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Racism

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Dear Grandson Adam,

Thank you for lending me your book last weekend. While you were off skiing with the rest of the family, I was totally absorbed reading your high school homework assignment, “A Raisin in the Sun,” in front of a crackling fire in the lodge. Lorraine Hansberry wrote the play, you know, in 1958, which was the year I graduated from high school, so I can tell you how remarkable her characters and themes are for that time.

The story takes place in Chicago, on the city’s gritty South Side, and tells of a poor black family living in a three-room flat with a bathroom in the hall that is shared with others. The grandmother, Lena, whose apartment it is, sleeps in one bedroom with her daughter, Beneatha, who is in college. Walter, Lena’s 35-year-old son, is a chauffeur for a wealthy businessman, and he shares another room with his wife, Ruth, who works as a cleaning woman in different homes. Travis, 10, is their son and he sleeps in the living room/kitchen on a sofa that is made up for him each night, which means that he doesn’t get to sleep until any visitor leaves.

When we meet them, the family is excited about the imminent arrival of a “big check,” that turns out to be the proceeds from an insurance policy on the life of Big Walter, Lena’s late husband. The value is $10,000, which in today’s money would be about $160,000. The introduction of this money into the plot is the fulcrum around which the characters, their roles in the family dynamic and their situation in society are defined.

Walter desperately wants to start his own business with the funds, viewing entrepreneurship as a way to rise above a humiliating life stretching out before him as a chauffeur. There are tense exchanges between him and Lena, as he passionately explains to his mother that he can go into partnership in a liquor store with a shrewd friend who has figured out the financing, but they need startup capital.

Lena, for her part, thinking back to their not-so-distant ancestors of slaves, values freedom more than financial success, and certainly doesn’t appreciate the prospect of selling liquor to their neighbors. However she wants to see her son as the prideful head of the family and recognizes his despair at the life in which he feels trapped in mid-century America.

Ruth, who is pregnant, loves her husband and understands that his grind, as they enter middle age, is eroding their marriage. She is the life-giving mother of the next generation and it is she who ultimately urges optimism after Lena makes her pivotal decision. I hesitate to tell you what that decision is because I don’t want to ruin the plot for you. This is a play well worth reading if you have the chance, if only for the messages that continue to be so relevant today.

Beneatha is a most interesting character, attracted by the romantic allure of the distant continent from which her people originally came, albeit unwillingly, yet determined to make her own way through education, the upward mobility ladder presumably offered by the American Dream. She eschews the idea of advancing herself through the traditional female strategy of marrying rich, much touted for her by Walter. At a time when most medical schools were admitting only one or perhaps two women in each freshman class, she is planning to become a doctor. She will need money to pay for that education, and Lena recognizes that fact.

The play is about poverty, masculinity, femininity, opportunity, integration, honor, tradition and especially racism in American, and looks into the future with remarkable prescience. Has much changed in our country over the ensuing 60 years? In 1959, the play received standing ovations and critical acclaim. It was, after all, the first play offered there by an African-American woman, only 28, that purported to tell the truth about black lives. Hansberry came from a wealthy family and could present her initially optimistic message of a different life.

In answer to the question, it could be said she at least started the conversation on Broadway. Racism discussed is, however slowly, racism destroyed. It is up to your generation, Adam, to continue the fight. 

1-800-Checks
An Oakland Avenue florist in Port Jefferson Station reported on June 20 that a box of business checks had been stolen from their office.

Ripped from the headlines
Between June 17 at 10 p.m. and 10:30 a.m. on June 18, a person rummaged through a 1999 Pontiac on Piedmont Drive in Port Jefferson Station and damaged the vehicle headliner.

Chest bump
Police responded to a road rage incident on Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station on June 17 at about 11:20 a.m. According to police, a woman reported that a man’s car bumped mirrors with her own vehicle and he began cursing at her. The woman also said the man bumped her with his chest after the two exited their vehicles.

Taking advantage
Between June 18 and 19, two Port Jefferson vehicles on Vantage Court were robbed. At some point between 6 p.m. on June 18 and 6 p.m. on June 19, someone stole a laptop, prescription glasses, headphones, a car charger and an iPad charger from a 2010 Ford. On June 19 between midnight and 9 a.m., someone stole a wallet with cash from inside a 2015 Subaru.

Impatient
A St. Charles Hospital employee reported that a patient at the Port Jefferson hospital had slapped her on June 18.

