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That is, truthfully, why he has been doing as well as he has. This moment in history is a watershed for older black Americans who in their own lifetimes knew the Sambo image as reigning strong among their white fellow citizens.
This is new day.
Okay, let's not call it post-racial, but let's concede that this man Barack Obama, this man Barack Obama who calls himself a black American, is in a competitive run for the presidency of the United States of America.
And no poll showing that a third of white Democrats hold fast to stereotypes about blacks is going to erase that accomplishment from the history books.
Granted, Obama probably needs to win over a large number of these people to sail to victory in November; but he is up to the task and has the wherewithal to succeed.
For the record, here's what whites are feeling about blacks (and it does truthfully reflect feelings that are far from "post-racial"). Read it, reflect on it, and then move on. [This is from an AP-Yahoo poll.]
For all the heat and noise of the recent Democratic primary, as Hillary called Barack weak and phony, and Barack's folks called Hillary cold and racist, there are no bodies visible on the ground now that the dust has cleared.
The most vulnerable person was supposed to be Congressman Ed (Edolphus) Towns [photo, right], who stood by Clinton through the bitter fight for the Democratic nomination, even as most of his district went for Obama.
It was thought that angry progressive Democrats would flock to the candidacy of young Kevin Powell [photo, left] as Powell seeks to unseat Towns, denouncing Towns as a political hack who has been in office too long.
But there does not really seem to be much steam in Powell's effort. It appears weak, unfocused and burdened by concerns having to do with Powell's allegedly volatile character.
One indication of these concerns is the letter written by the author of the The Real Fort Greene blog, who writes:
". . . Kevin Powell is inexperienced in public service and has a very questionable personal history… This is going to be a tough decision. I’m beginning to be of the opinion we may want to wait until there is a better alternative. Towns is 74 and I can’t imagine he’ll be running again (although he says he’ll run again). He should recognize it’s time to groom a real heir . . . "
Like Towns, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke stuck by Clinton during the fight against Obama, as her congressional district went for Obama in the Feb. 4 New York primary. There have been notable expressions of disappointment with her for that and other reasons, but no candidate has opened emerged to take her on. (read previous post.)
And after the relatively peaceful closing of the Democratic National Convention, perhaps peace will reign in the valley of the Broken Land (Brooklyn, to you newcomers).
That is, until someone or something emerges. We, the watchers and announcers, await.
Bill Clinton's speech on Wednesday night hit the ball out of the park.
Senator Clinton's speech the night before was powerful in its own right but the former President's address made one aware, once again, of the extraordinary intelligence and (let's admit it) superior education that lifted that man (and his many inner demons) to the heights of American politics.
They, the two Clintons, in their passion and rhetoric, left little room for doubting their commitment to the candidacy of Obama in the race against John McCain.
Don't get us wrong. There is doubt. We have written here, for instance, about Peggy Noonan who has virtually built a career (and a very successful one) at informing the world about the trickiness and narcisistic self-interest of Hillary Clinton.
There are those who believe that Hillary Clinton has her eyes on 2012 and would very much want to see Obama lose this race so that she can have a go at it again in that year. (Maureen Dowd of The New York Times has been in this category and has been expressing herself with wit and wisdom.)
But the New York delegation of Democrats, who must have been painfully stung by the polarization of the heated Hillary versus Barack primary race -- especially in Brooklyn where the districts of Congressmembers Yvette Clarke and Ed Towns went for Obama, even as Clarke and Towns stuck with Hillary -- are happy now that peace reigns on the surface.
That was a stroke of genius Wednesday, the way Hillary Clinton stopped the voting that pitted her against Obama, halting the tally as the country waited breathlessly to see how her New York State was going to vote, and then asking for a consensus backing of Barack.
This is indeed a critical juncture in what has been one of the most interesting, if also bitter, primary races in recent memory.
[The accompanying photo here -- of Sen. Hillary Clinton and [Brooklyn born] Gov. David Paterson -- is from the online New York Observer. See their article on The Morning After.]
Deval Patrick -- first black governor of Massachusetts, third black governor in U.S. history -- was also representing Brooklyn when he gave his impassioned address to the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night.
"If you want the change our country yearns for, if you want leadership that inspires us to bring the best that we have and the best that we are to a renewed American cause . . . then let’s join hands and go to work to elect Barack Obama the next President of the United States!" Patrick exhorted to thunderous applause as he ended his speech.
