Posted by TAG - March 31, 2012 | Interview


Carl Davidson at the 2012 Left Forum
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Carl Davidson is the co-chair of the Committees Of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), a member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), and former vice president and inter-organizational secretary of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

 
NLN’s Thomas Altfather Good ran into Carl Davidson at the 2012 Left Forum. Davidson was tabling for CCDS in a small, very loud and busy, room in the student union. Good invited Davidson to do a stand-up interview in a (slightly) less noisy part of the Forum.

 
Although the interview is available on YouTube (and worth seeing to get a feel for Davidson’s personality – and to appreciate his sense of humor) it is transcribed here as the background noise at the Forum is evident on the video.

 

***

 
TAG: Since you are well known for being associated with Progressives For Obama, I’m wondering how you feel on this [election] cycle.

 
CD: This cycle’s different. The first cycle, Obama was an unknown in terms of what he would actually do. We knew where he would stand, in terms of his campaign, what issues he stood on. Some of us knew him personally, from going way back, when he first ran for office, that’s when I first ran into him. I helped him speak at the first anti-war rally he spoke at. But mainly we knew that, back then, in the Progressives for Obama days, is that, whatever you wanted to say about where he was at, and we pegged him as a liberal speaking to the center, that he was, there was a difference that mattered between him and McCain and Sarah Palin. And so we said vote for him and that’s why we formed Progressives for Obama.

 
But this time it’s a little different because he has a track record. And I can tell just from the working class around where I live, is that they’re a lot less enthusiastic. They are really against Republicans and they may get out and vote for him but with not nearly the same degree of intensity as they had before. So I think it’s going to be uphill for him. For our part, we’ve decided to take the approach, and by our I mean, Progressive Democrats of America. Which I guess I can describe, it is to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party is to the Republicans. It’s independent of them but it operates in their orbit. Like the Tea Party tries to push the Republicans to the right, we try to push the Democrats to the left. And our approach to the election is to work for the election of 12 candidates including Norm Solomon, to get them in the Progressive Caucus. We’re going to expand the progressive caucus in the Congress. We see that as kind of the third pole, the third of three poles in the election. There’s the Republicans, there’s the Democratic leadership, and then there’s PDA, the progressive caucus. We’re trying to expand the progressive caucus. As to who we will work for, that’s who we will work for. And where we’ll put our money and energy. And we will tell people to vote for Obama, in the sense that you can always vote for one adversary to defeat another as long as you tell the truth about them both. (laughs)

 
So that’s a slightly more nuanced version of what we did last time but we think it matches the conditions.

 

TAG: So you would oppose a third party candidate.

 
CD: Not necessarily, it depends on the state. If you have a third party candidate running in your state and it’s not one of these cliffhanger states, go ahead and vote for him. In fact we are actively, and here by we I mean the Committees of Correspondence, some of us in the Committees of Correspondence are actively looking for a socialist candidate to run for statewide office so that we can run somebody on a socialist ticket. To take down, say a governor or a state senator. Again, if it’s not a cliffhanger. It’s sort of like what Dan Lebotz did in Ohio back in 2010. We’re looking to find other places like that where we can run a socialist ticket. You know, to try to build for the future. Because, I mean PDA’s good, for what we are doing now. It’s sort of the working class, democratic wing, of Democratic voters. It has no official connection to the party, we’re an independent PAC. But that’s the arena we operate in. But eventually we’re going to have to, I think what will happen is that the Democratic Party will eventually implode. And so our task is to take people out of there en masse, at least all of the good people out of there en masse. And then merge them with other people who have already been out – Greens or socialist candidates – and build something new. That can become, that can displace the Democrats. But to do it in a way so that you don’t help the right. That’s the hard part.

 
TAG: Given that we’re standing in a university and your arguably most famous work is called The New Radicals In The Multiversity, I’m wondering how you feel about that book now.

 
CD: It actually holds up very well. You know some of the tactics in it might seem kind of quaint, in the list of different tactics for battles for SDS chapters to go through. But the core of that book is probably where I did some of my hardest and most original work. Which was to understand what the university really is. And there were all kinds of debates going on — whether Students were workers or, there was a pamphlet out at the time called ‘Students N—-r’ which was absolutely wrong. Not only to use the N word but the whole concept was wrong. There was a concept out that youth is a class. There were all these different competing ideas about what students were. So what I did is, I studied Marx and I studied American higher education and I came to the conclusion that what students were, were the trainees for the new working class and that they were the knowledgable. That’s the product that they were in the university. You had to look at the university from a sort of political economy of knowledge or a political economy of information. And then what students were were the knowledgable. And that that was the main product of our universities – create a knowledgable worker that could fit in to what was then a new and expanding scientific and technological sector of the economy. And indirectly, would fit into the social safety net sector of the economy as well. And that that was what was going on in the universities and that’s how students should see themselves. They should see their battles in that context. And I was trying to write it in such a way that, by seeing their overall position in production and how the universities connected with the overall system of production, that it would instill wider class consciousness as part of their battles. That was the core of that work and I think it’s still true.

