Navy Veteran Bernadette Semple challenges embattled State Sen. Malcolm Smith in the Democratic primary for his southeast Queens seat and goes up against useless former Councilman Leroy Comrie

Navy Veteran Bernadette Semple, a victim of a kind of voter suppression by Leroy Comrie

Voter suppression has been a big topic in recent years, especially during the Obama/Romney campaign, where many voters, mostly Black and Hispanic were tossed of the voters rolls.

Ironic that another type of voter suppression that you do not hear that much about is “petition challenges”, where usually an incumbent attempts to remove a candidate from the ballot, which tends to happen much in Jamaica, to keep the incumbent in office while removing any newcomers who might pose a threat to the status quo.

It has happened during a past election where Councilman Ruben Wills had two candidates removed from the ballots (and he was re-elected) and most recently happened this past primary, where Leroy Comrie had Navy Vet Bernadette Semple removed from the primary ballot feeling that a strong, smart and educated black female posed too much of a threat to him. Although Ms. Semple was removed from the primary on September 11th,  the Appellate Division accepted her case and  Oral Arguments are on  October 7th, 2014 which means Ms. Semple a highly qualified Senate candidate (much more than Comrie) might just appear on the ballot come the General Election in November.

Very ironic that voter suppression which tends to target people of color, is very much alive and well in Jamaica, but this time it is being done by black leaders against black candidates.

From City Council Watch:

Are Petition Challenges Voter Suppression?

Petition challenges are, in their current form at least, a mode of candidate suppression that favors establishment candidates over insurgents, and wealthier candidates over their poorer opponents.  The Queens political machine is exercising its muscle in Jamaica to keep a woman Navy veteran off the ballot and ensure that its party stalwart has a clear shot at Malcolm Smith’s senate seat.

The petitioning season is 37 days long and requires candidates for office to develop at least the semblance of a campaign organization–arguably a positive means of filtering out clowns and non-starters.  Acquiring the 1000 signatures necessary for a state senate campaign necessitates getting out a troop of either volunteers or paid canvassers.  The rule of thumb in petitioning is to aim for three times the minimum, in order to account for “bad” signatures: those of non-registrants, non-residents, or duplicates.  So getting on the ballot isn’t something that a non-serious candidate with few resources can consider doing.

The acts of challenging an opponent’s petitions adds an abusive layer to the process, because it costs a huge amount of money to mount a challenge.  Challenges are thus almost always brought against insurgent candidates, and are most often brought by party organizations that want to clear the field for their selected candidate.  Non-establishment candidates rarely have the resources to hire an elections lawyer to pore over hundreds of pages of signatures and cross-reference them with a voter file.

Governor Cuomo’s challenge to Zephyr Teachout’s candidacy is an obvious example.  By challenging her petitions he can force her lean campaign to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend her access to the ballot.  If the challenge works and he gets her thrown off the ballot, so much the better for him, but if the challenge fails, there is no comeback for the Cuomo campaign, and Teachout has to divert campaign money to cover the cost.  The nature of the political system is that the public pays no attention to these squabbles, and accepts the ballot as it reaches the voter as democracy’s fresh slate.  Kicking someone off the ballot is just seen as fair application of the rules.

In Malcolm Smith’s District 14, covering Southeast Queens, a petition challenge is on against candidate Bernadette Semple that illustrates the twisted nature of the challenge process.  Senator Smith, involved in a major corruption trial, is ostensibly running for re-election, but hasn’t raised any money.  Also running are attorney Munir Avery and former councilmember and Queens County Democratic Party choice Leroy Comrie.

Comrie served in the Council as the chair of Land Use and as the head of the Queens delegation.  He ran briefly for Queens Borough President but his tepid campaign was called off early: the rumor was that Queens Dem boss Joe Crowley wanted Comrie to step aside so Melinda Katz could have a clear shot at the post, without having to worry about the large Queens black vote.  Comrie’s reward at this point appears to be total “County” support for his Senate run.

Bernadette Semple threatens Comrie’s campaign because, as the only woman in a three or four-way race, she could make the election seriously competitive.  Semple is also a retired Navy Lieutenant Commander, and unlike Comrie, has no ties to the rats’ nest of corruption that characterizes SE Queens politics.  Comrie probably figures he can easily outgun Munir Avery, whose financing seems largely tapped out and whose support is mostly among the area’s substantial but limited Muslim community.  Running against a woman could pose other challenges.

