Some Jersey City officials and activists are still calling for the firing of a local veteran newspaper reporter after he posted racially charged poetry criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement on his personal blog earlier this month.
“We’re asking for the dismissal of racist photojournalist Al Sullivan, who posted on Facebook last week ‘Confessions of a Racist’ – almost immediately after we completed our Charlottesville rally,” began Carolyn Oliver Fair, the president of the North Jersey chapter of the National Action Network.
The small rally at the HUB, located at 360 Martin Luther King Dr., featured about a dozen people, came in light of Sullivan, a longtime reporter and columnist for The Hudson Reporter, releasing a series of poems subtitled “confessions of a racist” earlier this month.
The poetry, which appeared on his personal blog, was highly controversial, using phrases as as “bigots in black face” to speak out against critics of Confederate memorials.
“Mr. Sullivan is assigned to the Jersey City area so he’s dealing consistently, constantly with people of color, all types of minorities. So for him to post it last week is just totally unacceptable,” Fair added.
Later during the roughly 30-minute rally, Fair said that if The Hudson Reporter continued not to take any action against Sullivan, activists would lobby for their advertisers to pull their support from the newspaper.
As of today, Sullivan has not faced any repercussions at his job and the only elected official calling for his removal was Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31).
However, McKnight and Sullivan appear to have already made amends based on a statement release from her office last night.
“In speaking with Al, he stated that is was never his intention to hurt or offend anyone. This poem was written as a reactionary response and he says he is on the side of racial and social justice,” McKnight said.
“I informed Al of my concerns regarding his poem. I said to him that he needs to be sensitive to his readers and the general public. Al Sullivan stated that he apologizes to the community for any potential negative impact that his poem has caused and he removed the poem from his blog.”
While McKnight was quick to forgive, others remain angered and offended by Sullivan’s words, including Ward E council candidate Michael Billy – who was also recently named the executive director of Hudson Pride.
“Let’s make this easy: this isn’t about left or right, this is not Republican vs. Democrat, this is about racism … It’s about right or wrong, good or evil,” Billy exclaimed.
“… It’s about decrying, denouncing and being very clear in our words when we see something racist, when we see someone who is acting, behaving, reading proud of being a racist, a sexist, being a homophobic person: that’ we don’t let that pass.”
Jersey City Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden said that he felt Sullivan needed to be held accountable for his actions, just like any public official would.
“I had a conversation, I guess, with Al, I guess when those poems hit the internet in his blog and you know, Al was basically saying that he has a right to actually write those poems – and he does have a right – but the problem with Al is that Al is a reporter for a newspaper,” expressed Gadsden.
“Now, me sitting on the council, if I use any racial, derogatory terms and things like that, we know that in this culture – we saw what happened with John Reichart saying something stupid – or let me say something stupid and they’re calling for my job. Right? So there can’t be a double standard when you’re out here in front of the public eye.”
Pamela Johnson, a Ward A council candidate and the executive director of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement, said she felt Sullivan’s poetry was an indicator of a much larger problem that exists in the world.
“He felt like he could write what he wrote because of the way people view black people. That’s exactly why he did it. And in fact, said he’d put all his poems in a book and sell it for cheap so even his critics could afford it – that was black people, the poor black people of America that are worth nothing: that’s nonsense,” stated Johnson.
My politics differ substantially from those of Al Sullivan, including, I strong suspect, with regard to racial matters, and I join in calling him out for his racial insensitivity. But the right to free expression is at our core. It surely extends to a reporter as much as to the rest of us. The calls for him to be fired are off the mark.