Group Wants Law Limiting Methadone Clinics to 500 Ft From Schools, Churches

EAST HARLEM — A group of people fed up with methadone clinics in their neighborhood are trying to push a stalled bill through Albany that would prevent clinics from opening within 500 feet of schools, parks and churches.townhall

The bill has been sitting in the state assembly since 2012. If it had passed, several methadone clinics in Harlem may not have opened, according Clyde Williams, a former advisor to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who is behind the push.

“There is nowhere else in Manhattan where they would dump as many things as they do in East Harlem and Central Harlem,” Williams said. ”We don’t have to accept that.”

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By Gustavo Solis | June 24, 2015


Presidential formula: Harlem Pastor Michael Walrond hopes to use Obama playbook to topple Rangel

The 42-year-old leader of First Corinthian Baptist Church says he can get thousands of young voters out to vote. But records showed Walrond has a spotty voting history and has lived out-of-state up until recently. His opponents, Rep. Charles Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat weren’t frazzled by the minister’s ambitions.

He aims to be the Barack Obama of Harlem.

Pastor Michael Walrond thinks young people will vote for him.

Pastor Michael Walrond thinks young people will vote for him.

Pastor Michael Walrond is convinced he can vanquish two heavyweight opponents and snag the uptown Congressional seat by using the 44th President’s 2008 campaign playbook as a guide.

The charismatic leader of the 9,000-member First Corinthian Baptist Church , on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., is banking on his loyal flock to entice young apathetic upper Manhattanites to get out and vote during June’s primary election.

“Young people will vote because I am running,” Walrond said. “We want to make history. And we are going to make history.”

It doesn’t faze Walrond that he’s up against 83-year-old political vet Rep. Charles Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights), who narrowly lost his bid to unseat Rangel two years back.

Nor does it bother the 42-year-old Freeport, L.I., product — who seems to have lived everywhere except Harlem — that some have called him an interloper.


“I tell people my bed was in Jersey but my life was here in this community,” said Walrond, who has lived in Edgewater, N.J., and upstate Rockland County since he returned to the area from Durham, N.C., where he served as a minister at Duke University from 1996 to 2004.

Walrond says that he and his wife, Lakeesha, moved into a luxury high-rise building on Fifth Ave., across from Mount Morris Park, six weeks ago, but declined to give a tour of his new digs.

He also shrugs off questions about his spotty voting record: Walrond has visited the polls in the last three presidential elections, but ignored them during the off-year congressional races, records showed.

“Who am I to say Michael Walrond can’t be like Barack Obama?”

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Pardon for boxer Jack Johnson awaits only a stroke of Obama’s pen. Why not sign now?

President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, from the Marine One helicopter, as he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he visited with Wounded Warriors who are being treated at the hospital and their families. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, from the Marine One helicopter, as he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he visited with Wounded Warriors who are being treated at the hospital and their families. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

For all the things President Obama says he can’t do because of the political gridlock in Washington, he can right a century-old wrong simply by picking up a pen. Tomorrow wouldn’t be too soon.

Jack Johnson, boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, was arrested in October 1912, railroaded by an all-white jury the following June and eventually served a year in prison, essentially for escorting a white woman across state lines. All these years later, for all the other things that have changed since, Johnson’s name is still lashed to those tracks. Continue reading

The boy Harry from Harlem did good

To most younger people who remember him, Harry Belafonte is mainly known for singing infectious but vaguely annoying 1950s Afro-Caribbean pop songs like Day-O.

Indeed, anyone under 30 may not know who he is at all.

If so, this expansive and entertaining, if sometimes hagiographic, documentary from Susanne Rostock will definitely set them straight.

And if Rostock’s film is a little fawning now and then, it’s hard to blame her, because Belafonte’s has been a truly extraordinary life.

Born in extreme poverty in a Harlem tenement in 1927, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr was the child of a Caribbean housekeeper, and was partly raised in Jamaica by his grandfather.

