Black leaders feeling insulted by Villaraigosa

EricLee_thumb.jpgThis isn't likely to be one of Mayor Villaraigosa's favorite days. He just got roundly booed as he entered the City Council chambers to talk about his plan for layoffs and other budget cuts. And in a letter making the rounds, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Los Angeles is talking about the "very deep disappointment" felt in the African-American community over perceived insults by Villaraigosa's staff, especially compared to the mayor's relations with Latinos. "With all candidness Mayor, the overwhelming perception from the African American community is that your relationship with individuals and organizations in our community is based solely on how it benefits your agenda," says a letter signed by Rev. Eric P. Lee. It follows:

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa:

The purpose of my letter is to convey the very deep disappointment by many in the African-American community regarding the manner in which the African-American History Month Celebration was managed by your staff. The sense of disrespect and disregard for individuals and organizations that represent the very reason why we celebrate our history is inexcusable.

Rest is after the jump. The Sentinel, by the way, didn't seem unhappy about the history month celebration. And some of the complaints might seem, well, on the trivial side.

The planning process was supposed to be a collaboration of your staff and staff from the Event Chair Danny Bakewell, Jr. and Our Authors Study Club. While the planning involved all parties, the outcome was completely different than what was discussed and agreed upon. It was also during this planning process that your staff was unable to secure Jaime Foxx and Johnny Gill, at which point Danny Bakewell's staff successfully secured both individuals.

Of grave concern is your Office of Protocol, which repeatedly resisted our community's request for African Drummers and for the singing of the Negro National Anthem for the opening ceremony of African American History Month. It wasn't until Danny Bakewell, Jr. called your Office of Protocol and reminded them that Aztec Warriors were used in the celebration of Latino Heritage Month that your staff agreed to our request.

During the morning reception in which you entertained the honorees, Event Chair Danny Bakewell, Jr., President and Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel and Dr. Genevieve A. Shepherd, President of Our Authors Study Club were excluded from the reception, even after numerous communications with your staff that they should be included. This act of exclusion, even unintentional, reflects a disregard and disrespect for individuals who were not only responsible for Jaime Foxx and Johnny Gill's participation, but also have been some of your strongest supporters.

Adding insult to injury, when you and the honorees finally exited the reception through the corridor, you Mayor, looked directly at Danny Bakewell, Jr., SCLC Board Chairman and City Employee Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. and myself without one word of greeting or hint of acknowledgement. Additionally, during the African-American History Celebration in Council Chambers, there was no acknowledgement of Danny Bakewell, Jr. as Event Chair, nor acknowledgement of Charisse Bremond-Weaver, President of the Brotherhood Crusade, Willis Edwards, National Board Member, NAACP, Leon
Jenkins, President of the NAACP-Los Angeles Chapter, of the New Frontier Democratic Club, the oldest and largest African American Democratic Club in the nation, of The Los Angeles Urban League, or of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, organizations and individuals that were in attendance and are integral in influencing Black Los Angeles.

Furthermore, it is glaringly obvious that African-American City Council Members have been excluded from involvement in the planning of this "city celebration". This is absolutely unacceptable in celebrating African-American History when African Americans in our own city government, except for Council Member Herb Wesson, are limited to cameo appearances and sound bites.

Your absence from the outdoor ceremony on the south lawn of City Hall in which the general public participates and deserves the attention of the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, sends a strong message to our community that a press conference and ribbon cutting ceremony for an upscale hotel in Hollywood takes precedence for you over African-American History Month. Additionally, the amount of food and refreshments committed to the African American History Celebration compared to the food and refreshments of the Latino Heritage Celebration was woefully inadequate and severely disparate.

And finally, to be told that your absence at the official African-American History Month
opening ceremony at Brookins AME was due to being "under the weather", but then seeing you on national TV enjoying the Grammy Awards, is consistent with the ongoing absence of your office and resources within the African American community.

With all candidness Mayor, the overwhelming perception from the African American
community is that your relationship with individuals and organizations in our community is based solely on how it benefits your agenda. If this is not the case, it is critical for you to change this perception, our reality, into a relationship that is mutually beneficial for the community that was instrumental in your election as Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.

Very Best Regards,

Rev. Eric P. Lee

Cc: SCLC Board
Danny Bakewell, Sr.
Dr. Genevieve A. Shepherd
Ms. Mordena M. Moore
Ms. Ingrid Hutt
Charisse Bremond-Weaver
Willis Edwards
Leon Jenkins
Blair Taylor
Larry Franks

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