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Straight No Chaser: We The People

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston Al-Sarag


gloria_winston_al-sarag2We The People, the brainchild of Tracy L. Williams, is a recent effort which has been designed to unite us as a community. And, the undertaking has shown every indication that it will become a movement, one which is not to be taken lightly.

Yeah, I know we have seen many efforts in this community that have come and gone, but going with my gut feeling, I do not think this is one which will be going away anytime soon. Why? Because of its humble beginnings, which have been strategically designed by Williams.

So, who is Tracy L. Williams, you ask? He’s one of the good guys. He is a hands-on father, an entrepreneur, developer, author and educational consultant, all wrapped into one. I could go as far as to call him a farmer, when he described to me what the garden he grows himself contains. He’s one who puts his money where his mouth is, and one who, since I’ve come to know him, has walked it like he’s talked it. He’s one who’s managed to hold my attention, and maintain my respect. That takes some doing. I love a lot of people in this community, but some of them have far too many hidden agendas to make me like or respect them for long. I keep it real, and so does Tracy L. Williams.

There was a time when the people in Rochester used to come together, not just to eat chicken wings and pizza, but to strategize over how to improve our community. There was a time when we had organizations in the forefront of the community. Organizations like the Rochester Black Political Caucus, The Black Leadership Roundtable, F.I.G.H.T., the Political Education, Registration, Training Organization P.E.R.T.O., The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and an active NAACP, just to name a few.

We have a number of organizations in existence now, but from where I sit, few are actually impacting, or setting a political and economic agenda for our community. The Black Political Caucus pushed the hiring of 25 black teachers back in the days. All of them are now retired or deceased, but, I have not seen any effort to replace them, in mass. The Black Panther Party created the Breakfast Program, and, what is now called Neighborhood Watch. In addition, the F.I.G.H.T organization historically had a major impact in the economic development, and housing, arena. It built F.I.G.H.T Village on the north side of town (still standing), and F.I.G.H.T Square on the west side. F.I.G.H.T. had also built a factory called FIGHTON (now ELTREX). Additionally, the stance the organization took at a Kodak board of directors’ meeting in Fleming N.J., forced Kodak to open the doors for minority employment opportunities, other than those which were custodial. There is nothing wrong with custodial jobs, they have fed a many a family, but we also had folks qualified, not only to be on conveyor lines, but in a lab, or creating design boards as well.

This community saw an influx of black technical minds like it had never seen before. Xerox complied without having to be asked, but, from within its ranks, an organization of black employees was created called CARI, under the leadership of Howard Bond.

In addition, Kodak had its own sister organization called the Network North Star. We also participated in B.I.G. (Blacks In Government); a national organization which had been under the local leadership of Ellis Paul Cosey. They participated in, and factored into many things in the community. However, nothing, to date, has replaced the thrust, intellect, leadership, and force to be reckoned with like James “Mamba” McCuller. He spearheaded this community’s connection to the National Black Media Coalition, P.U.S.H., and made more than one attempt to establish a black bank. The Black United Fund had also been a factor under the leadership of Jasper Jefferson Huffman III. And, lest we forget, The First Thursday Club, which later became the Austin Steward Society.

The history lesson could go on, but, my point is, we have been long overdue for a serious commitment, and plans to improve our educational, political and economic development opportunities in Rochester. There are many in motion, and their lips have been moving, but, substance or something tangible, seems to have alluded our grasp as a community. I believe young visionaries, like Tracy L. Williams, Dr. Leonard Brock, Isaac Bliss, LaShay Harris, Ernest Flagler Mitchell, Bobbi Mitchell, LaShana Boose, Donald Hardaway, and others I may have failed to mention by name, have their eye on the prize, and are more than qualified to do some serious planning and strategizing.

Some things can be accomplished without the benefit of a press conference.

We the People has had two meetings, so far. We met at The Charleston House, and I, for one, appreciated the relaxed atmosphere created by the 19 or so people who were in attendance. I found it most interesting that no one person in the room had been invited, personally. Those in attendance had been there because of their sincere interest in making improvements in our community. We all recognized the many flaws which need to be addressed, and the discussion which ensued gave everyone an opportunity to express their concerns.

Tracy guided the discussion to make sure no one monopolized the conversation. He had gathered everyone by creating an event on the infamous Facebook, and 45 people responded positively to the concept of coming together under the umbrella of We The People.

The first people on board the train were Kim MitGloria Winston Al-SaragDonald Itiswhatitis Hardaway, Amen Imhotep PtahErnest Flagler-MitchellJackie DozierSabrina LaMarKhari PorcheaLakisha WilsonKeia Flagler-MitchellDanielle PepperWanda RidgewayLs SampsonSherese Wyatt-CooperMazi BakariVince FelderE’Tiana Nicole LarkinMenwa BranchCandice E. Williams, Cory JohnsonDerrick ThomasTerrell BradyKirk Robinson, Nancy Sung Shelton, Bobbi Mitchell, Patricia Freeman, and Bakari. If I failed to mention your name, or have misspelled it, please charge it to my head, and not my heart.

Quoting Tracy L. Williams will be key to understanding his vision:

“UNITY, wow, I feel it!! As far back as I can remember, I can vividly remembering seeing the images of black people standing together in unity against oppression. I remember wishing that WE, AS PEOPLE, could find that unity now, to FIGHT TOGETHER! Not only against systemic oppression, but against the things we do ourselves. I remember the Million Man March, and reading about Marcus Garvey, and his economic empowerment plan.  I remember seeing Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. mobilize the masses, across the nation, for a common cause. Currently, I read “Powernomics.” I study places like Greenwood, and Rosewood, and other thriving economies, and wonder, how did we get here? How did we digress so badly? THAT REMEMBERING HAS STOPPED!! #wethepeople¬#thetimeisnow are galvanizing the masses, educating the masses, and mobilizing the masses. These are NOT GRASSROOTS, these ARE TREEROOTS!!! Rooted so deeply in the souls of our ancestors, and those who have fought, and died for us!!! THESE ROOTS WILL NOT BECOME UPROOTED, NO MATTER THE STORM!!!! #wethepeople #thetimeisnow!!!”

Since I am from the school of thought which believes in reincarnation, and that we have all been here before, Tracy L. Williams, and his vision, often remind me of Booker T. Washington; especially when Mr. Washington profoundly stated, “At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be, for our race, economic independence.”

Join us for our next meeting, Saturday, July 18, at 10:30 am in the Charleston House, 1733 Norton St. Don’t let this train leave the station without you. This is a PSA brought to you by We The People.