The gravity of the situation
A 22-year-old Port Jefferson Station man was arrested at the local Long Island Rail Road station on June 19 for fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Police said they were notified about a man with a knife and found a gravity knife in the man’s pocket.

Holey moly
Things were busy on Oakland Avenue in Miller Place last week, as police reported two separate incidents. On June 18, a resident reported that someone had made a small hole in their home’s front window and vinyl siding on June 18. Two days later, a person stole a GPS, a Blackberry and a bag from an unlocked 2007 Toyota.

Street smarts
Someone took a wallet containing cash and credit cards from a vehicle parked at Centereach High School on June 17.

Gassed up
A woman struck a man in the head and face at a Selden gas station on Middle Country Road on June 21 shortly after 4 p.m.

Buzzed
A man reported being assaulted by three males and one female at The Hive on Middle Country Road in Selden on June 17 at around 2:40 a.m. According to police, the man suffered from lacerations to his head and face and had a broken tooth. He was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment. No arrests have been made.

Suspended
A 24-year-old Selden man was arrested for third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle on June 20. According to police, the man was driving a 2008 Cadillac south on Dare Road in Selden when he was pulled over and police discovered his license had been suspended or revoked.

Found with drugs
Police arrested a 25-year-old Dix Hills man and charged him with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana. Police said the man was found with substances inside a 2002 Honda Civic at the corner of Straight Path and Burrs Lane in Dix Hills on June 19 at about 6:50 p.m.

Punched out
A 36-year-old Huntington Station man was arrested in Huntington on June 18 and charged with third-degree assault, with intent to cause physical injury. Police said on May 9 at about 12:10 a.m. he assaulted another man, punching him until he fell to the ground on New York Avenue. He continued to punch the person, who required treatment at Huntington Hospital. He was arrested at 6:09 p.m.

Parking lot DWI
A 77-year-old woman from East Northport was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 of 1 percent. Police said the woman struck another parked vehicle in a parking lot on Larkfield Road in East Northport on June 19 at 1:45 p.m. She was arrested at the scene.

Crash ‘n dash
Police arrested a 47-year-old woman from Centerport and charged her with leaving the scene of an accident where there was property damage. Police said the woman crashed a 2011 Toyota into a telephone pole in front of a home on Washington Avenue in Centerport on June 20 at 6:20 p.m., damaging the pole. She was arrested at the precinct at 1 p.m. on June 22.

Car keyed
A 2009 Honda Accord parked on Ridgecrest Street in Huntington was keyed sometime between 9:30 and 11 p.m. on June 22. There are no arrests.

Boat burglarized
Someone stole power tools out of a 2002 Catalina boat at Coneys Marina on New York Avenue in Huntington. The incident occurred sometime between 3:30 p.m. on June 21 and 10:30 a.m. on June 22.

Quad missing
A 2006 Suzuki quad was stolen from the yard of an Alsace Place home in East Northport on June 21 at 1 a.m. There are no arrests.

Jewelry stolen
Someone stole a bracelet from a home on Altessa Boulevard in Melville sometime between noon on May 23 and noon on June 13.

Punch it up
Police arrested a 21-year-old man from Deer Park at the 4th Precinct and charged him with third-degree assault with intent to cause physical injury. Police said the man punched somebody in the face several times on June 7 at 6 :05 p.m. on Portion Road in Ronkonkoma. He was arrested on June 19 at 9:54 a.m.

On a roll
A 44-year-old Nesconset woman was arrested at the 4th Precinct and charged with criminal mischief with intent to damage property. Police said she punctured the two rear passenger-side tires of a 2014 Kia Soul. She was arrested at about 7 p.m. on June 19, and police said the crime happened on Adrienne Lane in Hauppauge.

Phone jacking thwarted
Police arrested a 28-year-old Hauppauge man on June 19 and charged him with petit larceny. Police said he stole a cell phone from a Walmart on Veterans Memorial Highway in Islandia at 9:35 p.m. on June 7.

Rifle-happy
A 61-year-old Lake Ronkonkoma man was arrested at the 4th Precinct on June 18 at 8:30 a.m. and charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, possessing three or more firearms. Police said that the man possessed four semiautomatic rifles at his home on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

What a tool
Someone stole tools from an unlocked shed in the driveway of a Ridge Road home in Smithtown, sometime between June 20 and June 21. The tools included a saw, compressor, chain saw and floor jack.

