Richmond Hill helped fund John Sampson’s campaign

Dear Editor,

This is in regard to news items relating to New York State Senator John Sampson (SN, May 6, etc) who has been charged with embezzlement, etc, in New York.

The charges against Mr Sampson took me and several other Guyanese and Caribbean-Americans by surprise. I have known Mr Sampson (not personally but as a public official) since he was elected as State Senator in a major political upset (Canarsie) and he never came across as someone who would run afoul of the law, especially since he was leader of the Democrats in the State Senate.

I have followed his rise to prominence in the Senate and as a respected politician in Brooklyn. Everyone who knew him spoke highly of him and was quite shocked that he has gotten himself into this sordid mess. Teachers who taught John told me he was a very good student.  He attended Tillden HS in East Flatbush which many Caribbean students (including a lot of Afro-Guyanese) attended. His teachers were very proud of him.

I reported on Sampson’s campaign and public activities as a reporter and commentator for the community media in Richmond Hill.  I attended fundraisers and supported his re-election efforts. And although Sampson is not from Richmond Hill, the Guyanese community in Queens developed a keen interest in his run for office and contributed heavily towards his first run for office and all of his re-election campaigns. Mr Sampson’s father is a Berbician (from Manchester) and it was the Guyanese connection that drew Richmond Hill-based Guyanese to his campaign.

Mr Sampson came to Richmond Hill when he first ran for office seeking funding, and the community responded kindly and generously.  They supported Guyanese everywhere who ran for office regardless of their ethnic background. Almost on every occasion that he had an opportunity to speak in Richmond Hill, Sampson would shower praise and gratitude on Richmond Hill Guyanese for helping him to get elected. He always said had it not been for donors from Richmond Hill, he would not have been able to get elected. “These guys,” said Sampson, pointing to a group of businessmen, “help fund my campaign.” When no one was willing to give him a penny, Richmond Hill invested in him, and Richmond Hill had nothing to gain from Sampson because he has represented Canarsie.

Occasionally, Sampson handed out proclamations, certificates and plaques to prominent Richmond Hill businessmen for their support. But that was as far as his contributions to Richmond Hill went.  Sampson did not, and perhaps could not support, provide resources to the neglected community of Richmond Hill because it has been represented by other politicians (other Caribbean and Afro-Americans).  In spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Richmond Hill donated to politicians in Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, the politicians have not advocated keeping the greater community under one City Council seat or State Assembly seat, or State Senate seat or US Congressional seat.

Instead, it has been carved up or gerrymandered into multiple seats making it virtually impossible for a Guyanese to get elected from Richmond Hill, and that has been the ongoing complaint of prominent community leaders. Richmond Hill will continue to languish in terms of representation at all levels of political administration. Though he did not deliver resources to the Richmond Hill community, Sampson was always friendly up until he was indicted.  He could be called upon to get something done for the community that did not involve significant resources.

Regardless of how people feel about Sampson or the charges levelled against him, no one can dispute that he was an able and effective representative of his constituents in Brooklyn providing a lot of resources. And he has a lot of support in spite of the charges levied against him. I work not far from Canarsie and I teach many students from the community.  Sampson has a lot of young fans.

Minority educators also like him. And in spite of almost nil support, Richmond Hill Guyanese do remember Sampson well and are appreciative of his visits to the community for almost every major Guyanese event such as celebrations of Eid, Diwali, Phagwah, Guyana Independence, Indian Arrival, concerts, cricket, park events, birthday celebration of a prominent leader, etc. Guyanese Americans and others prefer not to judge Sampson and feel the court should pass judgment on his guilt or innocence.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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