7.28.2014

Saying Farewell to Edwin "Eddie" Ellis - A Great Leader - Now an Ancestor/Angel


-->By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
It was with a great deal of shock and sadness that I learned about the passing of my friend Eddie Ellis.  This was a brother that got knocked down by the system, but refused to stay there. You might say that Eddie is a prime example of a Black man who would not be denied, no matter what they did.

 

A member of the Black Panthers, Eddie was falsely arrested for a crime he did not commit, and served 25 years in prison, but still emerged with a will and a determination to help brothers and sisters not suffer the same fate.

Eddie was "deep" - he had a way of observing you without your knowing it, and then, when he was ready, he'd speak to you, let you know what time it is, as well as letting you know whether or not you were on point, or "full of it" without being offensive.

We basically ran in concentric circles, with friends who were involved with Black education, empowerment and develoment.  But, in 2009, that changed drastically, with the inauguration of a new president at Medgar Evers College to replace the former 20-year president, Edison Jackson.

It was during that time that I really go to know Eddie Ellis - so when I say he was "deep", I mean it.  Now, of course, I was on the late show with this revelation.  There had been so many others who were more than well aware of Eddie, and how impactful and important he was to the Black community:  brothers who were formerly incarcerated, and were returning to society to make new lives for themselves owe Eddie Ellis a great deal of gratitude for all that he has done to pave the way for them to get higher college degrees, enter new careers, and become viable, valuable members of society.

It nearly came to a complete halt with the inception of William Pollard as president of Medgar Evers College in 2009.  During the battle to save Medgar Evers and the Center for NU Leadership, I got to know him pretty well, and had the pleasure of serving with him on panels, rallies, and broadcasts centering on the reinstatement of the center, and getting rid of the ersatz president of Medgar Evers.  I am happy to say we were successful on both counts. 

In tribute to Eddie Ellis is a reprint of an article I posted on my blog on March 7, 2011:

Update:CUNY Chancellor/MEC Pres Mock the Memory and Legacy of Medgar Wiley Evers: Attack on Center for NU Leadership and the MEC Black Think Tank By Gloria Dulan-Wilson 03.07.2011

I'm going to start this off with a quote from Dr. Divine Pryor. It’s so heavy I didn’t want to leave it to the end of this article:

“For the past seven years, The Center for NU Leadership on Urban Solutions has successfully created opportunities for people entangled in the law to access higher education as a way to transforming their lives. Our attempt to secure a multi-million dollar grant was only an effort to formalize what we have been doing informally over the past seven years. It’s unfortunate that President William Pollard and his administration could not appreciate the fact that members of the Center for NU Leadership are living, breathing examples of what is possible when an individual decides to transform their lives after making a mistake.

It’s ironic that we can be proud of the fact that New York City has one of the most effective garbage recycling systems in the world, but somehow President Pollard doesn’t believe that a human being can be recycled.
” Dr. Divine Pryor, March 6, 2011

Now for those of you who have been following these issues, or who are embroiled in the task of saving the school, the Medgar Evers College situation continues “to get curioser and curioser” - to paraphrase Alice in Wonderland. Speaking of which, given the specious assertions and allegations on the part of CUNY’s legals, one has to wonder what they’re up to really.

It kind of pivots between “here we go again,” and “oh no! Not that stupid stuff again!” You can decide after I outline the facts.

Fact: Center for NU Leadership was founded by Dr. Divine Pryor and Eddie Ellis some 7 years ago to help those who had run afoul of the law, lead better lives by providing them with a college education, so that they could make a positive contribution to society and their communities.

Fact: Dr. Edison O. Jackson, then President of Medgar Evers College, in wanting to provide services to a broader range of the population in and around Brooklyn and the greater New York Area, invited Dr. Pryor to establish an office for the Center for NU Leadership, so that those previously incarcerated who were looking to change their lives could matriculate at Medgar Evers College. Additionally, they maintained an open door policy, so that applicants and participants could come in from the street and be assisted in obtaining the education needed to provide them with career strategies and goals.

Fact
: Over the past 7 years Center for NU Leadership has successfully assisted over 200 applicants graduate from Medgar Evers and enter into such arenas as legislative offices, corrections, the court systems, district attorney’s offices and non-profit organizations.

Fact: For such a small staff that’s a major track record - particularly since they are still fully employed, and continuing to make positive contributions to the community, setting a positive example for the youth and peers with whom they interact.

