Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Empowering Power: Reflections on 2013 Mayoral Race

Mayor Francis Slay, (center) with family and supporters, celebrates his victory in the St. Louis Democratic mayoral primary election on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at the Dubliner Restaurant in downtown St. Louis. Photo by Christian Gooden,
click on photo for story

Evelena Brown, once gave her son a bit of sage advice that he’s yet to really follow. Mama was fully aware of my rebellious streak and when I was a younger man just starting my hard-hitting publication, Take Five Magazine, I remember her words vividly:
“We don’t run it; we run around in it.”

Her words returned to me last night when I realized that Mayor Francis Slay had won his fourth term in office. The mayor with his more than $3 million in campaign donations-most of it from uber rich, powerful, right-leaning millionaires with a privatization agenda-still run it. The rest of us-the poor, the unconnected, the voiceless, the dreamers-those of us who bucked the status quo and believe that tax-supported development should be about people not the profits of the already rich…well, we’re destined to still run around in it.

I enthusiastically backed Slay’s opponent, President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed. I stepped from the shadows of a relatively quiet life in the nonprofit and entrepreneurial sectors and wrote damning but factual, in depth commentaries and articles about the Slay Administration. I hosted a mayoral debate and mocked the mayor who was a no-show and I joined Lizz Brown’s radio program for a special weekly segment titled “11 Years of Slay.”

I allowed myself to dream of a St. Louis where African Americans along with rich, growing populations of Latinos, Asians and Bosnians would finally have a chance to work with a grounded visionary in City Hall. Together, I imagined us rebuilding and revitalizing our city and making it a truly inclusive and economically vibrant metropolis for all-not just the privileged few.

Instead, we have again empowered the powerful. With our votes we have sent an impotent message to the status quo that they can move full steam ahead with no questions or challenge.  We are still the enablers of mayoral mediocrity, money-enriched half-truths about “progress” and we have validated convenient and suspect alliances built on political favors, nepotism and self-interests.

In essence, we’ve said that the horrid high school dropout rate, rampant crime, disproportionate unemployment and a serious health crisis mostly in the city’s lowest-income wards-are all perfectly OK. Future headlines won’t boast of the extraordinary, ordinary people who finally rose up and addressed these issues. No, our immediate legacy will be a sad rerun of tax-subsidized downtown developments, privatized schools and public services, slum neighborhoods and the incarceration of those who slipped through scissor-sliced safety nets.

The “WE” part of my mother’s advice bothers me as much today as it did when she said it some 25 years ago.  Back then, she was talking about black folk. Hugely religious; raised in an era of segregation, Mama had no faith in people-powered revolution. If social and economic justice was to come, it will be God’s work and not the will of man. She was convinced that bucking “the system” would not bode well for her son’s future and, in many ways, she was prophetic.
However, I will never be comfortable with the idea that the powers-that-be will forever “run it” and the rest of us are destined to “run around in it.” For the first time in a long time, a diverse body of St. Louisians said “enough!” Old grudges were forgiven and new racial and economic alliances were forged. For a moment, we dreamed and boldly acted together. For a brief second, the powerless stepped up to power and said “it’s our turn!”

That, my friends, hasn’t changed. A seed has been planted and we cannot back track now.

This morning, I heard Lizz on the radio. She talked about the target on the backs of those who opposed Slay. The administration is known for vindictively vanquishing its enemies. I refuse to spend my days worrying about payback from a moneyed mayor. I am too old, too stuck in my ways and too hard-headed to compromise or speak quietly to power at this point.

Other than the fact that the same ole players and the same old elitist agenda is still in play, I have few regrets. I got involved with the mayoral race because I’m convinced there’s a mighty wave of change rolling through the region. There are blacks, whites, browns and “others” who realize that our concerns aren’t that disconnected and that together, we are stronger. It’s just a slow roll.

