CT Post: Blacks Have Lost Their Voice, Inner-city Children Suffer

Infighting, allegations of misconduct and suspension of local members by the national office has the Greater Bridgeport chapter of the NAACP trying to rediscover itself in a leadership gulf. Interesting read from the editorial board of the Connecticut Post:

The history books tell us that the African-American civil rights movement ended in 1968 with passage of the Fair Housing Act, a vital and shamefully late piece of legislation that followed the 1965 Voting Rights Acts and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Despite these long-ago advancements, the struggle of equal rights and equal opportunity is by no means over. Inner-city blacks continue to face a mountain that’s nearly as insurmountable as it was in the 1950s, particularly in Connecticut. Consider:

The state has a built-in and legally binding system of racially segregated schools in the name of “home rule.” This almost comically inefficient system of government effectively prevents children from the Hartfords and Bridgeports of Connecticut from attending schools in towns like Easton and Monroe, and vice-versa.

Inner-city children suffer greatly on a number of fronts, and one that’s becoming more and more of an impediment for them is a lack of access to technology. While their wealthy counterparts in suburbia have computers and printers in the home, inner-city kids have to jump through a number of hoops just to write a term paper. How can they be expected to succeed in college?

According to the Sentencing Project’s website, the rate of incarceration for white Connecticut residents in 2005 was 211 per 100,000 people; for black residents it was 2,532 per 100,000. This ratio is a good deal worse than the nationwide figure of 412 for whites and 2,290 for blacks.

We could go on. Sadly, African-Americans in greater Bridgeport have lost their voice. It’s been years since the region has had an effective NAACP chapter. The recent high-profile cases of unprosecuted police brutality notwithstanding, a forceful NAACP chapter is desperately needed here.

Perhaps the solution might be to expand the chapter’s footprint to include Stamford and even New Haven. Another way to achieve this goal might be to make a serious effort to recruit members from suburban towns. Meanwhile, businesses in the region, both large and small, would be wise to get behind this effort, for lifting the people of the inner city will benefit everyone. The Connecticut NAACP convention would be wise to encourage the creation of a regional chapter in the southwestern part of the state.

These are only suggestions. The greater Bridgeport NAACP has for years been hobbled by infighting. It’s time to put aside these differences and create an articulate voice for African-Americans in and around Bridgeport.

Share

18 comments

  1. So who speaks for the black people? Bill Finch, Mario Testa, Ernie Newton? Or maybe Rev. Al?
    But Reverend Al can’t come to the holy land every time someone wants to take away your voice, or your vote!
    It’s time those fat-ass pastors in Bridgeport put down the ham hocks and collard greens, get your fat ass out in the community and show some leadership, before someone calls Rev. Boise Kimber and if he comes to Bridgeport, y’all know he’s going to make a lot of people cry!

  2. It’s sad, but there is no one person or one organization that speaks for blacks. We don’t ask who speaks for whites. We have many black organizations in this City. Yes Jim, I will always raise my voice against injustice.

  3. Dave, I beg to differ in the realm of equal opportunities for blacks as it relates to the fire service, the Firebird Society has been vocal critics of the new hiring process being implemented by David Dunn as Director of the Civil Service and Mayor Finch. The Firebird Society told the black community in articles in both the CT Post as well as this medium what Mayor Finch and David Dunn were doing and how it would affect the City of Bridgeport’s ability to hire blacks and women for the fire service. Now just three years after telling them this, for the first time in 35 years no blacks were hired and for the first time in 25 years no women were hired. The Firebird Society in September 2013 sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting an investigation into the current Civil Service Department as well as David Dunn for changing the hiring process that denied blacks and women an opportunity to be firefighters as well as police. This was published in both the CT Post as well as this medium. The Firebird Society received a response from the DOJ in December 2013 that acknowledged the receipt of our letter and would take our request for an investigation under advisement for both the fire and police departments. This too was published in the CT Post as well as this medium.

    As you can see David, not every black organization has been asleep at the switch because the Firebird Society has been a vocal critic of blacks being denied opportunities within the fire service as that is our area of expertise. David, not one black organization or black politician acknowledged what we said in the CT Post or this medium or asked what the hell is going on or what they can do to assist the Firebird Society and why are blacks being denied an opportunity to be firefighters in Bridgeport? Not one, David. David, I like to think no one from the black community heard our cries because it’s better to think that than to think no one from the black community cares.

