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Charles Barron (born October 7, 1950[1]) is a former Black Panther, a Democratic member of New York City Council from the 42nd District since 2001, and a self-described "elected activist".[2] He ran for mayor of New York City in 2005, and in 2006 was narrowly defeated by Ed Towns in the Democratic Party primary for the U.S. House of Representatives (10th Congressional District).

Early Activity

In 1969, "in need of a vehicle to express his desire for justice,"[3] he joined the Manhattan branch of the Black Panther Party. He was recruited by Mark Holder. In a 2010 interview with Dasunallah of Hip Hop Wired, he recalls distributing newspapers for the Party, and finding an interest in politics from his experiences at that time. He studied the Third World independence movement, as well as the ideals such leaders as Kwame Nkrumah (president of Ghana) and Ahmed Sékou Touré (president of Guinea). Critical of United States support for the administrations of: the Duvaliers in Haiti, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines, Pahlavi of Iran, and Somoza of Nicaragua, he says "it was strange, because everybody I was against, America was for."[4] He became interested in German Marxism and especially its east Eurasian branch of Maoist ideology that was central to the dogma of the original Black Panther Party. The original focus of the Panthers was on monitoring and inhibiting police misconduct against Blacks in the United States' major cities. It later moved into other areas such as a food-aid program for urban United States schoolchildren. The Party disbanded in the early 1970s, due to both intense Federal investigation, e.g., by the F.B.I.'s COINTELPRO, and to an internal schism between militant and more pragmatic oriented members.

Barron currently considers himself a Black Panther Party member:

"that's why I still say I'm a Black Panther to my heart because in the 10-Point Program we talked about an immediate end to police brutality and exemption from us going into the military because we're not going to fight against countries and people of color abroad when we don't even have our freedom domestically and we fought for housing and clothing, shelter and relevant education, and this was all part of the 10-Point Program of the Black Panther Party which is still what I'm fighting for today."[5]

After his time in the Black Panthers, Barron attended New York City Technical College, which was then known as New York City Community College, and obtained an Associate's Degree. He then attended Hunter College where he acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a minor in Elementary Education.

In 1979, he joined the National Black United Front (NBUF), and was the founding chairperson of its Harlem Chapter. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed Chief of Staff to the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, chairperson of the NBUF.

From 1982-87 he served as Secretary General of African Peoples Christian Organization (APCO). He traveled across the United States visiting college campuses, churches, prisons and communities "organizing around international, national and local issues".[6]

Recent career

New York City Council

In 2001 he was elected to the New York City Council, representing the 42nd District, which is in Brooklyn and comprises parts of the neighbourhoods East New York, Brownsville, East Flatbush, and Canarsie. He was appointed chair of the Higher Education Committee by the City Council's Speaker, Gifford Miller, in 2002. As of 2010, he remains in office, having been returned by his constituents in the 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 elections.

2005 New York City mayoral campaign

Charles Barron entered the race for mayor of New York city in 2005. According to the New York Post, he stated that one of his reasons for running was to redress an unfair balance of power between Whites and Blacks in New York City: "white men have too much power in this city".[7] He raised funds and campaigned but in early February 2005, dropped out and threw his support to the other African-American candidate in the election, C. Virginia Fields.

His campaign funding amounted to about $49,000, far less than that of some of the other Democratic Party candidates such as Fernando Ferrer ($1.2 million in 6 months) and Gifford Miller ($1 million in 6 months).[8]

He chose to endorse Fields from the Democratic Party rather than attempt a long-shot campaign. "I think two blacks in the race cancel each other out." he said, indicating a fear that the black vote would be divided and made weak by two candidates.[9] He supported Fields because he felt she was the best candidate to beat Michael Bloomberg.

During the campaign, he criticised rival Democrat Fernando Ferrer for his comments regarding the Diallo shooting. He said the comments brought "irreversible" damage to Ferrer's campaign and hoped he would drop out of the race and endorse Fields.[10]

2006 Congressional campaign

On February 12, 2006, Charles Barron officially announced that he would be running in the U.S. House of Representatives Democratic primary for the 10th Congressional District of New York, which includes his New York City district.[11] He ran against the 24-year incumbent, Democratic Representative Edolphus Towns.

