WHY WE NEED A FAIR REDISTRICTING PROCESS. I secured 49% in my State Senate run in 2006, but did not win the City Council - WHY? 

- A case study in courage

By Vishnu Bisram (in New York)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”- President Theodore Roosevelt.

The last Special Election held November 2, 2010 has established a road map for us to secure political representation, and the concomitant economic progress and mainstream recognition as a vibrant, thriving community. It also reiterates the need to have a consensus candidate from the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities.

A visit to Albert Baldeos’s Facebook page or to his campaign office confirms that he energized the hopes and aspirations of our community. Courageous, passionate and inspirational are common adjectives aptly used to describe him. Indeed, his many attempts at winning a seat at the table of government not only highlighted us on the political map as a vibrant, taxpaying community which has revitalized Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and environs, but emphasizes what is lacking in our supposed democratic system-fair redistricting, from census data.

In 2006, Baldeo indelibly and emphatically placed us in American history when he shook up the political establishment and almost defeated a 30 year incumbent and Chair of the Republican Party in Queens, Serphin Maltese. Since then, all political aspirants have made the trek to our community to secure our votes and our funding, and candidates running from our community now get mainstream media attention and coverage.

In fact, both Ruben Wills and Nicole Paultre-Bell located their campaign offices in Richmond Hill, more realistically referred to as “Little Guyana,” something that was never done before by their predecessors seeking office whose districts included Richmond Hill.

Baldeo himself sums it up thus, “Political representation will not come easy, because it is more expedient for vested and special interests to divide and rule us, and we will have to overcome many adversities to scale those mountains. This process has been about opening doors for future generations, so that our children, and subsequent generations to come, will not have to live as second class citizens. It was never about me. It was always, and will always be, about us progressing as a community. Right now, that door has opened, but it needs a final push.”

When former Council member Tom White, who had severely neglected our community, died in office recently, Baldeo emerged as the consensus candidate within the Indo-Caribbean, Caucasian and Hispanic community.

Fresh from a historic District Leader race in the 38th Assembly District, he won 80% of the votes over his rival, Harpreet Singh Toor, a Sikh community leader to secure that seat, as well as being elected as a Delegate to the Judicial Convention (which elects Judges to the Supreme Court), and County Committeeman. No one before him had done so well at the polls, much less in a diverse district as Assembly District 38.

Many of these voters screamed that they could not find Albert Baldeo’s name on the ballot and protested that they were disenfranchised because of the illogical divisions imposed upon us by gerrymandering. Consequently, because our community has been divided into several political districts, Baldeo could not carry over or consolidate that huge block of vote into his City Council race, because the district lines prohibited that.

In fact, the attached diagram shows how our community is divided between City Council Districts 32 and 28, that is between Council members Eric Ulrich and Ruben Wills. Had Baldeo been able to get votes from a fairly drawn district, he would have won the elections, and our community would have broken the barrier. Also, had Harpreet Singh Toor not taken away vital votes from Baldeo, he would have won even more convincingly.

The fact that Ruben Wills’ name appeared on the Democratic line on the ballot exclusively, and his false representations to voters via his literature and his campaign workers that “Wills is the only Democrat in this race,” ensured his victory.

Separate ballots would have cured this gross misconception, but Wills, the party’s choice, benefited unfairly throughout the process.

The years of struggle, victories and defeats have certainly mellowed Baldeo. Many misguided businessmen and professionals reap heavily from the community, live the good life, but never give back. Instead, these hypocrites arrange personal sweetheart deals from politicians they give lavish contributions to at the expense of our entire community, while some of us consider politics taboo.

Others are stuck in the past, with a plantation mentality of mental slavery even in this day and age, and cannot envision, much less accept, the idea of one of their own being elected.

They would prefer a stranger than one of their own. Thankfully, these belong to a dwindling, depraved band. Baldeo also has his false accusers from the bitter 2005 City Council race haunting him like zombies.

Even when he could have pressed charges and law suits against Dr. Robby Mahadeo and his wife Rachel Itwaru, Vishnu Mahadeo and Sunil Harricharran for filing four duplicated, sensationalized but palpably false police complaints that Baldeo had allegedly pointed a gun at them in 2005, Baldeo took the higher ground and forgave them, but the media never gave him credit for his largesse.

In fact, Baldeo was addressing 3,000 Rochdale cooperators at the stated time, and this irrefutable alibi could have sent these false complainants to jail for a long time.

“I saved these people from serious consequences by not pressing charges for their vicious lies, and took the higher road, and showed leadership,” Baldeo said. Dr. Robby Mahadeo, apparently not thankful for the magnanimous reprieve Baldeo had extended to himself and cohorts, even gave Nicole Paultre-Bell his offices free to run her campaign, becoming the poster child for the putrid mentality that still affects our community.

Waxing rich in Gandhian philosophy, Baldeo said, “We must not divide our community. All of us lose when we do that. We must show leadership and triumph over evil. Forgiveness is a characteristic of the strong, not the weak.”

This glaring division of our community is contrary to the fundamental guarantees of the American Dream, and violates justice, fair play and the Voting Rights Act and other pillars of American traditions and jurisprudence.

Albert summed up his reason for running. “Everyone knew that it was a long shot, but it was a shot worth taking for our community’s benefit and advancement.

Now we have data to lobby for a fair district, and my races are vital exhibits in our cause. We must now lobby our elected representatives, redistricting commissions, good government groups, and the Federal Courts as a last resort to draw us fair districts in the City Council, State Assembly and State Senate if we are to be treated fairly and equally with other Americans as a voting population with a common heritage, customs and needs.

That is the whole promise of the American Dream. All we ask for is equal treatment-nothing more, nothing less.”

Albert Baldeo has led our fight with conviction, vision and leadership. I am convinced that he has charted the right course. It was the same attributes I saw in the men whose photographic presence inspire him in his office – Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Martin Luther King. He frequently draws inspiration from these great men. His favorite poem “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley, is positioned beside his guiding Gandhian quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Albert Baldeo is certainly an inspirational leader, and one who has challenged the status quo to bring a better life for all of us, a freedom fighter and champion in his own right - a visionary far beyond the time, people and circumstances he found himself in.

“If I could just emulate a small part of those great men, my life would be worthwhile - and we will all be the better for it,” he said. Just then, his 6 year old son rushed in and asked, “Daddy, did we win?”

“No, son,” Baldeo said, as he heaved the sigh of a man carrying an entire community on his shoulders, “But as long as we continue to fight, we will always be winners.”

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