Let me start by saying that what you are about to read are my thoughts and opinions and as always you have the choice to read, disagree, disregard, accept, believe what you want.
I’ve spent my 41.5 years calling Boston home. Politics/civics has been in my household since I was a child. I’ve worked for and with elected officials. I’ve worked with non-profit and service organizations across Boston as well as hundreds of people that make it all go. I’ve run for public office five times. I ran for Boston City Council District 7 seat in 2007 and 2009. I ran for State Representative for the 5th Suffolk District in 2010 in which I was elected. 2012, I ran successfully for re-election. And most recently for City Council in District 7 in 2017. I have in the period between 2007 and today, served in different capacity on campaigns ranging from Governor to Registrar of Deeds. I’ve been in and around politics in Boston and beyond.
In 2007, the only members of generation X that had run for office that looked like me at the time of my first run were Ego Ezedi and Emmanuel Bellengarde and former state rep and senator Linda Dorcena Forry. This was the beginning of seeing a generation begin to be more deeply involved as we reached our late 20s and early 30s. A trend seen all across the country. This trend led to political competition between generations as baby boomers, especially in communities lived in by people who identify as black. These communities traditionally were and are the most disconnected from political power and many of the electeds at the time were revered as “legends”. Some for their work, some for being the first to be able to win and hold positions deemed powerful that we (reads: black people) had never held before due to many reasons but mostly institutional racist practices, including but not limited to “gerrymandering”, which is in some ways what opened the seat for Linda Dorcena Forry’s election indirectly (she had nothing to do with the gerrymandering).
11 years later, the majority of elected seats in the city of Boston are held by members of generation X regardless of race or ethnicity. The City Council is younger. The Boston delegation at the State House is younger than it has been in the past.
Now new leaders continue to emerge.
I believe leaders are defined by their actions and you may not agree. I don’t believe all leaders are good, principled, fair, trustworthy, unbiased people. I don’t believe any being to be all those things all the time. For me, that is an ideal perspective that excludes reality. I just don’t operate in that space. Some leaders are elected, appointed, self anointed and this is in all fields that mingle with politics in Boston.
Lately, many of have witnessed some of the negative exchanges happening between activists at different levels around city politics.
I believe folks are entitled to feel however they feel. But feelings are not facts. They are not interchangeable with facts but at times I think that people blur the line. I’m going to walk that line.
I believe, if I and ten civically active friends, form a group and decide we are going to come up with relevant questions to ask candidates who campaign in our neighborhoods, so that we and those that follow our civic work can be better informed about the decision they make, I believe we are well within our rights as individuals.
If you receive that questionnaire as a candidate that has received over 12 others similar from other self formed civic groups to which you responded but this particular one you deem to be bullying, it raises concerns for me and makes me want to know why you feel that way. If supporters co-sign the campaign message adding slurs about the character of the people in that group and attach nefarious intentions without presenting any proof then I’m concerned and as part of civic groups like that, i’m bothered personally by baseless attacks. I’m bothered for a few reasons even as I am empathetic.
Allow me to digress, losing an election sucks. I’m 2-3*. I get it better than most I believe. You ask strangers for money, time, you give up almost 9 months if not more with friends and family in tow. But this is what it is. This is what you signed up to do and maybe no one told you, maybe you are not prepared for it, maybe it’s not for you, maybe you didn’t ask but criticism, opinions, losses, are all part of the risk of electoral politics.
I say that to say, if you are in local politics, there are personalities at work. Check your biases. You need to know that just because you are related to a candidate, that, by default , doesn’t make them the best candidate. Period. It’s the only the one you like best. You may believe they are the best but you’re biased. You would look funny if your aunt/uncle was running and you are campaigning for the other candidate. I get it. But if you push that bias towards others or me without even acknowledging your bias, don’t expect me to accept it without merit. I have friends who support candidates different from who I support. We respectfully disagree, work around each other and return without damaging each other because our friendship and the needs of our community are bigger than one person and their personality or those around them.
If you have a problem with a person, address it. If you have a problem with the process, address it. If you think someone is harming the community or people in it, address it. Just make sure you have something solid. For me to respect it, I need more than rhetoric or platitudes.