Cards swiped
Someone entered an unlocked 2015 Grand Cherokee in the driveway of a home on Poplar Drive in Smithtown and removed several different credit and debit cards. The incident occurred between June 16 at 1 a.m. and June 17 at 3:20 p.m.

Door damaged
An unknown person shattered a storm door by unknown means at a Nesconset home on Marion Street sometime between June 17 and June 20. There are no arrests.

Window woes
Someone stole a 2012 Jeep plastic rear window from Smith Haven Jeep on Route 25 in Nesconset. The incident occurred between June 16 and June 18.

Hateful graffiti
Someone reported graffiti of a swastika on the boys’ bathroom wall at Kings Park High School on June 19 at 8:45 a.m. There are no arrests.

Pesky kids
A man told police an unknown object was thrown at his vehicle while he was driving a 2001 Ford Explorer southbound on Ashland Drive in Kings Park. The object damaged the door window. Police said it’s possible youth were involved. The incident occurred at 10:55 p.m. on June 18.

License-less
Suffolk County Police arrested a 20-year-old man from Central Islip in Stony Brook on June 19 and charged him with third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said the man was driving a 1994 Honda westbound on Nesconset Highway with a suspended or revoked license. He was arrested at 11:30 p.m. at the scene

Snatched on the down Loews
Someone took a camera bag containing a camera, a Nintendo gaming system, games and a backpack from a 2007 Hummer parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17. The incident happened on June 17 between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Gadgets gone
Someone broke the passenger window of a Toyota pickup truck parked in a Nesconset Highway parking lot in Stony Brook and took a backpack, iPad mini, a GoPro camera and accessories. The incident occurred sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on June 17.

Phoning it in
Police said a man concealed merchandise in his pocket and walked out of Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket with a charger and a cellphone screen protector on June 19 at about 5:10 p.m.

I see stolen underpants
A woman stole undergarments after entering a fitting room at Kohl’s on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket on June 18 at about 2:20 p.m. There are no arrests.

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Our nation suffered yet another tragedy last week when an avowed racist allegedly murdered nine people at the famous Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and it didn’t take long for the debates to start.

Should the Confederate flag still be flown? Does institutional racism still exist? Should the suspected shooter, Dylann Roof, be labeled as a terrorist?

The correct answer depends on whom you are speaking to. Most people already have an opinion and are sticking to it, which really doesn’t solve any of the important issues this most recent incident brings to light. Nine innocent people are still dead.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups nationwide has increased by 30 percent since 2000. In addition, antigovernment groups rose from 149 in 2008 to 874 in 2014 — numbers that jumped following the financial downturn and the election of President Barack Obama. The center also cited an influx of nonwhite immigrants as another factor.

“This growth in extremism has been aided by mainstream media figures and politicians who have used their platforms to legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive,” the center said on its website.

We are lucky to live in a country that values freedom of speech and there are countless platforms to voice our opinions today as the Internet continues to connect us. But, it also gives individuals a space to spread their message with like-minded people. Our nation has a serious case of confirmation bias — the tendency to read, listen and seek out information that we agree with — and it is a big issue.

Those who condemn the killings but continue to spew vitriol are fueling a fire. The effects of the South Carolina shooting rippled throughout the country because they could happen in any community, including our own. In fact, one of the victims was a blood relative of a family from Port Jefferson.

The chilling notion that hatred and racism still persist in modern American society should not be ignored. Our freedoms come with responsibility and those who preach hatred against any group of people are wrong. As a society we need to be kinder, or at least remember the lessons we learned as children.

Let’s think before we speak, and if we don’t have anything nice to say, let’s not say it at all.

Pam White and her family speak at Sunday’s service in Setauket. Photo from Marlyn Leonard

Setauket is 830 miles away from Charleston, S.C. But on Sunday, that could not have been closer to home.

An openly racist gunman suspected to be 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire at South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday, killing nine, including a relative of one North Shore family. And on Sunday, Three Village took that national tragedy and balled it up into a clear and concise community-driven message that puts love in the face of evil as more than 100 people flooded the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Setauket to show solidarity.

“What we saw was a community coming together so well that it was almost unbelievable,” said Leroy White, whose second cousin DePayne Middleton Doctor lost her life in the tragic shooting last week. “The response was so overwhelming that we were taken aback by the number of people who showed up. It showed me that this is one of the better communities in America.”

