PUTTING HIS MONEY WHERE HIS MOUTH IS.
On January 15th earlier this year, I wrote a column inspired by a press conference which was held a day earlier, at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. You see, an avalanche of elected officials had converged on us here in Brooklyn, in response to the natural cataclysm in Haiti: the devastating earthquake of 12th January, 2010.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke had convened the event, and anyone who was anyone in politics was there. They all made grand speeches pledging to help the suffering Haitians. From Senator Kirsten Gellibrand; to congressmen Meeks, Towns and a few others of that ilk; to state senators; state assembly members; city council members; and various district leaders; they were all in unison with their pledges of aid and support.
Jamaican born Caribbean American political icon Una Clarke (Yvette’s mom) was also there, along with other prominent members of that community. Members of the clergy, business leaders and many community and political activists also showed up. It was a needed “coming-together” and a strong showing of solidarity with the Haitian people.
Senator John Sampson -the present leader of the senate democrats- made a powerful and impassioned presentation that day. He immediately pledged ten thousand dollars out of his own pocket to the relief effort. It was an impressive gesture.
Recently I decided to follow up and see what has transpired since this press conference, and after further investigation, I am pleased to report that John Sampson has definitely put his mouth where his mouth is: and this is commendable.
Sampson not only made good on his $10k pledge, but he has also attended, supported and helped organize many fundraising events for the Haitian cause. His constituency-office continues to aid and assist many Haitian-Americans in the post-earthquake phase. His staff has aided those Haitian-Americans seeking temporary asylum and status-changes via ICE (formerly INS). They have also helped in gathering foodstuff, clothes, medical and other supplies for the needy on the island.
In this cause senator Sampson has hired some key activists in the Caribbean-American community to further the initiative. Some include Michael Roberts (Carib News), Mercedes Narcisse (a prominent female Haitian-American activist from the Carnarsie area), and afro-American community-activist Maurice Phillips (a former employee in the office of congressman Ed Towns).
Presently, Sampson’s staffers continue to do good things; like refer Haitians (and others) seeking to learn English as a second language, to viable programs in Brooklyn: likewise those seeking help with high-school proficiency and adult basic education. They also work with various Haitian-American church officials and organizations, to continue the relief effort in the struggling island. Ms. Narcisse also aids with translating the needs of those who are English-language challenged. She continues to play a crucial role in all this. Her language skills have been invaluable.
Sampson has a large group of Haitian-Americans living in his senate district, so it is politically sensible for him to maintain this effort. Plus, he is the son of an immigrant whose father migrated from Guyana, South America many years ago. John’s Caribbean-American roots helped him get elected to this seat in 1996. He continues to receive strong support from the Caribs in Brooklyn. Beyond the compassion and love impressively demonstrated by all he has done so far, this was definitely a shrewd move on John’s part.
I will continue to monitor the efforts of other elected officials who showed up at that press conference. As political activists in this community, we need to hold their feet to the fire and monitor how well they fulfill their promises.
Stay tuned-in folks.
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