Governor Paterson Shuns Cries For Justice; Spitzer's BUFNY Crimes Stand

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All efforts to date have failed to move these politicians of supposed “power and influence.” Neither has uttered a word of support of BUFNY or against the ongoing decimation and gentrification of the world renowned Harlem community –the center of Black culture, now fast disappearing.

[On The Matter Of Justice]

 


There are no predestined great men or women.  There are only historic events and trying times within which the courageous, visionary and capable rise to the challenges of the day and seize opportunities for themselves and community and thus earn the genuine attribute of greatness.

The rise of David Paterson to powerful position of the governorship of New York, whether due to the bad karma of his disgraced predecessor (former Governor Eliot Spitzer), by pure accident or by Devine intervention, is nothing less than an historic event within challenging times for the Black community in New York and across the country.

While Black folks wish and even pray for the best for Governor David Paterson, the question is: Will he do what it takes and what is right to earn greatness?  For sure, his is a Black face in a very high place, but we know that this has never been a reliable solution to Black problems.  In dire words of warning: don’t count on it!  

There should be no misunderstanding here. David Paterson is a shrewd “politician” in the truest sense of the word. This designation is quite different, however, from being a “representative” of all of the people; and these two terms are not necessarily interchangeable.  The former, which does not carry the most complimentary meanings, fits many –if not most– elected officials when one takes a hard look at the reality of the collective plight of the masses in Black and other communities.

Representatives, as advocates at promoting the people’s interests, view their mission through the clear lens of “Does it benefit my constituents and society?” Politicians, as players at pleasing the power interests, view their mission through the selfish lens of “Does it benefit my political aspirations and the powers that be?”

Many hailed Eliot Spitzer as a savior coming to rescue New York State from stagnating Albany “gridlock” and political corruption; and to subdue the Robber Barons of Wall Street. He was an assertive self-proclaimed “representative” for real change in government in the grips of powerful money lenders, manipulating lobbyists and status quo politicians.  It was to be no more business as usual. 

We know how the nightmare of lustful indiscretions by “The Steamroller” ended, as “Client #9.”

If history reveals anything about David Paterson, the facts do not bode well for real “game-changing” actions and justice for the Black community.  It is as if he is purposely shunning addressing festering issues. Right at the top of the list, for this writer, is the destruction of Black Untied Fund of New York, at the hands of Eliot Spitzer. 

This injustice stems from the abuse of power and the unjustified use of government offices and deceiving procedures to destroy an effective self-help institution and not have to answer for it.
 
David Paterson, the career politician, is well aware of the issues and challenges to the status quo of justice denied. Where is the Paterson the representative?    

Clearly his executive directive to recognize gay or same-sex marriages from other states, his pardoning of convicted felon and “pioneering” Hip-Hopper Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters, the signing of 135 bills in one fell swoop of legislation enacting productivity, his push to provide funding for over 6,400 units of “affordable housing” across the state, and other actions can be considered highly commendable, or even admirable; however, they are “safe” actions and offer no real challenges against the power status quo and the trail of injustices to which he is a witness.

 It is an ironic slap in the face of the Black community that Governor Paterson has seen fit to pay apparent “requisite fealty” to the Jewish community at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach by joining the fray and describing “efforts to put up an eruv as a civil rights struggle,” as reported by Mitchell Freedman, Newsday, August 2, 2008.

It is apparently alright with Paterson that then Attorney General Spitzer discriminated against BUFNY, but took care to protect Jewish institutions by granting the World Jewish Congress and Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club executives free “get out of jail cards,” even though numerous investigation findings of serious violations of laws were identified and confessions to felonies made.              

The actions and inactions of Paterson from his days as State Senator and Minority Leader to Governor regarding the discriminatory and unwarranted actions of Spitzer against BUFNY stand as testament to his lack of commitment or even intent to respond to voices and petitions for justice in the face of such abuses. 

