple its worth. Now, rather than selling the building on contract, he could recoup the full price immediately with an FHA-insured mortgage. So what if the price seemed high? The mortgage lender couldn’t lose: after all, $20,000 was the property’s appraised value, and more importantly, the loan was 100% guaranteed. As one broker explained, once the speculators “saw how they could get a mortgage commitment far in excess of [their purchase] price, zoom, it was wide open.” The gold rush had begun.

All that a speculator needed was someone to buy the building. He enticed buyers by emphasizing the low down payment—often no more than $200—rather than the final cost. In Chicago and other cities, people eager to buy buildings on such terms were easy to find. They were usually black or Hispanic, and always low-income. Given the desperate housing shortage facing low-income families, an offer of a home of one’s own for a $200 down payment was often irresistible. The speculators made the procedure seem quick and easy. They did all the paperwork, sometimes even lending the buyers the down payment. The speculators made sure that the purchasers—many of whom lacked the resources to carry their buildings’ dramatically inflated prices—qualified or an FHA-insured mortgage by doubling or tripling their stated income, while hiding their debts. This fraudulent activity was shockingly blatant. Many speculators simply picked up blank tax forms and filled in whatever income they felt the mortgage companies might require. The mortgage companies didn’t ask too many questions about these loan applications for the simple reason that the mortgages were fully insured. The creditworthiness of the borrower was of no relevance, since the company would never lose money on FHA-insured loans.

Since mortgage companies made their profits through the exorbitant service fees they charged on FHA loans, they made money on every sale, with no risk whatsoever. The mortgage companies got away with high service fees because banks and savings loans continued to redline “changing” and all-black areas and refused to make conventional mortgage loans there. While FHA-insured loans had long been a supplement to mortgage activity, they now became the only mortgage activity in town. And the companies made even higher profits on FHA-insured mortgages when these actually defaulted. This was because, in addition to service fees, the lenders also charged interest rates of 7 to 9 percent; if the borrower defaulted within the first year of ownership, the FHA paid the mortgage company the entire value of the loan, plus 7 percent interest and all the service fees, within one year instead of over thirty years. If large numbers of homes were sold to buyers likely to default, the mortgage companies stood to make a lot of money.

And large numbers of homes were sold. In the early 1970s, white working-class neighborhoods across the country were once again flooded with speculators who terrorized residents into selling low. Instead of using the traditional scare phrase “The blacks are coming,” speculators adopted a subtler, more up-to-date slogan: “This is an FHA area.” Everyone knew that it meant the same thing. Using racial anxieties to convince urban whites to sell their homes was profitable not only to the mortgage companies and the speculators but also to the banks and savings and loan companies that had originally made the mortgage loans to whites. Many older white residents had bought their homes in the 1940s and 1950s, when mortgage rates were extremely low. Now that inflation was pushing up interest rates, lenders had every reason to want to close those mortgages out. “In a community like this, older people had 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 percent mortgages,” one West Side resident explained in 1972. “The banks were unhappy about that. It was bad money. It was worth it to clean out a whole area if you can get 8 3/4 percent,” that is, the current conventional mortgage rate. She summed up the situation: speculative real estate brokers like to “keep people hating each other and fighting each other and moving” because when they are doing so, “everybody makes so damn much money.”



Waner was one of many to note that mortgage companies, like the contract sellers in their heyday, were inordinately eager to foreclose on their buyers’ overpriced homes. “If the buyer defaults on the first payment or the second payment, the mortgage company throws him into foreclosure immediately in order to pick up the windfall money,” he explained. “The more FHA buyers who default, the higher the mortgage bankers’ yield.” Mortgage companies sometimes pushed buyers to default. “If the buyer missed last month and comes in with this month’s payment, they’ll tell him, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t take it,’” Waner said. The FHA’s own records backed Waner’s claim. These showed that the foreclosure rate on 223(e) FHA-insured mortgages was not double, or even quadruple, but an astonishing seven times that of conventional loans. The repossessed buildings sometimes ended up back in the hands of the speculators, who then started the cycle anew. In a clear replication of the contract sales scenario, there were buildings resold as many as six times in an eighteen-month period. New York City’s Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Accetta described the social and emotional costs that such statistic suggested. “I don’t see how anyone who is black or Puerto Rican could have faith in the white system after being shaken down like this and then losing his house months later.”

