FROM REVOLUTIONARY TO SOLUTIONARY
When they came into East New York, they were trying to build an environmentally hazardous incinerator that would have transformed waste wood into electricity. They would have made $1,000,000 per year and we would have gotten 1,000,000 pounds of pollution; carbon monoxide, toxic matter, sulfur dioxide and other poisons. So, when I saw that, we organized and we stopped it.
Photo: Councilman Barron giving love to Ms. Smith, a strong supporter and volunteer.
Photo, complements of Winning Strategies & Associates
When you think of Charles Barron, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Courageous visionary? Revolutionary? Elected Official? All that is true and magnificent in itself. But there is so much more to Charles Barron than is shared in the day-to-day media -- that of a happy spirited, earnest man full of love and sincere affection for his people. A man who is loved and admired with great zeal by millions. I saw a side of Charles Barron that few people know. And I embraced the wisdom of a true leader when Mr. Barron stopped the interview, stood up and said, “Let’s take a ride! I’m going to show you an example of visionary leadership.” What I was about to encounter was truly amazing.
From the time we set foot on the sidewalk, Mr. Barron couldn’t get one foot in front of the other without people approaching him to shake his hand, thanking him for helping them with one issue or another and declaring their full support of Councilman Barron. Even while driving, people honked and waved as Mr. Barron reciprocally engaged them in welcomed banter. What amazed me most is the way the children react to Mr. Barron. It’s really surprising to see the way little children’s eyes light up as big as saucers; chins dropping to the ground upon a “sighting” of Charles Barron. Even more astounding is the fact that these little ones know his name! I heard one boy about 9 years old alert his parents announcing, “Hey! That’s Charles Mr. Barron!” The parents subsequently approached Mr. Barron to greet him with well wishes. Mr. Barron cheerfully shook the hand of the little one and took the time to chat with him for a moment. As they departed from each other, holding Mommy’s hand as she led him away, the child’s eyes remained fixed on Mr. Barron; mouth wide open, as if he'd just had a close encounter with Shaq. It was quite remarkable.
I noticed that every thing he accomplished started with a documented plan, very carefully laid out. Mr. Barron’s pet project, Linden Park in East New York, started out as a systematic photographic diagram. (All of this will be revealed in a special pictorial in the print version of The Black Star News' July 20th, 2006 issue.) Mr. Barron calls the diagram, “BC and AC” (Before Charles and After Charles). It is a pictorial blueprint depicting the disheveled condition of Linden Park from the time it was in the charge of former Councilmember, Priscilla Wooten, the step-by-step renovation strategy and the final magical restoration and intense upgrade of the park.
The beautifully tree-filled park, fully equipped with a children’s play area complete with swings, sliding board, jungle gym and sprinkler for cooling off on the hot summer days, is just the icing on the cake of this phenomenal recreation mecca Mr. Barron brought back to life for his East New York families. Everyone loves the park. Laughing, wide eyed children with big smiles ran through the sprinkles, swang on the swings and everywhere else there was to just stretch out and enjoy themselves. Seniors took part in the beautiful day to enjoy a friendly game of chess. The park even has a football and soccer field with synthetic grass that will last forever. The guys were on the basketball court on top of their game – especially because Mr. Barron had new hoops installed, strong and sturdy enough to endure the weight of players who hang from the rim.
One of the new features about Linden Park that Mr. Barron celebrates most is the new Mondo track he had installed to replace the worn out, synthetic track Ms. Wooten had in place. Mondo is a high-end, privately owned Italian company that also makes luxury yachts and has an exclusive contract with the track world championships and the Olympics. Mondo claims it's the only company that uses natural rubber rather than the petroleum-based synthetics in other rubberized tracks. It has been said by professional runners that the Mondo track “makes you feel like you’re running on air.” I asked Mr. Barron how he got the knowledge to even order a track layout of such extraordinary quality. Did he have prior experience designing tracks? Mr. Barron replied, “No. I just visited tracks in White neighborhoods and said, ‘I want that kind’”.
“That’s how I fixed up the football and soccer field, too. I saw how the Jets and the Giants were set up and I asked, ‘What kind of turf is that?’ and they said, ‘That’s field turf; synthetic grass.’ I said, ‘That’s what I want for my neighborhood!’ Mr. Barron continued the tour, “See these lights? These lights were installed so the kids can play at night. They can come out here, burn up that energy and go to bed,” he laughs. “Before, about 4 or 5:00 just before it started getting dark, people got out of here. Not anymore. Crime is just about eliminated now because the lights are on and I put lights around the basketball court, so they’ve got the lights too.
It was quite a day. It was almost like being at some huge family reunion where the “Papa” had just arrived. Kids were running up to him to say, “Hi” and Mr. Barron was just tickled. He talked about how much it fascinated him that the little children knew him, exclaiming, “Hey, that’s Charles Barron! I saw you on TV!” “I’m only on the news”, he chuckled, “It’s not like I’m on the cartoons or anything.”
People came from all over the park to say, “Hi” to Mr. Barron or to shake his hand and thank him for something he had done for them. Andrew came over to give Mr. Barron daps and thank him for helping him with his job search efforts. Freddie just came over to say thank you for the wonderful job he’s doing and offering his full support. A posse of Sanitation workers came off the basketball court to present him with a Sanitation tee-shirt in appreciation for supporting them in their efforts during their labor conflicts. People, I kid you not! Ladies in wheelchairs perked up and got their flirts on when the Councilman approached delivering loving hugs and pecks on the cheek for his adoring seniors.
