Over 60 Yemeni business owners, and concerned neighborhood citizens joined Sheikh Musa Drammeh the CEO of the Parkchester Times, and ‘TINY’ Frampton CEO of TBS, NEW DIRECTIONS to announce a $5,000 contribution to fight the rise in gang violence in the Castle Hill/Parkchester area.
Mr. Drammah said that Yemeni businessmen had their own American dream of a better life for themselves and their families. They had to open or buy stores in areas where no one wanted to do business because of the high gang violence rate. These business owners were not a part of the community because they were seen as outsiders to community residents, and often let small crimes go unreported for one reason or another.
Mr. Drammah said that the Yemeni business owners now want to become part of the community they have their business in, and have joined with Mr. Drammah and Mr. Frampton to raise $25,000.00 to do their part to help reduce crime in the communities they own businesses and live. Mr. Drammah said that the Yemeni business owners have given him and Mr. Frampton a start of $5,000.00 to begin a three point program to save area children from gang violence.
Mr. Frampton better known as ‘TINY’ is an ex-gang member and the CEO of TBS New Directions a program to help talk to and teach children why they should not join or how to leave from a gang. There are three goals to this program in the Castle Hill/Parkchester area.
1 – Raise a minimum of $25,000.00 of which $5,000.00 has been already donated by the local Yemeni business owners.
2 – Boxes will be placed in stores so area resident and visitors can contribute to this cause to save the children.
3 – Each participating business will receive two stickers. One sticker will be placed on the door or window, and the other will be placed inside to let people know that this business is a part of the program to save children and the neighborhood from gang violence. The sticker will also show the community that the business owner cares and wants to become a full time member of the community. There will be links to a 24 hour Help Resource line also on the sticker.
The single most important element for a person, neighborhood, town and a nation to thrive is good education. However there won’t be good public education without good educational infrastructures. And there can’t be good infrastructures in the absence of strong commitment to public safety.
We’ve painfully learned so well in the Bronx that deterioration of law and order have contributed to the regrettable regressions Bronxites are accustomed to and sadly normalized.
Poor communities (such as ours) and nations (some of us come from) continue to be poorer for lack of prioritizing good education in a scientifically and technically rapid changing universe around them. And for those mightily striving for socioeconomic development in the midst of privation, they have to own the ‘know hows’ and the tools of development since sustainable development can’t be outsourced permanently.
Furthermore, in terms of public safety, we all have recognized the fact that post-September 11 expenditures on local, national and international public safety aren’t prudent, sustainable or worst yet being able to alleviate hateful global violent attacks and conflicts.
So, because of our government’s wrong priorities with our tax dollars concerning peace and conflict, towns such as the Bronx have been neglected by the federal government who’s irresponsibly preoccupied dumping our finite resources into its endless and easily containable global Wall Street conflicts.
It is time to permanently end poverty, violence and normalization of failures in our neighborhoods in the Bronx and beyond. We said it is for STEMDUP ERA.
What is STEMDUP?
STEMDUP is the combination of our Wall Street, School System, Public Safety, and Peacebuilding expertise packaged into an innovative educational program bound to permanently transformed the unacceptable status quo of poverty, educational failures and hateful violence that too many of our peoples have unconsciously normalized as divine fate. When it is absolutely not!
We are honored to inform you all that Bronx will be piloting a bilingual STEMDUP ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL, K-12, starting in the academic year 2019/20, followed by other counties and countries. #stemdupera #stemdupschools #stemdupacademy #stemdupinstitute #stemdup
Refugee and Immigrant Rights Activist, Executive Director of Columbia University based Initiative, Safari Yangu Immigrant Stories, President, Amnesty International Bronx New York. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
Ethiopia, with more than 100 million people, is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. It hosts the headquarters of the African Union and its geographical location makes it a strategic resource for the Western powers in their counterterrorism efforts. Ethiopia maintains very strong support from foreign donors despite its deteriorating human rights record (New York Times, 2016).
