Sanders Defends Record During Bell Meeting
During a meeting last week to determine the response of Rockaway's black community to the verdict in the Sean Bell case, Councilman James Sanders Jr. wound up defending himself and other area black politicians for their alleged lack of work done for the members of the African-American communities they serve.
One citizen at the April 30 gathering at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church was especially vocal about the issue.
"The voting rights act gave us the right to vote for who we need to represent us. In that process we hoop and holler about how we got them in there, and they haven't done anything for us. Where are the outraged black politicians? Where are the outraged black police?" said the man who identified himself as Andre Shelbourne, as the room erupted in applause.
"We put you in office to do what we could not do, which is to make laws. Nine years post-Amadou Diallo what law is on the books that stops a cop from doing [what was done to Amadou]," continued Shelbourne.
Shelbourne wasn't finished.
"When are you going to put your jobs on the line for the people who put you there," he said to applause and cheers.
Sanders, who could be seen taking notes while Shelbourne was speaking, mixed his response in with his comments on the Bell verdict.
"One of the first things the oppressed do is turn on each other instead…we should save a little bit of our energy for the enemy," said Sanders, as he began to answer Shelbourne.
Sanders talked about the protests he led in Springfield Gardens to get a prison out of the area and to keep a hot sheet motel out of there as well.
"If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing me in one or two places, may I remind you that I haven't had the pleasure of seeing you in one or two places also," said Sanders.
He continued by saying "When I was out there fighting the battle over all the water in Edgemere Park where our kids play, I did not see one or two of you. I'm sure there was something that held you up. I'm going to take it that you were detained, but I want you to grant the same type of dispensation to me and one or two others. If you don't see us, it's not necessarily because we're not doing."
Yet, Shelbourne was not completely convinced.
"As an elected official, you are the voice of popular opinion. You are the voice of the people who put you where you are. Don't turn around and blame us and tell us we need to go out," said Shelbourne.
Sanders, who offered to meet with Shelbourne after the meeting, replied by saying, "It's hard to fight the power when you are getting no support. It's hard to fight the power when all you hear is 'you haven't done' and you may find yourself the only one doing.
"Sometimes you've got to catch the leaders doing something right. If you want them to do right, catch them doing something right, too, and say that's right. Because when you do right and no one says it, and everyone else is saying 'man you shouldn't do that'…after a while you start bending."