 
TAG: I think a lot of people would agree with you. So my last question has to do, it’s the perennial question, how do we stop the wars? First of all, I’m assuming that you agree the war in Iraq has not stopped.

 
CD: No, I don’t agree with that.

 
TAG: You don’t think it’s [not] stopped?

 
CD: I think it’s stopped. As a war it’s stopped. As an occupation, you know, war is a continuation of politics by other means. So what we have going on in Iran, er, Iraq right now is, imperialist politics by normal means. Which is intrigue, conspiring, you know, sending in spies.

 
TAG: But we have a lot of mercenaries there.

 
CD: I think the mercenaries will mostly be drawn out. Mainly because they have nobody to back them up at this point. So they’ve been all pulled back, put in these centralized places where they can protect themselves. They’ve been put entirely in a defensive mode. And I think that you’ll see that over the next year that they will be drawn down. So, I think that continued American oppression and exploitation of Iraq that will continue, as they do with any Third World country for want of a better term. THat will continue and that needs to be opposed on our part. But as a war, where we’re actually out there with our soldiers engaged on the battlefield, that part of Iraq is over.

 
TAG: And Afghanistan?

 
CD: Not yet. But it looks like its on its way. They don’t call it the graveyard of empires for nothing. And they’re beginning to see that they can’t stay there. Obama says he wanted them out by 2014. I don’t know whether I would believe that or not. But now, they’re pushing, Karzai himself is pushing to get them out by 2013. So, it’ll be interesting. I think we need to, out now from Afghanistan, still needs to be one of our main campaigns. That should be the focus, that and the danger of war in Iran. Those are the main focuses of the anti-war movement at this point.

 
TAG: So what can people do to resist the next war — which would be Iran?

 
CD: Well, I used to argue, and I think I still do, that wars end when three things happen. One, is that the streets become ungovernable; two, is when soldiers refuse to fight, and three; is when Congress votes to cut off the money. So, pick all or any one of those that you like and get to work on them!
(laughs)

 
TAG: Thank you, Carl.

 
CD: Right.

 


Watch The Interview On YouTube




The “What War?” panel (l to r): Michael Otterman, Larry Everest, David Swanson and Debra Sweet
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 

NEW YORK — March 28, 2012. The only thing missing from this year’s Left Forum was the Iraq War, which ended before the annual event — or did it?

 
The 2012 Left Forum was held at Pace University, its home since the move from Cooper Union in 2009. The annual lefty conference occurred on the weekend of March 17-19. The only thing missing this year was the Iraq War — and the annual protests marking its anniversary — as the war ended prior to the meetup.

 
Or did it?

 
One panel at the conference argued that the war is officially over but the occupation will be around for some time to come. And that this amounts to a war on the people of Iraq who, the panel argued, are owed reparations.




“What War?” panelist David Swanson said the U.S. owes Iraq reparations
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 

 
“What War? Is this a permanent occupation of Iraq?” was a panel featuring authors David Swanson, Larry Everest, and Michael Otterman.

 
The panel offered a detailed, and distressing, account of the origins of the war, its purported end — and the ongoing occupation.

 
The panel can be seen in its entirety on NLN’s Left Forum 2012 playlist.

 




Zohra Ahmed described Attorney General Eric Holder’s legal rationale for drone war as “absurd”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Other panels available at the Left Forum playlist include a fascinating discussion on “Stopping The U.S. Drone Wars” and “Occupy The Imagination” — a panel discussion on the topic of incorporating political content in fiction.

 
“Stopping the U.S. Drone Wars” featured a presentation by activist Zohra Ahmed who detailed the Obama administration’s convoluted, and at times implausible, legal rationale for using drones to conduct targeted assassinations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, often killing civilians along the way.




