Announcement: My New Book: “Ghost of Robeson!”

 For almost thirty years, public housing in my hometown of Peekskill N.Y., has been at the center of political controversy. In 1999 I was arrested twice and put on trial for “talking” at city council meetings. The powers that be told us we could not talk about issues unless they put them on the agenda. I refused- talked about saving public housing- was arrested, tried and found guilty of disorderly conduct. The legend Pete Seeger came to my trials to show his support for poor people and free speech. Despite my two convictions by a judge who admitted to going on vacation with the very councilmembers who ordered my arrest, we won that struggle.  The administration was toppled and we made peace with the new administration. It seemed the issue of gentrification was over.

Pete Seeger Talks about Peekskill

In late 2013, Pete Seeger would again come to Peekskill. This time to speak at a fundraiser for my organization, The Committee for Justice. Gentrification in Peekskill was once again front and center. When Pete spoke he talked about the 1949 “attack” on concert-goers who came to the Peekskill area to enjoy a free peace concert by the great Paul Robeson. That particular day- August 27, 1949- according to Pete, Neo-Fascist elements helped incite Peekskill residents to violence against the concert-goers. Robeson was forced to turn around at the Peekskill train station. The show was cancelled and many people were hurt and nearly killed during the ensuing violence. Pete was in Peekskill to help raise money for us because we were in the third year of the most racist, vicious political struggle I have ever been involved in. We were, again, fighting to save public housing and stand up to retaliation directed against women and children by the administration. Virtually every tenant who spoke out against the gentrification and abuse by the administration, and the housing director they backed, was unjustly hauled into court for eviction.

Hey? Where did the Constitution Go?

Ultimately, we won that struggle too. But not before marching, picketing, and being subjected to being called “niggers,” and “welfare queens” on public forums. I, as the leader of that movement, was illegally “banned” from public meetings and buildings and arrested several times at council meetings after I was verbally attacked and defended myself. I was never charged with a crime, just ejected from the meetings. I was also hit with a S.L.A.P.P Suit to try to silence me. All the housing director asked was that I stop reporting his abuse and alleged corruption. I saw my girlfriend violently attacked at a council meeting by a Democratic Party District Leader named Carole Gerten. My partner provided hours of video of the council meetings and housing authority board meetings as record and for the public to watch.  The mayor and council hated that. Therefore Gersten smacked her at a public council meeting as she was filming the meeting. Police refused to arrest Gersten despite about 12 officers in the room at the time. After all, it was only a white woman getting violent with a Black woman. The Peekskill Democrats put out a statement saying Gersten is a hero. They wrote, “she stood her ground.” It took almost two months for Ms. Gersten to be charged by Peekskill Police. Even then, they waited until AFTER the November (2013) elections and a phone call from the New York State Attorney General’s office, which started monitoring the council meetings. The Peekskill city council passed “no-clapping” laws against us; sent police to break up our tenant association meetings and brought over a dozen police officers into the council meetings to intimidate and silence us. All the while, at council meeting after council meeting, Democratic officials were literally putting their hands on us and challenging us to “step outside!” All caught on video. Through organizing, courage and strategy, we defeated these near fascist tactics by the all-Democratic mayor and council. Because these were Democrats, virtually every Democrat in New York State and Westchester County turned their backs on us- their most loyal voting block. I literally wrote, called and sent video to Democratic Party Leaders across the nation. Not one would speak up. And because these were the most ugly, even violent, political forces since Paul Robeson came to town, it was only fitting I should entitle this book, Ghost of Robeson.