On September 12, 2006, Barron lost to Towns by approximately eight percentage points. Many observers attributed the victory of Towns to an anti-incumbent vote, which Barron split with another primary opponent, Roger Green.

Rivalry with Christine Quinn

In 2009, Barron and City Councillor Tony Avella proposed a "Democratic Reform Movement" to shift power away from the Council Speaker to rank-and-file members. Among other things, they proposed electing a Black or Latino member as speaker to replace current speaker Christine Quinn. Stating that "historically and presently, the New York City Council has been ruled and controlled by the dictatorship of the Speaker's office," they proposed the following changes:

  • equal distribution of capital and expense funds
  • give more control to rank and file members over the legislative process
  • let members, not the speaker, decide committee assignments and chairmanships

They noted that:

"People of color are the new majority in the City Council and in New York City as a whole. They make up 27 of 51 seats in the City Council. There are 14 Blacks, 11 Latinos, and 2 Asians. In a city where people of color make up 62 % of the population, Blacks and Latinos make up roughly 55% of the population, and the other 7 % are Asian. For there to be no Black or Latino holding a city-wide office is unacceptable. The Mayor's White, the Speaker's White, the Public Advocate is white and the Comptroller's Asian. No Blacks or Latinos. We can change that by electing a Black or Latino Council Speaker. Historically, there has never been a Speaker of color, or a person of color selected to Chair one or both of the two most powerful committees in the New York City Council, the Finance Committee and the Land Use Committee."[12]

Avella ran for Mayor in 2009 but was defeated by incumbent billionnaire Michael Bloomberg. Barron challenged Quinn for the Speakership but was defeated by a 48 to 1 vote in Council . Subsequently Quinn, who as speaker determines Committee chairpersonships, removed Barron from the position of Higher Education Committee chair, which he had held since 2002. Council upheld her decision by vote.[13] Azi Paybarah of the New York Daily Observer wrote that "Barron, while he criticizes nearly everything Michael Bloomberg and the City Council speaker do, hasn't really used his committee to push an agenda. . . . But down-grading Barron would send a reminder to Council members about who wields the power in the Council."[14] Barron said the move was "racist", and speculated that it was partly in response to a shouting match that had occurred about two months earlier between him and City University of New York trustee Jeffrey Weisenfeld at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new building. At the ceremony, Barron had complained on the podium that he and some Black attendees had been discriminated against in the seating and other arrangements of the ceremony; Weisenfeld shouted out from the audience that Barron was being disruptive and the two then traded several insults. In firing Barron, Quinn said that the Council needs chairpersons "that are unifying forces".[15]

2010 Gubernatorial Campaign

On June 14, 2010, Barron announced that he was challenging Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo, because he was annoyed and disturbed that Cuomo picked Rochester mayor Robert Duffy, instead of an African-American politician, such as former New York City Comptroller and 2009 Democratic Mayoral nominee Bill Thompson, Jr., or Senator Bill Perkins. He created the New York Democratic Freedom Party, so blacks can choose Barron than the Democratic committee of New York. He needs 15,000 petition signatures in order to be on the November 2, 2010 ballot. He seeks 50,000 votes for governor.[16] He choose Eva Doyle of Buffalo as his lieutenant governor and Ramon Jimenez as Attorney General of New York.

Barron finished in second-to-last place in the election, drawing 24,560 votes, ahead of only Kristin M. Davis. Outside of New York City, Barron drew less than 5,000 votes out of over 3,000,000 cast.[17]

Political beliefs

Party affiliation

Barron is a member of the Democratic party, but has expressed dismay with the Party on several occasions. He considers the party too right-wing and says "the leadership of the Democratic Party has lost their connection with the once loyal black masses."[18] The Republican Party, on the other hand, he feels "is not an option," for black voters, and so he believes a new third party should be made to represent American blacks.