After finishing high school in Harlem, he served in the US Navy during World War II and returned to New York. He was working as a janitor’s assistant when a tenant gave him tickets to a show at Harlem’s American Negro Theater.

The theatre’s resident company used plays to give a voice to the black American experience, and the young Belafonte was entranced.

He met Sidney Poitier and began acting, but also experimented with singing and developed a keen interest in folk songs, both American and Jamaican. In 1956 Belafonte had a big hit with Caribbean folk song Matilda, and his debut album Calypso became the first LP to sell over a million copies.

He became an overnight sensation, and audiences went wild for his sensual live performances, but Harry was no mere pop star.

Inspired by the fearless campaigning of black singer Paul Robeson, Belafonte became increasingly exercised by the fate of black Americans, and would be a key player in the Civil Rights movement.

It’s this period of Belafonte’s life that Rostock’s film spends most time exploring, and understandably so, because the singer’s contribution to that cause cannot be overstated.

He bailed Martin Luther King out of Birmingham City Jail; supported the preacher’s family; financed the Freedom Riders; courted the Kennedys; and helped organise the iconic March on Washington in 1963.

Belafonte also rallied Hollywood chums like Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and Charlton Heston to put their names to the Civil Rights movement, and the singer also put his own career, and even his life, at risk.

His energy and commitment is remarkable, and his engagement against injustice has continued; he’s campaigned against apartheid, famine in Africa, and the American engagement in Iraq.

Admirable stuff, and at 85 he’s still going strong.

But Rostock’s film is too respectful to provide genuine insight; the recollections of Belafonte, Poitier and others about the ’60s are fascinating, but Belafonte’s personal life is only nodded to respectfully, and no hard questions are asked.

Why, for instance, has he been so consistently ambivalent about the presidency of Barack Obama?

– Paul Whitington

The Promise of Black Power, Seen Through a European Lens

A documentary reminds us why the black power movement is still relevant

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 , released on DVD this month, is a documentary culled from Swedish television footage of the American black power movement. As such, it presents an unsettlingly European perspective on race in America. From bloated, aging white sunbathers on Miami Beach to apparently menacing, poor, black Harlem residents glimpsed through bus windows, Americans, one and all, are turned into anthropological oddities, quaint parables, and eccentric amusements. In short, the Swedes do to us what we are so accustomed to doing to the rest of the world.

The turnabout definitely has an air of enjoyable schadenfreude. But there’s a painful touch of truth there as well. The Swedes are much more sympathetic to the oppressed black underclass than they are to the oppressive white majority government. And yet we’re all being watched through that European lens. What white and black Americans have never quite been able to do for ourselves, the Swedes do for us, granting every race equality through the blind justice of documentary condescension.

That isn’t to say that an American documentary on this topic would be better. Quite the opposite. The Swedes are clearly repulsed by what they perceive as white America’s smugness and brutality, and are fascinated by black America’s courage, resistance…and brutality. As Stokely Carmichael explains in a fascinating 1967 interview, the black power movement had respect and even reverence for Martin Luther King, but it defined itself in large part in opposition to his non-violent tactics.

“[Dr. King] is a man who could accept the uncivilized behavior of white Americans, their unceasing taunts, and still have in his heart forgiveness,” Carmichael says. “Unfortunately, I am from a younger generation. I am not as patient as Dr. King and I am not as merciful as Dr. King. And their unwillingness to deal with someone like Dr. King just means they have to deal with this younger generation.”

And so, deal with it they did, mostly by shooting it and putting it in jail. One of the more painful moments in the film is an interview with Bobby Seale, where he explains calmly, earnestly, and convincingly that the Black Panther party is armed and will shoot any “racist dog policeman” who tries to give it trouble because the members of the party are “bent on surviving.” Of course, those racist dog policemen eventually imprisoned Seale for years, and racist dog FBI agents broke the Panthers apart. The fatal flaw with black power is that however many guns you buy, whitey always has more.

