Letter to the Editor: Love Your Blackness

LOVE YOUR BLACKNESS… by DEBORAH OGUAMAH

To brothers and sisters:

I need your support to end African American Month Abrazo celebration. Don’t scarify your dignity because political leaders only want to recognize you one day of the year for Black History Month and use you for petitions and votes. This is the second year of protest to value your self-worth. The time has come when African Americans must tell their own story, and hold their own celebrations. We need to take the time and reflect on the great contributions of our ancestors, and educate our families.

I am a Black woman who resides in the Parkchester community and am outraged by the word Abrazo African American Month Celebration. We don’t need another label in our vernacular to describe Black history Month.

BLACK HISTORY IS EVERY DAY
Black History is our story in which African Americans must always educate other ethnic groups about our history. On the other hand, that does not mean other ethnic groups or political groups can host programs telling our story and giving out cheap awards. Many have forgotten the Civil Rights Movement, and the fight for equal opportunity, etc. Are we not equal in the opportunities? The Civil Rights Movement was organized and controlled by African Americans. We must stop letting others, who are not African American, to pick fruits from trees that we planted, walk through the doors we opened. We must stop letting others who are not African American steal our ideas, use our mind, and body…we are not for sale.

When I attended the African American Abrazo, I was appalled and offended by the passive demeanor of some African Americans. Their behavior was servitude toward the elective officials while waiting for their photo opportunity. It was sickening to witness false signs of entitlement, and awkward gratitude towards political leaders who have not made any major changes in the community since they were elected into office. Signing legislation is not the same as writing legislation and signing a bill is not the same as writing a bill.

We need leaders, not followers.

African Americans Abrazo means affectionate closing for close friends and/or hugs to another. When put together “African Americans Abrazo”, I assume means, to give hugs or expression of affection or to embrace in a hug of affection. The affection that one might seek within different ethnic groups and from other groups is based upon mutual respect from working together and building institutions which addresses the needs of the community for everyone.

Why label African Americans? I do not recall Irish American Abrazo, or Italian American Abrazo, or Greek-American Abrazo, or Jewish American Abrazo? I will not apologize for asking the question why ABRAZO? In my opinion, African American Abrazo is a negative undertone to be very submissive that will leave participants frozen, confused, powerless, non-productive, and stagnate. The African American Abrazo Celebration is a propaganda tool to lure black voters. Again, their form of a Black History program has not made a real change or impact in the Bronx African American community. The word Abrazo sets up an air of confusion which ultimately leads to powerlessness and division in the African American community. The target population is seniors, churches, and leaders who are easy to control and manipulate.

AFRICAN AMERICAN BLACK HISTORY MONTH programs must never be sponsored by political leaders in the Bronx, especially in the Parkchester community. The political leaders have not done enough to support African American entrepreneurship, businesses, housing, education, health or organizations. Political leaders have placed strings attached any time they appear to be helping when it is really for their reelection. Here are examples: carrying their petitions for free, employment at the board of election, or appointment to the community boards, or a turkey, or volunteer. In which you are suckered into a high level of corruption in the process. While the City Council, Assembly, Senator and Congress has 1% of African Americans who work in their offices. Last year two politicians co-sponsored a bill for a Spanish interpreter present for Spanish speaking inmates at the Parole board. Really what a waste of time, money, and paper. All City, State, Government institutions have always had interpreters to translate all languages. My late Pastor would, “say faith without work is dead!”

Needless to say African Americans have not held our political leaders accountable for the following:

  • The 43rd Precinct NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry shot and killed Deborah Danner with no follow-up investigation
  • We lost another African American landmark  in the Parkchester community that, was a service to the community for over a decade, Henfield/Parkchester Children Center on 2119 Starling Ave.
  • Increase food coupons for seniors to use at the greenmarket.
  • Increase food pantry’s for all social services programs and churches.
  • African-American Day Parade has always been sabotaged.
  • Africans have a Parade but are not allowed to march on Grand Concourse.
  • No Roselyn Johnson memorial Democratic Club.
  • The dismantlement of the National Action Network Bronx Chapter (NAN).
  • Loss of the Parkchester movie theater.
  • No proposals on voting or meetings from the Community Board on what supermarket could replace Pathmark, Zaro’s Bakery, and Hallmark card shop.
  • No Parkchester tenant association.
  • No education seminars on small business loans, home ownership, tax laws, or discretionary funds.
  • No education or information on the committee our political leaders serve on.
  • No information on programs that can be implemented in our community.
  • No information on the community budget on how our money is being spent and how the community can request for capital funds on projects we want in our community.

The Bronx has the highest rate of domestic violence. The issue of human trafficking has not received the support needed to enforce public awareness, which is prevalent in the Mexican, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian population in Parkchester.

