Today is election day in Detroit and it looks like it’s a possibility that Detroiters may officially hand over the city to the suburbanites who have been waiting for this day for decades. The co-opted media has successfully beat up on Black leadership and seemingly convinced many of our people that anyone who looks like them are incapable of running the city (even though we have a Black President running the country). If Detroiters elect Mike Duggan, he will become the first white mayor of majority-black Detroit since Roman Gribbs, who served from 1970 to 1974. Duggan is set to be elected by an overwhelming margin. Recent polls show Duggan up by a nearly 2-1 margin over his opponent, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, in a city that is 82% African American.
Duggan’s lead is seen as a signal that the residents of long-struggling Detroit are ready for a change in leadership — someone who hasn’t served the city in politics before. Yet many Detroiters are willing to give him a chance to run the city even though he’s never run a city before. Even member’s of Detroit’s activist community think it’s time for a change from Black to White leadership in the mayors office. Minister Malik Shabazz, president of the Marcus Garvey Movement/New Black Panther Nation in Detroit, is one of Duggan’s most vocal supporters. Shabazz say’s “in the last two national elections, African Americans have asked the nation to choose the best person for the job and not get caught up in color. And twice, Barack Obama has won,” he said. “Now, in Detroit, in 2013, the best man running is a white brother, and that’s OK.”
It may be okay for some who want to take control of Detroit’s resources and use them for the upliftment of their people. Which is what leaders are supposed to do, take care of their people, as well as all of their residents. But for Black Detroit and Black people throughout the African Diaspora, it’s a disaster.
Why, because we as a people had a chance to show Africans worldwide that we can run our own affairs and help ourselves prosper on all levels of life. We are the status quo in the city and we need to maintain that so that we can benefit from the institutional resources that the city offer’s. Such as educating ourselves and re-establishing a vibrant African owned business community that serves our interest.
Unfortunately, our failure to achieve those goals has turned off a lot of our people, who now believe we need someone outside of ourselves to come save us. Some voters see Napoleon as part of the old political establishment that wasn’t able to help the city.”Duggan represents change; Napoleon does not,” said Joe Darden, a professor at Michigan State University who has studied race relations in Detroit. “Napoleon essentially represents a continuation of the status quo.”
Rev. Jim Holley and 30 other pastors endorsed in Duggan’s bid to become Detroit’s next mayor.
Reverend Jim Holley, pastor of Historic Little Rock Baptist Church, said he has spent much of his career advocating for the economic and political interests of African Americans and sees no contradiction in that regard by backing the former Detroit Medical Center chief, who, if elected, would be the first white mayor of Detroit since the city has become majority black.
“We’ve got to do what’s best for the city, not what’s best for us individually,” Holley said at a gathering of pastors endorsing Duggan this morning at Holley’s church on Woodward. “It’s not about a personal agenda. It’s got to be about what’s best for this city. … We have the right man for the right time.”
A federal bankruptcy judge will have final say over this city’s financial overhaul. A state-appointed emergency manager has run this City Hall for months and may not leave anytime soon. The current mayor, Dave Bing, would not seek another term, criticizing a “supposed partnership” with state officials that has left him powerless and perturbed.
And that has left some asking, “Does it really matter who gets elected the next mayor of Detroit?”
The mayoral contenders, Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon, differ on how they would deal with the emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, who was appointed in March and under state law has sweeping authority to restructure the city’s government and terminate collective bargaining contracts.
Mr. Duggan has opposed the appointment of the emergency manager, but said he would work with Mr. Orr if that meant speeding up the process of returning control to local officials.
Mr. Napoleon has promised to fight the emergency manager at every turn.
“I can work with anyone,” Mr. Napoleon said before voting on Tuesday morning. “But the fact is that I’ve maintained consistently that I think Mr. Orr is here illegally. And I believe that at the end of the day a federal court will determine that he should not be here.”
But he added, just moments before voting for himself, “If, in fact, he is determined to be here, then we have to move forward recognizing that while he’s here he has total control. That would just be reality.”
In addition to that reality is that Black people had a chance to develop a city that we controlled into an oasis of Black business and Black political power. Yet we didn’t have the ability to pool our resources to get the job done. We let our businesses be taken over by the Arab and Korean community and even the Hispanics have their own business section in the city called Mexican Town. We had a chance to put together an African Town (proposed by Dr. Claude Anderson), that would have created an economic development zone promoting black owned businesses. But even that fail apart, as our leaders were not able to come together to put the plan in action.
As a people, we’ve got some serious soul searching to do as we struggle to put together a nation within a nation, that the Honorable Jaramogi Abege Agyeman, (founder of the Shrines of the Black Madonna and author of Black Christian Nationalism) says would “unite Black people in a way that we have the basic benefits of nationhood in the interim while we prepare for the liberation of our homeland, Africa”. We’re a long way away from liberating African people throughout the diaspora, when we can’t come together to liberate a city that we controlled for forty years. Even though we missed this opportunity, we must continue the struggle to gain control of our destiny so that we don’t miss the next opportunity.
By Kefing Moor
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