Binghamton Stands in Solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri

On September 6th a coalition of Binghamtonians stood in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri. The march began as a rally in Columbus Park where community members, parents, and students voiced their concern about police here in Binghamton. Several Binghamton University students performed emotional slam poetry, and others voiced their support for Ferguson protestors’ demands. Gladys Jimenez, a West Middle School grandmother and 28-year resident of Binghamton, spoke the words written below.

Hi, my name is Gladys Jiménez. I have been a member of this community for the last 28 years. I have a granddaughter in West Middle School.

On August 9th a young man, Michael Brown, was killed. A mother lost her child, a father lost his son, a community lost faith in justice. A young man lost his future, his concerns, his dreams, his life.

I am here to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson. To stand in solidarity with their pain, despair and anger. Yes, with their anger as well! Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes. Community anger is a useful tool to demand social justice. It is sad to say that Black pain is invisible to many people in this country. The anger expressed by the Black community of Ferguson, however, made that pain very visible to all.

We have many challenges in our own community. There are social inequalities and segregated communities. There is poverty, sexism, homophobia, racial discrimination and unemployment. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge we face as a community is to vigilantly and wisely protect our children from the same institutions that are supposed to protect them. That is a big challenge, but one we must take on no matter how scary or impossible. We need to recognize that what happened to Michael Brown, the suffering and pain brought down on his family and his community is not new to this country. This pain is familiar to many Black and Brown families around the nation.

What happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson can happen in Binghamton too, that is why Michael Brown’s death is our business too. Police in our schools and communities need to be monitored. They must be held accountable for excessive use of force and violence against the members of our community, particularly our youth.

How long will it take for us to understand that we need to work together? It is in the knowledge of how racism works in our lives that we can draw our strength for action.

We need to focus our anger toward coalition building, community dialogue, and effective action. We need accountability and we cannot waste more time. The life of our children depends on it.

After rallying at Columbus Park, the group marched through downtown, calling attention to police brutality and demanding an end to racism, which have plagued our community for too long. At the City Hall steps, Andrew J Pragacz, a fourth generation Binghamtonian and PhD student, verbalized the marchers’ demands.

Binghamton has been good to me and my family. Unfortunately, the same opportunities my family and I were afforded have been denied to some the members of our community. Instead of investing in the future of Binghamton, that is to say all the kids in our schools right now, our local politicians insist on spending time and energy trying to entice a dwindling population of wealthy people, wealthy students, and big businesses to move to Binghamton. Binghamton invested in me and my family: everyone benefited. Currently, our state and local politicians pour money into tax breaks for luxury dorms, and casinos. At the same time, they belittle the poor, police harass the indigent and youthful, and the sheriff locks up our future, turning kids into felons.

When you look at the numbers it is clear that Binghamton has failed low income people. Childhood poverty is over 40%. Over 60% of students in Binghamton School District are eligible for free lunch. The city’s median income is $26,000 a year less than the state median. And our incarceration rate is the second highest of any county in upstate New York. This is what failure look likes.

It’s time for Binghamton to change its priorities. Today we are here to make some bold demands:

(1) Every kid in Binghamton be entitled to free after school and summer programming.

(2) School Resource officers be removed from schools.

(3) That police officers wear cameras at all times.

(4) Every time a police officer stops somebody, it is recorded to ensure that all stops by police are justified.

A new conversation has to start today. The priorities of Binghamton must focus on the future, they must focus on kids.



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