The results of the scam could be seen in “the bombed-out appearance of may central cities, where block after block of structurally sound housing has been abandoned,” New York Times reporter John Herbers noted in 1972. Of course, while the scandal meant ruin for some, it meant huge profits for others. In Chicago, the FHA paid out at least $42 million to real estate speculators and corrupt mortgage firms. In Brooklyn, such operators received $250 million from the FHA. In Detroit, which was hardest hit by the scandal, FHA insurance payments amounted to a shocking $375 to $500 million. As Brian Boyner observed, in return for this immense payout to Detroit’s mortgage brokers and speculators, the U.S. government received “a deserted slum and the concomitant problems of rampant heroin addiction and the highest big city murder rate in the U.S.A.” Later generation had a simpler—and distorted—explanation for the desolation they saw in Detroit and other black urban areas. The devastation was caused, they insisted, by “the riots.””

Beryl Satter, Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America

I think this is the most important excerpt I have quoted from this book, and I’m pretty sure I’m just going to bookmark this and link it every single time another white person sees fit to open up their mouths about Detroit or “urban decay.”

(via thecurvature)

(via karnythia)

africaafrika:

West Africa | Carved wooden doors from the Senufo people

africaafrika:

West Africa | Carved wooden doors from the Senufo people

revolutionary-afrolatino:

howtobeterrell:

fearfullymade-locs:

breegant:

I wonder how many people overlook the sankofa symbols all around DC residential neighborhoods. 

A lot of people do.  Mr. Bechet, art professor and my former Freshman seminar teacher, told me about how this was standard for houses of Free People of Color around New Orleans.  Basically, white people allowed these symbols because they didn’t really know what they were (they assumed that these were simply ornamental).  And this sankofa symbol was constantly reproduced in African-American cast iron gate designs.

black slaves did a lot of the iron work you see around the south and in older homes in the north. 
a lil something we brought with us being that we had been smelting iron b4 the europeans used water to wash their behinds.

i see these in NY all over, had no idea really, but makes sense :)

revolutionary-afrolatino:

howtobeterrell:

fearfullymade-locs:

breegant:

I wonder how many people overlook the sankofa symbols all around DC residential neighborhoods. 

A lot of people do.  Mr. Bechet, art professor and my former Freshman seminar teacher, told me about how this was standard for houses of Free People of Color around New Orleans.  Basically, white people allowed these symbols because they didn’t really know what they were (they assumed that these were simply ornamental).  And this sankofa symbol was constantly reproduced in African-American cast iron gate designs.

black slaves did a lot of the iron work you see around the south and in older homes in the north. 

a lil something we brought with us being that we had been smelting iron b4 the europeans used water to wash their behinds.

i see these in NY all over, had no idea really, but makes sense :)

(via collect-your-courage)

More closely connected precursors to the American front porch, in both appearance and in social function, can be found in West Africa and among Caribbean Arawak people. It is likely that the porch in its original American form is a hybrid of these two influences, having made its first appearance on the shotgun house, a type of home that is still being built today in the American South but originated here as a type of slave dwelling. Before shotgun houses began to be built in the States, the closest thing to a porch was the elevated balcony seen on some French and Spanish colonial houses, which was not typically used as a living area at all.

A shotgun house is one room wide and two or three rooms deep, and more often than not has a front porch. This house style has its deepest roots in the traditional housing of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. One of the most common traditional housing types seen even today throughout West Africa is the Yoruba-style courtyard compound of shotgun houses, where the houses are attached side-by-side to form a square facing inward toward a large central courtyard.

image

Traditional Asante home, with four attached rooms forming a central courtyard. From Murray, Cultural Atlas of Africa. Traditional Yoruba central courtyard.

http://www.pitt.edu/~natrooms/africa/T3c.html

image

Akaba Idéna gateway to the Yoruba city of Kétou

http://www.wmf.org/project/akaba-id%C3%A9na

The houses share a pitched roof that extends forward beyond the front wall into the courtyard, forming an overhang supported by wooden columns. The area under the overhang is not used as a walkway, but as an outdoor extension of each house. The occupants of the house use it as a place to rest, work, and socialize, and both the space and their use of it act as symbols of their connection to the community. To sit in under the overhang is to be simultaneously at the individual family home and within easy sight and reach of whoever might be in the courtyard or under the overhang in front of their own house. In most African cultures, the family home is more open to non-family members than it usually is in Europe or the U.S., so the extent to which being under the overhang makes someone more accessible to the public than being inside would is not as pronounced there as it is in these other places, but there is enough of a distinction between one’s own family’s home and someone else’s that the role of the overhang space as a community binder is indeed meaningful.