Ed Kinane (right) describes delivering an “indictment” to Hancock AFB
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Also on the drone panel was Ed Kinane, one of the 38 people arrested in 2011 for attempting to deliver an “indictment” to Hancock Air Force Base — the upstate New York base from which many drones are piloted. Kinane described his experience being arrested and offered a disturbing chronology that included the evolution of the drones — from the noisy predator, to the more sophisticated reaper, and, coming soon, the “avenger” — and the ever increasing surveillance uses of the devices. Kinane said that drone surveillance is a technology that law enforcement agencies across the nation want to use to monitor U.S. citizens.

 
“Occupy The Imagination” was a panel that put forth the argument that genre writers can talk about new ideas and raise political points in a way that other writers may not. On the panel was: S.J. Rozan and Ken Wishnia, two crime novel writers; Terry Bissell, a science fiction author; Meg Starr, author of children’s books; and Susie Day, a political satirist.

 
All of the panels mentioned above can be seen in their entirety on NLN’s YouTube channel.

 




Jim Russell, the founding editor of New Left Notes, holds a copy of his book: “Escape From Texas
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
In addition to the panels the Forum is always a nice place to meet old Movement friends. This year I ran into Al Haber and he spoke to me about his interest, 50 years later, in “reviewing” the Port Huron Statement, the foundational document of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). My conversation with Alan can also be seen on NLN’s YouTube channel.




Alan Haber and Clark Kissinger at the 2012 Left Forum
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

During the taping of the chat with Alan, former SDS National Secretary C. Clark Kissinger greeted Al and myself and provided an opportunity for an SDS reuion photo.

 
This and other images can be seen in the Left Forum 2012 gallery.

 

View Photos/Videos From The Forum…

 




Protesters in New York demand justice for Trayvon Martin
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 

NEW YORK — March 23, 2012. Over the years there have been many marches and rallies protesting the killings of young Black and Latino men — protests have gotten larger and more diverse, yet the murders continue.

 
Last month volunteer neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman chased and then shot an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. To date, Zimmerman has not been arrested for the African-American teen — because Sanford, Florida police claim there was no evidence to contradict the gunman’s claim of self-defense. Zimmerman has gone into hiding and the FBI is investigating the case. Meanwhile, across America rallies in support of the family are being held. And activists, including Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are demanding answers — and justice.

 




Protesters expressed “oneness”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
Wednesday’s rally for the slain Trayvon Martin at Union Square Park was extraordinary on many levels. It was large, well over 5,000 people — and mainly organized by Facebook. It was incredibly diverse, probably the most diverse event this reporter has seen in many years. There were people of every race and ethnicity: Black, white, and Asian; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists. There were people of every age: students, families, the elderly and everything in between. Some participants were dressed in jeans, “flower-power” sixties garb — and business suits.

 




(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
OWS, now occupying Union Square Park, joined the rally.

 




Trayvon Martin’s parents
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
The mood was a mixture of sadness and anger at the apparent cheapness of young Black life, and a determination that these killings must end. There was a strong sense of “oneness” as the crowd held up one finger and repeatedly chanted “We are one.” Trayvon Martin’s parents spoke at the gathering. His father said that his son was a good kid and should not have been killed and his mother, tears streaming down her face, thanked everyone for being there to support her son. She said that the family needed the support and that Trayvon was a son to all the people there, and that he represented their sons too. Protesters wept openly as she spoke.

 




(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
When the Union Square rally ended an enormous mass of people flowed out of the park onto busy 14 Street, stopping traffic. Police deployed officers along three city blocks in an effort to get everyone out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Late arrivals told NLN that a large number of people attempting to get to the rally were told by by police that all subway trains were instructed not to stop at Union Square.

 
National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) president Larry Goldbetter was one of many labor leaders circulating the Martin family’s petition demanding Zimmerman be prosecuted for murder. At press time the petition had 1,563,455 signatures.

 
Goldbetter told NLN that, “This is the kind of story that makes you want to scream. Trayvon, the Jewish kids in Toulouse, Rahmarly Graham in the Bronx, the 16 Afghan civilians, are all painful examples of the need to build a movement to smash racist terror in all its forms, whether state sponsored or from gutter racists like Zimmerman. That’s ‘self-defense!’”

 


View Photos From The Rally

 
Thomas Good contributed reporting to this story.

Posted by TAG - March 10, 2012 | Obituary



The “Janitor Of History” — Louis Reyes Rivera
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Poet, essayist, editor, teacher, radio host, and union organizer with the National Writer Union, UAW Local 1981, Louis Reyes Rivera died in Brooklyn Hospital on Friday, March 2, following a brief illness. Serving as chair of the New York Chapter since 2004, Rivera was revered and beloved by all NWU members who saw him in action in New York and at Delegate Assemblies, providing leadership on union issues and performing his insightful poetry.