I asked Councilman Barron to share with BSN what drove him into the political arena:
BSN: What made you decide to run for political office?
BARRON: For decades I’ve been an activist, utilizing protest movement, more reactionary than proactive, but needed to ,be because of so much that was coming at us as a people, I got to a point where I said, ‘Man, we need to me up with some solutions. We need some power!’ I was talking to M-1 from Dead Prez last night and he was saying that rather than just be revolutionaries, we should become “solutionaries”, because revolutionaries do great at mastering what the problem is, but we’re short on coming up with solutions and visions that transform our community. Seeing something with our biological eye, but in your mind’s eye; your third eye; your visionary eye, transforming that which you’re seeing with your biological eye so that you’re with seeing with all that there could be. Not just what it is, but all that it could be. So, when I started having those kinds of visions – I began to focus on what my community could be; what I could be.
BSN: When was that?
BARRON: It was about 1995,’96. When they came into East New York, they were trying to build an environmentally hazardous incinerator that would have transformed waste wood into electricity. They would have made $1,000,000 per year and we would have gotten 1,000,000 pounds of pollution; carbon monoxide, toxic matter, sulfur dioxide and other poisons. So, when I saw that, we organized and we stopped it. We won in 5 months. You know, you don’t win an environmental protection issue in 5 months! Something like that takes years. But the strategies that we used; legal actions, social action, economic action, demonstrations and media strategies, WE WON! The guys backed off. We won that and then people started saying, ‘Why don’t you run for office!’ But I said, ‘No. That’s not me. I’m not into that because I’m not compromising my principles.’ Then, another issue came up. They wanted to build a movie theater – Lindenplex! It would be a movie theatre with 14 movie screens on Linden Boulevard in a space where we needed a supermarket, a youth center and a science and technology building. So, I was saying, ‘No, because our seniors would have to go too far to go food shopping. We need a youth center and a supermarket!’ So, I was up there everyday, 'What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
BSN: How many people were assembled with you?
BARRON: 300 people; media, and I’m saying, ‘Yeah! We’re gonna stop this!’ Every day I came, that wall got higher and higher (laughs). The more I ran my jaws, the more they completed. So I’m saying, ‘Damn!’ And I’m fightin’ and fightin’. Finally, they did the whole thing. Then, I found out that Sumner Redstone from Viacom called up Rudolph Guliani, who was the Mayor at the time, and told the Mayor that he wanted this land (and I realized that the City Council has power over land use). He called up Priscilla Wooten who was the City Councilmember at that time for East New York. She said, ‘YES’ and it was done. It didn’t matter how much we demonstrated. I said, ‘Now THAT’S POWER!’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m going to get!’ That drove me. I said, ‘Now this is not making any sense. I’m sittin’ up here on every channel with two, three hundred people, bringing leaders in and they build it anyway because somebody sat back, looked at it and said, “YES!” I said, ‘Uh-uh! That’s - my - seat!’ So, from that point on, I went for it.
So, I found out a lot about it. I like research and studying and knowing my stuff. So, I researched the City Council and found out that they manage a 40 to 50 billion dollar budget, City Council has power over land use; anyone who wants to use City land has to get approval from the City Council person in that local area, we make laws for the City, and we have oversight over every City agency. There are about 30 to 40 subcommittees, select committees and standing committees in the City Council that have oversight over every agency. I chair higher education. That’s over the CUNY system. So, when I realized all of that, I said, “I’m going for it!” I took my case to the people.
BSN: Councilman, you certainly did show me an example of “visionary leadership” today.
BARRON: See, something like this, I couldn’t tell you – I had to show you. And I want the other Black politicians to understand, once you get in office, you don’t have to sell out. Continue to love and take care of our people.
Now, if you think Charles Barron is just a walk in the park, that’s a mistake. Since Mr. Barron has been in office, he has led the charge that secured $28 million to address the nearly 50% Black and Latino male unemployment matter, secured $8 million for a new housing complex, secured $20 million for CUNY scholarships and hundreds of millions in funds to maintain CUNY schools and $12 million for a new state-of-the-art community center and 200 seat theatre coming to East New York.
Of all the tremendous ways Bob Marley has positively impacted the lives and spirits of all people, there are those who opposed paying homage to this great humanitarian. Councilman Barron thwarted those kiboshers "with the quickness". As a result, this past weekend, Councilman Barron sponsored the renaming of Church Avenue to Bob Marley Way.
Last month, the police came into Bed Stuy and brutalized our residents on Macon Street. Charles Barron immediately rushed to our defense and initiatied civilized retaliatory action. See the story in our Local News section here at Black Star News Online.
In the next issue, Councilman Barron will bring you some precious gems to help you on your personal journey to power and success. Until then and forever: “Power to the people!”
To learn more about Councilman Charles Barron, logon to http://www.barronforcongress.com
Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results ©2006 is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates, a public relations company in New York City. If you have a solution, contact Brenda@blackstarnews.com . Maybe we’ll talk.
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