I have no problem with conflict. I believe conflict to be natural. I am writing to share what I think should be understood about these civic/political disagreements and the behavior that goes with it. So without belaboring the point, I’m going to name a few things I have personally witnessed in past and recent present that trouble me and I think trouble the community. I’m not claiming right or wrong. I’m talking about what’s problematic to me in no particular order. I share these with the hopes it will further a dialogue about things many of us speak about privately and have yet to resolve.
Pastors in politics – The clergy in black communities have historically been conveners. Churches being safe places and the center for civics when it was the only place black people could meet in groups. Those days are no more. But the clergy’s influence remains. I believe in many cases, they, whether intentionally or not, usurp authority from the black elected officials in the Boston. I believe they should encourage civic participation for their congregants. But, when I have witnessed pastors up to the dozens, endorse and support political candidates and campaigns, I think it can be damaging to the communities political power.
Not the mayor nor any other elected official in Boston can walk into a church and decide the best sermon to preach, which deacon should be promoted, what message to preach on Sunday and so on. But I’ve witnessed on numerous occasions, clergy without speaking to elected officials who represent the communities where the house of worship resides make those decisions. Does the clergy know policy better than the elected ? Does the clergy have a side by side working relationship around policy and/or budget ? Was there a process that they can point to in their selection ? Did their congregants participate ? I could go on but you get the point, hopefully. It is a conversation that I believe needs to be had. My belief is it needs to stop especially without cooperation or collaboration from the local elected leadership.
Another issue I’ve seen my father live through, that I live through and others I will share.
I watched my father serve his community giving to others even when it meant taking resources out of his own household creating real family stress. I remember the things some from the community said about him for working for Daniel Burke, a former member of the Boston School Committee. Similar things were said and whispered when I worked for Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty in 2005.
“He’s a sell out.” “He works for the white man.” “Can’t trust him.” “He ain’t as loud as he was before, his activism has changed” things like that. You’ve heard it before. These sentiments are being circulated now still. So let me be clear about my boundaries with my friends (both real and social media).
Sell outs exist, no doubt. But like I said, you have to have more than just calling someone a name. Speaking for self, if you think that my working for a non profit or administration or white person makes me a sell out, it’s best if we don’t speak and stay separate. If you believe that perceived “friends of your enemy” are your “enemy”, it’s probably best if we don’t speak and stay separate. I’m not sure when folks self selected themselves for moral authority but I do not accept it.
I will not accept that the tens of thousands of people who have worked in government and non profits and have spent their lives not only working but serving their community while they worked whether they are the chief of health and human services or a laborer at public works. I will not denigrate or diminish their work and slander their character by painting thousands with the same brush.
Is the activist the same when elected ? How bout as a parent ? How bout when sick ? No. Do you talk to your mother the same at 40 as you did at 14? No. Do you talk and move the same when children are around versus all adults ? No. – In activism, we are not all to act the same, but hopefully towards the same goal. But if you are telling me I have to do it the way you deem appropriate when you deem it appropriate or else you will diminish my work and reputation then you are operating on a different frequency than me and we cannot build together. And generally speaking I’m perfectly fine with that, for those that think we have to be “all together”.
I’m a mature adult black latino man with a history of service to my community and city at various levels. I expect those around me to engage me with maturity and intelligence. If you are unable to, one way or another we will separate. I do not believe in 100% unity around complex issues. So, to those who continue to engage in what I deem as destructive or non-constructive behavior, we will separate soon if we haven’t already.
If you are unable to acknowledge and check your biases. If you encourage this behavior you will notice the distance, or I may ask you directly why do you support that behavior if we are close enough to dialogue. No judgement, just dialogue and if deemed necessary, distance.
Where do we go from here ? This is the question asked when you are lost or have a decision to make. You took a wrong turn or have been impacted in a way that caused you to lose your sense of direction.
There’s no smart phone with a global positioning system. It’s just you or you and those in your traveling party. You don’t ask the person who was asleep during most of the trip. You don’t ask the person in a panic who thinks you’re all going to die now. The faithful may look to the sky and ask for a sign which may or may not come. So what do you do? Secure your position, inventory your provisions and then think about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen. See what worked and isolate where you went wrong.
