Heritage Council Accolades for Warren Bussey
By Dianne Anderson
Some seniors like Warren Bussey, while not to be confused with Warren Buffet, have made a great living well into the golden age, comfortable in his retirement pension, having spent decades as a successful local businessman.
The Orange County Heritage Council recently helped draw recognition and a proclamation for Mr. Bussey, a World War II veteran, and at 108 years old, is the oldest African American man in the county.
Dwayne Shipp said it was exciting to show appreciation for Mr. Bussey for his longevity, but mostly for the opportunities he has brought to the Black community.
“He said his secret is seeking God first and treating people good,” said Shipp, president of the Orange County Heritage Council. “He served the country, and hundreds of people with his shoeshine and maintenance businesses. He gave jobs, and he’s helped a lot of people, so it was definitely an honor.”
But Shipp admits, most older African Americans are not in a good place. Decades of racism in banking, or discrimination and other hindrances toward real estate wealth, and access to good jobs have widened the chasm of wealth.
Shipp, who grew up in Santa Ana, said one way toward economic equity is land ownership. He commended his father for keeping a good pension job while raising ten children, and keeping their home in the family. Shipp returned to the house he grew up in to help care for his aging parents a few years ago, and said that he continues to curate the property by growing food.
“People like Mr. Bussey that own his land, people like my father and his brother worked at General Motors, both retired. They owned their own properties free and clear as well as other properties. Some of the older generations are well off, but some are not as well off,” he said.
The GI Bill was one great benefit for building generational wealth for white military men, but over a million WWII Black veterans couldn’t access benefits because of Jim Crow language baked into the bill. They were unable to get help buying their first homes.
Shipp’s dad bought their house back in the mid-1960s for about $17,500. Today that same house is worth $700,000.
He feels that a huge part of the problem is that generational wealth today is so rare in the Black community, not counting the enormous loss of homeownership during the 2008 Recession.
He has made deliberate moves to keep the real estate in the family for the family.
“That way we can maintain that generational wealth. That home will always be a Shipp home and always in the family,” he said. “You can make new cars and new clothes, but you can’t make new land.”
As an organization, he said that OC Heritage Council has also been addressing the local need by giving out lots of food, at one point helping distribute thousands of boxes a month. This year, they also were able to give out toys at Santa Ana New Covenant Church for children.
Darlene Futrel, president of the recently formed Orange County National Action Network, is also thinking about help for seniors in the year ahead. They are organizing to support more “Elder Orphans,” aging seniors without family members to look after them.
For Christmas, they created baskets filled with blankets, coffee mugs, cookies, gloves, socks, peppermint and crossword puzzles to distribute at one local senior home.
She said their “Senior Lives Matter Too” initiative is concerned about getting resources to African American seniors, who are particularly impacted by elder poverty.
One recent AARP report shows that one in five elderly do not have the family support they need. In the Black community, she feels that figure could be much higher.
Futrel said she became interested in elder care when her father became ill. Late one night, she saw how no one was answering their rings for service. She feels that volunteers could stand in the gap just by visiting so facilities would know that someone cares.
“When most of the elderly go to the hospital there’s no one there to advocate, or at least let the staff know there’s someone you have to give account to,” she said. “I know because I was there with my dad. It’s not abuse, it’s just neglect.”
At last count in 2019, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition looked at sharp disparities in accumulation of wealth for whites over their lifetimes than the Black or Brown community.
“More specifically, 83% of African American senior households and 90% of Latino households are expected to have insufficient household resources to live out their remaining years, compared to 53% of Whites. Asset-poverty among seniors of color causes significant financial strain on their families who are often liquid asset-poor and financially insecure. In fact, as of 2011, African Americans had a median liquid wealth of only $200, compared to $23,000 held by Whites and $19,500 held by Asians.” the report said.
To see the report, https://ncrc.org/poor-old-people-the-graying-of-racial-and-gender-wealth-inequality/