“2021 will be what we make it. We have the numbers, the skills and resources to make a change in our community,”Assemblyman Charles Barron told the Amsterdam News.
One minute after midnight on Dec. 31, 2020/Jan. 1, 2021 will not be the panacea for all things tragic and drastic from 2020, but New Yorkers are hoping for something hopeful and uplifting from a grim time which has seen the globe dragged through months of turmoil and tragedy.
“We should face 2021 with our historic determination,” said 42nd district Brooklyn Councilwoman Inez Barron. “We came through the Middle Passage and came here and built this country. That is my heritage. We were not decimated, or annihilated. We’ve been the object of their attacks and we are still standing.”
“As we go into 2021 we must restrengthen our links with each other,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Kirkland C. Vaughans. “We have had considerable loss of life in 2020, and yes, while we need to maintain our struggle we must recognize each other’s pain. We must support and protect each other’s humanity which has been forgotten by this county.”
Inez Barron added, “2020 was brutal, and quite the opposite of what we thought it would be, especially as 2020 is seen as clear vision; instead we got another view that oftentimes we encountered things we did not expect and were not prepared for. Certainly there have been inexplicable losses, and we are not dismissive or not mindful of that, and we offer our support and our prayers. As we are going forward we have to do like GPS, recalculate because there is still a way to get to where we want to go to.”
No question 2020 issues will still be present in 2021.
Daybreak on Friday morning will not assure world peace; promises of instant cures won’t wipe out all that ails; Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ inauguration day platitudes won’t end all detrimental political shenanigans; and wishful thinking is not going to end police brutality, homelessness, heavy unemployment and medical apartheid.
Dr. Vaughans warned against buying into post-election euphoria, “All we did was cut the head off of the head snake. But the toxicity that was poured into the community and the nation was always there. It’s not new. We get past it by helping each other to both heal and realize each other’s traumas—some are current, some are intergenerational. Moving forward as we deal with all the issues of our everyday lives, we must see in what way we can be of help to somebody else. We should still struggle for our advancement, but holding our ground and each other.”
“What’s hurting us now is pessimism, said Assemblyman Barron. “Some of the people I am talking to are almost going into a depression. We have got to fight pessimism with optimism and a commitment to continue our struggle to win.”
“Good riddance, 2020” is fast becoming the refrain. This, after a year of the world navigating the initial terror of whatever the coronavirus/COVID 19 is with the devastating death tolls—and New York initially being the nation’s epicenter; with the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the international people power response to it; with several more police killings of Black people, and continued massive daily protests and violent counter-protetsts; and the curious political theater nationwide, and of course the deliberately distracting behavior of Donald Trump.
Damage done, and with ongoing pandemics such as COVID, institutionalized racism, nationally unprosecuted police brutality, and the public health crisis of inner city violence, passive non-involvement is not the resolution say activists and community leaders.
Vaughans, the New York-based psychoanalyst observed, “Black Lives Matter is an absolute contradiction with this country’s history and treatment of us, therefore we must recognize our trauma and must assist each other with it. Primarily it is Black and Brown lives put on the frontline to save white lives—they need us to survive in order to take care of them on so many different levels.”
“The Black community must go into 2021 preparing for historic levels of turmoil,” said Aton Edwards, executive of the New York-based International Preparedness Network, with regards to politics, social-economics, racial justice discrepancies and climate change.
‘With optimism must come action, if there is no action there will be no optimism. If we get caught in a thinking that everything can go back to normal because Trump is out and Biden—if we ride that wave, we are going to drown. We are facing uncharted territory. One thing we do know is that the chaos of climate change is going to change the entire global dynamic. We can’t change that, but we can plan for it using things that can shield us from harm.”
For years, Edwards has been in Black, independent and mainstream media urging people to stock up on emergency survival equipment, water, food supplies and medicine.
Assemblyman Barron said, “We are a people who despite all that we have faced, we dared to live and refused to die. As a people nothing is going to wipe us out—not the COVID pandemic, not a capitalist pandemic, not a violence pandemic. We have to come together like never before, and remove people from office that have been selling us out, fight for radical systemic change, and as individuals let’s get our diets and exercise together. We must go into 2021 with high expectations of ourselves. I say we go forward living on the shoulders of our ancestors who were in worse conditions than us.”
Edwards declared, “The Black community—literally all of the Afro descendants in this hemisphere are going to need to confront a very grim reality in 2021.
“That is, we are moving into a new tumultuous era that will require a number of major changes in our lifestyles and sensibilities to survive the many different natural, technological and environmental disasters, economic meltdowns, climate change, racism and related violence, i.e the rise of the far-right and a number of other challenges.
“This will require the creation and development of our own infrastructures that we can use to help us cope with all the rapid changes and chaos that we’ll be experiencing. Without them, our positions will continue to degrade and we’ll be forced to rely on a system that we cannot trust to help us.
“It’s a do-or-die proposition.”
Harlem Assemblywoman Dickens said that 2020 was a rough year both economically and health wise. She said the financial strain has been one of the hardest things New Yorkers have had to deal with.
With mass unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dickens recently voted to extend the state’s eviction moratorium preventing landlords from evicting tenants until May 1. Dickens said it was a promise to renters to enter the new year knowing they will have a place to live.
“People will be able to stay in their homes whether they are paying rent or not,” she said. “They will have the ability to state that they have liability because of COVID. Those that are not working they can’t pay the rent and unemployment has not been easy to get.”
Dickens spoke of 2020’s racial reckoning in the aftermath of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She said that as 2021 approaches police officers that have disrespect for the community have to be weeded out.
“There’s got to be respect,” she said. “They don’t have to like you. They have to respect that this is your community.”
When it comes to the nation’s continued quest for racial justice, Harlem State Sen. Brian Benjamin said that he’s focused on driving transparency and accountability in the NYPD and the issue is a top priority for him in 2021.
“We’re not going to allow police to run around like a renegade group,” he said. “When they make mistakes they have to be held accountable like everyone else.”
Benjamin said that part of how so many people pulled through the year is an example of how tough city dwellers are.
“COVID has been an amazing challenge,” he stated. “We’re going to fight through this together. Every disadvantage when dealing with a global pandemic, New York City has. We’ve been able to push through it and fight through it and we’re turning the page stronger than ever.”
He added that New Yorkers can look forward to the city being COVID-19 free in 2021.
“We want people to live,” Benjamin said. “We’ve lost too many to COVID so next year is the year of getting past COVID.”
Assemblyman Barron, who along with his wife Councilwoman Inez Barron are both survivors of the coronavirus, continued, “When I wake up I don’t focus on the negative, I focus on solutions: how many more masks than the over 100,0000 can we give to our constituents, how many more gallons of hand sanitizer, how many more testing sites can we establish, and we want to make sure that our hospitals have all the equipment we need, and we want to make sure that our seniors are fed.
“We must believe in our/yourselves, our ancestors, and believe in God.”
As the do/don’t COVID vaccine debate rages on Barron said, “People should consult their physician, do their own research, including with people of consciousness such as the Nation of Islam, and reach an informed and educated decision for themselves.”