O.K., I said it, I no longer care about the race of a candidate. As someone who’s participated for over 25 years as an activist and writer, I consider myself a “recovering politician “. Participating at all levels I was involved in democratic politics in the Valley at the time when blacks weren’t accepted politically south of the Matson-Dixie Line as Matson Ave. was the cut off for the Election District. I remember 90 year old democrats controlling 385 weighted votes while I as a young man had only 98. Our responsibility was to get out the vote in “The Valley” that’s where I was told, “blacks can’t run here”.
I’ve run for office several times, my first attempt was to run as a Liberal against Joan Christensen, next a republican challenge to the genetic strangle hold democrats have over the 4th Council District. I received a short-term appointment by County Executive, Nick Pirro to fill a vacancy on the Onondaga County legislature, followed by a Write-In campaign for the former 23rd Legislative District, what a ride.
In Syracuse/Onondaga County 2014 there are more African-American elected officials than ever and yet I have no feeling of pride, as I’ve felt with President Obama.
That feeling of empowerment is absent as we’ve reached total domination of the Syracuse Common Council. Sam Roberts is now an Assemblyman and for a minute it appeared that a call to those officials would result in greater access to the political system, a harbor for those who are electorally homeless.
But as I scan the horizon of our great city, I have to question as an African-American activist what has this done for us, the African-American Community?
Activists who were once demanding inclusion have become the problem. How are you going to advocate for others when you have a separate agenda for yourselves?
There are competing factors between true citizen advocacy verses interest of not-for-profits that want “stuff” from Mayor Miner or Onondaga County Executive, Joanie Mahoney. You want a grocery store? But you can’t give homeowners their land, Jubilee Homes? Why should you get a coin when people invested in a home and they don’t even own the land that it sits on!
How can you advocate for Mother’s Against Gun Violence when you scowl at me after an entire block of citizens met with you to complain, Common Councilor Helen Hudson? Sewer Flushing for our block is not allowed but it doesn’t prevent Onondaga County from extracting sewer fees. For several years raw sewage was being drained from a home into the ground table until their driveway bulged due to a growing ball of human waste. Meetings were held they went nowhere. In fact, Ms. Hudson complained about her sewer replacement and even told us the cost. Excuse me we pay you to represent us. Get it.
I could name each name and the incident that codifies my findings but that would take too much time.
How can you empower a struggling black community when you don’t respond to complaints? When New York State Assembly paid appointed staff promise jobs to desperate African-Americans in search of employment only to show up to the office and find that there were no jobs. A former Senator Clinton aid soon quit and left Syracuse. The same office handled complaints from a Minority Business Enterprise that went missing, went nowhere, no follow-up phone call or letter.
These actions or lack thereof didn’t involve one single white person.