Archive for April, 2008

Can “the Black experience” in America produce an acceptable presidential candidate?

April 30, 2008


When Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972 I was a recent graduate of Tougaloo College in Mississippi the state where I was born. I had recently returned to  Mississippi to work as an anchor/reporter for WLBT-TV the first, and only TV station to lose its license for discrimination against African-Americans.  I will admit I was an idealist after all  I had grown up in the Mississippi delta (Ruleville, MS) deeply involved in voter registration and community organizing under the tutelage of my “God Mother” Fannie Lou Hamer.  I reluctantly supported Ms. Chisholm because of Ms. Hamer’s prodding. I was big fan of Civil Rights Leader James Farmer who she had defeated in 1968 to become a member of the House of Representatives.  For those of us who had survived the rigors of racist police, the Klan, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, and many close calls with being killed or maimed we owed a debt to James Farmer, after all he Bob Moses, and Rev. James Bevel had taught us how to protect life and limb when attacked by mobs of white supremacist in our efforts to help our people, and survive Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “non-violence model”.

Shirley Chisholm was ” this lady congress-person from New York who opposed weapons development, the War in Viet-nam, and favored full-employment.” All of these were interesting subjects, but not really (except for the war in Viet Nam) our “wedge issues”. In the end Chisholm won 152 delegates before withdrawing from the race. However, by the time she withdrew she had convinced  a large number of us that she had “the right stuff” to be president, although we knew she would never get enough votes to win neither the Democratic Party, nor the country was ready for anyone with the nerve to claim they were “unbiased and unbought.”

Then came Jesse Jackson in 1984. By then I had moved my idealism to Maryland and became the first declared delegate to run for Jackson, in fact me an a buddy (“Buzz” Lewis) wrote and produced Jackson’s first radio message. Still we knew Jackson couldn’t win he had too much “baggage”. But, still when he ran again in 1988 we jumped on the bandwagon believing “just maybe.” 

BY 1988 I was producing “Black” radio (WEAA-FM) in Baltimore and worked hard to provide equal time to Jackson, and Sister Lenora Fulani. Seems she too was before her time.

 Then came the “rehabilitated, re-polished, reinvented Rev. Al Sharpton with all of his “baggage” for whom winning would be a long shot, but hey! stranger things had happened after all Jesse Ventura a former wrestler had become Governor of Minnesota.  Which brings me to Barack Obama who had no “baggage” we knew about and all “the right stuff”. He had “a gift to gab” an MBA, a law degree from Harvard, an African daddy, white mother, accepting mid-western white grandparents, a “Black wife” a body of work in the ghetto, a 20 year membership in a Black church and “twang.” 

Still many Blacks questioned whether Obama was Black enough? Go figure! They were assured he was by many white people particularly white “media pundits” eager to show how “hip” they were until they learned he was possibly influenced by Rev Jeremiah Wright. Now the same “pundits” are afraid Obama is not “white enough” to guarantee he will be fair to them if elected president. Which leaves me with the question what is the right “Black experience” in America out of which the first African-American president will emerge?


40 Years ago Today « Johnmiltonwesley’s Weblog

April 4, 2008

40 Years ago Today « Johnmiltonwesley’s Weblog