Ethiopia is currently under a state of emergency due to recent protests and violence. This violence has caused widespread internal displacement. In addition to its own internal turmoil, Ethiopia plays a crucial role in the region as a host of refugees itself. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2018), “Ethiopia is host to the second largest refugee population in Africa, with over 847,200 refugees from nineteen countries, the majority originating from neighboring South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan”. The political crisis in Ethiopia cannot, therefore, be told in isolation. Ethiopia is part of the Horn of Africa, the easternmost extension of African land, comprised of the countries mentioned above, and Kenya. These countries share a long history and many diverse communities live across the region. Due to political instability, the region has seen many conflicts and is very fragile. This article will examine the complex relationships between Ethiopia and its neighbors in order to understand the risks of a multi-country humanitarian and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa.
The Ethiopia and Eritrea Conflict
Following many years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and at some point, involving Italy as well, Eritrea was formally recognized as an independent country after the 1993 referendum. Eritrea believes that Ethiopia is constructed of different nationalities that were forced together during the imperial scrambles for Africa, and is therefore held together with weak, artificial alliances. Therefore, the Eritrean opposition’s approach has been to conduct sharp, well directed military offenses in the hopes that Ethiopia will collapse. Hence, they identified south-eastern Ethiopia, inhibited by Ethiopians of Somali origin, as the weakest point of Ethiopia. For more than 30 years, escalation of conflict has continued along borders killing many people, displacing many people from their homes and adding to the regional refugee crisis (Axel Borchgrevink & Jon Harald Sande Lie, 2009).
The hostility between these countries has adversely affected the Somali communities that live along the common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to a Human Rights Watch report (2018), the Somali region security forces’ intolerance for dissent by the Somali community extends beyond the border into Eritrean territory, targeting families with relatives across the border. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced since.
Somalia has almost one million citizens living in the diaspora, many of which are refugees and asylum seekers. Any conflict in Ethiopia would result in a grave situation in Somalia, given the long, unmarked border that Ethiopia and Somalia share. In fact, Ethiopian military has in the past crossed its southeastern border and intervened inside Somalia (New York Times, 2011)
Somalia is one of the most unstable countries in the region at the moment. Since the former president Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in a bloody civil war in 1991, Somalia has not had a stable government. Parts of the country have either seceded or are run by different warlords. Some militant groups like the Union of Islamic courts, which later evolved into the now infamous Al-Shabaab, have been labeled as terrorist organizations.
More than 10 peace conferences were held throughout the 1990s to address the sources of conflict and possibilities for peace in Somalia, but they were largely unsuccessful. (Axel Borchgrevink & Jon Harald Sande Lie, 2009). Since then, other efforts followed, and Somalia is now governed under the Federal Government of Somalia, a government which is not widely accepted and has faced constant opposition and threats from different militant groups. The fragile government is protected by the African peacekeeping forces, AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia).
Ethiopia’s southern Kenya Border & Regional Refugee Hosting Challenges
Kenya is one of the most stable countries in the region, with a diverse economy and vibrant democracy, civil society, and press. However, Kenya has faced its own human rights challenges. Just like Somalia, Kenya shares common ethnic and geographical similarities with Ethiopia. The upper eastern province of Kenya is predominantly Oromo and Somali ethnic populations, ethnic groups that also reside in Ethiopia and Somalia. Apart from the recently arrived refugees, many of the Oromo and Somali ethnic populations have lived in Kenyan for decades and are Kenyan citizens.
The Kenyan government has long supported the Ethiopian government, showing a blind eye to the human rights violations it is accused of. Ethiopian refugees face so many challenges in Kenya. It takes months if not years to get official recognition as a refugee, a status you need to access any benefits from the host government or UNHCR (United National High Commission for Refugees). Kenya has an encampment policy, which requires refugees to stay in the camps at Dadaab and Kakuma. These camps presently also house refugees from Sudan and Somalia. The two camps are the biggest in the world and cannot accommodate any more refugees. Refugees in Kenya who choose to not stay in the camps faces arrest and prosecution by the Kenyan authorities. Amnesty International Annual report (2018), explains how the Ethiopian government has taken advantage of that loop-hole in Kenya refugee policy to harass their own citizens in Kenya. The Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi has recruited spies and bribed the Kenyan police to target the Oromo refugees in Nairobi and other cities (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Many of these refugees have been either killed, tortured, or deported back to Ethiopia.
