Myra Stennis, a well-known Austin resident was in attendance at the community Health and Wellness Issues forum held by Cong. Danny Davis (7th Congressional District) in December of last year. Ms. Stennis asked the congressman whether there were funds available to help individuals interested in health-related fields to obtain education and a job.

Instead of providing assistance or directing the matter to someone in his office, Cong. Davis proceeded to present a diatribe about the lack of money for such efforts because of the George Bush administration. However, when Davis or some of the other political leaders representing Austin want to find money for someone they like, it happens, regardless of the administration in Washington D.C.

Take for instance the organization Ceasefire. According to their website, over $900,000 will be given to them by the federal government, in part because of the efforts of Cong. Davis. Furthermore the State of Illinois, headed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich will provide the organization with funds in excess of $3 million. Finally State Rep. Deborah Graham (78th District) has agreed to give the group over $300,000 to operate their program in the Austin community.

With all of the viable community organizations existing in Austin, why did representative Graham agree to put $300,000 into the hands of outsiders to provide services in Austin? Graham and Ceasefire have failed to provide an adequate justification for funds going to a group which may simply duplicate activities that are already being provided by existing Austin organizations.

I know some of you are saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter who gets money to help Austin residents.” However, this is not correct.

Even Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) has admitted publicly there are groups who are getting money on the assumption that they are assisting Austin residents when in fact it cannot be demonstrated that services are actually being rendered. And Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th Ward) has indicated on several occasions the need for accountability with respect to organizations obtaining funds to operate in the Austin community.

So why is it that State Rep. Graham is so willing to assist this particular organization invade the Austin community?”a group whose leadership is not made up of Austin residents, an organization that has no physical presence or established track record of success in Austin, a body that in many ways will only duplicate the services of already existing Austin institutions?

Is it possible that Ceasefire will be used as a tool to further destabilize the Austin community, destroy legitimate indigenous leadership and replace them with puppets who have no stake in the community? Austin deserves better, State Rep. Graham. After all, government public policy decision-makers have long known that black unemployment is two or three times that of the rest of the country. And the solution for a high crime rate has always been the same, full employment for African Americans. But instead of providing jobs, black males have seen an ever-increasing body of law designed to incarcerate them and make seeking employment more difficult.

According to the tenants of Ceasefire, they view the community as the decision-making body and seek local leaders and organizations to partner with in a community-wide coalition to draft a violence prevention plan. It is clear that State Rep. Graham needs to broker a meeting with the leadership of Ceasefire and Austin’s organizational leaders to make certain that a substantive crime prevention program is developed and accountability becomes a cornerstone of the effort in Austin.