Clergy groups’ state­ment calls for black-Latino unity

Ten­sion sparked af­ter re­marks to school board

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Zahn

NEW HAVEN — The Greater New Haven Clergy As­so­ci­a­tion and the Aso­cia­cion Min­is­te­rial Evan­gel­ica His­pana De New Haven re­leased a joint state­ment this week de­nounc­ing al­leged “racism, big­otry and ha­tred” fol­low­ing a heated dis­cus­sion about race and the al­lo­ca­tion of school re­sources at re­cent Board of Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ings.

“We unite in ex­em­pli­fy­ing that the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity and the Latino com­mu­nity are in unity!” the state­ment says. “The Evan­gel­i­cal leader of both com­mu­ni­ties have cat­e­gor­i­cally re­pu­di­ated any state­ments that would tend to di­vide the 2 com­mu­ni­ties and con­sider that they are un­ac­cept­able, and will not be tol­er­ated. On Oc­to­ber 8, 2018 the Evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers of each com­mu­nity gath­ered to dis­cuss spe­cific is­sues as it re­lates to racism, big­otry and ha­tred in an at­tempt to build bridges be­tween its peo­ple and not walls.”

The Rev. Roger Wilkins, pres­i­dent of the Greater New Haven Clergy As­so­ci­a­tion, said this week’s state­ment was re­leased “to show the sol­i­dar­ity of the black and His­panic com­mu­ni­ties that there is no

di­vi­sion be­tween us.”

“We thought it was nec­es­sary to re­as­sure the com­mu­nity we are stand­ing to­gether. This is in re­sponse to a num­ber of ques­tions we’ve heard through­out the com­mu­nity,” he said. “Every­thing that’s hap­pen­ing out of Washington, so many things are go­ing on in the coun­try at this time and we thought it was nec­es­sary to as­sure our com­mu­nity we will al­ways be work­ing to­gether.”

The state­ment did not

name a spe­cific per­son, in­ci­dent or meeting of con­cern.

How­ever, sig­na­tory the Rev. Cleaven John­son Jr. said the state­ment was de­vel­oped in re­sponse to a re­cent con­tentious school board meeting.

“I don’t con­sider him to be a leader in our com­mu­nity, and his ac­tions were un­ac­cept­able and won’t be tol­er­ated,” John­son said, when asked about the con­tentious school board meeting, al­though he de­clined to say specif­i­cally whether he was talking about the Rev. Boise Kim­ber.

When reached on Thurs­day, Kim­ber said that, as

his name was not men­tioned in the state­ment, he would de­cline to com­ment. Kim­ber is pas­tor of First Cav­alry Bap­tist Church in New Haven, as well as in­terim pas­tor of a Bap­tist church in Stam­ford.

Kim­ber told the school board in late Au­gust that “the black com­mu­nity” had largely been quiet about per­son­nel changes in the district. Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Carol Birks and

mem­bers of the school board were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­sis­tance from mem­bers of the com­mu­nity at the time amid per­son­nel trans­fers and an­nounced lay­offs of li­brary me­dia spe­cial­ists and school coun­selors, and Kim­ber said it had not been black res­i­dents mak­ing

de­mands.

“The black com­mu­nity has not protested, not one move of any­body,” he said. “We ain’t said noth­ing about you mov­ing our peo­ple across town, but if you want to move one as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal, one guid­ance coun­selor, ev­ery­body

from the other com­mu­ni­ties are writ­ing let­ters and get­ting their kids to write let­ters. We’ve said noth­ing about you all hav­ing three (English learner ed­u­ca­tion) di­rec­tors.”

Birks, in what was then a re­cent de­ci­sion to re­orga-

nize cen­tral of­fice op­er­a­tions, had cre­ated a po­si­tion for a di­rec­tor of English learner ed­u­ca­tion with two su­per­vi­sor po­si­tions be­neath that di­rec­tor.

“I think it’s time for you all to do your job and al­low the su­per­in­ten­dent to do her job. So what if you want to move some­one? What does this board have to do with that,” Kim­ber said, then ad­dress­ing some mem­bers of the school board by name. “Mr. Gold­son, Mr. Cotto, Mr. Joyner, Mr. Nast,” — an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Michael Nast, whose fi­nal term on the school board con­cluded in 2016, and “Miss Tamiko.”

He said that if he saw “pol­i­tics” in­ter­fer­ing with Birks’ per­son­nel rec­om­men­da­tions, he would bring peo­ple and “shut it down.”

At the next school board meeting, Can­de­laria said Kim­ber’s com­ments were in­tended “to di­vide and cre­ate wedges be­tween com­mu­ni­ties.”

Can­de­laria said that, in re­cent years, His­panic stu­dents had be­come the largest plu­ral­ity in the city’s schools, with a grow­ing English learn­ing pop­u­la­tion.

