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The Dentzel Carousel: A Response to Rev. Michael Vaughn

Op/Ed By Howard Eagle

 

howard newI was saddened and quite frankly shocked, to have witnessed a Minority Reporter columnist, and black church leader demonstrate such deep-seated, and apparent ignorance, regarding one of the U.S.A.’s  oldest, most profound, pervasive, entrenched, volatile, and potentially-explosive socioeconomic issues and problems, namely the tripartite issue of individual and institutional racism.

Specifically, the columnist attempted to berate and dismiss (as not being “important”), ongoing efforts to have a disgusting, dehumanizing, Jim Crow era, Pickaninny image of black children removed from the public carousel at Ontario Beach Park.

It’s baffling that, not only is the preacher not aware of historic, calculated, systematic, white-supremacist attempts, and long-standing patterns to routinely degrade and dehumanize African peoples, including development of special labels and negative categorization of our children, i.e., as Pickaninnies, but, apparently, he also does not pay close attention to current events.

Otherwise he would have read in these pages (last year) that our struggle, and indeed our “demand” that the disgusting Pickaninny garbage, and so-called “art” must come down, did not begin “all of a sudden in 2016,” but instead dates back to July of 2015 (when we first discovered that it was there, via an article written by a local blogger: ‘As Symbols of Racism are Taken Down in South Carolina, Rochester Must Follow Suit’ ( http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/opinion/blogs/editorial/2015/07/10/as-symbols-of-racism-are-taken-down-in-south-carolina-rochester-must-follow-suit/29990661/ ) .

Considering that the black church has long been one of the vanguard, leadership institutions (for centuries), relative to the organized opposition of white supremacy, and the calculated exploitation and oppression of black people, it literally blows my mind to see one of its leaders writing that, “it’s not the images themselves which have been troubling” him. I find that to be plain amazing.

I believe that I am necessarily within the number of those whom the preacher attempts to berate as being “so-called activists.” All I can say is that, if I, and others whom I work closest with, are “so-called activists,” then I challenged the misguided clergyman to produce examples of real, genuine, authentic activists, as opposed to “so-called” activists.

As it relates to “tackling the hard problems,” I will put my 36-consecutive-year record up against his, and that of anyone in the church he leads. I’m certain others whom I work closest with will gladly do the same.

Just for the record, I am currently working with United Christian Leadership Ministries; Faith Community Alliance; the Race and Education Action and Change Work Group of Facing Race=Embracing Equity; two work groups of the Community Task Force on School Climate, and the Black Agenda Group. Combined, we have had literally hundreds of meetings over the past few years alone, in which we are definitely tackling the hard problems. It could be that I overlooked him, but I do not believe I have seen the critic-preacher at a single meeting. I understand that he MAY be working in other venues (probably in the vineyard).

It’s too bad we don’t have many grapes growing in the ‘hood.

With regard to his hyper-rhetorical question regarding “what is most important?” All I can tell him, which he obviously does not believe, is that there are few, if any problems more important, particularly to the black community, than the historic, systemic, socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and sociocultural, triple-headed, insidious, beast and illness of individual/institutional/structural racism, which are all seeds of white supremacy, just as the Pickaninny panel hanging on the Dentzel Carousel at the public, Ontario Beach Park is.

The guy can’t possibly be referring to me relative to his statement about “those in our community who have claimed to be our leaders.” I have NEVER, EVER made any such “claim.” On the other hand, we have been working with some on the Anti-Pickaninny Campaign, who do have long records, as authentic leaders in our community, and I’m quite sure the critic/pastor is not looking to tangle with them.

In some instances, the preacher has seemed to be literally talking out of his head, i.e., with regard to African Americans being “mistreated” via Pickaninny garbage hanging over their children’s heads, as they spin round and round on the carousel. If that’s not “someone else’s fault,” then how in the world do we explain it? Did African Americans carve it, and hang it there? And, don’t give me that jive about they don’t have to ride it. Why shouldn’t they? It’s public.

The easiest thing in the world to do, is to TALK about “leading from a place of strength.” Show us.

Indeed, I am unequivocally convinced that I have “a God-given assignment” to help bring the Pickaninny Panel down. Brother-Reverend, has God told you something different regarding my assignment? You can count on the fact that those of us who are committed, will “not let obstacles stand in the way of completing that assignment!”

Again, it’s easy to spew hyper-rhetoric about “demanding the city school district’s graduation rates increase, in a steady manner, over the course of a defined period of time. And, if they don’t, let’s get rid of the entire school board, and get some folks in there who are not afraid of making a difference.” We just had an opportunity (four months ago) to “get rid of” nearly half of the board, but instead returned all three of them to office (two of whom have reigned over failure for more than a decade; one might be approaching 20 years, and the other one who has sat like a bump on a log, doing nothing for four years). Talk is very, very cheap; guess you had better hit those vineyards a little harder.

The bottom line is, no matter whose “list removing a 100-year-old image [is not] on” — it’s on ours! What’s on your list?

I absolutely will be “contacting” you — because I think you, and, more than likely, your congregation, are in dire need of a history lesson — so that you won’t continue to spew the type of deeply ignorant rhetoric contained in your alarming article.

On Behalf of the Take It Down Committee
The Struggle Continues… (that is, the historic, Black Liberation Struggle)

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