Been There…Done That…

Lafe Tolliver

By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
Guest Column

I recently returned to Toledo from a trip outside of the country and had a chance to catch up on some local news. What caught my attention was the meeting at the Mott Library involving the design group, The Collaborative, and residents of the Dorr-Detroit corridor regarding visionary planning and development of certain city owned property sites.

I read with some interest (on a scale of one to 10…it was a three) about how an initial federal grant of $25,000 could be utilized as “seed money” to generate community interest in residential and economic development in that corridor.

I read the articles about “community involvement” (or lack thereof) in planning this event so that the presentation would reflect the desires and needs of that neglected community.

In my mind, I tracked down the stored memory brain cells that said to me, “Been there, done that!” That is when I realized that this tired and repeated discussion of developing the Dorr-Detroit corridor was on its recycled track of telling Black folks to keep hope alive.

The presented visionary planning was commendable but woefully short on community involvement from the start; and of course, it seemingly lacked any firm calendar of future events to flesh out the presented proposals.

My take on this engineered hoopla? Simple: Take two long yawns and call me in the morning.

If you would take a time machine and go back, way back to the 60s and 70s, this erratic concern for the development of Dorr and Detroit is a regurgitated fairy tale of mystery and drama that has no curtain call. It is ongoing and without any star power or theme music to keep the audience enthralled.

And who, mind you, is the audience? Black folks living in Toledo who wish and pine for the good ‘ol days of Dorr and Detroit being a hub of Black life, entertainment, shopping and socialization.

This concept of the city doing serious economic development in the “corridor” is old, dried, cooked oatmeal left on the stove for the past 40 years. Who’s going to eat it?

Back in the day, my family (my father was an Air Force officer, and we were living on Delores Avenue before being transferred to Japan): and we would do business in that corridor and it seemed to be thriving (this was in the early 60s) but when I returned years later to attend the law school at UT, the place was on life support (and that is being kind).

Plans come and go for Black economic development in Toledo. We either bring in or appoint local politicos or city officials to be the “guardians” of ambitious plans to develop the corridor but nothing of any major impact materializes.

Now, here comes the juicy parts of this article. Who should suffer for or who is to blame for this chronic game of “hide and seek” economic development?

Who are the ones that are the most adversely affected by this lack of sustained vision to uplift this corridor out of the economic dump that it is in?

Who are the ones when pushed and shoved, wake up and “short loud but shout short?” about what is missing in their communities?

Yes, you guessed the right answer! It is Black folks! We are our own worst enemy when it comes to fending for and feeding ourselves.

When the pablum of soft economic development monies is doled out and we get a mere pittance, it is enough to satisfy the initial hunger pains but not enough protein to sustain long term development.

So, what do we collectively do? We mumble and grumble and ascribe our deplorable economic plight to, “The White man!”

And the whole time we spend our discretionary dollars on trinkets and beads and empty economic calories that provide no long-term nourishment. This has been our skeletal diet for decades in Toledo and we are apparently accustomed to it, and we do not demand or, better yet, work for a healthier sustenance.

And what do you say is one of our major impediments in reaching a healthy collective economic environment for the corridor?

It is as simple as the collard greens on your plate. It is a failed collective economics that should have been started in our communities with the many local banks located in our areas.

Those local banks? The myriad of Black churches, which, each week, collect thousands of dollars from their members. Yet do you see your collective tithes and offerings being visibly employed for economic development?

Of course not. Why is that? Simple: We have allowed our local banks (aka: Black churches)

to not be held accountable for our economic and group advancement. The members of those churches do not have a written agenda or policy statement indicating that they will, religiously (excuse the pun) donate a fixed and certain percentage of their weekly income to a common fund for that explicit purpose of economic renaissance in Toledo.

The problem is that the Black churches in Toledo are visionless regarding such action and much less willing to share their funds with other Black churches for the betterment of their members.

I have written before that if such a vision caught on in the 60s and 70s and to present date, such a fund would have tens of millions of dollars by which they could come to any city planning table and DEMAND quality development.

It has not happened because too many pastors and trustees and officers of such churches are either ignorant (lack of knowledge) or simply are distrustful to share their dollars with others, yet they make weekly demands on their members to give money to the church!

Let that sink in for a moment! Hypocrisy anyone?

So, the next time you have a general church meeting, ask your pastor or the trustees about implementing a written policy statement that they will donate t10 percent of the weekly giving to an entity (to be set up and run by professional investors) that will show that your church is also cognizant of the need for their members to have a quality of living that precludes them running to the suburbs for an economic fix.

In the meantime, give me a break about community meetings regarding resurrecting the corridor. That old gray mare, it ain’t what it used to be.


Contact Lafe Tolliver at