As we prepare for another extravagant campaign clash for the city’s mayoralty, all eyes are on Hartford. The state capital is preparing for the call for donations, fundraisers, supporters, exposure, and most importantly, votes.
Voting to some is an investment, a call to action, a right, and a duty. To some, it’s painful. It’s a reminder of the dark, shameful past of the land of the free. Some voters are tuned in ready to hear what’s in store for their communities, their families, and themselves. Others are so overwhelmed with work and day-to-day life that they have no idea an election is even about to happen, let alone be able to identify the candidates and who has their best interests at heart.
With a choice of visions on offer from a diverse set of candidates, many citizens are preparing themselves for yet another reality. The old feeling of “I hope Dad keeps his promise and brings me to the baseball game like he said he would” has returned, but on a bigger stage, and with different ramifications if that promise is broken. We’re all just waiting to hear, “I didn’t forget about you son, it’s just that something has come up.”
In the arena of politics, the mental masturbation and exchanges between elevated egos seems to please and reflect individuals who can afford a broken promise or two. However, there’s a world within a world in our own city where those broken promises from politicians yield broken people.
Hartford looks and feels different when all you have to do is drive down Albany Avenue (Route 44) enroute to your warm office, hurrying downtown to catch Starbucks before the line gets too long, passing by the individuals who have to normalize being underserved, unemployed, under-resourced, and misunderstood.
With a population of about 120,000, the city has an unemployment rate of 4.8%. The Upper Albany community in the North End of Hartford has a median household income of $23,417. Hartford residents who have been struggling to find a job close to home, on the bus line, or just anything hiring, sat back and watched in cinematic fashion as a brand new stadium, Dunkin Donuts Park, was built literally in their backyard. With promises of jobs, many unemployed minorities felt the let down from Dad once again with the consistent pattern of broken promises.
Any thought of a brand new opportunity for employment can motivate anyone to rush to the polls on election day. However when the pizza is gone, many people still leave the party hungry. Collectively, the low-income residents of the city prepare themselves for another round of promises, and the glass on the floor when they are broken.
Hartford students too, have seen enrichment programs come and go like no other — not to mention, diverse professionals with an understanding of the day-to-day circumstances those students face in the home and in their immediate communities. With the lack of efficient, consistent and strong community resources, many children are also cut by the glass of broken promises made by politicians at the podium. As laws on guns, car theft, and criminal activity are getting stricter for young adults, some can’t help but ask, what’s the mayor’s ideas for solutions and interventions?
There seems to be no empathy, consideration, or accountability for the normalities perpetuated in low-income neighborhoods due to the lack of quality resources, consistent funding for proactive programs, job training, and mental health services for adolescents deemed “at risk.” Prior to election day, many candidates will promise great solutions once or if they’re elected into office. However, when those promises are broken or only delivered partially, it just reminds those who were sold on those promises that it’s going to be a long year and a very short Christmas.
Now, we’re told everyone has a “fair chance” at a successful prosperous life. However in the arena of politicians and promises, the underserved populations gear up to lose more than what they started with. With the cost of living rising and with job opportunities and resources scarce, we have to ask ourselves politically, who really has a chance, let alone a fair one? This isn’t a blame or shame game, it’s just a perpetuated pathology that’s ingrained in many individuals who are the products of broken promises.
For decades, marginalized populations in poverty have cast their votes, even at a time in history where it could have cost them their life. Individuals were threatened, abused, and assaulted for using their voice at the polls. After voting consistently and never receiving the proper compensation for their part in securing someone’s legacy as the city’s “parent,” you have to understand the resistance and hesitation of standing at a poll — just to get cut by the glass of broken promises.
Change is more than a catch word. It’s an action. If you ever have the opportunity to speak to elders in these low-income communities, they can literally show you debris in the street that’s been there since they were children. That speaks to the timeless demonstration of communities hearing the word change, but yet waiting to experience it in real time, on a consistent basis.
Of course voting is important. Of course voting is a necessary vehicle for collective change. However, there should be a few more inches of empathy extended to those directly affected from a traumatic history of participating at the polls. There should be a sensitive spiritual approach to those who feel their unfortunate conditions are ordained by God.
Yes, we know those who don’t vote can’t complain. However I hope you find in your heart understanding of the aftermath of being cut by broken promises .
Tyrone Bynum is a member of the Connecticut Mirror’s Community Editorial Board.