Fact: President William Pollard doesn’t get it. His allegation that the program exposed the campus to criminal elements, which, by the way, has not been a problem in the entire seven (7) years they have been affiliated with the campus, is a sad indictment on a person who looks like us, has a similar pigmentation, but it all stops there - scratch that surface, and there is something completely different lurking underneath. Howard Johnson, who serves as provost, is equally culpable, as evidenced by his hostile and aggressive actions against Center for NU Leadership, the Bunche DuBois Center, faculty, staff, and students. But, in addition to his not getting it - is the even sadder (read sicker) fact that he apparently doesn’t care.

Fact:
Chancellor Goldstein apparently really doesn’t care - about Pollard, about Medgar Evers College, about the Black students, about the Brooklyn Community. He is about the “my way or high way” approach. The only thing is that the strings are showing and the puppet and puppet master are both about to be caught up in them.

Fact:
The eviction of Center for NU Leadership on Urban Solutions from Medgar Evers College was heinous and unconscionable. It was based on racism and stereotypes. It was an affront to the men and women who have worked diligently to turn their lives around. And an even greater affront to Dr. Pryor who has dedicated his time, talent, intelligence and energy to developing what the prisons systems could or would not do, a viable program that spoke (speaks) to the needs of those in our community who have been disenfranchised by a system that would rather criminalize them than provide them with the education they deserved.

Fact:
The confiscation of the Center for New Leadership’s computers (which they owned outright), and the confiscation of their hard drive was not only egregious, but criminal on the part of CUNY and Medgar Evers College. It not only violates their rights as an organization, but there are certain intellectual property laws, copyright infringement, as well as other rights to privacy that have been trampled in this newest racist attempt to denigrate this organization.

Fact: The allegation of a criminal investigation being their cause for seizing Center for NU Leadership‘s property, as alleged by the legals of CUNY, has no basis in fact. Not only were there no presentations of warrants, or any of the other protocols that would precede a search and seizure procedure, there has never been any necessity for an investigation of any type until the fabrication on the part of MEC’s new administration.

Fact
: There is so little regard for Black people on the part of the CUNY administration, that they apparently disrespected the Black elected officials who tried to meet with them to ameliorate the problem and bring, what they had hoped would be a positive solution to a problem that has now mushroomed out of proportion. One community leader stated very matter of factly: “White people having no regard for Black people is not new. We’ve lived with that all our lives. But to have a person who is supposed to be Black, participate in the dismantling of an institution that has been built by the efforts of a community dedicated to educating their youth, and providing them with a legacy, goes to very heart of self-hatred; and cannot be tolerated.”

Fact:
State Supreme Court Judge Kramer, who presided over the hearing, Friday, March 4, 2011 in the Supreme Court in Brooklyn, could not believe that the legals of CUNY were refusing to return the hard drive from the Center for NU Leadership’s computers. (Judge Kramer had ordered Medgar Evers to return to NuLeadership computers that the administration had confiscated in
mid-December but that were purchased independently by the center).

Fact:
Subsequent hearing date set for April 8, 2011, during which time the CUNY legals will try to make those allegations hold water. While we put nothing past their trying to justify their actions, and prove their allegations (given the nature of the individuals involved), through manufactured evidence, the fact still remains that there is not now, nor has there ever been any reason to seize the materials, equipment, supplies owned and operated by the Center for NU Leadership.

Fact
: The Medgar Evers faculty issued a vote of no confidence in Pollard, stating he is betraying the mission of a college presumably dedicated to the academic needs of the urban poor and working class.

Fact: On March 8, 2011, the New York City Council is holding hearings on academic excellence and the necessity of cultural programs to round out the educational millieu. The hearings will be held at 250 Broadway, 14th Floor hearing room at 2:00PM. We are holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall at 1:00pm. Would like to have as many people from the community present as possible.

