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I Could Spit!
9/16/2015 5:10:10 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

I’m so mad I could spit. I just realized we have fewer than seven weeks before Charleston voters go to the polls to elect a new mayor. There’s so much stuff to do and not enough time to do it. And I’m getting older. I don’t remember stuff like I used to. Anyway, I was talking to someone about the upcoming Charleston elections and realized I’ve allowed the Charleston elections to sneak up on me, even as I watched it coming.

The same is true with the North Charleston municipal elections. As ole Curtis Mayfield sang, “people get ready”.

I’m concerned about both elections and what they mean for my people, Black people. I think the two elections will have profound impacts on Black people in those municipalities, though different dynamics come into play in each. I’m no political analyst, but I think population and voting age numbers put Black folks in position to determine the outcome of the elections.

In Charleston, I had hoped the leadership in the Black community would have been more assertive in providing direction to Black voters. Last year I talked with a guy from James Island about some election. He told me that some members of his church asked him who they should support. The guy said he told his people to pull the master lever. Ain’t it funny how words sometimes have such symbolic meanings? The term ‘master’ lever, for me, symbolizes the control slave masters still assert over Black people. Hearing that guy advocate using the ‘master’ lever said to me Black folks desperately need visionary leadership. Me, I vote candidate not party.

So when I think about the upcoming Charleston mayoral election, I’m thinking which candidate can most benefit Black folks. Of course the candidates will tell you they’re trying to get elected to serve all the people. That’s hogwash. People get elected to serve a constituency. When elected, they serve the constituencies which helped them get elected.

Has Mayor Joseph Riley served all the people during his 40 years in office? Look at our city 40 years since his election. Have all the people who were here when he was elected benefitted from his administration? Whose constituency are Black people? There are three Black candidates running for mayor in the November election. I guarantee you none of them will say they want the Black vote so they can serve Black constituents. And you know the three white candidates don’t have a Black agenda for their administration if elected!

Please don’t let anybody tell you that crap about other groups don’t ask for specific concessions. Any candidate who doesn’t have a plan for business development in the city will not get the support of the business community. Any candidate who doesn’t have a plan for tourism, hotel and hospitality won’t get support from those communities. Likewise any candidate who doesn’t have a plan for addressing issues of concern to Black folks in Charleston should not get Black people’s votes.

September 18 the six mayoral candidates are slated to participate in a community forum about race equity 5 p.m.-9 p.m. at Burke High School’s auditorium. That’s a good opportunity for Black folks to hear four hours of campaign hype. It’s worth the effort. But I suggest after the forum, Black folks immediately create a negotiating team to approach each of the candidates separately at a later date to talk about specific concessions for the Black community. Time’s a-wastin’. Black folks, we gotta get busy. In six weeks we’ll go to the polls.

I read something about the meaning of power recently, “power is the ability to control resources to secure one’s destiny”. Our vote is a resource Black folks can use to control what happens to us in this city. We have the organization - our churches - to facilitate an undertaking to influence the Charleston mayoral election in November.

I believe white folks are banking on Black folks to cancel themselves out in this election. They know how we feel about electing Black people so they put three of ‘em in the race.

I think we still can outwit those who try to negate our voting influence, especially when the runoff election is held. I figure if our preachers step up to the plate and allow some community meetings to be held in those fancy fellowship halls over the next few weeks, we should be able to arrive at some kind of agenda. But we must hurry.

That’s why I’m so mad I could spit. I meant to write this column weeks ago. I’m hoping my folks don’t do what I’ve done. Spittin’ don’t change anything.

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