Mayoral Column – On the Death of Nelson Mandela


Last Thursday, at approximately 8:50pm South African time, the great anti-apartheid activist and global humanitarian, Nelson Mandela died. He will lie in state for ten days until his burial in his home state, Qunu, on Sunday. By the time this column is published, it is expected that over 100 heads of state will have gathered for his memorial, including President Barack Obama, and three of his predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

While the world mourns Mr. Mandela, we, here in the Village of Hempstead, mourn him as well. We mourn him because he stood for justice and equality among all men; because he sacrificed that which few among us would have been willing to sacrifice—27 years of the prime of his life spent in a tiny prison cell—in the fight to ensure that his nation would one day be free of the shackles of apartheid; so that his black brothers and sisters could be rid of a brutal system of racial discrimination, that included pass cards, color coding, strict prohibitions about where they could live, work, worship and socialize (much like our own Jim Crow era); because he fought so that a black majority that exceeded more than 85% of the country’s population, could one day have equal opportunity to attend its finest schools, and yes, even to govern in the land of their birth.

Nelson Mandela made plain that as much as he fought for black and mixed-race South Africans, he also fought for the spiritual and humanitarian reclamation of his white sisters and brothers; so that they too could share, not only in the bounty of their nation, but that they could grow to look on their black, Asian and mixed-race brothers and sisters and see their humanity.

This, perhaps, is part of the reason Mr. Mandela is universally regarded: because he stood for the joint principles of justice and forgiveness.

I recall vividly the anti-apartheid struggle of the 80s and 90s and how much it resonated with African Americans and all-justice loving people; how the world joined in to exert pressure on companies that were doing business in apartheid-practicing South Africa; how other conscientious companies boycotted that nation, and how ultimately it was that growing international pressure, in concert with the organized movement of Mr. Mandela and the ANC Party, that broke the back of the monster that was apartheid.

I watched the television, with millions of others around the world, as Mr. Mandela and his then-wife Winnie, joined hands in their first public walk after his release from prison after nearly three decades. He was 71 years old, a far cry from the vigorous young man, and former boxer, who’d entered prison 27 years earlier. But in that walk it was clear that his confidence in the movement and in his country’s march towards democracy and reconciliation was undaunted. Greeted by thousands chanting his name, Nelson Mandela’s smile on that day shone bright enough to light all the hearts and places that had been darkened by the racist policies of apartheid.

Watching him, I and millions of others, had faith that South Africa would find its way. When he became the first black and first democratically elected president in that nation’s history four years later, our faith was reassured. Mr. Mandela served only one term before relinquishing office to others who he believed would be better equipped to handle the struggles of their day.

Since that time South Africa has seen its challenges, the majority of them the vestiges of the severe economic imbalance that had existed for generations. But I am reminded that the country’s democracy is still in its infancy, and in much the same way that our own nation continues to battle the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination, it will take time for South Africa, Mr. Mandela’s great ‘Rainbow Nation,’ to bury the ghosts of apartheid.

Many South Africans have spoken of the loss of their nation’s spiritual father and moral conscience. President Obama, in tribute, declared that “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us ….to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.” As we celebrate Mr. Mandela’s life I think of other lessons that are instructive for all of us, especially our youth: That an individual born in a remote South African village that had neither electricity nor running water, would one day become not only the father of a freedom and justice movement, but a Noble Laureate, the president of a country that had once imprisoned him, and a revered international leader; how the seemingly impossible can be made possible by the force of one’s conviction, dedication to his goal and commitment to the greater good.

For now we say ‘Goodbye and thank you Madiba. May God Bless and Keep You. Your legacy extends beyond the borders of South Africa, and the African continent. It is an irrevocable part of the global humanitarian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. All we who are living have been made better by the sacrifices paid by you, Oliver Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and all other members of the freedom struggle. Farewell.’ The flags in the Village will be flown at half-staff until Mr. Mandela’s burial.

To learn more about what is going on in the Village of Hempstead, including information about local organizations that serve youth and families, visit To report any non-emergency issues around the Village, remember to use the VillageLine at 516-478-6333.



