Why Sonny Carson Will Win
Ronald Reagan was opposed to Dr. King but he ended up
signing the bill making Dr. King's birthday a National Holiday,
because the people were mobilized around this issue. Councilwomen, do not pronounce sacrilege against the people!
Dear New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn: I am appalled at your opposition to the naming of a section of Gates Avenue in Brooklyn for Sonny Abubadika Carson.
In this age where there is a need for healing as opposed to divisiveness, your actions seem typical of the disdain Democrats have for Blacks despite their showing in the last election. Be warned another election is coming!
Do you understand your action is more than a slap in the face to the representative Community Board that voted for this street naming? If you don’t then choose any one of the many churches in the community and sponsor a Town Meeting to tell the people why you rejected their hero, then write me back to tell me what is their response.
History has shown the needs, aspirations and demands of the great masses of people far outweigh the intent, desires and actions of any one individual with a chip on their shoulder. An old American cliché reads "One monkey don't stop no show." Then again, one individual can become a majority if his cause is just, he stands his ground and the people genuinely approve of what he has done, how his life has impacted theirs and how it will affect and be appreciated by future generations.
Another famous American cliché is "The exception proves the rule." Now when we, concerned citizens of Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, New York State, examine the record and find that of 53 names submitted to the council for street naming, the one you reject is Sonny Carson, a name some of us hold dearly and in high esteem, we are forced to ask ourselves, to which rule do you subscribe?
When we see the names of foreign nationals and nations on New York streets, we ask Why not Sonny Carson? America produced Sonny Carson! Now, are you implying we must clean house at City Hall?
Then, let me give you a short example of people who stood in the way of social progress and see what happened to them and the issues they stood against, as events have consigned them to the trash heap of history's oblivion. I earnestly write in hope you do not become a candidate for this indubitable distinction.
In 1787, the abolitionist Clarkson submitted a proposal to outlaw the British involvement in the slave trade. The first year it failed, but after 20 annual submissions it passed. This year the people celebrate 200 years of the abolition of the Slave Trade. No one remembers the measure's opponents!
As Africa began to decolonize, Ian Smith of Rhodesia said: "It will be 1000 years before Blacks rule Rhodesia." Within a decade Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.
The same can be said for South Africa and the people united, swept away that odious system of government and the fossils who held the reins of political power in that troubled land.
In the height of the Civil Rights Movement, George Wallace's famous quote was, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
Ronald Reagan was opposed to Dr. King but he ended up signing the bill making Dr. King's birthday a National Holiday,
because the people were mobilized around this issue.
Councilwomen, do not pronounce sacrilege against the people! Correct this perception immediately. You can always say you have a change of heart if that is possible!
Even more important we say to you, "What does the name Gates mean to the Black community in Bed-Stuy?" Gates of Hell, Gates of Prison, Gates of Racism, Gates of Discrimination, Gates of Exclusion! Gates locked against jobs that give residents a chance to contribute economically to their families in that community.
Today when young Black men are being killed senselessly, and the community is plagued by police brutality, a terribly high Black unemployment rate, lack of fair housing, unequal education, racial profiling and aids, drugs, and that the prison industrial complex is decimating the moral fabric of the Black community, then we turn to the Ivory Tower of the City Council and get such exclusionism we say where is the justice! Another American cliché is "No Justice, No Peace."
Remember this is not really a cliché, but a rallying cry. Should the people take to the streets to demand justice for Sonny Carson?
In this nation of praying people, in this city, and state, if we ask our people to pray for Quinn, imagine a thousand churches and their people expressing their inner feelings at the iniquitous behavior regarding this issue.
Remember these same maladies plaguing the Black community are issues Sonny Carson stood steadfastly against. Imagine Hollywood recasting Bugs Malone, a gangster, a criminal, and calling him a "folk hero" because of the billions made today in Las Vegas and similar venues, from an enterprise he initiated. The only difference is Sonny Carson did not take the money and run; he stood and fought against all forms of injustice perpetrated against his people.
That is why to us, those Gates mean nothing to this community but oppression and degradation. But, the name Sonny Carson Blvd. instead of Gates Avenue will signal a sense of compassion, concern, conciliation and help promote socially conscious individuals who will be inspired by the accomplishments of Mr. Carson.
Some men and women paint Mr. Carson with a wide brush because nearly half a century ago, as he grew and emerged from the bowels of despair in that same community he may have made some mistakes. Importantly, as you seek to remove the mote in Sonny's eye, I ask, are there beams in the eyes of the 52 whom you approve? Have you investigated their closets for skeletons? How many have foreign roots?
Be advised, in the eyes of that community, Sonny’s actions in their interest was one of redemption. This honor is not in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, it's in Bed-Stuy.
I ask you how many did Sonny Carson help. How many people did Sonny Carson save? How many organizations did Sonny Carson found? How many streets and schools names did Sonny Carson change and give respectability to in the Black Community? Did Sonny Carson not make Black people feel proud and see respectability in Black heroes? Do you know how many hundreds of phone calls Sonny got each day from all over the country and the world, of people in trouble needing his wisdom?
That Ocean Hill-Brownsville movement for community control of education in the 1960s has remained a cancer on the souls of many and that is why today such efforts have been made to win back from the community, it's role in the schools. How many of Sonny Carson's opponents have been forgiven and given accolades in this forgiving society? Why not Sonny?
Sonny Carson helped found Medgar Evers College, Restoration Corporation in Bedford Stuyvesant, the Billie Holiday Theater, and was a pioneering advocate who insisted the early rappers "tone it down." He was an education activist and founder of many organizations including The Committee to Honor Black Heroes and Black Men Against Crack. This was a time when few in government cared about this scourge's destruction of young Black minds. Were we to wait for your coming to do any of this, by your actions, none of that would have been done.
Since Gates Avenue has no historical significance to the people who live there and they voted to change it for someone who has given his life-long existence towards bettering the conditions of his and their community, who are you to deny their wishes? Such arrogance of power has a tendency to mobilize people in opposition who force governments really to represent the true wishes of their constituents.
Remember Sonny Carson was honored by the Government and people of Ghana because he chose to bring the "Runaway slave" home to Africa. He is the only one who ever returned through the "Door of no return!"
This magnanimous feat is one of the most underrepresented yet significant story of American history of the last decades. Sadly, it has not gotten the recognition it deserves, as yet. For a local hero to so much deserves more than a few blocks. That is, unless square pegs are where round holes should be.
I beg you pay attention to the aspirations of the people, for several things will happen. First, we will continue to submit his name to the Council for this well deserved honor. Second, your intransigence will mobilize more people to become politically activated and move to bring about changes in city government.
Third, we will wait out your term and with the mobilized activism perhaps demand all of Gates Avenue. Then having consigned your name and tenure to the fate of the Ian Smiths and Wallaces, an asterisk will always be placed next to your name because you did not have the vision and courage to see beauty and meaning in the work and life of Sonny Carson, a local hero, nationalist and Mayor of Bed Stuy.
Monderson is a resident of the Bed Stuy community, in Brooklyn, New York
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