My Challenge To Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton, Grassroots Leaders On "Process First" in Black Chicago Mayoral Candidate
MyChallenge To Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton, Grassroots Leaders On"Process First, Final Selection of Candidate Last," in Black ChicagoMayoral Candidate
The Black community has had 21 years toprepare for this opportunity to come together and unite our collectiveresources around a Black candidate for Mayor of Chicago. There is a newgeneration of Black and poor constituencies who have only heard aboutthe ultimate election and re-election of Chicago's first Black MayorHarold Washington, but based upon this current frenzy and very mixedmessages among many in the Black community, we need an immediate stopand reminding of the only "winning" formula we have in electing a Blackas Chicago Mayor.
There are already two Black candidates thathave announced prior to the Daley announcement and since the Daleyannouncement there are now more than a dozen more Black names beinglobbied for in all kinds of circles all over town with no establishedset of guidelines that are guiding the Black community and if wecontinue on this current path then 21 years later we are once againheaded in the scenario that a majority Black populated City cannotelected a Black as Mayor.
This past week I have heard localChicago Black talk radio and I have heard local Chicagoans weighing innationally on Rev. Al Sharpton's syndicated national talk show on a rolehe can play in this process. There is a new Chicago Chapter ofSharpton's National Action Network and only fitting for the localchapter to call in their national leader to help guide them and othersin this, and Sharpton historically has come to Chicago and been asupporter of all the Black empowerment campaigns so he is no stranger,yet those with no knowledge of Sharpton's Chicago history could easilysay "he's an outsider."
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr and TheOperation PUSH Saturday Morning Radio/TV Broadcast Forum of course waskey in weekly organizing and mobilization meetings and that major mediaoutlet and weekly forum is going to be key yet again to this historicopportunity for political empowerment for The Black community. I spokebriefly with Rev. Jackson at the funeral of Rev. Joseph McAfee, and Rev.Jackson said he agreed that he needed to start trying to focus ourcommunity on some kind if rules of how we proceed with a Black candidateselection. Even though Rev. Jackson said that, the media is reportingtoday that his first Saturday morning forum subject on the matter is NOTon process by particular candidates, but only he can set the recordstraight this Saturday.
The reason why "process" and I should say"transparent process" is important is because the Black community hasput up some of the best, brightest, and established Black politicalnames in 21 years of Mayoral races and yet almost 300,000 registeredBlack voters did not use their numbers to elect a Black candidate, andunfortunately so many Black and poor voters felt that the issuesconcerning them most were not seen in the previous candidates campaigns,and always felt disenfranchised when the various community organizersrepresenting poor people's and other issues were not actively andsystematically seen in the leadership of previous campaigns. Whateverthe reasons, they were passed on yet another generation of voters whoalso have not shown up, not even the 80% Black turnout that wasoriginally predicted in Chicago for the historic campaign of BarackObama for President!
Now 21 years later, dozens of Blackcandidates just can't start their public positioning to be "the"candidate or Black "consensus" candidate without having any clear signalthat their candidacy represents the foundation that will bring those300,000 voters who have not voted for Mayor in 21 years to the polls in2011. I have not heard one candidate yet talk about how they know thattheir campaign is going to get those Black as well as declining votersin other areas back to the polls, or have they already concluded theyare going to compete among those that have voted and continue to ignorethose that haven't.
I have shared with Rev. Jackson, Rev.Sharpton, and almost 100 Black grassroots organizers and activists frompoor constituent groups that we must not start this process of meetingsof ministers without activists and activists without ministers andactively recruiting those to the table who have gotten used to not beinginvited as part of "leadership" over the years. If this historicprocess continues to move as it is in the wrong way in my judgment, thenit is going to end the wrong way. The public MUST see a united frontand transparent process or Black leadership at all levels haven'tlearned anything in these past 21 years.
Prior to the Daleyannouncement Wallace "Gator" Bradley of United In Peace, along with myBlack Leadership Development Institute, BLDI/Voter Restoration Projectmet with a coalition of about 30 other organizers of poor people'sconstituent groups about how we needed to engage all of the prospectivecandidates and supporters with our traditional civic groups to kick-off apublic united voter registration campaign,as well as a campaign to winnew public policy reforms to the petition signature challenge processwhere candidates for office are routinely kicked off the ballot withIncumbents abuse of the signature disenfranchisement process wherehundreds of thousand of legitimate signatures can be disqualified simplybecause a persons signature today does not look the same as it does onthe voters original voter registration card.
Second, in additionto a unified grassroots voter registration campaign, Black businessleaders and religious leaders have to meet and decide if they are goingto secure at least One million dollars to fund a Black candidate; Third,a grassroots coalition of community organizers must publicly commit totake on the plebisite process used by the late Lu Palmer and The ChicagoBlack United Communities (CBUC) and Black Independent PoliticalOrganization (BIPO) of hosting strategic agenda forums where justordinary citizens and neighborhood constituent groups can come and helpto identify those issues that would get them engaged again in thispolitical election, not only for The Mayor, but local candidates runningas well.
The ONLY successful Black Mayoral Campaign did NOTstart with the candidacy of Harold Washington, but the commitment of50,000 new registered voters, a financial pledge of $500,000 to startthe campaign; and the overwhelming number of constituent groups whoseagenda was finally adopted and then the final selection of HaroldWashington. And even with the selection of Harold Washington, we Mustalso remember that the Black community was still not united for therewere key Black supporters of Richard M. Daley and Jane Byrne and many ofthose Blacks did not unite behind Harold until after the Primary, and21 years later with this non partisan Mayoral election, there may not bea total Black community united front in February and the unity we seekmay not happen until an April run-off.
Black Leadership cannotblow this opportunity, but we MUST ALL be reminded that our ONLYsuccessful election of a Black Mayor was part of a set us standards thatguided us, but right now there is far too much public and privatejockeying and groups being called all over town so Rev. Jackson and Rev.Sharpton to start must use their level of influence to bring thevarious groups together now talking "to" each other. And I and othergrassroots activists will continue to push what we expect of ourleadership and candidates in moving forward with this process.
Asa youth 21 years ago, I was humbled as a youth leaders to have been anactive and systematic part of the mobilization for the election andre-election of Chicago's 1st Black Mayor Harold Washington and I havewatched how a generation of our people have not voted and neverrecovered and become withdrawn and passed that apathy on to anothergeneration, and no Black candidate is going to win without using thishistoric opportunity to go back to the original and ONLY "winning"formula that elected a Black as Mayor of Chicago.
If we are serious, then let "Process" begin.
Mark S. Allen