Wayne J. Hall Sr.
Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Hempstead

Op-Ed – Gun Violence (Amsterdam News)

Op-Ed written by Max Smith from vantage point of Yasmin Breeden, mother of Dwayne Smith who was killed by gun violence
As a Black mother the news that thousands of Americans and Black civil rights leaders marched on the town of Jena, Louisiana, to protest the unequal treatment of six Black boys was especially welcome to me. I was happy to know that so many Americans were concerned about what happened to these young men and were willing to march to prevent an injustice. Although I couldn’t be there I thought it showed that the Black community and America will not tolerate unfair treatment.
But in the midst of my support I wondered where were those marchers when my only son was shot and killed two and a half weeks ago? More Black and Latino young men in the U.S. were killed by gun violence last year than have been killed in Iraq since the war started. Yet the only marches we ever hear about are the marches against police brutality and the marches for civil rights justice. Why isn’t anyone planning a nationwide march to put a stop to the violence ripping apart Black, Latino and low-income communities?
My son Dwayne was shot and killed by a shooter who witnesses described as a seventeen year-old Black boy. He was killed while dozens of people walked up and down the street going about their business. Dwayne was crossing an intersection in Flatbush, Brooklyn that stands across from a playground where small children, their mothers, teenagers and older people sit most afternoons and evenings. It was about 5:30 p.m. on a sunny day. He was a block away from the house and neighborhood where he’d grown up. The gunman walked up to my son and shot at him. The bullet grazed his face. Dwayne tried to run but the shooter pulled the trigger again, shooting him in the back of the head. He shot for a third time, the bullet ripping through Dwayne’s torso. My son died instantly. He was executed. He didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to his six-year old son or to his only sister. He didn’t have a chance to do anything. He was 24 years old. A week earlier he’d walked up and down Eastern Parkway celebrating the Labor Day Carnival.
I was at work when this happened. A neighbor called me. She told me Dwayne had been shot. Before I had time to digest what she was saying, my cell phone rang again. It was a second neighbor. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this Yasmin but Dwayne has been killed. He’s lying in the street down the block from your building.” In that instant it felt as though my heart stopped beating. My mind refused to believe that my child had been taken from me. I rushed to see my son but the cab I was in kept getting stuck in traffic. I did not know then that the traffic jam was a result of the police blocking off the streets surrounding my son’s body.
When I reached the place where Dwayne had been shot there were crowds of people on all four corners of the sidewalk. Yellow police ribbon roped off the area. The police escorted me to a mobile where the detectives waited. I asked to see my son and they pointed out his body to me. He was lying in the middle of the street on the ground where he had fallen. A white sheet covered him. I wanted to go to him but was told by the police that I could not lift the sheet to look at my son’s face because they did not want me to disturb the crime scene. So though my child’s body lay in the street until nearly 10 p.m. that evening it was not until 12 p.m. the next day when I visited the morgue that I was allowed to see his face and identify his body. Yes, it was my child. My son was dead and I would never again see him smile, hear his voice or feel him hug me. The truth of that still hasn’t sunken in completely.
For days after his murder it seemed as though the whole neighborhood went quiet. People gathered in groups talking and whispering. A makeshift memorial was set up on the sidewalk. Dwayne’s friends wrote of their love for him and people left candles and flowers. More than two hundred people turned out for his Wake. Young and old came to offer me their condolences. “This has got to stop,” people kept saying.
When I heard those words I nodded in agreement but the truth is I wasn’t listening. I felt numb and powerless. All I knew was that my son had been taken from me and there was nothing I could do to bring him back.
Dwayne has been buried a week now and I find myself getting angry. Angry because my son is dead and the boy who killed him is still out there. Angry because the person who killed him was just a child himself, and had no business with a gun much less killing somebody. Angry because so many other Black and Latino young men will die today and tomorrow and the community will continue to stand by and do and say nothing to demand an end to these killings.
