The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, January 8, 2021

(I smell) Smoke 'n' Candy Here

Always nice to pick up a hookah, tobacco and candy on the way home from school. Conveniently located across from the Q at Parkside! Note - BIGMOE parked out front.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Flatbush 2020: What's Going On. REALLY.

Live in a place long enough, you can spot the long trends. The coming and goings of businesses, the changing of the faces, the physical and emotional architecture. As Mrs. Q and I round the corner towards the end of two decades, what once felt like a fast-changing neighborhood has started to seem less so. It's easy to spot the shifts, yes, but so much is the same since (say) 9/11 that I sometimes wonder why all the sturm and drang. Though it has become increasingly unaffordable to rent an apartment here, or buy a house, many of the same shops and demographics remain. That's largely because it's primarily a renter's neighborhood, but also because even as people move in and out, a large percentage remain. Brooklyn neighborhood change can be both slow and fast at the same time; it takes a local's eyes to see the slow.

The racial dimensions of so-called gentrifcation throughout Brooklyn have been dissected and (I would argue) exploited better elsewhere. The Q has always tried to remind readers that he knows he's not the center of the story, but rather a white male observer and cog in a greater Capitalist Machine, a machine that grinds away even as he vainly pushes against it. Grinds downs. Grinds away. Grinds with both precision and haphazard randomness. Misery and comfort coexist in Flatbush Lefferts, and have since its "founding" as a planned community for workers in the early 20th century, built on top of old farmsteads that before that were native lands. The Q's house was but one of ten in a row of faux brownstones considered ugly tract housing of its time and sold for roughly $5,000 in 1912. Built as a single family home, it and many of its sisters were instantly sold to speculators and landlords who chopped them up into apartments and sometimes even SROs. Lefferts Manor, the enclave within the north Flatbush borders of the magically designated Prospect-Lefferts-Garden (I'm going with TWO hyphens, and one S on garden, which makes more sense really, since it stands for Prospect Park, Lefferts Manor and the Botanic Garden) legislated its desire to avoid such a fate with deed covenants and eventually zoning changes. (It is my understanding that it would be hard to enforce the single family code during a housing crisis, but generally the folks of the Manor stick to the code. It is, after all, good for home values.)

The neighborhood was initially white, but not WHITE white, as the working class people of the neighborhood were mostly immigrants who hadn't fully "assimilated," a word that essentially implies capitulation to the racial and ethnic pecking order with the hope that somewhere down the road one's family might be given access to the best of the spoils of colonialism. Italians, Jews, Irish, my own Nordic ethnic immigrant ancestors, needed just a couple generations to achieve near-full access. Those related to enslaved Africans have not been so quickly absorbed, as we know all too well. That fight continues to be valiantly waged, and our neighborhood was host to many a powerful protest even during this year of COVID. I, like so many of my neighbors, participated, though I'll admit there were times I wondered whether my presence was welcome or merely tolerated. My heart was in it; my head reeled from questions of whether I've been complicit, ignorant or too much of both in racism's insufferable persistence. 

While some neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy trace the beginning of their shift to nearly all-black from the 1930s, along the A train, then accelerating during the block-busting 60's, Flatbush saw an enormous cultural shift not just white to black also to West Indian as scores of immigrants came from the Islands to either escape or capitalize. The cultural oleo that we now associate with our homenabe is one of a particular mix of young and old, Black, white, Asian, Caribbean, LatinX, families to singles - a real mix, though strictly speaking not as "integrated" as one might be tempted to boast. People clearly tend to keep to their own, and try as we might to make new friends, a lot of us (Q included) have found that mixing tends to end at the stoop. It's hard to break through to intimate friendships - often those reflect deeper cultural ties, schools and churches. This is a lament that I hear echoes by others in my still mostly-white network of intimate associates. 

But in all honesty, NEW intimate relationships aren't something one pursues in earnest while raising kids. Amiright? Warm acquaintances is all I can manage. Deep friendships are hard to come by. Maybe a lot of integration has ALWAYS been superficial, and not just racial integration. Maybe the whole thing is ephemeral, and maybe we never become as close to one another as we imagine. Maybe...well, at the very least, we need legal and economic equity so that justice has a fighting chance. Equal footing. As if that's every been a reality, anywhere. Has it?

