Black leaders: tangible aid will douse Miami racial fire
Atlanta — Another outbreak of violence in Miami's black neighborhoods reveals the continuing, deep frustrations on the part of many blacks there. The incidents occurred in the Liberty City area of Miami, the same area where the worst of the May racial riots in Miami occurred.
Local black community leaders contacted after Tuesday night's shootings and brick and bottle throwing that left three policemen shot and two policemen and about 20 civilians injured, say little visible progress has been made since black riots in May left dozens of buildings burned out or damaged and 18 persons dead.
Some grass-roots efforts are under way to try to channel pent-up frustrations , especially among young blacks, into self-improvement steps.
But the need for better housing, more job training and jobs among blacks remains urgent. Improved police relations in the black communities remains a high concern among blacks of all income levels.
Some state funds have been allocated for post-riot programs, but they have amounted to only a fraction of what Florida Gov. Bob Graham has sought.
"Both blacks and whites here can work together," says Golden Frinks, national field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Mr. Frinks has been in Miami since the May riots. But local headers, especially church leaders, need to play a more active role in addressing grass-roots frustrations, he said.
From the government point of view, a number of positive things have happened. President Carter has earmarked some $71 million in federal assistance to Miami, largely for creating jobs and rebuilding the riot area. Additional county and state aid for such tasks has been approved and Miami has launched a civilian review board to monitor investigations into allegations of police brutality.
In addition, the Justice Department has re-opened investigations into several past cases of alleged police brutality against blacks. One of the cases is the beating death of black insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie by white police last December. Acquittal by an all-white jury in Tampa of the policemen charged in that death sparked the May riots.
But the grass-roots view of events since May is much different.
Regarding plans for the civilian review board and other government-initiated task forces on the May riots, she complains: "The're planning for us -- not with us."
Conditions in the public housing apartments where many of the poor in Miami's Liberty City live have been extremely uncomfortable as outside temperatures have hovered in the 90s for weeks. Many families can not afford air conditioning. Fans simply swirl hot air around, says Miss Love. But what is needed most, she says is jobs.
Unemployment in Liberty City is high. Hot nights have left many young blacks on the streets. Some have found temporary job-training openings in federal programs, but often the training is not enough to lead to a permanent, skilled job.
Husam-Iddin Lateef, a black community leader and businessman in Liberty City was up until dawn trying to restore calm the night of the July 15 shootings. Several plainclothes police were fired upon after arresting young black robbery suspects.
"We still have a powder keg," he says. "I've never seen so much hate in so many [blacks]," he added. The attitude on the streets among many young blacks is one of "cold hostility," he said.
Black community leaders are better organized now than when the May riots occured. Their quick response apparently helped cool things down this week -- but only temporarily, grass-roots leaders warn.