Clergy groups’ statement calls for black-Latino unity
Tension sparked after remarks to school board
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
“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.
Signatories of a joint letter between The Greater New Haven Clergy Association and Asociacion Ministerial Evangelica Hispana De New Haven.