One fascinating curve ball is, of course, inter-racial marriages, which provide one of the most promising and fascinating arrangements in cultural reconciliation and understanding. And endless hilarious familial anecdotes. (Cue musical with catchy title like "You Got Jerk In My Gefilte!" or some such.) Note to self: For another rabbit-hole research trip I might want to look at how suburbia - and racist block-busting - helped usher new ethnicities into whitedom. So many early suburbs attracted once-shunned groups like Italians-Irish-Jews that I wonder if part of the appeal of leaving behind the mixed race City was the promise of Whiteness. Ah hell, somebody probably already got their PhD on that one. Note to self: forget it. You don't read enough to even know if an idea is new or not.

So what about that supposed wholesale change from black to white businesses? So far, I don't see it. Most of my favorite West Indian food places are still around - De Hot Pot, De Bamboo Express, Jamaican Pride, Errols. The predominant shop type along and just off Flatbush is still the hair salon, beauty supply store or nails place, all catering to those of African descent. The whites seemed to usher in a few more sit-down restaurants - but not a ton, and many of those that DO exist are owned or co-owned by people of color. There's even a bar now (Flatbush Zombie House) that could have existed on the Lower East Side in the 90s. There are about 10 coffee houses where a decade ago there were none. But take a peek inside - they tend to be among the most diverse businesses anywhere around the 'Bush. Grocery stores have mixed offerings and mixed clientele. The new buildings have definitely brought higher-earners, but a surprising number of these residents are non-white (not a ton, but more than were foretold). The bad landlords are still plotting to get rid of lower-earning tenants, often black and brown, though I wonder sometimes whether it's more about the money than the race. Rent stabilization has perversely incentivized building owners to make life miserable for stabilized tenants to allow for vacancy increases and the promise of moving out of price controls altogether. I first started wondering just how racist was the practice when I started seeing and hearing of white renters being targeted for misery and gaslighting too. Local good-guys the Crown Heights Tenants Union tried to draw on the strength of this commonality. And with the pandemic, prices have actually come down. Who knows where it's leading. I recall many Q-posts (not Q-drops, mind you) where I wrote "all seems X now but wait til the next 9/11 or Great Recession sized calamity and..." I wasn't foreseeing pandemic, but hey, that's what makes them surprise economic reversals, right?

But here's the thing. At first, the Covid shuttered everything. We wondered whether we'd ever be the same again, whether society itself would break down, whether we'd ever eat Peppa's again. But by the end of the summer, nearly every business was back up and some were thriving. Anyplace that can do takeout saw a surge in volume, though restaurants that count on sitting customer/imbibers was and is screwed. For now. Hold out folks. It's nearly Christmas, and the Flabenue is as lively and festive as ever. The masks are near universal. There's even been a slight uptick in violent crime! (back to 2012 vibe, not 1992). The infection rate is almost bearable. Is it possible to feel upbeat about the neighborhood's chances for survival? A vaccine even! Because that's the vibe I'm soaking up - a turning corner, and hope. Then again, maybe it's the antibodies talking. Apparently the family Q got the C-19 in April and thankfully got through without major illness. And now for a few poorly shot pictures of life in the 'hood.

Last count we're up to 10 coffee places, including this odd entry on Bedford tween Clarkson and Parkside - Cups and Books.

Bonafini and Errols keeping the faith

The nabe's bookstore, Greenlight, popular as ever.
And that restaurant? I dunno. Never been. Seems adequately bourgie and sometimes busy.

Brand spanking new - not the only biz to open in the pandemic

Great cup of coffee. Buff black man owned (BBMO). Great vibe.

Warm raw fish and rice in a cup never felt so right

Not the best bagels. OUR bagels.

How bout more coffee?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

So Long Bob Thomason

This guy was the quintessential Brooklyn kook, in the best sort of way. Endlessly optimistic about the potential for greater relations between races and religions, Bob was a neighborhood leader, avid cyclist and occasional gadfly who cared deeply for your (our) neighborhood. He will be missed. Godspeed.

My most recent post about Bob was on his 90th

Shooting Across From the Q


Pic by Gregory Mango

Been a few years now, but this very spot was the scene of another tragic shooting of a young rollerblader named Brian Scott. Live in a neighborhood long enough, you remember things like that. 

