Pride, Inc. was born in the simmering summer of 1967, a year after Stokely Carmichael ushered in a profound a shift in the conversation about racial equality by proclaiming, “We want Black Power!” The leaders of the District’s program designed to alleviate the effects of poverty and racism in the lives of young men from the ghetto through economic opportunity shared the ideals of the Black Power movement, believing that Black empowerment and not integration should be the goal of all activism. Noticeably absent from the language of the Pride, Inc. papers, however, is the type of militant rhetoric normally associated with late 1960s Black Power. The supervisors and directors overseeing the various departments of Pride revealed deep commitment to the “dudes” they served and to finding solutions for difficult problems without the anger or radicalism one might expect from the era.
The lack of radicalism in the Pride leaders is evident especially when they take the time to articulate their ideology. Within the files of Daniel Russell, Director of Field Training for Pride, Inc., I discovered several memoranda with the subject “My Personal Operating Philosophy” dated in June and July of 1969. It appears that the exercise was required of each person holding a management position. Russell affirmed that “”In my day-to-day activities in and outside of PRIDE, I am guided by the policy that an individual is an individual and should not be viewed under any circumstances collectively with other individuals who may be of the same background, personality, character, and life styles and that each individual must be treated on an equal level.” He specified that this equality of treatment applies not only based on race and class but “male to female, female to male” as well, a progressive view in the period before the women’s liberation movement. Other managers working for Russell expressed similar sentiments. Administrator George Cottman considered it his responsibility to “instill, in the lives of as many dudes as possible, a sense of hope for themselves and for our race.” To contribute more fully to the Pride mission and the uplift of the community, everyone should be willing “to spend more time on his job than he would usually spend on another job.” One of Cottman’s officers emphasized full participation in and commitment to Pride’s programs “to erase the flaws of self hate, self pity and ignorance which is shared by the masses of Black People.” Another officer believed that “I should at all times set the example in order that those men whom have a directive in life may be able to learn from only the good example so that their lives will become more meaningful.” None of the Field Service managers mentioned racism or white oppression. All saw the path to personal improvement through hard work and dedication.
Pride, Inc. received its funding through Department of Labor and other federal grants; sensitivity to the political atmosphere would be important in public statements to stay in the good graces of the current administration. It would not be surprising to encounter the language of self-sufficiency in applications filed with a conservative administration. Yet these statements were written during the Johnson administration, which was open to the concept of federal responsibility to counter the damages of racial discrimination. Moreover, the memos were not public documents; the purpose of their composition appears only to clarify the vision of those in positions of management. When communicating internally, Pride employees never mention concepts like white oppression or conspiracy against them, although such conditions certainly existed. Instead, the Pride philosophy emphasized taking responsibility for what each individual could control and treating others equally. To the managers at Pride, that was the way to truly embrace Black Power.