 
Calling himself the Janitor of History, Rivera is viewed as a living bridge between the African and Latino-American communities. Also called “the dean of Nuyorica Poetica,” he is an internationally recognized literary figure, with translations of his work appearing in Russian, Latvian, Spanish, and Italian. Rivera published four books, including Who Pays The Cost (1978), This One For You (1983), In Control of English (1988 and 1992), and Scattered Scripture (1996), for which he received the 1997 poetry award from the Latin American Writers Institute. He had just completed his epic poem, Jazz in Jail, and was in the process of preparing it for publication.

 
Rivera was the recipient of dozens of awards, including a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2003), a Lifetime Achievement Award (1995), a Special Congressional Recognition Award (1988), and the CCNY 125th Anniversary Medal (1973) — each of which was given in recognition of his scholarship and impact on contemporary literature. Since 1996, Rivera appeared at jazz festivals and clubs, working with such bands as The Sun Ra All-Stars Project, Ahmed Abdullah’s Diaspora, Ebonic Tones, the James Spaulding Ensemble, and his own band, The Jazzoets. Last spring Rivera was inducted into the Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame. At his last public appearance on Feb. 11, Rivera was the featured poet at the American Jazz Museum’s Black History Month Salute to Jazz Poetry in Kansas City, Mo.

 
Over the past 40 years, Rivera assisted in the publication of well over 200 books, including Adal Maldonado’s Portraits of the Puerto Rican Experience (IPRUS, 1984), John Oliver Killens’ Great Black Russian (Wayne State, 1989), Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown, 2001), co-edited with Tony Medina, and The Bandana Republic (Soft Skull Press, 2008). Rivera’s essays and poems appeared in numerous publications, including Areyto, Boletin (Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter), The City Sun, African Voices, and in several award-winning book collections, including In Defense of Mumia; ALOUD: Live from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; and Of Sons and Lovers. He also appeared on the Peabody award-winning HBO show, “Def Poetry Jam.” Rivera completed the translation of Clemente Soto Vel├ęz’s Caballo de Palo/Broomstick Stallion and worked on the collected poems of Otto Rene Castillo of Guatemala, Por el Bien de Todos/For the Good of All.

 
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 19, 1945, Rivera was raised there and a proud graduate of Boys High. He began studying the craft of writing in1960 and founded the continuing student publication, The Paper, at City College of New York. After graduation in 1969, Rivera started teaching and his influence as a teacher spanned many generations. He distinguished himself as a professor of creative writing, Pan-African literature, African-American culture and history, Caribbean history, Puerto Rican history, and Nuyorican literature at such institutions as State University of New York-Stony Brook, Hunter College, College of New Rochelle, LaGuardia College, Pratt Institute, and Boricua College, among others.

 
For 15 years beginning in 1996, Rivera hosted a reading series in Brooklyn, 1st & 3rd Sundays Jazzoetry & Open Mic @ Sistas’ Place, where he also conducted writing workshops. For many years Rivera hosted the engaging radio talk and interview show, “Perspectives,” on New York radio station WBAI 99.5 FM (streamed at wbai.org/ archives).

 
A political activist as well as a cultural icon, Rivera was active in the successful struggle for “open enrollment” at City College in1969. Since then he has participated in many progressive movement and activities, including supporting the establishment of the Freedom Party, which ran candidates in the 2010 New York State election. Rivera co-hosted two Writers for Mumia programs dedicated to freeing longtime political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, one in 2007, the other in 2010.

 
Rivera is survived by his wife, Barbara Killens Rivera; two daughters, Abiba Deceus and Kutisha Booker; son Barra Wyn ; and four grandchildren, James Booker, Akalia Booker, Quamey Venable, and Jean-Oliver Deceus.

 
For information on funeral services visit the NWU website.




Adalah NY: “No Art For Apartheid’s Sake”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — March 7, 2012. Protesting “Art For Apartheid’s Sake,” a group of activists visited the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Wednesday evening — with signs and song the 80 protesters told BAM and the Batsheva Dance Company to “Stop Dancing Around Apartheid.”

 




Protesters allege Batsheva is dancing around the issues
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Eighty human rights activists protested Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company’s performance at BAM on Wednesday, calling on attendees to boycott Batsheva due to its complicity with Israeli human rights violations. The activists sang, chanted, played music, and danced, to convey their message. Parodying a piece of Batsheva’s newest show, Hora, Adalah-NY was joined by the Columbia University Palestinian Dabke Brigades and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra in a costumed Star Wars-themed dance representing the struggle between good and evil.

