Interview with Dewey Knight

Tell me about political life here for Blacks in Miami. Why are people so powerless?


Ah, I think that we have to be very careful about what our perception is of power. Ah, I don't think that Black people are as powerless as it appeared. We are not, ah, as economic--we get compared economically to the White community and we get compared to the Cuban community, people who, ah, are the exception. They didn't come here after a potato fam--famine, they came here because they were in power and were kicked out. And these were people who had operated viable businesses, had long training, etc. etc., and yet when you compare us, we had the reverse. We have suffered with segregation and all that other stuff. Ah, one says, "Well what does that matter?" It matters because the economic aspects of life in this country are most important, and if you don't control some of the pie, for an example, even today, it's estimated that a dollar coming to the Black community stays here one and a half to two times. A dollar going to the Cuban community stays, ah, seven to 15 times, so that you don't have that really economic viability. On the other hand, ah, you shouldn't be misled into thinking that, that there has not been significant movement in this community for Blacks. You can, ah, this community was one of the first to get an approved Black set-aside-program approved by the Supreme Court, ah, and not a minority set-aside but a Black set-aside program, which--in the county and the city and the board of public construction which is producing, ah, several hundred million dollars a year with Black companies and with, with Black employment. Ah, that again does not build in the way that, that, that, that the dollar amount sounds. Ah, we, while we have, ah, limited representation on the political bodies--we have one county commissioner we have one city commissioner--these people are elected county wide and are in position to do trading with others. So that there has been, there is some, ah, significant power. We have lost, ah, some of our, ah, power position however because we are not a, a, ah, two-ethnic community, we are a tri-ethic community. And, ah, what the direction now is to try to work out accommodations within that tri-ethnicity, in other words, building strategies to, to continue to move forward and to gain things, recognizing that the pie is split different ways.