Letter to the Editor: I Don’t Dream, I Perform

By GOODW.Y.N. | news@queensledger.com

When I think of MLK, I do not think about what most would consider. Him gallant and proud on in front of the Washington Monument, that day a magnificent assembly gathered to hear him, and many others speak on behalf of not only a segregation-free nation, but a future without systemic racism dividing all humanity. Fast forward through time and you find me as a young girl in Bed-Stuy, walking in a two-lined collection of fellow students on an “unauthorized” trip to Boys & Girls High School—for my 3rd Grade teacher Ms. Walls never sent in a permission slip for us to take home, nor did she even mention that the trip was bound to happen on such and such day and time and we should inform our folks of it. No, this “trip” was actually my first “walk out.” It was a march against the apartheid happening in South Africa. This act was my first taste of radical Pan-Africanism activism—a concept that united all of the African descendants across the globe into one body, one mind, one spirit with one future in mind: freedom for all.

My biological family, who were poor in pocket but also in philosophy either couldn’t or wouldn’t understand how Pan-Africanism related to MLK’s struggle for them and their children’s children, or why it was a necessary deed for us the children of the “lost era,” being swallowed by, urban decay, the War on Drugs (which really was more the war on Black Americans) and every fashion of anti-Blackness there was to throw at a culture: political, economic, social, constructional, you name it we the eighties babies had to not only face it, but swallow it as we tried to dig our way out nail-and-teeth of America’s poverty grave.

And now like an angry “hell-mouth,” we are looking down at the barrel of destruction yet again. I often think now how uninformed we were back then of Palestine’s plight—the conditions of apartheid they were living under back then, and how if we had marched for them as well as South Africa, we might actually be living in an apartheid free future right now. And more importantly from my perspective as a native New Yorker, the Brooklyn of the past—the Brooklyn of pre-gentrification, the Brooklyn that struggled and screamed “We here! We ready!” would still be “presente.” That Brooklyn, its gold-fronted mouth is silenced more and more with each passing day, with each political pen-stroke and budget cut, with each forced move out, and striking affordable housing plan. I pray that this only makes the children more ungovernable and even more determined to spit in the eye of those who dared condescend.

I know so many of us believe that these changes were for the best. But I believe in something greater than that. I believe in the Christopher Wallace/Biggie Smalls swan song that was shouted out throughout the projects of Brooklyn “It was all a dream…” echoing into the empty streets of the borough during those bleak early days of the pandemic. In that moment, I believed that when MLK stated that “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve,” that he meant them, those people, their voices were giving over to the higher power in the Universe in order to enrich all of our lives and we must humble ourselves to that in which can transform the tides of sorrow, into currents of triumph.

A few weeks ago, numerous protestors took to the streets yet again in the name of solidarity for Palestine Others are coming forward in the names of other Black and Brown filled nations that are in turmoil around the world. I am disabled can’t go to the marches like I used to. But I use my works, my art to create space for dialogue, my writing to grow empathy and perspective, my voice to shout out against evil instead of making the mistake of joining it again. I try so hard to resurrect Brooklyn that stood in the face of tyranny so many years ago. But I don’t dream about the “blanket” handholding ending of the Washington Monument anymore. This time, I allow my works to perform action. And with this broken body I still serve on my feet.  I take those lessons from Bed-Stuy to the heart, wherever I go.


How to Report Dead Animals in Public in New York City

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

Illustration by Christine Stoddard.

More wild animals die during the winter than any time of year. So what do you do with a dead animal if you spot one in public in any of the five boroughs? According to 311, the official website of the City of New York, here’s the action you should take:

   • Call 911 if a dead animal is blocking traffic. For a dead animal that is not posing a threat to traffic, call 311 or 212-639-9675 for assistance.

   • Contact the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) if you find the dead animal on the street or sidewalk. There is a form on the 311 website at portal.311.nyc.gov.

   • For a dead animal sighting in a city park or public beach, report your complaint to the Department of Parks and Recreation, also through the 311 website. For a dead animal in a New York State or federal park, contact the park directly.

   • To report large groups of dead fish in a body of water, call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Local Fish and Wildlife Division, at (631) 444-0714 during business hours.

   • To report a cluster of dead birds, call the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), call 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675) for help. This includes 3 dead geese, swans, ducks, chickens, or turkeys, or 10 or more of other types of birds. Some of the birds may be collected for West Nile Virus testing.

   • The New York Police Department Harbor Unit will respond to reports of dead animals other than birds and fish spotted in large bodies of water, such as a river or bay. Call 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675) for help.

