Activists scold Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst for criticism of ‘black leadership’

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Urban League President, Henry Thomas, City Councilor Justin Hurst, and Greater Springfield NAACP President, Bishop Talbert Swan, II      
 
City Councilor Justin Hurst criticized “Black Leadership in Springfield for its alleged failure to speak out on important racial issues. His criticism has sparked some activists to strike back, saying his comments were wrong and “insulting.”

The reaction followed Hurst criticizing local black leaders including the Springfield Chapter of the NAACP and the Urban League of Springfield for being among groups that rallied in support of Victoria Rowe, a young black appointee to the Springfield Historical Commission.

Hurst suggested the groups were rallied by the mayor’s office to support Rowe, while not being vocal on many other issues important to the black community.

Leaders of the two named groups fired back on Wednesday.

“To suggest – and I take this personally – to suggest that we were rallied by the mayor’s office and used as puppets is insulting,” said Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP. “And to suggest that we have not spoken to larger issues is equally insulting. I have been actively advocating for our community for the last three decades when he (Hurst) was playing on a playground somewhere.”

Henry Thomas III, president and chief executive officer of the Springfield Urban League, said he believes Hurst’s remarks were “unfortunate, but I respect his right to be wrong.”

“The Urban League, in its 103-year history, has never needed to be rallied to show up when its constituents are being treated unfairly,” Thomas said. “The issue of that evening was not about black, white or brown. It was simply about equity.

“A double standard for one’s participation in public service – Victoria Rowe – should not be tolerated irrespective of race,” Thomas said. “I am afraid Councilor Hurst missed the point of the evening badly.”

Justin Hurst critical of black leadership for focusing on Historical Commission appointment

Some members of the Springfield City Council were critical of the Mayor Domenic Sarno and two staff members, but approved the appointment of Victoria E. Rose, Shannon Walsh and Alfonso W. Nardi.

Among his comments, Hurst said he is “quite baffled when I take a look at the many significant issues that these same folks had a chance to make their voices heard on that this issue (Rowe) is the one that the ‘Black Leadership’ chose to hang their hats on.”

While Rowe’s appointment was approved by the City Council by a 12-1 vote, there was news that some councilors were opposed in advance of the vote, including Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs, who questioned if Rowe had the experience in historic preservation issues to serve on the commission.

Twiggs voted for Rowe on Monday in crowded council chambers, with Hurst casting the only “no” vote. Both councilors are black.

Supporters of Rowe said they believed that Twiggs’ initial opposition was politically motivated because Rowe ran against him in the 2015 election, losing to Twiggs.

“… to suggest that we were rallied by the mayor’s office and used as puppets is insulting.” ~ Talbert Swan II

Twiggs denied any political motivation.

Hurst criticized the mayor’s chief of staff, Denise Jordan, and mayoral aide Darryl Moss, both black members of Mayor Domenic J. Sarno’s administration, saying the two “have repeatedly run black candidates against black incumbents for seats on the City Council and School Committee, thus ensuring the black community remains divided.”

Swan said it is misguided to think that the black community becomes divided if a black candidate runs against a black candidate. In a predominantly black ward, the likelihood of two black candidates running for the same seat is high, he said.

Talbert Swan criticizes opposition to Victoria Rowe's appointment

Talbert Swan criticizes opposition to Victoria Rowe’s appointment

Bishop Talbert W. Swan II, a plaintiff in past court cases that pushed for ward representation on the Springfield City Council, issued a statement on Thursday that criticized “the appearance of politics as usual” relating to controversy over the appointment of a new member to the Historical Commission.

“No one says a white community is divided if a white candidate challenges a white incumbent,” Swan said. “Further, it is somewhat insulting to suggest that simply because an incumbent is black, that black people have an obligation to support that individual. We are more intelligent as voters than to keep someone in office simply because they are black.”

Hurst, when contacted Wednesday evening, said he stands by everything he said.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Hurst said. “While I have heard the NAACP speak out on some issues, there has yet to be the level of coordination between the NAACP, the Urban League, clergy and other leaders around substantive issues that have a significant impact on the community. And this particular issue around the Rowe issue is not substantive.”

Hurst said it was obvious to him that the controversy on the Rowe appointment was “choreographed,” but he hopes the energy will be used to address more significant issues.

