|“Will Percy Green be invited to the Arch anniversary?” Bernie Hayes asked in an October 8 column in The American. The answer, in the end, was yes, and Percy accepted the invitations – but with a wait-and-see attitude about what he is getting into and how much he wants to be a part of it.|
The invitations came after activist attorney Eric E. Vickers stirred the pot by tweeting about Hayes’ unanswered question and hinting at direct action should Green be left out of the party.
Direct action, of course, is why Green belonged at the Arch anniversary party. On July 14, 1964, Green and Richard Daly climbed 125 feet up the Gateway Arch, using a ladder that was meant for the workers and “stayed up there for five hours as an act of civil disobedience,” as Rebecca Rivas wrote for The American. “Their goal was to make the community aware that no African-American workers or contractors were hired for the Arch project. They succeeded.”
Vickers’ tweet prompted The American to ask event organizers – the CityArchRiver Foundation and the National Park Service – whether Green would be invited to their events on October 24 and 28. Both event organizers said they intended to invite Green but needed his contact information. When it was provided, they did invite Green. And he accepted, but with reservations.
|Green knows that his and Daly’s direct action in 1964 succeeded in calling attention to minority exclusion on the original Arch construction project, yet he knows all too well that minority inclusion in workforce and contracting in the St. Louis region remains a work in progress. So he does not want his presence to be seen as an endorsement of progress.
“Since I gave my word, I will be there, but as for my level of participation, I will have to assess the situation,” Green told The American. “I will not be utilized as an instrument knowingly, as if my presence is saying there has been an enormous amount of progress.”
In March, The American reported that minority-owned and women-owned businesses received more than half of the contract dollars for the $33 million Central Riverfront Project of the CityArchRiver renovation at the Gateway Arch, according to Kwame Building Group, the construction management firm monitoring and reporting Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation.
The project was split into 10 smaller project packages to encourage local and DBE companies to bid. CityArchRiver promoted contracting opportunities in The American and organized mixers for minority, women and local contractors in advance of bid due dates. The $380 million CityArchRiver 2015 renovation – which will link downtown St. Louis, the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River riverfront into one destination by connecting and expanding the park’s grounds and museums – attracted national contractor interest.
As for boots on the Arch grounds, workforce diversity goals for the project follow the Department of Labor Federal Workforce Goals for the City of St. Louis, which are 14.7 percent minority workers and 6.9 percent female workers per craft.
Let’s say Percy Green does not like the numbers for the new project or the ambiance when he gets to the celebration events. That itself would be truer to St. Louis and its history than if the activist most famously associated with the Arch were excluded.
“Green and Daly climbed an unfinished leg of the Arch to protest the lack of jobs for black workers. Being that the Arch was a publicly funded project (the majority of the funds came from the feds), the ACTION organization raised the racist hiring practices in a most daring way. The dramatic feat made big headlines across the country and forced the construction management to hire African Americans,” Rogers wrote.
The exclusion of the fight for minority inclusion from official histories of the Arch is not unusual, she discovered.
Green spoke critically at a June 2012 public forum on minority inclusion held at Harris-Stowe State university. The front man of that initiative was Michael Kennedy Jr., president of KAI Design & Build and chairman of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis’ Diversity Committee. The issue of capacity was raised at the forum – which conventionally leads to contractors complaining that St. Louis lacks the minority business capacity for them to meet equitable minority inclusion goals in contracting. (This was why CityArchRiver divided its huge project into many smaller bid packages, enabling more small businesses to bid on contracts that they could fulfill.)
“When you are dealing with contractors who don’t want to do business with black contractors, how do you know they are not downgrading the numbers when they judge the capacity of black contractors?” Green said. “I want to see the raw data so I can judge for myself beyond a reasonable doubt. You also need to go through it and remove front companies. How many ‘minority’ contractors are being counted as fronts and how many are legit?”
The St. Louis American ©October 2015
Source: Kwame Building Group – Articles