Dave Rodney, Contributor
Dozens of Jamaicans in New York braved snow, ice and freezing rain last week to show support for a Jamaican community activist, Michael Duncan from Kingston.
Duncan is a candidate in the race for council member in the upcoming special elections in Queens, New York City.
The elections are scheduled to take place in the 31st council district on Tuesday, February 19.
This special election is necessary as the sitting council member, James Sanders Jr, was elevated to the state Senate in general elections last November to replace Shirley Huntley, who was ousted from office by voters and arrested on charges relating to embezzlement from a non-profit organisation run by her daughter.
Duncan, 49, has a new vision for leadership, and with 20 years of community activism under his belt, he says he has refused to be part of the old-school party machines.
He joins eight other hopefuls in the race which, despite its importance, would probably have been overlooked or ignored by most of the more than 80,000 registered voters in the constituency.
Voters normally do not pay much attention to special elections in New York. But this time is different.
This race is attracting an unusual amount of community and media attention because one candidate, Jacques Leandre, has filed objections with the Board of Elections and lawsuits in the Supreme Court against nearly all the other candidates.
The candidates Leandre is seeking to remove from the ballot are all black, Caribbean Americans and African Americans.
The sole Jewish candidate in the race has been spared Leandre's wrath.
Leandre's objections appear to be based on his presumption that the other candidates have filed fictitious names in their election petitions.
The Board of Elections requires at least 450 signatures on a candidate's submission for the candidacy to be valid.
The Board of Elections has already informed Duncan that at its vetting of the first of two volumes of his petition, he had more than 1,150 signatures.
Consequently, the Board of Elections saw no further need to continue vetting the second part of the petition.
"What Jacques Leandre is doing here is trying to eliminate bona fide candidates from the city council race. This is an outrage to the residents of Queens and an assault on democracy," said an enraged voter, Lakeisha Thelwell, who supports Duncan.
"This is plantation-style slavery politics, it is very un-American and we won't stand for it here in Queens," she continued.
Duncan, who hails from the Shortwood Avenue area of St Andrew, only a few weeks ago orchestrated 'Christmas in the Rockaways', an event that brought Christmas cheer and fulfilled holiday wishes for hundreds of Hurricane Sandy victims in the constituency.
He was very resolute in his repudiation of the tactics of Leandre.
"Many of the other candidates and I soundly reject this old plantation-style, Anancy politics that seeks to take us off the ballot by trickery although we've been the ones here working night and day for the betterment of this community", Duncan told The Sunday Gleaner.
"This is tomfoolery deception, voter suppression, disenfranchisement, and we distance ourselves from those icons of underdevelopment. We support unity, community and inclusion," added Duncan.
The Queens 31st council district includes the communities of Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale and the Rockaways.
The district has a large Jamaican population that contributes to the almost 80 per cent chunk of Caribbean Americans in the area.