Now that we have your attention, Mr. Cuomo...

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 5:24 p.m.

Finally, it looks like there might actually be a real campaign.

It seems as though Andrew Cuomo has finally gotten the message that he has to actually engage the electorate and show us that he is actually worthy of our votes. We have been speaking loud and clear for some time now, and it looks like he has started to listen. We have been trying to tell him that we want someone to vote for, not simply someone to vote against.

And last week, Cuomo actually came to Harlem, took some time to shake hands and talk to our folks and open up a dialogue with our community. This is a good first step, but we can only hope this is just the first step in addressing the issues and concerns of Black people, who will be vital for either his electoral success or defeat.

Our communities are hurting. All too often, our children are not getting a quality education. Too many school facilities are still falling apart, our young men and women are facing astronomical jobless rates, and health care and housing costs are beyond their reach.

While we are glad to see the attorney general visibly meeting with prominent Black leadership, now is when the real work must begin. The next step that we must see in the process is a blueprint or roadmap whereby Mr. Cuomo gives us a real impetus to go to the polls to vote for him.

Cuomo must address the following issues or ignore them to his peril: The state and the city need jobs, especially in the Black community. We face historic levels of both unemployment and underemployment.

The rate of unemployment in our communities far surpasses what is actually on the books because no one ever really counts us correctly anyway. And the programs that exist are inadequate. We need to see Cuomo take real leadership in pushing for a real public-private partnership that offers real and broad opportunity for the people of our community.

We need to improve our schools. There is no question about this one. Our schools are failing our children. Therefore, we are failing our children. How can we expect our young people to thrive when they are met at every corner with roadblocks to their success? In the younger years, there are insufficient spaces in pre-school and Head Start programs. In the older classes, there is a dearth of supplies and college preparatory classes, and we lack real, meaningful technical training.

For those students who have actually made it out of the high schools, their ability to succeed in college has been hampered by new standards--which the system has not prepared them for--and rising costs at both SUNY and CUNY, which has made the concept of access far less attainable. Education should not be a privilege; it is a right, and we need to ensure that our rights are met.

And while education and jobs are the life blood of a healthy community, we also need our communities to be safe and free of violence. Last month, we reported in our pages that mothers were keeping their children at home rather than allowing them to go to playgrounds during record hot summer days because they feared for their safety. And we also wrote about an innocent child who was shot in his own home--violence that no community should witness. We must have a plan to get guns off the street.