Semple submitted approximately 2,900 petition signatures, most of which are considered solid, according to people in the know.  But in a startling parallel to what is going on in Brooklyn, where boss Frank Seddio is supporting a petition challenge against Dell Smitherman, who is opposing Senator Sampson’s re-election, the Queens County Dems are apparently organizing a petition challenge in order to secure Comrie a clear ballot.

Petition challenges get very granular, and often hinge on eliminating the signatures of people who live on the border of the district.  This technicality is a powerful yet understated effect of partisan districting.  Elected officials and the party apparatus get to draw the borders of their districts at redistricting time, and as a result many urban districts are totally jackstraw and segmented.  The borders may zig and zag back and forth from block to block, in order to capture or exclude certain segments of voters.  Good government groups have long pointed to partisan districting as a significant way that incumbent electeds protect themselves from challenges.

A side effect of this unfortunate wrinkle in local politics is that people often do not know precisely which district they live in.  If political borders do not fall on natural lines of division (e.g. “south of Union Turnpike”) then it is very hard for a campaign worker, even one who is knowledgeable and informed, to be able to tell a potential signatory who lives near a boundary exactly which district they should vote in.  District maps of sufficient detail are too unwieldy for petitioners to lug around.

In the end, it seems that candidate suppression through petition challenges is another way for well-funded political machines to amass and retain power.  And in a one-party system, isn’t candidate suppression ultimately the same thing as voter suppression?



Did anyone notice that Mayor de Blasio came out to Jamaica at Archer Avenue at the Jamaica Center Subway Station on election night to give support to Leroy Comrie’s run for Senate? Did many of you know about the big conference at York College this past summer with Melinda Katz and many powers to be talking about the “potential of Jamaica” (That was the same day and time as the guy at McDonalds with a big knife in his back, blood running all down him while he chatted on a cell phone)? Remember Malcolm Smith a few weeks ago trying to save his ass at a debate by saying gentrification is starting to take place in Jamaica?

Well, I don’t know if gentrification is taking place, but something is taking place and maybe something for the good, but who really knows.

An excerpt from New York Magazine ( you can read the entire article at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/de-blasio-affordable-housing-queens.html, but lets focus on the part about Jamaica:

In Terms of Affordable Housing, Queens Is de Blasio’s Last Best Hope


de blasioMiddle-class families all over the country are helping to push other families just like them out of New York. How? By sending their kids checks. The city’s creative industries (like magazine publishing, fashion, and performing arts) couldn’t exist without a renewable supply of the young and the underpaid whose salaries (if any) are supplemented by remittances from home. It’s a form of tribute, really. Someone has to pay for the hipness of Brooklyn, and so money flows in from Shaker Heights and Merion and Menlo Park, supporting tattoo salons, craft-beer bars, and real-estate brokers.

Meanwhile, roughly a third of New ­Yorkers—nearly 3 million people—live in quarters that suck up more than half of the household’s income. (It’s small comfort to know that the housing burden is worse in eight other cities, including San Jose and Detroit.) De Blasio has cast himself as a champion of the poor, but their struggles are part of larger pressures. Almost everyone in New York is being nudged out of somewhere, migrating from neighborhood to neighborhood, from doorman building to walk-up, from two-bedroom to studio, or leaving the city with a mixture of regret and relief. The surreal cost of housing has propelled teachers out beyond tolerable commuting distances, signaled to young college graduates who lack parental subsidies that they might want to think about Pittsburgh, and ratcheted up the pressure on affordable housing so high that nearly 60,000 people applied for the 105 subsidized apartments in a new building in Greenpoint.

So what’s a well-meaning mayor to do? Does New York’s only hope of affordability lie in a summer of spectacular crime or a well-placed riot? Are we faced with a choice between choking on affluence and old-fashioned urban decay? Surely not.

Part of the answer may lie in deeply un-chic neighborhoods like southeastern Queens. To Manhattanites, commuters, and tourists, Jamaica is where the LIRR, the subway, and the AirTrain meet. It’s also an area that is encouragingly incomplete. It has underused buildings, vacant lots, and a dearth of shopping. Andrew Manshel, an executive with the nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, estimates that his organization could find land for 5,000 apartments without breaking a sweat, and 7,500 with a little more effort.

