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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cosmo RIP

As you all know I lost my part time community center (Cosmopolitan Center) job working with underprivileged youth.
My job title was Teen Rec Coordinator.
Basically, all of us were victims of a fiscal disaster drill.
A closing operation. A firesale, orchestrated with perfect precision by thoughtful, clever politicians and bureaucrats.
The dizzying roster of board caucuses and absent or ever changing members rendered accountability for oversight moot.
The Cosmopolitan Center, once strong and forever proud had suffered for years under inadequate management. There was never a grant writer, and to my surprise I had a boss (God Bless Her) who was head of a delinquency program and could not correctly spell delinquent or unity (it was on a posted flier for the whole world to see).
James Balckshear, the last champion of Utica, would be ASHAMED.
I was required to teach a life skills course that suggests: 'there are very few ways to obtain money legally during a financial crisis'.
How encouraging.
It goes on
'the lottery, lawsuits are not reliable solutions'. I know you are wondering; did it mention education or work as solutions to financial crisis? As a way of freeing ones self from the ragged jaws of poverty? No, this is social design, a training of sorts. Its where you learn how to be eaten. The life skills class was a primer to waiting in line at social service and how to catch the bus...stuff all these kids already know.
What about their dreams, the achievable humble aspirations that many of these kids have. I know we can't just hand out potential. The notion of all of our kids being excellent in the right conditions is unrealistic. Despite the fact that we each have something we are good at that can probably add to the community's wellbeing. We can foster an environment where kids get to know who they are and how their fancy, brand spanking new brains work. After all, an afterschool program is the place to explore these ideas. But THIS. It was the worst curriculum I have ever seen. I'm not even a teacher. But it seemed to me like a subtle way to suck the dreams and motivation out of a young mind. Just provide endless details about catching busses and cashing county checks, with a multiple choice test at the end. Only an educated mind with a sinister goal would green light this crap.
These children were grounded in the boots on the ground reality you read about, all to cynical, prepared and committed to living a mediocre life.
No Dreams. No Dreaming. No time to dream. Most of them already written off.
One kid told me he wants to be a mailman.
I told him "Keep your nose clean kid, you'll be there in no time, in the meantime- B average...minimum"
That was lifeskills.
The place was a wreck these kids really deserved better...but nothing?
You decide.
I'm guilty too, I worked there.
I think back and I feel like I should have spoken up then. I needed and liked my job. We all did. But the 'need' and the 'like' seemed to get in the way of 'The Kids'.
The janitor could barely walk (gout). So obviously the place was a sty. They never renegotiated contracts with the county and no one cared.
The price of gas and everything else is going up every other non-profit game in town is renegotiating according to cost of living and business increases yet we, for whatever reason, just sit and accept whatever they (the county) give us.

"Don't wanna rock the boat"We did not have working water faucets, the ceiling leaked and the barf-rooms were petrie dishes.

Did I mention no one cared?

For seven decades this place was a destination for young black people in the City of Utica. A relic of segregation when we did not have choices of where to go.
Now we do. And we chose to let it die.
In reality it was put out of it's misery.
An old leftover from a once proud black community unceremoniously shut down.
No goodbyes, awards or tears.
It is sad.
I wrote earlier: James Blackshear, the last champion, would be ashamed.We black Uticans can blame no one. We made clear choices and stood idly by as the place was run into the ground.
Who wants to donate stuff when the staff pores through the donations before they give it away, that is, if they give it away.
Who wants to help when there is no transparency, nothing but miscellaneous expenditures and Peter takin from Paul.
After all this we were told it was going to be alright.
Our jobs were safe.
Even though I was a part time employee I was told I would be seriously considered for the fulltime position of Youth Advocate.
We were all told that the agency taking over our social service contracts (MVCAA) would be considering us for employment. The plan was to continue providing services to the existing clients which are basically teenagers.
In the months I facilitated the after school program which consisted of Basketball and other incredibly low budget activities I developed a close relationship with a lot of the children. I know all their names, what they want to be when they grow up and how they are living now.
My boss does not even care. Or maybe I got it wrong . Maybe she just can't remember their names.

The fact is, I have been left behind.

My cover letter, resume, interview all seemed to be a formality. I have watched everyone else I worked with make the transition from agency to agency leaving me out in the cold. I will not even get into the details but suffice it to say someone does not like me.

I have never been part of the clique at The Original Cosmo. I'm not a Utica native. I write, perform in plays and reject the notion of Little Wayne and Madea as culturally relevant to my community. Oh yeah, I also refrain from thumping the Bible and invoking the name of Jesus as a convenient ally in any debate. It also does not help I have a white (Belgian no less) partner and a bi-racial child that is still a novelty.

"He looks soo white" or "That's not his baby...can't be"

I also would not engage in petty I look back I think I should have got involved in the backstab frenzy. I would probably be at work right now.
I can also spell- d-e-l-i-n-q-u-e-n-t
The most telling factoid is this conversation. "So Ms. Blah Blah how did your interview go"?
"Fine Mr. Dancy but that part with the computer test...I didn't do it"
"Yeah... it was hard"
The computer test consisted of excel and a response to a simple client based 'life crisis'.
She got the job.
So far- I have not.
Maybe my passion is oft putting?
Maybe my command of the English language intimidates some people.
It didn't intimidate them when I was writing articles for their little causes.
But all that is behind me. Life goes on and the familiar faces change places.
Meanwhile I am drawing up plans for a Monorail


Swink said...


Your words carry the weight, and there's definitely emotion and movement in the font. That was our discussion last night, the Cosmo closing, at my house (the Browns family) over dinner. And my Aunt repeatedly said "It shouldn't have went under." I guess this from sparked in her mind from the article about "Mr. Someone" in the once-a-month small organization paper that she picked up at the store. *You know EXACTLY what I'm talking about*

I am young, I do not know of the Cosmo that you speak of, but I know of the one you worked for. Our step team used to practice there, I am sure you remember that. And I don't know.... it's a cornerstone in our neighborhood, because it is central to the Black community. Now my brother has to walk to the Boys & Girls Club, or like many others -- get pushed out into the streets. Not even to mention the other services provided by the Cosmo Center... Part of my reason for trying to revitalize the Cafe.

Ra Ra Ra. Utica is a disappointed, and it puts me to shame. It shouldn't have went under, but due to neglect, lack of care, and other invisible hands I believe that the Cosmo was already buried.


*Oh, I won't be home, I'll be back at school. But come to the Tram Cafe Sunday night, 6pm. I'll be performing 3 or 4 pieces.

David B. Dancy said...

aiight swinky

Spartacus said...

I know how important these community centers are Dave. I went to one when I lived in Manhattan; a place called the Boys Brotherhood Republic. It kept me safe off the streets in an environment where I can wear myself playing B-ball and learn a thing or two about self-government. My son goes to a community center now in the town I live in. He loves it. I'm sorry to hear your place has gone down and dismayed that you've been victimized by the clique mentality.

David B. Dancy said...

Thank you Spart. I benefitted from a rec center as well. I spent at least 2/3rds of my time there after school during some pretty important years 9-14.The rest of the time I was gettin into shit.