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February 12th, 2014

Separate and Definitely Not Equal!

Lillie Howard

First and foremost this has been a very exciting but also very trying weekend. Friday evening was fabulous because I joined in a celebration of the 81st birthday of jazz saxophonist Hugh Brodie and it was awesome! So many musicians that I haven’t seen in years were there and we had a ball performing together in honor of Hugh. Then Saturday morning I attended the NAACP’s Annual Black History Month Breakfast which was very fulfilling. The food and also the singing was very good. The theme was "Brown vs Board of Education" and a very informative Brown60 Overview was given by Ramona Burton. The presentation of that theme was brought forward by former Judge Bolivar Ramsey, Judge Eddie Williams and Attorney At Law Tiombe Tallie Carter. The part of the presentation which stuck very prominently in my head was the mention of "Separate but Equal!" Being that this is African-American History month many thoughts were churning in my head re: that.

Throughout the history of this country African-Americans have been treated in a very separate and definitely unequal way. The proof of this is if we were looked upon as being equal there would never have been a need for a Civil War. There would never have been a need for the Emancipation Proclamation and truthfully it was only issued due to the fact that President Lincoln saw the need for Africans to be able to fight in the Civil War. By the summer of 1862, after a series of military defeats by Union forces, Congress passed the Confiscation Act and Militia Act which opened the way for free and freed Africans to aid the war effort. Moreover, Lincoln, seeing the indispensability of African American participation in the war, if it was to be won, issued the same year the Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation was not a blanket declaration of freedom for all enslaved Africans, only for enslaved Africans in states and parts of states in rebellion against the U.S., government. Loyal slave states like Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware were exempt. Moreover, it did not grant freedom; it only "declared" it-a declaration totally unenforceable. (Introduction To Black Studies by Maulana Karenga)

The Civil War ended April 9, 1865 and then comes along RECONSTRUCTION(1865-1877)which represented for African-Americans "the best of times and the worst of times." It was a time of great leaps forward and hope and great disappointment and betrayal. Moreover, Congress passed three cornerstone Amendments directed toward integration of Blacks in the social fabric on the basis of equality , i.e., the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Essentially, the Thirteenth freed them; the Fourteenth made them citizens , and the Fifteenth gave them the right to vote. Here we are in 2014 and there are still some states that are still trying to tamper with our right to vote. (Introduction To Black Studies by Maulana Karenga)

Mill Street Partners also made a presentation at this event re: their Mid-Broadway Development Plan. If it moves forward I pray that the local people of the city of Newburgh will benefit from the 300 plus construction jobs and the 40 or more permanent jobs stated in that presentation. County Legislator Curlie Dillard (4th Legislative District) stated in the brochure "We have before us a unique opportunity to turn the City in a new direction and to help so many of our residents. The Mid Broadway Redevelopment will create high quality affordable housing for our working families, a beautiful new landmark for our downtown, jobs for City residents, and bring a full-service supermarket back to lower Broadway. But most importantly, it will bring hope back to our community." To County Legislator Dillard I say " housing for working families is wonderful but hopefully more jobs will be created to enable more of our citizens to evolve into that category. Job training also has to be an integral part of this Mid-Broadway Development Plan. This Plan sounds good and looks good on paper but I pray that it doesn’t wind up like so many of the other Plans that have been marketed to our city but never materialized into a reality. I also hope that this isn’t the beginning of what has happened in Harlem. Not many of us can afford to reside there any longer therefore not many of us are there living in those Brownstone buildings!

This special weekend was marred due to the fact that while I was at the NAACP Breakfast a young lady approached me re: a very serious problem that she is having. She is a mother with seven children and she’s being faced with the great possibility of having to move from her apartment. This is due to the fact that Social Services, as of July 31st, has stopped paying her rent due to serious violations in the apartment. The apartment has been cited as having mold in her bathroom, which is a serious health hazard. Also, her upstairs area which is where her bedrooms and main bathroom are located, has no electricity due to sparks coming from the wires. On January 21st she received a 30 day notice from the owner to remove herself and family from the apartment. Where is she to go with 7 children? Why aren’t these Slumlords ordered to fix up the violations instead of evicting their tenants? Could this be a part of the Master Plan to get a certain people out of the area that is planned to be revived? Seriously think on that! Slumlords are having a heyday in the city of Newburgh and none of these so-called leaders seem to care at all. WHO’S ZOOMING WHO? Hopefully, the local NAACP will make sure that ALL of the above mentioned issues will be seriously addressed. If not, why not? Let us not forget that we’re still being treated SEPARATE and definitely not EQUAL! This is Lillie’s Point of View!

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