Why We Must Connect The Dots

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The objective: a fear-ridden, powerless, dependent and unorganized Black community unwilling and unable to effectively challenge the status quo.


From BUFNY to Bell: Another Year of Gross Injustices

It is that time again when the events of the current year and those festering insults against the community lingering from the recent past are appropriately recollected and put into some kind of revealing perspective, i.e., the “connecting of the dots,� as Brother Alton Maddox has said so often. 

The purpose of this necessary act of reflection is to form the basis of facts and observations for drawing reasoned conclusions and the making of “resolutions� for actions in the coming years that will somehow significantly alter –for the better– our respective lots –both individually and for our captive nation still within the belly.

Once again, high on the list is another “lynching�, by a roving New York City law enforcement “killer-squad�, of an innocent and unarmed young Black man, Sean Bell, just hours from his doing the right thing, as a man and for his family. 

Again, the participants of the killer-squad –like in no other major city in the country– are given an unjustified full 48 hours, and more, to “arrange their facts� of the murder and wounding of two others in a hail of 50 bullets, surpassing the 41 fired at and killing Amaduo Diallo.

One must not forget Timothy Stansbury (2004), Ousmone Zongo (2003), Patrick Dorismund (2000), as reported in a partial list of a killings chronology, in The Village Voice, March 5, 2005 article by Chanel Lee, A List With Bullets, (sub-titled NYPD shooting deaths of civilians, starting with Diallo and not ending).  There are, to be sure, many more.

Like an automatic protective shield, the institutions of organized power, the New York City Police Department and the Police Benevolent Association, sprung to the aid of their “brethren-in-arms�, and, as if sworn to a higher secret oath, even purposely deny the turning of the wheels of justice.

There are no such power institutions in the Black community to protect individuals, our leaders or institutions. This well-rehearsed public tragedy, that repeatedly claims the lives of our Black men, calls from the waiting wings of the staged deception, the Mayor, Police Commissioner and the local District Attorney in order to further construct the trap of a shallow show of concern for justice.

The final “cloaking� act of the play to subdue the unorganized and narrowly focused rage of the masses is the calling forth of “organized venting protests and marches�. Be aware that handpicked or appointed leaders have no real power.  Again, to make sure, handpicked or appointed leaders have no real power!   It is only the organizing of permanent internal institutions of power and sanctioning bodies that matters.  This is the source of real fear. The added element of the New Black Panthers in this latest protest march has introduced a potential new twist in the mix for the pursuit of empowerment.
 
The basic elements are there. The methodologies have been proven as sound and workable.  The validating plans and histories have been written. Yet, is there a combined will to see the dots and take the next logical and critical steps to a new level of organized power beyond the protest march?       

It is important to understand that individuals are not powerful –even kings, popes and presidents. It is their control of institutions that allows them to exercise power. It is also our self-imposed fear and misplaced adoration of the “great� that extends to them powers that they do not really have, but gladly accept. The powers-that-be are counting on the usual outcome –a quiet death on the vines of bitter injustice. Bell joins a long list of law enforcement crime victims that have not yet resulted in the adequate dispensing of “justice�!

Black United Fund of New York (BUFNY) also joins a list of institutions that had embarked on and traveled a path of self-help and economic independence that have been brutally “eliminated� or brought to heel and thus effectively neutralized. The Black Panther Party of old is just one of them. Chalk another one up for the Old Guards holding the battle line of power –the status quo. 

Now one may ask: What does “the dot� called BUFNY have to do with “the dot� called Bell?  Bell was a young individual and BUFNY was a young institution.  Thinking inside the box—which is a trap—says that they have no connection whatsoever! Thinking outside the box says that the connections and implications –and surely the potentials for the future– were far-reaching. 

Bell was seeking to firmly and publicly demonstrate his commitment to do better for himself, his family and, ultimately, the Black community.  BUFNY, at 25 years young, had demonstrated its commitment to and pursuit of the empowerment of the Black community to the benefit of the Bells, and was at the point of going to another level of organization and achievement to further that mission.