Kenya has gone through its own internal economic and social challenges that have had negative effects on the refugee populations it hosts. The economy is shrinking, and the country is divided along tribal and regional lines due to political upheavals. For a number of years, Kenya has threatened to close down the refugee camps (UNHCR, 2015) and repatriate the refugees back to their countries of origin, citing security fears and the economic burden. Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps remain open only due to a court order and international pressure. UNHCR (2017) while urging the government to reconsider their decision, issued this statement, “UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya and we understand well the current regional security situation and the seriousness of the threats Kenya is facing. We also recognize the obligation of the government to ensure the security of its citizens and other people living in Kenya, including refugees.” Kenya is concerned about terror groups using refugee camps as recruitment centers, especially after the Garissa university terror attack (Kenya Daily Nation, 2017). The terror suspects were found to be operating from the Dadaab refugee camp.
Current Ethiopian Political Concerns
If the Ethiopian crisis escalates, it could spiral into a regional catastrophe affecting more than six countries. When the former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his draft of reforms that included the release of thousands of political prisoners (Human Rights Watch, 2018), there was a sense of relief among civil society and the international community that finally the government was serious about addressing some of its political issues. However, his resignation weeks later shocked many, and the subsequent declaration of a state of emergency (Reuters, 2018). Some of the recently released prisoners have since been re-arrested (Amnesty International, 2018) and then released on bail, and many people live in fear.
Since the state of emergency was declared in Ethiopia, almost one million Ethiopians have been internally displaced, and thousands have crossed the border into Kenya. Activists have also sounded the alarm on the rising incidences of rape and other gender-based violence, allegedly committed by the police and the military (Amnesty International, 2018). Last month’s election of the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a former lieutenant-colonel in the army and the first Prime Minister from the Oromo community, has not definitely quelled any fears from the general public.
The Ethiopian situation is a time-bomb that the international community must take an active role in to ensure stability. With a population of over 100 million, the current refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa risks meeting the levels of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq, and the Congo. With so much instability in the region, including the ongoing war in South Sudan, most of the countries neighboring Ethiopia are terrified.
There has been evidence of victims of slavery and human trafficking in Libya are refugees from the horn of Africa (The East African, 2018). Any further escalation of violence Ethiopia and instability in the region will push more refugees to attempt the already dangerous journey to Europe through North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.
Reforms Required: A Call to Action
The political opposition, civil society, and the press must be given a respected space and a voice in Ethiopian society to ensure transparent governance. The Ethiopian democratic space must be opened and widened as the political landscape is quickly shifting. It will have to accommodate the people’s demands, especially the most vulnerable such as displaced populations, if the current ruling party wants to govern equitably.
As a key western ally receiving billions of dollars from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada, the West must use that leverage for reforms before instability in Ethiopia have widespread repercussions across the region. All political prisoners should be released, responsive and representative government formed, end state of emergency, compensate victims of violence and perpetrators of crime to face justice. Without these urgent reforms, unrest in the country could have a domino effect in what is an already volatile part of the African continent.
WITH PROLONGED HEAT CONTINUING INTO THE WEEK NYC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE URGE NEW YORKERS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO STAY COOL
Excessive Heat Warning in effect through Monday morning
Cooling centers remain open through Wednesday 7/4. To find the nearest cooling center call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/beattheheat
Parks department will extend daily NYC pool hours to 8 p.m. through Tuesday 7/3 for Olympic and Intermediate pools
With high heat and humidity continuing to affect New York City into the week, the New York City Emergency Department and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are urging New Yorkers to continue to take steps to beat the heat. The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for New York City in effect through 6 a.m. Monday, 7/2. An Excessive Heat Watch for New York City will be in effect from 6 a.m. through 9 p.m. Monday 7/2. According to the latest National Weather Service forecast, temperatures today are in the upper 90s, with heat index values in excess of 100 degrees. Temperatures are forecast in the mid to upper 90s through Wednesday, with heat index values in the mid to upper 90s.
