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A Democratic Club is Reborn in Brooklyn

District Leader Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., takes over as VIDA's newly elected president

Last week, State Democratic District Leader Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. was elected President of the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) of Central Brooklyn.

City Council Member and outgoing VIDA President Al Vann was there to extend his blessings and support. So was State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, Honorable Assemblyman Roger Green and Honorable Congressman Major Owens—several of Central Brooklyn’s legacy leaders.

Judging from the attendees and supporters, Cornegy’s appointment clearly held a degree of importance. The only problem is, few people outside of that small circle of elected officials even know what a VIDA is. And in 2012, maybe even fewer care.

But more than just a few residents should care about VIDA, and that’s precisely what Cornegy plans to do in his new post: get Central Brooklyn’s residents to care again.

“My goal is to get everybody back in the club, have the necessary conversations take place in a safe environment, and get people to develop laser focus around the issues that matter most,” said Cornegy.

VIDA is not new to Bedford-Stuyvesant nor to Central Brooklyn. The Democratic club originally was established in 1972 as the Vanguard Civic Association, a grassroots community of parents, educators and community leaders waging for more community control over schools in their neighborhoods.

VIDA's force was so galvanizing at the time, it was largely responsible for the election of Al Vann – then, head of the African American Teachers Association-- to the State Assembly in that year’s general election. In fact, Vann polled an unprecedented 2,000-plus votes under the Vanguard Independent Party, in a community registered overwhelmingly Democratic.

Over VIDA’s 40 years of existence, it has continually produced community leaders such as the Hon. Paul Wooten, who currently sits on the Appellate Division of the US Supreme Court; Roger Green, the former Assemblyman for the 57th A.D. and the current director of the Dubois Bunche Center for Public Policy; Dr Esmeralda Simmons and Dr. John Flateau, both members of Medgar Evers College, and several more.

VIDA’s arms of influence extend in several directions across Brooklyn. However, in the last decade or so, the once-vibrant Democratic club appears to have grown all but completely silent.

“VIDA built a very strong power base and civic movement. From its inception, it was a strong staple in the community, and out of that grew the power to elect others. But then when leadership remained stagnant, participation began to wane,” Cornegy said. “I think people have grown dissatisfied with a lot of the remaining leadership and are just ready for things to turn over.”

In addition to a desire for change, Cornegy points to a changing demographic in Central Brooklyn which, if not harnassed, can easily divide a community.

“Al Vann and I often talk about the difference between his demographic, my demographic and other demographics and the challenges of engaging different people around the same issues. We’re still living in a post-racial society, but there has not been that one galvanizing issue that everyone can rally around.

“You’ve got people in Bed-Stuy who are living below the poverty line, and within a one-mile proximity, you’ve got PhD’s who are millionaires. We’re so split and divided, if not by income, you’ve got religions.

“We should be diverse. But varying interests sometimes become barriers to rallying around singular issues. Politicians shouldn’t be the only ones rallying by themselves about something as serious as the living wage; it should be the community members as well.

“My goal is to get everybody back in the club talking about these issues… to get them to work together and understand that you may be financial stable, but not having an adequate living wage also affects you, because the conditions that will result from poverty will affect you, the quality of schools and the crime.”

Cornegy added, in addition to civic empowerment, he wants to use the club's influence to serve as a platform for incubating small business development, entrepreneurship, building economic empowerment.

“In a way, it’s like an evolution back to its beginning, which is about empowerment and institution building,” said Cornegy.

For more information or to get involved in the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association email Robert Cornegy at cornegyr@yahoo.com, or drop by their office at 1424 Fulton Street.

