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Our Councilperson, Mathieu Eugene of the 40th District, doesn't have a website, after seven years in office. (Here's what's been under construction for three years.) His Facebook page has no resources on it, 41 likes, and a calendar from 2011. He's the chair of Youth Services at the City Council, as he likes to remind us, because he cares about the future of our young people. He sent out an email, yes on the internets, reminding kids to sign up for the City's Department of Summer Youth Programs application. Are there even any kids on his email list? Do kids even USE email anymore? Nicely done, sir! Ahead of the curve again!
District 35, much of Crown Heights and Clinton Hill and Ft. Greene and Bed-Stuy, are represented by MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts) founder Laurie Cumbo. Thoughtful, funny and passionate, she's a go-getter, who believes in herself and the power to change things that need changing. She, like many other local leaders, has identified programs for youth as a priority, particularly those that can help guide a generation of kids "left out" of the hunt for social and economic success. (That's socio-lingo for brown kids get shafted, and sometimes a lift here and there along the way is crucial to avoid the negative spiral into a life of second or third class citizenship.)
Can you believe we even have to SAY this thing about skin tone in 2014? Wouldn't the elder civil rights leaders of the '60s be stunned if they were here to see how poorly we've done? Look around you...am I wrong to suggest that by a thousand little daggers the world is stacked against the average dark-skinned kid in America? We treat young black men like dangerous animals, jail them on minor offenses, and leave them there to harden and lose heart. We harass them, and cross the street, avoid their eyes, and shun their participation and labor. We expect them to behave like Barack Obamas at all times, though we permit white kids to rove the streets in long-haired packs and playfully tag it "adolescence." We insist the bright poor black boys attend "no excuses" schools, where they're taught to tow the line, not dream, play and make art. The more averagely intelligent black kids? They go to schools no white parent would dream of enrolling in. And when their mothers are single, we blame them for having the kids in the first place, and barely offer the real assistance they need. Cuts in housing subsidies, crappy or costly day-care, rare paid maternity leave. You're on your own sister...the dude that did it likely fits the description above, and the cycle continues, and the rest of us just pray your son doesn't stab us randomly on the street someday.
As to that, do we even acknowledge how wildly rare black-on-white crime is? That's what we're really afraid of, isn't it? It's crazy rare, in a City that we're told suffers from racial violence. Even the criminals generally know to stay away from the white folks, lest they attract the attention of cops all too eager to cite probable-cause and move in for the jugular. No offense, but the traffic dragnet down at Church and Flatbush is outrageously racially profiled by its location alone. See any checkpoints on Henry Street, and Clinton, Hicks and Court, notorious race tracks? Thought not.
Next time you see Laurie Cumbo, thank her for continuing to reach out in meaningful ways to young people.
As to Eugene? His most recent act as Chair of Youth Services was to honor the boy who was hit in the eye during a dreadful shooting last month. Here's what he says in his press release:
“Gama Droiville is an inspiration to all of us. Despite having been dealt great hardship so suddenly at such a young age, Gama has demonstrated incredible strength, compassion and resiliency. Gama has an inner calmness and wisdom beyond his years that I firmly believe will lead to him achieving many great things in life. As the Chairman of the Youth Services Committee, and a longtime advocate for our youth, I recognize Gama Droiville as someone whose heroic qualities make him an exemplary role model for all young people who may feel that life’s challenges are too great to overcome.”
That's right. While Laurie was compiling priceless information for young people, and reaching them over multiple platforms and in person, ME was honoring a kid for getting shot in the face. No offense, Gama, we love you. But this is not a productive use of the Councilman's mandate, the faith placed in him by a minority of voters in the primary (let's remember he did not reach the 50% threshold during the Dem primary).
It's true though. If we could ALL get shot in the eye and react with an inner calmness, this world would be a much better place.