Or at least, whitey always had more. Today, the man with the most guns in the entire world is black. I’m sure Barack Obama could wax more eloquent than I on the mistakes of the Black Panthers, but there’s a very real sense in which he is the ultimate fulfillment of their dream as much, if not more, than of Martin Luther King’s. Eldridge Cleaver, for example, speaking from exile in Algeria, talks about his hope that black communities in the U.S. might obtain a limited sovereignty. And now, 40+ years later, a black man commands not a limited sovereignty, but the whole sovereignty kaboodle.

Similarly, in one of the modern voice-overs appended to the footage throughout, Erykah Badu insists that a people must have the right to defend themselves and their families. She certainly has a point, but it’s the same point that Obama (or, for that matter, Bush) has when he explains why it’s necessary for us to have our troops wandering around with guns here, there, and everywhere. The logic of power is the logic of power. Stokely Carmichael laid it out, but Obama followed it through to its conclusion—not least by calibrating his rhetoric and compromising his policies in a way that Carmichael never would have. When it comes to the exercise of force, the pragmatist, as it turns out, has a good bit to teach the revolutionary.

If Obama fulfills, and indeed transcends, the black power movement’s visions of empowerment, he also demonstrates vividly the extent to which empowerment, per se, was not the only vision. The Black Panthers weren’t just guns and force and promising to shoot the pigs. They were also free clinics, and food distribution programs, and community building. In this respect, the footage here demonstrates how important women were to the movement. It was they who keeping the social kept running and a dream of change alive while the men followed the dream of violence into prison cells or, at worst, death.

Perhaps the person who makes this aspect of the movement clearest is Angela Davis. In a 1974 interview in her prison cell, a Swedish interviewer asks her if she approves of violence. With some exasperation, she explains that in a society like the United States, violence is going to occur—and then goes on to a heartfelt condemnation of the racist brutality and bombings she experienced growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. Though she doesn’t reject violence the way King did, there is in her answer an understanding of violence, and a horror of it. No doubt she’s mellowed some over the years. But still, I don’t think there’s actually any disconnect between her fiery statements about violence from 1974 and a voice over from 2010 near the end of the film in which she insists that even now, “under a black president,” we have to work together for “a future without war and without racism and without prisons.”

The black power movement, as seen here, had multiple goals. On the one hand, it hoped to give black people the kind of power that white people had. And you could argue that, despite the massive continuing disparities between black and white in this country, with Obama that hope was to some extent fulfilled. But the black power movement also hoped for a different kind of world; a world where violence would not be necessary, where America would forswear imperial adventures like Vietnam. It hoped for a world where, as Davis said, there would be no racism and no prison, and where, as someone else said, justice would roll on like rivers and righteousness like a mighty stream. This second goal was more ambitious, and the progress in attaining it has perhaps inevitably been less. But the dream isn’t dead as long as we remember it. The creators of The Black Power Mixtape, white and black, Swedish and American, deserve credit for helping us to do so.

NY Democrats criticize Obama’s budget compromise, with Rep. Rangel calling it ‘immoral’

New York’s congressional delegation trashed President Obama‘s budget compromise Monday, calling it “irresponsible,” “dangerous” and “immoral.”

“What [Obama has] done politically does not fit what I think should be done morally,” said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), who signaled plans to vote against the budget this week. “My community got a lousy deal in view of the resources that this great nation has.”

Obama reached an 11th-hour compromise late Friday that narrowly averted a government shutdown by slashing $38.5 billion in federal spending over the next six months.

It’s not clear how much of that cut will affect New York – but local pols say the city will suffer more than most.

“The budget…will hurt New York City terribly,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan). “Many of the things hurt like mass transit and public housing funds are particularly New York oriented.”

The MTA is likely to get slammed, which could mean even more fare hikes or service cuts, Nadler warned.