Fact: MEC/CUNY’s stupidity Brooklyn's loss and SUNY’s gain.
SUNY has offered to house the Center for NU Leadership, blowing holes in the allegation that they presented a criminal element on the MEC campus. If there was so much danger, why would SUNY offer them a considerable increase in funding as well as space and support. What Goldstein, Pollard and Johnson have essentially done is deprived the Brooklyn community of an essential program that has provided services for the growing number of ex-offenders who are returning to the community. *(see press release below)
NB: While SUNY will be housing the program on their campus, that should not obviate the demand that a branch of the center be re-established at Medgar Evers with full staff and equipment, immediately, if not sooner. In fact, faculty, staff, programs that were in existence upon Pollard’s arrival, must be completely reinstated and MADE WHOLE, WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Fact:
Under the leadership of President Edison O. Jackson, Medgar Evers College had amassed some of the greatest minds in Black culture, politics, history and leadership, including former New York State Assemblyman Roger Green, Congressman Major Owens, Dr. Zulema Blair, Dr. Brenda M. Greene, Dr. Betty Shabazz (deceased), Ambassador Pursoo. It was a magnate for some of the greatest minds and leaders who frequented the campus affording the students an opportunity to be involved in leading edge issues and endeavors. The underhanded manner in which these and others have been treated has left a stain on the schools reputation as a center for higher learning and a magnate for genius.

Fact:
Under the tyranny of Goldstein, Pollard and Johnson, more damage has been done to revert the campus back to pre-Jackson days when the school was floundering for an identity and direction.

Fact:
If the Brooklyn Community, and the greater New York Community, the elected officials, and the students, parents, and faculty, don’t act immediately and take a stand for Medgar Evers College, the dream and goal of a COMMUNIVERSITY will have been destroyed, right along with so many other important programs and institutions we and our predecessors have fought long and hard to establish in the Black community. THAT MUST NOT HAPPEN.

Fact:
My father used to say, “there’s nothing worse than an educated fool, or the person who knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.” There is also nothing worse than a people or a community who will sit idly by and allow the educational and cultural future (and present) of their children to be trampled on, with out taking a stand.

QUESTION: NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?


Contact and support the MECCoalition@gmail.com

Stay Blessed &
ECLECTICALLY BLACK
Gloria Dulan-Wilson

PS: I could not close this article without quoting someone else that Ive admired for a long time, Dr. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral in California. He always spoke about "Turning your scars into stars." And to me that is precisely what Dr. Divine Pryor and Eddie Ellis have been doing with the Center for NU Leadership on Urban Solutions.

*IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS, I'M APPENDING IT TO THIS BLOG:

Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions Finds New Home at SUNY Old Westbury College

Brooklyn, N.Y. – In a visionary move, SUNY Old Westbury College, under the leadership of its president Dr. Calvin O. Butts, has invited the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions to leave embattled Medgar Evers College (MEC), relocate its operation on the Long Island campus and open a SUNY satellite site in Brooklyn, thus allowing them to continue working there. The leadership of the Center concluded that as long as President William Pollard and Provost Howard Johnson are in charge of MEC, they will never provide a favorable work environment for them. Senior officials at SUNY Old Westbury say that NuLeadership has accepted their offer and submitted a detailed proposal which “is being given serious consideration.”
The invitation by SUNY Old Westbury allows the college to extend its reach into New York City, through Central Brooklyn, and to provide greater opportunities for its students to acquire internships, engage in community oriented research and have an urban office that serves as a direct pipeline for future enrollments. In addition to the invitation from SUNY, NuLeadership has received offers to work with one of the largest labor unions in the city and to further collaborate with a faith based academic institution. Both these offers are being considered as part of an integrated and comprehensive restructuring of their capacity building.
The move to SUNY comes on top of two outstanding Court victories for NuLeadership in its multi-count lawsuit against CUNY which is pending in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The suit challenges CUNY for their illegal attempt to evict the Center, invasion of the Center’s privacy, theft of their computers and confiscation of personal and intellectual property. In a stunning defeat for CUNY and Medgar, the Honorable Justice Herbert Kramer refused to grant their motion to dismiss the case. Instead, he granted the Center for NuLeadership, represented by attorney Ron McGuire, a temporary restraining order against the eviction, declared the seizure of their computers unconstitutional and ordered CUNY to show cause. The case is scheduled for additional hearing on April 8, 2011.
The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is headed by Dr. Divine Pryor, Eddie Ellis, Kyung Ji Rhee and Chino Hardin, who are all plaintiffs in the lawsuit. It is the first and only public policy, research, training, advocacy and academic Center in the country, conceived and operated by formerly incarcerated professionals. It was established ten years ago as an inter-disciplinary forum for scholars, policy makers, legal practitioners, law enforcement, civil society leaders, clergy and those previously incarcerated who are seeking to influence and impact urban contemporary social, economic and criminal justice issues. Its innovative policy and advocacy initiatives cover both adult and juvenile systems from a community level perspective.
According to Dr. Divine Pryor, executive director of the Center, “this move to SUNY is a major achievement. It is a natural evolution that allows us access to the state university system. Since our involvement with the criminal justice/punishment system is both national and statewide, our moving to SUNY Old Westbury greatly and further facilitates the work.”
The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions will continue and expand its public policy development, lead the national debate regarding the need for a “nu-justice paradigm” in the adult and juvenile justice systems, and offer instructional services, counseling and support to the formerly incarcerated community in Brooklyn and throughout the state, with a special focus on those seeking higher education.
Eddie Ellis, co-founder of the Center for Nuleadership noted, “We have worked with SUNY Old Westbury’s President, Dr. Calvin Butts and Vice President Hakim Lucas, for many, many years. Their commitment to justice policy reform, system realignment and support for the social service work of our Center has deep roots and is a perfect fit. We are honored to accept their invitation. The possibilities before us are unlimited.”


