Kevin Powell Goes In on Charlie Rangel & Congressman Ed Towns-This Needed to Be Said

Charlie Rangel Begat Ed Towns: Something Is Broken In Brooklyn, Too
By Kevin Powell

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
—Abraham Lincoln

And the drama of Congressman Charlie Rangel continues to unfold with 13 charges of misconduct, even as I type this essay: Mr. Rangel faces a range of accusations stemming from his accepting four rent-stabilized apartments, to misusing his office to preserve a tax loophole worth half a billion dollars for an oil executive who pledged a donation for an educational center being built in Mr. Rangel’s honor. In short, Mr. Rangel, one of the most powerful Democrats in the United States House of Representatives, has given his Republican foes much fodder to attack Dems as the November mid-term elections quickly approach.

While this saga continues, two questions dangle in the air: First, where did it all go so terribly wrong? And, second, did Mr. Rangel begat the lack of ethics also present in the career of his colleague, friend, and staunch ally Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns of Brooklyn, New York?

http://beta.wnyc.org/blogs/azi-paybarah/2010/jul/28/towns-rangel-going-be-there/

To answer these questions I think we must go back to the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement’s waning days. Dr. King was still alive, but his popularity had plummeted, which explains why, to this day, many people do not know his writings or sermons from those latter years. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. of Harlem (Mr. Rangel’s predecessor) was clinging to his seat amidst ethics battles of his own. The streets of Black America were habitually afire, as urban unrest became the language of the unheard ghetto masses. And in majority Black communities like Harlem and Brooklyn, Black leaders, emboldened by Civil Rights victories, chants of “Black Power,” and a once-in-a-century opportunity for power, rushed through the kicked-in doors, into politics, into business, into film and television, into book publishing and magazines (or started their own), and into colleges and universities heretofore shuttered. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The best because many really believed “change” was on the horizon. The worst because some Black movers and shakers were so happy to get inside that they came with no vision or a plan whatsoever for their followers.

Clearly very few even bothered to read Dr. King’s landmark essay “Black Power Redefined,” which sought to push Black leaders toward a programmatic agenda that included the poor and economically disenfranchised.

And if there were any communities in Black America to test Dr. King’s vision, they were Harlem and Brooklyn. Brooklyn has Black America’s largest concentration of people of African descent. But Harlem, in particular, was the symbolic capital of Black America, and it was there that the now famous Gang of Four—Percy Sutton, Charlie Rangel, David Dinkins, and Basil Paterson—planned and plotted a course for their community, and themselves. Rangel replaced Powell in Congress and became the dean of New York politics. Sutton would first be a successful politician himself, then eventually start Inner City Broadcasting, a major person of color owned media enterprise; Basil Paterson would be, among other things, New York State Senator, Deputy Mayor of New York City, and New York Secretary of State; and David Dinkins, of course, became the first Black mayor of New York City.

Charles Rangel

Truth be told Mr. Rangel and his colleagues had an incredible vision and really did nothing differently than their White predecessors had been doing for decades in America: they saw an opportunity for a taste of power and they took it. (And at least the Gang of Four brought an economic empowerment zone to Harlem, something Congressman Towns pretended to want to do in the mid1990s for Brooklyn, then mysteriously backed away from, instead endorsing then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s re-election bid, with Brooklyn never hearing about that zone again.)

Indeed, as I was coming of age as a student and youth activist in the 1980s, and as a then-reporter with various Black newspapers in the New York City area, I remember well hearing their names mentioned often. And, to a lesser extent, the names of their Black political peers in Brooklyn like Al Vann, Major Owens, and Sonny Carson. It was awe-inspiring, because I did not know that Black folks were leaders in this way. The pinnacle of this Black political ascension in New York City, without question, was the election of David Dinkins in 1989. For New York was the last of the major American cities to produce a Black mayor.

