Remembering Al Vann Series
We are continuing the series on Al Vann – Remembering Al Vann Series. Below is an article published by the House of the Lord Church VICTORY newspaper in February 1976 titled, Al Vann: The Question of Survival.
Al Vann: The Question of Survival
By: Sis. Rosalind Sparrow
Today’s sincere politician has the nearly impossible task of convincing the public of his honesty in the midst of political scandal and pervasive corruption. Responding to one such claimant, we listen to State Assemblyman Al Vann. Mr. Vann of Brooklyn’s 56th District is seeking re-election to the assembly, as well as election as the District leader, a non-salaried, yet powerful position currently held by Carl Butler.
Mr. Vann’s territory, which covers much of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is comprised of mostly Black and Puerto Rican voters. He views the Primary as the election most crucial to his constituents in that its outcome most directly affects their lives. When asked the reason that more politicians did not educate the populace to this fact, he replied that unfortunately some politicians feel that this would be to their detriment in that they would then be held accountable to the populace for their actions. Wisened voters would be able to demand that their representatives introduce and support laws and proposals which would uplift the community, rather than the personal careers of politicians. Mr. Vann, who claims to wish to remedy this situation, has set out to inform his populace of the importance of voting by holding community workshops, mailing out information, and appearing at community gatherings in an effort to educate his voters about the issues and the candidates for whom they are voting. He finds it most grievous that Black people are still unsophisticated where voting is concerned and are unaware of its potential power to work on their behalf. “What Blacks must learn is that they don’t have to like politics, but in order to survive in this system, they must learn to use it. Without voting strength behind them, minority officials must beg for crumbs.”
Questioned as to the reasons for the silence on the part of black leaders regarding payroll cuts which have reduced black city workers to a disastrous level, he responded that it was due in part to the difficulty incurred by Blacks in gaining the ear of the media. “Often we call press conferences and are ignored.” “Another reason for the silence,” he responded, “is that no one has any easy solutions.” He contended that the entire city was hurting and that only those with established voter blocs of power were in a position to demand even slight partiality. “It is most unfortunate that at this time we cannot vote intelligently as a bloc, for the reverberations of the present inequities in health care, and in the education system will be felt for years to come.”
Expressing his opinion on the church's role in politics the Assemblyman spoke of the church as being one of the remaining “free” institutions controlled by the community and expecting from it, leadership and guidance. “The church, for the most part, still has the trust of the people and consequently can enlighten its membership on how to legislate laws for the maintenance and freedom of the body as well as spiritual enlightenment for the soul.” He also feels the church should be more active in the educational process of our youth. “Blacks must free their minds of the idea that education must take place within a particular structure. A room, a loft, or a church can effectively service the needs of education. Schools should again be controlled by the community, as they originally were.”
In describing his first term’s record as an Assemblyman, Al Vann spoke of his part in securing such legislation as the Mail Registration Bill, obtaining funds for the Youth Development
Center, the Wiltwick School and the Umbrella Program. All of these programs are within the community, staffed by the community, and serviced for the community.
In concluding, he spoke of the upcoming election. “Because of a lack of leadership at the community level, I have been urged to run for District Leader. People realize that my concept is one of community development and equal leadership for women. Putting this into practice, my running mate for District Leader is Ella McQueen, a former student of mine who will handle real issues while I am in Albany. This breaks the tradition of the female district leader relating mainly to social functions. The crucial need for leaders interested in their communities cannot be over-emphasized if Blacks as a people are to survive.”
To be continued...