Unlike the killing by the infamous NYPD, the killing of BUFNY was by another notorious branch of “organizational� law enforcement –the Office of the New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the top State cop and now Governor-elect, and the Charities Bureau, with oversight of all New York State-based non-profits.

At the Federal level there is the Attorney General, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI–you all remember J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO– and the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, whose actual Constitutional legality is being questioned. The strategy:  kill and terrorize individuals in the Black community –the ultimate base for the source of organized power– and also do the same to their institutions –the ultimate agents for the exercise of organized power. 

The objective: a fear-ridden, powerless, dependent and unorganized Black community unwilling and unable to effectively challenge the status quo.  Remember, the primary economic power game used with the Black community is not quid pro quo (everybody wins something), but zero sum (winners always take all and losers get the shaft, except for the usual 30 pieces of blood-soaked silver).          

BUFNY, by comparison to any other organization in New York State, had made pioneering gains and achievements in multiple mission areas that were designed from the beginning to empower the Black community and permanently break the status quo in the hidden power-world of charities, for-profits and not-for-profits.  The far-reaching potential of BUFNY was extensive:

In the arena of communications and mass media in New York State, BUFNY was the only (known) not-for-profit, aside from Pacifica Radio’s WBAI/FM in New York City, to own a radio station.  WCKL/AM, based in Catskills, NY, was, in mid-2003, on the very brink of fully implementing and broadcasting programming content designed to exploit the economic development potential of community radio. 

The technology and arrangements were in place to broadcast syndicated radio personalities and to facilitate “content exchange� with other stations, in addition to outreach to the local community and elected officials in the Albany Capital Region from all over the State.  The plans also included an innovative approach to radio fundraising.  The Spitzer cronies were incompetent and incapable of making any use of the station. In August 2006 they shamelessly allowed an eviction of the radio station, with all the valuable equipment worth thousands to be ignominiously dumped on the grounds in the rain and be taken by who knows by the very next day.  Spitzer or no one has been or will be held accountable and called to task for this crime of dereliction.          

In the use high-technology systems, BUFNY was well advanced in the integration of computer and networking systems and applications to support its not-for-profit and for-profit internal business operations and internal and external communications, which included the use of the hi-speed Internet access and services.

The hi-tech integration was also extended to its separate for-profit Harvest Information and Technical Centers in Harlem and Brooklyn; a newly funded technology learning center in the basement of its Harlem-located King Davis Apartments; and, finally, the integrated fiber-optic apartments of BUFNY III Housing, also in Harlem, was an ambitious effort in collaboration with Verizon, with enough equipment capacity to operate a small telephone company (that was in the early planning stages, as another source of community hi-tech jobs and an independent revenue source.

In workplace organizing and fundraising, BUFNY had gained tremendous levels of support from unions and employee groups in the public and private sectors (Health and Hospitals Corporation, New York State, Nassau and Westchester Counties, IBM, AT&T, City University, naming just a few, that actually shook the very foundation of the monopoly held by the United Way and its “shortlist� of white-controlled member organizations (Red Cross, Catholic Charities, United Jewish Appeal, Protestant Welfare, National Urban League, etc.). This forced the United Way to really compete and “diversify its portfolio of partners�, i.e., include more Black folks, to blunt the onslaught and loss of “market share� to BUFNY and other independent agencies.  It was the very genesis of the Associated Black Charities.

The impact and influence of BUFNY even caused the formats and perspectives of who owned the charity fund drives:  Was it a United Way Campaign at IBM or New York State that excluded BUFNY or an IBM Employee Campaign or State Employee Federated Appeal that included United Way and BUFNY? There is a world of difference. BUFNY opened the way for the inclusion of thousands of charities to participate in the charity marketplace.  Remember! It always boils down to economics and who has the access and controls the cash flows!In housing (and land) development, i.e., owning a piece of the “Manhattan Rock�, BUFNY had developed, managed and/or owned over 400 units of housing on prime Manhattan real estate in  (increasingly gentrified) Harlem and also in Brooklyn. 

