The Sound of Silence: Rise of the Wealth-Fare Queen

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

-Paul Simon

Recent political eruptions have everyone asking, what’s going on in local government? No better demonstrated than by the controversy surrounding Democratic Party operative Bruce Conner’s letter reportedly sent to the Post-Standard on behalf of five Syracuse area ministers. The letter was about their opposition to tax breaks given to COR Development; the city of Syracuse had filed a lawsuit against the Onondaga County development agencies decision.

Some are now claiming this is much ado about nothing. But it’s not about “nothing”. This is about who are crowned as leaders in the Black community by our political representatives. Which ministers are invited to “special meetings” resulting in secretive agreements?

Now some ministers identified in the letter are doing the Moon Walk after realizing District Attorney, Bill Fitzpatrick’s doubling down and putting unprecedented resources into this case.

COR Development Syracuse Inner Harbor

COR Development Syracuse Inner Harbor

After gains in education and employment we are relying on a style of leadership where the minister is seen as the “arbiter”, the leader and the authority.

This is written with all due respect to the dozens of ministers who serve our community. Every minister is not hibernating.

Well-over a quarter century since Dr. King’s death the political dynamic hasn’t changed in Syracuse. In 1968 we weren’t able to speak for ourselves due to different forms of racism. Now, we have African-American elected officials, more than ever before. And yet, the sound of silence is deafening.

It takes a trumped up letter written by five ministers to gain attention on behalf of the Black Community? Where are the voices we elected to actually speak on our behalf? Where are the Black elected and pastoral voices speaking out of concern for the high poverty level within the Black Community? As mega-hit artist Adele would say, “Hello”?

Destiny Hotel Rev4

Destiny Hotel

We also have diversity of skills, well-educated and self-made, African-Americans who are successful in their jobs and/or entrepreneurial endeavors. With these foundations in place, why can’t political leaders communicate with the Black community? When did we surrender our right to determine the destiny of our neighborhoods and overall community?

What is this propensity of the white elected leaders to go running to a group of ministers in an effort to show an appearance of support from the Black community?

Why we don’t see other religious leaders courted publically. Why don’t we see these politicians in Synagogues or Mosque’s?

We don’t see a group of African-American elected officials saying a word about our city/county economic development policies. We don’t hear a clarion call for action by those who we’ve entrusted with running our city.

These development deals aren’t new; the same elected officials whining were there when these development deals were made. But the public knowledge of Syracuse’s searing poverty is waking people up.

Destiny USA today 2016

Destiny USA today 2016

Remember the so-called Welfare Queens form the 1980’s? Laying back getting benefits, until we instituted Welfare Reform. Fast forward to our plight today, we’ve provided cash-flush developers, Wealth-Fare for decades, as the city has become poorer. Tax Breaks…Ten years here, 15 years there, 30 years for Destiny USA after a while that’s a lot of breaks.

Once elected, even our African-American leaders appear to have linguini spines and are toothless when dealing with city & county governments, and what’s needed to lift us from the pit of socio-economic despair.

These Pastor’s represent congregations that are predominantly African-American, at the latest count there were over 90 churches. Several host large congregations. However, most churches have small dedicated members who keep these religious institutions alive.


The African-American church was used for political purposes.

Even if the five ministers in question signed the letter send to the Post-Standard, five of 95 do not form a consensus of our vast urban religious community.

It’s as if we’re politically neutered; there are a few, “Deputy for the Coloreds” around to make us feel as if we’re a significant part of this community. But some of the contracted, “Deputies” could give a damn about the communities from which they were selected. Some even get lucrative city contracts and don’t hire or mentor a soul from the Black community.

In a city that’s grown increasingly Black and brown our young people aren’t being selected and elevated politically. Hordes of young white men and women have been bought into city and county government.

It’s as if we don’t exist until its election time. And then here they come running, all of the Deputies for the Coloreds, “you have to vote for my boss, (insert name here) has done so much for you”.