Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The "Black Community," Majorie Hurst; Unexpected trip to City Council

Sunday night I blogged about Mayor Domenic Sarno's so far unkept promise about moving forward on the environment in Springfield, MA. On Monday, my sister called me to say that Councilor Ferrera intended to introduce a resolution to urge Mayor Sarno to establish a Green Commission at Monday's City Council meeting. So I took myself down to the public speak-out to talk about what could be done right away to improve our city's environment. It was a bit odd. Through the years I've addressed City Council on only two issues: homelessness and ward representation. There are limits to how thin I can spread myself! Well, we have ward representation, now. Homelessness is another story.

While I was in City Hall I picked up a copy of Point of View, the local newspaper published by Frederick and Marjorie Hurst, and read it while I waited for the public speak-out to begin. I could not help but contrast the image of the city's African-American population as represented in the newspaper with the image that many of the city's white people have of African-Americans.

Point of View's stories this month included an article on students at Frederick Harris School talking about peace, the accomplishments of Major Toy R. Frasier, Jr., the Basileus of the Delta Chi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity located in Springfield, MA, the The 2nd Annual Hoop City Jazz & Art Festival, a column on Older Americans Month by Ruth Loving, and much more. The paper also included a pretty devastating picture of how an important issue about underperforming eighth graders was cavalierly decided.by by the School Committee. Marjorie is serving her last term as a School Committee member and was one of two dissenting votes. Read this article if you really want to know what went on at the school committee meeting. As Marjorie says,
"No research was conducted or cited. No public discussion was scheduled or held. No written policy was drafted or presented for review. And the adopted policy wasn’t even on the agenda for that night. It was simply brought forward as an oral motion by Christopher Collins, our newest school committee member, during his Curriculum and Programs subcommittee report of a meeting that had been held just prior to the school committee meeting.

And the four other members of the school committee voted in favor of it!!! We don’t know how much it will cost for busing or staffing or who will be in charge of this new program. Neither parents/guardians, students, teachers, nor principals have had any advance warning or opportunity to prepare for the implementation of this policy, which will go into effect next month. By contrast, we just recently spent over a year accumulating and studying data, holding meetings, getting feedback and buy-in and drafting and revising the wording for a school uniform policy, for heavens sake! And we spend all of 30 minutes discussing a policy that possibly will have permanent and irreparable effects on a segment of our students."

Yesterday five hundred people, mostly youth, participated in a vigil mourning the murder of Mario Hornsby, Jr., a high school student who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two hours after the rally, police arrested a 17 year old man in the murder. Police said the community cooperated with the police with information leading to the suspect's apprehension.

Now contrast the above picture of the African-American community with what posters on Masslive-- anonymous, of course-- have to say about Black people. I have to paraphrase (no direct quoting allowed) but here goes:
  • One poster, commenting on the vigil, says that nothing in the Black community will change until the community rejects its own image. (Which image is that, the Point of View image?)
  • Another poster says that this (the violence) isn't a community problem, it's a Black problem. (Blacks aren't a part of this city?)
  • Another poster, after calling the violence a Black problem, admits he/she has no idea what goes on in the Black community.
  • Another poster says it's the fault of so-called Black "leaders."
  • Another poster says that summer jobs are just throwing money at "baby thugs."
  • Another poster suggests tying them to a tree and beating some sense into them.
As usual, there are a few thoughtful posts.

I wonder what would happen if I started posting comments on Masslive like, "If only the white community would stop glorifying gangsters, we'd have less mob activity," or "White people just wanna lock themselves away in their gated communities and leave the rest of us to sink or swim." Boy, would I get jumped on!

Too many times we white people see only a part of the picture and think it describes the entire Black community. We say, "We're not racist, we're just telling it like it is!" And we ignore any evidence to the contrary.

On my way to work this morning, I saw: Black kids in groups walking to school, Black men in suits waiting for the bus, Black moms waiting at the bus stop with their kids, two Black guys on a corner with documents in their hands gesturing to a local building, a young Black man in a work uniform headed to work at Dunkin Donuts, two Black women dressed the way lawyers dress walking toward the intersection of State and Main.

Yes, communities of color are struggling with drugs, crime, the school drop-out rate-- but
most Black kids manage to make it through school without getting addicted to drugs or being murdered or murdering. And these problems are scarcely non-existent among whites.

Here's hoping that someday we can see each other in the full range of our struggles and triumphs, without stereotypes and generalizations,
and wishing the best for each other.


Bill Dusty said...

I think when folks say "black community" in Springfield they are referring to the poor black neighborhoods of the city. Since all people want to bring up their families in safe envirnoments, black folks who are middle income or wealthy do not live in these neighborhoods. The poor neighborhoods, which are primarily populated by minorities, do indeed have major problems. These neighborhoods account for the vast majority of the violent crime in Springfield (nearly all of the homicides). If a person of such stature as Bill Cosby - who in my opinion is a far more respectable person than victim-chaser Al Sharpton - can say the poor black communities need to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done to strengthen their families and communities, then I think it is not incorrect to say that the black community does indeed need to look in the mirror and stop shaking the finger of blame at others.

Also, black leaders in Springfield often refer to "the black community" in their speeches, so it's not just a white racist thing. Bud Williams spoke strongly about the need for Springfield's black community to end the violence on their streets. Was he being racist?

Michaelann Bewsee said...

Uh huh....and how about the "Tie them to a tree" comment?

Point of View is a fairly "conservative" publication, as these things go...with a strong sense of personal responsibility. Where do the Hursts fit in your analysis?

And sorry-- I lived in McKnight, where the murder took place, for thirty years. It is racially mixed and income-diverse. Many middle class Blacks live there, as well as some you could only describe as upper-income-- The Jordans, for example.

It seems to me that many in Black community is "looking in the mirror" all the time!

And if people mean "poor Black community," not "Black community," then they had better say so.

Anechoic said...

Since all people want to bring up their families in safe envirnoments, black folks who are middle income or wealthy do not live in these neighborhoods.

Plenty of solidly middle/upper-middle class blacks, whites, and Latinos live in the Square, McKnight and other "bad" neighborhoods. Also, I'm not a big Sharpton fan but he's been a pretty big voice for self-responsibility for some time - for example he's been railing against violent and misogynistic rap lyrics since the 1980's, so much so that he's been attacked in various rap songs over his views.

Now contrast the above picture of the African-American community with what posters on Masslive-- anonymous, of course-- have to say about Black people.

Of course - it's easy to spout off on a topic when you can hide behind an anonymous identity.