The Black community has had 21 years to prepare for this opportunity to come together and unite our collective resources around a Black candidate for Mayor of Chicago. There is a new generation of Black and poor constituencies who have only heard about the ultimate election and re-election of Chicago’s first Black Mayor Harold Washington, but based upon this current frenzy and very mixed messages among many in the Black community, we need an immediate stop and reminding of the only “winning” formula we have in electing a Black as Chicago Mayor.
There are already two Black candidates that have announced prior to the Daley announcement and since the Daley announcement there are now more than a dozen more Black names being lobbied for in all kinds of circles all over town with no established set of guidelines that are guiding the Black community and if we continue on this current path then 21 years later we are once again headed in the scenario that a majority Black populated City cannot elected a Black as Mayor.
This past week I have heard local Chicago Black talk radio and I have heard local Chicagoans weighing in nationally on Rev. Al Sharpton’s syndicated national talk show on a role he can play in this process. There is a new Chicago Chapter of Sharpton’s National Action Network and only fitting for the local chapter to call in their national leader to help guide them and others in this, and Sharpton historically has come to Chicago and been a supporter of all the Black empowerment campaigns so he is no stranger, yet those with no knowledge of Sharpton’s Chicago history could easily say “he’s an outsider.”
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr and The Operation PUSH Saturday Morning Radio/TV Broadcast Forum of course was key in weekly organizing and mobilization meetings and that major media outlet and weekly forum is going to be key yet again to this historic opportunity for political empowerment for The Black community. I spoke briefly with Rev. Jackson at the funeral of Rev. Joseph McAfee, and Rev. Jackson said he agreed that he needed to start trying to focus our community on some kind if rules of how we proceed with a Black candidate selection. Even though Rev. Jackson said that, the media is reporting today that his first Saturday morning forum subject on the matter is NOT on process by particular candidates, but only he can set the record straight this Saturday.
The reason why “process” and I should say “transparent process” is important is because the Black community has put up some of the best, brightest, and established Black political names in 21 years of Mayoral races and yet almost 300,000 registered Black voters did not use their numbers to elect a Black candidate, and unfortunately so many Black and poor voters felt that the issues concerning them most were not seen in the previous candidates campaigns, and always felt disenfranchised when the various community organizers representing poor people’s and other issues were not actively and systematically seen in the leadership of previous campaigns. Whatever the reasons, they were passed on yet another generation of voters who also have not shown up, not even the 80% Black turnout that was originally predicted in Chicago for the historic campaign of Barack Obama for President!
Now 21 years later, dozens of Black candidates just can’t start their public positioning to be “the” candidate or Black “consensus” candidate without having any clear signal that their candidacy represents the foundation that will bring those 300,000 voters who have not voted for Mayor in 21 years to the polls in 2011. I have not heard one candidate yet talk about how they know that their campaign is going to get those Black as well as declining voters in other areas back to the polls, or have they already concluded they are going to compete among those that have voted and continue to ignore those that haven’t.
I have shared with Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton, and almost 100 Black grassroots organizers and activists from poor constituent groups that we must not start this process of meetings of ministers without activists and activists without ministers and actively recruiting those to the table who have gotten used to not being invited as part of “leadership” over the years. If this historic process continues to move as it is in the wrong way in my judgment, then it is going to end the wrong way. The public MUST see a united front and transparent process or Black leadership at all levels haven’t learned anything in these past 21 years.
Prior to the Daley announcement Wallace “Gator” Bradley of United In Peace, along with my Black Leadership Development Institute, BLDI/Voter Restoration Project met with a coalition of about 30 other organizers of poor people’s constituent groups about how we needed to engage all of the prospective candidates and supporters with our traditional civic groups to kick-off a public united voter registration campaign,as well as a campaign to win new public policy reforms to the petition signature challenge process where candidates for office are routinely kicked off the ballot with Incumbents abuse of the signature disenfranchisement process where hundreds of thousand of legitimate signatures can be disqualified simply because a persons signature today does not look the same as it does on the voters original voter registration card.
Second, in addition to a unified grassroots voter registration campaign, Black business leaders and religious leaders have to meet and decide if they are going to secure at least One million dollars to fund a Black candidate; Third, a grassroots coalition of community organizers must publicly commit to take on the plebisite process used by the late Lu Palmer and The Chicago Black United Communities (CBUC) and Black Independent Political Organization (BIPO) of hosting strategic agenda forums where just ordinary citizens and neighborhood constituent groups can come and help to identify those issues that would get them engaged again in this political election, not only for The Mayor, but local candidates running as well.
The ONLY successful Black Mayoral Campaign did NOT start with the candidacy of Harold Washington, but the commitment of 50,000 new registered voters, a financial pledge of $500,000 to start the campaign; and the overwhelming number of constituent groups whose agenda was finally adopted and then the final selection of Harold Washington. And even with the selection of Harold Washington, we Must also remember that the Black community was still not united for there were key Black supporters of Richard M. Daley and Jane Byrne and many of those Blacks did not unite behind Harold until after the Primary, and 21 years later with this non partisan Mayoral election, there may not be a total Black community united front in February and the unity we seek may not happen until an April run-off.
Black Leadership cannot blow this opportunity, but we MUST ALL be reminded that our ONLY successful election of a Black Mayor was part of a set us standards that guided us, but right now there is far too much public and private jockeying and groups being called all over town so Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton to start must use their level of influence to bring the various groups together now talking “to” each other. And I and other grassroots activists will continue to push what we expect of our leadership and candidates in moving forward with this process.
As a youth 21 years ago, I was humbled as a youth leaders to have been an active and systematic part of the mobilization for the election and re-election of Chicago’s 1st Black Mayor Harold Washington and I have watched how a generation of our people have not voted and never recovered and become withdrawn and passed that apathy on to another generation, and no Black candidate is going to win without using this historic 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