Patrick has been a singular presence in the campaign of Barack Obama from the very beginning. It was even suggested along the way that the Obama campaign engaged in some fraternal borrowing of themes from Patrick's own run for governor two years ago. (read)
But Patrick's special meaning to us in Brooklyn is that he is from this place, and he has shown a son's affection for it. By marriage and otherwise, his roots are very much here.
Gov. Patrick is married to Diane Bemus Patrick, who was born in Brooklyn and is a grandchild of Bertram L. Baker, who in 1948 became the very first black person elected to public office in Brooklyn (he was a State Assemblyman representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and served for twenty two years).
Patrick, throughout his political career, has expressed his tender and grateful feelings for grandfather Bert Baker, who died in 1985 but was present when Deval and Diane were married in 1984, and whose photo has appeared on Diane and Deval's websites over the years.
Diane and Deval lived in Brooklyn through the mid 1980s, and their older daughter Sarah was born here. Younger daughter Katherine was featured in the introduction of Gov. Patrick's Tuesday night address. (find the full text here.)
[Let me say also, in the interest of full disclosure, that Diane is a first cousin of BrooklynRon, who is also a grandchild of the late Bertram L. Baker. Click here to read about a recent honor bestowed posthumously on Bertram Baker by the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, where Bert Baker was born and from which he emigrated almost a century ago.)
Brooklynites don't like to boast, but we also want to point out here that two out of the three black governors is U.S. history have Brooklyn roots. One, of course, is Deval. The other is Gov. David Paterson of New York, who was born in Brooklyn.
Doug Wilder of Virginia, the first black governor, does not have this distinguished background, despite his fine character and talents, but let's not go there.
[Journalists and others, we included, use a shorthand in saying there have been three black governors in U.S. history; but it should be pointed out that for 36 days in 1872-72, P.B.S. Pinchback, an African-American, served as acting governor of Louisiana while the sitting governor was being impeached. That's why the phrase, "in post Reconstruction America," is sometimes used in referring to Deval, Doug Wilder and David Paterson, as it excludes Pinchback. Hey, it's all about keeping it simple.)
You all, especially readers here, may have noted that Brooklyn is doing pretty well during this DNC gathering. It was pointed out in a previous BrooklynRon post that the whole Convention was planned and is being executed by a Brooklynite, Leah Daughtry. (read)
On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Paterson of Brooklyn gave a brief address. (read it here.)
She's a Pentecostal minister and graduate of Dartmouth College.
And, oh yes, Leah Daughtry is the chief executive of the Democratic National Convention, the person who's been charged with planning and running the whole show this week.
No serious biography of Rev. Daughtry can be offered without mentioning that she is also the daughter of another Reverend Daughtry, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who over the past thirty years has made history in Brooklyn, leading demonstrations and boycotts against police brutality and advocating (militantly, as the mainstream media used to say) for the economic advancement of African-Americans.
The father is pastor of the half-century-old House of the Lord Pentecostal Church, located near the developing and very controversial Atlantic Yards Projects, which many activists oppose but which Rev. Herbert Daughtry supports.
Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, in naming Leah Daughtry the CEO of the Democratic Party last year, realized that the party had to make inroads with evangelicals. Leah Daughtry, in addition to making visits to her father's church in Brooklyn, preaches at her own House of the Lord church in Washington, D.C.
This week in Colorado, as she navigates through waters that many would consider treacherous, Leah Daughtry shows the calmness of spirit that gives credence to her professions of deep faith. She is trying to make the Democratic Convention a true open tent, one that has room for those of all faiths, one that is a kind of reflection of the place she comes from, Brooklyn, a place where Christians, Jews, Muslims and others worship in large numbers. The interfaith gathering at the opening of the Convention was a reflection of that effort.
Leah Daughtry is a person of extraordinary character, one that evidences a faithfulness to her family, to the place she has come from and to a political philosophy of doing that which feels right and which advances the common good.
She once was on the staff of Brooklyn Congressman Ed (Edolphus Towns), but she has traveled a long distance in recent years, and she has moved along with a full consciousness and with a proud profession of her religious, genealogical and, yes, geographical roots.
It is said that Rangel very much wanted to be on the podium with the party's big names, but those in power apparently decided the Congressman wasn't needed.
The main problem, of course, is that Rangel was one of Senator Hillary Clinton's staunchest supporters during the campaign for the Democratic nomination, a campaign in which Hillary and her husband Bill were involved in heated back-and-forth accusations with Obama, including charges of race baiting.
