Bed-Stuy now has a Sonny Carson Ave.
Published Jun 22, 2007 11:33 PM
Militant chants of “Black power!” resonated on a street corner in
the Brooklyn, N.Y., community of Bedford-Stuyvesant on June 16 as 200 people,
young and old, the vast majority of them Black, gathered for a historic
street-renaming ceremony. Even a thunderstorm could not dampen the spirits of
the rain-drenched crowd when the “Gates Ave.” sign at two corners
of Nostrand Avenue were replaced with plastic strips with the inscription:
“Sonny Abubadika Carson Avenue.”
This event’s literature cited the close proximity of
“Juneteenth,” which commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when slaves
in Texas found out that they had been legally freed by the Emancipation
Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. People of African descent in the U.S. celebrate
Juneteenth all over the country and Bedford-Stuyvesant was no exception.
WW photos: Monica Moorehead
Streets are named and renamed every day, usually without a lot of fanfare,
especially in a large metropolitan city. This particular street naming,
however, came about through a struggle that showed once again that racism is
alive and well in New York.
On May 30, a resolution raised by Black City Councilmember Al Vann on behalf of
the thousands of people who signed petitions supporting the street-renaming
campaign for late Black Nationalist community activist Sonny Carson was
defeated. Twenty-four out of the 25 white council members, including the
Speaker of the Council, Christine Quinn, voted against the street renaming. A
majority of the Black council members voted for the resolution with some
Councilmember Charles Barron and others stated at May 30 and June 10 news
conferences and during many interviews that the defeat of this resolution was a
racist slap in the face. Barron argued that the white-dominated capitalist
establishment has no right to declare who should or should not be declared
heroes in the Black community. Black people, Barron said, should have the right
So in defiance of the city council vote, the December 12 Movement (D12) and its
allies and supporters carried out their own renaming ceremony to honor the
legacy of Carson, who died in 2002.
Speakers included Al Vann, Barron and Viola Plummer, Barron’s chief of
staff and also a longtime leader of the D12 Movement. They all spoke about how
the Carson development was an important example of why Black people must
continue to fight for all forms of empowerment.
Recent racist editorials in the New York Post and New York Daily News attacked
both Barron and Plummer for their consistent anti-imperialist stances and for
defending Carson’s legacy. Carson had been an outspoken critic of police
brutality and organized a struggle to keep drugs out of the community.
Some of those who attended the Carson street renaming ceremony as a show of
anti-racist solidarity were International Action Center volunteers and a
multinational delegation from Workers World Party.
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