  4. I don’t know if I’d call it a power struggle, more like a democracy turning into a dictatorship with some righteous people trying to prevent that from happening. There should have been elections last year and the current (un)President stalled them to stay in power to suit his own personal needs. He also stalled an attempted election where ballots should have been counted last night, that situation will be resolved.

  5. From 1992 until 2008 Donald Day and myself ran the Firebird Society, for 16 straight years we were the President, Don for 6 years and 10 years myself and we were really like co-presidents. We knew the NAACP could not help or assist us with anything so we spoke out on issues and we took legal action on our own. Over those years there were many news articles and stories in the media and at no time did the NAACP and the IMA ever ask us what’s going and can we help. We brought our issues and concerns to every mayor and fire chief during that timeframe. We did bring two issues to the NAACP and the IMA but they said nothing and did nothing. At no time did we have any fear of calling out the mayor or fire chief publicly. That was because we were not looking for anything for ourselves or the organization, the only thing we wanted was justice, meaning good and fair testing and hiring, and if we didn’t get that then we were going to court because we were never scared of anyone. The Firebird Society of Bridgeport, CT as a organization is a lifetime member of the NAACP and I am also a member of the NAACP.

  6. Ron and Don,
    Justice for everybody in the City meaning opportunity for all rather than cake for the few and crumbs for the rest sounds fairly reasonable. Justice needs information and understanding and then voice, but after all it requires action and you provided what was necessary to cross the finish line.
    How are Bridgeport citizens currently being excluded or eliminated from the number eligible to be selected for training and hiring? Can you share that with us once again, in simple outline format? How are Bridgeport’s “best candidates” for public safety jobs only located from out-of-town communities, when our unemployed and seeking employment numbers are higher than those suburban communities? Time will tell.

    1. JML, let me go a little deeper. CPAT (Candidate Physical Agility Testing) as a physical exam for new hires posed a distinct disadvantaged for residents because it cost $150 to get CPAT certified, you had to go the State Fire Academy in Meriden to take it and there was no proof passing this would make one a better firefighter. This standard is NOT held by current Bridgeport firefighters, also a candidate could come and pass CPAT and look like the greatest body anyone has ever seen but this is only a one-time exam therefore this same candidate one year later can gain weight and look like Santa Claus.

      Volunteer firefighters get to practice the CPAT exam every day if they want to because they have that training all the time, whereas Bridgeport residents don’t have that opportunity because that is not offered here because Bridgeport firefighters do NOT train to pass CPAT. The City got federal funding for testing and hiring these new firefighters but where are the white females from Bridgeport, how come they didn’t pass the CPAT?

      The eight parts of the CPAT include a test where applicants must simulate climbing stairs while being weighed down in a realistic manner, a part where applicants must run with a hose before dragging 50 feet of it over a finish line, carrying saws that would be needed in certain situations, raising and extending ladders, practicing getting into a building by force, searching for victims in cramped, dark spaces filled with obstacles; dragging a dummy and practicing a ceiling breach that would be used in the event fire fighters needed to see where else a fire would be occurring. These are requirements firefighters do BUT they are TRAINED to perform those tasks but instead Bridgeport is asking candidates to perform firefighters’ duties before they are firefighters. Training, training, training is the key to be a good firefighter.

      1. What you are saying is it is a bad practice to hire people who have prepared for the test. Whether you prepared by joining a volunteer fire company, participated in an ‘explorer’ group, went to a first responder high school or going to the gym, you still prepared for the test. The test is a test of basic physical skills a firefighter would need to be able to do. It would be a good idea to hire people who can already do those things. They give you a drug test before they hire you. That is no guarantee you will not get addicted to drugs later in life. It just means the BPFD is not hiring someone who already has an issue. The physical fitness test is the same way. Maybe if the Firebirds had a little more community involvement, the people of Bridgeport would be a little more ready for the test.

  7. Ernie, I agree with your comments. We remember the strong, honorable black leaders back in the day. Unfortunately they’re gone and the void has been felt for a very long time now. I feel fortunate to have known and learned from them. We should have had black leadership on the City Council and the Mayoral position by now, but without true, selfless leaders I fear I won’t get to see that in my lifetime. Don’t worry though, I’m in that advanced age group so hopefully the younger generation will get to it.

