Dana lives in Seattle, and Tracie lives in Germany. We are businesswomen, writers and humorists. We write about life, dating, and today's modern women.
My father has been gone 24 years. I am working on finalizing my book, detailing his self-made journey as a black man from Detroit, Michigan who moved to Seattle and invested in the pre-gentrified 1950’s Seattle Central area. He was outspoken about the bank’s racism and redlining when they chose not to grant loans for properties in undesirable or racially diverse neighborhoods. It was a hard scrapple battle. By the early 1970’s, he owned a parcel of real estate on every block from 33rd to 10th Avenue. His desire was to one day own investments on every street from Lake Washington to Puget Sound and most of all to ensure that his daughters succeeded in life and were never slaves to the system.
As the news was released on Donald Trump’s alleged $750 tax payment, I am compelled to share this chapter from a segment of my book called, The Bankers.
Gerald sat at the foot of his bed and inserted his cufflinks into his crisp white shirt. The bankers arrived at our home, as he insisted on meeting on his turf. In 1976, he installed a swimming pool which overlooked serene Lake Washington on the east side. Mount Rainier, looming on the south side offered scenes of everchanging light and weather patterns. The eight bedroom, seven bathroom complex was extended to provide an office. My father loved rolling out of bed and holding court in his private domain. In this secluded enclave, which the local police had nicknamed “Coon Hollow,” Eli, our housekeeper seated them in the dining room which Theresa had decorated making it warm and inviting. One wall was painted rust and the adjacent one was mortared with bricks. The antique oak table, which used a crank to add sections for expansion, had been a real find at the Antique Liquidators. It sat on a 9 x 12 ft Persian rug. At the west corner of the room there was an heirloom armoire full of fine china that glistened from the filtered light through the leaded glass windows. Although Gerald had requested to meet the president, he was naturally unavailable for house calls. So, the two bankers, one white and one obligatory minority, this time an Asian, sat sipping the coffee Eli served.
Gerald kept them waiting approximately twenty minutes. “Good Morning gentlemen,” he spoke cheerfully as he came down the stairs from his bedroom. He sat at the head of the table between them. “Now, the reason I have called this meeting is to inform you that I want to be treated like all the white millionaires. I can’t imagine Donald Trump running out of money. My business is continuously operating in a deficit because your lending practices still redline and won’t allow me to bring money into this community.”
“Mr. Frank,” the Asian banker started, “I assure you, redlining is illegal, your loan denial is not based on racism. The bank has been very generous to you in the past. We do not feel there is equity in your properties to justify your pulling out more cash.”
Gerald displayed a cynical grin. “I think I can shed some light on the situation. Mr. Ohi, where do you live?” Mr. Ohi cleared his throat, “Lynnwood.”
“Um hm,” Gerald chuckled. “And how many Blacks or Asians are on your block?”
“I don’t see the relevance.” Mr. Ohi responded irritably.
“My point exactly. You feel it is O.K. to move to some lily white neighborhood and forget your ethnic responsibilities.” Gerald leaned forward and set his coffee cup down. He pointed his finger to his chest, “I was born black, raised black, gonna die black and if there’s reincarnation, I’m gonna come back black. Therefore, it is my responsibility to house black people! I just can’t run and hide in Lynnwood, a white man’s suburb!”
Theresa attempted to interrupt and offer additional coffee service, but the conversation continued as if she were invisible.
Gerald rubbed the palms of his hands together. “Now, gentlemen, I would appreciate it if we could take a short ride.”
Gerald had relieved his maintenance man, Virgil from his duties of mowing the lawn on 21st Street that morning. Although several sizes too big, Gerald had loaned him one of his old suits and a cap. He was outside with the shiny ebony limousine fired up. Virgil was not aware that Gerald was acting pretentiously and that part of his duty was to open the door for the bankers.
“Virgil, get your ass up and open the door when we stop,” Gerald said settling into the back seat with the two bankers. “Now, drive by the building on 22nd.”
Nervously Virgil revved the engine and the car skidded out the driveway. “Virgil, slow down, we ain’t runnin no race,” Gerald grumbled from the rear of the stretch automobile.
As they reached the blue and white concrete mulit-unit building, Virgil stumbled out and rushed to open the door, “How are you?” he said to the bankers after taking a partial bow.
“Don’t talk, just do as I say do,” Gerald responded irritably. Gerald walked the two bankers through the cold halls with the section 8 subsidized and welfare babies screaming through the doors. He looked at the bankers, shrugged his shoulders and said “If I don’t house these people, who will?”
The bankers must have felt as if they were visiting the Robert Taylor Homes, housing tenements from Chicago’s south side when fourteen year old truant, Tyrese approached asking for bus change. Gerald snapped at him to get his ass in school and he ran down the stairwell. The strong aroma of southern cooking permeated the non-ventilated hallways. Gerald knocked at unit #202, Velma with her three babies all under the age of five came peeping around the corner.
“Good morning, dear, “ Gerald said in his most charming voice. “These uh, bankers here want to talk to you about relocatin’ to Lynnwood. You see, they cut off my funding and I can’t afford to keep goin.”
Mr. Arnold, the Caucasian banker was outraged. His follicle deprived scalp turned bright crimson. “I’ve had enough Mr. Frank, please return me to my car.”
I named the building after my father…The fight continues. I just wonder what would have happened had his funding not been cut off or if his accountant was a magician like Donald Trumps? We will never know, but trust me, it’s hard to just write it off.