“That is why it’s im­por­tant and jus­ti­fi­able that we have the re­sources in place to pro­vide bilin­gual ser­vices,” he said. “Is this an at­tack on a spe­cific com­mu­nity?”

A con­tin­gent of Latino and His­panic com­mu­nity lead­ers crit­i­cized Kim­ber’s com­ments . Later in the meeting, board Pres­i­dent Dar­nell Gold­son cut into pub­lic com­ment to chas­tise Kim­ber and Can­de­laria for hav­ing what ap­peared to be an au­di­ble, heated con­ver­sa­tion.

“You’re re­ally pay­ing a

lot of at­ten­tion to me tonight,” Kim­ber said.

Other sig­na­to­ries to the state­ment re­leased were the Rev. Jose Cham­pagne, the Rev. Kelcy G.L Steele, the Rev. Abra­ham Her­nan­dez, Bishop Hester Bordeaux, Bishop Vin­cent Smith, the Rev. Miguel Cas­tro, the Rev. Mary Ran­som, Apos­tle Lu­cille Win­ston, the Rev. Richard Fur­low, IMA Min­istry Trea­surer Manuel Espinoza, Di­rec­tor of SAMA Frank Al­varado, Pres­i­dent of NIBAE Vic­tor Gomez, Alder Dave Reyes and state Rep. Juan Can­de­laria.

New Haven Alders Reyes and Dolores Colon also spoke about Kim­ber’s com­ments, with Reyes talking about his ad­mi­ra­tion for Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonvi­o­lence and Colon crit­i­ciz­ing the school board for al­low­ing Kim­ber’s words to go un­chal­lenged.

“To have Rev­erend Kim­ber come in here and say the His­pan­ics have too many jobs is ridicu­lous,” she said, adding that “us­ing jobs” as po­lit­i­cal cur­rency was a prac­tice best left in “the days of (for­mer Mayor John) DeSte­fano.”

Sev­eral mem­bers of the His­panic clergy also spoke at that meeting, in­clud­ing Her­nan­dez, who ref­er­enced what he saw as Kim­ber’s at­tempts to “as­sas­si­nate the char­ac­ter” of As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief Luiz Casanova dur­ing the lat­ter’s sus­pen­sion from the po­lice force.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic be­came in­volved in the ten­sion, as well, af­ter father and con­trac­tor Rod­ney Wil­liams said he felt the com­ments crit­i­cal of Kim­ber would “cre­ate more di­vi­sion.” Mother Mar­itza Baez said from the mi­cro­phone that she felt Wil­liams was act­ing as though the com­mu­nity should fear Kim­ber. Wil­liams stood up and be­gan to re­spond, and Gold­son called for a re­cess.

Ci­ty­wide Par­ent Team Vice Pres­i­dent Ni­jija-Ife Wa­ters said “as a de­scen­dent of Afro-Cubans,” there is col­orism — dis­crim­i­na­tion against dark­skinned peo­ple of color over those with a lighter skin tone — present in school district de­ci­sions.

“There’s a bat­tle for lim­ited re­sources and it’s tinted by eth­nic bi­ases,” Wa­ters said. “How are we go­ing to or­ga­nize in the pur­suit of col­lec­tively en­sur­ing our African-Amer­i­can chil­dren are the fu­ture lead­ers of to­mor­row?”

Wa­ters said the district “has ac­com­mo­dated His­pan­ics with­out apolo­gies, and they shouldn’t, but it should be re­spected that the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity are go­ing to put in their own re­quests as well.”

Kim­ber, who re­sponded later, men­tioned the tes­ti­mony of par­ent Sarah Miller, who crit­i­cized the de­ci­sion to cre­ate three cen­tral of­fice jobs for biligual ed­u­ca­tion, see­ing it as de­tract­ing from school-level ser­vices. He said Miller’s point was the same as his.

He ac­cused crit­ics of com­ing out “like Pharisees in the night.”

“I have grand­kids that are His­panic that I see ev­ery week­end. Noth­ing I said was racist. I sit at the ta­ble with you on many oc­ca­sions,” he said. “If you felt I said some­thing racist, you know where to find me in Ne­whal­lville. I will al­ways stand for the peo­ple in my church. You stand for the peo­ple you serve and I will do the same thing.”

Wilkins said Kim­ber was not a sig­na­tory to the state­ment be­cause he is not a mem­ber of ei­ther clergy as­so­ci­a­tion. Kim­ber is an ad­viser for the Joshua Gen­er­a­tion Clergy As­so­ci­a­tion.

Contributed Photo

Sig­na­to­ries of a joint let­ter be­tween The Greater New Haven Clergy As­so­ci­a­tion and Aso­cia­cion Min­is­te­rial Evan­gel­ica His­pana De New Haven.

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