NOTE:  Subsequent to this, the Center for Nu Leadership was given space on Gates Avenue, where they continue their wonderful work of making sure brothers and sisters continue to pursue higher education and play a viable role in the community
 
Edwin Eddie Ellis served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, but he never let that get in the way of living a life of purpose.  In prison, Ellis became an advocate for prison education and, following his release, went on to have a distinguished career and helped other formerly incarcerated people find stability and success. 

The former director of Community Relations for the Black Panthers in NYC, he was falsely accused of killing James Howard, whom he had never met, nor was there evidence to prove his guilt (but that's never stopped the NYPD before, has it?)  He was sent to Attica, where he witnessed the riot of 1971.

He was later transferred to Greenhaven Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison, where they actually had an electric chair called “Old Sparky.” Instead of falling with the negative elements at Greenhaven, Eddie lobbied to have college programs made available to inmates.  The warden allowed them to be in separate quarters from the rest of the prisoners so they would not be intimidated or disturbed.  He and several prisoners began studying college level courses (Eddie had dropped out to join the Panthers).  During that time  he earned two associate degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Marist College Greenhaven (magna cum laude) and a master’s degree from New York Theology Seminary (summa cum laude)!!
So, instead of doing time, Eddie Ellis, along with other inmates was using their time wisely, looking for they day they would return to society.  But more than that, Eddie Ellis began putting together advocacy organizations for those former inmates who were likewise looking to return to society, but were having difficulties because of their previous criminal records. He once remarked that Parole Officers were more cynical than helpful, so if you were looking for resources, you either had to make them yourself, or stumble around on your own.

 Eddie co-founded the Community Justice Center and became executive director  The center provided housing, education opportunities funded by the state and federal government and assistance from social services programs.  In 2002, it morphed into  the Nu Leadership Public Policy Group,  and began to focus primarily on justice and prison conditions.  They recruited employees who had post-graduate and PhD degrees to work with them.
Their work did not go unnoticed.  It was Esmeralda Simmons, director of Medgar Evers' Center for Law and Justice who invited them to move onto the campus.   When it became the Center for Nu Leadership on Urban Solutions, Dr. Divine Prior, PhD became it's executive director, leaving Eddie with time to travel, do his radio show, "On The Count," on WBAI.FM, write his seminal book "The Real War on Crime," and participate in panels and forums.  "On The Count" is the only weekly radio talk show produced solely by former incarceratees who have post graduate degrees.  
 In "The Real War on Crime," Eddie states that  there are thousands of formerly incarcerated people who have received higher education degrees, but don't get the respect they deserve because others still define them by their past mistakes. 
 In addition to so many other achievements, Eddie Ellis received the Joseph (Joe) Galiber Award from the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus; The Human Justice Award, presented to him by Harry Belafonte, among others.  He also served as  director of Metropolitan Prison Ministry at the historic Riverside Church in New York.

While Eddie has made his transition, he left guideposts in how to carry on, and keep moving on the way forward.  He is a brother who truly walked his talk. There are many who have him to thank for being able to live viable, positive, successful lives.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

I guess I'll miss his calling me "Queen Gloria," as much as I'll miss that raspy voice of his that never ceases to "nail it" when it came to speaking truth to power.  Eddie Ellis was a king among men and a FBM.  We're all blessed to have known him.

My condolences to his family, CNUL, the Brooklyn Community, New York, and the brothers and sisters he inspired through his caring and leadership.

Stay Blessed &
ECLECTICALLY BLACK
Gloria Dulan-Wilson