bu Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Mayor Ernie Davis' swearing in as Mount Vernon's 21st mayor, and as the first New York mayor to go back and successfully win his old seat (at least in Mt. Vernon's history), is a sign that this year is going to be absolutely fantastic - that is if we do what we're supposed to do individually and collectively.
Generally speaking, the day after New Years Eve is primarily relegated to recuperating from the partying you did the night before; and watching a succession of football games on TV. For some of us, it's also a series of open house hospitality events where we roll from party to party (yes, the die hard New Yorkers still do this), extending the New Year festivities throughout the day.
But for the people of Mount Vernon, the January 1, 2012 marked the beginning of a new regime. The beginning of the return to quality of life and conscientious government. It was the day Ernest D. Davis was sworn in as their 21st Mayor.
The ceremonies were held at the beautiful Macedonia Baptist Church, a masterpiece in architecture and design. And despite the rain, the place was packed, as they watch him pledge to not just bring Mount Vernon back, but to take her further forward than ever before.
The residents had practically begged him to run, stating that they had made a terrible error in allowing rumors and inuendos to sway their trust in him (or words to that effect). However, Davis stated that it was when the youth of Mount Vernon personally came and asked him to run in order to save the city, that he decided to throw his hat in the ring again. It was then he knew it was time; and that he could not lose.
His speech, and his pledge to the community, to put "people over politics", is something we all need to hear echoed all over the US, in every city, great or small. And then we need to make sure that we are part of the process that keeps that mandate in place and the forefront of the policies that are set forth in the weeks, months and years following.
Congratulations to the people of Mount Vernon for having had the conscious and the courage to get out and vote for yourselves, your lives, and not for political expediency.
Far too often, we've elected our officials because they were the friend of someone else; or they were popular; or "it was their turn;" or they had money, which seemed to indicate that we couldn't defeat them, no matter how stupid and inhumane they were. Somehow, having a lot of money obviates the fact that votes are counted individually, and dollars don't vote, people do.
Those bad old days have to end right now. Such lock step mentalities have marginalized whole communities throughout the US in general; and here in New York City it's gone completely out of control. Instead of a democratic system, we have an ersatz dictatorship. Instead of government for, by, of and to benefit We, the People, we have a bulldozer effect where our needs are flattened out, while those of the special interests are give cart blanche.
We need to take a page from Mt. Vernon!! They have a great track record when it comes to electing Black men to key positions. And no, not all of them are perfect. Having a Black mayor may not be the end all, be all solution to our problems - but it certainly a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Clinton, the mayor prior to Ernie Davis's re-election was African American; and a Democrat. However, he may have suffered from amnesia, which can happen with some of our brothers once they step into office (the kids call it "getting the vapors"). In this case, his concern centered around special interests and political expediency, not the needs of the city.
As a result the City of Mount Vernon found itself teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, with massive cutbacks in practically every area. But they woke up one day and realized they had made a horrible mistake, and moved to correct it by returning Ernest Davis to the rightful role a mayor.
Mount Vernon, like Philadelphia, has consistently managed to elect good Black mayors for the past two or more decades. And the people have thrived. There is something we in New York City need to learn from them!! Maybe we need to go to Mount Vernon and ask them to teach us. We can't seem to get it right. And we keep losing for all the wrong reasons. And as a result, we continue to schlep along trying to stay in the city we all love so dearly, trying to grimace and bear it, while also realizing that these last few mayors have had us in their gun sights from the moment they take their oath. They see us as the soon to be extinct populace of NYC. Oh, they'll allow a few of us to remain. Those who have supported their agenda. But the rest of us are being edged out daily. Look around you, and see if that's not the case in your community.
The monuments to our planned demise in Brooklyn are 66 vacant condominium high rise buildings, that tower over the communities and that were so overpriced not even the Wall Streeters they were built for could afford them after the eonomic downturn. And it was clear that none of those properties (many of which sit on once viable Black communities) were not meant for us. And, though former Governor David Paterson passed a law that these buildings could be make into affordable homes for the use of the surrounding community, to date nothing has been done. Why is that?
Look at Coney Island, which was sleighted to become an exclusive gated, waterfront community - never mind the fact that it's a largely Black population, and half of New York went there for summers in the sun; or that it should have been landmarked decades ago for so many of the sites people all over the world came to visit. No! The developers had a strangle hold on Coney Island. The merchants and residents were basically told to take a hike - or jump in the ocean that bordered its shores.
In both cases, had it not been for the incompetence and greed of the Bush Administration and those who walk lock step behind him, we would have been pushed out of there and other New York neighborhoods. Additionally, the properties that have been confiscated have yet to be returned to the people who reside in the Coney Island communities. Why is that?
