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Obama’s visit to Harlem labeled a big letdown

After more than two years in office, the first president of African descent finally made his way to the historic cultural and intellectual center of Black America, Harlem. NNPA News Service

After more than two years in office, the first president of African descent finally made his way to the historic cultural and intellectual center of Black America, Harlem.

And for many in the Harlem community, his visit was nothing short of a big letdown.

The president made two stops: at Harlem’s new “it” spot the Red Rooster (a restaurant), and at the always tony Studio Museum of Harlem (the place that is the beneficiary of a favorite charity soirée of the up-and-coming and arrived black professional class of New York City).

But, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) events in Harlem drew few black professionals or members of the Harlem establishment.  While Harlem’s black politicos were well represented at the Studio Museum, and the president gave shout-outs to several who are high-profile, a casual scan of the audience showed that between 80 and 85 percent of the audience was neither African-American nor Latino, the core of the Harlem community.

“I was thinking we would see more of the community and community leaders,” said State Sen. Bill Perkins.  “These seem to be the early money people, the financial supporters,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, some 50 people (one observer estimated there were four or five African-American guests) forked over $30,800 apiece to attend the DNC’s fundraiser at the Red Rooster. A block away, more than 200 demonstrators braved an icy wind chill factor, many of them unemployed or barely earning in a year the amount requested for one night in Obama’s Harlem venture.

“War is real. This is our wakeup call,” charged longtime activist Nellie Bailey, who is steadfastly opposed to gentrification in Harlem and Obama’s intervention in Libya.  “We want money – not for war, but for our children, our seniors here at home.”

Bailey cited that Obama had given $60 million to educator Geoffrey Canada to build a charter school in the middle of the St. Nicholas Houses as part of a $100 million development project. “Sixty million dollars when our public schools have no materials, no supplies,” she said.

“Obama is wrong…U.S. out of Libya,” chanted City Councilman Charles Barron, when the bullhorn was passed to him. “We did not elect Obama for him to bomb Africa. We elected him to stand up like a man against the forces of imperialism.”

Willie Jones, who came all the way from Brooklyn to see what was happening, was also disappointed.  “I think it’s an insult to our community and its people to have an event here and charge such a huge amount of money to attend.  When is Obama going to walk the streets here and greet the people like he does at other places? It’s a shame, and that’s all I got to say.”

(Special to the New York Amsterdam News)

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