Barron To Quinn: "Can't Silence Me"

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[Commentary: On City Hall]

On Thursday, January, 21, 2010, the day of the Stated Meeting, I received a call from Speaker Christine Quinn’s Chief of Staff, Charles Meara at 9:30am, informing me that I will not be reinstated as the Chair of the Higher Education Committee.

No explanation was offered. This occurred just hours before the full Council was to vote on the Speakers’ reorganizing plan.

What a cowardly act!! The Speaker did not have the courage or respect to call me in for a face to face meeting and explain her reason for removing me as the Chair. That’s because there are no justifiable reasons.

Speaker Quinn’s removal of me is unacceptable, unconscionable and a blatant display of a raw abuse of power. My record speaks for itself. I have by far been the most effective, productive and active Chair of the Higher Education Committee the Council has ever had.

Here is a partial listing of my accomplishments during my eight year tenure as Chair:

[] Advocated for the securing of hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Fiterman Hall at BMCC, which was destroyed during the September 11th attack;

[] Conducted over 80 hearings to address issues vital to CUNY, such as; budget cuts, tuition increases, health care, child care, women’s issues, nursing and jobs for CUNY students, just to name a few;

[] Recently held a hearing on textbook pricing, which resulted in Barnes & Nobles now offering a textbook rental pilot program where students can receive a 42.5% reduction for the cost of a textbook;

[] $67.9 million for the Peter Vallone Merit Scholarship for CUNY students (8 years);

[] $26.5 million for the Community College Tuition Assistance Safety Net Program (6 years);

[] $88.6 million for Community College Programs (7 years);

[] $37 million for the Workforce Development Program that secured over 6,000 jobs for the unemployed (4 years);

[] $11 million for the CUNY Black Male Initiative Program (5 years);

[] $3.3 million for the Dominican Studies Institute (6 years);

[] $3.3 million for the Puerto Rican Studies Institute (6 years);

[] $1.3 million for the Immigration Resource Center (4 years);

[] Successfully advocated for Medgar Evers College to receive their four year status in the capital budget, thereby, receiving their appropriate funding from the state;

[] Secured hundreds of millions of dollars for capital money to renovate and upgrade CUNY community and senior colleges.

Once again this is just a partial listing. With this kind of track record, if I worked in the private sector, I would have received millions of dollars in bonuses.

Speaker Quinn’s decision to remove me as the Chair was based solely on her being vindictive because I dared to challenge her position and run for Speaker. Speaker Quinn is accustomed to running City Hall like a plantation.

Anyone who dares to vote their conscious, speak freely, and challenge her authority, she attacks viciously. It’s no wonder why Blacks, Latinos and Asians who constitute the new majority feared voting for one of their own to ascend to the powerful position of Speaker.

Had one of them did that, the Black, Latino and Asian communities would have been able to secure much needed funding to deal with the high unemployment, foreclosure and health crisis that plague our communities.

I will give credit to the Black members of the City Council who refused to accept Speaker Quinn's offer to take my position as Chair of the Higher Education Committee. However, I strongly criticize Council Member Ydanis Rodriquez, my Latino brother, a self-proclaimed progressive/radical, for accepting my position as Chair of the Higher Education Committee. He fell for the oldest trick in the book, "divide and conquer".

On December 14, 2009, I had been informed by Speaker Quinn’s Chief of Staff, Meara, that the group that was planning a rally at City Hall to demand my removal, cancelled their rally. This was a White group from Queens that was supporting the racist Board of Trustee Member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who rudely and verbally attacked me at the groundbreaking ceremony for Fiterman Hall.

I, in return, verbally defended myself. This rude racist Board Member Weisenfeld was reported in the media to have said that Blacks were "savages" and Hasidic Jews were "thieves."

I later discovered on the website of this White organization that they cancelled the rally because the Speaker assured them I would be removed from my Chair in January. It is absolutely outrageous that this City Council would allow the Speaker to remove an outspoken effective leader from the Higher Education Chair at the demand of a small group of Whites from Queens, who support a vile racist like Wiesenfeld.

I will never be silenced. There are people in our movement who died for our liberation.

People have been character assassinated and brutalized fighting for our liberation. People have lost their livelihood for our liberation. Alton Maddox lost his law license fighting for our liberation.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black clenched fists at the American flag, at the 1968 Olympics and could not find a job afterwards for 30 years. We have political prisoners and prisoners of war languishing in prison for decades who fought for our liberation. So for me, when you put your life on the line for our people, there will be consequences and sacrifices one must make. So losing my Chair, pales in comparison to the sacrifices that others have made for our liberation.

To Speaker Quinn and the Council, I may not be the Speaker’s Chair, but I will always be the People’s Chair.

My voice is only going to get louder, my determination to fight for liberation will only get stronger. Remember Steve Biko said, " the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

For our children’s sake and for our future security my brothers and sisters in the City Council, Free Your Mind!! A Luta Continua (The struggle continues).

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