  8. JML, they are being excluded by the changes David Dunn implemented when he was given the job in Civil Service. First thing he did was to get rid of assessors from outside of Connecticut who came in to give the oral part of the entry-level exam to the new recruits. These outside assessors didn’t have a relationship with anyone from Bridgeport so they were completely unbiased. He in turn used Bridgeport firefighters to run the oral and most of the white firefighters don’t live in the city so they were grading their own friends and relatives from out of town. He used Bridgeport firefighters to write the questions for the oral which in turn compromised the integrity of the exam because too many people knew the content of the questions and most of those who helped write the oral questions lived out of town.

    He changed the company that always gave exams that were fair to blacks, whites and Latinos to a company that was the subject of a discrimination lawsuit in New Haven that went to the Supreme Court. He implemented CPAT (Candidate Physical Agility Testing) as a physical exam for new hires. This posed a distinct disadvantaged for residents because it costs $150 to get CPAT certified, you had to go the State Fire Academy in Meriden to take it and there was no proof passing this would make one a better firefighter. Also there was a long list of volunteer firefighters who were already CPAT certified ready to come into Bridgeport to take our jobs. What it did was foster a climate of exclusion because every fire department in the state that uses CPAT has a predominately white and male force. He implemented a psychological exam for the first time in the BFD that eliminated a large segment of blacks and residents from the process.

    JML, these are just a few of the changes that were implemented by David Dunn that had an adverse impact on the City of Bridgeport’s ability to recruit and hire residents. I think when Brother Mackey is free he will assuredly add to my list.

    1. If you had to make a $150 investment to become a firefighter way back when, would you have thought that was a good investment? JML would have to make a $150,000 investment to become an accountant if he wanted to do it today. You have to spend money to make money.

      What exactly to you mean by “already CPAT certified ready to come into Bridgeport to take our jobs?” I was unaware anybody owned those jobs. I thought they would go to the person who qualified highest on the test.

      Can you give an example of a question on a firefighter exam that would be racist? Is this the discrimination lawsuit you were talking about?
      April 22, 2009. Eighteen city firefighters, seventeen of whom were white and one of whom was Hispanic, brought suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after they had passed the test for promotions to management positions and the city declined to promote them. New Haven officials invalidated the test results because none of the black firefighters scored high enough to be considered for the positions. City officials stated they feared a lawsuit over the test’s disproportionate exclusion of certain racial groups from promotion under the controversial “disparate impact” theory of liability. The Court held 5–4 that New Haven’s decision to ignore the test results violated Title VII.

      How does a psychological exam eliminate a large segment of blacks and residents? Are you implying a large segment of blacks and residents are crazy? Or you would have to be crazy to live in BPT?

      Do you have one scrap of evidence to support cronyism and nepotism any worse than what already takes place in the BFD? How many members of the Firebird club have relatives who work for the BFD? Are you mad about cronyism and nepotism or the cronies who are getting hired are not your cronies?

      1. BOE SPY, I see you have a problem with understanding but try reading what has been said already and you will find the answers to your questions. Why would the City change its hiring and testing process when there was no problem in the first place, another legal problem is you cannot require new recruits to have a higher standard than those the current firefighters have the same standard, well Bridgeport firefighters do NOT have the CPAT certification.

      2. BOE SPY, in the New Haven case (Ricci case), the New Haven Civil Service Commission fail to certify the promotional list, the issue of the exam they took and whether it was a bad exam or not NEVER came up in the court case, the case was decided on the action of the Civil Service Commission members. You can look it up for yourself.

  9. I don’t understand how Dunn got away with having Bridgeport firefighters write questions for the oral exam. How did they get away from a law suit with this and other obvious testing procedures that are obviously flawed?
    Look, these entry exams for the most part are a bunch of bullshit especially the tests held in Bridgeport. The use of oral exams in Bridgeport does lead to obvious manipulating scores to get the candidate you want.
    I am in favor of 100% of these jobs going to Bridgeport residents just like they did years ago. I don’t see any performance improvement in the FD by having out-of-towners and volunteers on the job.

Leave a Reply