First, in the interest of full disclosure, Publisher David Greaves is President of the Board of
Directors of Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc. As an Assemblyman, Al Vann
has supported the center founded by Mrs. Hattie Carthan for two decades before Greaves joined
the Board and he has continued to do so as a Councilman, despite Greaves’ presence. Also,
Greaves made phone calls on the Councilman’s behalf from the second floor of the Harriet Ross
Tubman Avenue AKA Fulton Street, office in the early 80’s.
Why Al Vann? Because we are at war. The unemployment rate for Black men is said to be 50%,
matching the school dropout rate. 64% of the national prison population comes from the African
-American community. Health statistics show obesity, prostate cancer, hypertension, AIDS and
other ailments are at peak levels in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Foreclosure and sheer economic
distress are the daily fare for too many here.
These are national problems stemming from sources that transcend time, and their solution does
not lie in any one political office, and yet I hear some variation of “That happened on Vann’s
watch, because he was never around,” to which I say “No, it happened on your watch, because had
you been at the front lines, you would have seen him there.” If these disgruntled had attended
Community Board meetings, or any community-building activity, they would have found him easily.
And if he wasn’t there, they could have invited and questioned him. It’s a good bet they never
called the Council District office and asked to join the Education Task Force, Senior Task
Force, Community Safety Task Force, Youth Task Force, or even the Coalition for the Improvement
of Bedford Stuyvesant (CIBS). They probably didn’t rally around renaming Gates Avenue for Sonny
Carson, or come out to honor Harriet Tubman. The only way politicians can catch up with these
folks is to intercept them between the subway and their home.
But even when the day-to-day battles on both sides of the commute prevent presence at the
“Front” in the ongoing struggle of Africans-in-America, votes matter in this war. Over the next
few years, there will be hundreds of millions of dollars coming down the pipeline as the
stimulus packages roll out. While all politicians in areas with statistics like those above
will be able to talk about the funds coming in, it is a political pipeline that will be
delivering that money and political relationships built up over the years, where a case can be
made in private, is something that only an incumbent can bring to the office. And while we are
for term limits and the excitement and new ideas they bring to the local races, after twenty-
seven years in the State Assembly and eight in the City Council, Al Vann has the unusually deep
and personal relationships with politicians across the state and in Washington that can only be
beneficial for the district.
Incumbents traditionally have an easy time of it at reelection but this will be no cakewalk for
Councilman Vann. He polled only 29% of the total vote, facing an electorate that wants change,
and a smart and able opponent in Mark Winston Griffith who wears the change label very well, but
when you look, you see that Al Vann does also.
Vann was a founder of the African -American Teachers Association and helped create Boys & Girls
Memorial High School and Medgar Evers College. His official site reminds us that, “As Chairman
of the New York State Black & Puerto Rican Caucus in 1981, Vann led the U.S. Supreme Court fight
that prevented the racial gerrymandering of the New York City Council. The court case led to
increased representation of communities of color in the Council. In addition, Vann also filed a
1982 lawsuit that forced the New York State Legislature to significantly increase representation
of communities of color on the state and federal levels. His landmark victory led to the
creation of two additional Congressional Districts, three additional State Senatorial Districts,
and six additional Assembly Districts for communities of color in New York State.”
Additionally the councilman reported that Bedford Stuyvesant has just received a special federal
grant from the EPA based on a CIBS application that he had spearheaded. “The grant, one of only
two in the country, puts us in a position to receive federal money that will lead the way to
creating a green community with green jobs and green infrastructure,” said Vann. This is not
promised change, this is delivered and we need more like it. Plus, the Councilman was a
sergeant in the U.S. Marines and if you have to be in a war, that’s a good side to be on.
Doors open 6:00am November 3rd. Every vote counts.