P.I. Properties Inc. the focus of these articles, is one of several offshoots of Youth Pride Inc., the federally funded, nonprofit, black self-help group founded during the tense summer of 1967 by Marion Barry, Mary Treadwell and other civil rights activists.
Their dream, as they expressed it then, was to provide job training for hard-to-employ blacks, particularly teen-agers and ex-convicts, and to instill in them a sense of pride.
In its formative years, Youth Pride, which became known commonly as Pride Ind., attracted a cadre of talented, hard-working, black college graduates who accepted modest wages. Eventually, most of them left for better-paying jobs in government and private industry.
Treadwell and Barry stayed, often squabbling over control of the operation, even after they were married in 1972. Treadwell eventually emerged as the leader after Barry, using Youth Pride as a springboard, was elected to the D.C. school board in 1971 and to the City Council in 1974, and began spending less and less time at the organization.
In addition to P.I. Properties, which was ostensibly a nonprofit corporation, Youth Pride gave birth to a number of profit-making companies:
Youth Pride Economic Enterprises Inc., formed in 1968, principally by Barry, to establish businesses that would provide jobs for trainees emerging from Youth Pride. Some of the businesses this group started included gasoline service stations, landscaping and gardening, painting and maintenance, candy manufacturing and art reproductions. The entire operation is now defunct.
Pride Environmental Services Inc., formed in 1972 to provide the District of Columbia with 10,000 curbside trash receptacles to be placed throughout the city. The reality is that only 3,000 of the blue, rectangular containers have been put in place, mainly in the downtown business district, PES has defaulted on about $500,000 in loans.
T. Barry and Associates Inc., set up as an adjunct to the trash receptacle operation, in order to sell advertising space to businesses that didn't like the idea of dealing with a "Pride" group. Sales, according to Treadwell, are down to virtually nothing.
Sticks and Stones Inc., formed by Treadwell, her sister, Joan M. Booth, and former P.I. Properties Inc. general manager Robert E. Lee Jr., to buy, rehabilitate and sell inner-city houses for profit. It bought four buildings, partially rehabilitated one, and then either sold or lost them through foreclosure. It is now defunct.
All these ventures have been headed by Treadwell and have been loosely associated with a group known as "Pride," giving the sometimes erroneous impression that they are all involed in providing training to disadvantaged youth.
Treadwell never sought to disabuse the public of the erroneous impression that there existed a unified organization known as Pride, when it suited her purposes. In other cases, as with T. Barry, for example, she tried to create the impression that there was no link at all to a Pride network.
Whatever positive image Pride enjoys today is a holdover from its earliest years and the birthright it received from President Lyndon B. Johnson's vision of "The Great Society."
Johnson's secretary of labor, W. Willard Wirtz, reflected in an interview recently on his key role in launching Youth Pride with a modest $90,000 grant. "I took more satisfaction in Pride in those days than just about anything else I did," he said.
In those days, Youth Pride limited itself to dressing hundreds of "hardcore street dudes" in green coveralls and putting them to work cleaning alleys and killing rats. Positive reactions reverberated swiftly through the city's low-income black neighborhoods.
Today, the rat patrols are gone. Instread, Youth Pride is training a few dozen young men and women in graphic arts and computer operations. By Treadwell's count, the organization has provided training to 16,000 youths and has received more than $21 million in federal funds since it was founded.
Some Youth Pride trainees have received college scholarships, gone on to well paid positions or otherwise succeeded in what Treadwell calls "the world of work."
However, federal officials have always had trouble accounting for money granted to Pride organizations. Audit after audit of the ventures, from 1968 through HUD's most recent attempt in 1977, have ended up reporting what HUDfound: "The books and records were incomplete, inaccurate and in some instances could not be located."