And yet even Jamaica is too expensive for the people most likely to live there. Enter de Blasio’s affordable-housing program. Here, where developers need to be coaxed into taking a risk, where profits are low and the market wobbly, the city can pump in subsidies and pile up an inventory of affordable housing without worrying about stoking a real-estate wildfire. It’s happening: The developer BRP will soon start construction on two towers with some 500 total units in southeast Queens that could turn the neighborhood into a permanently affordable haven. That doesn’t come close to solving the problem. For one thing, de Blasio is hoping to build 80,000 new affordable units; for another, it would be nice to alleviate New York’s economic segregation rather than increase it. But Jamaica is one of the few remaining counterweights to the commodity culture of housing. Well connected but far from cool, the area is a natural habitat for cops and teachers, not slumming financiers. “People aren’t paying a premium to live in Jamaica,” Manshel says. We can only hope that they never do.

*This article appears in the September 8, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.


Just as Jamaica was used for years and decades to dump all kind of bad shit that no other area wanted, now it is going to be used for the powers to be to do what they want, since they seem to have backed themselves into a corner and are out of options with affordable housing. What they did in Long Island City, well, no middle class folks can live there anymore, that area is out of range for the majority of middle to even upper middle class folks.

Could be a good thing though, only time will tell. But even though Jamaica is a big patch of land, you still could not put up that much affordable housing to take care of a gigantic problem that has been ignored for years. But then there is a lot of crap here in our community that can be torn down and Jamaica can be used as a blank slate, something I have said in the past.

But if this is going to happen, to make room for all those middle class teachers, police officers, etc, the bottom of the barrel folks are going to have to go or learn to behave themselves. One thing is for certain, in this day in age in NYC with cost of living sky high, affordable housing unavailable to most, the exiting of some of our population, Jamaica can no longer continue it’s existence of “ghetto living” and be a haven for homegrown bottom of the barrel folks or low-class immigrants who have turned it into some shitty third world country piece of shit (see Hillside Avenue). That option is no longer viable or cost effective.

But a commenter on this article on the Queens Crap website stated something that I have been saying since day one:

In Jamaica, instead of giving subsidies to developers up front, why not first put taxpayer dollars directly into more city services like additional sanitation pick ups, increased policing and infrastructure rebuilding? Then the area becomes cleaner, safer and much more livable. And guess what. Jamaica becomes a place where suddenly lots of people want to live. Then, lo and behold, developers will be scrambling to build there and the city can demand from the developers that units for affordable housing be set aside.

Why does the city continue its hand-outs to developers? By investing in itself first and making areas more desirable with improved basic services and renewed infrastructure, it can cut out the developer middleman and create jobs (more sanitation workers, more police officers and more DOT workers).

Why does the city want to benefit developers before working people? If you put working people first, the developers will follow. The city needs to envision this differently.

New York doesn’t need developers. Developers need New York.

Very good point!

Future of Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue

Future of Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue


bernadette SempleMy name is Bernadette Semple and I am running to be your next State Senator. I grew up with nine brothers and sisters in Laurelton and Astoria Houses. We lived in a three bedroom apartment while my parents both worked around the clock to take care of our family. From an early age, my parents taught me the importance of hard work, community service, and strong leadership.

After graduating High School, I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the College of Holy Cross. With inspiration from great mentors at Holy Cross, I pursued two master’s degrees in Information Resource Management and National Security Affairs, with concentrations in Nuclear Strategic Planning and International Negotiation. This led me to enlist in the United States Navy. As a Navy Commander, I served five presidents and was a ranking member in the Horn of Africa. My twenty years in the Navy helped me grow a deep appreciation for my community, which led me to come back home and continue my commitment to public service. Now, I want to take these skills and serve on the front lines of the New York State Senate.

Too often politicians forget what it means to represent their communities. Politics and corruption have obliterated the most important purpose elected officials serve: to protect and represent their constituents’ best interests. I walk down our streets and see dirt and crime, I see students struggling with their college tuition, I see small businesses closing as their owners barely get by, I see our senior citizens suffering from lack of attention, both institutionally and medically.

