This blog is based on an article in the New Haven Independent on Nov. 5, 2013
For Many Black Women, Harp’s Win Is Theirs, Too
This article — written in the New Haven Independent — is truly enlightening (and more than a little frightening) on several levels. This is the year 2013; it is indeed the 21st Century! As of 2019 it will be 400 years since Africans were first brought to America. (In 1619 the first documented Africans to arrive on British occupied territory in what would become America landed at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, today’s Fort Monroe.)
“The world has changed quite a bit,” (Doris) Blackmon said while standing outside the school. In 2008, voters showed up in droves to elect the nation’s first black president. She said electing a black woman to the city’s top position represents a new frontier in a historic quest for civil rights.
“It means everything to me,” she said.
“The potential to make history was top in the minds of African-American women at the Elks Club Tuesday, which Harp’s campaign converted into a neighborhood headquarters.”
Doris Blackmon, Vivian Fripp-Elbert and thousands of Black women in New Haven, and statewide, see layers of benefits (particularly the psychological benefits to little Black girls) in Toni Harp’s victory. As demonstrated in Congress (particularly in the Senate) women are better consensus builders. As the parent who (in many households) most often runs the daily operations in families, most women (who are mothers) have more experience at managing at the grass-roots level, building consensus, trying to make ends meet when they have scarce resources, and helping their families to survive during hard times. Women are also the ones who most often take care of the elderly and grandchildren; they are practiced experts at mediating disputes among their children and grandchildren.
In addition to finely tuned negotiation skills, Senator Harp brings good intellectual and academic smarts (yes folks, she also graduated from Yale University (B.A., Roosevelt University; M.E.D., Yale University), a broad spectrum of work experience, and hands-on knowledge and experience of how local and state government work. She has outstanding accomplishments in getting positive changes to Maternal and Child Health, HUSKY, Medicaid, Aging and Public Health. While in Hartford she fought valiantly to get maximum benefits for residents of New Haven. Senator Harp does not tout her accomplishments; she is a very reserved person who works hard to accomplish great benefits for her constituents. She is a quiet warrior for the public good. She was one of the first three guests at the OneWorld discussion table in June 1996 when we aired our first community television program. The other two were Anne Calabresi (founder of LEAP) and Elsie Cofield (founder of AIDS Interfaith.) Senator Harp is responsive to community needs and tries always to be responsive to constituents. On the state level we draw your attention to a few selective highlights of Senator Harp’s accomplishments:
- In October 2013 Senator Harp State Senator Toni N. Harp (D-New Haven) was honored by the International Affairs Division of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NANBPWC) with its International Excellence Leadership Award.
- In its notification letter NANBPWC officials wrote: “(We) take pleasure in honoring your accomplishments as the State Senator for Connecticut in the United Nations. As a State Senator, your accomplishments are unsurpassed. . . . We congratulate your exemplary service as a leader.”
- Senator Harp has also seen the full implementation of her “Raise the Age Juvenile Justice Initiative, which, “transformed a previously wasteful, punitive, ineffective, and often abusive juvenile justice system into a national model—at no additional cost to taxpayer,” according to Washington‘s Justice Policy Institute. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/harp.php
- In 2007 Senator Harp was the recipient of Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service in the category Outstanding State Senator. This award was established by the American Medical Association and is one of the most prestigious forms of recognition for outstanding public service in the advancement of public health.
- Toni Harp has been consistently active in efforts to reform Connecticut’s Corrections System.
- She helped start Connecticut’s Asthma Action Plan, through which health officials began to track asthma in Connecticut’s public schools beginning in 2003.
- In 2000 she was named Family Legislator of the Year by the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies for her extraordinary efforts to strengthen families in our state.
- She received the Clarence Daniel Advocacy Award from the Connecticut AIDS Residents Coalition.
- In 1999, the Connecticut Chapter of the NAACP selected Senator Harp to receive its Clarence Mitchell Political Action Award. She was cited for her outstanding leadership in a number of issues, including: managed care reform, the increase in the minimum wage, and economic development for cities and making insurance coverage available to uninsured children.
