“Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud!” When we entered the Siloam Presbyterian Church, whose 161 year-old history includes the congregation taking up a $25 collection for the visiting John Brown on his way to Harper’s Ferry, the beat of James Brown was reverberating from the large meeting room up the stairs and over the Sanctuary. There we were engulfed by the heat of over 250 pulsating souls charged with the electricity of the moment as an exhorter preacher-woman of activism stood in front and reminded the crowd, many with more gray in their hair than not, that the formation of a Black-led Freedom Party was a cause whose time has come. And being there among the standing-room only coming together of people, who like Fannie Lou Hamer, are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” was to know that whether it was Montgomery, Alabama before the bus boycott or Selma before the great march, this is what the ground floor of a movement looks like. This is how it begins. Ain’t No Stoppin’ us Now!”
Viola Plummer told the assembly that the Freedom Party is about power and respect in the political process and organizing to achieve it. That was what brought this gathering behind the standard-bearer of the Freedom Party, former Black Panther and current City Councilman Charles Barron.
The petitioning process begins July 6, and this seasoned group is particularly well-suited to that task. The technology of the signature getting has not changed. It remains hand-to-hand-combat. And this first wave of activists bring their old-school patience and people-skills combined with, in some cases, decades of experience in navigating the infamously treacherous New York City petitioning review process. It will be hard work and long hours. In all likelihood, they will get their signatures and they will be good.
Nest will be the education of the masses and with conditions being what they are, the audience will be receptive to the message that a vote for Andrew Cuomo from the Black community is clearly a vote for Massa and there is no freedom in it. It demonstrates nothing except a willingness to be taken for granted. The Democratic Party has already anointed Cuomo governor, so that’s done as far as they’re concerned. The needs of the African-American community are simply of no interest to them. They are strange but not unusual in that way. Even June 29th’s New York Times Echoed Charles Barron’s complaint with the Democratic Party ticket, reporting on the amazing whiteness of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s administration. “The city’s non-Hispanic white population is now 35%.But Mr. Bloomberg presides over an administration in which more than 70% of the senior jobs are held by whites.” This explains why we see Dennis Walcott, Deputy Mayor for Operations, at so many events representing the mayor. He’s the designated guy.
This political system makes decisions based on a white supremacist legacy, a sort of “Post-Traumatic White Supremacist Syndrome” where the centuries of indoctrination in the belief of white superiority, is difficult to shake.
An example of the difference this thinking makes in real-world actions was the Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity created by Mayor David Dinkins, which was bringing fairness to New York City contracting and was on the way to creating businesses and jobs in the African-American community but the Giuliani administration killed it. Now Governor David Paterson is having agencies unbundle their contracts to include minority and women suppliers, increasing that purchasing by tens of millions of dollars. To see that those kinds of initiatives are continued in the next administration, African-Americans have to demonstrate they have the power to take away massive numbers of votes and break the back of any candidate that does not get with the program.
This business of being disorganized while everywhere we look, other groups come together and march sharply up to the front of the line, has to come to an end.
The consciousness-raising, the fund-raising and the vote getting will need to harness the mass communication ability of the Web-savvy, PDA-equipped generation. All of the eighteen-year-olds who are ready to vote speak to each other by text and keep up with current events through their mobile devices. With their ability to communicate so quickly they are a sudden army, waiting to be roused. Waiting to plead their own cause as young African-American people.
What is needed is a coming together around the recognition of the unique history of African-Americans and a willingness to demand that history be addressed in policy changes. When the Freedom Party garners several hundred thousand votes, then we’ll see something new start to happen.