When Spitzer and crew took over to kill BUFNY, another 41 units were about to be added, again on prime Harlem real estate.  Over 140 of those Harlem residential units were “hi-tech� ready for advanced communications services based on fiber optics cabling.  The very presence of such valuable technological capabilities significantly raised the value of properties and their desirability. No other non-profit organization in New York State was so pushing the envelope or any where near the development level of BUFNY!   Black people cannot achieve too much advancement least they appear “uppity� and become some ones target for reigning in or outright destruction.

In the “high-cotton� arena of commercial financial services, BUFNY had established a pioneering “Black United Fund� credit card agreement with the prestigious People’s Bank that had all the projections of being a great success. While the killing of the credit card project cannot be blamed on Spitzer, it fell this time to the other usual suspect, “the enemy within�, as none other than the National Black United Fund itself, to destroy what was surely a win-win for all the parties involved. 

The unprecedented contracted revenue stream to each of the Black United Fund affiliates across the country was a full 10% of the monthly finance charge for each account, within an affiliate state and the rest of the revenues went to the national organization, NBUF, wherever there was no established affiliate.  Was it internal sabotage or just gross stupidity and incompetence?  Under any condition, the tragic effect was the same.  The loss can never be recovered.   

The September 11, 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack promoted BUFNY to establish a Victim Relief Fund to assist those affected by the infamous event.  While the financial support level did not nearly match the millions donated by the “traditional� charities, the fact that BUFNY was the only Black charity to do fundraising and distribution was a precedent in itself.  It spoke to the commitment of the BUFNY leadership and the cooperation of Black radio, WLIB and WBLS, to do those necessary things to help ourselves and others in times of need.   There has been no indication that Spitzer’s handpicked hit squad has ever seen fit to undertake such an effort.

The opportunity for franchising the Harvest Information and Technical Centers was one of the most exciting and promising potential BUFNY developments.  It was at the stage of being under-discussion, as prompted by a very interested vendor who also saw the potential for expanding jobs and business opportunities in underserved communities or those not served at all.  It was Kinko’s that had already demonstrated that reality for established residential and commercial areas.  The handpicked Spitzer henchmen could not even take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity.  They never even tried because that was not the plan of record.

The grand deception by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was him knowingly making false promises and offering hollow concerns to “help BUFNY flourish�, but ended up doing, as planned, just the opposite –allow the killing an institution and neither he or the killers have to answer for it!  This mirrors the long-established trail of false promises and hollow concerns of Mayors and Police Commissioners to help bring justice to the brutalized families and Black community, but also ends up, as planned, just the opposite –allow the killings of innocent and unarmed Black men and neither they or the killers have to answer for it.

November 2006 marked 48 months –an unjustified 4 years– since the initiation of the never-ending and false “investigation� and “hit� of BUFNY.  The organization is dead!  Killed by Spitzer and his cronies; and he has not yet or even had to uttered a single word of explanation!  The confessed “perps� at the World Jewish Congress and Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club apologized and walked free to do their deeds another day!  
What ever happened to the public hearings on Spitzer’s hostile takeover of BUFNY State Senator Paterson? Sorry! Lieutenant Governor-elect Paterson, that is!       

Is there still anyone who cannot see and connect the dots?  Maybe the true answer is that not enough really want to see the dots in the first place.  Which is it folks? Act now or continue to Retreat In Peace! 

Kermit Eady is president and CEO of Eady Associates and The Empowerment Institute, and the Founder and former CEO of Black United Fund of New York. You can contact him at 917-642-1878 and by email at: kermeady@aol.com. Larry Barton is former vice president and general manager of Black United Fund of New York and an IBM Retiree. 

He is also a recent appointee to the Citizen Member of the Editorial Board of the New-Press of Southwest Florida.  He can be reached at 646-932-0904 and by email at:
lbperf@juno.com.    

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