But something stopped during Dinkins’ years in City Hall. Black New York was unable to shake off the catastrophic effects of the 1980s crack cocaine scourge, or Reagan-era social policies. Meanwhile, Black leadership in New York, rather than nurture and prepare the next generation of Black voices to succeed them, did exactly what their White forerunners had done: they dug their heels deeper into the sands of power and have instead become leaders of what I call “a ghetto monarchy.” In other words, the community-first values of the Civil Rights era have been replaced by the post-Civil Rights era values of me-first, career first, and control and domination of my building, my block, my housing projects, my district, my part of the community (if not all of it), my church, my community center, or my organization, by any means necessary. For as long as possible. And often for as much money, privilege, and access to power as one can get with a “career” as a Black leader or figurehead.

And that, my friends, is what leads us, again, to the sad spectacles of the two senior most Congresspersons in New York State: Charlie Rangel of Harlem, and my representative in Brooklyn, Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns.

For it is so clear that the leadership path of Congressman Rangel begat the leadership path of Congressman Towns. Both may have been well intentioned at the beginning of their careers. Both may very well believe in the goodness, as I do, of public service for the people. But something has gone terribly wrong, the longer they have stayed in office (40 years now, for Mr. Rangel, and 27 long years for Mr. Towns); something that, I believe, has zapped them of their ability to serve effectively. That has zapped them of sound moral, political and ethical judgment. That has led both to be disconnected from the very people they claim to serve, both younger and older people alike.

And you see this pattern with old school Black political leaders nationwide. For ghettoes exist wherever you see Black city council or alderpersons. Ghettoes exist wherever you see Black state senators and assemblypersons. And ghettoes exist for most of the Congressional districts, too, represented by Black House members. 40-plus long years of Black political representation, in record numbers, in fact, but it seems our communities are worse off than even before the Civil Rights Movement.

Now I am very clear that systemic racism has done a number on these communities from coast to coast, from how financial institutions have treated urban areas, to the deterioration of our public schools when White flight became real in the 1960s and 1970s, to loss of factories, and other job incubators, to the often combative relationship between our communities and local police. And let us not begin to talk about the effects of gentrification on urban areas across America the past decade and a half.

But if a leader really has any vision, she or he figures out some way to help the people to help themselves. You simply do not retreat to what is safe, secure, and predictable in terms of your actions, or lack thereof. Doing that means you simply have given up. Or, worse, you just do not care.

For me, no clearer evidence than the other day when I was campaigning for Congress in Marcy Projects in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, the Marcy Projects made famous in the lyrics of hiphop superstar and Brooklyn native son Jay-Z. 60-year-old Marcy Projects is so huge a housing complex that it swallows whole Myrtle and Park and Flushing Avenues between Nostrand and Marcy. It consists of 27 buildings, over 1700 apartments, and approximately 5000 residents. And except for areas like Fort Greene (excluding its own projects), Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, and parts of Dumbo, Bed-Stuy, East Flatbush, and Canarsie, most of Mr. Towns’ district is as impoverished, under-served, and as forgotten as Marcy Projects.

There is the sight of several elderly women sitting on benches in the middle of this aging complex, frustrated with the state of their lives, their meager incomes, the bags of garbage strewn about them, and the rats who have created dirt holes so big around each building, that a small human head could fit through most of those holes. When I ask these women where is the nearest senior citizen center so they could have some measure of relief, they say, in unison, “Right here, outside, where we are sitting now, these benches. This is the safest place we got.”

There is the sight of children, pre-teens and teens, running, jumping, over pissed stained asphalt, scraping their knees on the ground filled with broken bottles and broken promises. There also is no community center open in Marcy any longer. Why that is the case, no Marcy resident can tell me. What they do tell me is that Marcy Playground is being renovated. And indeed it is. But the residents feel it is not for them, that it is for “the new White people coming into the area, and the new Black people who have some money.”