We need to partner with the Department of Sanitation and clean up our streets. We need to know we can count on the NYPD to work with our community, not against it, to fight crime. We need to start from the beginning, with additional after-school programs and early childhood education for every child in the district.

We can realize the dream of a better district, with true leadership that’s willing to fight for you. Together we are a team. We are a team that does not settle for lackluster politicians and corruption. We are a team that takes action to fix problems and find solutions. Let’s take care of our own and move forward – together.

I look forward to earning your support


Democrat for State Senate
Semple for Senate – leadership with Integrity







Looks like this guy cannot believe what he is seeing.

Looks like this guy cannot believe what he is seeing.

So leaders, want to still continue to ignore the garbage problem in Jamaica, still one to be inactive as opposed to pro-active, still want to continue for Jamaica to be views as low-class ghetto?

Well, the  photos taken at the AutoZone at 109-02 Merrick Blvd, does not get any low-class ghetto than this. Not only do we have garage dumped below the AutoZone in their parking lot, we have this lovely sofa and a couple UPS boxes, which the one photos show the address as XL Unlimited Wireless at 109-20 Merrick Blvd, just in the next block.

Box from XL Unlimited at 109-20 Merrick Blvd

Box from XL Unlimited at 109-20 Merrick Blvd


































You might as well keep on going a few more blocks to also see the mounds of garbage near the tree in front of the small parking lot ( next door to 110-24 Merrick Blvd) that belongs to Rev. Floyd Flake’s church as well. No doubt either the apartments above 110-24 Merrick Blvd or the businesses near by have been dumping this garbage for some time in front of this parking lot, yet nothing is being done about this.

Flake's AME Church Parking Lot

Flake’s AME Church Parking Lot

So now, the BIG QUESTION, what the hell are you all going to do about this and with the information you have?


According to the Times Ledger:

Mayor comes to Jamaica to campaign for Comrie

State Sen. hopeful Leroy Comrie got one last push for his campaign in the early evening hours before the polls closed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped by Jamaica a little after 6 p.m. to help get out the vote for the former councilman.

“Have you voted yet?” the mayor asked a couple who was passing by.

“No,” they said. “But we are going to vote for him,” they said, pointing at Comrie.

De Blasio campaigned with Comrie and other elected officials from southeast Queens, for about 25 minutes, giving out fliers and shaking hands with commuters.

Some people coming from work out of the subway station at Archer Avenue did not stop and kept walking as they were trying to get to a bus to go home.

But most stopped, talked with the mayor and the candidate, and even took photos and, of course, selfies.

At the bus and subway station in Jamaica at Archer Avenue, there was the battle of the air horns.

Volunteers working for state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) and others working for Leroy Comrie were trying to figure out who were the louder ones.

Comrie’s camp won in this case, as his campaign volunteer outnumbered those of Smith. Both the senator and the former councilman were standing a few feet apart, each giving out fliers about their campaigns to straphangers heading home after a full day of work.

—Juan Soto


So while Mayor de Blasio was out in Jamaica campaigning for useless Leroy Comrie during rush hour Election day, did he walk around and take a look at the mess in Jamaica, all the litter, all the garbage, overflowing baskets, dirty sidewalks and streets (and that is just where de Blasio was standing). He should have considering that 12 year as Councilman in Jamaica, Comrie did nothing regarding those issues. And since when de Blasio was Public Advocate, his staff meet with me in his Manhattan office about the major garbage problem and then he sent one of his staff out to Jamaica to take photos of the many problem areas, so it is not like the current Mayor is not aware of the garbage problem as is Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, yet both have ignored the issue, done nothing and endorsed Leroy Comrie, who had totally ignored the issue in his 12 years as councilmember.

Something mighty wrong with this system. But Comrie will have to battle Navy Vet Bernadette Semple come November’s general election (http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/navy-vet-bernadette-semple-to-compete-against-leroy-comrie-in-novembers-general/).

By the way, when I went to vote at my polling site, Queens Library on Merrick Blvd/89th Ave, the entire surrounding library was filthy with litter and garbage, yet Comrie, dumped millions of funding dollars into this library, while the outside area is a mess.