An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when a combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater. New Yorkers should use air conditioning to stay cool at home or go to a place that has air conditioning. New York City cooling centers will remain open throughout the five boroughs through Wednesday, July 4. Cooling centers are air-conditioned facilities such as libraries, community centers, senior centers, and NYCHA facilities that are open to the public during heat emergencies. To find a cooling center, including accessible facilities closest to you, call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) or visit the NYC Cooling Center Finder atwww.nyc.gov/beattheheat.
“The hot weather will continue into the week and we urge people to keep safe,” said New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito. “Drink plenty of water, use air conditioning or go to an air-conditioned place, and avoid strenuous outdoor activity during the periods of intense heat.”
“Hot and humid weather like what we’re experiencing this weekend can cause heat illness, and even death,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “If you have air conditioning and you have not used it up until now, now is the time to turn it on. Setting it to “low” or 78 degrees Fahrenheit will keep you cool and keep your bills in check. For those without air conditioning, especially older adults and people with chronic health conditions, we urge you to seek an air-conditioned place in your neighborhood or go to a NYC Cooling Center. As always, we urge New Yorkers to Be A Buddy and check on your neighbors, family and friends who may be at greater risk for heat illness and make sure they are safe and cool.”
Extreme heat is defined by temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region, last for prolonged periods, and are accompanied by high humidity. The New York City Emergency Management Department urges New Yorkers to take steps to protect themselves and help others who may be at increased risk from the heat. Those at increased risk are people who do not have or use air conditioning AND:
Are 65 years or older;
Have chronic medical, mental health, or cognitive/developmental conditions;
Take certain medications, which can disrupt the regulation of body temperature;
Are confined to their beds, have limited mobility, or are unable to leave their homes;
Are obese; or
Misuse alcohol or drugs.
CHECK ON THOSE PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO THE HEAT:
In New York City, most heat-related deaths occur after exposure to heat in homes without air conditioners. Air conditioning is the best way to stay safe and healthy when it is hot outside. Encourage at-risk New Yorkers to use air conditioning. Help them get to an air-conditioned place, even if for a few hours, if they cannot stay cool at home. Make sure they are drinking plenty of water.
Get to know your neighbors. During extreme heat, call or visit at-risk neighbors, friends and family, such as older adultsand anyone with a pre-existing medical condition. This small but crucial gesture can help ensure that we all have a safe and healthy summer.
During extreme heat, the Department of Social Services (DSS) issues a Code Red Alert, initiating enhanced outreach efforts. During Code Red periods, shelter is available system-wide to accommodate anyone who is reasonably believed to be homeless. Homeless individuals experiencing heat-related discomfort are also able to access the designated cooling area at any shelter; and transportation to cooling centers is available via DSS outreach teams, who are out 24/7/365, checking on and engaging vulnerable clients with greater frequency.
The Parks department is extending general swim hours to8 p.m. at all outdoor Olympic and Intermediate pools beginning through Tuesday 7/3. City beaches are open and will operate on a normal schedule from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Parks has more than 600 spray showers, which will remain available until sundown, or later if actively in use by the public. Free SPF 30 sunscreen is available at all City pools and beaches.
ADDITIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY TIPS FOR PROTECTION AGAINST THE HEAT:
Stay out of the sun and avoid extreme temperature changes.
Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Drink fluids, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool. Those on fluid-restricted diets or taking diuretics should first consult their physician.
Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid beverages containing alcohol and/or caffeine.
Eat small, frequent meals.
Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun’s peak hours:11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
If possible, go to an air-conditioned location for several hours during the hottest parts of the day.
Cool down with a cool bath or shower.
Participate in activities that will keep you cool, such as going to the movies, shopping at a mall, or swimming at a pool or beach.
Cover all exposed skin with an SPF sunscreen (15 or above) and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head.
