Thomas Sankara in Harlem

The 5th President of Burkina Faso -Thomas Sankara (1949-1987) – visited Harlem in 1984 to give an impassioned speech asking for solidarity between Africans and the African diaspora.

Sankara spoke at Harriet Tubman Elementary School (P.S. 154) in Harlem, New York City, after the Reagan Administration denied President Sankara an official state visit to the White House – likely the result of Sankara’s socialist and Pan-African rhetoric. Sankara, who was in New York City to speak at the United Nations at the time, received word of the Reagan Administrations’ decision and headed uptown to Harlem.

President Sankara’s most inflammatory catchphrase was: “For the African Revolutionary, My White House is in Black Harlem!”

Note that the president also unhooked his belt and raised the belt and his pistol to emphasize his belief in direct revolution.

President Sankara was overthrown and killed in a coup three years later.

Amsterdam News Reports on the Plight of the small (Black) Landlord

Amsterdam News reports on how Black landlords are finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat in New York City.

Small homeowners — multi-generational, multi-family, often Black and brown homeowners – are increasingly leaving New York, or unable to continue as landlords in many of New York City’s residential and renter neighborhoods. 

Black and minority home and property owners have been left at the mercy of the financial crisis in the early 2000s, and the COVID-19 pandemic only furthered housing insecurity.

“We’ll never own property at the rate we owned. Never again,” said Community Activist Paul Toomer Muhammad. “This is the foolishness.” Muhammad has been a property owner in East New York in Brooklyn for almost 20 years. He had two properties. His neighborhood is 55.4% Black and 34.9% Hispanic.
Muhammad blames “aggressive” emergency pandemic policies like the city’s eviction moratorium and the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)/Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP) for setting back small landlords in one- to four-unit homes because they were not distinguished enough from large commercial buildings or buildings with more than six rent-controlled units, and therefore not protected. 

Some Black landlords have joined the lawsuit five small landlords filed against State Attorney General Letitia James, claiming that the COVID Foreclosure Prevention Act hurt their interests.

“I’m in the same court system where you can stall a tenant in my house for a year and a half, but I still have to pay mortgage, water bill, tax, heat, electricity,” said Muhammad. “A foreclosure is an eviction to the landlord and the tenant.”

To read more, see:

Head to The Schomburg

Alison Saar, the artist behind the Harriet Tubman sculpture at St. Nicholas and Frederick Douglass Blvds. has created a work based on the playwright, journalist, activist, and lesbian, Lorraine Hansberry.

Saar, who also did the jazz era sculptures of Harlem residents that are on the Metro-North platforms at the 125th Street Station, will unveil the work in its final home in Chicago. Before then, however, the sculpture will be on view in the Schomburg from today until June 18th.

From The Schomburg, the sculpture “To Sit Awhile” will head to Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, and then head on a national tour. The permanent installation site (Chicago) is Hansberry’s birthplace, and the setting of her most famous work: ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, an American hero, was born this month in 1822 into enslavement. Her work as a spy, activist, abolitionist, feminist, and advocate is rightfully considered some of the most consequential and daring of the 19th century.

Harriet Tubman undertook an incredible 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using and fortifying the Underground Railroad. Every moment her daring work took her into the slave-holding south was one where capture would have meant certain death.

Additionally, during the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army.

Her work for justice did not end with the conclusion of the civil war. Later in life, Harriet Tubman worked as a women’s sufferage activist.

Born enslaved in Maryland, Tubman was devoutly religious and passionately political. In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, and later met John Brown in 1858, and helped him plan and recruit supporters for his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was instrumental in a raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people. After the war, she retired to the family home on property she had purchased in 1859 in Auburn, New York, where she cared for her aging parents.

Harlem’s monument to this amazing American hero presents a determined Harriet Tubman, striding towards to the south to bring yet another group of enslaved Americans, northward.

Tubman’s statue, also known as “Swing Low,” was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, and designed by the African-American artist Alison Saar. It was dedicated in 2008 at Harlem’s Harriet Tubman Triangle on 122nd Street. In her memorial sculpture, Saar chose to depict Tubman “not so much as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, but as a train itself, an unstoppable locomotive that worked towards improving the lives of slaves for most of her long life.” She told the Parks Department, “I wanted not merely to speak of her courage or illustrate her commitment, but to honor her compassion.”

Artist A. Saar’s (who also did work on the platforms of Metro-North at Park/124) work is bolstered by some of the most political horticultural plantings I know of – cotton, for example – perhaps the commodity inextricably linked to the slavery economy.



Silent Procession – NYC4PR – Has a New Website

“Estamos Contigo Puerto Rico” – “We are With You Puerto Rico”

Silent Procession has a new website dedicated to expressing solidarity with Puerto Rico and maintaining the spotlight on the response to, and consequences of, Hurricane Maria.