Issues

Councillor Barron's major issues include affirmative action, reparations for slavery, and improving the living conditions for blacks through closing the wealth gap, reducing police brutality, and fighting racism. He has described himself as "pro-black" and has great interest in establishing more representatives for the black community, so that they can control their own economy and political future.[19] He believes the New York City Police Department and the city government are more often enemies than allies of the black community, citing violence and surveillance by the police and the government departments as proof. He has often spoken against police brutality, saying that crime is not the fault of the black community. Rather, it is economic plight that brings crime, he believes, and crime can only be reduced by economic opportunities and advancement.[20] In fact, he went on to say that without economic opportunities for blacks, "every black community is a powder keg."

On the issue of reparations for slavery, he has stated:

"America—from 1789 to 1865, America—American government supported the institution of slavery. You don't tell Jewish people to forget about the Holocaust. We don't tell the Japanese people to forget about their oppression. When you are engaged in those kinds of crimes, you have to pay the debt. They don't mind inheriting the riches from slavery. Nobody says, 'Well, all of this money that was generated by the government, by private corporations, by private estates'—if you can inherit the wealth from slavery, then you must inherit the crime and responsibility from slavery."[21]

He has advocated voting for non-citizens and amnesty for illegal immigrants ("don't criminalize, legalize").

He appeared on the television program The O'Reilly Factor[22] and said the entire "immigration problem" is really a black-white issue. He argued that Germans, Jews, Poles, Greeks, and Italians who immigrated to the United States during the late 19th century were welcomed because of the color of their skin, but now, "All of a sudden when the complexion of immigration changes, now it's 'these people'." He rejected rebuttals from host Bill O'Reilly on the grounds that the original white European immigrants had received preferential treatment, stating "They had enough black people here already that were skilled and couldn't get the jobs that your people [referring to European-Americans] were able to get." O'Reilly accused Barron of trying to "let everyone into the country" simply "to change the complexion of America". Many viewers responded to this episode, upset that Barron would not concede that white immigrants indeed were discriminated against as well.[23]

View of U.S. history

Charles Barron believes that United States history is not accurately taught in schools. He is very vocal about publicizing black history, including erecting portraits of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, as important leaders of American history. In his view, many of the current monuments erected to the founding fathers and original white American leaders subtly represent slavery. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for example, were slaveowners who he feels are remembered as false liberators because they still supported the institution of slavery. He has often proposed changes in New York City such as renaming buildings and schools as well as decorating them with mementos of black history to better represent the black community's struggle and contributions to the United States.

Barron has long criticized the prominent statue of Thomas Jefferson in the City Council chamber he works at, which he claims represents a "white, slave-owning pedophile."[24] Perhaps not coincidentally, in January 2006, after he criticized the new speaker, Christine C. Quinn, his seat was changed to one next to the statue, which was seen as a punishment. Earlier, Barron had been the only one of the 51 Council members not to have voted for Quinn's appointment as speaker. Quinn's spokespeople stated that the seating change was merely coincidental. Barron did not express bitterness against Speaker Quinn, saying, "I don't think it was deliberate, but it does bother me to be placed so near Jefferson, who was a slaveholder, a hypocrite, and a rapist."[25]

Barron says he does not salute the flag or believe in the Pledge of Allegiance, saying the entire pledge is "a lie" that states equality and justice for all, which are not true in America and were especially untrue in black history.[26] In 2004, he strongly objected to a move by the City Council that would begin each meeting with a voluntary Pledge.[27]

Labor support

Charles Barron strongly supports New York City's unions, notably the predominantly African-American Transport Workers Union (TWU). During the 2005 transit workers' strike, Mayor Bloomberg called the TWU "thuggish", causing Barron and Rev. Al Sharpton to challenge the mayor. Barron said, in answer to the remarks:

"We will not tolerate any racist remarks about our union and our workers. We want leadership from the mayor."[28]

Mayor Bloomberg denounced Barron's actions as "injecting race into the situation."