Heat illness is serious. Prolonged exposure to the heat can be harmful and potentially fatal. The added stress caused by heat can also aggravate heart or lung disease even without symptoms of heat illness.
Know the warning signs of heat stress. If you or someone you know feels weak or faint, go to a cool place and drink water. If there is no improvement, call a doctor or 911.
Call 911 immediately if you have, or someone you know has:
Hot dry skin.
Confusion, disorientation, or dizziness.
Nausea and vomiting.
KEEPING YOUR PETS SAFE
Avoid dehydration: Pets can dehydrate quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water.
Exercise early and late: When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Your pet’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn.
Know when your pet is in danger: Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, or even collapse. Animals with flat faces like pugs and Persian cats are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. They should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
Keep cats safe by installing screens in your windows: Unscreened windows pose a real danger to cats, as they can fall out of them often during summer months.
IMPROPER FIRE HYDRANT USE:
The improper opening of fire hydrants wastes 1,000 gallons of water per minute, causes flooding on city streets, and can lower water pressure to dangerous levels and hamper the ability of FDNY to fight fire safely and quickly.
Properly used “spray caps” reduce hydrant output to a safe 25 gallons per minute while still providing relief from the heat. To obtain a spray cap, an adult 18 years or older with proper identification can go to his or her local firehouse and request one.
The United States Declaration of Independence guarantees every American the “Right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Tell that to the more than four hundred thousand mostly poor and working- class tenants of New York City Housing Authority buildings, many of whom live in apartments containing dangerous levels of exposure to lead paint poisoning.
Such exposure, medical research has found, can cause severe medical problems across all age groups. A woman’s exposure to lead paint during pregnancy has been proven to be among the greatest risk factors for the premature birth of their newborns; a child’s exposure to lead paint poisoning from their infancy to the age of 6 has been shown to be linked to lower mental and physical development and impulse control problems, sometimes leading later to failure in school and even violent criminal activity; an adult’s exposure to it increases the chances that he or she will suffer from high blood pressure, joint and muscle discomfort and memory loss. For people of all ages, extremely high levels of such exposure can result in death.
This, though, is far from a new problem, for the dangers associated with lead paint poisoning exposure for people residing in all public as well as private housing units built prior to 1978 (the year that the use of lead paint, the most common cause of lead poisoning, became prohibited by federal law in all newly built private and public housing) have been known by physicians, other health care providers and scientific researchers for years prior to 1978.
However, there had been few reported public outcries blaming elected officials or their appointed health and housing commissioners for not solving the problem. Rather, most were seemingly given the benefit of the doubt by the media and the public, which, realizing that most public housing units were built before 1978, viewed lead paint poisoning as a health concern, rather than as a political issue.
Yet, as was documented in an 80- page complaint which was issued recently by the United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), there is sadly a highly political component intertwined with the health issue of exposure to lead paint poisoning. Politics, of course, is not a vice, and many politicians are virtuous. But as Berman made clear in his report, which came after a 2- year investigation, the political environment surrounding the running of the NYCHA under the watch of both the current Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor Michael Bloomberg became a breeding ground for deception and corruption.
That deception and corruption, detailed by Berman in the complaint, involved a systematic scheme in which NYCHA officials actually instructed their staff on how to hide signs of lead paint exposure from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) investigators during their yearly inspections of city public housing sites. More disheartening still, as Berman was aware from the outset of the investigation, this scandal actually went to the top of NYCHA chain of command- to now former NYCHA chairwoman, Shola Olatoye.
Appointed to her position by Mayor de Blasio 4 years ago, Olatoye had prior to 2016 been the subject of an investigation from the New York City Department of Investigation (DOJ), which later formed the basis of Berman’s federal complaint. The DOJ investigation culminated this past April with a report that found that Olatoye had on several occasions issued false reports to HUD, citing dates and times of NYCHA inspections, while knowing such purported inspections had never occurred. It came as little surprise, but no help to the tenants who were the victims of her deceit, that she resigned from her position at NYCHA shortly following the release of the DOJ report. It did come as a surprise to many NYCHA tenants and some in media that Mayor de Blasio refused to acknowledge the harm that she had caused to the residents of NYCHA by falsifying reports about lead inspections. But the lies did not end here.