Opaquely biased story here. As a note to those unfamiliar with the NY Post's rightward political lurch over the years, every mention of crime needs to be accompanied by some sort of mention of how violent crime is on the increase. It's true, there have been more dispute-shootings of late.  I say "dispute" because the phrase "gang violence" has come out of favor, and was never very accurate to begin with. The difference in my mind, and maybe yours, is that men get pissed off and resentful and resort to deadly violence, and the existence or not of a "gang" is not predictive. Violent confrontations aren't that different anywhere in the world, soccer hooligans come to mind, save the access to firearms. Pretty much anywhere there is disparity, poverty and fuel like drugs and booze, dudes get frisky. Think West Side Story, but replace knives and dancing with guns and cars. That's America.

So who's the guy the Post goes to to explain it all? I know who this gentleman is - you've probably seen him too. On this particular day, he provided just the quote that Murdoch's rag was looking for:

Joaquin Peña, 64, was redeeming plastic bottles and cans he collected when he heard gunfire.

“I heard the shots. Maybe ten. When I heard the first shot, I ducked to the ground. And I heard a car take off very fast. This year, so many people are getting shot around here,” Peña said.

And there you are! Subtext: because liberals protest the police, crime is up.

As if the cops were ever any good at de-escalating disputes. Gimme an effin' break. They show up and put up tape, strut around, commiserate about what a shithole the neighborhood is, ask some questions that no one wants to answer, write it up, go home to Staten Island or Breezy Point.

Think I'm cynical? You better believe it. Like Ice Cube said, before, you know...

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Ocean's 15

Yes, it's possible to both love and loathe a building you've never been in or seen in 3D. I know because I am currently in hate/love with 15 Ocean, as rendered by Rise Architecture (no developer as of yet). The idea of turning the parking lot at Ocean/Flatbush into useful apartments and retail has been a dream of many, even long before the current crop of gentrifiers flooded past this unofficial gateway to Flatbush. But this here seems like just the sort of wholesale makeover that will put a lot of folks off, myself included. And yet, unlike other big plans for Empire Blvd and above, this one could be built as of right, with no gooey community board input or ULURP process. And if the economy swings positive, this will be a no-brainer for developers. Big apartments right on the park AND right over a 3-line train station - if you can't make money on that you're in the wrong game.

Anyone who knows me or artist Dave Eppley will know how dear the Flatbush Trees are to our hearts. They stand sentinel to an ever-evolving streetscape, kitty-korner from the BBG. We did our best to give them an update. But we always knew their days were numbered, since not only are they not landmarked - they actually DON'T EXIST to the City's Art Commission. The paperwork was never properly filed. You can search the Q for its history. I'm too obsessed with the electoral map right now to be bothered.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

On the Edge of the Precipice of the Turning Point

History takes the long view. The present, of course, is merely experience. But humans are notoriously unable to comprehend short-term past and future. Analysis is for the birds, typically inaccurate, full of contradictions, but profitable for consultants and pundits and insider traders. That is to say, most of what the Q has to say should be taken with a pillar of salt. Cuz I'm not even a PROFESSIONAL consultant or pundit. I get paid in late-night refrigerator raids.

We, dear frenemies and enemends, are living through a year that will be studied for centuries - if there is anyone left to study such things. The problems of American society have become open sores. Was a day one could sweep it all under the petroleum-based Astroturf, were you so inclined and even modestly well-off. Before I describe what I'm seeing in our beloved 'Bush itself, let me just restate the case that the whole course of modern America took a perilous turn in fall of 2000. Most young'uns can't remember the anxiety of that moment, not knowing whether a climate-woke genteel southern upper crust white man compromiser with a stiff professor-manner or a congenial dumb-ass white man with faux Texan bonafides would win the White House. At the time everyone I knew said it didn't make a difference, they were all the same. Many voted for Ralph Nader, who was really the Bernie Sanders of his moment. And we've since learned, twice this century, a leader's choices have enormous influence on the day-to-day mental well-being of the Citizenry. Bush and Trump. Who could have known that those weeks of hanging-chad tug-o-war would have such consequential consequences? I mean...(looking back, can there REALLY be any doubt that a hanging chad is a vote?)

A Gore presidency would have been an easy Democrat transition, with many of the same players in positions of power, and there likely would have been a smooth and steady stream of reliable analysis. It's hard to imagine 9/11 unfolding in the same incompetent vacuum as the neophyte Bush & Co. But even if it had, the response would have been entirely different. A new international consensus on terrorism would likely have emerged. Torture wouldn't have reentered the American lexicon. And endless wars would not have begun. Let's face it; 9/11 fucked us up in the head. But the legacy of that day - its Islamaphobia and conspiracy theories - ignited the modern political schism.

