National Action Network Syracuse Chapter President Twiggy Billue addresses the group. NAN’s March meeting caps a period where there’s great interest from the Black Community in Syracuse as we’ve been inundated with new plans and visions for our city.
A standing room crowd gathered at the Fountain of Life Church at 700 South Ave. The reason, to show support for Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner who came under intense criticism for comments made about the SPD. What initially appeared to be a kerfuffle about St. Patrick Day unearthed a treasure-trove of grievances, directed at the Syracuse Chief of Police.
Reportedly, it’s his style, a perceived “lack of respect”, interactions on an elevator, or simply asking a female officer if she’d participated in a possible career advancement exam. The most incendiary comment reportedly made by the chief is that the SPD is “rotten to its core” a bold statement.
In published reports after a Common Council Public Safety Committee Meeting Buckner said, “I stand by my complete statement that I said the analogy was a barrel of apples, and the vast majority of the police department, the 95 percenters go about doing their job every day and do an outstanding job, but there is always people in every profession, law enforcement included, that have either misstepped, mistaked or shouldn’t be in our profession. My job is to make sure that I either modify their behavior or get them out of our department and I stand by that.”
The PBA Union represented by Mr. Jeff Piedmont made statements expressing their displeasure with this new hire by Mayor Ben Walsh. Buckner, who has said at multiple events that he plans to make some changes to the Syracuse Police Department was unbowed by the comments. As he’s attended community meetings where he’s indicated a soft rollout of a program that will begin in April; setting up sectors that are responsible for specific geographic areas of the city. Buckner is also tasked with plugging the budget hole that has expended over 8 million dollars in Police overtime in a cash strapped city.
The meeting began with a requisite prayer from Pastor Stephens and acknowledgments of different elected officials and various leaders of organizations in attendance. National Action Network President Twiggy Billue set the tone by delivering a powerful opening message, a message that captured the essence of the meeting and the call to action by the Syracuse chapter of the National Action network.
“This morning; I am unapologetic, I am unapologetic, in my support for our Police Chief, our Deputy Mayor, and this Administration. I am unapologetic, for the support for the meeting that we’ve called. We sometimes don’t understand, that when there comes change, tension comes with change, it doesn’t mean that good work isn’t being done, it means that some folks have to get used to not doing the same thing, it means not doing the same thing over and over again which means that you’re crazy and expect a different result. “
Billue continues, “We have to wrap our arms in appreciation for the bold steps that this administration has been willing to take to secure our community and our neighborhoods. We have to stand firm the support of our council, of our Mayor, or Deputy Mayor and our Police Chief. I’m saying this to you because there was a time when we didn’t have each other’s back. At times through the haze of it all, we find it difficult to stand up and have each other’s back. Those days are over, starting today. We have to say to the leadership that we’ve elected, that we support you, the same way that they support us. We have to let them know that the tiny steps that have been taken, is to clear a way for bigger work. “
Unknown to most of those gathered, was the presence in the back of the room, of SPD Union President Jeff Piedmont, who’d quietly entered and stood at the back of the room, listening to the various speakers including NAN Chapter founder Walt Dixie who described a strategy that includes; more discussion than conclusion, more focus than fracture, and the realization that the entire community is in this boat together.
As this was also a monthly NAN meeting housekeeping and various community issues were discussed including Common Council President Helen Hudson alerting those gathered that the 2020 US Census is coming and that “we cannot be afraid of the survey”, as she asked people to learn more about the census and participate.
The meeting was focused, well organized and gave people critical updates as to what the organization is doing, NAN includes a time for those in attendance to voice what they’re doing in the Syracuse community.
Meetings, Meetings and Rumors of Meetings…
This is not the first; in fact this is just the beginning of what we’re going to see this spring in Syracuse. It began with the State of Black Affairs in Syracuse on March 14th as a standing room crowd at Dunbar Center gathered to hear panelists interact with attendees about issues that are impacting the African American community, this meeting was different since it was billed as a meeting, “for Black people about Black people”.
The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance is holding a press conference on Monday March 25th to announce their set of initiatives which will begin with a meeting scheduled for Saturday, May 18, 2019 from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM at the Well of Hope Church, 1640 South Avenue. The event is meant to be purely informational, so people will know from elected leaders, agencies and various stakeholders, in an effort to educate the public, as they ask an important question, “what do you do?”
With a seemingly explosive plethora of plans and visionary enticements being presented at breakneck speed, this is an exciting time of growth and opportunity for Syracuse not seen since the 1960’s when Urban Renewal and Interstate 81 bulldozed through the city. There are cries drowned out by the excitement that comes with new ideas and fancy diagrams and plans, these are the cries of those who were there the first time around, when promises were made and not kept. The bleating cries of people not wanting to see history repeat itself, 60 years later.