The plot to deceive federal inspectors, Berman also found, was not restricted to covering up lead paint exposure which is the most lethal, but far from the only health hazard faced by families living in public housing. He discovered that through a “Quick Fix Tips” list they covertly developed, NYCHA officials instructed their managers, mechanics and other staff on how to hide other serious health and safety related hazards- including roach and rodent infestations, infectious molds, malfunctioning elevators, water leaks and heating outages- from federal housing inspectors.
Fortunately for the beleaguered tenants of the NYCHA, the daily ordeal of living under these horrid conditions appears to have ended along with the corruption that caused it. With Berman’s report staring them in the face, NYCHA officials had no option but to accept responsibility for their unspeakable conduct and agree to sign a federal consent decree as part of a legal settlement with the federal government. Losing their former autonomy over public housing, NYCHA will now under the provisions of the decree have to answer to a court appointed monitor. With that, the days of NYCHA tenants being deprived of basic services due to false reporting by NYCHA officials have seemingly ended.
NYC tenants will also benefit from the financial obligation that the decree placed on New York City, separate and apart from NYCHA. Found by Berman to be critically underfunding public housing, NYC under the decree must allocate from the city’s budget an additional $ 2.2 billion dollars to NYCHA- a believed significant but undisclosed amount of which will go to pay for the damages awarded to 19 children who incurred serious medical damage due to their exposure to lead poisoning. NYCHA also agreed to pay $ 200 million for a minimum of one year after. With that, the days of NYCHA tenants being deprived of basic services due to the frugality of the NYC government elected officials have seemingly ended.
Still the harm already suffered by many tenants cannot be undone. The monetary settlement given to the 19 children who were the victims of lead paint poisoning cannot, of course, restore their health to them. And tragically they might well be just a small percentage of the actual number of the victims. According to the finding of Berman’s investigation, there are likely to be many more children suffering from exposure to lead paint poison who remain undiagnosed because, due to the cover up of NYCHA officials, they were never tested for it.
If somehow these officials who perpetuated this horrible deceit are still able to sleep at night, that might end if Berman, as he suggested he is considering, files criminal charges against them.
There are two reasons why Mayor de Blasio, who has a long record of missing public events due to oversleeping, has probably not allowed the harm caused to these children to interfere with his own sleep. For one, he knows that he himself does not face criminal charges concerning the scandals at NYCHA, for indifference to the suffering of the citizens he swore to serve is not a crime.
Secondly, de Blasio has seemingly exonerated himself from his own moral and political responsibility in this scandal, instead placing the blame on the state and federal governments for what he claimed were their “decades of divestments” in the NYCHA. However, upon hearing de Blasio’s claims, Berman responded that it was not the feds or the state who bore the blame but rather the cause was that NYCHA was “a dysfunctional operation … fundamentally flawed and engaged in a culture of false statements and concealment.”
Thankfully for the good men, women and children living in NYCHA buildings, Geoffrey Berman has finally ended that sorrowful culture.
Robert Golomb is a nationally and internationally published columnist. Mail him at MrBob347@aol.com and follow him on Twitter@RobertGolomb
During the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 there was a young 15 year old girl who stood up for her right to sit on a bus in Montgomery Alabama. Her name was Claudette Colvin who happened to be colored (the term used back then), and she became an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement after being taken off the bus by police for refusing to give her seat up to a young white woman.
As Ms. Colvin told the audience Sunday, “I paid my bus fare and it is my constitutional right to sit here.” That lasted only until police officers boarded the bus to arrest Ms. Colvin. She said that she had been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King who was seeking equality in the south by the Civil Right’s Movement. Ms. Colvin went on to say that her colored friends who were with her and gave up their seats stayed away from her.
Ms. Colvin mentioned that a male classmate who was friendly with a white girl wound up being lynched a few years later after six white claimed that he raped them. Life was very tough for a young colored girl growing up in the south during her childhood. Life was tough for all colored people who were treated as second class citizens in the south.