Many blacks are resentful that Rangel and other Harlem politicians chose to stay with Hillary Clinton, even when it became clear that Obama was on course to become the nation's first serious African-American candidate for the presidency.
On the other hand, there are those who think Obama should have allowed Rangel to have a prominent role at the upcoming Convention, even out of self interest, given that Rangel is chair of the very powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
But Rangel has been weakened somewhat, at least superficially, by recent New York Times reports that he had several rent-controlled apartments at the Lenox Terrace apartment complex, at a time when many of his constituents are struggling to find affordable housing.
A miffed Rangel may not remain in Denver for the full four days of the Convention.
The first blast coming from the campaign of John McCain, reacting to the announcement of Joe Biden as the Dems' VP candidate, is taken from the arsenal of the Clintons.
The McCain ad reruns a supposedly journalistic query put to Joe Biden, once Barack Obama's opponent for the presidential nomination, now Obama's choice for running mate.
[The questioner was ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos, who -- it must be noted -- once served as spokesman for Bill Clinton and owes his fame to the Clintons.]
Stephanopoulos [see photo] asked Biden, during a debate among candidates for the Democratic nomination, whether Biden stood by something he had said previously about Obama:
"You were asked, 'Is he ready?' You said, 'I think he can be ready but right now, I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.'"
Biden, at the time, stood by the comment.
But these are different times, of course, and Biden has been showing in recent weeks that he will be a viscious attack dog on Obama's behalf.
The fact worthy of fiction is this: that the first cannon shot at Obama-Biden is via Stephanopoulos, linked forever to the Clintons.
This is occurring as we wonder whether the Clintons will try to sabotage Obama and Biden's very good chances for victory.
There is reason to be concerned.
[For an earlier post on George Stephanopoulos as journalist during the campaign, see "Was ABC Debate the Death Knell of American Journalism?"]
For, as Democrats rejoice over Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden as a running mate, they express concern over Hillary and Bill Clintons' signals that they may indeed toss monkey wrenches into Obama's machine, next week and beyond.
It has already been noted how Hillary Clinton, in a slip or otherwise, has referred to her supposed candidate Barack as "my opponent," and it has been remarked upon that her facial expressions do not reveal the enthusiasm that any seasoned politician should be able to show, even when there is a certain effort in the doing.
And Bill, of course, has gone on record saying he thinks both Obama and John McCain would both do fine jobs on the environment.
One almost imagines McCain and Bill Clinton meeting in hush-hush places and telling off- or on-color jokes about Barack, and boldly agreeing that any objection by said Barack would be met with an accusation of playing the race card.
The question that lingers for many Brooklynites for Barack (and their number is legion) is: whether the local officials, especially the black ones, who backed Hillary Clinton so faithfully are expressing concerns about these things, to each other or in their evening prayers.
By Milverton (Tony) Wallace
I was searching my mind recently for that famous quotation from Melville, the one about America belonging to the whole world. I couldn't find it in even in the dusty corners of my memory.
But instinct happily took me to a rereading of C.L.R.James' wonderful book, "Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The story of Herman Melville and the world we live in" and -- bingo! -- I learned that the quote was from "Redburn," one of his lesser known but very important books, because it is there where he first tried out themes that became central to "Moby Dick."
Up to this point, Melville had been arguing in his writings that the US should disengage from a fractious and backward Europe and from the rest of the world as well. But at this point he changed his thinking, because his mind was sketching the vast canvass that would become "Moby DIck," in which the Pequod is a floating assembly of all the nations under American leadership.
Here's the quote (slighted contracted) about America and its place in the world:
"Settled by the people of all nations, all nations may claim her for their own. You cannot spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world....Our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world...Our ancestry is lost in the universal pageantry; and Caesar and Alfred, St.Paul and Luther, andHomer and Shakespeare are as much ours as Washington, who is as much the world's as our own. Weare the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance."
Well now, it seems to me that Melville, writing in 1850, had a better understanding of the 21st
century than most of our politicians and pundits. He also gives the best answer to the question as to
why people in every corner of the globe are deeply interested in America and care passionately about
who will be its next president!
In this context, for sure, Barack Obama's recent visit to the Middle East and Europe, criticized in the
John McCain camp and elsewhere, was not without deep meaning for America.
Tony Wallace [photo, above] is a journalism professor who transplanted some years ago from Jamaica to England, where he writes and teaches a new generation of journalists entering the digital age.
Gentrification of Fort Greene
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