Preserve Zone 13: An Open Letter to the Erie County Democratic Committee
by Elisha Akili
Your recent effort to break up Zone 13—and the voting bloc of Hamlin Park —is a blatant political ploy to undermine the democratic process in the City of Buffalo. With a proud history as the nation’s largest predominantly African American historic neighborhood, Hamlin Park is also home to a vibrant politically engaged middle class. Dating back more than fifty years, Hamlin Park and Zone 13 have been a source of great pride for the city. This neighborhood embodies progress through struggle for the City of Buffalo, and specifically the African-American community. Despite the political contention between the Erie County Democratic Party (ECDC) and the City of Buffalo’s leadership, the citizens of Zone 13 do not deserve this unabashedly, political attempt to divide their community, and compromise their rightful influence.
After decades of discrimination and segregation, lawmakers passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect the interests of minorities. These new laws were passed, in part, to protect minority communities from destructive redistricting measures that undermine their political influence, similarly to the recent efforts of the ECDC. By partitioning Zone 13, the ECDC is effectively disseminating this powerful voting bloc, and ensuring that their voice will be less unified and effective. We decry these rules as they are antithetical to the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. We insist that any redistricting should protect the integrity of “communities of interest” (as established by the Voting Rights Act of 1965), and this includes established minority neighborhoods.
These deplorable redistricting lines disband Zone 13 into communities with differing interests, and it weakens the voice and representation of the residents of Hamlin Park. It is notable to mention that these are not the first attempts at dividing this community, but those efforts failed every time. We will not sit idly by and watch the dismantling of this historic neighborhood. We demand that the integrity of Hamlin Park be preserved as a unified community.
- Elisha Akili, Buffalo
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