Displaced from CityPlace

The folks who run the West Palm marketplace chase away black kids

Winners of the talent show receive $375 in gift certificates provided by the Palm Beach Mall, which is located in a predominantly black area of town. CityPlace managers have contributed T-shirts, umbrellas, and hats with its logo. About $1500 in CityPlace donations came from the fountains where shoppers throw coins. Key spent a few hours one day cleaning $900 in corroded pennies in an acid bath.

Key's work earned praise in a Palm Beach Postarticle earlier this month. The headline claimed the program "scores a slam dunk with teens." The piece glossed over the issue of racial bias.

On the same Saturday night that Jacob, Darrin, and their friends were being pushed around CityPlace, Key auditioned teens for a talent show in an office above the gymnasium. "What 'chu going to do, freestyle rap?" Key asked a group of three nervous-looking boys.

One of them was 15-year-old John Reddick, who named his group B-Ware and learned to sing in his church chorus. Reddick's performance began with the phrase: "I'm the real pretty boy..." and ended with the memorable (particularly from a 15-year-old) line, "That girl was just a nooner."

Later on, Reddick admitted that his friends attended midnight basketball only to compete for the gift certificates (which they later won). Usually, they go to CityPlace to hang out. "But it gets old the way they tell you to move on just if your pants are too low," he says. "No offense, but if you're Caucasian, you don't have a problem there."

Christopher Preston, the youngest member of the group at age 13, recalls a little history: "They put [CityPlace] right in our neighborhood; where do they expect us to go? We ought to be able to enjoy it."

In fact, tax dollars paid by their parents helped fund the 77-acre shopping district. Original planners of what would become CityPlace bulldozed hundreds of homes in a predominantly black neighborhood for the development. Five years ago, West Palm Beach guaranteed a $55 million bond issue for the project that will be repaid with tax revenues.

On the night Jacob and his friends were shooed away from the movie theater, West Palm Lt. Mark Anderson had ten officers under his supervision at CityPlace, nearly twice as many as those stationed at midnight basketball. He stopped on a balcony overlooking the main courtyard to explain the no-loitering rules this way: "The only time we ask people to move on is when they congregate in a huge group. It doesn't have anything to do with what color they are." Asked why whites are allowed to hang out in front of the theater, Anderson replied that patrons awaiting tables at nearby restaurants or waiting to buy movie tickets can stay.

Anyone hanging out along a walkway overlooking the CityPlace courtyard, as Jacob and his friends were, is told to move, Anderson said. "We've had kids stand up on these balconies and piss and spit and throw objects. Obviously, we're not going to let that continue."

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