Meadows: Pridgen must be accountable to the community

BY CAROLETTE MEADOWS

The black community has been indoctrinated to the point of brainwashing to never question the “man of God.” But the Bible warns of building wealth. Jesus never worked with Caesar but instead told the servants of Caesar to give up their possessions in order to follow Him. The error of not questioning has allowed preachers to take up ranks within Caesar’s cabinet. Buffalo’s Darius Pridgen is an example of this.

Pastor Pridgen of the True Bethel Baptist Church became Councilman Pridgen who, along with Rasheed Wyatt (who serves on the Board of Trustees at the church) opened Stepping Stone Academy Charter School on the True Bethel Campus. Stepping Stone quickly closed as it could not successfully educate children to state standards. The irony is that Pastor Pridgen was also elected to the Buffalo Board of Education and claimed to be an advocate against the miseducation of urban youth.

Not only did he fail to educate the children of Stepping Stone but did not think them worthy enough of a probation request which would have given them an extension in order to revamp the curriculum for the benefit of the children. Pastor Pridgen instead took the lucrative profits of the defunct charter school and had his church spin-off True Bethel Development Corporation. He also left the school board and was later elected to the the Buffalo Common Council.

The pastor, as councilman, has also failed to address the dire situation of the children within the Buffalo Public Schools who have admitted that they discriminate against children of color during admissions to the better schools within its massive underperforming district. While the councilman has had time to travel to Baltimore to discuss discrimination and has played to the “poor me” violin after Joe Mascia’s taped conversation, in which, he called Pridgen the N-bomb, he has been suspiciously silent on the issues facing the voiceless black children within the city he serves. In fact, the councilman has gone on the record praising the business ventures of Carl Paladino, who is actively working to dismantle public education in order to profit off of charter schools, a business venture the pastor politician has previously tried his hand at.

858 East Ferry, an address that haunts the preacher

Once on the council, Pastor Pridgen and True Bethel Development set their sites on land across the street from his church — but there was an incumbrance to their first project. The property at 858 E. Ferry was a toxic waste site that was linked to autoimmune disease, especially in black women, across the zip codes of 14211 and 14215. Although the city was unloading the land cheap, the pastor didn’t want to bear the cost of clean-up. He initiated a media campaign complete with appearances in a gas mask,  claiming it was for the health of the people. He partnered with Crystal Peoples to put pressure on the state for the almost $10 million dollar remediation expense for a partial piece of the land.

joseph-gardella
Dr. Joe Gardella, of the University at Buffalo.

The NYS DEC paid True Bethel $50K that was to be for community information sessions but it seems that those meetings didn’t reach past the pastor’s congregants. UB was paid over $1 million for sample gathering, testing, and future monitoring programs for the community. The testing was done but the community got nothing from UB and Dr Joe Gardella who not only headed up the UB team but serves on the city’s Environmental Commission.

After the cleanup, the land was turned over to the city of with the stipulation that it was for “non-residential commercial use” and the city was left with the responsibility of enforcement. Instead of this happening, Mayor Brown and the city council (which Pridgen now sat on) sold the land to True Development with a residential building permit.

The result of this is that there is now “quality” low-income housing for predominately black inner-city residents on land declared to be unfit for human habitation and is located only 18ft from unremediated toxic waste — which means that the mayor, council, pastor, and development corporation put people desperate for decent homes on top of a ground-zero kill zone.

Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord 

Councilman Pridgen has further abused his power because — as I have fought to bring this darkness into the light — the pastor saw fit to retaliate against a disabled, toxic waste exposed lupus suffering single mother by tying up a roofing contract that was granted through the city’s emergency home repair program; even though I was on the wait list for three years after I’ve never been violated or fined. After I revealed my findings and began to make complaints, the contractor was delayed, I got fined three times, and an received an appearance ticket to housing court to have my home demolished. My fight allowed me to keep my home based on the fact that I had been on the list, been approved, and had a contractor (who was suspiciously delayed). They refused to waive the fines, which I can’t afford to pay.

The councilman/pastor seems to be more concerned with keeping me silent instead of recognizing that there’s a community of undeserved, disenfranchised people getting sick, suffering, and dying. Instead of the pastor politician protecting the flock and constituents, he, like many others, seeks to profit off of poverty at the expense of the lives he was ordained and elected to protect. He has used the trust of a pastor to surge through the political rank and file. This allowed him the power to drive a future economic machine that not only builds “ministry wealth” but personal pastoral wealth. But this blood money comes at a price.

I would like to leave the pastor councilman with this: Are you your brother’s keeper?

To all the government agencies that have ignored my complaints and allow human suffering to prevail — in light of the handling of Love Canal, Hickory Woods, and Tonawanda Coke, which are toxic waste issues in predominately white residential areas — do #blacklivesmatter? The inner city’s health woes aren’t being treated like #alllivesmatter.

To the people, just because someone looks like you doesn’t mean he is working for you.

Carolette Meadows is The Chronicle‘s new Education Corespondent.  She will be covering public education and urban affairs and can be reached at carolettedm@yahoo.com. 

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