Issues with City Hall

Charles Barron is a strong opponent of Mayor Bloomberg and loathed Rudolph Giuliani. When he was combating bias crimes in New York City, he said:

"We have suffered under a mayor - Rudy Giuliani - who inflamed racial incidents in the city. Now we suffer under a mayor - Mayor Bloomberg - who is clueless about racial inequality."[29]

Education and racism

He criticized the City University of New York for increasing its admission standards through the use of entrance exams and the elimination of remedial courses, saying, "I think racism comes behind standards.".[30] Barron believed the university had ulterior motives that drove it to raise the academic standards which restricted access to minority students. He went further, saying that college-age students shouldn't be denied admission to four-year colleges because of failures in the school systems they grew up in. He also cited the fact that CUNY's four-year colleges had open admission at one time, when admission was predominantly white. However, CUNY has reported that the number of black students at its four-year colleges increased in the three years following the end of open admission, while changes in the proportions of other ethnic groups were minimal.

Civil unrest

Charles Barron participated in the "day of unrest" on December 21, 1987 to protest racism in the police and courts. The protest consisted in blocking Eastbound traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, and stopping subway trains in several subway stations, and disrupted subway and some automobile traffic from about 5 PM to 8 PM. More than 70 of the protesters were arrested, most of them were charged with obstruction of government administration and disorderly conduct; the few who had actually stood on the subway tracks — mostly the leaders — including Barron, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Rev. Timothy Mitchell, Assemblyman Roger Greene, and lawyer C. Vernon Mason were additionally charged with criminal trespass. All were held overnight in jail, a fact which elicited further complaints of racial bias, the Rev. Chavis asserting that "usually all they give people in cases like this is a summons."[31] Sharpton, Mitchell and Barron were convicted in February 1990, Mitchell and Barron being jailed for 45 days. [32]

Barron was arrested during his time as head of the Black United Front's Harlem Chapter. In 1982, Charles Barron was arrested with Preston Wilcox from the Institute of African Research because they, with roughly 12 to 20 protesters, attempted to "forcibly remove" a white employee from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. They intended to remove Robert Morris, a white historian, who was appointed chief archivist for the Center. They were charged with harassment and criminal trespassing.[33]

Barron sought clemency for three people he considered "political prisoners", Anthony Bottom, Albert Washington, and Herman Bell, who were responsible for killing two police officers in 1971. When he proposed this issue to the City Council in 2002, it led to a heated debate and was rejected.[34]

International

Barron was host to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, at New York City Hall on 12 September 2002. Among the attendees of the event were about a dozen city councillors besides Barron, most of them Black or Latino. White councillors generally stayed away, speaker Gifford Miller among them: he criticised the event but did not seek to prevent it. The then-78 year old Zimbabwean president, who had spoken at the United Nations earlier in the day, spoke for nearly an hour in the City Council chamber, describing the struggle of the Zimbabwean people to regain control of their land, which was seized by British adventurers under Cecil Rhodes in the late 19th century. According to the New York Times, "his comments were interrupted occasionally by applause and shouts of 'That's right' and 'Tell it'". Among African independence leaders, Mugabe is among a very few who have actually attempted comprehensive land reform aimed at reclaiming large amounts of land from White settlers and distributing it to the indigenous population. Critics of Mugabe say the process has resulted in a drop in agricultural production and food shortages; Mugabe says his policy is not to blame. Western countries have enacted unfavourable economic policies toward Zimbabwe recently.[35]

Barron has shown support for Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez, calling him a "humanitarian", in an interview with Tucker Carlson.

