Here’s news from the Mamaroneck-Larchmont Human Rights Committee, written by Harold Wolfson:
The 26th annual community Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration will be held over three days in January with separate events at three community locations. Each event will examine one of the following issues.
Can we learn from recent housing and other segregation crises?
Can we create a more integrated community?
Can we get more people to the polls and have their votes counted?
“We’re going to show a relevant movie at each session and ask special panels to encourage open and personal discussion as to whether we are upholding Dr. King’s goals in the three areas,” said Nancy Seligson, Town of Mamaroneck Supervisor and coordinator of the Mamaroneck-Larchmont Human Rights Committee, which hosts the event.
The first event on segregation will be held Saturday, January 12th at 4 p.m. at the Mamaroneck Library; the second gathering on true community integration will be held Sunday, January 13th at 4 p.m.at the Larchmont Library and the third event on maintaining democracy at the polls will take place at 7:30 p.m., Monday, January 14th at the Mamaroneck Town Hall.
In pre-celebration conversations, three panelists were asked to cite a specific topic they would like to offer for discussion during the Celebration events.
Sharon Mosely, office manager of LMC-TV, said she wants her group to understand how searing bigotry can be. She said she never knew she was different until third grade. “I played with white kids, black kids and Hispanic kid. We marched in parades together. But one day, walking home from Church Street School in White Plains, carrying my violin case, I saw a car stop. Teenagers yelled out the window, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ It was scary and cruel. My mother tried to get me to put this into perspective. But it hurt. A lot. And I still get weepy when I think of it and have that old feeling of worthlessness and a desire to close down my circle. Have I passed it on? I don’t know. My daughters won’t talk about discrimination.
Jeremy Ingpen, executive director of the Washingtonville Housing Alliance, said he is troubled by “housing exclusivity in Westchester” and its opposite, flight of the well-to-do. He said the latter is one reason governments, schools and minority and poor residents are struggling in Mount Vernon, Peekskill and Yonkers. In those communities, he says, the well-to-do have opted out, taking their money and support with them.
He said that in a certain way he is pleased with what he finds in Mamaroneck. Even though it has its own neighborhoods with concentrations of racial minorities and the poor, Mamaroneck has gone in the other direction. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods of affluence such as Orienta, Larchmont and the Town have not opted out. One key reason is the existence of a top rated common school system to which all neighborhood children go. “The well-to-do have not opted out. They fund and support the schools and pay their municipal taxes. Our poorest kids have the benefit of attending first- class schools and the opportunities that go with it.”
Panelist Frank W. Streng is a lawyer with McCarthy Fingar LLP. and a passionate fighter for fairness at the ballot box. He believes that voter suppression in Florida in the year 2,000 national election changed the course of history. And he says bad things happen in the Westchester area too. He recollects that Westchester County Legislator Andrea Cousins, an African-American, was denied election in 2004 because of voter intimidation in a largely minority district plus unclear information as to where the official polling place was. Mr. Streng said poll watchers were trained for the next 2006 election and Ms. Cousins won. He said in the past November election there were situations that call for examination. For example, Vassar and other Dutchess County college students, heavily liberal, had their voter registration questioned for frivolous reasons such as not indicating their specific room number at their dormitory residence.
As to the movies that will be shown, the January 12th audience will view “Metropolis”, depicting how two motivated residents were able to put their white flight Pennsylvania community on the road to communal diversity. The film “A Class Divided”, shown on January 13th, demonstrates how well meaning children can be taught to hate and discriminate. The January 14th film, “We Will Stand,” brings home the need for every citizen to fight voter suppression.”