The Black Arts and Cultural Festival wrapped up over twenty three years of entertainment and culture. Although I wasn't able to attend this year because of business engagements, from social media and word of mouth it appears the general consensus was that it was again a disappointment. I mean how could it be anything other then that. The event was a two day event complete with vendors on both sides of the plaza, the entire length of the plaza, two days of entertainment with major headline entertainment on both days and all the culture one could stomach. So you may ask how did we get to five hours of arts and entertainment, one headliner and a few vendors not even taking up one side of the plaza?
Before answering that question lets explain how the political landscape has changed since 1996 when the Black Fest was thriving. Whats politics have to do with it? Everything! Albany politics in past years was somewhat governed by what was considered right and fair. Police departments in neighborhoods, fire departments centrally located, and a large measure of respect for our community leaders. Politics are no longer driven by whats fair and equitable but rather by the strength that ideas and decisions poll on. To put it bluntly, politicians now begin running for re-election the moment they are elected. As a result of this, fairness and equity matter less and decisions are based on getting re-elected or on votes/polls.. Since for the most part blacks tend to be the least represented voting block in most elections, from the standpoint of reelection we don't matter. This is a largely self inflicted wound. We don't vote because we choose not to be part of the process. If we utilized our voting strength we could turn Albany politics on its axis and command the respect to have our voices heard.
Again this week ended up being a prime example of this point. Surfing around social media I ran across a post that was getting significant traction regarding the manner and tone that a city wide elected official was speaking to one of her constituents and one of our community leaders. The specifics of the incident are not important. What is important is that your voice matters so little that a city elected official has no fear of disrespecting the people trying to provide recreation in neighborhoods that are in desperate need of it. We can all agree that the community leaders deserve a great deal more respect then that. The lack of respect for our people, community advocates, and positions is largely deserved. Its deserved because we will post about our outrage, we will talk about it, but we won't get off our collective asses and really make a statement by voting.
So revisiting the initial question of How we lost the Black Festival becomes a simple equation. If our lack of voting strength emboldens your citywide elected officials to come to your neighborhoods and scold your community leaders, what do you think your lack of voting does to the voice of your community elected officials. When your community elected officials have no voice, don't be surprised when the programs and events that are important to you get cut. After all, politicians only care about votes and polls. and polls don't matter when the poll represents the opinions of people that don't vote.