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tion. “I’ve been gathering these things for as long as I can remember,” she says. Mrs. Johnson’s efforts are one step a critical step toward stabilizing rural black communities, but so much more is needed. A handful of inner-city neighborhood self-help groups scattered across the country is beginning to turn the tide on the displacement wave. In Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Savannah, Montgomery, and Memphis, black residents of historic districts are learning to tap corporate and foundation funds and use them to buy out absentee landlords in their area and make the improvements that they deem necessary. Groups like Clarksville’s Community Development Corporation are mobilizing to oppose well-meaning but nonessential improvements that increase their property taxes and make the neighborhood more appealing to whites but do not substan tially improve the residents’ quality of life. The stories you hear more frequently, however, are about small pockets, like Weeping Mary and Cuney in Cherokee County, Elm Slough and Waelder in Gonzales County, where blacks are losing ground on land ownership. Or East Austin, where the University of Texas has announced its intention to purchase and level more than 20 blocks of the black community’s residential, ecclesiastical and commercial structures. In the town of Ames in Liberty County, where many black and white families can be traced to the same patriarch, you find a wealth of significant historic architecture but no organized effort to keep the property in the family, let alone preserve it. In Houston, where several groups have formed to try to anchor the historic properties in the Fourth Ward, the eighty-block neighborhood situated adja cent to the downtown, it may already be too late. By far, there are more blackowned and-occupied areas in need of conservation than there are black or white preservationists committed to the idea of preserving buildings for their current occupants. The assertion of a growing number of practitioners that the historic preservation movement is a genuine peoples’ movement is premature at best. If this is to become a reality, mechanisms must be devised to deliver these communities to the people who currently live there. A word of caution would-be preservationists may not agree with the set of priorities or the vision of itself a community wants to be preserved. From the inception of the preservation movement, the “gentler” folk have sought to preserve their past to the exclusion of everyone else’s. It’s high time they took a look at the other side. Austin housing funds, place them on vacant city lots and offer them for lease or sale to low-income residents. “All that would do is have the city and federal government underwrite the social costs of UT’s encroachment,” stated Katherine Poole, coordinator of the Blackland Neighborhood Association. “It won’t help this neighborhood one bit.” If the university does need land, residents of the Blackland neighborhood question why alternative plans are not considered. K. C. Cerny, Blackland resident and assistant instructor in UT’s Government Department, suggests the university might look into developing a satellite campus at its Balcones Research Center to the north. “UT is still operating under the Frank Erwin plan that calls for eventual acquisition of all the land over to Chestnut Street,” stated Cerny. “Why not look into a satellite campus like other universities have?” Any mention of such alternatives has been missing in public statements of Governor Mark White or Jane Blumberg, a former UT regent and prime candidate to replace one of Clements’ midnight appointments. Both individuals state a concern for affected residents but also accept the inevitability of UT’s growth. Does the growth have to be to the east into predominantly black neighborhoods? According to Franklin, that is the only feasible direction for the university to grow, the only area where land is still being sold. He sees the residents of the area as assuming the risk of eventual annexation when purchasing in the area: ” . . a prudent person knows that there is a possibility that a public institution will expand. So, when you settle in such an area, it’s one of the possibilities.” But when Nora Hale’s husband built her home 52 years ago on Leona Street the university was barely evident. “It was way over there, not even an Interstate ran through. Who’d have thought they’d ever come over this far?” she questioned. In resisting UT’s encroachment, Blackland residents have become painfully aware of the lack of legal power they can rally against a state entity: the eminent domain laws are vaguely worded and the burden of proof rests on the neighborhood, not the state. State Sen. Lloyd Doggett is introducing a bill requiring that any major urban development go through a public planning process. This would necessitate considering the needs of affected residents prior to UT action. In addition, Blackland residents are discussing with the city council the possibility of Austin’s suing UT for improper encroachment. Cynicism informs the humor of the powerless, and there is little wonder that it so richly laces East Austin dialogue these days. It deeply colors the expression of Rosa White, who lives across the street from Dixie Connor and who was also uprooted and displaced in the late’60s. In reacting to the promise by university administrators that they will not take her land, the 86-year-old retorts, “Is that what they say? Well let me tell you what Poppa used to tell us kids. He’d come through the house and we’d all get down and quiet and when he’d walk by one of us would peep out and ask, Poppa, what is it they say?’ He’d duck his head and never stop or look to one side or the other just keep going and say real low, ‘Whatever they say is a damn lie!’ ” 9 THE TEXAS OBSERVER