There is the sight of all those Black and Latino males standing on this or that corner, in front of this or that building, the hands of their lives shoved deep into their pockets, their hunger for something better fed by a Newport cigarette, a taste of malt liquor or Hennessey, a pull on a marijuana stick. And then the ritual happens: a police car shows up, males and females of all ages are asked for identification, are thrown up against a wall, against the squad car, or to the ground, asked where they live, where they are going, why are they standing there, what is in their shoes, in their underwear. Or they are accused of trespassing for going from one building to another, even if they are simply visiting a relative or friend.

This is not just life in Marcy Projects, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. This is what ghetto monarchs like Congressman Towns and Congressman Rangel preside over in Black communities nationwide. Perhaps, once more, they really cared at one point—maybe they really did. But circa 2010, Charlie Rangel’s problems are Ed Towns’ problems because the apple does not fall very far from the tree. Yes, cite Mr. Rangel’s litany of indiscretions, but let us not forget Mr. Towns’ own timeline of indiscretions while overseeing his district (see the timeline below for Mr. Towns), for nearly three decades, with, among other things, some of the bloodiest violence in America, the highest HIV/AIDS rates in America, the most under-achieving schools (with a few notable exceptions), and vast disparities between the haves and the have-nots. Right here in Brooklyn, New York.

Is it little wonder that as I travel this Congressional district, meeting with Jewish folks in Boerum HIill, Chinese folks in Williamsburg, West Indian folks in East Flatbush and Canarsie, or African American and Puerto Rican folks in East New York, I hear the same things time and again: “We never see Mr. Towns except maybe when he needs our vote” or “I have never seen Mr. Towns in my life” or “I have called Mr. Towns’ office many times and never gotten the help I need” or “I just do not trust any of these politicians at all. They all lie.”

Ed Towns

This is why voter turnout is perpetually low. This is why incumbents get to stay in office decade after decade. The formula is very simple for electeds like Congressman Ed Towns: Identify the loyal voters and only cater to them (helping them get election poll jobs, or regular jobs, helping their children get into schools, paying for trips out of town to some casino or amusement park or cookout). Stay out of sight of all the other registered Democratic voters, banking on them simply pulling the lever for “Democrats” every election cycle without any fuss or questions. Never debate an insurgent opponent for fear of your being exposed for who you really are, and for what you have not done for the community. Turn your political seat into a business, one where your family member and circle of friends and colleagues benefit from the powerful reach of your position.

So why would you want to give that up? Why would you even bother to do more than is absolutely necessary when you are able to enjoy the perks of a long political career without much effort, without much sweat equity at all? Why would you even think that taking on the values of political corruption are unethical at all, if there has been no one to hold you accountable for so very long?

And why would you see that Brooklyn, and the Brooklyns of America, are broken, so very terribly broken, even though it is clear as day to the people in your community?

Kevin Powell is a 2010 Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Brooklyn, New York’s 10th Congressional district. You can contact him at www.kevinpowell.net

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Breakdown FM:Giving You The News from Arizona Dedicated to Arizona Mix

Click HERE to Listen to Podcast

Today we wanna remind everyone of the screwed up law that went into effect in Arizona. We’re talking SB1070 and regardless how you may feel about immigration, the purpose of this law is not to stop folks from coming in this country. Its designed to make lots of money for the private prisons which are publicly traded and further the political careers of the far right Neo-Nazi wing nuts who crafted it. People think that the law will somehow catch lots of undocumented folks hanging out in Arizona and no doubt there will be some that are caught.

However, the way the law will work is that police will look for the slightest infractions to pull you over and start jamming you up. At which point they’ll check to see not only if you are a US citizen, but will also check for everything else. This is on top of the slight infraction they stopped you for in the first place. It’s a page taken right off the policy used by former NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. His tactic was called the Broken Window theory. He felt if you attack the small problems the bigger ones will disappear.  In other words jam up people for minor infractions and it will make it too difficult to do something major. Most law enforcement folks say it doesnt work and it only leads to mass arrests because it becomes a numbers game.. hence the economic benefit to private prisons in Arizona. 