 




Mike Levinson supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Attendees were handed mock programs, whose cover identifies Batsheva as a “cultural ambassador for Israel.” Inside, the program explains why the group is being boycotted, and praised artists who have respected the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) call, including Gil Scott Heron, Roger Waters, and Cassandra Wilson. Dozens of theater-goers stopped to watch the activists from the steps of BAM. This reporter observed one young couple dancing.

 
At 7:35 p.m., five minutes after the Batsheva performance was scheduled to begin, BAM staff informed protesters that the music and chanting had delayed the start of the show.

 




The Rude Mechanical Orchestra performed at the protest
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Last month, Adalah-NY corresponded with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, asking BAM to cancel the Batsheva performance. BAM replied that Batsheva is not performing to “Further a political agenda.” Batsheva has previously been identified as “The best known global ambassador of Israeli culture” by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from which it receives funding.

 




Protesters delayed the start of the show
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

On February 21, 2012, thirty human rights organizations from New York, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Arizona, Montreal, and Toronto, locations on Batsheva’s current tour schedule, sent a letter to Batsheva demanding that they take a stand against the violations of human rights being perpetrated by their government that impact all segments of Palestinian society, including cultural workers. In the letter, Palestinian dancer Hana Awwad stated, “Exhibits and performances by Palestinian artists are systematically banned, sabotaged, and closed down by the Israeli occupation. Artists themselves are targets of violence, arbitrary arrests, and deportations.”

 




The Columbia University Palestinian Dance Troupe performed a parody of Hora
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
The boycott of Israeli cultural institutions is part of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement launched in 2005, which calls on the international community to place pressure on Israel by ending political, economic, cultural and academic relations with Israel until it ends its colonization, occupation and apartheid policies.




Click HERE to see a video from the protest

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 


View Photos/Videos From The Event…

 




Larry Hochwold, co-chair of the Staten Island Mental Health Council
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — March 2, 2012. The Mental Health Council of Staten Island held its annual legislative breakfast on Friday, March 2 — the struggle to provide adequate housing for the mentally ill was again on the agenda but what was new this year was the creation of a timetable for the rollout of a children’s inpatient unit at Richmond Univeristy Medical Center (RUMC).

 




A client of Project Hospitality thanks her caregivers
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Friday’s breakfast was held at The Staaten, a venue well known for its food and its atmosphere. The event was well attended and the sponsoring organization, The Staten Island Mental Health Council, organized a full but fast paced presentation.

 
The Council’s Co-Chair and event MC, Larry Hochwold, discussed the familiar slate of long term issues at this year’s breakfast:

 

• The acute shortage of appropriate housing for the mentally ill.
• The need for schools teach the facts about mental illness.
• The need for additional resources to be devoted to suicide prevention.
• The need for more educational and vocational support.

 
Following Hochwold’s presentation, several consumers (people in recovery) spoke, expressing their appreciation to those health care workers who have provided the training and support necessary for independent living and employment.

 
A number of local elected officials sent representatives to the breakfast and New York State Assembly Members Matthew Titone and Michael Cusick spoke at the event.

 




Assembly Member Michael Cusick spoke at the breakfast
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Cusick is a long time supporter of the Council and a key figure in the effort to get the New York City Department of Education to implement an anti-stigma education curriculum. This year Hochwold reported that Cusick and the council had succeeded in identifying a school that has agreed to pilot the educational initiative. Once implemented this program could serve as a model for other schools.

 
Last year, Titone and Cusick, working with other elected officials and representatives of the Office of Mental Health, procured a grant to expand Richmond University Medical Center’s children’s inpatient services. On Friday, Hochwold was able to report that RUMC has announced a timetable for the expansion and the new unit is scheduled to be operational in 9 to 12 months.

 
Assemblyman Titone honored a foster mother with a (New York State) Assembly Citation — recognizing her efforts to keep children and adults in separate medical facilities.

 




Matt Titone presented advocate Joyce Baldassarri with an Assembly Citation
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
In 2008, Joyce Baldassarri contacted Titone to express her shock that her young daughter was receiving treatment along with profoundly ill adults. In response, Titone sponsored a law prohibiting co-mingling of adults and children seeking emergency psychiatric services.

 
The Assembly Citation, recognizing Baldassarri’s work as an advocate, was signed by all four Staten Island Assemblymembers. In addition Ms. Baldassarri received a pen certificate — a ceremonial document containing information about the bill and when it was signed into law. A ceremonial pen was attached to the certificate by a blue ribbon.

