Mount Vernon – Over 200 elected officials, stakeholders and residents of the city of Mount Vernon gathered at Grace Baptist Church (52 South 6th Avenue), Wednesday night to attend the Lohud panel discussion titled; Ruining Mount Vernon, named after a recently highly publicized investigative report the USA Today owned Journal News/ lohud released.
The heavily attended forum generated a spirited debate over issues surrounding conflict in city government. The room was divided and tensions were elevated at times as residents weighed in on a panel discussion where Journal News/lohud journalists discussed a two-part special report last month on the city, Lohud reported.
I sat in the audience filled with mixed emotions. Some asked, “why are you putting out these stories what is your goal?” As a black man in America, I have seen all too often how the white mainstream media portrays us as a people, which was one of the main purposes of creating Black Westchester with Damon. But I have also been on the other end of the angry, passionate voices who say all you do is write about the negative and never cover the positive and the most interesting thing is depending who you are talking to at the time defines what is negative and positive. We love when you hold the leaders and elected official’s feet to the fire as long as it’s not me and my team.
One of the biggest complaints levied against the white media outlet, lohud was they don’t print positive stories about Mount Vernon and only highlight the negative stories about the mostly majority black city. One of the investigative reporters responded that when we do write positive stories, you do not read them and he was met with strong sounds of disapproval. Well Black Westchester has heard that since day one and while I do agree, the coverage may not be even at times and it may be impossible for even coverage to even take place, I will stand by Fitzgibbon’s answer because when BW runs positive stories even those who complain we don’t, do not read them.
How many read the story of Mount Vernon native Condola Rashad being nominated for best performance by an actress in 2017 Tonys, The Mount Vernon School of Music 2016 Spring Recital, The MVHS performing arts department, The 2017 MVPL Open House, what about the 2016 MVPL Open House, Let Girls Learn, MVHS Knights Win 11th Championship, Articles & interviews on Dougie Baldeo, Jade Thompson and her lemonade stand, DJ Cranberry making his HOT 97 debut, the DJ Myte spotlight, The Hotskull Entertainment spotlight, the Sacramento Kings selecting Isaiah Cousins in the 2016 NBA Draft, Rev. Rick Boreland, who started a church in his barbershop, Hair He Is. Did you catch the Memorable Memorial Field Moments: The Mean Joe Green Commercial we wrote in October 2014, fireworks come back to Mount Vernon after decades, what about our spotlights on Tony Dofat or the one of Pete Rock. Did you know, 32 years before Kingston, Jamaica-born, Ronald A. Blackwood broke the color barrier and became the first Black mayor of the city of Mount Vernon, a former Grace Baptist Church pastor, Rev, Samuel Austin was the first negro to run for mayor in 1967? It’s a shame this is not taught in the Mount Vernon City School District! What about our stories on the Cecil H. Parker Elementary’s Boys To Men Mentoring Program, what about the article about the handful of Young Adults took to the streets of Mount Vernon and peacefully protested after the death of Eric Garner and Mike Brown in Dec. 2014 or the 54 gang members who came together to record a peace project and the interview I did with the organizers and that’s just a sample of positive press in Mount Vernon. How many of you critics and haters who say we’re just a tool for the white man to bring our people down, how many of you heard of much less read any of these articles, spotlights, and interviews. And this is just what we did on Mount Vernon, not to mention positive press we’ve done throughout the county.
The bottom line is while the argument is valid and the local mainstream media The Journal News/lohud, News 12 Westchester and Fios1 News could spend a little more time covering some more positive aspects of the city, (most of the above stories we were the only ones there) but if you do not read the ones they do cover, you can not complain any more than you could about who is in office if you did not vote, simple and plain. While the media is the fourth estate of government and its duty is to hold those in power’s feet to the fire it is not their job to creative a positive narrative about your city.
Whether we want to be true to ourselves and admit while there is a lot of good things going on in Mount Vernon, we have, to be honest, there is a lot that is wrong, from government down and listen carefully a lot of it predates Richard Thomas as mayor. While I am a vocal critic of some of his choices and the way he goes about things, all that is wrong with Mount Vernon is not his fault or did it just begin to become wrong when he took office. That said if you read Black Westchester, he does have his hand in much of what is wrong since he took office or at the very least his way of going about things. You must adhere to due process.
The residents also bear part of the blame for the condition of the city. You can’t just vote someone in the office and expect them to wave a magic wand and fix all that is wrong if you yourself, the residents, the homeowners, the taxpayers, the business owners are not doing anything to get involved and help fix what is wrong with the city. So I sat there even as the panel discussion was breaking down and people were talking while others were making their exit, I still felt torn. While I myself have covered and written about many of the stories in lohud’s investigative report over the past almost three years, I could still understand the frustration of the people. I could still see the lack of unity. I watch how some I have sat in various civic action groups, who complain about the very situations lohud wrote about, question their motive.
During the question and answer session, whether they were Thomas supporters, critics of the Thomas Administration or regular residents who just wanted answers, most vented their frustration and made statements instead of asking questions, including a brother of the mayor who made sure he got his point across in his defense for his brother. No matter what side you were on, or if you were even on a side there was no shortage of strong emotions and passion.
There was no way the Lohud staff was going to make everyone happy nor should that have been their goal. They wrote some very critical words on the city we all love and they were there to meet the people and hear from the people and where they go from here or do with that, time will tell. But I give them credit for not just hiding behind their byline, but for writing the stories and coming out to engage the residents. Sitting and listening to both the praise for the work as well as the criticisms.
The investigative stories and the panel discussion showed Mount Vernon is still a city divided and no one can blame it on lohud or their staff! If we are honest, it is not the lohud coverage that is ruining the City of Mount Vernon, we all claim to love. REAL TALK!!! Click here to see video hightlights of the discussion.
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.
Very balanced and well written article. Brother, if you haven’t already please hit us with the contact information of organizations we can work with to make the change we want in Mount Vernon ourselves? Thank you again, and it is an honor to support your work.
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