On Jack Johnson and other Politicians

This has very little to do with food—but if the goal is to keep blogging, keep talking, keep people reading and listening and keep a dialogue up–this is sure to start one.

I want more from African American politicians.  Not all are Jack Johnson types, certainly not by a long shot….but some are, a minority are, and that minority is dangerous because they set the tone for a lot of attitudes and prejudices that really are unhelpful in the quest for equality and civil rights.

I wish African Amerian politicians would do more of what they are supposed to be doing than what they are not.

Being a Black politician should not be an easy job.  It should be one of the hardest jobs a woman or man should ever love.  Business deals aside, helping your community means getting out there and being willing to be seen and make a presence in schools, neighborhoods, houses of worship, and doing everything one can to show genuine investment in the future.  So many people of all backgrounds get involved in politics because its good money, good health care, power, privilege, opportunity…it seems that many politicians have forgotten than this is an issue of public service, not a hustle.

In 2010, when I was scrambling to get money to go to Oxford and selling books and doing presentations, I was at an outdoor event sponsored by Prince George’s County Parks–for Juneteenth–the commemoration of the day all African Americans truly got their freedom…(traditionally Texan).  My table was covered in artifacts and my books and pleas to donate a dollar or whatever so I could afford the trip to England–to represent us–African Americans.  In the heat of June, weeks away from leaving for London and Oxford; politicians looking to be photographed and seen swarmed over the park.  One gentleman tried to rally the troops and called out county council members and county executive candidates and mayors to my table whenever he saw them.  He knew they could help me by buying a book, handing me a business card, seeing what they could do and perhaps benefiting from me being able to say on the Internet how much they cared and how involved they were with the community.

Instead–most ignored this gentleman completely. Canvassers disrespectfully put their vote for so and so pamphlets all over my ancestor’s artifacts by the handful.  One young woman scattered them all over my table.  Only one politician gave any money at all–she did not buy a book, but pulled a dollar out of her purse begrudgingly–her non-knock off Louis Vuitton purse crunched it in my hand with a business card telling me to be sure to tell my relatives in the county to vote for her.  The only reason I kept the card was because the gentleman who tried to get me support wrote his information on the back.

I was mortified.  I was embrassed. I was angry.  I was pissed off.

This meant the world to me, my family, my communities, my people, to African Americans–to be represented at the most respected university in the English speaking world, if not the world—and of the politicans that came through that day–and at another event I did in Bowie, I received a dollar for my efforts–and a “vote for me.” If there was every a moment I felt let down, hurt and useless–that was it.  Even in Montgomery County where I reside, I was a little purturbed that our county executive just walked on by my exhibit at the Historical Society–a garden I grew with a few volunteers and my own hands—even though I had met the man as a teenager–when he came and spoke at my mentoring group at my high school–but then he was on the council….not the county executive.  Here I am this young African American man doing the right thing–doing something really cutting edge and exciting in our county and he walks by without a word.  Want to see what he walked by at Happy Birthday Montgomery County?

Belle Dawson House Heirloom Heritage Garden, 2009

Tell me something politicians—be you mayors, county executives, city or county or township council executives–do you really think we don’t notice your six figure bathrooms and six figure checks and six figure backroom deals?  Do you see a disjoint between the Black pride stuff I teach in my presentations and demonstrations and what you demonstrate by excessive luxuries, shady dealings and not really knowing who you have in your communities?

I’ve heard a lot of drama about how the Black kids don’t study. They don’t learn. They are headed for drugs, HIV, gun violence, teen pregnancy, and so on.  We live in a very pessimistic world.  Black politicians often harrangue us about these issues and hammer their fists in pseudo-frustration while our rights as a community are threatened, our ability to hold on to property and real estate are threatened and opportunities to create jobs and make better opportunities possible as well as just –hey I don’t know–show your face in communities and homes during non-election times pass by the wayside.  It’s hard being the Nice Black Guy…nobody seems to care about us…unless we have money and privilege or can throw a ball…Here we are—living everyday lives–and some us do for our own and take care of our own and can’t get the support we need to inspire and educate others and keep the positive energy going.  How do I look at a kid and try to turn his or her life around and say its worth it–when my own leaders and some people in our community with clout—take a look at what I’m doing and what others are doing and give us a half-hearted pat on the back, a jaunty good luck and no financial or networking support and walk off to collect their paycheck and backroom check.  We’ve really had enough of this.  Somebody needs to OCCUPY their offices until they get this right.

You serve the people–not yourself.

You are always a role model even when you don’t want to be because of who you were elected to be.

You are to make sure that you go to sleep knowing that you really love and care about the people you serve–because if you don’t–that job should not be yours.  It’s not about the money, or the power, its about the people.

I’m furious with you Jack!  You were the executive of the most prosperous predominantly Black county in the nation.  But it was all about you and your wife and stacks of money hidden in your underthings.  It’s embarassing, its scary, and its the kind of thing that will be held against us in years to come.

I’ve vented, I’m done.  We can’t do our best, if you don’t do yours.

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About michaelwtwitty

I am a Judaics teacher and Culinary Historian focusing on the foodways of Africa, enslaved African Americans, African America and the African and Jewish diasporas.
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