The universe’s favorite shape is the circle. Pay attention to circles. We all have them. I focus on 2 in particular.
My circle of concern: since Quincy Jones put all my favorite singers in the room in 1985, my circle of concern grew to a global size at the age of 9. As time passed, it included apartheid, human rights, etc…I quickly found that I could only influence these things in small ways. Not buying gas at Shell until they divested. Making a small donation of my allowance to the Salvation Army during the holidays. It bothered me that I couldn’t do more. It wasn’t until I was introduced to community organizing that I got a new circle…
My circle of influence: I learned I could influence teens, my peers, my neighbors. I could influence what party we went to, what that vacant lot should be, how to get a park cleaned, etc. I could see the results of my work in almost real-time. It got good to me. I wanted more. I organized more. Fast forward to 2005 I took a job with a city councilor. Learned local city politics. Organized more. Ran afterschool programs in the community for youth. Learned about their needs and development. Organized more. Ran for city council, lost, organized more. Ran again, lost again, you guessed it…organized more. Each endeavor taught me more. Each effort grew my circle of influence. 3rd time running was a charm. Let the smile in the picture be evidence of that. I found myself making changes where it mattered most. Locally. My circle of influence was growing and I could now have greater impact on my circle of concern. I could organize better. I could advocate for youth development and for those most needing support. I could motivate peers, teens, neighbors to believe that their local action made a difference. Hell, I won that primary by 41 votes, no electoral college, just every vote counting.
4 years later, I found myself lost. Falsely accused, wrong fully convicted and illegally and unconstitutionally expelled from the 5th Suffolk State Representative seat. Lost, wondering what mistakes I made. Should I have expected a woman to set me up ? Could my outspokenness on certain issues made me a target ? Was I being used as a distraction from larger, systemic legal issues playing out in the State House ? I was lost. My circle I had worked so hard to build with so many involved was shrinking again. My influence diminished. My reputation, tarnished. Lost. For the first time in my life wondering how I would find work, what kind of work it would be.
So many thoughts and concerns, my circles were crossed and I was lost. I had to retrace my steps. I had to shut out those who were asleep for the journey. I had to ignore the rubberneckers who slowed down enough to watch the wreck but not get out and help. I spoke to those who were with me riding shotgun. Those who showed love when my influence was just what party we went to as kids. I got my bearings. Figured out where I was on the road and started doing what I knew. Organizing. Growing my circle of influence. Continuing the commitment I made to my community.
So as i watch members of my community for months fight each other over national party candidates and even local ballot questions, as I watch people share their sadness about the realities of our country and our political system, I ask that you check your circles. Separate concern from influence. Start local, organize, grow until influence begins to gain on concern. And when you’re lost. Stop, assess things, secure yourself and provisions and check in with those that have been on the same journey for directions.
Lost, wondering where do we go from here ? Local. Start organizing. Want to learn more about how ? I consult for free for community members: Los@stillreppin.com
ps. 2017 is a campaign year, locally (Mayor and Boston City Council)
Allow me to get my political pundit on…
We’ll start at the top of the pyramid. The presidency. About 50% of Americans vote. 2 candidates then campaign for the majority of those ballots = the popular vote. Then there is the electors aka electoral college. But by the time you reached college age whether you attended or not you forgot, ignored or didn’t know at all that the electoral college has been in place basically since the beginning of this country. It probably didn’t matter to you as long as things went your way.
National politics is like religion and racism which un-ironically both play a major part in the founding and continuance of power in this country and this election cycle. Most of us are born into it. Most of us say we chose/choose but that’s arguable. You more than likely share the belief system of your parents. You are a democrat or republican because your parents are. You are a Baptist, protestant, or catholic because your parents raised you to be. You are most likely Jewish or Muslim because you were raised to be. Not in all cases but most. You’re a bigoted sexist because your grandfather, father and mother are/were as were their parents. This is how most belief systems are formed. Many don’t have the insight nor guts to challenge their belief systems so they either double down and subscribe to them or develop cognitive dissonance.
This was on full display this election cycle, especially exhibited similarly with those supporting Trump and Hillary. I know that stung a little.
