Monday, August 30, 2010

Notes from a Meeting - The Ananse Shields Leadership Program

The Ananse Shields Leadership Program meeting held at the Office of Council Member Letitia James (on August 17, 2010).

by Cliffannie Bowman

Sitting around a brown, rectangular, just polished table, students of Ananse Shields Leadership Program prepare themselves to meet the unexpected. Their loud speaking was suddenly interrupted by a tall lady walking in with heels that clicked monstrously as she called out HELLO EVERYONE.

The students stared not knowing whether to respond or sit with their hands folded. I said Hello guys. Are you tired? She laughed as she took her seat. The air was thin enough, not even a knife can cut into it. Everyone said their silent hellos.

As she looked into the students eyes that set before her, she proudly introduced herself as the city council lady that goes on behalf of her community, to make a change. As everyone started to lighten up, Council Member of District 35 in Brooklyn, Letitia James went around the table asking everyone about the career path they destine to take.

It seemed as though everyone was warming up to Ms. James as she stated her profession. I always wanted to be a lawyer ever since my brother got arrested for stealing a bike. Nobody wanted to listen to me, so I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted my voice to be heard amongst everyone.

How’d you get the job as the city council member? a student asked her. A smile swept her face as she leaned back in her chair. I won this position after James Davis was assassinated 7 years ago. At the time, I was running against Mr. Davis brother and won. As time passed by, the students opened up more and talked about their summer which then opened the floor for Ms. James to start a controversy topic: should the building of a moss be near the world trade center?

This topic was sensitive to the fact that religion and freedom of speech dealt a whole lot on how the students viewed the situation. 75% of the students declared the building should be built because of freedom of speech and religion. Not allowing the Muslims to create their own building on their own land would violate their first amendment. 25% of the students disagreed based on the fact that many people lost their loved ones to the very people who sacrificed their lives and the lives of others because of that very religion.

That debate led to another as the council women attacked the issue of Boys pants hanging low. This topic automatically split the room in half as bloods boiled over. People don’t need to see what you’re wearing shouted one. But everyone has the right to wear what they want to, contradicted another. If girls can show cleavage, then boys can sag.

Did you know that saggin spelt backwards is niggas? she asked. Everyone looked at one another astonished. Well, what influences the way boys look? Ms. James asked. The music does because of how hard the gangsters are portraying themselves said one. As the council woman looked proudly over her glasses, she glanced over the students and said Define yourself based on who you are not through your clothes.

The young leaders all nodded in response and gave her applause as she stood up to go. It was a pleasure meeting all of you, she stated and hope to see you all soon. She left for her press conferences as the students reflected on how much you can learn in one day.

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