Joe Gonzalez January 17, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Congratulations to Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. Your first act ought be to kick Al Vann out of VIDA & to run him out of Bed-Stuy. Al Vann is a clown who lately has taken to loitering around Bed-Stuy with the devish City Council Speaker Christine Quinn whom Vann has brought into Bed-Stuy seven times in the past four months. Vann who is term limited in 2013 has taken to legitimizing Quinn in exchange for a City Commissionership if Quinn is elected mayor in 2013. Vann has ignored & even helped destroy Bed-Stuy. Gentrification has wiped out thousands of folks and erased historical gains & altered legacies of many.
BooCooDinkyDowinBrooklyn January 17, 2012 at 10:16 PM
You know, Mr. Cornegy, it's time to run all their tired asses out of office and get some honest people elected. Don't turn VIDA into another machine. Bring democracy back to Brooklyn.
Michelle Stewart January 18, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Robert Cornegy is asking us to be our brother and sisters keeper, to combine our resources to create a more “Empowered Central Brooklyn with VIDA as the vehicle; but can we ask the “so called movers and shakers” of our community to put their aggrandized egos aside and help build a new and better Bed Sty”? One where all can thrive, even within the confines of diversity and with different income levels? …Well Mr. Cornegy, (my brother & friend) I am expecting you to truly put your actions to the grind…. To connect our “Intellectual Capacities,” to create mediums for change for the disenfranchised in our communities. The question is what you propose other than conversations? We have been talking for too long! I am willing to put my best foot forward, to be the change I wish to see….I am my brothers and sisters keeper, all they have to do is call… let’s get this ball rolling again…..Under your leadership…I BELIEVE WE CAN CREATE A BETTER BEDSTY!
Chana Wells January 18, 2012 at 05:10 PM
As a life long resident and a person who grew up in the political scene of Bedford Stuyvesant, it is with great admiration and excitement to say "Congratulations" to my brother and friend! Your commitment and positive in this community is by far the welcome catalyst to inevitable positive change! We have had numerous discussions on the "State of Bedford Stuyvesant" and it is with comfort to know that you will continue to work and grow through all resources available and newer ones to come. My confidence and support is with you and if there is anything either Hon Gerusue Construction and Management or Fantasy Fitness can do to serve your causes you know all you have to do is ask and we are there. My child is already growing up in a "better" neighborhood because of you. Thank you now get to work!
Robert E. Cornegy Jr January 18, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Thank everyone for the words of encouragement but the most encouraging thing is watching the numbers of new members come in. This is encouraging because in this tough economic environment the realization that advancement and progress will only come through a collective strong community voice. Here at VIDA we are happy to offer a home for that collective voice to grow!
BrooklynUSA January 18, 2012 at 06:44 PM
VIDA is a staple in Central Brooklyn. Many of Brooklyn's great leaders came from this organization. I have full faith that Robert Corngey will continue this legacy and continue to improve the quality of life for the residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Michael McCasland January 18, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Robert Cornegy is a leader that gets it done. This is good news for Bed Stuy.
Martin Pratt January 18, 2012 at 07:44 PM
“You’ve got people in Bed-Stuy who are living below the poverty line, and within a one-mile proximity, you’ve got PhD’s who are millionaires. We’re so split and divided, if not by income, you’ve got religions." This is true and a very necessary to acknowledge. I'm excited to see what VIDA 3.0 does for our community.
Phoenix L. Brooks January 18, 2012 at 07:54 PM
As one who was on the nominating committee at VIDA it was an honor to be a part of the group that was able to select a leader that would usher VIDA into its next phase of community involvement. Robert Cornegy jr. has proven himself to be a leader who is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and take care of the "peoples" business. With all the changes that the Bedford Stuyvesant community has endured on thing has remained the same and that is that The Vanguard Independent Democratic Club has been a staple in the community and with Robert Cornegy jr. at the helm of the club the work will continue. Congratulations Mr. District Leader I look forward to working with you and watching the club continue to grow.
KD Plant January 19, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Robert Cornegy is by far, in my humble opinion, one of the hardest work political figures in the Bedford Stuyvesant community, if not in Brooklyn. I see him everywhere, and not just for the photo op, he is actually working the events - from serving food to homless individuals on freezing cold street corners on Thanksgiving Eve to calling the play by play at a youth basketball tournament, this dude gets it in! Congratulations Mr. Cornegy, I look forward to bigger and better things from you!
Robert Agyemang January 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM
