men: Tyrell Pryor (center) and company at Saturdays
event at Dark Angels Park in Troy.
Photo by John Whipple
Place of Our Own
residents take the lead in cleaning up a park and showing
city officials how to care for its neighborhoods
Tyrell Pryor remembers playing in the park off of 10th Street
in Troy when he was younger and it was safe—back when the
grass was mowed and trash was removed on a regular basis,
when the playground equipment wasn’t broken and covered in
As the only park in his neighborhood, North Central Troy—one
of the poorest and most neglected in the Collar City—Pryor
remembers that the park off of 10th Street was the only safe
place for neighborhood kids to play. But it declined in recent
years, Pryor said, devolving into one of the more dangerous
places in his neighborhood: Located down a hill and hidden
behind an embankment off of one of the city’s back streets,
the park became a haven for drug dealers and rowdy youth.
would be people who would hang out in the park after it was
closed and they would be selling drugs and destroying things
just for some kind of satisfaction,” Pryor said.
Pryor, who lives kitty-corner to the park on 9th Street, wanted
his younger brother, Sajae, to have a safe place to play.
don’t want the kids my brother’s age to come out like that,”
Pryor said, “being out late at night with nothing better to
do but destroy things.”
So three years ago, he started organizing regular cleanups
of the park with other neighborhood kids. And they carried
out their work without help from either the city of Troy or
the wayward youth who’d made the park their sanctuary.
Pryor and company would spend a day cleaning up the park,
only for the night crowd to destroy it again. Troy city officials
weren’t offering much help either; as previously reported
in Metroland (Newsfront, July 11, 2002), they had all
but given up on trying to maintain the park.
the past, neighborhood residents have not taken enough interest
in keeping the park clean. . . . It’s like beating a dead
horse,” Ted Keefe, superintendent of Troy’s Department of
Public Works, said last summer.
did go down to City Hall last year, a whole group of us—like
15 kids and a bunch of adults,” Pryor said. “And it was hot
that day. We were all riding bikes and we went down there
for nothing. It seemed like the only way to get the mayor
to do anything then was to get the news down there.”
With the help of local nonprofit Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement
Program, Pryor and other concerned neighborhood residents
contacted local media, staged cleanup events and put the pressure
on City Hall, and it worked. City officials recently offered
verbal commitments to keep up with the maintenance and to
install playground equipment donated to the park after one
of last summer’s publicized cleanups.
we have that kind of support from the community, it is incumbent
upon us to do our part,” said Deputy Mayor Jim Conroy. “It
is just that much more effective to work with a neighborhood
group that has that kind of interest.”
Conroy said the city is about to take ownership of a vacant
parcel of land adjacent to the park due to tax delinquency,
and it will be turned into a safe access to the park from
city felt that people didn’t value the park, and that really
frustrated the city, but that is no longer the case,” said
Hilary Lamishaw, director of community affairs with TRIP.
“The kids are really feeling ownership of the park and for
taking care if it.”
This past Saturday (June 7), TRIP sponsored a baby shower
to celebrate the about-to-be-reborn park, and to thank Pryor
and other neighborhood residents for their midwifery. Despite
Saturday’s downpour, Lamishaw said about 200 people attended
the event. Three DJs from Jamz 96.3 FM broadcast from the
park, and the station also donated pizza and soda.
Neighborhood residents also had a chance to look over plans
for the park’s renovation, which were provided by the city
Saturday. Deputy Mayor Conroy said the neighborhood residents
had a few suggestions, and the plans are back at the drawing
The neighborhood residents also voted Saturday on a new moniker
for the park. They decided to call it the Dark Angels Park,
after Pryor’s R&B group.
was cool. We’re working on a CD right now, because it is kind
of hard because we don’t get that much exposure,” Pryor said.
“But we feel that at least with the park we’ll have our little
place in history. No matter what happens to us, we’ll never
forget where we came from.”
prices, slave wages: Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart wages don’t support
June 6, Wal-Mart’s shareholders converged on Fayetteville,
Ark., for their annual meeting. According to Arkansas Business
Online, “The famously colorful event often takes on the
feeling of a high-school pep rally, as shareholders and company
executives perform the ‘Wal-Mart cheer.’”
And why shouldn’t they cheer? Their company chalked up a record
$56.7 billion worth of sales in the first quarter of 2003.
Wal-Mart is the nation’s biggest employer, the low-price champion,
and a seller of just about everything. A healthy family with
a roof over its head could supply virtually all of its other
basic monthly needs with one stop at a Wal-Mart Supercenter
like the one here in Salina, Kan. To me, that raised a question:
Can a family whose breadwinner works at Wal-Mart afford to
supply its minimum needs by shopping there?
On a recent Sunday, my adult son and daughter joined me for
a visit to the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Salina. We spent an
hour and a half wandering among the hundreds of red, blue
and yellow “Always Low Prices” signs. We checked many of those
prices and then went home to do some calculating.