Money also getting slashed: Economic development, help feeding the poor, elderly in nursing homes, child care and Pell grants for college students.

The cuts “would be an outright disaster for our communities,” Nadler said.

The whacks come as the city struggles to absorb the impact of state budget cuts – and as congressional Dems brace for even deeper cuts as talks start this week on the 2012 federal budget.

An analysis by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens) estimated the House GOP‘s proposed 2012 budget would cut funding to New York City by more than $94 billion over 10 years.

“Republicans want to permanently extend tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires without paying for it,” Weiner said. “GOP priorities are out of sync with the rest of the country.”

Obama was taking heavy fire from local pols on the budget deal during a City Hall news conference.

Rangel says Obama can still count on African-American support – despite his compromise with Republican budget-slashers.

“He can depend on the overwhelming support of minorities in this country, not because we are so excited about the budget and his decisions, but we know the eyes of the Devil that are the alternatives,” he said. ” They’re not giving us any excuse at all to change Presidents.”

President Barack Obama to Hold Fundraiser at Harlem’s Red Rooster

President Barack Obama will hold a $30,000 per head fundraiser at the Red Rooster Harlem restaurant later this month, Politico reported.

Obama will host a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Lenox Avenue establishment of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, according to the website. The event will be a small affair with six tables where attendees would pay $30,800 per ticket.

Afterward, Obama will attend a “thank you” reception at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The event at the museum is being billed as an invitation only and the DNC will not be asking for donations.

Samuelsson opened up his restaurant to much fanfare in December. The restaurant has attracted a lot of attention and brought many visitors to Harlem.

Samuelsson is  the former winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Master’s. He has authored a couple of cookbooks and also prepared Obama’s first state dinner. He has described the restaurant as a “contemporary version of new Harlem that brings the former, the present and the future together,” and said he wanted the bistro to “invite people to come to Harlem, taste Harlem and experience Harlem.”

Politico says Obama’ trip to the historic neighborhood is his first in several months and is an attempt to keep his support level high among black voters as the 2012 presidential election approaches.

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20 Essential African-American Writers

Though things have steadily improved a bit over the past few decades, the literary canon is still dominated by what’s commonly criticized as “dead white men.” Because of this phenomenon, the contributions of female and minority writers, philosophers, scholars and activists fall to the wayside — sometimes completely missing opportunities to pick up prestigious awards. Readers from all backgrounds hoping to diversify their intake of novels, poetry, essays and speeches would do well to start here when looking for African-American perspectives. Far more than 20 fantastic writers exist, of course, but the ones listed here provide an amazing start.

