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Harlem, Dunbar Village, in contrast

Zoot-suited "Sweetback" and "Jelly" — Corey Vaughn-Patterson of Palm Beach Gardens High School and Byron McCarty, William T. Dyer High School grad — bring to life a scene from Zora Neale Hurston's 'Spunk!' Zoot-suited "Sweetback" and "Jelly" — Corey Vaughn-Patterson of Palm Beach Gardens High School and Byron McCarty, William T. Dyer High School grad — bring to life a scene from Zora Neale Hurston's 'Spunk!' during Sunday's Delta Sigma Theta "Salute to the Harlem Renaissance."

C.B. Hanif for WAOD:

The contrast was a stunning.

Onstage Sunday was a diverse set of young people, students and their mentors, displaying outstanding talent during their "Youth in the Arts" program.

Yet on the minds and tongues of many in the audience were Friday's gang-rape and assault convictions of two then-teenagers for their shocking actions two years ago at nearby Dunbar Village.

The youths onstage stood out for the skills they had developed in theatre and dance, the visual, instrumental and vocal arts, and for the lives of future hope and fulfilment they represented.

Suggesting the need for another renaissance were the accomplished young artists who lined the stage for collective bow. The contrast with the accomplished young artists who filled the stage suggested the need for another renaissance.

The youths who were led from the courtroom Friday, after their multi-count guilty verdicts were read, stood out for the depravity of their sexual assault on a mother and her son, and the possible rest of their lives in prison that they, and an accomplice who pleaded guilty, face when a judge sentences them October 13.

The youths onstage were beneficiaries of support from the parents and teachers who nurtured them, the appreciative audience of community members present to encourage them, and community institutions such as the West Palm Beach Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which organized and hosted the event, and Palm Beach Community College, on whose north campus the "Salute to the Harlem Renaissance" was held.

Dramatists evoked Harlem's renaissance days. Dramatists evoked Harlem's renaissance days.

In contrast is the troubled family circumstances of the convicted youths, the prison inmate families awaiting them, the general societal lack of investment in the possibilities of others like them, and the question whether, had they been gifted with different growing and learning environments, life would have been different for them.

In random conversations through the evening, a guest was overheard saying it long had been clear that one of the convicted youths, unresponsive to school officials' efforts to help him, had been headed for trouble.

Another guest said to another who said to another that the sexual torment by as many as 10 African-American youths on the Haitian mother and her son, on that sad night at Dunbar Village, unquestionably was a hate crime; Haitians having been considered the lowest of the low when she was growing up here.

In contrast was a another who grew up here: actor, director and business owner Karen Stephens, whose gifted theater students were onstage in the Hurston segment she had produced.

Karen Stephens, third from podium, and other directors/artists. Karen Stephens, third from podium, taking a bow with other directors/artists.

She has shared her thoughtful perpectives in a video interview for WAOD whose third installments continue here:

Director's, residents' responsibilities

Community on trial?

Demolish Dunbar Village?


Reader Comments (14)

And there's the key: officials tried to help but to no avail.

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

Yes, now your are talking! People fail to look at the treatment of black people from other cultures who are viewed as inferior and subhuman, within the community. Yes, this was a hate crime.

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermsday

At what point do we decide whether or not something is a lost cause? In Ms. Stephens' video response, she stated that she would like to see more involvement from others in "the community" to reach out to DV residents. Yet, when is enough ENOUGH???

I can honestly say that this whole DV trial and blog has left me questioning so much: my political beliefs, my ideology, my thoughts on what is "good" and "evil", classism, racism....it's probably evident in some of my comments from day to day.

For 2 years I worked through Americorps as a school teacher at an urban, mostly low income all black middle school while going to night school to get my Masters in Education and teaching license. Fortunately, I can attest that none of my students were near being sociopaths like these 10 criminals. However, there was still that being smart is acting white mentality. Even amongst the parents. It seemed they loved events like the one shown above, but they seemed indifferent, in some cases almost proud that their child was not excelling in school. Needless to say I got burned out and never went back to teaching again.

Fast forward to where I work now. Yes it is a government program for low income people (no not housing or politics, I'm not a troll lurking here). I can't say where as to reveal too much. What I can say is that the same mentality of generation after generation, whole families are in this program. Nothing changes....and they DON'T WANT IT TO. Still others use the program temporarily and are off to jobs, education and bigger and better things.

