As the Democratic National Convention gets underway today, I can't help but think that Harlem will cease to be the capital of Black America. No, it's not the official capital. But for decades it has been an emotional focal point for the dreams and aspirations of the African American community in the United States. Today, the leadership that helped foster the enduring image it has today is shut out of this historic convention.
Four family names are synonymous with Harlem's power and place in New York and national life. Rep. Charles Rangel is the dean of the state's congressional delegation and now chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. David Paterson became the state's first black governor after the spectacular implosion of Eliot Spitzer earlier this year. His father, Basil Paterson, was a member of the New York State Senate in the 1960s and was the state's first black secretary of state (1979-1983). David Dinkins became New York City's first black mayor (1989-1993). And Percy Sutton was Manhattan Borough president from 1965 to 1977.
Yet, as the party gets set to nominate the first African American to lead a political party, neither Gov. Paterson nor Chairman Rangel nor Mayor Dinkins has a major speaking role at the convention. Sure, they all supported Clinton. She was, after all, the hometown candidate for the nomination. And Rangel would have been a distraction with the controversy surrounding his New York apartments and his fundraising for a school for public service that bears his name. But the struggles, sacrifice and achievements of Rangel and Dinkins helped blaze the path Obama walks today. His success ultimately will be their success. So, if the senator from Illinois is successful in his quest to become the 44th president of the United States, the emotional capital of Black America will no longer rest on 125th Street but on Pennsylvania Avenue.
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