Sambo’s Coup d'Etat

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Norman Siegel recently appeared on Air America’s “Sharptalk.� Siegel is an attorney and associated with civil liberties. So far, political success has eluded him. His reminds me of the political candidacies of C. Vernon Mason and Colin Moore. If this city had a different political culture and I had been able to get to my grits, I would have put my hat into the ring, this year, for city council president and public advocate. This seems to be the best position from which to put the police department in check and under civilian control. Somebody, who is non-commercial, has to do it. Money, and not a prior history of legal activism, elects political candidates. Judges are like airport screeners. Anyone who is armed and dangerous, mentally, has no shot at ballot access.

The political gods draft the ballot. Black voters are like diners. They simply pay for dishes on the menu. The guiding, political principle in New York is choosing the lesser of the evils. To be sure, evil is guaranteed a spot on the ballot. Politics is often referred to as a necessary evil. Siegel will enjoy ballot access. He simply has to convince the voters that he is the lesser of the evils for public advocate. His character references include Rev. Al Sharpton and Capt. Eric Adams. Soon after I was suspended from the practice of law fifteen years ago, our revered ancestor, Roy Canton, in addition to Zaire Africa and Ron Lewis, sought Siegel out for legal advice. Siegel informed them that I was beyond a legal parachute. They were surprised. I had already told them that I was persona non grata. My crime was laying a glove on Jim Crow. In New York City, you must master the art of shadow boxing.

Like in basketball, touching can give rise to a personal foul. A Black lawyer is usually given only one personal foul. I was a persistent, felony offender. An uncompromising activist must bear a heavy cross. I was prosecuted for Michael Stewart, sued and disciplined for the special prosecutor in Howard Beach; indefinitely suspended from the practice of law immediately after a murder conviction in the racial killing of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst; and permanently suspended for fingering Steven Pagones in the kidnapping and rape of Tawana Brawley. The finest hour for shadow boxing was the Amadou Diallo protests at police headquarters. Sparring was out of the question. After the white police assassins were acquitted, Black leaders called for racial harmony. The assassins were never disciplined and Blacks are now financing their upkeep. When the African Burial Ground issue was unfolding, I was perched in the stands. The umpires declared that real estate developers had won and the players quickly left the field. I petitioned Cong. Gus Savage, who chaired the appropriate subcommittee of the Public Works Committee. He hit the field and performed a political miracle. Cong.

Savage was able to snatch the African Burial Ground from the jaws of defeat. His punishment, as an assailant of Jim Crow, was being gerrymandered out of office in Illinois. All of the passive members of the Congressional Black Caucus were able to be re-elected in 1992. Cong. Savage asked me to accompany him to Gracie Mansion to seal the deal. The City Fathers advised him that my kind was not welcomed. Thankfully, Cong. Savage would not take no for an answer. It is rare for a politician to be principled. New York has a FIRE economy. Under Dutch law, enslaved Africans were able to purchase the African Burial Ground. They owned the City Hall area. English law of conquest and slavery had no deference for the ancestral burial grounds of a historically oppressed people, however. Under English law, our ancestors were subsequently treated worse than the Indians regarding land. If there were a real candidate for public advocate, the campaigning would have already started with the drafting of the ballot and putting a ballot initiative on it.

This is true democracy. It is only in plantation politics that Blacks must wait for whites to tell them what to vote for. Whites draft the ballot. To put the police department in check, the initiative should start with expanding the City Council to at least one hundred council districts and decentralizing the police department. A city council district would control a local police department. This would put the police department under civilian control and undermine cultural biases.  These ideas are not novel and they are imbedded in New York City history. A “Day and Night Policeâ€? was established in 1845. Aldermen selected the policemen. Police districts and ward districts shared the same boundaries. An Alderman also shared some of the powers of a magistrate. New York City and Georgia have similar populations. Georgia has a bicameral legislature consisting of 236 legislators.

New York City, on the other hand, is governed by only fifty-one legislators. In 1901, for example, the city’s Board of Aldermen consisted of seventy-three men. The membership of the City Council should be doubled, at the very least, to undercut white minority rule and to ensure that the various ethnic groups have a voice in controlling the police and in fashioning municipal policy. This will allow for greater political representation from Africa and throughout the Diaspora. Currently, a police czar with despotic powers is authorized to control the police department. A police referendum can still be put on the ballot for 2005. We must get as busy as beavers to draft a referendum and collect signatures.

So far, the political agenda of Blacks has been limited to voter registration and voter turnout. This is like slave drivers emptying the slave quarters every morning before sunrise. The limited political capacities of our leaders limit our political agenda. When Malcolm X said “the ballot or the bullet,� he was not simply referring to voter registration and voter turnout. He meant Blacks must author the ballot. The question in 2005 is whether Black voters will exercise all of the powers enumerated in the city charter or continue practicing plantation politics? Judgment Day is November 1. Black leaders are in dire need of political skills. Mexican President Vicente Fox recently sucker punched two Black leaders.

They knocked on the wrong door and demanded the wrong remedy. Sambo is receiving rave reviews in Japan. On another front, the Supreme Court is on the verge of reinstating Jim Crow in toto. The Group of Eight nations is tightening the economic noose around Africa’s neck. In the meantime, Blacks are being urged to bury their heads in the sand until October. Who derailed the movement for justice in New York and how can it be put back on track? This answer, in addition to the 2005 Howard Beach cover-up, a police referendum for New York City and the Tawana Brawley case will be discussed on July 20, 2005, at 7 p.m. at the Elks Plaza, 1068 Fulton Street in Brooklyn (bet. Classon and Franklin). Take the C train to Franklin. For further information call 718-834-9034. See

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