When slaves were brought to the States from West Africa in the late 1600s/early 1700s, the first task they were often given was to build their own houses—which they did in the traditional style they knew from home. They were not allowed to build their houses conjoined into compounds, however, because slaveholders wished to discourage any sense of social cohesion, and thus collective power, this would enable. They therefore built the same kind of houses, but separated, sometimes without the overhang—which, as part of an individual house, was now a porch—but more often with it. Either with or without the porch, the front door of the house opened directly onto the road, so the front of the house became a place to be simultaneously at home and in public.

At the same time, slaves building houses in the Caribbean were influenced by the houses of the native people of the islands. The Arawak people of Haiti and many of the natives of other Caribbean islands built a type of house called a bohio, which was rectangular and had an roof that extended out past the front door, which was in one of the short sides. This style was crossed with the West African shotgun style to create a type of house that became common throughout slave communities in the Caribbean, which in Haiti was called a caille. A caille was essentially a thatched-roof version of an American shotgun house, and had a porch. Slaves transferred from Haiti to Louisiana and Mississippi built houses in this style entirely out of wood, because wood for construction was more readily available there, and this was the prototypical American shotgun house.

Evergreen Plantation preserves 22 slave quarters and is included in the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail for its quality and significance. Image by Michael McCarthy

(American folklore says that the houses are called this because a gun can be shot straight through the house from the front door out through the back door without hitting anything, but it is also likely that the word is an English bastardization and combination of the Yoruba words togun, meaning “house,” and shogun, meaning “a god’s house.” In Yoruba culture, one’s house is literally considered also home to one’s ancestors, who are worshipped as gods.)

http://www.mediabistro.com/portfolios/samples_files/44376_ZyIAgfMjxIHh2KlpIoj4SyTMA.pdf

African-American Ironwork


howtobeterrell:

That the art and science of wrought ironwork migrated from the Middle East to Europe is well-documented. Less known has been the economic, social and cultural importance of iron in African societies. Carbon dating shows metallurgy there dating back 5000 years – well before its appearance in Europe – proof Africa didn’t learn ironmaking techniques from outside, as had long been maintained, but from within. 

Ironworkers were an elite group in West and West Central Africa. In West Africa, the rise of the Edo, Fon, and a series of Yoruba kingdoms between 1400 and 1700 owed their political dominance to heavily equipped armies, using a highly developed iron technology. Blacksmiths are given central roles in the mythical origins of numerous West Central African and West African peoples. 

There is evidence that suggests African ironworkers may have transferred old sacred beliefs associated with iron along with their technology. John Michael Vlach, director of The George Washington University’s Folklife Program, reports finding a small wrought-iron male figure under the dirt floor of a blacksmith’s shop near slave quarters in Alexandria, Virginia. 

It resembles, says the anthropologist Patrick McNaughton, the kind blacksmiths made and buried under their forges to protect them while engaging in their “dangerous transformative craft that radically changed the order of materials – as dirt (ore) becomes metal.” It was believed the forces of nature were not pleased at this usurpation of their power and so the blacksmiths protected themselves by making a little watchman.

image

 

medievalpoc:

cptfabulous submitted to medievalpoc:

Ange-Jacques Gabriel
Mascaron, Place de la Bourse
Bordeaux, France (1730-1775)
The Place de la Bourse was constructed in the 18th century as Bordeaux’s open city square (contrasting the Medieval walls elsewhere in the city) — a local center of commerce adjacent to the river.
I visited Bordeaux last summer and snapped this picture. According to the tour guide, this ornamental sculpture was a tribute to the slave trade that helped build the city (make of that what you will). Other mascarons of African slaves (which also displayed individualized features) were interspersed among prominent contemporary and mythological European figures lining the Place de la Bourse.

medievalpoc:

cptfabulous submitted to medievalpoc:

Ange-Jacques Gabriel

Mascaron, Place de la Bourse

Bordeaux, France (1730-1775)

The Place de la Bourse was constructed in the 18th century as Bordeaux’s open city square (contrasting the Medieval walls elsewhere in the city) — a local center of commerce adjacent to the river.

