Black political power under attack!


Charles Barron | 7/3/2014, 4:08 p.m.

Black people, you’d better wake up and smell the coffee. We are losing ground politically in New York. Asians, Latinos and whites are gaining political ground. Black districts are being redrawn to weaken Black representation in Congress, New York state and New York City governments. Let’s check out a few redrawn Black districts.

Rep. Charles Rangel’s 13th Congressional District was historically an overwhelmingly Black majority district. It was redrawn, and now it is a majority Latino district. Remember that this is the district that Adam Clayton Powell Jr. fought to carve into a Black congressional district in Harlem.

In 1943, Harlem was divided into three segments. Each third was in a white majority district. Powell, who was affectionally called “Adam”, succeeded along with others in the fight to redraw the lines so that Harlem became a Black majority district. Then Powell, after becoming the first Black New York City Council member in 1941, ran for the newly drawn congressional seat, and in 1944, he became the first Black Congress member from New York.

Former Reps. Shirley Chisholm and Major Owens’ old congressional district in Brooklyn was originally closer to 65 percent Black. Now, redistricted, it’s down to 53 percent Black. Former Rep. Ed Towns’ old congressional district, which is my congressional district, was close to 65 percent Black. It was also redrawn and now is down to 53 percent Black.

In New York, an overwhelming number of power positions are held by white males: governor (white male), lieutenant governor (white male presently; Gov. Andrew Cuomo selected a white female as his running mate this time around), head of the state Assembly (white male), head of the state Senate (white male), state comptroller (white male), state attorney general (white male), mayor of New York City (white male) and New York City comptroller (white male). The majority of the state and city commissioners are white males. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. White men have too much power!

In New York City, we lost ground in the City Council. First we lost former Council Member Robert Jackson’s (Black male) seat to Mark Levine (white male). Then the white male led the Working Families Party orchestrated the selection of Melissa Mark-Viverito (Latina) for the speaker position of the City Council. Under the former speaker—my nemesis, Christine Quinn—Blacks were chairpersons of three powerful committees: Land Use, Education and Rules. Under the influence of the Working Families Party, Blacks were removed from all of these committee chairs and replaced by white males. Unfortunately, race still matters!

Let me pause to say this. From my first day to my last day in the City Council, I fought for rule changes. Big credit must be given to Mark-Viverito and the new City Council for implementing these rules proposed by the Fresh Democracy Council that I created and fought so hard for. Now expense and capital money is given to council districts equitably and according to a needs-based formula. Prior to this, it was given at the discretion of the speaker. Right on, Melissa!