Bunkeddeko Looks to Bridge Progressives & Black Community Divide

Congressional candidate Adem Bunkeddeko, who narrowly lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke two years ago, came into the primarily black part of the district last week and pledged to bridge the growing divide between the mainstream black and the mainly white progressive constituents in the district.

The visit before the Stand Together Always Never Divided Unity Power Independent Democratic Empowerment Organization (STAND UP IDEO) at Balboa Restaurant, 1655 Bedford Avenue, across the street from Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, came just days after black Democrats nationwide helped former Vice President Joe Biden win a number of Super Tuesday primary states against Democratic Socialist and progressive darling U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

New York’s 9th Congressional District, for which Bunkeddeko and Clarke are running, includes traditionally black strongholds such as Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, and Flatbush. Clarke, for the most part, carried this end of the district.

Bunkeddeko carried most of the white progressive end of the district including Kensington, Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Lefferts Gardens two years ago. Clarke also carried the mostly white Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach end of the district, but she may have some problems carrying this part in the upcoming primary as well as the Jewish end of Crown Heights because City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Homecrest, Midwood) is also in the race.

When questioned on how he would bridge the growing divide between mainstream blacks and progressive whites within the Democratic Party, Bunkeddeko responded that it will take some tough conversations and tough dialogue. 

“I think part of what I always told folks is when you become an elected official part of their job is to not only help make legislation that’s gonna create a difference in people’s lives but it’s also to help shape conversation that is productive. Now we’ve got some folks and I served on the community board [CB 8 serving Prospect Heights and Crown Heights] for a long time. And they [longtime board members] walk down the street and they see a lot of people and they don’t even say, ‘Hi’. They feel like they are strangers in their own land, and I think there are a lot of other folks who will try to be open-minded who will to try to be helpful in the community that has not been their home for a long time,” said Bunkeddeko. 

“So the question I think we have to figure out is how do we best try to facilitate the differences because we are where we are, but what I do want us to make sure is that the black folks in this community, the folks who built this community and who held this community down when nobody was trying to be here, have some say in the direction and the coarse of the future,” he added.

Bunkeddeko concluded that the hope is whoever not only makes good public policy decisions but also helps give voice to those voiceless in determining the future.

IDEO members also heard from two organization members who are running for female Democratic District leaders this year. 

They include Beverly Newsome, the Tenants Association President of Ebbets Field Housing development, who is challenging Olanike Alabi in the 57th Assembly district covering Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights; and longtime community activist Shermene Monique Minter, who is challenging incumbent Darlene Mealy in the 55th Assembly district covering Brownville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Bed-Stuy.

Both the Congressional and State primaries are slated for June 23.

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