A few blocks away from this area in downtown Jamaica, de Blasio was stumping for Comrie

A few blocks away from this area in downtown Jamaica, de Blasio was stumping for Comrie

Dangerous falling apart vacant homes with garbage

Couple blocks from Merrick Blvd Queens Library

Comrie's own backyard of St. Albans.

Comrie’s own backyard of St. Albans.

This is the REAL Jamaica Revealed. Not too pleasant.

This is the REAL Jamaica Revealed. Not too pleasant.

Downtown Jamaica

Downtown Jamaica

This is a fucking sidewalk, not a garbage dump.

More downtown garbage


Navy Veteran Bernadette Semple challenges embattled State Sen. Malcolm Smith in the Democratic primary for his southeast Queens seat and goes up against useless former Councilman Leroy Comrie

Navy Veteran Bernadette Semple challenges Leroy Comrie in November

For those out there disappointed that entrenched, useless Leroy Comrie won the primary election for Senate in District 14 (and there are many of you), well there just might be someone to take this man on. In fact this decorated Navy Vet was to be on the ballot for the primary, but Comrie and his goons played dirty politics to get her tossed off, but as I said before we probably have not heard the last of Ms. Bernadette Semple and we have not.


Navy Veteran Bernadette Semple hopeful to compete against Leroy Comrie in November 

Decorated Retired Navy Commander, Wounded Warrior and 911 Survivor Bernadette Semple is still a hopeful to run in November for the District 14 Queens Senate seat. Semple was originally certified and placed on the ballot by the BOE and scheduled to be listed #2 behind Malcolm Smith on the ballot.  Leroy Comrie perceived Semple as a threat, and in a move to suppress votes filed a frivolous invalidating proceeding in Queens Supreme court to have her removed from that Primary ballot. Semple has appealed to the Second Department and is waiting their decision.  The Semple for Senate Campaign is still active and aggressively moving forward in preparation for the November election.  Miss Semple stated, “I am not ready to be counted out just yet, trusting that the The Appellate Division, Second Department will find in my favor thus allowing me to compete in November. I believe in Democracy and the Democratic process.” So, many of the citizens of District 14 have expressed their disappointment in not being able to vote for me yesterday.  District 14 deserves a Senator with integrity, proven leadership, who has defended her country as a cyber security expert and who will press for results on issues important to Queens area residents and their families.  Bernadette Semple stands ready and anxiously welcomes the opportunity to compete against Comrie for the District 14 senate seat as stated in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
William L. Anderson
Press Secretary
Semple for Senate ‘14



Sure we all had a feeling that entrenched and very loved Leroy Comrie was going to win the Senate election, but what is extremely disturbing is that crook Senator Malcolm Smith actually placed 2nd, while newcomer attorney Munir Avery came in last.

Comrie had 69.9 percent of the vote with 73.1 percent of the precincts reported, according to preliminary results from the AP, Smith HAD 19.5 percent and Munir Avery came in third with 10.6 percent.

Wow, new comer and attorney Avery came in last, while a crooked and pretty useless Jamaica elected leader, who is going to trial come January, beat him for 2nd place. And we never did get a chance to get Navy Vet, Bernadette Semple, on the ballot due to Comrie’s shenanigans and what the hell happened with attorney Clyde Vanel, who mysteriously dropped out. Says so much about the Jamaica ghetto mentality and politics.

Ghetto politics, ghetto leaders, ghetto residents. Yes, Virginia, Jamaica is SO GHETTO. For more on ghetto politics, read the very interesting and must read article below.Ghetto Politics (Cover)

From the Black Agenda Report:

How Ghetto Politics Has Outlived the Ghetto, and Still Holds All Of Us Back

The class of cultural, business and political hacks who pass themselves off as “black leaders” never tire of celebrating the sixties. But they have nothing to say about the seventies, eighties or nineties when the prison state and drug war engulfed the black lower classes and the gains of the New Deal and Great Society rolled back, all during their watch. They’re ghetto politicians, and ghetto politics have failed.

How Ghetto Politics Outlived the Ghetto, And Still Holds Us Back

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Remembering the sixties, forgetting the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Our black class of political and cultural misleaders never tire of evoking, recalling and celebrating the sixties Freedom Movement. It was after all, the era of unified and successful black opposition to Jim Crow which catapulted them into their current prominence. It opened the doors of legislatures, city halls, corporate boardrooms, elite universities and the entertainment industry to thousands of black faces in high places.