- Also in 1999, Senator Harp received the Phoebe Bennett Award from the Connecticut Association of Mental Health Clinics for Children.
In Morris Cove, A Different View On History
The comments from some people in Morris Cove are indicative of the ignorance that permeates aspects of our society and prevents us from making meaningful progress. Of course, this ignorance is not limited to the residents of Morris Cove and East Rock who are represented in this article. New Haven has more than its share of uninformed people as East Rock and Morris Cove have informed people. There is strong evidence in the article that the psychological vestiges of slavery, Jim Crow and the “Lie of Black inferiority” continue to permeate the thinking of as many whites as blacks. What Doris Blackmon has done with those children is important; we need to break the bond of ignorance from day one. We need to teach the factual history of these United States; we need to teach children how to think critically and analytically. Real education is not only about the ability to read, write and do calculations; it is also supposed to be about enlightenment; it is about the ability to understand what one reads and the ability to ask probing and relevant questions. Upon reading the comments listed below (particularly those highlighted in blue) it is clear that our education system has fallen short.
But Elicker is “smart and good” and a “great guy.”
“He knows the community,” Craven said of Elicker. Of Harp: “I don’t like her. She doesn’t see the whole picture.” Exactly what does Mr. Craven knows about Senator Harp, New Haven or CT politics, or about what constitutes the whole picture? What does he know about her political and personal accomplishments, or about her outstanding service to New Haven as an Alderperson and Senator?
Craven predicted Harp would “get the popular vote by race,” that people would vote for her because she is black. Craven, who is white, said his vote for Elicker wasn’t based on race. “I saw what he can do for the community.” How does one defines “the community?” Which community is being discussed here?
Evans, a 44-year-old employee of the state Department of Social Services, said he voted for Harp because of her experience at the state level. She understands the “inner workings” of the government.
Other Morris Cove voters spoke about their choice for mayor only on condition of anonymity. An anonymous couple said they voted for Elicker to “give him a chance.”
“He’s more informed about government,” the man said. “He’s been in Washington.” This statement proves that it is not only black and brown children who are not being educated in our school system. It also proves that education is much more than the ability to read and write. As a society, we should all be concerned.
He said Harp is “devious” and he doubts if she even lives in New Haven. “If someone is devious, why would you want them in government?” To all informed and enlightened people in this country, this statement needs no amplification. It certainly tells us that we have a long way to go in overcoming ignorance and bigotry and the psychological effects of America’s slave history. We also heard from “the birthers” that President Obama was born in Kenya; that he is a Muslim, etc.
As for Harp being the first black female mayor, the man said, “Does that still mean something today? When are they (?!!!) going to stop this nonsense? Spoken like a truly uninformed, silo-residing, white-privileged, ignorant person.
Mark Cowell used the same phrase to dismiss the race question: “In this day and age, especially up in the Northeast, it’s really not that significant.” Women have “come a long way,” and the country has a mixed-race president, Cowell said.
This is simply more evidence of sheer denial (if I bury my head in ignorance, I don’t have to deal with the facts); a lack of education and knowledge of America’s historic past, or simple ignorance in its most plain form. The Northeast has enjoyed a long season of doctored history. The manufacturing industries in the Northeast were maintained by a reciprocal economic relationship with the South; the slave labour of the South provided the raw materials for manufacturing and its resultant riches to the owners of those manufacturing businesses in the North.
In the end, we all have to co-exist; it would be wonderful if we could be more open to learning the facts about this remarkable country, its checkered history, and about the valuable contributions of all of its diverse groups of people. Every group has contributed to making America what it is today. African Americans– as a group– as well as selected individuals have made truly outstanding contributions. Of all Americans, they get the least positive acknowledgement. The comments posted in this NHI article (and other negative articles and statements from across the country about President Obama and others) only prove that this injustice continues today. America would be so much richer if all of its people could be equally honored; importantly, it would be good for children. http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/first_black_female_mayor/