by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Most African Americans and people of African and Caribbean heritage know that if it’s February, it’s Black History Month.
We have finally stopped comedians from making tired old jokes about February being the shortest month, and that was why it was given to us to celebrate Black history. Most of us who know our history know that Dr. Carter G. Woodson started the formal celebration of our history in February because both Frederick Douglass (a/k/a the great orator/liberator) and Abraham Lincoln (a/k/a the Great Emancipator) were born in February. He used it to anchor them in our memories.
But what many may not know that in New York, if it’s February, it’s also time for our annual Black and Puerto Caucus. It takes place in the State Capital of Albany, NY, and draws together Black, Puerto Rican, Latino and Asian elected officials from throughout the state, to plan, develop and activate programs and set the agenda for the year.
The event takes place over the long holiday weekend designated as Presidents’ day, which is a national holiday that initially celebrated the birth days of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22 - also my mom’s birthday), which were consolidated into one day when we won the right to have Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday celebrated as a national holiday in the 80’s.
Converging on Albany are elected officials, political activists, business owners, community based organizations, and people concerned with and involved in their communities. In addition to the opportunity to have some unlimited face time with our Black and Puerto Rican State Assembly members and State Senators, we have an opportunity to chime in on issues that concern us; participate in a plethora of workshops, including Education, Housing, Health, Employment, Immigration, the Budget, among others.
This year, being the beginning of a new decade, there are some even more significant issues before us, as we try to climb out of what has been one of the biggest economic downturns in our history, and an onslaught of bizarre behavior on the part of some individuals we could arguably say have not totally been playing with a full deck, or acting in our best interest.
With Assemblymember N. Nick Perry assuming the helm this year, the challenge is for them to come away with plans and programs that will address the problems that we face downstate in the five boroughs. The past two years have made us realize even more the dire necessity for us to come together and once again be the unified force that first enunciated the reason for this gathering nearly 40 years ago. Quite frankly, the big question on many minds is where do we go from here? What do we do to make sure that we don’t come out on the short end of the stick.
Governor Paterson has wisely and consistently applied some very sage tactics to fashioning a budget that has kept us from totally plummeting into a depression, but he is constantly being harangued and goaded by “yellow journalistic tactics” via the mainstream media, rather than being applauded for having the insight early on to try reign in the run amok practices that were handed him when he became governor. Rather than focusing on his accomplishments, and there are many, the republican run news media (read white) has tried to inveigh him in scandal after scandal after scandal.
Interestingly enough, when Pataki, his predecessor was eviscerating New York’s Main Street through handing sweet heart deals to his cronies, no one was saying a word. When he was pulling funds from the social programs that made this city great -- not a mumbling word was heard; undermining the standards for quality rental housing -- not a peep!!. When Pataki took the heart out of affordable housing, those who stood up to him were given the boot or ignored. Now that there is someone who is speaking to the real needs of the state, trying the mend the gaping holes left by rapacious investors (dis-investors, really) the hounds of hell in the form of bogus news reports have been let loose, and they are nipping at his heels, coming up with the same b.s. tactics they used on Clinton when he was President. The ugly head of racism a’la New York-style yellow journalism rears its ugly head in a manner most foul, and the stench is beginning to permeate the very atmosphere.
Just be aware that most of the main stream press is a tool of the right wing racists -- either funded or owned outright by them. They do the bidding of their masters. There is not an objective thought in the house. And if you look closely, you’ll see that they’re spending a considerable amount of time trying to vilify the top Black men in the nation -- President Obama, Governor Paterson, Congressman Rangel. Does anyone see a pattern here?
But let’s get back to the Caucus for a moment. Why a Black and Puerto Rican caucus? Because, prior to the formation of the organization, Blacks and Hispanics were routinely getting the shor end of the stick, in more ways than one. When the two entities recognized the necessity for joining forces to get one what they could not do individually, a powerful force was established. Despite some mis-steps over the past year, the necessity to work together is more important than ever before.
Granted February is one of the coldest months of the year, and granted Albany is hundreds of miles north of here, and, hence, even colder; it still manages to be an event that attracts thousands of people. Since most of the activities take place on Saturday, it’s also an event that many more of you should avail yourselves of. Especially, since we New Yorkers will spend the rest of the year griping and complaining about the very issues they are addressing. Our very presence may have a major influence on how things get done.
In short, you, Mr. and Ms. Black and Latino New Yorker, should make it your business to take a day out of your busy schedule and be there, to be an advocate for your own interests. It‘s 2010. It‘s time to be pro-active. It‘s time to come off the sidelines and step into the mainstream you claim to be yours. It‘s time to take out the garbage, clear the air, and have a hands on involvement in the issues that affect you down state, by getting yourselves upstate. It‘s one day out of many, but that one day may have a pivotal influence on what happens in the future.
The schedule of events for Saturday, February 13, are as follows:
Business/Career & Craft Exhibition Fair - Legislative Office Building (LOB) Concourse
Workshops: And there are several, running concurrently - LOB Concourse Level
Youth Summit/Talent Show - Sawyer Theatre
Labor Luncheon Hart Theatre
Concert: Featuring Joe & Hidden Beach - LOB Convention Center
After Concert Dance (must be 21+ to attend) - Crowne Plaza Hotel
Sunday, February 14 Schedule:
Church Service Wilborn Temple First COGIC
Awards Ceremony Crowne Plaza
Cocktail Banquet Reception - LOB Convention Center
39th Annueal Scholarship Banquet - LOB Convention Center
After Dinner Dance (21+ to attend) - Crowne Plaza
The special guest keynote speaker at the dinner on Sunday, February 14, will be Harold Ford, Jr., who is seeking to run in the upcoming Senatorial race against Gillibran. THis should make for an interesting and controversial event this year.
Part two provides a list of all the Black/Latino members of the caucus, to identify with official you need to visit. If you do decide you want to attend, and you don't want to drive, there is a bus leaving from Boys and Girls High in Brooklyn on Saturday, February 13, 2010 providing direct transportation to Albany. If you are interested contact GLORIA DULAN-WILSON or SHAWANA BROWN@ 718-638-0827 or 347-785-6998 or 718-791-3804. Reservations are $60 round trip; and must be made Thursday, February 11.
Regardless of how you travel your presence is needed in Albany. So make it your place to be this Saturday, Albany, New York. Your input counts.
Stay Blessed &