But why do our leaders have shockingly little to say about black progress during the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, and the new century, excepting the ascension of Barack Obama. One would almost believe nothing important happened in those decades of their actual leadership. One would be wrong. Plenty happened in that time, but almost none of it reflects well on the current crop of leaders and the outdated, self-serving version of black politics they have foisted upon us.

Black politics as we know it originated in the mid-twentieth century urban ghettoes of places like Chicago, Detroit, Harlem and Atlanta. The first World War cut off the supply of white immigrant labor at the same time it created demands for greatly increased production. The solution was to attract black labor to mostly northern cities. Blacks who came north, and to places like Atlanta and Birmingham as well, found they were still discriminated against, confined to certain areas of the city regardless of class. They developed their own institutions, their own consumer market and their own social relations which to some extent sheltered and protected inhabitants from interactions with hostile whites.

What is meant by “the ghetto”? When and why did the ghetto end?

But the black ghetto, as sociologist Loic Wacquant explains in this fifty minute interview, was not just a poor or even a segregated neighborhood. The ghetto was primarily a social device, a contraption, he calls it, for extracting black labor while stigmatizing and confining all black people to a particular urban space. Inevitably, the ghetto developed its own politics as well, chiefly the politics of opposition to the racial segregation which brought it into being. The eventual success of ghetto politics in mobilizing black communities against Jim Crow played a major role in dissolving the traditional black urban ghetto by the early 1970s. The other factor that spelled the end of the urban ghetto was that US manufacturing no longer needed black labor.

At the same time the ghetto lost its function of separating blacks from the larger society while extracting their labor, better-off blacks were finally able to move outside the old ghetto areas. Job opportunities for those left behind vanished. Unions, which exerted pressure to keep wages up, even for those not their members, dwindled and wages for those who could find work fell. Social programs from the 30s New Deal and the 60s Great Society from housing assistance to welfare were cut again and again. The drug war was unleashed upon black communities nationwide and the prison state rolled out in the former ghetto neighborhoods to contain and confine the poor, the marginalized, the supposedly delinquent, the lowest economic class of African Americans.

The left-behind inner city neighborhoods are the exclusive sphere of the lowest economic rungs of African America, over-policed, denuded of wealth and social services, stripped of protective and nurturing social institutions. They are nothing like the ghettoes of a half century ago. They are something else altogether. But the political leadership, the politics of the ghetto, with its pretensions to uniting and representing all African Americans regardless of economic class survive and persist to this day.

What do present-day ghetto politics look like?

It’s a sweet deal for ghetto politicians like Philly’s Mayor Michael Nutter, like Detroit’s Congressman John Conyers, like Mayor Atlanta’s Kasim Reed and a host of others bigger and smaller, women and men. All of them, especially when confronted by white opponents, pretend to be heirs of the civil rights movements and stand-ins for the aspirations of all African Americans. Atlanta’s Kasim Reed claimed to be a “civil rights lawyer” even though he spent his career defending corporations that violated civil rights, not the humans whose rights were trampled upon. John Conyers was re-elected more than twenty times in the hope that his seniority would finally benefit his inner-city constituents.

Black America’s old-school ghetto political leadership starts from the assumption that there are no classes and no class differences in the black community that matter. So the unfolding of the prison state to engulf the black lower classes is something they collaborated in, instead of working to slow it down or stopping it. The nationwide campaign to demolish public housing and explicitly NOT gather data on the whereabouts and well-being of those who were in those dispersed communities also punished only the black lower classes, so our ostensibly class-blind black ghetto leadership saw no harm in that either. Many of them have profited handsomely and directly from gentrification, from the literal dispersal of the communities which made their careers possible.

Again, the hollowed-out heart of old-school ghetto politics is the pretense that there are no class distinctions in “the black community” that matter. But it is a pretense, conscious or not. Black leaders in any city you can name will call press conferences, file lawsuits and occasionally throw up a token afternoon picket line to protest any threat to the set-asides of black contractors who do business with state and local government. That is the class of black interests which matter to them. But black mayors like Atlanta’s Kasim Reed can declare their public intention to default on the pensions of a generation of city workers and teachers without a murmur or protest from black elected officials, from the National Action Network, the Urban League or the NAACP. When the interests of lower-class African Americans are on the line, our ghetto politicians from the president to the Congressional Black Caucus to our black state legislators and mayors are all AWOL.

