By Rev. Heber Brown, III
Back in January of this year, I received a flyer from the Baltimore Jewish Council for their 2012 Advocacy Day in Annapolis. Many groups conduct “Advocacy Days” during the Maryland General Assembly in order to articulate their political desires,sure up legislative support, and demonstrate their strength in the halls of state legislative/economic power.
The fact that the Baltimore Jewish Council was hosting an Advocacy Day was not surprising to me and really the flyer wouldn’t have caught my attention at all if it had not been for one simple phrase in the title. It said:
“The Organized Jewish Community of Maryland invites you…”
And focusing in even more so on the phrase, my eyes were drawn to the word: ORGANIZED.
The word jumped off the page at me like a blinking neon banner. Organized.
This was no simple invitation. This was also declaration: We are organized! We are together! We are united!
Now to be sure, I don’t lift Maryland’s Jewish Community as the supreme example of organization and unity. Like all people groups, there are many kinds of Jews and there are some who don’t align themselves with the Baltimore Jewish Council or The Associated. Furthermore, there are many examples of unity (both short-term and long-term) within other ethnic or cultural groups.
I was inspired to lift this local example however, because it is a worthy display of not just unity for unity’s sake, but organization and unity for political power. To be clear, the “organized” Jewish Community of Maryland wasn’t going to Annapolis to air their grievances so much as to further effectuate their agenda. And at the same time that they are moving forward with an agenda for their own community’s benefit, they are also hosting dialogue’s and invitation-only conversations with the Black Community. You can best believe that what will come out of their dialogues with Black folks will be just talk, but what will come out of their political organization will be legislation, contracts, and tangible support for Israel.
It is not mutually exclusive to them to promote their own agenda while keeping the lines of collegiality open with other people-groups – even partnering where agendas intersect.
However, in my experience, too many Black Folks in Baltimore are hesitant to unite proudly under the banner of a Black Agenda for fear that it will upset White and Jewish power groups. Black Unity and a Black Agenda is perceived to be threatening. Jewish Power is fine. White Power is fine. Same-Sex Marriage Power is fine. But Black Power is perceived to be a problem. With this perception in mind, many well-known, local Black people at different times rise to slow or sideline efforts for Black Political Power. In my experience, the most touted explanation that they offer is some variation of “it’s not the right time.”
You can see this as the April 3, 2012 primary election for U.S. Senate approaches. Longtime Jewish U.S. Senator, Ben Cardin is running to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate, however, Black State Senator, C. Anthony Muse is running to replace him and be a “voice for the voiceless.”
It’s a given that the Jewish Community is solidly behind Cardin. I have no beef with that. That’s what they are supposed to do – unequivocally stand behind one of their own and utilize all of their power in their synagogues, their Jewish community organizations, and in local media to back “their man.”
My disappointment is with Black people of influence who have decided to use the credibility granted them by Black people to serve the political agenda of other communities.
For example, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA) took another step into obscurity and irrelevance recently by using what’s left of their clout to endorse Jewish U.S. Senator Ben Cardin over Black U.S. Senate Candidate C. Anthony Muse. The history of the IMA is rooted in a strong and proud Black Agenda, but for the past several years and largely under the behind-the-scenes influence of Bishop Douglas Miles, the clergy federation has been useless when it comes to speaking to and moving forward on a strong Black Agenda in this majority Black town. When it comes to endorsements, it has perennially sided with the powerful status quo over the people. In a conversation with the current president, Pastor Alvin Gwynn, Sr., he said in essence – it wasn’t the right time. “Muse started too late. Why didn’t he come to me?”
Former NAACP head, Kweisi Mfume is another who chose to endorse Jewish U.S. Senator Ben Cardin instead of standing with someone who is qualified, credentialed, and consistent in supporting the aspirations of Black people like Black U.S. Senator Candidate C. Anthony Muse. How did Mfume explain his decision not to stand with his own community? He said in an Examiner interview by Hassan Giordano that basically it wasn’t the right time. Give it two or three more years and then we’ll be ready for some Black [Political] Power.
In studying these dynamics one can be lead to conclude that Black Unity and Black Power is an inconvenience and an invitation to risk-taking which many don’t have the stomach for…even within the Black Community. Many choose to hide their fear behind the rational-sounding explanation that the time is not right.
“Just wait,” they say.
However, in April 1963, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. responded to critics of his day that said, “Now is not the time” [for Black self-determination and power]. King didn’t entertain the cautions long. He penned a book in ’63 entitled, “Why We Can’t Wait.” In this book written 49 years ago, King said:
“While Negroes were being appointed to some significant jobs, and social hospitality was being extended at the White House to Negro leaders, the dreams of teh masses remained in tatters. The Negro felt that he recognized the same old bone that had been tossed to him in the past – only now it was being handed to him on a platter, with courtesy.”
The tragedy is the bones are still being thrown and the consequences of accepting those bones are dire as Doni Glover notes in an excellent piece on BmoreNews.Com
C. Anthony Muse doesn’t stand a chance they say. He doesn’t have as much money as Ben Cardin they say. He’s not linked to all of the political elites like Ben Cardin is, they say.
However, I remember what my Black Christian parents taught me as a child. When I and my 3 brothers would leave the house, at times they’d say: “Don’t let anybody mess with your brothers and if anybody picks a fight with your brothers you better jump in.” If someone fought with my brothers and I was there and didn’t jump into the fight, by the time I got home, my parents would severely discipline me. The outcome of the fight was of less concern. It mattered less who won the fight or who lost the fight. The main thing my parents wanted me to know was that it was important to fight together – win or lose. Be loyal and united and face the outcome together.
That important principle has been forgotten by some leading-Blacks. They’re playing oddsmaker, hedging bets, and gambling on statistics at the expense of greater Black Unity and Black Power.
My vote for U.S. Senate is for Rev. C. Anthony Muse because I received good home-training. I like his legislative record. I’m appalled that there is not one African American in the U.S. Senate and the results from Ben Cardin’s last U.S. Senate race against Kweisi Mfume shows that Cardin doesn’t resonate with the Black Masses. [and probably wouldn’t resonate with Black people period if not for the dedicated services of Black Preacher, Rev. Jerome Stephens, who is a convenient, underpaid, underling in Cardin’s office]
Muse has a chance, but no doubt about it, it will be difficult.
Nonetheless, but I’d rather lose TOGETHER than win all by myself.