The point I'm pondering is when do we stop going to people and let people come to us for help to change?

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertryin2understanurside

I don't believe the fact that the victim and her son were Haitian is important. African Americans victimize African Americans and non-African Americans victimize non-African Americans on a routine basis.

I'm just glad to hear that justice has been done. WAOD deserves much applause for its dedication to this case. Your website has truly been committed, not just to these victims, but to many other Black children (regardless of gender) who have been marginalized.

Keep up the good work!

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamdown

AAAh you are just beginning the journey and it is not an easy one. I would suggest you review the life and work of Harriet Tubman. she both lead slaves to freedom, but had to leave her family behind at one point. Her husband refused to go with her and later remarried. She knew she was leading people to freedom, but also the defection or weak character of one could compromise the entire underground network therefore she also carried a gun. She went back into slave territory as a spy for the Union Army, but she didn't run off to Harper's Ferry to die like Jim Brown. They knew each other by the way. I'm sure she was conflicted about that.

So now I understand some of your comments a bit more. You're where I was 3 years ago. This blog doesn't highlight the functional parts of who we are. We highlight the dysfunction for the most part. We're like an X-ray or a mamagram. We're pointing out the spots on the film that might kill us all.

You should not solely base your new awakening on this or any other blog. Get out in your community, but most of all, pick up a history book. Study movements and cultural paradigm shifts from the past. As far as I am concerned what is happening with Black women today MIRRORS what happened to all Black people during reconstruction. We experienced unparalleled "success" only to watch it wiped out in a little over a decade.

Your problem is likely the same as my problem, you are judging people base don something other than the content of their unique character. We assume because We have certain values THEY will share those values. We assume that because WE work and make decisions that are, for the most part, within our best interested that THEY will make decisions that are in their best interests. You assume that because they belong to a certain group or are of a certain gender that they will be your allies, when in fact, they may be your most challenging enemy. You assume that those who run the institutions of our community do so with the best interest of the community in mind when in fact they may be guided by sinister self-interest. You assume that people like you won't view you as their slave and attempt to exploit you in the manner that outsiders would.

You're just struggling with your assumptions. That's normal. I can't tell you what the answers are for you. The answers for each of us are different. What I am telling you is to QUESTION. QUESTION everything. Question everyone. Destroy your assumptions. if you want to know about the present or the future, look at the past.

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

@ gem2001, great point! And it's wonderful to see someone else that knows that story about Harriet Tubman.

@ trying2understanurside, I feel ya! This whole DV situation has made me angry, sad, reflective, thankful, etc. As a Christian, I've even had to struggle with the the line from the Yolanda Adams song, "there is no hurt that Jesus cannot heal." But it has also re-affirmed my appreciation for the work we do regarding violence against women. Yes, it's important work, but some brothers and yes even some sisters don't take it seriously. Some see this work as "that stuff White women do" or "ain't that what those White feminists talk about all the time?" Silly negroes who don't even know their own history in the violence against women movement. But just like you said gem2001, some folks should just pick up a book or two sometimes. Thanks and praises to WAOD for opening our minds and challenging us to do more, better!! :)

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRevMamaAfrika

I think this is different because what happened during Reconstruction was also due to a concentrated effort by whites at destroying blacks to reset the order of things. Today's blacks, specifically a majority of African Americans are the ones bent on destroying each other. It's also a good idea to recognize the value differences and mentality amongst people who behave out of order of the majority of society lest you think you're the crazy one or get confused or think people need time, coddling or 5 chances. Some do need and will accept help, but we should never put ourselves in harm's way or a vulnerable position to help them except in rare circumstances (if ever really).

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaith


Here are comments that should interest you:

"Let us be honest with ourselves, and say that we, our standards have lagged behind at many points. Negroes constitute ten percent of the population of New York City, and yet they commit thirty-five percent of the crime. St. Louis, Missouri: the Negroes constitute twenty-six percent of the population, and yet seventy-six percent of the persons on the list for aid to dependent children are Negro. We have eight times more illegitimacy than white persons. We’ve got to face all of these things. We must work to improve these standards. We must sit down quietly by the wayside, and ask ourselves: "Where can we improve?" What are the things that white people are saying about us? They say that we want integration because we want to marry white people. Well, we know that is a falsehood. (That’s right) We know that. We don’t have to worry about that. (All right) Then on the other hand, they say some other things about us, and maybe there is some truth in them. Maybe we could be more sanitary; maybe we could be a little more clean. You may not have enough money to take a weekend trip to Paris, France, and buy all of the fascinating and enticing perfumes. You may not be able to do that, but you are not so poor that you cannot buy a five cents bar of soap (Yeah) so that you can wash before [word inaudible]. [applause]

