Please, don’t sleep on voting

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If you can’t stomach the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, think about  James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Or cast your vote with Viola Liuzzo in mind.

It would be easy to become jaded by the  insanity of this election cycle and decide to sit this one out. You  may be a young person who doesn’t see anything in these candidates’ messages which speaks directly to you.  Or you may view the major party candidates as so  disingenuous  you’re considering casting a protest vote for a third-party candidate.

I submit to you that neither is a viable option. Every election is an opportunity to make your voice heard. Voters in Cobb County did so recently when they sent Commission Chairman Tim Lee packing, in part because of his lack of transparency regarding the Atlanta Braves stadium deal.

And every election is a chance to exercise a hard-earned right. James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were attempting to register African-American voters in Mississippi when they were beaten and shot to death by the Ku Klux Klan.  Schwerner and Goodman were young men in their 20s who came from up North to help register black voters during Freedom Summer in 1964.  Chaney, a native Mississippian, had grown weary of conditions in his state, where he and other African-Americans  were relegated to second class citizenship.

A year later, near Selma, Alabama Viola Gregg Liuzzo was murdered by Klan members who saw her driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. Liuzzo and her companion, Leroy Moton, were Southern Christian Leadership Conference volunteers helping to register black voters, who were routinely threatened and intimidated at the polls. Moton survived the attack by pretending to be dead. Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was shot in the face just shy of her 40th birthday.

Whenever I think about not voting, I remember something Rev. C.T. Vivian, a longtime civil rights activist now in his 90s, told me about why he and other protestors believed so deeply in what they were doing:  “We did it to fulfill our humanity.”

When you think about it, that’s not so different from today’s freedom fighters, who have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner to name a few. Voting in local elections ensures that the people who believe the same as we do lobby to improve police training and hire more officers who are sensitive to the needs and concerns of the communities they serve.

We are facing the most important presidential election in our nation’s history. Not voting on Nov. 8th shouldn’t be an option.

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Viola Liuzzo

 

 

 

 

He lied, cheated and helped bankrupt a great city

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — the self-proclaimed “hip-hop mayor” and the son of a former Congresswoman —  was sentenced today to 28 years in federal prison for running a criminal enterprise that cost taxpayers at least $20 million.

Kilpatrick, 43, was apologetic and remorseful in court today. He admitted to hurting his wife, three sons and the city of Detroit. The pleas of his attorney for a lighter sentence didn’t sway the judge. Kilpatrick was convicted earlier this year of steering city work to his friend, Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson and dozens of others. In all, 34 public officials and private citizens were convicted in the corruption scandal. Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was one of them.

Before his sentencing, Kilpatrick said he shouldn’t have “blurred the lines” with Ferguson but claimed he never knowingly hurt the city of Detroit. Blurred the lines? Really Kwame? Do you expect people to believe you didn’t know exactly what you were doing and who you were trying to help? Yes, politicians and businessmen have been scratching each others’ backs since the beginning of time, but that doesn’t make the practice right. And if anyone is going to get caught it will be a young, confident black man who lives lavishly, parties with prostitutes and pretty much dares anyone to challenge him.

Kilpatrick has already served time for perjury. He lied about an affair with his chief of staff and tried to pay off a police official who knew about it. That resulted in a whistle blower lawsuit that cost the city dearly. When their text messages, exchanged on city-issued cell phones, were revealed, the mayor was busted. He blamed the media and his enemies — everyone but the man in the mirror.

My time in Detroit was brief — I lived and worked there for a year. In that time, I met some of the strongest, friendliest people I’ve met anywhere. Many were southern transplants like myself who made the trek decades ago when automotive jobs were abundant. Several of my relatives were among them and still live in the city and its surrounding suburbs. Detroit is a proud city. It is also a crumbling one.

 The city is in bankruptcy court, the result of years of bad decisions by public officials and a declining tax base. Its school system is in shambles. If you’re curious to learn more about how the city got to this place, go to freep.com, the website of my former employer, The Detroit Free Press.

One of the newspaper’s most powerful pieces outlines the decisions made by Kilpatrick and other Detroit mayors which put the city in this spot. Even more harmful than Kilpatrick’s corrupt dealings, was his decision to borrow $1.4 billion to restructure the city’s pension debt, a move Wall Street investors hailed as a good one at the time.

The people hurt most by Kilpatrick and his cronies are the people of Detroit and the former mayor’s family. The judge was kind of enough to allow him to serve his time in a federal prison in Texas, so he can be near his wife and sons. Kilpatrick talked about his sons today when he spoke to the court about starting his career as a teacher so he could help young people. When he enters prison, his sons would join the number of young black boys growing up without their father, he said. Too bad he didn’t think about that before he was consumed by power and greed.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. And Kwame Kilpatrick is America’s latest poster child.