The Rise of African American Community Centers; A Brief History of 1490 Enterprises, Inc., Buffalo, New York

Article excerpt

Community centers have been bringing public services to African American communities for decades. Many of those centers were formed as a result of the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, and the War on Poverty that took place in the late 1960's and early 1970's. African Americans faced many social problems during this time period, which demonstrated the significance of organizing the black community on the neighborhood level. (1) During that period more African American neighborhood centers began to spring up across the nation to serve inner-city residents. Inner-city residents preferred neighborhood community centers because they found it difficult to obtain public services from agencies founded and administered by whites. (2) The resulting African American community centers provided many efficient social and psychological services to their participants, provided self-help and mutual aid, increased the effectiveness of the service delivery system, and helped to achieve institutional change. (3)

In Buffalo, New York, one such center, formed in the late 1960s by visionary Herbert L. Bellamy, a local businessman, community activist and elected official, brought many of these public services to Buffalo's inner-city residents. Bellamy's community center, 1490 Enterprises, Inc. provided many valuable and essential services. The successes of centers like 1490 have shown that community centers can be an efficient method to promote economic and social development within in African American communities.

HERBERT L. BELLAMY: FOUNDER OF 1490 ENTERPRISES, INC.

Understanding the roots and history of 1490 Enterprises, Inc. requires some background knowledge about Bellamy, its founder. Bellamy was born to a sharecropper family in 1931. (4) Raised in Burgaw, NC, Bellamy joined the United States Marine Corps after graduating high school. Bellamy served in the United States Marine Corps until 1952, at which time he received an honorable discharge. In 1951 he married Irene Parham. After the Marines, the couple took up residence in Lackawanna, New York. Eventually, the couple moved to the Buffalo area. (5)

In 1954 Bellamy took a position at a local liquor store as a bicycle deliveryman. Eleven years later, Bellamy had saved enough money to buy a liquor store. His liquor store opened in 1965, and gave him the experience and contacts that he would need later on. (6) Bellamy went on to open a dozen business enterprises in Buffalo, some of which are still in operation today. (7) His businesses added jobs to low income areas in Buffalo. They also provided the network that he would later use to advance his endeavors as a city councilman and a founder of community service agencies. Bellamy understood business and politics, something that would be of great benefit to him when he established 1490 Enterprises, Inc., His tact and expertise in business and organization helped to establish the center as a thriving community institution.

Bellamy also served the public in a variety of capacities. He was a successful businessman and a first rate politician as a Buffalo Common Councilman-at-large. (8) During his tenure he helped resolve many social, political, and economic issues that affected Buffalo. Throughout his lifetime, Bellamy received over 150 awards for various lifetime achievements and contributions to the Buffalo community. (9)

1969-1971: 1490 SPREADS ITS WINGS

Bellamy founded the 1490 Community Center in 1969. (10) 1490 Enterprises, Inc. was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization whose intent was to provide low-income residents with human services. The center took on 1490 in its name because that was the street number of the old abandoned, two-story, brick, liquor storage warehouse where the center began. The building was donated to Bellamy by the Schenley Corporation in 1969. (11)

There were numerous organizations providing services at the center between 1969 and 1971. …