 
The message from the 2012 breakfast was that, despite the recession, progress is visible on both the legislative and budgetary fronts.

 
Saint Joseph’s Medical Center, a housing provider, announced that they have been awarded a new 20 bed Supported Housing Program for individuals who have been at South Beach Psych Center for an extended period of time, “long term stayers” in the language of the state. SJMC announced that “Sister Louise Manor,” an 18 unit supportive housing program, was opended this past September.

 
“Staten Island has made an important step forward in providing the much needed new housing opportunities to those clients who no longer need to be hospitalized,” Hochwold said.

 
Hochwold urged the audience to continue their efforts to increase funding for mental health initiatives and to combat stigma.

 


View Photos From The Event…

 




Dancers from I.S. 61 — the William Morris School — performing
at Debi Rose’s Black History Month Celebration
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — February 29, 2012. In 1925 William A. Morris founded the Staten Island chapter of the NAACP so it seemed apt that in 2012 the Island’s first African-American elected official chose to hold a Black History Month observance at I.S. 61 — the William A. Morris School.

 




The Faith Music Ministry performed at the celebration
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
City Council member Debi Rose, the chairperson of the New York City Council Committee on Civil Rights, is a progressive Democrat representing District 49. She held her second annual Black History Month “Celebration” in February, but just barely. Due a knee injury that placed her on crutches, Rose held her event on February 29, Leap Day. This prompted speaker Bill Thompson, former City Comptroller and current mayoral candidate, to quip, “We’re cutting Black History Month close, if the month hadn’t been expanded by a day we would have been in trouble!”

 




Vance Moss, M.D. speaking at the event
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
The program’s keynote speaker was Dr. Vance Moss, an urologist at Staten Island University Hospital who, along with his twin brother Dr. Vince Moss, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is known for his humanitarian efforts. The identical twins both hold the rank of major in the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps and have done tours in Afghanistan providing medical services to troops and locals.

 




Members of the I.S. 61 Chorus performing at the event
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Moss spoke of the need to educate children and steer them towards science. He regards himself and his brother as role models for African-American children who too often view professional sports as the only avenue to success in the U.S. Moss said that every year the NFL shows footage of some African-American athlete who rose from poverty via sports. He added that “I guarantee you, they would get a better response from the community if went back to that same person, that same neighborhood and found a young man who pulled himself up, and got himself up, and went and studied and now is a teacher in that community.”

 


“This celebration of Black History Month has been multicultural.
This is a celebration of American history.”
– Bill Thompson

 




The I.S. 61 Jazz Band, led by Al Mannarino (foreground),
maintained the rock and got toes tapping
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
Moss aired a slideshow and video recounting his past achievements and said that he and his brother had done some things “that were never done before” — “a lot of the things that we did in Afghanistan have not been exposed yet and hopefully when it does get exposed you’ll remember this day.”

 




Peace activist Sally Jones received a City Council Proclamation
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
The theme of this year’s celebration was “Peace, Unity and Anti-Violence” and Rose presented City Council proclamations to local peace activists Sally and David Jones — founders of Peach Action Staten Island, the borough’s largest antiwar organization. Also honored was the United Ministerial Alliance of Staten Island, a coalition of religious leaders who, according to Rose, have “continued Dr. King’s work in their shared commitment to peace, justice and unity.” The organization worked to promote tolerance and understanding, and to end hate crimes on Staten Island, in response to a rash of attacks on immigrants in 2010.

 




Rev. Kathlyn Barrett-Layne accepted the award
on behalf of the Ministerial Alliance
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
The program also featured singer Jeannine Otis of New Brighton as the master of ceremonies and included performances by The Faith Music Ministry, P.S. 14 Dance Troupe, the I.S. 61 Jazz Band, and the I.S. 61 Chorus.

 




Dancers from P.S. 14 — a school the Bloomberg administration plans to close
despite the “A” rating it was given in 2008-2009
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 
The P.S. 14 students performed traditional African-American dances and were a crowd favorite, in part because their school is slated for closure by the Bloomberg administration. This, despite the fact that in 2008-2009 the school got an A rating – as pointed out in a scathing editorial in the Staten Island Advance.

 
Exhibits relating to African-American history were sponsored by local historians, including the Romare Bearden Foundation, Leon Wallace, and students from IS 61.

 




The I.S. 61 Dancers wowed the audience
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

 


View Photos/Videos From The Event…