By Contributor on June 25, 2014

 

By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams

 

Harlem is not the same. Even though 43-year incumbent Charles Rangel ultimately won after going punch for punch with state senator Adriano Espaillat, his “safe” seat is safe no longer. The battle was bloody at times, with most of the blows felt by an already racially charged Congressional district that may be a sign of similar political battles to come.

Some useful facts:

Harlem is the cultural, emotional, and intellectual capital of Black USA. It is the venerated cradle of Black identity, creative output, and thriving lives.

It is also no longer a homogenous or geographically encased community.

Its Congressional district now stretches to the southern Bronx, across a slim river that may as well mark the boundary of a different time zone.

And there’s the rub.

The South Bronx has been a stronghold for generations of Latinos—largely Puerto Ricans and Dominicans—who settled there decades ago. With the inclusion of this territory in the redrawn district, residents have been left to align themselves mostly along ethnic lines.

Longtime supporters of Rangel have not really known any other representative, and he is as much a Harlem institution as the Apollo Theater.

Additionally, he’s really habit-forming.

After 23 elections, many locals couldn’t bring themselves to make a different choice.

For his part, Espaillat has used the last two primaries to remind Latino voters, often not so subtly, that Rangel does not have a strong record of advocating on their behalf and implying that he cannot understand their needs and priorities.

In any other political cycle, this type of tinged banter would be unremarkable. But during the presidency of the first Black president (who did not endorse Rangel), when Latinos make up 16 percent of the country, and Dominicans passed the one million mark, it has the potential to start a conflict of political and racial proportions. That is, if voters choose that path.

In the alternative, Black and Latino voters can scrape away all the usual political gaming typical of NYC campaigns and hold candidates to a higher standard. They can choose to rewrite the rules for representing a vibrant, growing, and engaged voter pool that also happens to forecast what the next two decades (at least) of political rebranding will look like across the country.

There are three clear challenges here that must be met with equal measures of foresight, dignity, and resolve.

First, Rangel must make good on his promise not to run again, even if, at 84, he has the zeal of a man 50 years younger.

Second, Espaillat, if he still wants Rangel’s job, must humbly appeal for the votes of everyone in this historic district.

Last, voters must own up to their responsibility to choose the best candidate, and not allow themselves to be divided by race or ethnicity.

The stakes are high, and so must be the expectations.

 

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Juleyka Lantigua-Williams a Dominican-American and a former Washington Heights resident. She writes for the Progressive Media Project. ©Juleyka Lantigua-Williams 2014

 

 

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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