White and more than 10 other members of his family moved to Port Jefferson from South Carolina nearly five decades ago and have since been active members of the Setauket church, working as volunteers and striving to better the Three Village community. His oldest daughter Pam White was even one of the several speakers at Sunday’s service, which called on particular themes of forgiveness, love and respect, before the family headed down to South Carolina earlier this week to pay respects.

“It was powerful and packed,” said Mount Sinai resident Tom Lyon, a member of the church and longtime friend of the White family. “There was such a large contingent of folks from various parts of the community. It was very much a healing event.”

Gregory Leonard, pastor at the Bethel AME Church, referred to the White family as one of the congregation’s longest-serving families and have embedded themselves into the greater leadership of the church. He said the family’s impact on the greater North Shore community was on full display Sunday as members from groups outside of just the Bethel AME congregation came out to show support and mourn.

“What I realized is that the shooting down in South Carolina did not only affect the members of that church, or the members of the black community, but the entire community. I could see it in the faces of those people on Sunday,” Leonard said of the Sunday service. “We needed to come together to mourn and draw strength from one another.”

Other speakers at the service also included state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).

“The sense of hatred that was calculated by a very twisted individual to inspire a race war was defeated by the response of the victims’ families, who said, ‘we forgive you,'” Englebright said. “We’ve already had a race war. It was called the Civil War. We are not going to have another race war. So how important it is, then, that the stars and bars Confederate battle flag that still flies over the South Carolina capital comes down.”

Marlyn Leonard of Bethel AME said she jumped to action in the aftermath of the hate-infused shooting last week and did not stop until Sunday’s service became reality. She said the lingering sentiments of pain and racism were immediately put to rest when she saw cars lining the streets near the Setauket church and more than 120 people packing the building to light candles for the victims.

“This happened in South Carolina, but we were hit right at home,” she said. “But the White family, like those of the other victims, was still forgiving. They are a wonderful family and we thank God the day turned out wonderfully.”

Looking ahead, Leonard said he hoped the greater Three Village community learned a lesson in the wake of the tragedy, spurring interfaith groups to come together.

To the left, to the left
A 24-year-old woman from Farmingville was arrested in Smithtown on May 28 and charged with driving while intoxicated, with a previous conviction within 10 years. Police said the woman was driving a 2013 Toyota Rav 4 and was making a left turn onto Main Street in Smithtown, which a road sign prohibited.

Lights out
A 24-year-old East Northport woman was arrested on May 28 in Smithtown and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said the woman was driving a 2006 Nissan westbound on Route 25A in Smithtown at 2:25 a.m. Cops found her intoxicated after pulling her over because her lights were off.

Drunk driver caught
A 56-year-old woman from St. James was arrested by police in Smithtown on May 30 and charged with driving while intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 of 1 percent. Police said that the woman was driving a 2001 Buick Century at the corner of Route 25A and Edgewood Avenue in Smithtown at about 12:26 a.m. and sideswiped two vehicles.

Nesconset harassment
Police arrested a 39-year-old man from Nesconset on May 27 and charged him with second-degree aggravated harassment, race/religion. Police said the man directed racial slurs at a female victim on the corner of Southern Boulevard and Route 347 in Nesconset at 1:35 p.m.

Church money stolen
Someone took money from the donation boxes at the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church on East Main Street in Smithtown sometime between May 28 and May 29.

Washed out
Two drivers in two separate cars made off with free car washes at Don’s Hand Car Wash on Nesconset Highway in Nesconset on May 27 between 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. There are no arrests.

Broken window
Someone broke the passenger side window of a 2000 Dodge Intrepid parked on Thompson Street in Kings Park. The incident occurred sometime between 5:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on May 29.

Grill, lights snatched
Someone removed a grill and tail lights from a 2010 Jeep Wrangler located at Certified Headquarters on Middle Country Road in Saint James. The incident was reported to police on May 28 and it occurred sometime on May 22.

Pretty in pink
An unknown man dressed in black pants, a black jacket, one black glove on his left hand and a pink mask covering his head entered a Terryville Road gas station in Port Jefferson Station, stole cash from the register and fled on foot on June 1. Police are still investigating the early morning incident.

Credit score
A 49-year-old man was arrested and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny on May 27 after he stole a wallet containing several credit cards from a 2013 Ford that was parked in the Three Roads Plaza in Port Jefferson Station.