Is Barack Obama a ghetto politician too?

By this definition of ghetto politics, Barack Obama, who most people would not imagine as a ghetto politician, is in fact the ultimate practitioner and beneficiary of ghetto politics. While he reassured whites that there is no white community, there is no black community, his career and legitimacy have been absolutely dependent upon a united black vote. His presidential campaign was a content-free marketing triumph, the ultimate evocation of people’s hazy and imagined memories of the sixties. But while the Malcolm X Grassroots Organization recently showed, a black person is killed by cops or vigilante violence about every 40 hours, President Barack Obama could only be outraged when his class peer, the esteemed Dr. Henry Louis Gates was handcuffed and dragged off to jail from his own front porch.

Pre-katrina New Orleans was the poorest big city in the US, and one of the blackest. When the man-made disaster offered developers and their captive politicians the chance to cleanse the Gulf Coast of hundreds of thousands of black residents, many of whom had been there three centuries, the black misleadership class did absolutely nothing. There were thousands of black architects and city planners, tens of thousands of black lawyers and countless numbers of medical and public health professionals, as well as thousands of black elected officials in the US at the time. Did the powerful and affluent black leadership call a summit to come up with plans to rebuild the Gulf Coast with a place for its African American residents who were being dispersed across the country? They did not. Why? Because most New Orleans residents were renters, not homeowners. They were waiters and cooks, musicians and laborers and mechanics. If they weren’t renters they owned no more than a small home. The dispersed African Americans of the Gulf Coast were not part of the class of blacks who mattered, even though we’re all supposed to be in this together.

The black misleadership class are always praising, frankly worshiping black wealth wherever they can find it, as the potential salvation of African Americans. But all the seven or eight US black billionaires and near billionaires put together in their entire careers haven’t sent as many kids to college or guaranteed the health care and retirement security of as many black families as the ATU transit workers of New York City in their illegal 2005 strike. But legalizing unions and the strike everywhere is something you won’t hear from the mouths of ghetto politicians.

Even the likening of the prison state, which preys almost exclusively on lower-class blacks and Latinos, has only been comprehensible to the black political class by Michelle Alexander’s faulty metaphor equating “mass incarceration” with “a New Jim Crow.” Until Ms. Alexander made it OK to talk about the prison state, albeit as “mass incarceration” something it really is not, strictly speaking, the black political class had no way to even begin to discuss it except as bad choices, personal and familial failures of the part of the poor.

It’s not mass incarceration, it’s class incarceration.

The prison state is in fact really NOT a new Jim Crow, because Jim Crow applied to ALL African Americans regardless of class. As Loic Wacquant shows in his latest work, a black person with a college education today stands only half the chance a black person with similar education did of going to prison 40 years ago. But a black male high school dropout is six times as likely to go to prison as his counterpart in 1970. Jim Crow was not a class thing, while the current prison state is very much class-specific. So it’s not mass incarceration, it’s class incarceration. Our black political class, still tied to the ghetto politics of old however, cannot admit the existence of class differences inside the African American community. The “New Jim Crow” metaphor provides them a way to shoehorn some of the reality of the ubiquitous prison state into their view of a black community without meaningful class differences. Before Alexander came up with it they had no way to discuss the results of the prison state without blaming its victims. The “New Jim Crow” then, is great metaphor, but poor analysis.

In the present era, old-school ghetto politics is a lie. Our black political class is still celebrating the sixties and ignoring everything that happened in the seventies, eighties, nineties and beyond because those are the decades of failures on their watch — failures to understand and combat the unfolding the drug war and the prison state, failures to combat gentrification and privatization, failures to confront the dismantling of poor communities, the stripping of public services and the diminishment of black lives and livelihoods.

The failure of ghetto politics, and the black misleadership class that practices it, is the failure to acknowledge the existence of economic class within the African American community, and to stand up for the class interests of most blacks. It’s time for a completely new black politics.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta Ga and can be reached via this site’s contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.