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You Gotta Ask And Demand Black Folks!
8/26/2015 4:09:00 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Ask and you shall receive. But if you don’t ask, don’t expect benevolence. Heck, sometimes, depending on who you ask, you still may come up short. In the real world it’s I’ve got mine, you had better get yours. And if you’re slow or sleeping, I’ll get yours too!

So what is it about Black folks we either don’t ask or ask for too little? All right ya’ll, this is one of them make something out of nothing columns, so work with the brother. Fortunately, when it comes to Black folks, it ain’t hard to find something to write about. We’re an intriguing people.

It didn’t take me long to figure out an angle to combining a few things that came across my desk in the past few days. Of course, it’s stuff that’s been perplexing me all along so I think it’s merits some discussion.

At the top of the list is the Charleston mayoral contest to be decided November 3. Seven folks have joined the race to become the city’s next mayor. Personally, I think the fix already is in, but because all of the candidates are good choices, this thing could go in any of several different directions - four whites, three Blacks and two females - it’s a diverse field.

But Charleston ain’t about diversity. This is a town where a racist white boy just killed nine Black churchgoers jus’ cause they Black. This is a town where in the past 40 years 80 percent of its Black population have been systematically eradicated. So I’m wonderin’ why the 30 percent of Black folks left in this town ain’t asking the mayoral candidates for nothing.

Them white folks have been coming into our churches - as usual every election cycle - and asking us for our votes, but we haven’t asked them for anything. Heck, we haven’t even developed an organizational structure where we can form an agenda to present to the candidates. And then there’s the Charleston County School District. Here we go into another new school year and Black kids are starting off in last place academically, the same place they finished last school year.

We spent the whole summer witchin’ about who would be superintendent instead of demanding that whoever the white folks chose must close the achievement gap between Black students and others or insisting the district present a comprehensive plan to increase the graduation rate of Black kids that says over 30 percent of our students fail to complete high school. And we never talk about the ‘certificate of graduation’ sham.

Charleston County School District is our county’s biggest agency with an annual budget of about $500,000. The school district has spent over $1 billion in the past 15 years to upgrade school facilities. Black folks ask for none of that action. We don’t get the jobs, we don’t get the construction contracts and we sure as heck don’t get the education.

Why? Because we don’t ask for nothing. We don’t go to no meetin’ - PTA, school board or teacher conference - and we don’t organize. When white parents organized they got Charleston Charter for Math and Science, they got James Simons Montessori and they got a stand alone middle school with our names on it.

I regularly get emails from governmental agencies announcing vacancies on board and commissions. We try to run the announcements in hope that some Black folks might apply. When I talk to local Black elected officials who often make the appointments, they consistently tell me they’re not getting Black applicants. Those boards and commissions make the decisions about what communities receive. Our communities receive nothing because we’re not at the tables asking for anything.

I got something last week that was encouraging however. September 5 there will be a march and rally beginning 9 a.m. at Wragg Square in downtown Charleston at 342 Meeting St. A whole slew of organizations have endorsed the event that includes a one-day strategy conference at the International Longshoremen Association Hall at 1142 Morrison Dr. For info call (864) 513-3450 or go online to

That’s cool. I think it’s a way to start. Of course, we’ve begun at that starting point before. We never seem to finish however. ‘The Man’ don’t care about a bunch of folks marching and holding press conferences. They laugh all the way to the bank.

I once served on the board of a local nonprofit organization. They told us that when it comes to getting stuff for our organization, we first had to ask then act. If Black folks in this community want anything, they first have to ask then act. The march and rally is one action, but we also have to ask.

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