  1. Maya Angelou (1928-): This incredible Renaissance woman served as the American Poet Laureate, won several Grammy Awards, served the Civil Rights cause under the venerable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., taught numerous classes and enjoyed a respectable performing arts career — all while never losing sight of her elegant poetry and prose. Her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings remains one of the most essential and inspiring examples of the genre, often finding its way onto syllabi across the nation. Like every other entry on this list, she’s more than an essential African-American writer — she’s an essential component of the literary canon, period.
  2. James Baldwin (1924-1987): Writer, activist and expatriate James Baldwin fearlessly tackled challenging, controversial sexual and racial subject matter at a time when hate crimes and abuse against the African-Americans and members of the LGBTQIA community ran riot. The impact of religion, for better or for worse, amongst the two marginalized minorities comprises one of his major themes. Go Tell it on the Mountain, Baldwin’s sublime debut novel, pulled from his own life experiences and opened readers up to the realities those forced to the fringes of society must face on a daily basis — and how they find the strength to continue in spite of adversity.
  3. Sterling Allen Brown (1901-1989): Folklore, jazz and Southern African-American culture greatly inspired the highly influential academic and poet. In 1984, Sterling Allen Brown received the distinguished position of Poet Laureate of the District of Colombia for his considerable contributions to education, literature and literary criticism — not to mention his mentorship of such notable figures as Toni Morrison, Ossie Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many more. Along with Langston Hughes and many others during the “Harlem Renaissance” (a term Brown considered a mere media label), he showed the world why poetry written in the African-American vernacular could be just as beautiful, effective as anything else written in any other language.
  4. William Demby (1922-): In 2006, received a Lifetime Achievement recognition from the Saturday Review‘s Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. He has only written four novels to date, with 1950s reflection on West Virginian race relations Beetlecreek garnering the most attention. These days, he works as a contributing editor for the nonprofit, bimonthly literary journal American Book Review after having retired from academia in 1989.
  5. Frederick Douglass (1817-1895): Today, schoolchildren across America remember Frederick Douglass as one of the most inspiring voices in the pre-Civil War Abolitionist movement. Because of his autobiographies and essays — most famously, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a Slave – readers fully understood the mortal and dehumanizing dangers found on slave plantations and farms. Following emancipation, Douglass continued working as a political activist and lecturer, traveling all over the world to discuss issues of slavery and equal rights.
  6. Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906): Even those unfamiliar with the amazing Paul Laurence Dunbar’s writings still know of them tangentially — “I know why the caged bird sings,” the inspiration for Maya Angelou’s autobiography, comes from his poem “Sympathy.” Way before that, though, he earned a reputation as the first African-American poet to gain national renown, though his oeuvre stretched into novels, plays, librettos and more as well. Most literary critics and historians accept that the sublime 1896 piece “Ode to Ethiopia” the defining work that launched him to national acclaim, paving the way for later writers from a number of different marginalized communities to shine through.
  7. Ralph Ellison (1914-1994): To this day, Invisible Man remains one of the most intense portraits of a marginalized community (American or not) ever printed. Writer, literary critic and academic Ralph Ellison bottled up the anger and frustration of African-Americans — specifically men — shoved to the fringes of society for no reason other than skin color, paying close attention to how they channeled such volatile emotions. Even beyond his magnum opus, he made a name for himself as an insightful scholar with a keen eye for analyzing and understanding all forms of literature, and he published numerous articles fans should definitely check out.
  8. bell hooks (1952-): Gloria Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, stands at the forefront of postmodern feminism. Thanks to her impressive activism work meaning to break down racial, gender and sexual barriers, she published some of the most essential works on the subjects — including the incredibly intelligent and insightful Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Today, she continues to lecture, publish and teach classes that carry on her philosophies pushing towards a more equitable, harmonious society.
  9. Langston Hughes (1902-1967): Regardless of whether or not one considers the Harlem Renaissance a broad media label or a legitimate literary movement (or somewhere in between), few argue that Langston Hughes emerged as one of the most essential American writers of the period. He worked in a wide range of styles, from plays to novels to essays to songs, but today’s audiences seem to know him from his poetry more than anything else. Though the short story collection The Ways of White Folks still garners plenty of attention for its sarcastic take on race relations in the early decades of the 20th Century.
  10. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960): Because Zora Neale Huston intently studied anthropology and folklore, her fictional characters crackle with nuance that becomes more apparent in subsequent readings. Her oeuvre stretches across four books, with Their Eyes Were Watching God easily the most recognized, and over 50 plays, short stories and essays — all of them considered some of the finest examples of Harlem Renaissance literature (not to mention American in general!). Interestingly enough, her conservative leanings placed her at odds with her more liberal contemporaries from the movement, most especially the heavily influential Langston Hughes.