The answer is because the mayor of our NYC puts dollars and politics before the people. We come somewhere waaaaaaaay down the line, near the bottom of the Totem Pole.
The people of Occupy Wall Street get it! When Bloomberg said they would be bad for tourism, wasn't that a signal that he neither grasped nor cared about our concerns. When he got a judge to co-sign his callous unconcern for our angst, it was patently clear whose mayor he is. I hope we get it as well.
It's really up to us to be part of the greater strategy that says "never again" will we be the victims of lack of voting and blurred vision; lack of vigilance, and lack of cohesiveness. We can't be armchair revolutionaries; or gripers - you know the ones you hear on the bus complaining about the transit system, or the educational system, but never show up to really get things done?
WE have put ourselves on top of the agenda as well; which is exactly what the people of Mount Vernon did. If Black is beautiful - and it is - we had better be about it. Where ever there are those of us trying to do something positive; something forward moving, we have to make it our business be a visible (or invisible, but viable) part of the process.
The history made on January 1, 2012, was just as important to us as it was to those brothers and sisters in Mount Vernon. We should have been part of the population that packed the church when Ernie Davis made his pledge to the people of Mount Vernon (which by the way has a healthy mix of people of all races and ethnicities), if for no other reason than the vicarious thrill of feeling that finally someone really is there for us, We, the people. For the pride in knowing that this Black man is yet another in the long line of unsung heroes who overcame some real serious odds to make it. *He overcame lies, negative headlines, bogus federal investigations, humiliation. He maintained his dignity, and he triumphed by being re-elected to lead his people once again.
*(It should be a lesson to us as well, that when the mean stream press goes after a Black elected official, think twice before you repeat it or accept it as true - they have hidden agendas and are political tools of a much larger operation. Most of the white counterparts who really are committing egregious acts, never ever come under their scrutiny).
And mark my words, Ernest D. Davis is a leader, not just another "elected official" as so many have become. He is a hands-on leader, who has been an integral part of his community for quite some time. He maintains a love and an interest in what is important to the people of Mount Vernon, Black people and people in general.
I do confess to a slight bit of "mayor envy", as I watched this dynamic Black man move through the crowd and receive the love and congratulations of his constituency. In fact,the immortal lyrics of the of the Pussy Cat Dolls kept running through my mind:
"Don't you wish your mayor was Black like me?"
"Don't you wish your mayor was smart like me?"
"Don't you! Don't you?"
"Don't you wish your mayor was human like me?"
"Don't you wish your mayor cared like me?
"Don't you? Don't you!
We got to be about producing more Ernie Davises in our communities. And mark my words, they are already here - not waiting for some far off youth to evolve into manhood, or womanhood, or wisdom. He have them amongst us right now. They're not glamorous. They're clear, soft spoken, well thought out, and consistently and integrally involved in the daily affairs of our communities. It's time we recognized them, and stop looking for the limelighters; the glamor guys and gals -who have the form, but no substance.
We have to produce more and greater elected Black leaders who will take principled stands for their communities. And we also have to make ourselves committees of one to make sure we are doing our part to make our communities viable as well. A leader should not have to struggle to overcome the negativity of his own people in order to make things happen. Something, I don't think Mayor Davis will have to worry about this time around.
In the days and months to come we've got a lot on our plate. Not only do we have to re-elect President Barack Obama, we also have to make sure we give him a majority in Congress, so that he can get the job done that he pledge to do for us and has worked diligently to fulfill over these past 4 years. He has done so despite the fact that nationally we dropped the ball and allowed the Rep-ugh-blicans to gain a margin that put his programs at risk.
We have to watch and be a part of each and every election that comes up in each and every state from now own. Whether it's dog catcher or congressman. Nebraska is losing their Senator to retirement. We have to be about it. We need to look around and find places where we can expand our Black political base. Notice, I said expand, not replace. If we have an incumbent and he or she is working for us, please don't replace them just for the sake of replacing them. We have too much at stake to play those games. However if you see a seat you or someone viable can fill that expands our political efficacy, go for it.
Give your kids voter registration cards for their 18th birthdays, already filled out and stamped. Make sure your own registration is up to date, and start following the campaigns that are happening in your or other communities. We need more Ernie Davis - as mayors, congressmen, assemblymembers, free holders, state senators, city council members. We need more elected officials who put people before politics and dollars. We need people with Black bone, who understand the name of the game and how to play it to win for us.
We need to be going to so many swearing ins that we complain that they're taking place too close together. If we don't we will find ourselves part of some history marker on the corner of a high rise stating that we used to live here back in the day, but are now extinct. And yes, it could happen.
Today is January 5. Make this the beginning of our involvement in our self salvation.
Stay blessed &
PS: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!