So there's that. Then there's the Internet. A development in communication so utterly overwhelming as to make both Black Lives Matter and White Supremacy movements, Occupy Wall Street and fascist memes, into powerful new weapons against the Liberal Democratic Orthodoxy. So much promise and good; so much hate and misinformation. Do they cancel each other out? Creating a dialectic not unlike those of decades and even centuries past? Maybe. That's for the historians. Right now it just feels like war - a real information war, not so much of government against the people, but rather People against People, aided and abetted by an insecure government and a profiteering propoganda-class. But here's one thing I'd note - the glorified vioence of internet trolls rarely (I said rarely) makes it into real life - people feel comfortable spewing hate online. But they tend to think twice about real felonious mischief. (Remember I said "tend." It's a big country, and sometimes the sociopaths forget it's all "in good fun." There's a very real and dangerous anti-social white supremacy movement out there. But it's not synonymous with Trumpism. They just use each other, and I don't actually think we're headed for civil war. Just more randos killing people. You know, the American usual.)

In a couple weeks we'll know which direction we're headed. Unlike many of the black friends and pundits I've listened to (yes, listened) I don't think there will be much true citizen-on-citizen unrest. The "State," both Deep and Shallow, is too ingrained to allow for full-on war, or even battles. The Far Right will go back where they belong - grumbling and underground. The Far Left will be silenced by voices of moderation and consensus. The Middle will once again prevail, but maybe it'll finally be time for some serious tinkering with health care and income inequality. That's it. That's what I predict. Boring, right?

As for the Cops...I've always disliked them. I've feared them, truth be told. But never mortally so. And I'm a big white guy who LOOKS like he could be a closet Trumper. And I've felt entitled to talk back to them on occasion. But mostly their whole purpose, far as I can tell, is to create a background noise of fear to the underclasses. Don't mess with our stuff. Don't come in our neighborhoods. Don't get too Uppity. Sorry bluefellas. That's how it is, and in your souls you know it. You got into this game to keep certain people down. You're not heroes. You're barely "civil" servants. Fuck you, and anyone who thinks the Cops is a decent way to make a living. YOU made it a dangerous profession. It never had to be.

We need to start all over with police; detectives, okay. A certain number of socially aware protectors of the peace? Maybe. Mostly we need interrupters and specialists in disputes, because isn't that really what the cops are for? Only experienced cops with proven restraint should ever carry weapons - and what's with modern tech not creating safer tasers or some such? You put a computer on the moon but you can't safely incapacitate a man with a gun (or candy bar)? And get rid of the unions in the cops. Sorry, but this is one place that unions don't belong. Maybe some sort of bargaining panel, but not something that can protect police from scrutiny and punishment. No one should have a badge who has even the hint of sociopathic rage. The badge should be given as a medal for decency, not a license to kill.

There essay done for now. Back to the neighborhood...oh, and vote will ya?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Fire Destroys Apartment on Clarkson - Please Donate

pic by Lloyd Mitchell for Brooklyn Paper

We've all imagined the scenario. Through no fault of our own, or random carelessness, a fire breaks out in our abode. And even if we all get out alive we lose things that we can't easily replace, and we have to start all over. Most often images of these tragedies take place elsewhere - California, India, New Jersey, Greenpoint. And then it happens right across the street, and you can't turn away. Every day you think about it, and how difficult it must be. Granted there are tragedies playing out on every block in the City. But...

If you have a moment and a few bucks, please consider a gift.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Yet Another Gaslighter Among So Very Many

Lovin' that Dixie Chicks song Gaslighter. Sorry, I mean, The Chicks. Does anything speak to the moment more than a song of defiance that sounds like it talks about Trump written by a rich white lady who used to have a Confederacy-glorifying name getting gaslit by a rich vain white guy who schtooped some younger lady on HER yacht? This shit is layered, y'all. And the Chicks are so serious when they sing! Remember "Not Ready To Make Nice?" That was about GEORGE W. BUSH. Where a big chunk of this current world moment starts. Where were you for the election of 2000, the closest in American history, where once again the will of the people was trashed? I really think that. Then 9/11, and Iraq. We invented a whole new agency (Homeland Security) that's come to bite us on the ass (like we knew it would), a real world Big Brother that gets plenty of support from the Google/Amazon/Apple/Facebook even BIGGER brothers. A new openness to intolerance, racism, otherness, vile hatred and bitterness. Fox News. Idealogy Bubbles. Conspiracy theories gone mainstream. Vaccines, truthers, Q-Anons (I wish this Q got a dollar every time someone spouts that garbage!) Income inequality. 9/11. Bush over Gore, Bush to Obama, Obama to Trump. Trump to...god help us.