In July, 2009, Barron, former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Dead Prez rapper M1, and several rabbis were among 200 participants in the Viva Palestina relief convoy organised by United Kingdom member of parliament George Galloway. The convoy penetrated the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza to bring humanitarian aid, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the territory's one and a half million inhabitants. They entered from the Egyptian side but were obstructed by the United States and Egyptian authorities before they succeeded. The following letter was sent to U.S. president Obama and secretary of state Clinton by McKinney and Barron during the time they were attempting to cross from Egypt into Gaza:

Dear Mr. President
Dear Madam Secretary
Viva Palestina USA, a humanitarian relief effort for Gaza, is now in Egypt and requests your immediate assistance. We were supposed to have arrived in Gaza on Monday, July 13, 2009, but our arrival into Gaza was delayed because our departure from Cairo, Egypt was delayed by at least two days. Last-minute bureaucratic questions and additional requirements caused the delay. The people of Gaza can’t wait.

You have noted that Israel’s siege of Gaza should be eased and medical supplies should be allowed in. We are implementing what you reportedly put into writing. The people of Gaza need your help and we have important assistance for them. Please contact the Egyptian authorities and ask them to let Viva Palestina USA humanitarian assistance proceed through the Rafah crossing. We need your help today so that we can help the people of Gaza rebuild their lives devastated by occupation and brutal invasion.

McKinney and Barron signed the letter on behalf of “200 Viva Palestina USA volunteers and thousands of Viva Palestina USA donors.”[36]

Response to police shooting of Sean Bell

In response to the NYPD shooting of three individuals—including the fatal shooting of 23 year-old prospective bridegroom, Sean Bell, outside of a Jamaica, Queens strip club—Barron made a number of controversial statements, including one that implied that members of Bell's community would be justified in exercising non-peaceful or violent methods in response to his death.[37] Barron has publicly stated that "we don't shoot anybody, they shoot us."

Criticisms

Some critics have called Barron a die-hard rebel fighting for black issues that are no longer relevant.[who?] He claims that criticisms of him being a "revolutionary" or "over-the-top" on black issues are simply the result of ignorance on the part of his white colleagues; he has, however, used the term "elected revolutionary" to describe himself.[38]

Barron received reprimands and a certain amount of notoriety[39] for a remark he made during a 2002 reparations rally:

"I want to go up to the closest white person and say, ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing’ and then slap him, just for my mental health."