On the one hand, “the deplorables” were seen exhibiting behavior that has been present in America since it’s inception. Race based attacks, religious intolerance, sexist behavior.
On the other hand “the moderates” were exhibiting the denial of these very same behaviors existing in our country until Trump’s popularity soared, while at times exhibiting behavior that have also been present and persistent throughout our history. We are not and have never been “post-racial”and if the only time your are this emotional about it is when you have skin in the game, then human rights might not really be your thing.
Most Trump supporters can only quote sound bites that have nothing to do with the policy or work of a president-elect Trump. They didn’t care that while suffering poverty for generations that the man promising to bring jobs back to America sends most of his to Mexico and China and represents the ruling wealthy class that does so also. As long as he spoke to their belief system which has been shaped since the English arrived in Virginia.
Most Clinton supporters could overlook a past that fought against civil rights as a college student. A FLOTUS position that called their children super predators and policy support that further tore apart the families in the very communities they live. The financial benefit from human tragedy in Haiti, the close ties to Wall Street and military action the world over including the assassination of heads of sovereign states which in America would be called terrorism. As long as she spoke to their belief system that she was “progress” and the “lesser of two evils”.
Affirmation is much easier to accept than to have your belief system challenged. Especially if affirmation is your love language. And as Facebook has shown us, affirmation is a very popular love language. But my love is conditional and I cannot overlook certain behaviors and not see them for what they are.
When “progressives” are berating Bernie Sanders and 3rd party supporters for wasting votes. Calling them stupid, traitors, etc. That is intolerance. When folks are looking to blame another individual or group for them losing the fight, it is because those folks confidently stood opposed to their beliefs. They didn’t sit down and make a heartfelt case for Clinton, they took on the position of privilege and behaviors of the oppressor.
I was raised a democrat. I am registered as a democrat. I have served as a state legislator as a democrat. I have also shared many beliefs with republicans while in office and in my personal life. I don’t default democrat. I have listened to Malcolm X’s speech “Ballot or the Bullet” over a dozen times. I had to then challenge my belief system. (I am more independent than democrat.) And I’ve seen it in practice. In recent history, people of color and “progressives” default democrat. And because they do, it lowers the value of their political power reducing them to “political chumps” as Malcolm X put it. It also weakens the party. As a state representative, I have sat in meetings with candidates for US Congress and Senate who have almost no presence in my community ask colleagues and I to endorse them and ask our constituents to do the same. They pay $12 an hour for residents whom they’ve never spoken to and will never again to hold signs and wear t-shirts. For almost nothing in the way of political favor in return. It is this behavior that cost Martha Coakley her race to Scott Brown and it is what cost Hillary Clinton her race against Donald Trump. People get tired of being chumps. I know I did. To assume I will vote for you because of my party, because the black president asked me to, because my favorite rapper asked me to, to make history is insulting to me. I didn’t support the practice as a public official and I won’t as a private citizen.
I didn’t vote for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, Harambee or Hennessy. I blanked the presidential ballot. 1. Because I couldn’t in good faith over look the harm they have done or would do to me and my community. 2. They didn’t speak to me, or my love language, or even my community in a genuine way. 3. I understand that Massachusetts is not a swing state, that it will go democrat and my ballot will not swing the electoral college vote. If I lived in Florida or Ohio, I may have considered a different action but I don’t.
I blanked president. I blanked congressman. (I like Capuano’s politics but want to send a message that he’s not speaking to my community). I blanked Governor’s council. Register of Deeds. (because they didn’t speak to my community which I find disrespectful). I voted for Sheriff, all 5 ballot questions and wrote my name in for State Representative in the 5th Suffolk because I’m Stillreppin.
I’m not here calling the play by play, just giving you my color commentary !
Half a block away from the City of Boston’s 1010 Mass Ave location and Boston’s Public Health Commission sits Clifford Park.
Clifford Park is a wonderful expanse of land. On it sits 2 tot lots, 2 baseball diamonds, a tennis court, basketball court and practice football field. This field is used by many area residents and is also the home practice field for Roxbury’s own pop warner football team the Bengals.
