By David Mark Greaves
The House of the Lord Church, pastored by Reverend Herbert Daughtry in Brooklyn, was again filled to the rafters when the energy to elect Charles Barron Mayor of New York, paused for a moment to coalesce, raise some money, $8,000 that night to be matched 4-to-1 by Campaign Financing bringing it to $40,000, and to speak on the rightness of their quest.
Among the many speakers on Councilman Barron’s behalf was Tiffany Schley, the high school valedictorian who was refused her diploma for speaking her mind, who said, “This experience has opened my eyes. When Black people start up and do things, they want to knock us down. We need someone from the street who knows our struggle.” And then speaking of those who say that the councilman helping her was “All about politics,” Ms. Schley says, they’re right. “They labeled it, ‘All about politics’ and it is…elect Charles Barron Mayor!”
Poet Amiri Baraka, speaking of the Greek Myth of Sisyphus, he condemned to pushing a huge stone up a high hill, only to have it roll back down for him to start again, said that the struggle of African people here in the Americas has been a lot like that. “All those things we had in the Sixties have been taken away… Down in Florida there was a right-wing coup. When they worked outside the constitution of the United States. Abolishing the Voter Registration Act of 1965, taking us back and making it a confederate victory in 1863, rather than the Emancipation Proclamation.” Baraka himself took us back to the first black political convention in Gary, Indiana, in 1971. Where as co-convener, he sent out the cry of Black Power and organization that they thought would change the world. Remembering those exciting days of Black politics, and after an extended poetic riff on Black “firsts”, he said, “I’m just back on the scene to say Black Power. Back on the scene to say it’s time to rise again. Time to rise, time to get to that higher ground.”
Many of the speakers spoke of what separates Councilman Barron from others in office. As one said, “Most politicians, you can smell the selling out pouring off of them, but there is none of that from Barron.”
After going over his qualifications for the job, the budgets passed, the positions taken, Mr. Barron said that one of the tenets of his campaign is that white men have too much power.
He said that candidates will come and talk about quality education, affordable housing, health care, waste management programs and all the rest of it and all the candidates will have programs to deal with those issues, as he, Barron, does. “But unless they come to you and say white men have too much power and that they are going to address the structural racism in the system, then all of that will mean nothing.”
The councilman expects to have a lot of progressive white support, but, “Don’t tell me to tone it down, to get it. And the same goes for middle-class Blacks who say, “He’s too Black.” To those who feel that way he says, “I don’t know how to be a little bit Black.”
This is a movement that is going to take New York like a quiet storm, suddenly it will be all around you. Mr. Barron said former Congresswoman McKinney counseled him to “keep your strategy to yourself,” and sometime next year the mass media is going to look up and say, “Charles Barron might win what?”
And Ms. McKinney, in private conversation, told the councilman who the special interests are and what they come with when they come hard, as they did when they came after her and got her out of office. Mr. Barron no doubt listened attentively to the strategies of the Right and the political twists, but as a former Black Panther, a student of history and someone who did thirty days for civil disobedience, he comes to this race knowing it’s a gauntlet, but the prize is for Black people to wield power, not just influence, in New York. And for a man who cannot be vaguely Black, that’s worth the run.