  11. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968): The passion and backbreaking effort Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put into nonviolently protesting the state of African-Americans and other minorities needs no further introduction. His historical impact, still resonant and relevant today, came about through his eloquent, inspiring writings — largely speeches, essays and letters. “I Have a Dream” and “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” are essential readings for anyone interested in history, Civil Rights, politics, culture and even excellent persuasive nonfiction.
  12. Toni Morrison (1931-): Among Toni Morrison’s litany of accomplishments sits two incredible awards — both the Pulitzer Prize (which she won for Beloved in 1988) and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Along with the aforementioned novel, The Bluest Eye and Song of Soloman have both received plenty of acclaim for their fearless approaches towards racial, sexual and economic divides. Today, she remains politically, educationally and creatively active, touring the world to receive some impressive, distinguished honors and promote the importance of literacy and equality.
  13. Barack Obama (1961-): Though known more as a politician than a writer, America’s 44th president published the incredible memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance in 1995 — right at the very beginning of his political career. Such literary giants as Toni Morrison have praised Barack Obama’s writing style and very raw exploration of his biracial identity at a time when such things were not exactly embraced. Most of his writings these days center around politics, naturally, but the autobiography remains essential reading for anyone interested in American history, race relations and other similar topics.
  14. Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Because of Sojourner Truth’s unyielding strength and integrity, both the abolitionist and women’s rights movements propelled forward and changed American history forever. Her writings bravely addressed some incredibly controversial subject matter, and she put her beliefs into practice with the Underground Railroad and the recruitment of Union soldiers. To this day, the haunting “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech remains her most celebrated, influential and inspiring work, encapsulating how frustrated and overlooked she felt as both an African-American and a female.
  15. Alice Walker (1944-): The Color Purple rightfully earned Alice Walker both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1983, and to this day it remains her most cherished and essential work. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement and professor Howard Zinn, she used the novel format to expound upon the double marginalization of African-American women, speaking frankly about tough racial and sexual issues. She wrote many other novels, short stories and essays tackling similar subject matter as her more famous book — any fans should certainly head towards her more “obscure” works for more in-depth explorations of such complex themes.
  16. Booker T. Washington (1856-1915): As with many other early African-American writers of note, impassioned activist and educator Booker T. Washington used his talents towards abolishing slavery and establishing equal rights. Though he butted heads with many other Civil Rights leaders of the time — most especially W.E.B. DuBois — his efforts certainly lay the foundation for Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and other leaders who rose to prominence in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Washington wrote 6 books in his lifetime, among many other formats, but his autobiography Up From Slavery earned him the honor of being the first African-American ever invited to the White House in 1901.
  17. Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784): In spite of her unfortunate slave status, this absolutely essential writer became the first African-American woman to see her lovely poems pushed to print. So impressed was the world at large by her lyrical prowess, she received special permission to travel abroad and meet influential English politicians and delegates — though she only attained freedom following her master’s death. Most of her poems revolved around historical figures, close friends, Classical ideas and images and Christian propriety rather than the plight of the enslaved and the female.
  18. Harriet E. Wilson (1825-1900): Most historians and literary critics accept 1859′s Our Nig as the very first novel ever published by an African-American writer in the United States. Drawing from her own life story, Harriet E. Wilson used her pen to shed light on the true horrors of slavery, but unfortunately it fell from the public’s attention until Henry Louis Gates, Jr. rediscovered her talents and revealed her significance. Outside of her writing, she also garnered some degree of attention as a political activist, lecturer, trance reader and Spiritualist.
  19. Richard Wright (1908-1960): Regardless of whether or not one picks up Richard Wright’s fiction or nonfiction, he or she will be treated with some oft-controversial observations on race relations in America prior to the Civil Rights movement. Black Boy is, by and large, probably his most popular work, regardless of format. Most of his works, like many other African-American writers of the time, revolved around promoting awareness of the marginalization they experienced because of restrictive laws and general antipathy from mainstream society.
  20. Malcolm X (1925-1965): 1965′s The Autobiography of Malcolm X remains an incredibly essential read for anyone desiring to learn more about American history and the Civil Rights movement. Journalist Alex Haley interviewed and assisted the activist in compiling what became his only book, published with an addendum following his assassination. However, for a deeper glimpse into X’s beliefs, his relationship with the controversial Nation of Islam and his efforts to further the African-American cause, one must also pick up his published speeches as well.

January 12, 2011 by ghwelker