Appeals by university professors, a renowned historian of Black fundraising, newspaper publishers, New York City Council members, community leaders and others to re-instate BUFNY have gone unanswered. The lack of response from Paterson shows disrespect, at best.  

Following the takeover of the Black United Fund of New York in May 2003 by Spitzer and termination of BUFNY’s executive management (Kermit Eady, founder and former president and this writer as former vice president) in August, multiple meetings and calls took place with Paterson. Those interactions centered around seeking his support for the 25 year-old, pioneering self-help institution and his stated intentions to hold public hearings on the unjustified attack on the Black institution and its leadership.

Some of the most honorable and committed activists in the Black community were involved, including Kermit Eady, James McIntosh, M.D. and co-chair of CEMOTAP, attorney Michael Hardy, Professor James Small of City College of New York, and this writer. There was also a meeting between a condescending Spitzer and Reverend Clarence Grant (deceased);  and letters of support from City Councilman Charles Barron, State Senator Malcolm Smith (now Minority Leader), and then State  Assemblyman Roger Green.  

There were also Morris Powell and the New Black Panther Party, Sister Betty Dopson co-chair at CEMOTAP, Elder Sister Florence Rice of Friends of Harlem Consumer Education Council, Dr. Leonard Jeffries of City University, Bob Law, Alton Maddox the People’s Attorney, Reverend Al Sharpton, and many others.  (The re-instatement of the law license of Alton Maddox is another festering issue.)

Weekly demonstrations for over a year at the BUFNY Harlem headquarters and well-attended rallies at Harlem’s AME Zion Church on 135th Street took place virtually in the front yard of Lenox Terrace, the “luxury” Harlem residences of then Senator Paterson and Congressman Charles Rangel. 

All efforts to date have failed to move these politicians of supposed “power and influence.” Neither has uttered a word of support of BUFNY or against the ongoing decimation and gentrification of the world renowned Harlem community –the center of Black culture, now fast disappearing.
 
It has been deafening silence or empty words from these consummate politicians not willing to risk challenging the status quo, even in light of crimes against BUFNY. 

The years 2005 – 2006 saw the steady degradation of BUFNY at the hands of Spitzer and his handpicked board of Black Republicans. There was the loss of highly-valued Harlem and Brooklyn real estate assets; closure of two outstanding technology centers; termination of construction of a computer training center; loss of access to fundraising in public and private sector payroll deduction markets now re-monopolized by United Way; eviction of BUFNY’s WCKL radio station in Catskill, NY; dismissal of all remaining staff; and closure of the BUFNY headquarters in Harlem. All of these assaults were met with self-serving silence from Paterson and other Black elected politicians, with few exceptions. 

In early 2006, Spitzer picked Paterson –over the consensus and advice of loyal Black politicos throughout the state– to be his running mate. This, in effect, closed any lingering illusions of those much delayed public hearings taking place on the seizure and complete destruction of BUFNY.

In 2007 the final insult was inflicted after all attempts failed to secure the personal belongings of Eady and 25 years of accumulated, irreplaceable history from the former BUFNY premises.  Everything was suddenly discarded, per “orders,” to the new owners/managers of BUFNY’s former headquarters, which is now a bar. Everything related to BUFNY was treated as just garbage in Paterson’s and Rangel’s front yard.

The best Paterson has responded with to Eady, through a staff spokesperson, is that “It (BUFNY’s destruction) did not happen on his watch. Take it to the attorney general!”

Well Govna, “Slick Rick’s” conviction didn’t happen on your watch; and BUFNY’s destruction did not happen on Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s watch!

The picture painted here is that Paterson may not be a hoped-for representative of all the people, but will continue to be a politician and serve the establishment that can help him in the game of power politics.

Campaign 2010 is already under way and Blacks –unorganized and without a mission– may not even be relevant.

Marcus Garvey said, “Look for me in the whirlwind!”  Well, the harsh winds of change are a blowing.


 

 

Larry A Barton is an IBM retiree and former Black United Fund of New York. vice president and general manager. You can contact him at: lbperf@juno.com

 


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