(Articles taken from NY Daily News – January 21, 2017)
The surprise was that there was no surprise.
A little before noon on Friday as Donald Trump made his way down Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington to be sworn in as President of the United States, Tony Fields rested his steel scissors at the Black Success Barbershop on Pennsylvania Ave. in Brooklyn.
Fields peered up at CNN on a flat screen TV mounted high on the back wall. The realization was immediate. This was hardly fake news.
“It didn’t surprise me that Trump won,” says Fields, as a steady stream of customers filed in during the lunch hour to be serviced by three barbers. “I thought Trump would win all along. You could smell it. He had the country conned. We had eight great years of Barack Obama who rescued the economy,saved the auto industry, bailed out the banks and Wall Street, created Obamacare, ended the wars Bush started and reduced unemployment to 4.7 %.”
Exactly eight years ago to the hour, I stood with Fields inside his barbershop that serves as a mini town hall in the East New York neighborhood that rejoiced as Obama made history being sworn in as the first black President. Exactly four years ago, I watched Obama get sworn in for a second time on the television at Black Success. I spoke to a mother of three young boys who she said now believed anything was possible in America.
The past election was different.
“I argued with my wife about it all the time,” Marcus Richardson, 53, a self-employed local businessman sitting in a chair by the window, said Friday. “She spent 15 years in the military and for some reason like a lot of women she just didn’t trust Hillary (Clinton). I’m no fan of Trump but I thought he would win… He’s ready to become President, man. What are we gonna do now? March and protest again? We’ve been marching since the 1960s. Marching hurts your feet and protest isn’t gonna stop Trump from being President now. So you gotta hope for the best.”
“After eight years of Obama business has been really good,” he said. “Barack Obama has been a role model of black success that every black kid can look up to. Now that we have a guy like Trump who was upfront with his views on race, it’s time black people around here take matters into their own hands.”
What does he mean by that?
“We want to start a grass roots organizations called Black Success Enterprise,” says Richardson. “It’s Tony’s idea but I’m in. And so are many of the black entrepreneurs who did well around here under Obama.”
“We want to start by all chipping in some of our own money,” says Fields. “Buy an abandoned city property at auction instead of some greedy landlord looking to get rich off gentrification. Maybe a two-storefront apartment building. And use local tradesmen to teach local kids to fix it up. They learn carpentry, plumbing, heating, windows, bricklaying. Then use one storefront as an academy to teach young people that instead of selling drugs or joining gangs they can learn how to fix cell phones, repair computers and TVs and air conditioners.”
“Then let them open businesses like that in the two storefronts,” says Richardson.
As the cannons roared on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington to celebrate the peaceful transition of presidential power, there was a surprisingly optimistic mood in the Black Success Barber shop on Pennsylvania Ave. in Brooklyn even as Donald Trump delivered his bleak, dark inaugural address about midnight “carnage” in America.
But not everyone was so upbeat in the Black Success shop.
“To me Donald Trump is still the same buffoon he’s been for the past 30 years,” says Craig McLary, 48, a customer who works for the New York State Department of Taxation. “I voted for Hillary. But people forgot just how bad it was when Obama took over. How far he’d brought the country back. Still, all we can do now is hope that some of these big promises Trump’s making up there on TV about new highways, high speed rail, and airports come true. You gotta hope for the best.”
Fields gazed up at President Donald Trump and shrugged.
“Listen, Trump might not be the worst thing ever,” he said, as the image of President Trump reflected like some funhouse optical illusion in the various mirrors. “America gave Obama a chance. Obama gave a lot of people around here like me a chance to do better. Let’s give Trump a chance. In four years we’ll know for sure if he’s any good. In the meantime we are going to start the Black Success Enterprise right here in East New York to give young people a chance. That’s part of Barack Obama’s legacy.”
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