‘Haitian Firsts’, a New City Trend
Dr. Mathieu Eugene’s recent win for Brooklyn’s 40th District seat made City history. He’s the City’s first Haitian-American councilmember. Now, with Haitian unity growing in power, members of Eugene’s community already forecast more Haitian elected officials.
“It’s not good enough for us [Haitian community] to keep saying this is the first one to do achieve this or be that. No,” says Greg Durandisse of Haitian Enlightenment and Literacy Project. “We should be saying this is the fourth or sixth or hundredth Haitian to do this or be that.”
Those sentiments mean good news to Una Clarke & Associates, the political firm credited with masterminding Eugene’s campaign organization and strategy. Customers as candidates are sure to swarm into her political club in exchange for favor and power in future Brooklyn elections.
But it won’t be that simple. A confidential Haitian source told OTP that Eugene paid for his seat, with 12 years of allegiance and dues to Clarkes’ political club. According to the source, Eugene had allegedly confided in him that he’d been tapped by the machine two years ago, to run for another seat, yet was undecided. When news of Clarke’s victory last year [OTP, November 2006] emerged, so too did Eugene’s decision. He was going to run for her City seat. He had permission, of course, as Yvette hit voters with public smiling endorsements, while Una (her mother) stacked support from PACS and steered the campaign from the backend.
Not leaving without a fight.
Eugene’s success may equal deep obligations to the Clarkes. And the Clarke’s are not playing with the seat that’s been in the family for nearly 16 years. Their massive efforts to band Haitians with Jamaicans, according to the source, mean the Clarkes’s will be looking for payback in 2009, in the form of more Haitian votes for a firmer grip over New York’s 11th Congressional District. Those with the belief that any minority group achievement inspires more minority success will probably read the news of Eugene’s win as awe inspiring.
Una Clarke, of course, paved the political way by becoming the city’s first Caribbean-born woman elected to City hall, in 1991. Yvette, her daughter, followed in 2001. A version of primogeniture (eldest male child inheritance) could have occurred in the 40th as it had with the Boyland family in Brooklyn’s 41st District, until Darlene Mealy broke it up. Yet, Yvette had no offspring to mold and the family dynasty over the 40th district ended when she moved on to higher ranks.
Ghost writing legislation, For better or worse
Just four months ago, the City recognized Guy Sansaricq as the first Haitian-American to serve as Bishop. Yvette Clarke, played a role in honoring the newly appointed bishop with the proclamation he received. It was a public display of unity. And with district unity, Brooklyn’s 40th district may actually begin to gain leverage over quality of life and economic opportunities Forest City Ratner development in downtown Brooklyn will have on them. Big on Clarkes’ spoken agenda was the future of their transportation industry. Flatbush Avenue boasts of being able to move massive amounts of people (and money) daily. For sure, the issue of job development within the transportation industry will force the TLC and West Indians to sit and discuss possible win-win strategies for them and the district. Questions of whether a medical man with childcare experience has the readiness to tackle such a debate arise, as does the concern of Eugene as an effective legislature for immigration issues. Of note is that when answered they come from the lips of Una Clarke. “He’ll have at least five, well informed staff members to help research, and draft legislation,” said Clarke. Maybe, Eugene’s legislation will be ghostwritten as well.
Fact check list:
Gregg Durandisse, Haitian Enlightenment and Literacy Project 917-319-6773
Anonymous source (keep Private) P. Pouchon, Caribbean Images