Charles Barron’s Challenge: Time For People of Color to Take Power in City Council

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We’ve learned the reasons for the competition for the City Council Speaker’s chair, currently held by Christine Quinn, from our November 19th interview (see sidebar) but they say in politics, the first thing you have to learn is how to count. We asked Councilman Barron how many votes he needs and how many does he have. “We need 27 votes and If the masses voted I’d win hands down. Unfortunately, it’s the City Council that votes and right now they all seem to be sticking with Christine Quinn.”

Councilman Barron remains undeterred by the lack of Council member support and is forging ahead. “The movement is spreading across the city. Reverend Sharpton has called a meeting of clergy and Council members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus for Saturday, and we’re going to have another meeting on Saturday the 19th at 2:00pm at the House of the Lord Church, 415 Atlantic Avenue, to report the progress and the building momentum.”

Barron says his campaign has already borne fruit having caused Speaker Quinn to defy the mayor for the first time and an Armory development project in the Bronx. “For the first time in Council history, the mayor’s choice was voted down.” And there is another milestone that was marked because of his campaign. “First time in the history of the City Council, something I’ve been talking about, a Black will become chair of one of the two powerful committees of the City Council, Land Use and Finance. We’ve never had a chair of that. Leroy Comrie from Queens may get that post. I credit that to our movement.”

Barron says he is running because no one else has stepped forward to challenge Quinn, which he finds inexplicable and would cause Adam Clayton Powell to “spin in his grave.”

“Adam Clayton Powell was the first Black elected as a City Council member in 1941, and in 1944 he went to Congress. In 1943, Glenn Davis, a Black Communist from Harlem, was elected to the City Council. If they can do that when they were the only ones there, what can we do now that there are 27 of us? Adam Powell said to use what’s in your hand. All we have to do is vote for one of us and we break the racist white monopoly on the Council Speaker’s race.”

To Barron, the inability to take this step and take leadership of the most powerful position in the City Council in the most powerful city in the world, may have to do with the effects of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome that Joy DeGruy Leary has written about. “As Harriet Tubman said, ‘I could have freed more if they only knew they were slaves.’ And Carter G. Woodson said, ‘If there’s no back door, we’ll make one.’”

Offering an example of a way to proceed, Barron says, “We can lock ourselves in a room over the weekend and come up with someone and say this is who it’s going to be. It could be Al Vann, Robert Jackson, Tish James, I don’t care who it is. But one of us has to say this is our agenda and this is our strategy and let’s make it happen. We have to do this for the people of the city. We have to stop the mayor from balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.”

Barron says “It’s not over until the fat lady sings, and I haven’t heard her yet.” His feeling is that until the vote actually happens, there is still the opportunity for leaders on the Council to vote “for themselves and their people and not continue the discrimination in allocation of monies to our communities and the land-grab by the rich.”

He calls on voters to contact their Council representative and ask “If not Charles, who, and if not now, when”?

David Mark Greaves

 

 

 

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