WHERE WERE YOU?

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“We weren’t put on this planet to just survive. Rats survive! Pigeons survive! We’ve got to get to the point where we’re not just trying to survive. We’ve got some spineless people who are supposed to be representing us right now...

Photo: 2006 C.A.R.E. Conference at the Brooklyn Museum Auditorium
Photo Credit: Winning Strategies Consultancy Group

On September 7th, the Concerned Americans for Racial Equality (CARE) held their Annual Think Tank Conference on Racism in America at the Brooklyn Museum.  The theme this year was Assessing the Inequalities and Outlining Solutions.  Brian Figeroux, Esq. of the law firm of Figeroux & Associates founded CARE in 2005 to promote tolerance and understanding among people of various ethnicities and to find solutions to discrimination, civil rights violations, police misconduct and other matters that plague people of color.

The CARE Conference was the ideal forum for people who are unemployed, in need of debt relief, “downsized�, in trouble due to exhausted unemployment benefits, discriminated against, or herded and warehoused into New York City’s Job Center. That’s the program that trains you to be a better slave and work for (probably) less than minimum wage.  Then, while you’re working for your Welfare check, you and your family are uprooted and displaced from your home because you can’t pay your rent.  The slavers then dump you and your family into one of those horrendous homeless shelters to rot as Whites come in and take over your homes, resulting in the rapid re-gentrification of entire neighborhoods. 

For many of us, the words struggling, surviving and victim are far too familiar in our daily conversations.  “We weren’t put on this planet to just survive.  Rats survive!  Pigeons survive!  We’ve got to get to the point where we’re not just trying to survive.  We’ve got some spineless people who are supposed to be representing us right now.  We’ve got to get them out!  We need Power to the People now and let’s get all of the spineless out by 2009!� declared the enthusiastically received and highly respected Councilman Charles Barron. 

Men and women – even our youth are being brutalized and abused by the police.  What’s next – will they be beating our little children?  “We must be ever vigilant and ever strong in protecting our civil rights and if you get in trouble you can call people like us,� stated Norman Siegel in his informative presentation.  Mr. Siegel gave a disturbing account of what the government is up to in the name of the Patriot Act.  According to Mr. Siegel, the government can do something called the “Sneak and Peek� where they can send people into your house when you’re not at home to go through your belongings, and not notify you for months that they were there, not giving you the option to challenge it.  He also talked about the case of Mr. Vernal Laws who was arrested and brutally beaten by police, suffered a broken jaw and other terrible injuries as a result of the beating, later being discovered by police that it was a case of mistaken identity.  They had arrested the wrong man, and the man they were looking for wasn’t even sought after for a violent crime.  Brian Figeroux helped to file lawsuits against the police brutality of Mr. Laws.  Mr. Laws’ wife was one of the few in the minuscule audience.  “We must speak up and organize -- for if we do not, we will lose our civil rights,� concluded Mr. Siegel.

Brian Figeroux also heads the New American Chamber of Commerce (NACC).  The NACC empowers people to become economically enriched by providing workshops that include business plan writing, Fire Your Landlord workshops, How to Start a Restaurant, Franchise seminars, Foreclosure seminars, Immigration seminars, and much more.

These issues, as well as matters involving discrimination being imposed upon us by corporate America, the threat of our voting rights being relinquished, substandard education because of the neighborhoods we live in, were all addressed at the conference.

Tonia Redman gave a compelling account of discrimination against women and how AIDS is killing off women of color in genocidal proportions. Ms. Redman pointed out statistics showing that African American women are 20 times more likely to get AIDS than white women.  “We must remind the policy makers that they have lost focus.  Nothing is ever resolved when we stand still,� Ms. Redman concluded.

Sidique Wai, National President and Spokeperson of the United African Congress and Chief of Residential Services for NYCHA, gave a powerful speech denouncing Bush’s guest worker program.  The Conference was moderated by Gerry Hopkins, Executive Director of CARE.  Also present, giving incredible presentations were Chris Owens on Preventive Health and the Inequalities in Education and Healthcare, Opening and Closing Prayers by Rev. Michael Clarke, CEMOTAP, Top Secret Drum Corp did a wonderful job of convening us, World beat/reggae singer and acoustic guitarist, Denison George sang and played beautifully his songs of empowerment.  Candice Sylvester of Figeroux & Associates,  who coordinated the event, was an absolutely radiant host.

I was deeply moved by one family who were not a single bit hesitant to bring their children with them to learn of the state of our people and to see that there are people working at the front lines, trying to bring us a brighter future.  As world renowned motivational speaker, Dennis Rahim Watson led the lively and uplifting chant, “I am special and so are you�, 7-year old Ketanya Morgan‘s little voice rang out loudly and proudly throughout the entire auditorium like the chant of an angel coming to our rescue. As Brother Watson continued, young Ketanya was right behind him, loud and clear letting it be known, “I am good looking and so are you!�  “I will lift up my mother and father and so will you�  “Because this is my life and everything is going to be alright�.  It was a tearful moment for me as I joyously chanted along and listened to that young child chant for so many.  (Who said reporters don’t cry?)

The complacency and nonchalance of our people that is allowing us to be robbed of our civil rights and liberties more rapidly every day that we turn our heads, was examined and help and solutions were ever present.  Our leaders are burning with the drive to bring us to victory. 

While we tirelessly complain about how “the man� is keeping us down, millions of immigrants are taking it to the streets and are being heard loud and clear around the entire world as they demand their rights for fair treatment in this country.  The strategies our forefathers taught us -- strategies that we seem to have forgotten are being used by the “new majority� to gain momentum and respect from the United States, as African Americans sheepishly take our place as the minority.  Please remember Brothers and Sisters – there’s no rest for the weary.  We must rise up!  If not for ourselves, for our children and for the people we love.

The 2006 Annual CARE Conference was a motivating and liberating event.  Most enigmatic, however, is the fact that the place was so empty, you could hear a mouse dance on a cotton ball.

Reach out to us on myspace --  www.myspace.com/blackstarnews .  Let’s talk about this.  Learn when and where the next Conference will take place. I went to a house party the other night and people were literally standing out the door because the place was so packed no more people could get in.  Let’s make sure everyone knows about the next CARE Conference.  There should be standing room only at an event like that.  This is our life!  The turnout should be historical.   Let’s not wait until next year – let us come together and get to work now.  Our leaders are ready how about you?

Talk directly to the Publisher, Milton Allimadi or to me, Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results at www.myspace.com/blackstarnews

Contact the New American Chamber of Commerce at www.mynacc.org or call (718) 722-9217

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 Consultancy Group in New York City.  Contact Brenda at www.myspace.com/blackstarnews or Brenda@blackstarnews.com . 

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com

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