Interview with Dewey Knight

There was a lot of money into this community after the riots to try and rebuild things. What happened to it?


Well let--we need to be clear number one, there was a lot of money promised, ah, over 80-100 million dollars. Ah, didn't never that money get here. President Carter and others that promised the money. The money that came to this community from the federal government and even the money from the state was basically sent to rebuild or re-ah, furbish the businesses that had been destroyed. 95, 98 percent of the businesses that des--were destroyed were Black bus--were White businesses. They were businesses like Spotley[SIC] Electric Company and storehouses, warehouses large White stores. And those were the people who maintained appropriate books, maintain inventory, I suspect some inflated inventory. But when the, when the money was flowing down, those people were reimbursed at least for a substantial amount of that. I think too that those people, ah, were waiting to move anyway so this was an opportunity really to get that money and move west of the airport where business was moving at that time. What was left, and the money that was supposed to come to the Black community to not only, ah, help the businesses that may have been hurt by the riot, but to help to rebuild some economic development, seems to have gotten retarded in the bureaucracy. That's a kind of funny statement, but people, ah, were told come to this office and apply for some money and bring your last five CPA statements and your last statements from the internal auditors and the external auditor, and just the fact that you have been operating a business successfully for 30 years is not enough. And some very clever, ah, and, from the private sector side, some very smart and clever, ah, MBA and CPA types got over, "I don't see that you have this, I don't see that you have that, and therefore you are not qualified," much like what happened to us with the SBA. So, so the monies that did flow here went to people, to the White businesses that were burned out in many instances. Very little of it seeped down to businesses in the Black community. And, ah, that was a substantial complaint. The other complaint was that, and it's a valid complaint, that much of the money, ah, that did come down to the neighborhood organizations or to neighborhood economic development organizations was so tied in bureaucracy that nothing really happened with the businesses except that salaries for people went on and on. So the impact on the bl--the positive impact on the Black community of that money was very limited.