While Ms. Claudette Colvin’s event on a Montgomery Alabama bus preceded Rosa Parks, Ms. Colvin did not receive the media coverage that Ms. Parks was given. That was because the Civil Rights Movement had progressed, and the time the Rosa Parks incident came about it was then news. Ms. Colvin did testify before the Supreme Court in the case that determined that bus segregation in Alabama was unconstitutional. That then began the desegregation movement in Alabama and the rest of the south.
Congressman Joe Crowley was on hand to present to Ms. Colvin a flag which flew over the U.S. Capital, and said that Ms. Colvin is a fine example of greatness and what is good in this country. Congressman Crowley added that he is honored to commend Ms. Colvin for her Courageous achievements.
Ms. Colvin also received a proclamation from State Senator Luis Sepulveda. Senator Sepulveda spoke of his grandfather who taught him about the Civil Rights Movement, and that Ms. Colvin’s act should be in the history books also. he added that it took courage for a 15 year old black girl to do what you did by saying “no I have a constitutional right to sit here.” He finished by saying “Ms. Colvin – you are history.”
Ms. Colvin stayed to take questions from members of the audience, and take photos with them.
State Senator Luis Sepulveda, Ms. Claudette Colvin, Congressman Joe Crowley, and the President of the Parkchester NAACP Ms. Beverly Roberts.
Ms. Colvin taking questions from members of the audience.
The officers and committee members of the Parkchester NAACP with Ms. Colvin.
Public Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza visited the Excellence Community Charter School located at 1960 Benedict Avenue this past week. Chancellor Carranza wanted to see the new seven story charter school to find out why it was so popular in the Parkchester area.
Chancellor Carranza was greeted by the CEO of the Excellence Charter School group Dr. Charlene Reid who took him on a tour of the charter school. I was able to go on the tour with Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid. The school is seven stories tall with grades Kindergarten through eighth grade in the building. We first visited a kindergarten class where the students were sitting on the floor eagerly listening to the teacher.
We then went up to the seventh floor to see some older children in different rooms. There was a music class with so many different instruments, a computer class, where I was also told that each student receives their own lap top computer. As we went down floor by floor we visited various different classes in rooms that you might see in most public schools if it was possible. It appeared that Dr. Reid was showing off her school to public schools Chancellor Carranza. I felt that I was in one of the few New York City schools that was making the grade, because as a citywide parent leader I saw to many schools that were performing below the standards.
In a charter school children have to apply to the school, and if more children apply than seats available there are rules to determine which children will be admitted first. A lottery is then held for the remaining seats available, and a wait list is set up should any children move away or decide to attend another school. I was told that the Excellence Charter School in Parkchester has a wait list of close to one thousand applicants. Dr. Reid said that for the new building the charter school group this school is in was able to issue bonds for the thirty million dollars needed to build the seven story building.
After the tour was completed Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid went into an office for a private discussion. The chancellor came out to say that he was looking to create a relationship between the public schools and charter schools in the city. He then took questions from those of us who remained. Some questions asked about the admission policy to this charter school, what resources charter schools receive as compared to public schools, and how charter schools differ from public schools. Already knowing the answers to those questions, I asked Chancellor Carranza about the poor performance of Bronx public schools, pointing out local public schools which are not performing as well as this charter school.
Chancellor Carranza admitted that Bronx public schools were not doing as well as he and the mayor would like, but that he was new on the job, he would have to look at each individual school, and to give him some time. I replied those were almost the exact words I heard from Chancellor Joel Klein over fifteen years ago. I then said parents want to know why their children are not getting the education they are suppose to get, and that could be a reason that the Bronx Charter School For Excellence was so popular in the Parkchester and surrounding area.
Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid.
Chancellor Carranza and Dr. Reid visiting a kindergarten classroom.
Chancellor Carranza with some Honor Roll students in front of the Honor Roll board.
An outside look of the seven story Bronx Charter School for Excellence located at 1960 Benedict Avenue.