But none of it is really new, of course, as the recent racial reckoning shows. 1963, 1968, the '80s, always with the guns and the evangelicals and Klan-esque figures and conspiracy after conspiracy theory. Nothing is new. Just recycled. The fascism, the populism, the capitalist cutthroats and socialist kvetching. The racism, the anti-anti-racism, the dumb rednecks, the anti-semitism (Soros? Really?). Plus, you get the calling out of whites for their ignorance and racism, their Karenism. The "nice" whites trying their best to be helpful, though often hurting the cause (check "Nice White Parents," the podcast that nails the coffin.) Either we live in strange times, or we live in...times. We see it more - the brutality, the anger, the backlash, the fear, the "calling out" and "erasing," the mean-spirits and cross-posters. It's all out there, swashing across the internet's deck during perfect storms and hurricanes.

This summer I did like lots of folks, pulled up anchor for awhile, to think, to breathe. I'm lucky. With the family I went to New England, worked remotely, chasing wi-fi, falling in love again with one of the most beautiful places on earth. Truly. The mountains, the sea, islands, farmlands, the green green green, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, gardens, and a surprising number of Black Lives Matter signs and murals all over the rural lands. Mostly white people live there of course, but it's a pretty strong showing nonetheless. I wish rural America felt more welcoming to African-Americans, but I've come to learn that many POC don't feel comfortable around ruddy-faced pickup driving types, who I will admit don't always make me feel welcome either. Had to keep the Mrs. from bashing out the windows of an asshole's confederate flag flying truck. The food is worse, music worse, dancing WAY worse, parties lamer, streets tamer. Not a lot of vim and vigor, or culture to speak of (though the Drive-In movie theaters are a hoot). Sigh. The country, even in blue states, for all its seductive beauty, can never match the hustle/bustle flamboyant City we call home. If Brooklynites could come take over Rochester, Vermont for JUST ONE NIGHT, maybe we could cut a deal?

Speaking of gaslighting, I felt a good deal of it a couple years back. What was it with Imani Henry and Alicia Boyd going after me like I was the new David Duke? Gaslighting, make me question myself and my motives, make me silently slip away. I've always expressed, to the best of my ability, my own awkward reckoning with race and social justice through the lens of my neighborhood, its changes. I've never shied away from the effects, adverse and (sometimes) positive, of the ever-changing neighborhood enviornment. I've never pretended to be "woke," but I have woken up to all sorts of things over a decade of blogging.

Basically my crime was that I had the audacity (and some would say stupidity) to publicly call out Alicia Boyd (MTOPP) and Imani Henry (Equality for Flatbush) for being abusive, divisive, dictatorial, unable to handle civil dialogue mean and bullying. I knew I was stepping into a landmine, and man oh man, Boyd tried to shut down the blog and get me fired. Imani was just plain a dick. It wasn't fun. I lawyered up. Got ready for battle. Endured the abuse. I moved on - got sick of fighting with the Community Board as it crumbled under pressure from Boyd. The activists continued to do their work, their points often good enough for me to leave well enough alone. I wanted to be part of the conversation, but then the conversation became unproductive, and friends told me I wasn't helping, and to leave well enough alone. And then...

Not that long ago I got a call. From a mom. Her daughter, she said, was caught up in a cult and being brainwashed by the leader. "Why call me?" She had found my name on the interweb connected to this guy, and she wondered if I knew how to get her daughter back. When I found out she was 19, I told her what I knew in my heart to be true. That her daughter was an adult, that she was entitled to make the mistakes of youth, to feel passionately about stuff, to get sucked into things that she might later regret. I told her that my own life had gone off the rails a time or two, that I could commiserate, but unless she was the victim of a crime, not much could be done but pray and hope for the best. The stories she told were hard to hear. But I took a pass on getting more involved.

And then, someone sends me the below. A heartfelt plea from a passionate young person (not the same one whose mother had called) to be mindful of a treacherous and longstanding tendency in revolutionary politics. Leaders who are abusive, who profess things they themselves can't adhere to. I'm not going to insert myself into their struggle, these young folks, some of whom showed up at my house to spew anger my way for what they perceived was MY hatred, MY racism, MY ignorance. (I plead not guilty to the first charge, unwitting acceptance of the system of the second, and to the third, all I can say is what I don't know could fill a warehouse.)