About the Book’s Title

Why “Ghost?” Depending on your religion and/or culture, ghost could mean different things. For me it means “spirit” as in memory and inspiration. My connection to Robeson is on a spiritual plane that transcends space and time. He was a hero to me and I hope with this book, an emerging hero to more people who may have never heard of him. Like Robeson, we stood up to ultra right wing attacks; like Robeson we were hounded; and like Robeson, the abuse was carried out by residents of my dear hometown of Peekskill N.Y. For the first time you will get to see emails, documents and court testimony exposing the ugly plan to remove public housing and how the Peekskill Democrats refused to talk to us about compromise or mediation. More importantly, you will be inside the thoughts, fears and strategy meetings of a movement that achieved an inspirational victory for poor people and people of color everywhere. Just put your contact information in the box to the right of this post and you will get to see some of these documents from Ghost of Robeson before the book is released.

Letter to Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina Re: George Coniglio

Dear Mayor Catalina,

I am respectfully demanding the removal of George Coniglio from the Peekskill Human Relations board. Despite your defense of his racially charged language as free speech, Mayor Catalina, I would argue that yes, he has a right to say the things he says, but he also has to be held accountable. He has to follow the articles of the commission he is appointed to and clearly, he does not.

 

Mr. Coniglio seems to be obsessed with attacking me, a respected civil rights activist in this state. He continues to make inflammatory remarks, in writing, that simply are not true. He himself does not believe in free speech because he has had me blocked from responding on this Facebook page, “Concerned Citizens for a Better Peekskill,” where he holds regular hate- filled discussions. How is it that he now sits on a commission charged with bringing different racial, religious and political groups together?

 

All these actions are direct violations of the articles of the Human Relations Commission.  He is not “fostering” relations between groups. He is not “investigating” tensions in the community. In fact, right now, he is the source of them.

 

I am certainly not looking for conflict. Mr. Coniglio called for my arrest for registering high school kids to vote. He also claimed to have heard my presentation to these young people, which he did not. A lie. That is the final outrage. He does not seem to realize that Black people are also protected by the constitution. You don’t arrest people in America for bringing youth into the political process. The sooner he is gone, the better. Only then can this city heal and come together.

Sincerely,

Darrell Davis

WLNA, WBNR, WVOX

Committee for Justice

Westchester Grassroots Coalition

The Night the “Angry Black Man” and My Partner Were Attacked

The Peekskill Democrat’s strategy to get re-elected in 2013 was to, again, run a “Willie Horton” campaign: verbally attack me, hit me, and bait me anyway they could to get a reaction and get me arrested at the council meetings.

They also spent a lot of time lying about who I was and why I was doing what I was doing. They stooped as low as a politician can go with their racist gutter politics. I knew they misjudged my home town of Peekskill N.Y. The racism we were identifying was coming out of city hall. The Democrats believed that the community was racist enough to buy their deceit. It backfired and they were voted out.

However, as we got closer to election day, the Democrats last desperate effort to bait me blew up on therm, and it was all accidentally caught on tape. After nearly four years of smacking me, poking me and verbally abusing me at council meetings- off camera from the home audience- THEIR angry Black man, Reggie Johnson, lost it and his partner, Carole Gersten, was caught hitting my partner Sherry, on the other side of the room. Take a look. By the way, THEIR angry Black man was appointed City Judge on their way out of office for selling out his community. Remember, we were there to save public housing.

My Radio Show about “Ghost of Robeson”

In this episode of one of my radio shows Our World I talk about what is in my upcoming book Ghost of Robeson. You will not want to miss this episode. Please share this post (Facebook, Twitter etc.) far and wide. If you are a civil rights activist, anti-racist, resident of public housing or just believe in democracy, you will enjoy this show.

Bloomberg, Rangel and Schumer Staffers in Controversy

This story originally ran in 2012. Since then Gannett Newspapers ran a story in July of 2014 about the financial collapse of the Peekskill Housing Authority. 

Peekskill N.Y – On November 3rd 2011, Fox News ran a national story about a New York town that has banned clapping at its city council meetings. The community activist that was featured in the Fox story, Darrell Davis, says the staff of some big name Democrats are involved in attacking poor people and people of color in the Westchester County small city of Peekskill NY. And the no clapping rule was just the latest of several actions they have orchestrated to gentrify Peekskill and then attack residents who fight against it.