When I talk to young people they tell me that the cause of the violence is the easy accessibility of guns on the street and the growing influence of street gangs. They tell me that a lot of young people succumb to the glamour of the street gang, and the power, fast money and sense of safety that goes with it. The younger they are, the more impressionable and the more viciously and rashly they’ll act in order to earn their street cred. These same young people tell me that purchasing a gun is as easy as sending a kid to the candy store. They say sometimes that is exactly how it’s done. Send a young person to one of the guys hanging out on the corner and let them know what it is that you’re seeking. They act as the middlemen purchasing the gun for you and you pay them in turn. That is what I have been told.
Although my son was killed in the middle of rush hour, and many people were on the street at the time that it happened, police still do not know who killed him or why they did it. People are afraid to say anything because they’re afraid of what happens to people accused of being ‘snitches’, the street term for informers. The police tell me they suspect Dwayne’s murder was either the result of an ongoing dispute or because earlier this year they’d pulled him in for questioning about a group with whom he was familiar and the group’s members may have believed he informed on them.
My son had a good heart and a lot of love but he wasn’t perfect. He’d made some mistakes when he was younger and because of them he’d been incarcerated. But he’d been out since last November and he was trying to turn his life around and move forward. He’d registered with Fortune Society, a group that works to help ex-offenders re-enter society. Dwayne wanted to do better for his six-year old son to prevent the child from making the same mistakes that he had made when he was younger.
As I write this I fear that many will say Dwayne’s death was a result of him reaping what he sewed, and they’ll dismiss his story. But there are many other young people who are being killed as well and who have no history of juvenile offenses or trouble with the law. They are innocent bystanders who were unfortunate enough to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Much like the children at Virginia Tech or Columbine.
I have asked myself about my responsibility for the way Dwayne’s life turned out. ‘”Is it possible that I failed him? What could I have done differently?” I know that I did the best I could to raise my child. Perhaps my best was not enough when it came to saving him from the dangers tugging at him on the streets of Brooklyn.
Whatever mistakes he or I may have made I know that Dwayne did not deserve to have his life taken from him. To be shot down like an animal by a young boy, who for whatever reason placed no value on the life of another human being.
I want to know when does it stop? I wonder if the murders happening to Black and Latino young men were happening to white young men and children in other communities would the public response be different? Would there be a demand for the gun laws to change, and for more after-school programs and other extracurricular activities to keep these youths engaged and exposed to brighter options, instead of shepherding them towards a future that goes nowhere.
As to the Black politicians and civil rights leaders I ask, where were you at the time of my son’s death and funeral? Marching down in Jena, Louisiana? Marching at other times and other places because a white cop beat up a Black boy?
I understand that those marches are necessary and that without them we’ll make no progress. But the question I ask is when is the Black community going to march against the rampant Black-on-Black violence? When is the minority community going to march about the killing and murder of young Black and Latino boys at the hands of other young Black and Latino boys? When are other Americans going to care enough to get involved and demand more from our legislators and our president about getting the guns off the streets of our cities and creating more jobs and safer environments? When is there going to be a nationwide movement to end gun violence.
We all know that there are precipitating conditions. That the lack of jobs, inadequate schooling, lack of after-school activities, and sometimes inadequate parenting lays a breeding ground for young people becoming disaffected and losing their way. We recognize that society holds significant responsibility.
But we, the Black and Latino communities, hold as large a responsibility. That responsibility is to police ourselves and to hold our communities accountable for the things that we do. It is up to us to march and demand better, to teach our children that there are better choices for settling their differences than the violent Black-on-Black-on-brown-on-brown killing that has created a homicidal chain linking Black and Latino young men in death and murder and growing longer every day.
To the rest of the nation I say, Dwayne Smith was my son, but he was born at Kings County Hospital in Flatbush, Brooklyn and he was America’s son, also. Had the gunman missed his target any innocent passerby could have been maimed or killed. If you turn a blind eye to my son and the thousands of sons like him as they lay dying in the streets of my neighborhood, it may be only a matter of time before gun violence spreads and your mirror image lies dying in the midst of your street in your town, or somewhere far from your home in another neighborhood on the other side of our city.

Press Release – Black Equity Appoints CEO

Black Equity Alliance Selects Joyce S. Johnson
as President and Chief Executive Officer


New York, NY, March 24, 2008 – —Black Equity Alliance today announced the appointment of Joyce S. Johnson as its president and chief executive officer. A veteran of New York politics and government, Johnson most recently served as the New York State Field Director for the Obama 2008 presidential campaign, in addition to having worked as the Deputy Campaign Manager in Charlie King’s campaign for New York State Attorney General in 2006. Johnson is also a former National Director of Equal Employment Opportunity for Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc, and a former Executive Assistant to New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, directing the Office of Business and Community Relations. Johnson is the organization’s second chief executive officer. Dr. Billy Jones,
CEO of BJones Consulting Service, and Chair of the Black Equity Alliance Board of Trustees, made the announcement
Commenting on the search process, Jones said “The Board engaged in a highly competitive six-month search to find the right candidate that could lead Black Equity Alliance as it enters a period of growth and expansion. We were extremely selective in that we brought in a very strong list of candidates from diverse and accomplished backgrounds. In the end, we selected Joyce because of her commitment to our mission, the depth and breadth of her experience, and her three-decade record of accomplishment in the areas of education, human services, and social, political and economic equity.”
Jones said Johnson’s ability to build cross-collaborations and alliances, in addition to her ability to expand and diversify the organization’s funding sources, was a significant factor. “We felt strongly that it was important that we choose a dynamic leader who was capable of maximizing partnerships, and engaging stakeholders from diverse sectors of the New York community to address the many socio-economic, civic, and human service issues confronting blacks in New York. Without question, Joyce is the ideal person to move the organization forward,” said Jones.
Speaking on behalf of the Board, Jones commended Melba Butler, who served as the organization’s interim president and CEO, for the nine-months preceding Johnson’s hire. “The Board extends our sincerest thanks to Melba Butler for having effectively helmed the organization through this transition, and for her many contributions to its growth,” said Jones.
Johnson thanked the Board for entrusting her with leadership of the organization. “I thank the Board, our funding partner—the United Way—the Black Agency Executives and our numerous partners and staff for entrusting me with the leadership of this venerable organization. It is a great honor to be joining Black Equity Alliance, particularly at this transformative moment in our state and nation’s history,” Johnson said.
I look forward to the opportunity to lead the Alliance as we work to maximize the enormous power and potential of our organization to create great and sustainable economic and social change for African Americans and New Yorkers, as a whole,” said Johnson.
Johnson added that a key aspect of the organization’s mission will be “to build the capacity of our partner organizations in the human service area, collaborate more effectively with our stakeholders, and examine more closely the gaps between what we have not done and what we need to do, so that we can effectively leverage the collective $74.9 billion buying power of our community and serve as a catalyst for progress.”
As the new CEO and president Johnson stated that she looks forward to working to develop tangible solutions, as well as bringing increased attention to the inequities highlighted in the organization’s groundbreaking study, The State of Black New York City 2007. Done in partnership with the New York Urban League, the study looks at how New
York City blacks are faring in employment, housing, health, the criminal justice system, and the startup of new businesses, among other areas. SoBNY 2007 combines hard statistical data with analysis and recommendations. Johnson said next spring Black Equity Alliance plans to issue an annual report card stating how blacks are doing in the eleven areas covered in the study.
Johnson is the former President and CEO of Bradford Stanley Johnson and Johnson, a former Director of Community Relations for the Office of New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a former Special Assistant to Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, and a two-term Board and Vice Chair for Upper West Side Community Board 7. In 2005 she ran for the Office of City Council for Council District 8 and was a candidate in 2002 for New York State’s 69th Assembly District.
Johnson has a B.S. in Microbiology from Howard University.
Black Equity Alliance is a federation comprised of stakeholders across the human service, political, faith, business, cultural and philanthropic communities engaged in collaboration to foster solutions that lead to economic and social sustainability for blacks in New York. The Alliance is the only institution engaging in policy analysis, research, and advocacy on cross-systems issues on behalf of the black community. To learn more about Joyce S. Johnson or Black Equity Alliance call: 212-251-2420. Click here to view Black Equity Alliance/NY Urban League publication, “The State of Black New York City 2007.”

Mayoral Column – Trayvon Martin Rally

Written for the Mayor of Hempstead

From the Desk of Mayor Hall
Last Saturday, in Hempstead, hundreds rallied for Justice for Trayvon. At the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan, Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Martin, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others were joined by a multi-racial crowd of supporters, while Trayvon’s father addressed rallygoers in Miami. Candlelight vigils and demonstrations were held from Asheville, North Carolina to Las Vegas, Nevada as public outrage over the verdict in the George Zimmerman case mounted.
The rallies came about because Reverend Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network (NAN), called on 100 cities in the United States to join together to call for change. While the Reverend spoke in New York, the Nassau County chapter of NAN brought hundreds of Village residents and other Long Islanders together to pay respect to Trayvon’s memory and to send a clear message: We demand justice on behalf of Trayvon and all the other black and brown young people whose lives are at risk because of racial profiling and Stand Your Ground laws.
Faith-leaders and other activists addressed the crowd at the Village’s rally. Well-known civil rights attorney Fred Brewington led the plea for an impartial justice system. Rev. Dr. Sedgwick Easley, of Union Baptist Church, called for a collective movement that results in tangible changes to state laws. The reverend made clear that we are done with seeing the lives of black and brown boys and men devalued.
Travis Nelson, an African American student at Hempstead High School, offered a frightening assessment: ‘What happened to Trayvon could happen to anyone. It could happen to our neighbors and community members; it could happen to our sons and daughters. It could happen to me.’
Travis’s speech reminded us that until sweeping changes are made to the American Justice system our youth may never truly be safe.
Changes must be made when 31-year old Marissa Alexander, a woman in Florida, shoots a gun into the air in an attempt to dissuade her abuser and receives a 20-year sentence, despite using Stand Your Ground as a defense; yet George Zimmerman walks free after pursuing and shooting an unarmed teenager.
Changes must be made when New York’s Stop and Frisk policy unjustly targets hundreds of thousands of African American and Hispanic young men each year, sending fear into the hearts of the community and placing the freedom and well-being of those boys and young men at risk.
Hempstead is not immune to the ailments that plague our nation. We know what it’s like to be racially profiled. We know what it’s like to be treated inequitably. And as the rally at our courthouse, and the rallies across America, made clear this past weekend, we will no longer accept this reality.
Laws that support racial profiling are far more dangerous than an individual’s personal biases.
It is up to us, the people, to make sure that our lawmakers, locally and in Washington, get the message that we will no longer stand for the injustices that have been written into law.
It is not acceptable for the blood of our youth to be spilled onto concrete sidewalks under sanction of our nation’s laws. We say today: Stand Your Ground must fall. For more information on the Nassau County chapter of NAN, visit their website, visit There you can find information on future activity, apply for membership, and learn about how you can join the fight at the Realize the Dream March in Washington, D.C. in August.
Wayne J. Hall Sr.
Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Hempstead

Op-Ed – 2010 Census

Dear Friends,
This is Councilmember XX of Brooklyn’s XXth District, representing the communities of Kensington, Prospect-Lefferts, Ditmas Park, parts of Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush.
April 1st is officially Census Day. The day when all who live within the United States are asked to give an accurate count of our households and mail the information back. Whether you are a citizen or not, legal or undocumented, all of us are required to fill out the census form.
Many people do not recognize the importance of doing this. They wrongly view the census as an opportunity by the federal government to learn information about them and their households, and to use that Information against them with Immigration and Naturalization Services, Homeland Security or other government agencies. The fact is that that this simply isn’t the case. Filling out the form accurately helps the government determine how much money in federal programs and resources to give to our state.
Failing to return the census does a huge disservice to community. In fact, it costs our community hundreds of millions of dollars, and sometimes billions, in government services. Money that goes to improve our schools, create less overcrowding in classrooms, better hospitals and quality healthcare; safer streets and cleaner communities. Money that aids in construction, job development and economic investment. This year the federal government will use census results to determine how to distribute $400 billion to the states. New York has $25 billion at stake.
But financial resources are not the only thing that a failure to return the forms will cost us.
The census count helps to determine how many representatives a state gets to send to Congress. It determines the number of representatives there are in a district and how districts are drawn.
To fail to return the census is to fail our community and our children.
The form has ten simple questions that are easy to answer. Anyone who is over 15 years old can fill it out. Everyone who lives in the household should be counted.
The deadline for response is April 15th. A census taker will visit the houses of those who don’t return the form.
We have too much to gain not to return it. And too much to lose if we don’t.
If you need help with the census, please contact the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI) at (718) 287-1870 or You may also visit the NYS/CACCI Census 2010 Outreach and Mobilization Office at the Flatbush Caton Market at 814 Flatbush Avenue at the corner of Caton Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11226. Bilingual English, Spanish and French/Creole speaking outreach workers will be available to help you. You may also contact the NYS Census offices by visiting

Press Release – Infant Mortality in Harlem


For Immediate Release

Contact: Max Smith
Phone: 516-415-9243


Harlem, NY (October 26th, 2015) – Maternal Intentions, a Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership initiative, in association with Merck for Mothers, today announced that it is now accepting member enrollment in its Harlem-based program for women at high-, or increased-risk for maternal mortality or morbidity (maternal deaths or illness or complications resulting from or related to childbirth). The program, which is free, is open to women ages 18-44 who live in Harlem, have had a previous pregnancy complication, pre-term or low birth weight baby, or suffers from a chronic illness like obesity, diabetes or hypertension. A service-intensive program, Maternal Intentions will be open five days a week, Monday-Friday, from 9am-8pm and will provide individual health coaching, nutrition and fitness classes, support groups, and referrals to services as needed, including housing, job training/education, healthcare, and other social services. There are no income requirements and to ensure accessibility to the diverse Harlem community, languages spoken include English, Spanish, French, Fulani, Bambara and Creole; childcare is available for children up to 12 years of age.

Maternal Intentions(MI), launched in December of 2014, under a three-year $1.5 million grant from Merck for Mothers, in response to the disturbingly high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in black and Hispanic women throughout Harlem. Nationally, maternal mortality and morbidity rates (MMR) have been rising for over a decade. The maternal mortality and morbidity rate for NYC has been higher than the national average for the last forty years, at 23.1 deaths per 100K live births (twice that of the U.S. as a whole); with Central Harlem exhibiting the highest MMR of any neighborhood in Manhattan at 35.5 deaths per 100k live births.

MI program director Patricia Bernard said two groups in New York have been especially hard hit: black and Latina women. African American women in NYC are seven times more likely to suffer a childbirth-related death as white women, and Hispanic women in New York City die from childbirth at twice the rate of non-Hispanic white women.

Studies show that maternal mortality and morbidity have been linked to certain chronic diseases: obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes being prevalent among them, particularly among black and Hispanic women.

“It’s a hidden crisis and we have to address it through collective community action,” said Bernard.

Calling MI’s approach multi-pronged, Bernard said it is important to get women to recognize that childbirth is always a risk, with increased dangers for women with chronic illnesses, or health complications, including poor diet or health management.

“Building awareness is step one,” said Bernard, ‘like opening an unlocked door.”

“Step two is stepping through that door by providing education and tools like doula and referral services, and instilling the importance of consistent, ongoing medical care throughout the pregnancy. That’s where behavior change comes in, and that’s where we can begin to make a difference.”

MI is working to improve maternal health in Harlem by providing education, behavior change, policy change and advocacy. Program administrators said they are outreaching to city, state and federal officials to advocate for policy change that supports doula and other health care services for pregnant women with chronic conditions, as well as building linkages with hospitals, faith leaders and community organizations.

The program plans to enroll up to 150 women at high-risk for mortality or morbidity and provide individual coaching, home visitation, birth and post-partum doulas, referrals for housing and other social services, educational classes, mental health screening, breastfeeding, stress reduction, nutrition classes, weight management and monitoring, and family planning. MI will also target all women of child-bearing ages in Harlem, an estimated 70,000, and provide general support services, including health education and connections to necessary healthcare providers and other resources.

To enroll for services women can call 212-665-2600, ext. 201; visit; or walk into the Maternal Intentions office at 127 West 127th Street, Suite 107. Women can also be referred by individuals or organizations. MI’s growing list of referral partners include, the Charles B. Rangel Community Health Center, Harlem Hospital Center, Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, NY Presbyterian/the Allen Hospital, and the Ryan/Adair Community Health Center. Referrals are encouraged, services are free and there is no income criteria.

Engagement and Policy Director, Claudia Boykins said, “We talk about the value of black and brown lives. This is a part of that. It’s getting black and Hispanic women to understand that our lives matter too; and that the best way to ensure that you have a healthy child and a healthy pregnancy is to take care of you.”

The program is seeking corporate, foundation and government support in order to increase the number of high-risk women it can serve. To learn more, or to lend your support, contact ———.

XXX: Boiler plate about Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership and Maternal Intentions.

Op-ED – Mayoral Control of New York City Schools

Op-Ed by Roy Hastick
On June 30th, the law giving mayoral control over our city’s public schools will expire. Between now and then the state legislature in Albany can vote to renew the law, change it, or simply let it expire. It is of vital importance that as parents, business leaders and concerned members of the Caribbean community we become engaged in this issue and contact our state representatives to urge them to vote for renewal of the law.
As president, CEO and founder of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry I see daily the importance of graduating students who can read and write on or above grade level, and can compete against rising global standards.
I know the difference mayoral control has made. The issue isn’t black or white. It’s green. It’s about our children’s ability to get an economic foothold in this country, and about maintaining the economic viability of New York’s labor force, and of the city itself. In order for New York to remain economically competitive we New Yorkers depend on our schools to produce an educated workforce second to none.
Between 2002 and now I have seen the difference made by mayoral control. Before the law granting mayoral control over our schools was enacted in 2002 a majority of New York City public schools were failing. Reading and math levels were far below the rates of children in other parts of New York State and around the country. Schools were unsafe and classroom overcrowding was rampant. Uncertified teachers teaching outside their subject areas was the norm and graduation rates—the real indicator of whether our children will be able to go on to college or to get jobs—were abysmal. Only 38% of New York City students graduated within 4 years in 2002, compared to 61% in New York State and 75% nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Since mayoral control things have improved dramatically. Now 100% of New York’s teachers are certified. School hallways are safer and overcrowding is down. Most importantly, graduation rates are up 22% and reading and math rates are rising. In fact, fourth grade math Regents Exam passing rates have increased 53%. To make schools and principals more accountable for student achievement, failing schools have been closed and failing principals have been removed. Teachers’ salaries have increased some 43% making it easier to recruit and retain good teachers.
The reason these successes have been possible is because mayoral control has centralized control of school policy, curriculum, and budget. Prior to mayoral control 32 individual school boards existed, each doing their own thing. Each district had its own academic standards and curriculum, making it hard for students whose families moved to transition to other schools in other districts. Authority was divided between the Board of Education, community school boards, the chancellor and mayor. When things went wrong—which they did frequently—there was a lot of finger pointing. No one took responsibility. And no one was held accountable for incompetent teachers, failing schools and failing students. The results: our children were sacrificed. They under-performed and couldn’t hold their own against national, much less growing international standards.
Now with mayoral control the buck stops at the mayor’s desk and it is up to whoever is in that office to fix the problem or to be removed from office. In much the same way that the mayor has full authority over the city’s emergency services, including the fire department, police department, and EMS, the mayor now has full authority over the city’s school system, and full responsibility for its failure or success. When something goes wrong we know who to hold accountable and where to go to correct the matter.
Between now and June 30th we have an opportunity to protect our children’s education and to ensure that the school system continues to work toward improvement. Or, we can return to the bad old days of failure, incompetence and no accountability.
Let’s not sacrifice our children to competing interests. As immigrant parents and business leaders who gave up our home countries and came to the U.S. in search of better jobs and educational opportunities for our children, we must ensure that our children receive the best education possible.
To ensure continued mayoral control we must write or call our state assembly members and state senators and tell them to renew mayoral control. We must attend public hearings about the issue and let our voices be heard. To learn more about the issue visit or call (212) 674-7770. Protect the education of our children. Extend mayoral control of the New York City public schools.
Roy A. Hastick, Sr., is the president, CEO and founder of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.
Written by EthnicWriter

Remarks – Immigrant Rights

I stand here today as a representative of the government of the Village of Hempstead. I bring you greetings on behalf of Mayor Wayne Hall, who wanted to be here, but was unable to attend, and on behalf of the other Board of Trustee Members. The Honorable Deputy Mayor Henry Conyers is here with me.

I stand here in solidarity with the immigrant community of the Village and with all immigrants seeking a legal pathway to citizenship and to full inclusion in the great American society.

Everyone here is an immigrant. Whether you came on the Mayflower in 1620, on the slave ship in the early 16 and 1700s, via the big boats from Europe that flooded New York’s Ellis Island in the 1920s and 30s, on the planes from the Caribbean in the 1950s and 60s, or on today’s planes coming from Central and South America, Africa, India, China, Japan or Europe.

The only ones among us who aren’t immigrants are the Native Americans, yet oddly enough they aren’t trying to chase anyone out of their country or to deny them any of the precious rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

There is great division about the immigrant question. Should undocumented immigrants be given a pathway to citizenship? Should the children of the undocumented born in this country be considered Americans or should they have their citizenship revoked?

Far from being a complex question, for many of us, the immigration question is a simple one: Put yourself in the shoes of an immigrant and you’ll see he or she isn’t any different than you are or than your grandparents who came to this country several generations ago.

Immigrants want the same things that every other American wants: a better paying job, better opportunities, access to good schools and good doctors. The opportunity for our children to do better than we did ourselves.

I suppose then that a big part of the immigration problem is an education problem; it’s about educating working and middle-class Americans about the immigrant community, about their desires and aspirations, about the fact that immigrants are just like everyone else.

Many political leaders knowing the truth, know also that immigration is an easy way to score political points. So they ignore the facts and decide instead to use it to divide poor against poor, minority against minority, working people against working people,

But I am here today, along with all of you, to stand up for the rights of the immigrant community who are the backbone of so many other communities.

Who takes care of other people’s children when they are at work? Who does the gardening that the husbands and the fathers are unavailable to do? Who does the construction, the electrical work, the roofing and the tiling at wages no one else would even dream of doing?

Los immigrantes: Juan, Sophia, Vilma, Luis, Jorge, that’s who.

I am here today also to say that as we talk about the immigrant question we have to remember that the immigrant question isn’t a one-sided question. The immigrant isn’t the only one in this relationship.

So if you want to criminalize the undocumented immigrant who gets picked up from the street corner to work as a day laborer so that he can put food on his family’s plate, and pay sales and other taxes, then you have to criminalize the middle- and upper-class American who hired him.

If, however, you’re not going to arrest Mr. America, then perhaps you should fight for immigration reform that gives the day laborer, the restaurant worker, your hair dresser and beautician—and the many small business owners revitalizing communities—a viable path to citizenship.

As for me, I support legal immigration, because it’s the law of the land, but also because illegal immigration is dangerous on many levels, and because unless people can find pathways to citizenship that do not criminalize them, they will remain underground and exposed to abuse from unscrupulous employers, abuse from greedy landlords, at increased risk of violence because they are less likely to report crimes against them for fear of being arrested and turned in to INS; and at increased risk for untreated illnesses because they won’t go to the doctor for fear of being turned in to Immigration services.

We understand that America, as a whole, is struggling. The economy is under siege. Many people are losing their homes and their jobs. And when folks are worried about their jobs they become concerned that ‘outsiders,’ the ‘others,’ new people will take the few jobs that exist. The truth is, however, that they forget that the new immigrant, the undocumented worker isn’t taking the job most Americans want. They’re taking the jobs that many other others are reluctant to do, and they’re doing it for pay that nobody else will take.

So, the immigrant problem isn’t a problem of immigrant versus citizen. It’s a problem of the working people across all races, ethnicities and communities, whether immigrant or citizen, uniting to fight against the companies that would take advantage of them.

In truth, the working people of America have got to understand that the immigrant issue is a labor issue, it’s a civil rights issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s an issue that speaks to keeping the doors of America open to all who aspire to the American dream.

To do this immigration reform must be placed front and center of the political agenda.

In the next election year, the immigrant community and their friends and supporters, must demand that our political leaders address the immigration problem and come up with a viable solution that includes a pathway to citizenship.

I stand here today as a representative of the Village of Hempstead; a municipality that stands out for many reasons. We are the first and largest municipality of color in Nassau County; we were the first municipality on Long Island to elect a Latino politician. We elected Max Rodriguez as the Village Trustee in 1994. We were the first municipality in the nation to take our money out of Chase bank because of its failure to work with homeowners struggling with foreclosure. We possess one of the largest Hispanic populations on Long Island: Some 44% of Hempstead is Hispanic, according to the last census.

And today we stand as leaders on the immigration question.

Our Village is a diverse village. It has many different peoples: black, white, Latino, Caribbean, Asian, Middle Eastern, citizen, immigrant. But, amidst all that difference, more unites us than divides us.

We are one village and one nation; those who were born here and those who are seeking citizenship. It is up to our government to figure out reform that is humane and legal and that does not demonize the many who are seeking the same rights and opportunities to work, live and progress, as all of the millions who came here before them.

In unity there is progress.

Written by: EthnicWriter