I'll let Em tell Em's experience. I was going to go into a whole diatribe of my own, but this isn't my story. This isn't my truth. I know Imani to be abusive; I've experienced it. I've told you about it. I'll let someone who dared to get close to him tell how leaders fail, how they're often hurtful to the hurting, how they cause damage to those damaged by a society that tells them they don't matter. They do matter. I share this, because I know they do, and I'll try to listen better to everybody. I found this essay insightful and full of decency and self-knowledge. I hope you will too.

Please give Em 15 minutes of your time?

Essay on Imani and Gaslighters and so-called leaders

Below, a couple short quotes from Em's article. These are some classic gaslighter behaviors. Activists beware, take care, please know that there are lots of older white guys like me who are pulling for you to change the things we have been too inept or too blind to change for the better. I really mean that. I feel my generation has let you down, horribly, perhaps fatally. I will continue to join the call, but I'll keep my voice to a minimum and try to elevate yours. In the coming months, I hope to do more of that. Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to do an interview or write a blog post. I'm here.

"Imani Henry is abusive, he has abused me, he has abused survivors of violence who trusted up for help, he has abused other leadership, and while he has said he is willing to be a part of this process, every action he has taken since I and another former employee had a call-in meeting with him, has shown that his priority is to protect his control, his position, and attempt to delegitimize everything we say by deflecting and putting blame on us." 

"Transformative justice has been co-opted by abusers to continue cycles of abuse. More things I’m learning in the NYC left organizing scene. All I can hope for is the former leadership and volunteers of E4F to continue the work we want to do because it is needed and valuable in Flatbush. We do not need Imani, we do not need E4F. I wish nothing but healing and peace for Imani and everyone in E4F leadership. All I know is that in no spaces period, but ESPECIALLY these places that are supposed to be “safe”, should there be any type of abuse, predatory behavior, and manipulation"

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Shirley and Diana: History and Legacy

Despite the horrible job America does at teaching black history, I do remember a few names and did my own research as a teen to get to know them better. MLK and Malcolm X for sure, and Harriet Tubman and the biggest moments of the civil rights movement. But most of the most violent and troubling pieces were left out - I guess for fear of upsetting us? For fear that it might turn us into protesters and crusaders for equality? Afraid it might anger KKKers and White Supremacists is probably more likely. Keep it docile, make the whites not look TOO bad. There's some common sense in that I suppose, among nervous educators. But at moments like these, when history starts to close in on the present, it only lays bare the hypocrisy and orthodoxy of the American experiment. 

Somehow though, the name Shirley Chisholm did bust through to my lily education. Why is that? Thinking back now, she must have been a GIANT (albeit petite) to cut through the crap. And indeed she was, and had you lived in Brooklyn circa 1970s she might very well have been your Congresswoman. 


And if you doubt the idea of legacy, take a peek at Diana Richardson, who happens to be on your ballot today.

Vote for Diana if you haven't already. She's pure of heart and yes will probably stick her foot in her mouth from time to time. But you know why? She's unbought and unbossed. Like her hero Shirley Chisholm. And if Adem doesn't win the congressional seat from Yvette Clarke, I would go as far as to say Diana is a damn solid candidate for that spot in a couple years. You read it hear first.

Take a peek at Shirley telling it like it is during her 1972 campaign for pres, followed by some classic Diana.


And from your buddy Seth Kaplan comes this call to arms - actually, much simpler. A call to email. Will you take the ONE MINUTE it takes to send this? 

If you love Prospect Park, please read on. You probably already know that in 2022 an amazing new monument to Shirley Chisholm will be unveiled in Prospect Park. But did you know we're only halfway to our goal to honor the first black woman in Congress?

We have a chance to add an additional center located at the monument to further educate visitors about Shirley Chisholm and her significant contributions to our history. But we need your help.

The pandemic has strained budgets and resources across the city and state. We need you to tell the City Council that NOW MORE THAN EVER we must commemorate our black heroes.

Here's what YOU can do. Send a message to the City Council members who will vote on this initiative. Repost this on your Facebook page. Tell your friends. Show that we are committed to bringing this history to life!

