At Witt’s End: Bklyn Dems need a kumbaya moment

Brooklyn Democrats
County Committee Chair Arleny Alvarado-McCalla and Brooklyn Parliamentarian Rob Robinson ran the Party’s Organizational meeting. Photo by Stephen Witt
Stephen Witt

When it comes to righteous indignation, Brooklyn’s white-run Democratic Party progressive reform movement has no peers, except for maybe Brooklyn’s mainstream Black Democrats.

The latest brouhaha occurred this past Wednesday night at the Coney Island Amphitheater at the Brooklyn Democratic Party organizational meeting, held every two years, and in which roughly 1,200 party regulars poured in to formally participate in county committee business.

As a reporter, I attended the meeting for the main news of the night – the expected re-election of Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn over Assembly Member Maritza Davila and/or whoever else the progressive movement supported.

The meeting was slated to go from 7-10 p.m., but its start was delayed due to technical issues including a faulty WiFi system used to check in the thousands of County Committee Members attending to ensure accuracy and transparency.

Many of these county committee members came from the reformer’s ‘Rep your block’ initiative, which many mainstream Blacks and working-class Hispanics see as akin to political gentrification to take over the party.

While there, I saw and heard from a number of these progressives who grumbled with righteous indignation over how the technical difficulties were some kind of conspiracy to keep their reform suggestions at bay and not be voted on.

However, after speaking with County Committee Chair Arleny Alvarado-McCalla, a Latina, and Brooklyn Parliamentarian Rob Robinson, a Black man, who ran the meeting, it did appear that the meeting’s slow start was indeed due to technical difficulties and challenged organizational skills.

Finally, after getting everybody checked in and the meeting started, it was constantly interrupted by reformist boos and speakers complaining about the process. Then just after the first rules vote took place, the Coney Island Amphitheater turned its electricity off at 11:30 p.m., leaving no sound system to conduct the full meeting accordingly.

With the meeting canceled, reformist election attorney Howard Graubard did something really insensitive. He led the reformers in singing the Civil Rights era song, ‘We Shall Overcome’.

A good few of American Black party members took great umbrage to this as the song was a rallying cry to stop the 100 years of Jim Crow and shouldn’t be confused with white-instituted procedural rule changes to the local Democratic Party. Jim Crow notably included institutional lynchings, killings, extreme sometimes government sanctioned violent targeting of American Blacks. Something that many Blacks spilled blood and died over before overcoming in the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Graubard has apologized for the insensitivity and progressive whites would do well to consider showing more empathy towards American Blacks. It is they who were greatly responsible for building this country at a large cost to mind, spirit and body. This includes current Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership, which shows great restraint and inclusiveness. 

Righteous indignations aside, here are a few suggestions, when the Brooklyn Democratic Party does a do-over Organizational Meeting held before Oct. 6.

Firstly, the meeting should be at a venue in Downtown Brooklyn, hopefully near a bar because long nights sometimes call for intermittent drinking. 

Secondly, the Brooklyn Democratic Party is responsible for buying pizza for everyone. Perhaps, the reformers can stop complaining about the most mundane things if they had some free food.

Reformers and mainstreamers alike need to come to a “Kumbaya moment,” make a real effort in getting opposing interests to reconcile in the name of harmony.

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