Dr. Martin Luther King once preached that “we must never be satisfied” as long as the poor and powerless suffer. No tears, no regrets on my part. We don’t have to sheepishly tolerate power run amok. We must have the righteous, resilient resolve to stay the course and nurture the seed.  
We may not “run it,” but we can still challenge and change the way it's run.


Blackwidow07 said...

The Reed Movement is alive. I'm ready and we have work to do. Think people you have a target on your back. If you can't fight for yourselves then don't expect anyone else will.

Blackwidow07 said...

The Reed movement is alive. 20% Slay has himself in a pickle

Anonymous said...

Evidently, based on ward results, the Clay machine still can deliver the votes. What is most disturbing is that the Clay machine chose to kick the black community in the balls and get the most anti-black mayor in modern history reelected. Three words come to mind, I'll give you the abbreviated form, WTF? Sylvester, why don't you address this? Why don't you use your pen to call out our Congressman for what he's done to the community, and all in the form of payback for Reed not endorsing him over someone who is and was his good friend. Reed didn't endorse his friend, Carnahan, he stayed quiet. Reed, Clay, Slay and anyone and everyone else with an active brain cell knew Lacy wasn't about to lose his seat, but the Clay machine decided poking Lewis in the eye was much more important than getting the most anti-black, racist mayor in modern history out of office. I say shame on you, Lacy Clay and even more shameful is the fact that Bill Clay would endorse Slay over Reed!!! At least Pearlie has some sense!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I, after doing my research, chose to support Reed. However, I did it for lack of better options and chose what I believed to be the lesser of two evils. a lot of individuals that I spoke with felt that Reed had been absent from the northside also. As President of the BOA a member of the Board of Apportionment many felt that Reed had not utilized his power to advance northside causes and in many instances was complicit with Slay as he had the ability to exert his power in the positions he held but instead worked in concert. His campaign stops started not with the most neglected side of the city in the north but in neighborhoods that were thriving. My own mother asked me who is this guy and what has he done for the northside....the only answer I could come up with was Slay has killed the northside. She looked at me as a mother would look at a child who proposed a weak counterargument. Reed waited to late to start making headway with our people. Unfortunately, we are untrusting in that way and some of us did not feel the compunction or motivation to get to the polls (not me). Secondly, as much as I think Lizz is an excellent motivator for some in our community she is equally polarizing. Some whites are immediately turned off by her and anyone associated with her. I do feel she works from a deep love for her people eventhough I don't agree with her on every point. Somewhere Reed's message of inclusiveness began to get lost as the ugly specter of race once again raised its head. Nothing motivates a dormant racist more than people continually pointing at race. Slay is slick and he ran a quiet campaign and strategically pointed things Reed's way in a backhanded manner. We know Reed didnt have anything to do with the Bootlicker movie but tell that to someone on the southside. His campaign should have utilized that moment to have a heartfelt and much needed conversation about race ala Obama. Instead they let it fester instead of utilizing it to draw attention to a situation that could use some clarity and leadership. I am hoping that Reed who now has a great number of people watching takes the wheel and works from his current position to right some of these wrongs perpetrated by a neglectful administration and after doing so run again on that newly embellished record in 4 years.

Frustrated City Resident said...

To Anyonymous, Clay actually did not "deliver"the black wards. All of the north wards were won by Reed. The problem was the turnout was so freaking low. Had more north and west side voters got out there's a good chance Reed would have won despite Slay's dominance in the south and CWE. So unless Clay was some kind of evil genius using jedi mind tricks - if I endorse Slay, then people will stay at home, I would have to say his endorsement didn't help.

Anonymous said...

To Frustrated City Resident - I am curious to see what the percentages Reed won by in the Northside wards? In order to take the city we need huge margins in those wards because that is what's happening on the south side. I read that Slay got 80% of the vote in the 16th ward. If Reed was winning the northside wards by just a few percentage points then Clay, the Jedi Ass Kisser, did have an impact.

Sylvester Brown, Jr. said...

To Anonymous: The Beacon has an excellent map of how the ward votes broke down:!/content/29727/stl_primary_gfx_030613

The Post did a good wrap up also: