A Better Way Foundation and the Black Misleadership Class

This column appears in the December 12 – 19 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: Supporters of Kennard Ray attended a City Council meeting on Monday and demanded that Ray be given back his job as Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Segarra announced that Ray had been hired a couple of weeks ago but Ray withdrew his application as a result of sensationalized corporate media reports about his legal history. The city’s Ban the Box ordinance is supposed to protect formerly incarcerated individuals from employment discrimination. Rep. Brandon McGee, who ducked the Community Party’s attempts to meet with him to discuss our amendment which would restore the conditional job offer provision to the state BTB law, spoke at the meeting. McGee said that he “stands with Kennard.” Ok, how about strengthening the state law? A source at City Hall told me that a council committee run by Larry Deutsch is going to meet to discuss the Ray hiring issue. Stay tuned for updates…
Based on what I’ve heard from supportive peers in community organizing, Hartford nonprofit organization A Better Way Foundation, led by executive director Lorenzo Jones and represented in the community by LaResse Harvey, and their sycophants will always try to frame my criticism of them as a “personal grudge” because they don’t want to respond to the points that I raise. I believe that they are Democratic Party operatives. This is significant because ABWF claims that they serve the community. In my opinion that’s bs; I believe that they serve the Democrats on the local, state & national level. ABWF’s office is located on Martin Street, which is statistically the poorest neighborhood in Hartford. This organization should be one of the leaders of a campaign to eradicate poverty in this city, because they literally sit in the middle of it every damn day. A cursory review of the legislation that they have introduced will show that ABWF has zero interest in addressing the root causes of poverty and its socioeconomic ripple effect in Hartford, because that would require holding the Democrats accountable for doing nothing about the issue. ABWF can’t hold the Democrats accountable if they continue to act as stooges for the party. Connecticut Voices for Children reported on the latest poverty statistics from the US Census. “Estimates of poverty rates varied significantly across Connecticut’s cities: Bridgeport (25.3%), Danbury (9.3%), Hartford (38.0%), New Britain (24.1%), New Haven (26.1%), Norwalk (10.3%), Stamford (7.7%), and Waterbury (24.9%).  The percentage of children under 18 in poverty in Connecticut cities was also reported for Bridgeport (37.6%), Danbury (11.0 %), Hartford (53.1%), New Britain (31.0%), New Haven (37.9%), Norwalk (13.0%), Stamford (9.7%), and Waterbury (40.0%).”  My challenge to ABWF is to take on poverty and its accompanying issues, including Black/Latino unemployment, racial economic disparity and police containment of low income communities of color. Blacks and Latinos earn about 60 cents for every dollar whites make, while they possess 10 cents of net wealth for every dollar whites have. There have been over 200 homicides in Hartford during the past decade. Poverty is a root cause of gun violence in this city.
Unemployment engulfs the Black community. Black Agenda Report commentator Bruce Dixon talked about the refusal of the Black political class to speak up about this issue, especially since the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. “For as long as the stats have been kept, since well before the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and the election of thousands of black faces to offices high and low across the country, black unemployment has never been less than double white unemployment. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s black politicians used to inveigh about fighting for full employment and something they used to call ‘a Marshall Plan for the cities’ to turn it around. But now, with the numbers and supposed influence of black politicians at an all time high, addressing black unemployment isn’t just off the table, it’s somewhere out of the building. Both catastrophic black unemployment and the silence of the black misleadership class on the issue have been normal for a good while now.
“Whenever the general unemployment rate drops a tenth or two of a percent nowadays, the talking heads at MSNBC and other outfits whose job is cheerleading for this administration fall over themselves to praise this president and his administration for their wise and far-seeing economic leadership. That’s normal as well. But underneath those small reductions in unemployment is something ugly, something that’s becoming another new normal.
“Incremental reductions in unemployment, now more than ever before, seem to be driven by people giving up the job search as hopeless, people dropping out of the labor market to do whatever it is poor people do when they can’t find work on the books. This has routinely become a large part of current reductions in unemployment, a new and disturbing normal in this, the supposed age of black political empowerment. If this were true under a white Republican, our black political leaders would be up in arms, at least long enough to mobilize us to vote one of their own into office. But in this, the age of the first black president, at what we are told is the pinnacle of black political power, is a new age, and there is a new normal.”
Harvey spoke earlier this year at a forum on racial profiling about how Republican obstruction has prevented Obama from addressing the plight of Blacks in this country. During the first two years of Obama’s first term, the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. Obama refused a 2009 demand from members of the Congressional Black Caucus that he initiate targeted job creation in low income communities of color. The GOP was powerless to stop any initiative by Obama to address racial economic disparity in this country, yet Obama refused to take advantage of his political leverage.
The situation is no better on the local and state level. Governor Dannel Malloy has never given a speech on poverty during his time in office. There is not one word on Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s Twitter page about poverty or racial economic disparity. Earlier this year the Community Party sent a letter to Malloy, Segarra, city council president Shawn “I Don’t Talk About Race” Wooden, the mayors of New Haven and Bridgeport, and legislators representing the three cities. We demanded that Malloy address the state on the poverty issue and convene an action poverty conference which would include urban lawmakers, the aforementioned mayors, grassroots activists and community residents. The purpose of the conference would be to begin the process of drafting legislation and developing other initiatives specifically aimed at eradicating poverty in this state, with an emphasis on Black/Latino unemployment, racial wealth disparity, Black mass incarceration and education. Assemblymen Matt Ritter and Doug McCrory were the only politicians who agreed to participate.
Year after year the poverty issue in this state is swept under the rug, while superficial political gestures such as a small increase in the woefully insufficient minimum wage are passed off by the Democrats as an example of their commitment to helping the poor. Last week fast food workers nationwide staged strikes, demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage and the right to unionize without retaliation. Wal-Mart workers organized Black Friday strikes to protest their poverty wages. This growing revolt by oppressed workers should be supported by the Democrats through comprehensive public policy initiatives. I believe that organizations such as ABWF aren’t advocating for low income communities of color, they’re containing these neighborhoods by passing watered down legislation which gives Black and Latinos the illusion of progress.
I submit that the lynching of Trayvon Martin has been manipulated by Hartford Democrats and ABWF. Trayvon’s murder is a manifestation of the criminalization of young Black males, racial economic disparity and the police containment of communities of color, where Blacks are killed every 28 hours by cops and vigilantes such as George Zimmerman. ABWF participated in what were basically Democratic Party pep rallies, attended by Mayor Segarra and other Democrats. The World Socialist Website published a series of columns including one entitled “Democrats Seek to Channel Mass Anger Over Killing of Trayvon Martin.”  The columns examined how the Democrats and their operatives pimped Trayvon for political gain.
“Various politicians, both Democrat and Republican – including President Obama – have sought to express sympathy for Martin. Their aim is to forestall any discussion of the more basic social questions behind the killing, and to divert popular anger into safe political channels… Politically, the demonstrations have been dominated by supporters of the Democratic Party and officials in the Democratic Party. Typical was Detroit, where several thousand gathered… Reverend Horace Sheffield II spoke before the event at Detroit’s Hart Plaza. He told the crowd, ‘If you look behind any incident like this, there is someone who someone did vote for or someone who someone didn’t vote for.’ Several speakers openly called for what the rest implied—a vote for Obama…   Racial inequalities exist and racism is promoted by sections of the ruling class. However, this is one particular expression of the fundamental division in society: class. Indeed, the most horrific levels of poverty and unemployment for black workers are to be found in cities overseen by black mayors, politicians, police chiefs and businessmen… There is popular anger over the acquittal (of Zimmerman), seen as a travesty of justice that also sets a dangerous precedent. Sections of the Democratic Party, however, have sought to exploit the tragic case for their own ends.”
I think that it’s time for ABWF and the Black misleadership class in Hartford to act in the interests of communities of color. Grow a spine and a conscience. Speak out and organize to combat Black/Latino unemployment, racial economic disparity & police containment of low income communities of color. Hold the Democrats accountable for ignoring structural racism. Talk about the fact that neither Malloy nor Obama have given a speech about poverty during their time in office. Stop apologizing for a president whose record clearly reflects a total disregard for the Black community which has provided him with overwhelming support. Obama has publicly endorsed New York Police Department commissioner Ray Kelly, a staunch proponent of the racist stop and frisk policy, for the vacant Secretary of Homeland Security position. Stop and frisk opponents have warned that Kelly will attempt to implement stop and frisk on the federal level if he gets the Homeland Security job. A few years ago ABWF passed a bill which reduced the sentencing disparity between individuals convicted of crack and powder cocaine offenses in Connecticut. Last week Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder won a court decision which will result in the continued imprisonment of thousands of Blacks who were sentenced under the federal crack cocaine law.
BAR’s Dixon weighed in on this story. “First, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which first refused to retroactively reduce the unfair crack cocaine sentences under the law the president signed and the attorney general praised. Secondly, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which went to court to keep those people in prison. They lost when the trial judge ruled they should be released. And third, the same Justice Department run by the same first black attorney general under the first black president appealed the order to reduce those sentences, instead seeking and obtaining yesterday’s ruling by the 6th circuit court of appeals.
“On mass incarceration in general and the reduction of these unfair, unjust sentences, our first black president and attorney general are howling hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. Their hypocrisy is enabled by traditional black civil rights organizations like the NAACP-LDF, who refuse to make a political issue out of Obama’s and Holder’s hypocrisy. The ‘civil rights’ establishment is in a bind. They claim to oppose mass incarceration and the prison state, although they’ve only just learned the phrase ‘mass incarceration’ and cannot fix their lips to say ‘prison state.’
But since their first priority is boosting the political fortunes and careers of their peers in the black political elite, who we affectionately call our black misleadership class, they are unable to call the devil in charge of mass incarceration by his name, if that devil has a black face.”
ABWF, start doing what you claim to do, which is serve communities of color. I dare you.
Stay tuned for info on CP’s Safe Work Environment Act and Rep. Matt Ritter’s workplace bullying town hall, coming in 2014. Check out CP’s Stop Racial Profiling – Obey the Law! Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/PennAct  We will also introduce our Trayvon Martin Act in 2014. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/support-the-trayvon-martin-act/535126163203901   Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
Twitter page for John McPhilbin, a workplace bullying activist in Australia:
Workplace Violence News, featuring resources for preventing workplace violence and bullying:
Connecticut Voices for Children report on poverty, median income and health insurance in Connecticut:
United for a Fair Economy Report on racial economic disparity:
Community Party Action Poverty Conference letter to elected officials:
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report on the extrajudicial killing of Black people:
1970 Black Panther Party commentary on community control of the police:
The Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act, coming in 2014:
David Samuels
Community Party

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