Our conclusion: A single parent employed full-time at Salina’s
Wal-Mart and raising two children aged 4 and 12 does not earn
enough money to supply the family’s basic needs by shopping
at that same Wal-Mart.
According to the personnel manager at Salina’s Supercenter,
a cashier earns a starting hourly wage of $6.25. After Social
Security and Medicare taxes, the paychecks for a month would
total $1,016 for a full-time 176 hours. (That’s 40 hours a
week, which would put this cashier in a better financial position
than the many employees who work 32 or fewer hours a week.
Of course, hourly pay rises eventually, but the 2001 PBS report
“Store Wars” found that most employees have left by the end
of their first year.)
We calculated the amount that our hypothetical three-member
family would spend each month if as many of its essential
needs as possible were supplied by our local Supercenter.
The bottom line: They would need an absolute minimum of $1,136
per month to cover housing, food, transportation, health care
and miscellaneous expenses. Despite our best efforts, we exceeded
our cashier’s monthly income by $120. We couldn’t have come
even that close had our cashier’s family not been eligible
for a State of Kansas child-care allowance that covers all
but $22 per month in child-care costs for such a family living
on so low a wage.
To determine needs, we used published studies on an “adequate
but austere” budget for a family with one adult, one preschooler
and one school-age child living in Salina. But we slashed
some of the published budget items by as much as 38 percent,
based on the “Always Low Prices” we found at the Supercenter.
And we completely eliminated anything we could do without.
wage” campaigns across the country have attempted to determine
and advocate for a wage level that can provide a decent life
for working families. Living wages are designed to sustain
a family over time. Our goal was much more modest. All we
asked of our Wal-Mart wage was to get our cashier’s family
to the end of the month in a central Kansas city of 50,000,
assuming they were already settled in a rented apartment or
mobile home and had a paid-for car, furniture and appliances.
The Wal-Mart wage failed—even at Wal-Mart prices, even with
the 10-percent employee discount, and even with employer-assisted
Our monthly budget allowed for a USDA-recommended “low-cost
food plan” on which we economized further by selecting the
cheapest foods in each category. It made for an unappealing
and not-especially healthful diet. Gas, oil, and repairs for
the car—which was used for little more than getting the cashier
to work and home—all came from Wal-Mart.
Our cost-cutting left no room for “luxuries”: no travel outside
Salina County, no cable TV, no home telephone service, no
movies, no newspaper or magazine subscriptions, no fees for
community sports or classes, no saving at Wal-Mart’s in-store
bank in case the car had to be replaced, no eating out (except
for one meal a month at the McDonald’s located in the Supercenter).
Most of what’s available at the Supercenter was off-limits
to us: videos, haircuts, Christmas presents, eye care, tanning
sessions, family portraits, bats and balls, small appliances,
furniture, bicycles, film and developing.
There is a fundamental and inevitable conflict between the
interests of corporations, to whom wages are a cost, and most
human beings, to whom wages are a means of survival. Nowhere
in this society is that conflict better illustrated than at
your local Wal-Mart. Most of its employees and most of its
customers depend on their paychecks to pay the bills. But
to keep its shareholders in the money, the company depends
Wal-Mart could not survive in a town with good public transportation,
where families all grow their own vegetables, cut one another’s
hair, sew their own clothes, and borrow and lend tools. Like
all retailers, it has to move vast quantities of merchandise
at an ever-increasing pace. It does it, as the sign in the
store says, by “Daring to Save You Even More.” And to drive
prices to rock-bottom, they have to drive down the wages they
Of course, the wages Wal-Mart pays in Kansas seem princely
when compared with those paid by many of its suppliers around
the world. Try going to your local Supercenter with the monthly
paycheck of a Bangladeshi factory worker who makes shirts
for Wal-Mart. You won’t make it to the end of Aisle 1.
Here in America, the government implicitly recognizes the
insufficiency of Wal-Mart wages. Our cashier’s family would
be eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) of $4,140
in 2002. That would close the gap between the cashier’s wage
and bare survival, and provide enough additional income to
lift the family just above the poverty line.
EITC, food stamps, Medicaid and state programs like Kansas’
child-care allowance are needed because corporations like
Wal-Mart refuse to pay their employees a sufficient wage for
the work they do. Wal-Mart would not be able to “roll back”
prices the way it does, or pile up its gargantuan profits,
without this government subsidy.
In February, Fortune magazine emphasized the unchallenged
dominance of the world’s largest corporation: “Wal-Mart in
2003 is, in short, a lot like America in 2003: a sole superpower
with a down-home twang.”
Well, if Wal-Mart represents both the future of employment
and the future of marketing in America, a lot more down-home
folks are going to be tumbling into that gap between Always
Low Prices and Always Low Wages.
Cox is a plant breeder/geneticist and writer living in Salina,