The following are MISSING INDIVIDUALS IN THE BRONX:

  • 2016 – 2017 Palermo, Jaime Ariolla, and more than a dozen teen girls missing raises fear of possible abduction and forced prostitution. What are we doing to educate people because the Bronx is failing to provide social services for the families and victims.
  • 2016- Xavier Wilson, Patrick Kennedy Alford, Jarib Bennett, Jacob Elias Pope, Jeremiah Huger, Genève Rene Holiday, Sasha Davis, Stevie Danielle Bates, Tracy Harper, Dontay Sheard, John Brown, Jr., and Nakami Hope Felix. FALSE ARREST Brandon Jaclyn. POLICE MISCONDUCT Kevin Watson, Quintyon Charmer. ATTACKED Lenny Thomas. DECEASE, Terrance Dexter Davis, Jr.

Just to mention a few cases that have been thrown in the garbage. Why are we not outraged when African Americans in the Bronx are falsely arrested, missing, raped, abused, or killed by police? In the case of Ramarley Graham is it enough to challenge the justice system who withheld evidence, and tampered with witnesses etc. to prevent another Ramarley Graham? What are even more outrages you can walk around any community in the Bronx see a hand full of African American of men? Our Black men by the thousands are incarcerated.

We have not received help from our politicians when our Black men and young adults are incarcerated with maximum sentences, many who are innocent.

On the other hand, a Muslim man was attacked in the Parkchester area. After, a rally and town hall meeting was held with several politicians, and clergy came out to support. The solution was to lock up the youth who committed the act. I ask the question, does Black Lives Matter? What do children really know about “ISIS”? This was a perfect time to educate the young boys and build bridges.

African Americans in the Bronx, and throughout the country are faced with massive incarceration and the genocide has never ended. The first ninety days that Bronx District Attorney Darcell D. Clark was in office resulted in the largest “gang crackdown” in NYC history. The raid swept up over 120 people, the majority of which were African American men. Black men are hunted like down like animals; an animal has more legal rights than a Black man.

From 5 million, seven years ago, to now over 18million Black males are incarcerated, this has reached catastrophic proportions.

How many African American girls or boys hired to work in this community? How many African Americans who live in the community are able to work in the Community???

Within Bronx Community Board 9, the following African Americans:

  • Own less than five restaurants
  • Own less than five daycare centers
  • Own less than five businesses
  • Own less than 1% of organizations
  • Own less than five hair salons
  • Own less than five barber shops
  • Own less than five stores
  • Own zero pharmacies
  • Own five grocery stores
  • Have less than five black churches who do not teach black theology, and black economics.
  • Less than ten African Americans are realtors.

The NAACP Parkchester Branch and East Bronx NCNW Section does not have office space to provide services or cultural events. Their organizations have been in this community for over twenty years and I am surprised to learn the NAACP Parkchester Branch is not a non-for-profit organization. Westchester United Methodists Church and Parkchester Baptist Church members do not get full support when they have issues like health care, employment, education, and housing, etc. Most importantly, they have allowed the politic tricks to corrupt their thinking by reelecting individuals that feed you crumbs. I had a group who wanted to start their own African American Sotomayor houses senior club. Political leaders did not support this effort.

We must be defined by the content of our character and not the labels. What happens to Sir, Madam, Mr. or Ms. which is respectful that has always carried positive actions that reinforced one’s behavior of pride, and divinity. When you develop a culture of Ma, Mama, Sugar Mama, Auntie, Poppy, and Pop, etc. These words can mean affection towards the individual or can be sarcastic, and disrespectful. Black folks have been labeled since slavery, and in lieu of Black History, which is every day the label, Abrazo must be removed. The argument remains the same, there has been no other group of people other than African Americans who are defined as the caricature by Whites and now by Hispanics. It is even more senseless when Blacks, African Americans ignorance justify and use the labels on themselves.

The time is now to address this problem of discrimination, and racism in the Bronx. Many young people in our community are denied housing, entitlements, jobs, social services, etc. because they don’t speak Spanish. According, to the U.S. Census bureau the Bronx has the lowest educational attainment in the entire country. Not to mention the Bronx health disparity problem that compromises the quality of life. As an African American Abrazo celebration is superficial optimism that slowly strips the intrinsic worth of the community. Abrazo celebration, I don’t want a hug that is squeezing and squashing African Americans to death in this district.

In conclusion, I don’t need anyone to throw a term or label African American Abrazo because Black folks are always Black folks that speak many languages, and skin tones from dark to light. Why use a word that has no action, no power, and no hope. Again, what connotations are associated with African American Abrazo?

When individuals and groups embrace a social function that is questionable no one asks what does that mean, or why did they choose that term? Silence is not acceptance of oppression, segregation, and limitlessness of power. Even when the same pattern of immorality continues from one generation to the next change must happen to raise a higher awareness. Please, drop the Abrazo (CONTROL AND PLAY ON A WORD) and help people to honor themselves. I don’t want somebody to give me something I can open the door, and get it myself. Support, and empower people to get it for themselves.

Ms. Deborah Oguamah
FaceBook: DeBra Oguamah
Twitter: Iya Obafunmilaye

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