Oral History Transcript Excerpt with MLK Collaborator Angeline Butler

By Brandon Perdomo | news@queensledger.com

“Angeline Butler” by Brandon Perdomo, Studio Birdhaus, 2023

The following excerpt is from a previously unpublished Oral History interview with Professor Angline Butler, an educator, musical performer, actor, playwright, and Civil Rights activist. Butler was an original organizer for the Nashville Sit-Ins, the Freedom Rides, and the March on Washington. Angeline was also a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC), and currently teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Brandon Perdomo, Interviewer [Brooklyn]

Angeline Butler, Narrator [Manhattan]

Transcription by Mx. Sugar Mamasota

Produced by Studio Birdhaus

Interview conducted via ZOOM

November 20, 2020

“Jackie Robinson was my mentor, when I first went to New York. Because of what I had done in Miami — I had gone to jail—back in the—summer of 1960, in ‘round July, 1960. And Jackie Robinson came down there and he—more or less, was responsible for the verdict that they gave us, which was “ejection of undesirable guests”, which was a mandatory sentence of six months in jail, for 13 of us, who had gotten arrested at Shell’s City in Miami. But we went down there to desegregate Miami, through the Congress on Racial Equality and James Farmer was the person who was head of—CORE at that time and he was the one that was sponsoring—the CORE Summer Institute. And he invited John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, and me—we were the representatives from Nashville, student movement—Priscilla Stephens and Patricia Stephens, and a number of other students from Florida, were the people from Tallahassee, movement—that was a very prominent movement as well—I think it was Florida A&M University.

And so, basically 13 of us got arrested, sitting in a Shell’s City, on the second day that we sat in, and now they charged us with the ejection of undesirable guests, then they put us in the 23rd floor of the Dade County Jail! [laughs] In Miami!

Dade County jail that had a premium view of the oceans, [laughs] and Miami Beach—the whole number. And we’re sleeping in bunk beds up there. And, one day, while we’re waiting, our trial, about 20 days, or so—Jackie Robinson comes to see how we’re doing. And he can’t come into the cell. But we meet him through an octagonal window. And I can’t believe that Jackie Robinson, the person who my father, Reverend Butler, always idolized and we always listened to those Dodger games, is there, coming to see about me. So my friendship with Jackie Robinson begins there.

And after—we’re tried, and Jackie Robinson brought diplomats from different African—consulates, from the UN—the Ghana consulate, the Nigerian consulate. And they sat in our courtroom in African paramount chiefs’ ropes, and they embarrass the hell out of that old judge. And so what they gave us was, one year non-reporting probation, with no adjudication, provided we didn’t get arrested again [laughs], in Florida!

Now, that was okay for Angeline Butler, — Lowery, and for Dorothy Miller [Zellner], who were going to go back to—Nashville, or John Lewis, and— Bernard Lafayette—I’m gonna go back to Nashville and go back to New York and go back from wherever, because we were from all over the country. And wasn’t all right for Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, who were going to go back in the fall and lead the movement, you understand [laughs]—and get arrested again. They had already been in jail. They were in jail for like, I think—49 days, and eventually, they had a fast going on for 30 days. And they finally let ‘em out of jail because they didn’t want the students to starve to death! You know! But that was a sit-ins, you know, in 1960.

But anyway, so, I’m meeting all these prominent people, you know, as a result of me having been a part of that movement. And so, soon as we get out of jail, we didn’t go home! We went to New York, because Jackie had organized a fundraiser. And the fundraiser was to help, you know, legal funding of students who were arrested in the south. And he started by, him and Marian [Bruce] Logan—they were in each other’s house with a group of people. And they started giving $10 each, to a fund—and so now Jackie decided to have a concert, where he—organized it on his lawn, which overlooked the river, there. And it was the first concert that they gave, and his wife, Rachel, made these little red aprons that we had to walk around in—those of us who came up from—Miami CORE—that was Priscilla, Patricia, and myself. And, of course, there were a number of other white students that were there with us. And—we drove up, you know, from the South in cars, which also meant that we had a problem going to the bathroom and this kind of stuff [laughs] you know what I’m saying! Needed places to go on the way up to New York! That’s another story. Anyway [laughs] but the point is, we got to New York, and then Jackie found us a place to stay, through friends. And Priscilla got an apartment in Greenwich Village. And we all stayed in her place. And then—so we up at—his house on the lawn, fundraising with these little red aprons on. And now the artists that are there that day are Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderley, Joe Williams is there. We meet all these—top jazz people that day. You know, we have Paul Desmond up there. Of course, I knew Paul Desmond before, you know, that was one of my mentors too—okay. Through the Civil Rights Movement.”

Read the full interview at www.studiobirdhaus.org on February 1, 2024.

Brandon Perdomo is an artist from Great Kills, Staten Island. His work in public & oral history interviewing as a social practice provokes a reclamation of narrative power, featuring narratives concerning “/testimonyofthebody” through interdisciplinary storytelling, with focus towards interrogations of race, place, and history, and sexuality and gender. Studio Birdhaus is the creative studio of Brandon Perdomo. Contact Perdomo at b@studiobirdhaus.org for more info.

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