****Updated October 22nd to include Mayor Davis recent activities!****
On Oct. 14, 2014, Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor federal income tax charges. The guilty plea of one of the most recognized Black political figure in Westchester took many by surprise but others weren’t shocked.
Davis deserves credit where credit is due. Under his leadership between 2000 and 2006; the City of Mount Vernon’s economy grew 20.5%, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the New York. Unfortunately for Davis nobody will talk about his triumphs right now. What we see on the blogs emails and papers about the Mt. Vernon City Government are scandals, crime and high taxes.
A Pew Research report says a 57% majority say elected officials just get caught more often because they are under greater scrutiny. About two-in-ten (19%), on the other hand, say elected officials have lower moral standards than ordinary Americans, according to the latest national survey conducted June 9-12 among 1,002 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post.
Speaking from a black perspective, what does Ernie Davis’s Mayorship represent to Mt. Vernon, a city that is close to 90% Black and to black people throughout Westchester County? Since the historical win of Ronald Blackwood – the first Afro-Caribbean mayor of the city (as well as of any city in New York State) Mt. Vernon has been one of the few black run city governments in the county.
Since Mayor Davis’s guilty plea, many ill-informed supporters have used race as the reason of his investigation. Others have said that it is just a misdemeanor, a simple minor infraction. What messages are these adults who have openly supported Davis’s guilty plea sending to young Black men and women in Mt. Vernon and the rest of the county about committing a crime and the consequences?
Is it easier for Davis, a 76-year-old man and his supporters like WVOX Radio Show Host Darrell Davis (no relation) to blame the “White Man” and his institutions instead of self-responsibility and accountability not to just himself but to his family and those supporters that labored to get him reelected?
Is there a reason for Davis to feel no accountability to himself, his constituents, the reputation of the city of Mt.Vernon and Black people throughout Westchester. The Ernie Davis fiasco has put a spotlight not just on Black politics in Westchester but Black Leadership in general. If we cannot hold our own to a high moral standard in leadership and act accordingly in leadership positions, then we shouldn’t expect other ethnic groups to respect our leadership like t they have failed to respect the first Black President Barack Obama.
So as a young Black adult, I must ask is there a need for new Black Leadership in Westchester County?
To some readers this question might be insulting and to others delighted that this question is finally asked. Nevertheless, the discussion needs to be put on the table. My criticisms are not based on envy or jealously; but rather on reasonable and just considerations, based on a record of performances – formal and/or informal.
Since black communities in Westchester are facing higher unemployment, incarceration, crime, and disintegrating family and community structure, and as a young, Professional Black man, I must ask, where is the real collective economic and cultural “agenda” to address these issues that are prevalent in the Black community in Westchester?
Is there any justification for some members of the Black Community, mostly young people, to disconnect themselves from the idea of any existence of effective Black Leadership today? President Theodore Roosevelt on October 31, 1936, at Madison Square Garden said, “Government as an Organized economy is as dangerous as government as an organized mob”. Our young people see our leaders no differently than the gangs that our leaders claim to despise or use as an excuse for their ineffectiveness to communicate with today’s Black youth. So the Bloods and Crips are just little gangs imitating their bigger counterparts; the churches, the democrats, the republicans and other so-called leadership that only show up in the “Hood” for parades and elections.
As Black people in Westchester we only have a handful of Black Elected Officials. The districts and communities they are elected to are in need of critical solutions that many of them have been in office for over decades and have not solved our crisis.
In black communities in Westchester and across the nation, pressing issues include pervasive violence: gangs and Black-on-Black violence, failing schools, racial profiling and police brutality. A plethora of other problems, including unemployment, health care, domestic violence, child maltreatment and homelessness generate similar indifference toward Black Leadership as well. Many people say we have come a long way from the civil rights movement in the 60’s, others might say that we have a black President now, unfortunately, one man cannot and will not rise above the condition of his people. No different from the military theory that the platoon does not move faster than the slowest man. We can have all the doctors, lawyers and CEO’s we want, but as long as Black CEO’s comprise of 1 percent of leaders of the largest companies in the US, Blacks represent 16.7 percent of the unemployed and 43.6 percent of “households of color” nationwide are “liquid asset poor,” meaning they lack enough money saved to cover basic expenses in case of a job loss or emergency. We have literally gone nowhere since the great Civil Rights era.
Are young black men being made ready for the increasingly brutal, knowledge-based job market in the U.S.? The answer is a resounding “NO,” according to a report, Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010. Calling it a “national crisis”, the report found that only 47 percent of black males graduated from high school in the 2007-2008 school years. On a national level, Black youth age 10 to 17 constitutes 15% of their age group in the U.S. population; they account for 26% of juvenile arrests and 46% of juveniles in corrections institutions.
Where is the real discussion among Black leaders that in 2014 there are more African-American men in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War.
Where is the real outcry from Black Leaders on this true “crisis” in the black community? Why is there complete silence from the Black Churches on the continuous killings of Black men in Westchester by law enforcement? It has become fashionable in Westchester to wear hoodies for Trayvon and travel to Florida to march and protest but these same Black Leaders have fail to do the same in their own back yard.
Where is a solid agenda from our black clergy that reaches outside the walls of the church? When I attend church, it is filled with mothers and daughters, but when I go to work at the county jail it is filled with sons, fathers and husbands. Black families have the largest proportion of female headed households than any other subgroup. More than 44% of black families are female headed and are raising a household at or below poverty level.
I am absolutely sure the message of morality is delivered to every man, woman and child over and over again by parents and church pastors. Still, when you look at the state of neighborhoods in many black communities you see the same; the churches are building but the schools are failing, the churches are building but there is unemployment and crime is high, the churches are building but the parks where the kids play and elderly walk are decimated. The churches are building and the Black family structure is decaying. It makes you wonder just how deep the preaching of morality is sinking into the minds of the people when so many issues are prevalent in the Black community outside the walls of the church.
To truly address these issues it takes real leadership! Now, will the real Black community leaders please stand up! It will take a collective effort of many to transform the Black communities to a sacred, safe and economically sound place to live. It won’t take place from behind a desk or a pulpit. It requires boots on the ground, something I’m sure you know, but have not been compelled to do. No longer can the responsible be irresponsible, especially towards our children in the Black community of Westchester.
I say this out of love for pastors, preachers, community organizers and elected officials. I respect and applaud Mayor Davis and all Black Leaders for their accomplishments in the past. Like many of my peers I see the same prevalent issues here in the present. It must be a resurrection of committed leadership focused on critical community needs and a revolutionary paradigm shift that is imperative for change. Such a shift will most definitely help us in analyzing our communities, friends, foes and leadership. A failure to do so will continue to result in anger, frustration, ineffectiveness, mistrust and prolonged defeat. Will Black Leaders assume their responsibility or will Black communities and constituents require them to do so? Time will only tell.
Damon K. Jones
Publisher, Black Westchester Magazine