I Am A Community Organizer: The Genesis

Jose Vilson Jose

This morning, on my doorknob, I got a flyer from some group detailing the negative aspects of Daniel Squadron, a young man who’s running for New York State Senate, representing Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The whole Lower East Side has been abuzz with community activism and political stationing, not so much about the presidential candidate (almost all of the hood reps for Barack), but this rather intriguing and upcoming election for State Senate. As far as community organization, the LES is loyal (sometimes to a fault) to certain candidates who use proletariat politics to get us in the voting booths on behalf of them.

Now, without getting into too much of those politics, because frankly, I’m not as informed as I should be, I find it interesting that the battle of whose serving for whom is heavily dependent on people’s utter prejudices rather than looking at the issues and actually going with what their actions. For example, Nydia Velasquez, the US Congresswoman who represents Lower Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, is probably one of my favorite politicians because her record speaks for itself. She’s been doing it for what feels like forever (15 years to be exact), and has done it well. You never hear about any scandals from her, and she’s the head official of the US House Committee on Small Business, so her interest obviously lie in her community even if she’s in Washington. She usually makes her presence felt in our hoods and while other people’s name may flounder in popularity, hers stay steady.

And that’s really all I need from a politician. I’m not asking them to change the world, but I do ask them to keep their community’s interest at heart. It’s easy to walk into those Romanesque edifices and kowtow to the special interests and political games in those hollow chambers, but it really takes someone who understands what a “public servant” does and do that to the best of their abilities. I’m not saying Ms. Velasquez is Queen of perfection, but her recent vote as the most progressive politician in New York, a progressive bastion, should let you know why our hood likes her so much.

Now, when I look at Squadron, I see the face of the new Lower East Side / Brooklyn: young, bearded, White, and unfamiliar. He looks like the guys who peruse the night scene on 1st Street or Ludlow, and that makes me itch. From what I understand, he barely lived and worked here in NYC, mainly as an aide for Senator Chuck Schumer. While the photo ops are nice, I’m not sure he’s actually in tune with the community as he should be. Then, I look at Martin Connor, and I see … an older White gentleman. He’s been around a while, but I ask myself if he helped or hurt our neighborhood, so different from he first took office. Furthermore, I feel like I only hear of Marty Connor’s name during elections.

And it’s with that thinking that the role of community organizer becomes ever more important. Activist groups such as PHROLES address issues pertaining to public house in my hood. Social workers, parents, and teachers in this city are going to the important meetings and rallies to keep our interests (which is specifically our children’s interests) in the ears of politicians who only want to read off a sheet rather than come from the gut. Even subgroups such as 100 Black Men in Law Enforcement often takes stances that contradict their employer’s positions for their community’s benefit. That’s powerful.

With the understanding of the complex politics of New York City with its varying degrees of liberal and progressive ideas, it’s hard to jump into community organization when there are so many options. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just hope that whatever path I choose will

a) be in line with most of my ideals
b) will serve the people and not the “masters”
c) keep the people who I represent informed and active

Because if I can’t meet either of those requirements, I can’t honestly say I serve those people. Maybe that’s something our public servants should take heed of.

jose, who has 2 dangerous posts coming up this week …

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