At-large City Councilor Bud L. Williams, said he agrees with Hurst that black leaders need to speak out more on the issues. Williams said he strives to do so himself as a black leader in the community.

“I think African American elected officials need to be more visible, more involved in the community such as attending neighborhood council meetings,” Williams said.

In addition, Williams said he plans to have a council subcommittee meeting on March 10 to discuss racial issues facing the city.

Among issues of importance to the community, Williams said there needs to be more focus on promoting jobs and training, minority hiring and minority-owned contractors.

“I will talk about things going on – the casino, residency, the Mill Street jail, race relations,” Williams said. “The black leadership should be at the forefront.”


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Bishop Talbert Swan: Black Lives Matter cause is just, but Springfield protest disrespectful

Brian Steele | bsteele@masslive.com By Brian Steele | bsteele@masslive.com

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on April 16, 2015 at 7:00 AM

SPRINGFIELD – In response to Tuesday’s Black Lives Matter protest, which shut down the city’s busiest intersection as schools were letting out and resulted in 15 arrests, the leader of the local NAACP chapter said the demonstrators were right and wrong.

“Any time people engage in civil protest to voice their concerns about injustice, it’s a good thing,” said Bishop Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP and pastor of the Spring of Hope Church of God In Christ. “I completely disagree with the name-calling … I condemn that action.”

Dozens of protesters blocked off The X in Forest Park, chanted slogans including “F— the police” and called responding officers “pigs.” They were ordered to disperse; those who didn’t were arrested while everyone else was led away from the area by a large cadre of state and local police.

“When we do raise our voices, we have to do it in a responsible way in which we not only bring integrity to our cause, but also demonstrate a level of respect for those in law enforcement who are attempting to conduct their business,” said Swan.


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Race matters: Bishop Talbert Swan, president of Greater Springfield NAACP, says no indictment in Ferguson case means “America has a long way to go” to bridge racial divide

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Bishop Talbert Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP, said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the failure of a Missouri grand jury to hand up an indictment in the case of Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, back in August. The case has sparked protests and unrest in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Swan said the case proves that “America has a long way to go” in terms of bridging the racial divide and winning justice for young black men who are killed by police officers.

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General Membership Meeting

Join members of the NAACP in our monthly membership meeting. The next meeting will take place Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at the Spring of Hope Church Of God In Christ, 35 Alden Street, Springfield, MA.

File a Complaint with the Springfield Branch NAACP


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Viewpoint: Timothy Leary case offers a test of sincerity and forgiveness

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Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP, has given credit to Holyoke Fire Department officer Timothy Leary for the latter’s apology for a racial slur, perhaps opening the door to more conciliation, (Submitted photo)

Ron Chimelis | rchimelis@repub.com By Ron Chimelis | rchimelis@repub.com
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on October 02, 2014

In a culture where superficial political correctness and genuine bigotry are locked in daily battle, the case of Holyoke firefighter Timothy Leary looks like a drop in the bucket at first.

Leary’s case, though, is more important than that. It puts to the test the two competing elements of any such case: the matter of sincerity on the part of the embattled individual, and the level of forgiveness by a public that is served by him.

In 2012, Leary was caught on video, using a racial slur when referring to Holyoke City Council member Anthony Soto. The video became known to the public in February, inflaming a process in which Leary was in line to become a provisional lieutenant.

Leary and Soto have had a fractured history that dates to when Leary was president of the Holyoke Firefighters Association. That adds context to his attitude toward Soto, but in no way justifies the remark.

The incident brought a number of issues to the forefront: the video taping of a private conversation, the question of whether Leary could be trusted to protect Holyoke citizens if he truly disrespected a segment of them, and whether one comment should be used to judge a man whose official work record had been a good one.


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Holyoke firefighter Timothy Leary apologizes for racial slur in letter to Greater Springfield NAACP President Rev. Talbert Swan, Mayor Alex Morse

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Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, left, and the Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP. ((FILE PHOTOS))

HOLYOKE — In a letter addressed to Mayor Alex B. Morse and Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Timothy Leary apologized for his comments in a 2012 video.

The provisional Fire Department lieutenant made racially insensitive remarks regarding City Councilor Anthony Soto while off duty, speaking with owner of Hampshire Towing William Johnson in his South Hadley office.

The video came to light in February. On Aug. 8, Leary said he agreed to meet with the NAACP and Morse regarding his remarks.