Lastly because the major criticim to SB 1070 is that it will leasd to racial profiling, in order not to appear bias, expect Arizona police to start jamming up everyone if for any reason just to prove the point that they are being even handed.  They may use the excuse that an American citizen is harboring undocumented folks. There’s no doubt that after attending the ACLU Roundtables on Government informants that the police will use the tactic of stopping US citizens on small infractions and in ezxchange for letting them go ask for the names of  suspected undocumented folks  which will allow them to make the case tbhat they had ‘reasonable suspicion’.  We dedicate todays show to those who are on the frontlines fighting SB 1070.

Click the link below to HEAR the show

http://www.alldayplay.fm/episodes/episode-26-give-you-news-arizona-part-1

01-Davey D- ‘Dedicated to Arizona Speech mix’

02-Olmeca-‘Piece of Me’

03-Click tha Super Latin ‘Get Live’ rmx

04-Ozamatli ‘Eva’

05-Antibalas ‘Battle of the Species’ (Al Sharpton rmx)

06-Kenna ‘Games You Can Win’

07-Labtekwon ‘Break It Down’

08-Dessa ‘Chacone’

09-Menahan Street Band ‘Tired of Fighting’

10-Deuce Eclipse ‘Mi Viejo’

11-Sharon & the Dap Kings ‘Stop Paying Taxes’

12-Word Burgular ‘The Route’

13-Brand New Heavies ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’

14-Brand New Heavies ‘We Can’t Stop’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s8jgZUgGpg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJik5-GMF4M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PY56OqtL64&feature=related

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We Remember the Father of Crack & a Key Supporter of Apartheid-Ronald Wilson Reagan

We Remember Ronald Reagan,  the Father of Crack and a Supporter of Apartheid
by Davey D

So yesterday Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger strolled into Simi Valley and with the stroke of a pen he made February 6th Ronald Reagan Day. He also vetoed a bill that would allow Farm Workers to be paid overtime. I found it interesting but not all that surprising that we would have that sort of coupling. After all, we’re honoring a man who was all about exploitation and sadly that trait was underscored with a veto. But let’s not digress..

Governor Schwarzenegger said we need to use Feb 6th as a day to teach school kids about the great accomplishments of Ronald Wilson Reagan. He said we need to teach the kids about this man’s legacy.I guess he feels kids should grow up to be like Reagan. I had to laugh because there’s so much to say and its hard to know where to begin.

Should we start by reminding the kids how Reagan ignored the AIDs epidemic that sprung up during his two terms? I contrast Reagan’s ignoring of HIV and AIDs when people suffering from the then unknown disease were begging for help with how we went all out for the Swine Flu.  Ronnie was out to lunch on that crises.

Maybe I should teach the kids about how he insisted that ketchup and relish were vegetables as he aggressively fought to push inner city school lunch programs to cut cooked and fresh vegetables from their menus.

I could always teach the kids about Reagan’s trickle down economic theory where he fought to allow rich corporations and businesses to cut taxes which would allow them to create new jobs thus benefitting the masses. I guess I should also teach the kids how many of those rich folks who got those tax breaks promptly took their American jobs overseas where they continued to enjoy tax breaks while our economy was turned upside down..

I’ll be sure to teach the kids how Reagan opposed the Equal Rights Amendment even though women at that time and even today still make less than men.

We could also talk about how he was vehemently opposed to the Black Panthers and pushed for the Mulford Act which was specifically designed to target and disarm them

The Father of Crack

I guess because so many kids are enamored with rap star Rick Ross, perhaps I could use his popularity as a teachable moment. I could start by letting kids know that Ross the rapper from Miami derived his name from Freeway Rick the drug dealer out of Los Angeles.

Freeway Rick who has been touring the country lecturing against the harmful impact of drugs is erroneously called the Father of Crack.  His South Central operations is legendary as he’s reported to have moved up to 3 million dollars worth of product a week,  but that’s only part of the story. Freeway Rick was not the Father but the proverbial God son.. The real Father of Crack was Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. The man we came to affectionately call the ‘Great Communicator‘.