VIDA is in good hands, but Robert Cornegy needs the right kind of help to ensure that it succeeds. We all have to be as invested, if not more so, to change everything that needs change, to reach all those we need to reach, and to empower all those who need to be empowered. We all stand to benefit from a better Bed Stuy, and in order for that to happen, we all must be ready to put in the work. Mr. President, I'm ready to serve.
Kevin Harewood January 19, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Big Rob- hope all is good with you. I have recently told some long time area residents about you and sung your praises. I have told them you may be our next councilman or assemblyman. Three or four of them have come back with a question. What will keep you from becoming the standard do nothing politician that has seemingly ruled this area for years being that you are under the tutelage of the old guard establishment. How will you bridge the gap between the great history of this area and the future. Many folks feel these people have been mailing it in for years. I personally met you while you were doing what you do moving around and helping this area because you believe. However you need to get even more visible and more accessible. Need to exhibit it is not just tokenism and it will be sustaining. Right now for instance there is a robbery and burglary increase over here. Has one local public official taken it on as a visible crusade?These are matters you should give much thought to.
jahnara glover January 19, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Congrats Rob, VIDA is better with you at the helm. Getting the community organized on singular issues is a test that im sure you will pass. Best of all things yet to come in 2012.
Tysheia Holland January 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Congratulations Mr.Cornegy! I am absolutely sure you will take over this organization and bring it to its full potential again. Know that no one can stop your God given purpose and I pray for your strength and wisdom to run the race. All anyone has to do is meet you and hear you speak and they will know you are not one in the same or status quo, but you are cut from a different cloth! I know you will be successful in this endeavor and I support you 1000%. Love you.
George Addison January 19, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Waiting for superman no more..change is going to come..hmm heard that somewhere..well its here in the form of a gentleman that i get to call my friend..Rob Cornegy will make a diffence,because he cares about his community and hes honest and committed..what a breath of fresh air..great things are coming for bedstuy and greater things for all new yorkers...
Claudette Brady January 19, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Over the past year, I have come to know and respect Robert Cornegy. We have had extensive talks about his vision for Bedford Stuyvesant and his ideas bold and innovative. . VIDA is in good hands.
Jeffrey's January 19, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Congratulations Mr. Corngey!!! Good things are coming for 2012. I am glad you are in the lead but people must realize you can't do it alone. We all need to come together and make a change but I know VIDA is in great hands.
Jeff Lindor January 19, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Awesome news! I am looking forward to the fresh fruits that will be produced in the bed-stuy community through the leadership of Mr.Cornegy! Great Selection!
Charles Coleman Jr January 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Good stuff on the changing of the guard. Despite Bed Stuy's evolving demographic, VIDA is a classic example of a community staple which must remain relevant for the area to retain the unique texture that sets it apart. However, this cannot come without its own internal change. New, fresh, young, vibrant leadership is needed that understands the changing trends but is still connected in a way that speaks the native tongue. It will be up to VIDA to reengage a new generation of leaders and groom them for the betterment of Bed-Stuy's future.
Baddest Blackman January 20, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Good work as usual. We got your back take it to them!
Nyesha noldon January 20, 2012 at 06:52 PM
This is a good thing. When a Man with deep roots in his community steps up to the plate to insure that his community will continue to grow into a safe, productive, nurturing environment for his family and those of others only good can follow. He lives in a community that is undeserved and under represented being that close to the issues fuels his hunger, passion and desire to personally effect changes for the better.
NYCBKMOM January 21, 2012 at 03:08 PM
"To whom much is given , much is required." Mr. Cornegy is a good family man that cares about his community and has dedicated himself to making a difference. He has consistently volunteered in senior centers and in various capacities with the youth. He is the right leadership at the right time. I'm glad to see that the political elders and the community are embracing his leadership.
KeKe Simpson January 21, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Congrats and continued success to Mr Robert Cornegy and all the Great things I know you have in store for the Bed-Stuy community.
Melanie Lewis January 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Congrats Pres. Elect,- Dist. Leader Robert E. Cornegy Jr.! Much appreciation to C. Zawadi Morris for this informative article. 'Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve-' Martin Luther King Jr. Grace, Peace, and Love to our beloved community.

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