For too long however, this park has been left unnattended by the city and as it now sits in what is known as the “methadone mile” has become a dangerous haven for open drug and alcohol abuse.
Coaches, parents, residents and most important the children, have seen too much of this for too long.
Today on October 12, 2016, over two dozen residents placed calls/issues with the city’s neighborhood services through 617-635-4500 / 311 / or the app BOS311. The reception of these calls ranged from “good” to “they seemed annoyed” to “rude”. Case numbers were assigned many prior to 1:30p. By 4:30p, some of these cases were being closed out due to “no findings”. This is very concerning because other residents and I visited Clifford Park today after 2:00p and found all of the things listed in complaints within 10 minutes of just walking through the park at different times. For a video of the walk, click here and here.
To me this says,
- a. no one was sent
- b. whoever was sent doesn’t/didn’t do their job
- c. poor communication between city and residents
- d. a mix of the above
Heroin needles, caps, baggies, human feces, alcohol bottles, broken glass, addicts actively sticking needles in their arm all easily seen in broad day light at 3:45pm today.
I have sent a letter to the the Office of Neighborhood services requesting an immediate and sustained plan of resolution that includes a full cleaning of the park, regular maintenance and increased policing.
Im interested in how long it takes them to respond and how efficient the response will be.
I thank the dozens of concerned residents who took swift action when made aware of the issue. You’re sustained engagement will make a difference in our community.
Let me say it again. Winner gets no guarantees like Joe and Chico DeBarge. Once again, the inactivity of some powerful politicians has allowed private interests to position them as fight promoters while putting their money on fighters in local elections in Roxbury, Cambridge, on TV during NFL football, radio, everywhere but in the classrooms.
The fight around question 2 is just shy of an exercise in futility. Now, I could get Neil Degrasse Tyson on you but I’m going to keep it simple because so many experts complicate it. A few facts.
The current formula that helps fund charter schools takes dollars from the BPS budget.
Most charter schools open in poor communities of color where schools are under performing and have been under performing.
Not enough has been done to keep the schools from under performing. See 1980s, 90s, 2000s, to today. Put that on whoever you like, politicians, teachers unions, parents, the case can be made. I’m not saying it’s right, but one can be made. You’ve heard them all.
Charters have been cleverly marketed as an alternative equalling quality schools.
Charters schools do not guarantee quality, even as they brag about how there is a waiting list. Sometimes there’s a line at McDonald’s but that doesn’t mean it’s for the high quality they are serving right ? Just hungry customers.
So, parents want what’s best for their children. Or at least what they believe to be best. So when staring at the choices of a lottery pick that will win their child a seat in a long time under performing school or the idea of a charter school that might give them 1 more shot at quality for their child, it may look appealing. How could it not ?
The catch. The charter school pays teachers less. You might see that as good or bad depending on your perspective. Their suspension rates in inner city areas and communities of color are definitely something to question. They do not do much to serve children with special needs. But they seem to be receiving alot of money from large corporate donors. You be the judge.
Full disclosure: as a Rep, I voted in 2011/12 to allow more (limited) charter schools with the idea to add some choice while we leveled the field with funding.
Now, 4 years later it is a ballot question. Because funding wasn’t fixed on Beacon Hill. Instead parents take time out of their day to fight other parents for the best shot at a chance for a high quality education for their child/ren. They either want to protect their child’s chances in BPS, especially if their child has special needs. Maybe even protect the majority of students which will remain at BPS as they are already short on resources, crowded classrooms and under performing.
Or maybe they want to protect their most valuable possession by getting more choice for their child/ren by supporting the expansion of charter schools. Maybe they’ve had enough of the BPS shortcomings and are unwilling to risk it but can look the other way about the funding and other issues. Because let’s face it. Parents love their children like no others. Understandable.
In the end it’s parent vs. parent all for neither getting the guarantee of a high quality education for their offspring. As if parents don’t have enough to deal with in this city. On November 9th, the day after, maybe we will get back to improving the schools (BPS & charter) that children are already attending.
Everyone else has skin in the game, teachers and their unions, corporations, elected officials funded by these corporate interest groups, elected officials funded by unions, advocates, but the parents, parents are all in ! They deserve better. And so do their children.