Send an email with the subject “I support funding for the Shirley Chisholm Center in Prospect Park” to:

Corey Johnson (
Laurie Cumbo (
Brad Lander (
Mathieu Eugene (

If you'd like a sample form letter please see below. Thank you for helping support Prospect Park. Your input can make a difference!

Dear Council Members,

My name is [fill in the blank].

I would like to express my support of the Prospect Park Alliance’s capital request to the Brooklyn Delegation of the NYC Council to create an additional Shirley Chisholm Center at the new monument.

With these funds, the Alliance and NYC Parks can go beyond just commemoration and educate visitors about Shirley Chisholm and her significant contributions to our history. Now more than ever we must honor our black heroes. Thank you for your consideration.

[fill in the blank]

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Could Diana and Zell Lead the Way To Lasting Change?

Assemblywoman Diana Richardson

To put it mildly, elections have consequences. Not since 9/11 (aNOTHER stolen election mind you) has that been so obvious, at the Federal level. But watching dynamic duo Assemblymember Diana Richardson and State Senator Zell Myrie this past weekend in a protest at Grand Army Plaza, I'm beginning to wonder if they might be holding the key to real reform of the police at the STATE level. Both were elected post-Trump. Yes elections have consequences. Sometimes for the very much better.

Here's a concise look at their package of police reforms, smartly wrapped with a bow to make it easy to pass these common sense reforms all in one fell timely swoop. (note that many of these bills were originally sponsored by others, including Kevin Parker). 


If you can truly change the cops, there's a lot else that changes. Arrests and incarceration, admissible evidence in court, opportunities to highlight bad behavior, less incentives to criminalize and ticket minor offenses. It all starts with the police, and how they're hired, disciplined, fired and generally held accountable. It's been difficult for white Americans to articulate and embrace this, because the powers-that-be have often assured whites that their quality-of-life depends upon harsh treatment of criminals. Sure some actual criminals look like Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona. But be honest - usually the conjured image is someone much darker in skin tone. And to American Woman comes the usual refrain "Don't worry, ma'am. We've got this under control." Right?

It's not under control. It's out of control. And you and everyone you know recognizes it. Even when white folks I know have interactions with the cops, there's often a perceived whiff of disdain for the public, white OR black. I can run a few stories by you but I bet you've experience what I've experienced. Assholes. Brutes. Dicks. Bullies. And on social media and the news, you've now seen the true brutality that can be meted out by a man with a baton, badge and bullets. If you've been to some of the recent protests, you may have even experienced it first-hand.

Sure there are some good cops. I've met some. But why should we even have to make note of that fact? It's actually something worth remarking on. It's "remarkable" you might say.

I'd make a deeper argument here, but it's being made better elsewhere. Zell does a great job. Diana says it like it is. Many black elected leaders and activists and writers and poets and filmmakers have put it all out there. Now it's time for the jury to decide. And find the cops "guilty as charged" of making a mockery of decency and civility and justice. I might even go as far as to say "it's not their fault; it's the system." Screw that. Good people know right from wrong. Good people don't actively target black folks, "mistakenly" shoot, harrass and kill them, unless they have made an active choice to use force and intimidation over concern and empathy.

It's time to end the police as we know it. All of those sick wise-ass white supremacist cops need to be given permanent leave. And when they're gone, they can sign up again for a civilian patrol and for the new community-led protection and service corps, or whatever it ends up being. If they have the right stuff - compassion, understanding, patience, tolerance - then they can get a version of their old job back. If they're lacking? Nuts to you. Sadly, I'm sure some will end up beating people up from the back of their pickup trucks. Most, hopefully, will settle for a job without a weapon.

Imagine. A service corps where the "blue code" is about decency, and THAT'S the quality that gets protected by the brother and sisterhood of community police.

The real question is this. If you offer the job of "Civilian Officer" and very, very few of those positions are offered a gun, and none get lifetime protection from actual felonies, and none get a military style uniform and immunity from their peers testifying against them9...

How many of these cops would sign up for that job, even if the pay and perks were the same as now? Or were the gun, badge and uniform the perks they liked the best?

It's not unheard of to dismantle one thing and build it back, better and smarter and kinder. Oh, and those detectives solving murder and rape cases? They never needed guns to begin with. Think about it. All that work happens AFTER the violence.

State sponsored brutality must end. This is the moment. The whole world is watching. Your kids are watching. Maybe worst of all, the COPS are watching.

So what's the verdict going to be?