You see Freeway Rick was allowed to flourish because our government at the time had some dirty war business they wanted to conduct and found it difficult to circumvent the law and limits set up by Congress. Freeway Rick was able to lavish the hood with tons of crack cocaine because of little scheme we came to know as the Iran Contra Scandal . It was the biggest scandal this country had ever known. Even bigger than Richard Nixon’s Watergate.

To sum it up what you had was in the early 80s, the US was beefing with Iran and the US was beefing with left leaning factions in Nicaragua called the Sandinistas. Reagan and his boys wanted to knock off the Sandinistas because they didn’t like their politics and the populus movement they represented. Latin America was on the rise and overthrowing dictators who were backed by the US. Reagan wanted to overthrow the Sandinistas by arming a bunch of CIA backed rebels called the Contras. Since we’re supposed to be Freedom Loving country we couldn’t do our bidding publicly, and as I noted Congress wasnt with the program, so Reagan’s senior advisors launched a secret war.

What they did was covertly sell arms to Iran and take the money and use it to fund Contra operations in Nicaragua. Additional money was netted for the Contras through the sale of crack cocaine which suddenly overnight gained huge popularity in hoods throughout the country. Freeway Rick and South Central, LA was ground zero.

LAs notorious gangs became the main traffickers who spread all out the country with Freeway Rick being the kingpen. Some of this is out lined in Ice Cube’s song ‘Summer Vacation‘.

Freeway Rick’s connection to all the cocaine was a notorious drug supplier named Oscar Danilo Blandón who worked with the CIA and was a key link to the Contras. This is where the whole CIA-Crack connection story emerged . They were outlined in the explosive 1996 San Jose Mercury expose and book called Dark Alliances written by the late Gary Webb.

Oliver North

When all was said and done damn near all of Reagan’s senior advisors were convicted, like National Security Council member Oliver North who played a central role and was later pardoned. Reagan the Great Communicator was protected with folks saying he had no idea all this was happening on his watch. The exact term used was Reagan was ‘disengaged’

Supporter of Apartheid

Thats an interesting term because it’s in opposition to what Ronald Reagan prided himself on. Here was a guy who supported South Africa’s Apartheid Regime. He aggressively opposed Nelson Mandela who was in jail as a political prisoner during Reagan’s presidency. Reagan called Mandela and his and the African National Congress a ‘terrorist organization‘.

During the early 80s, worldwide resistance to South Africa emerged including a call from the UN to have an embargo. Recording artists all over the world launched a boycott to Sun City which was a popular resort in South Africa where some of the Apartheid laws were relaxed.

Ronald Reagan Opposed Nelson Mandela. He saw him and the Adfrican national Congress as Terrorists

Ronald Reagan along with Israel and Great Britain opposed all of it. Reagan said he supported South Africa because they stood alongside us during all our wars.. He said the best way to get rid of Apartheid was not through embargos but through this term he coined called  ‘Constructive engagement‘. When he first used it left everyone stunned and asking WTF? There was nothing to engage. People were calling for an end to the brutal Apartheid regime and Reagan was opposing it. It was so bad that after he vetoed sanctions, Congress did a rare thing and over rode his veto.  This man who supposedly loved freedom was on the wrong side of history when it came to making sure it was a reality for Black South Africans. It’s no wonder Nelson Mandela didn’t attend his funeral in 2004.

We can go on and on when talking about Ronald Reagan. He was a hero for those who yearned for the days when many people in marginalized communities were behind the 8 ball not in front of it.  Yes when February 6th rolls around.. I will say Happy Ronald Reagan Day and commence to undo the revisionist history the power elite in this country have spent years constructing. I’ll leave with two musical heros who went in hard on Reagan back in the days. Gil Scott Heron with the song B-Movie and Melle-Mel with his song Jesse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56ipWM3DWe4

http://www.swift.fm/mrdaveyd/song/54175/

Click HERE to peep song..

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