And another thing my friends, we kill each other too much. (All right, Yes) We cut up each other too much. (Yes, Yes sir) There is something that we can do. We’ve got to go down in the quiet hour and think about this thing. We’ve got to lift our moral standards at every hand, at every point. You may not have a Ph.D. degree; you may not have an M.A. degree; you may not have an A.B. degree. But the great thing about life is that any man can be good, and honest, and ethical, and moral, and can have character. (Well, Yes) [applause]

We must walk the street every day, and let people know that as we walk the street, we aren’t thinking about sex every time we turn around. (No, That’s right) We are not animals (No) to be degraded at every moment. (Yeah) We know that we’re made for the stars, created for eternity, born for the everlasting (Yes), and we stand by it. [applause] (All right, All right)

There are some things that we can do. (Yes) We must improve our standards (Yeah); improve our conduct; we must improve our sanitary conditions; we must even improve our cultural standards. And anything that we can do. Opportunities are open now that were not open in the past, adult education and all of these things we must take advantage of them. (Yeah) There are things that we can do to make ourselves respected by others. "

This is an excerpt from a 1957 sermon preached by Dr. Martin Luther King.


What scary is how it's even more relevant in this century. Yes, King acknowledges, Black people should fight against the evil of White racism (i.e., legalized racial segregation). But that gives us no excuse to ignore the evils within our community.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

@faith its EXACTLY like reconstruction or any other period in history where a goup experiences some modicum of progress only to have it rolled back by entrenched interests.

You're getting caught up on "the mask". Power is race, classm geographically neutral. It serves whatever master chooses to use it.

So you're focussed on drawing a false distinction. Oppression is opression. Tyranny is tyrrany. Power structures are power structures. Whether its white southerners or the CRIC entrenched interests don't want their status quo disrupted.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

"Even amongst the parents. It seemed they loved events like the one shown above, but they seemed indifferent, in some cases almost proud that their child was not excelling in school."

I observed the same thing. Any opportunity to 'perform' and everybody showed up. Offer free tutoring or classroom assistance and all you got was crickets.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoslyn Holcomb

Thank you to WAOD for helping to promote the safety of women and children of color. This site and others like it have done a lot to not let the crime in Dunbar Village to go unnoticed.

I will go to the library and read about Harriet Tubman.

@Faith there is a short book and I can't remember the name of it (maybe someone out there can help me out with that) that was written during slavery. It trains slavemasters on the proper way to select slaves and keep them in submission. It is an eye opener and amazing how even today the powers that be still apply these principles to keep people down. So yes, I would agree with the others above that we are mirroring not just reconstruction, but times in history before and times after.

Thanks again.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertryin2understanurside

@Tryin, you're talking about that nonsensical Willie Lynch letter which is absolute nonsense. There was no slavemaster training manual. Nobody was psychoanalyzing slaves in the 18th century. Thomas Jefferson had some notes on slavery in one of his books, but it was more in line with animal husbandry.

September 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoslyn Holcomb

Roslyn Holcomb,

Be careful about calling it nonsensical do you understand that chattel slavery was Afrikan husbandry where breeding Afrikans was a psychological, biological and chemical experiment. The 18th century is full of writings from Europeans beside of Thomas Jefferson who was slavetrader on the smaller scale like Obama is a lawyer. So I would suggest Browder File or Bullwhip Days for you to do a little research that should lead u to a deeper overstanding of Willie Lynch letter. Google it and read the entire document to see the similiarity between plantation system and animal husbandry. It a lot closer than u seem to appreciate.

September 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMosheshe


The Willie Lynch letter as no factual basis. In fact the supposed letter was written in a form of English commonly used in the 19 and 20th centuries, though most historians (black ones included) can only trace the letter back to the mid 1800's.

It may not be nonsense, but it certainly wasn't REAL. However, even if it were, does that excuse the denigration of the black famliy and community that led to the gang rape that happened at Dunbar Village?

September 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBLKSeaGoat

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