I visited Bordeaux last summer and snapped this picture. According to the tour guide, this ornamental sculpture was a tribute to the slave trade that helped build the city (make of that what you will). Other mascarons of African slaves (which also displayed individualized features) were interspersed among prominent contemporary and mythological European figures lining the Place de la Bourse.

When the sound of automobiles replaced the sound of jackhammers on the length of the Cross- Bronx Expressway, the fuel was in place for the Bronx to burn.

Apartment buildings passed into the hands of slumlords, who soon figured out that they could make more money by refusing to provide heat and water to the tenants, withholding property taxes from the city, and finally destroying the buildings for insurance money. As one fireman described the cycle: ‘It starts with fires in vacant apartments. Before you know it, it’s the whole wing in the building.’

The downward spiral created its own economy. Slumlords hired rent-a-thugs to burn the buildings down for as little as fifty dollars a job, collecting up to $150,000 on insurance policies. Insurance companies profited from the arrangement by selling more policies. Even on vacant buildings, fire paid. Groups of organized thieves, some of them strung out on heroin, plundered the burned buildings for valuable copper pipes, fixtures and hardware.

Less than a decade later, the South Bronx had lost 43,000 housing units, the equivalent of four square blocks a week. Thousands of vacant lots and abandoned buildings littered the borough. Between 1973 and 1977, 30,000 fires were set in the South Bronx alone. In 1975, on one long hot day in June, forty fires were set in a three- hour period. These were not the fires of purifying rage that had ignited Watts or a half dozen other cities after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. These were the fires of abandonment.


Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip- Hop Generation by Jeff Chang

This is why I get annoyed at white liberals and radicals who suppose the the only reason for the invention of Race was to “Divide and Conquer.”  Yes, it was that, but white supremacy is also extremely profitable.  Between cheap labor, and the myriad ways to make money by exploiting and ending the lives of POC, particularly black and brown folks, white supremacy is a pretty good business to get into.  If the manufacture and preservation of social inequality is so profitable, how can we expect the same people benefiting from that inequality to do anything about it?

(via whitedenial-ontrial)

(via howtobeterrell)

africandiversity:

More on Dogon architecture. See our last post on Dogon architecture

The joy is in the details. Above are details found in Dogon architecture. The Dogon people are an ethnic group who live primarily in “Pays Dogon” or “Dogon Country” which is located in the central plateau region of the country of Mali, in the Mopti region of Mali. They also inhabit Burkino Faso. They are renown for their architecture and advanced astronomical knowledge that preceded that of all other astronomers.

(Source: , via howtobeterrell)

“But the most affecting aspect of the book is the demonstration of the ghetto not as a product of a violent music, super-predators, or declining respect for marriage, but of policy and power. In Chicago, the ghetto was intentional. Black people were pariahs whom no one wanted to live around. The FHA turned that prejudice into full-blown racism by refusing to insure loans taken out by people who live near blacks.

Contract-sellers reacted to this policy and “sold” homes to black people desperate for housing at four to five times its value. I say “sold” because the contract-seller kept the deed, while the “buyer” remained responsible for any repairs to the home. If the “buyer” missed one payment they could be evicted, and all of their equity would be kept by the contract-seller. This is not merely a matter of “Of.” Contract-sellers turned eviction into a racket and would structure contracts so that sudden expenses guaranteed eviction. Then the seller would fish for another black family desperate for housing, rinse and repeat. In Chicago during the early 60s, some 85 percent of African-Americans who purchased home did it on contract.

These were not broken families in need of a lecture on work ethic. These were black people playing by the rules. And for their troubles they were effectively declared outside the law and thus preyed upon.”

kicker-of-elves:

Ghardaia, Algeria   National Geographic August 1973  Thomas J Abercrombie

kicker-of-elves:

Ghardaia, Algeria   National Geographic August 1973  Thomas J Abercrombie

(via dynamicafrica)