I’ll have the punch
An unknown suspect reportedly approached a man standing in front of a Main Street bar in Port Jefferson and hit him on May 31. The victim was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital for treatment. There have been no arrests.

Ticketed off
A Port Jefferson village code enforcement officer reported that while trying to write a parking ticket on May 26, the recipient decided to leave the scene instead of waiting for the ticket. As the individual pulled away, the officer had to step away to avoid being hit.

Butting heads
A 37-year-old Wading River man was arrested for assault on May 30 after a confrontation between him and another man in Miller Place escalated, moving from inside a Route 25A restaurant to the parking lot. The defendant head-butted the other man.

Falling flat
A Gully Landing Road resident in Miller Place reported that an unknown person had punctured a rear tire of their 2012 Honda Accord on May 29.

Shots fired
Woodhull Landing Road residents in Sound Beach reported that they believed a person had used a BB gun to damage car windows and doors at some point between May 28 and May 29.

Easy entry
Jewelry and a laptop were stolen from a Hawkins Road residence in Centereach on May 30. The suspect supposedly entered through an unlocked back door.

Trailer trashed
A fire rescue education trailer parked at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach was vandalized on May 30. According to police, graffiti was drawn on the side of the trailer.

Vacancy
A vacant home on Noel Drive in Centereach was burglarized on May 27. An unknown individual entered the home, which had recently suffered a fire, through a basement window and took two TVs, an iPad and video game consoles.

Crash and dash
Police arrested a 32-year-old Stony Brook man on May 29 in Stony Brook and charged him with aggravated driving while intoxicated, with a child in the car. Police said the man was driving a 2015 Nissan Altima southbound on Stony Brook Road and was involved in a motor vehicle crash with his 18-month-old son in the car. The man crashed into a fence, and he also crashed into a 2004 Toyota Rav 4 at about 12:14 p.m. Police also charged him with two counts of leaving the scene of an accident. The man was arrested later that day at his home on Stony Brook Road.

Shoplifter caught
Police arrested a 26-year-old man from South Setauket on May 30 and charged him with petit larceny. Police said the man stole a chainsaw and an air compressor accessory set from the Smithhaven Mall on May 14 at 4:12 p.m. Police said he was arrested in Lake Grove.

Hot outfit snatched
Someone stole jewelry and a tank top from Kohl’s on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket on May 30 at 9:43 p.m. There are no arrests.

A crying shame
Someone took assorted baby items from Walmart on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket sometime between 7 and 8 p.m. on May 29. There are no arrests.

Jewelry lifted
Someone stole jewelry from a home on William Penn Drive in Setauket-East Setauket sometime between May 26 at 4 p.m. and May 27 at 10 a.m. There are no arrests.

Credit card mystery
A female complainant from Hawkins Road in Stony Brook told police someone made two unauthorized purchases through her credit card. The incident occurred sometime on May 24 and police received the report on May 29.

The Commack School District is investigating reports of students from its high school spotted wearing offensive T-shirts once again, administrators said.

The district said on its website that pictures surfaced on social media from an off-campus house party during spring break last week showing students sporting anti-Semitic T-shirts. It was the second incident of its sort over the last several months, adding onto a September occurrence when students posed for photos wearing T-shirts that spelled the word “rape.”

“Our attorneys have advised us that given the fact that this incident took place off campus, during a recess, and during an event that was not school-sponsored, the school is limited in its ability to address this matter,” the district said on its website. “However, the district is taking all necessary steps to investigate and will impose discipline related to this where legally permissible.”

The names of the students were not disclosed, as the district is not legally permitted to do so.

Back in September, the district disciplined five high school students after pictures of them wearing inappropriate T-shirts surfaced on social media. A statement on the district’s website at the time outlined the incident, which occurred during the last period of classes on Thursday, Sept. 18, when all Commack High School seniors assembled on the bleachers of the varsity field to take the annual senior photo. Soon after that photo was taken, another picture was posted on Twitter of five smiling male students in T-shirts spelling out “rape,” with a sixth pretending to be bound by the wrists.

Moving ahead, the district said it would continue to provide programs to reinforce student sensitivity of others.

“The district would like to state that the actions of these students are not representative of the student body at Commack High School, and is committed to the district’s mission statement to foster a caring community of learners. We do not condone or permit any form of discrimination, bullying, or hateful messaging,” the statement said. “The district will also make counseling available to any student involved in or affected by this incident. The welfare of our students is always our paramount concern.”

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