Below is the full text of the letter, dated Sept. 26:


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Saying Ferguson ‘could happen’ in Holyoke, Springfield, Talbert Swan calls for special commissions

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Police handcuff a protester after rushing the crowd to arrest him on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. early Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. On Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old, in the St. Louis suburb. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
By Anne-Gerard Flynn | aflynn@repub.com
on August 20, 2014

SPRINGFIELD — Saying that the civil unrest that has followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson “could happen” in Springfield and Holyoke, the Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP, has requested that the mayors of these two cities establish special commissions to address issues that could prove to be “a powder keg.”

“Holyoke and Springfield are two urban centers that have a large population of persons of color,” Swan said. “They are also two cities with a sordid history around police-community relationships. These are two ingredients with potential for civil unrest.”

“What I am looking for,” Swan added, “is a commission that would address a myriad of issues that have led to problems. What has gone on before is the establishment of committees that addressed vary specific issues, or addressed those issues once the problems came to life. The commission I want would work year round, and would see problems before they come.”


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Hampden district attorney candidates field questions at NAACP forum in Springfield

by Stephanie Barry

[caption id="attachment_1203" align="alignleft" width="300"]NAACP 15282097-mmmain The Greater Springfield NAACP sponsored a debate between the Hampden district attorney candidates at Springfield Technical Community College on Tuesday evening in Springfield. Here Talbert Swan II introduces the candidates. From left is Swan, debate moderator Laura Hutchinson, and candidates Shawn Allyn, Hal Etkin, Anthony Gulluni and Brett Vottero. (The Republican photo by / Dave Roback)[/caption]

SPRINGFIELD – The four Democratic candidates for Hampden district attorney worked to bring their messages to the public during a forum hosted by the local NAACP chapter on Tuesday.

The forum included questions from a three-member panel. It hit topics including prison overcrowding, police brutality and marijuana prosecutions, while audience members followed up with queries about recalcitrant witnesses and diversity.

It was the fourth public forum for candidates Shawn Allyn, a Holyoke attorney; Hal Etkin, a lawyer from Longmeadow; assistant prosecutor Anthony Gulluni, of Springfield; and former longtime prosecutor Brett Vottero, also of Springfield. The event at Springfield Technical Community College drew by far the largest crowd of all the forums and featured the most detailed questions to date.


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Real Talk: In violent times, Pastor Talbert Swan II calls on his community to stop waiting for reforms.

By Tom Vannah

advocatestory17972After a busy morning in his office at the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, a haircut and a quick lunch with his 19-year-old son, Rev. Talbert Swan II walks down Hampden Street in Springfield, headed for the broadcast studio of WGBY, the local PBS station. There, Swan will tape a segment of Connecting Point, an issues-based program hosted by Aliz Koletas and Jim Madigan. Swan has been asked to join Springfield Police Detective Sean Condon and Armando Olivares, a 20-year-old Springfield resident who was acquitted last year in the fatal shooting of Reality Shabazz Walker, in a discussion of a topic that has occupied a lot of his attention, not just recently, but over the course of more than three decades of social activism and Christian ministry: violence in Springfield.

In fact, on this particular Tuesday afternoon in June, Swan finds himself still embroiled in a controversy he set off the week before, when he delivered a pointed message about the recent spate of street violence in the city—violence that, over the course of a few weeks, came in the form of a number of drive-by shootings, some in broad daylight and near public parks filled with people—that resulted in three deaths and many serious injuries.


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Presidents of the Greater Springfield NAACP and Council of Churches applaud appointment of John Barbieri as next police commissioner

By Jack Flynn | jflynn@repub.com
on March 21, 2014

[caption id="attachment_1170" align="alignleft" width="300"]Deputy Chief John Barbieri Deputy Chief John Barbieri[/caption]

SPRINGFIELD — The presidents of the Greater Springfield NAACP chapter and the Council of Churches of Western Mass. have praised the appointment of John Barbieri as the next Police Commissioner and promised to work with him in the future.

NAACP president Talbert Swan II and Archbishop Timothy Paul Baymon of Council of Churches issued a statement today supporting Mayor Domenic J. Sarno’s selection of Barbieri while also criticizing the closed-door process preceding the appointment.

“We are extremely disappointed at the lack of transparency and closed-door process,” Swan and Baymon said, referring to private interviews between Sarno and the department’s three deputy chiefs, the only candidates considered for the job.


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