See also

References

  1. Paybarah, Azi. "City Portraits: Charles Barron's East New York." <http://www.thirteen.org/cityportraits/stories/charles-barrons-east-new-york/14/>. August 19, 2010.
  2. General information: Charles Barron's webpage at New York City Council <http://council.nyc.gov/d42/html/members/home.shtml>. "Elected Activist": Dasanallah, "Black Panther Charles Barron Invades New York City Council", Hip Hop Wired, March 11, 2010.
  3. Charles Barron's NY City Council web page, accessed May 2010.
  4. Dasunallah, Hip Hop Wired
  5. Dasunallah, "Black Panther Charles Barron Invades New York City Council", Hip Hop Wired. The Ten Point Program is in the Wikipedia Black Panther Party article, and can also be found at the Dr. Huey P Newton Foundation's website (select "Ten Point Program" from the menu).
  6. Charles Barron's web page at New York City Council
  7. "Barron's Mayoral 'Race'; Running Because 'White Men Have Too Much Power'". New York Post. December 4, 2003. p. 20
  8. Winnie Hu, "Councilman Expects to Quit Democratic Mayoral Race", New York Times, 9 February 2005.
    Michael Slackman and Jim Rutenberg, "Spitzer Leads Fund-Raising with $3 Million in 6 Months" New York Times, 19 January 2005
  9. Hu, Winnie. "Councilman Expects to Quit Democratic Mayoral Race." New York Times. February 9, 2005. p. B.6
  10. Saul, Michael. "Barron wants Ferrer to quit and back Fields." Daily News. May 23, 2005.
  11. Hicks, Jonathan P. "Councilman Plans to Challenge Veteran Brooklyn Congressman." The New York Times. February 13, 2006. p. B2
  12. This, the list, and the previous quote are from: Azi Paybarah, "The Barron-Avella Agenda", New York Daily Observer, 30 November 2009 .
  13. Azi Paybarah, "Quinn Demotes Barron, Lone Dissenter", New York Daily Observer, January 21, 2010.
    Also, Frank Lombardi, "City Council Speaker Quinn ousts arch-rival Charles Barron . . . " , New York Daily News, January 21, 2010.
  14. Azi Paybarah, "Saving Barron's Chair" , New York Daily Observer, 29 December 2009.
  15. Lombardi, "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn ousts arch-rival Charles Barron from education committee, op cit.
    Reid Pillifant, "Jeffrey Weisenfeld Gets Under Charles Barron's Skin, Too," New York Daily Observer, December 1, 2009.
  16. Adam Lisberg, "Charles Barron, upset at all-white Dem ticket, running for gov as head of all-black Freedom Party" "New York Daily News" June 18, 2010 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2010/06/18/2010-06-18_barron_allwhite_dem_ticket_not_all_right.html
  17. http://www.scribd.com/doc/44544730/RevisedGovReturns12-1-10
  18. Arinde, Nayaba. "Republicrats: Barron calls for a political audit of city Democratic Party." New York Amsterdam News. January 19, 2006. Vol. 97 Issue 4, pp. 4,26.
  19. Cardwell, Diane. "But Some Say Charles Barron Risks Going Too Far." New York Times. July 10, 2002. p. B.1.
  20. Sean Hannity & Alan Colmes. Televised on Fox News. "Is Cincinnati Facing a Crime Wave?", July 25, 2001.
  21. Edge with Paula Zahn. Televised on Fox News. "Controversial EDGE: Should the U.S. government Pay Reparations to Black Americans for Slavery?" March 12, 2001.
  22. Bill O'Reilly. Televised on Fox News. "New York Councilman Leads Charge to Let Immigrants Vote. April 11, 2006.
  23. Bill O'Reilly. Televised on Fox News after news entitled "Most Ridiculous Item: War on Christianity." April 12, 2006..
  24. Hu, Winnie. "Council Critic of 3rd President Gets Seat in Jefferson's Shadow." New York Times. January 19, 2006. p. B.2
  25. Boyd, Herb. "Barron made to sit with "rapist" in City Council." New York Amsterdam News. January 26, 2006. Vol. 97 Issue 5, p. 11
  26. Edge with Paula Zahn. Televised on Fox News. "Is the American Flag a Salute to Slavery?" July 3, 2001.
  27. Pledge Of Allegiance Is Divisible Issue At Council. New York Post. September 12, 2004. p. 23
  28. Rev. Al Blasts Mike's Thug Crack. New York Post. December 22, 2005. p. 4
  29. Pols March Against S.I. Bias. New York Post. September 2, 2003. p. 9
  30. Pol Rips Tougher CUNY as 'Racist'. New York Post. February 20, 2002. p. 7
  31. David E. Pitt, "Hundreds Rally for 69 Held in Rush-Hour Protest" , New York Times, 23 December 1987.
    On the protest itself: Robert D. McFadden, "Protest Against Racism Disrupts New York Rush Hour" , New York Times, 22 December 1987.
  32. "Sharpton Convicted in '87 Demonstration." New York Times. February 14, 1990. p. B4.
  33. "the City." New York Times. November 16, 1982. p. B3
  34. Steinhauer, Jennifer. "Resolution on 'Political Prisoners' Roils Council." New York Times. June 27, 2002. p. B2.
  35. Cardwell, Diane. "President of Zimbabwe Visits City Hall." New York Times. September 13, 2002. p. B.3
  36. Davey D, Hip Hop and Politics, 16 July 2009. Also, they cite Viva Palestina <http://www.vivapalestina-us.org/2009/07/we-are-in-gaza/>.
  37.  . "Mayor: "Seems Excessive Force" Was Used By Police In Shooting". NY1.com. http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=6&aid=64604. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  38. "Rallying ’Round Reparation", CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/04/13/national/main506099.shtml, accessed on May 26, 2006
  39. Greg Gilderman, "King of East New York", New York Press, http://www.nypress.com/17/3/news&columns/feature.cfm, accessed May 26, 2006.

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