According to Davis, who himself has been arrested for talking at council meetings, escorted out by police, and illegally banned from all housing authority property, Democrats are maliciously attacking a housing rights movement in Peekskill N.Y.  Specifically, residents and supporters of the Peekskill Housing Authority, where the Chairman of the Housing Authority Board, Ron Abad, is overseeing a massive eviction process of mostly minority tenants. Ironically, Abad is the Assistant Commissioner of Homeless services under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg!

Abad was appointed by Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster, a Democrat. Darren Rigger, who works for Congressman Charlie Rangel, was elected to the Peekskill city council this past November the 8th. He is the past Chairman of the Democratic Party. He was part of, Davis contends, “the most racist political campaign in Peekskill’s history this year.”

Mike Morey, also a past Democratic Party Chairman, worked on the Peekskill Democrat’s campaign this year and was tallying votes for them election night. He works as a regional coordinator for Senator Charles Schumer.

During the election campaign, the Democrats attacked Davis relentlessly and accused the republicans of seeking his help to get elected. Davis wrote a scathing article for an online newspaper in response, accusing the Democrats of lying and making him out to be a local “Willie Horton” by trying to scare away white voters.

For the past two years residents of public housing and their allies and supporters have marched, picketed and spoke out at Peekskill city council meetings against the gentrification only to have the mayor- who appoints five of the seven housing board members- claim she can’t help them. Instead she has attacked their free speech and right to assemble. Both the Committee on Open Government and the ACLU have been critical of them in writing.

In response to poor people and people of color fighting the gentrification, the Democrats first removed the “citizens to be heard” segment from the beginning of the meeting. They would then make the public wait- sometimes for hours- as they conduct their business and then get up and walk out when it was the residents turn to speak.

Next the mayor bought in police, many dressed in swat gear, into the council chambers, threatening residents with arrest if they went over the allotted five minutes each citizen had to speak. As residents would ask the mayor and council questions, the mayor, Mary Foster, would just stare back and let the clock run out and then tell residents to “sit down, your time is up.”

Finally, as the movement grew and more citizens and civil rights groups came to the defense of the residents, the mayor and council voted to ban clapping under threat of arrest.

The Peekskill Democrats have allowed the laws to be broken and abused in this blind drive to gentrify. They are sabotaging public housing in Peekskill. Ironically, it was Congressman Rangel who introduced a bill to protect public housing authority residents, and one of his own employees is a big part of attacking them in Westchester County.

“For Democrats to set themselves up as champions of the poor and people of color nationally and behave this way locally is hypocrisy and they need to be called on it,” Davis said.

 

Fox News “No Clapping”

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/11/03/taking-liberties-clap-off/

Willie Horton Article

http://www.thedailypeekskill.com/opinion/peekskill-democrats-use-willie-horton-tactics

Dems support sexual harassment defendant over Black people

http://www.darrelldavis.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/07/peekskill-mayor-exposed-as-antipoor-antiblack-politician.html

For more information contact Darrell Davis at 914-471-1094 Davis hosts two radio shows on five stations in parts of New York City, Westchester, NJ, CT. and the Hudson Valley (WLNA, WBNR, WQHQ, WVOX, WVIP).

 

Pete Seeger returns to Peekskill in 2013

In August of 2013, Pete Seeger was in Peekskill NY again. Many people around the world know that Pete was on hand in 1949 when Paul Robeson came to town. On that infamous date, August 27, 1949, things got very ugly. Pete talked about that day. This time in the company of friends and supporters. He was the guest of the Peekskill Committee for Justice.

The Great Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson as Othello

Paul Robeson was born on April 9,1898. This highly-acclaimed 20th century artist, this Princeton, New Jersey native has performed in well-known film and stage productions, such as Show Boat, The Emperor Jones and Othello. Apart from being a world-renowned performer, Robeson was also a known international activist. (more…)

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