“You’ve got to be able to ask the tough questions.” – ‘Doc’ Glover
(BALTIMORE – May 13, 2016) – I want to express a word of gratitude for “the heart, nerve and sinew” of Colin Byrd (my mentee at the University of Maryland), Hassan Giordano of www.DMVDaily.com, Rev. C.D. Witherspoon of the Baltimore Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and “The Warrior Lawyer”, Attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, Esquire. These young lions make the community proud.
Special thanks also to Mrs. Sherelle Witherspoon, C.D., Jr., Rhonda Wimbish and to the many supporters both far and wide who have encouraged us even in the slightest way to go out and do a monumental thing: Raise the question!”
The voting irregularities in the April 26th election were massive: Eight missing thumb drives, “Chain of Custody” issues, proper training of election judges, as many as a dozen or so precincts that opened late (4 were Court ordered to stay open later), and precincts without pens. Sheila Dixon supporters are especially concerned as she lost to Pugh – allegedly – by 2,700 votes. However, there are several questions of votes that were not counted, people who were turned away because their name was not on the roll, people given the wrong ballots in the 5th and 6th districts specifically, and a peculiar letter that went out to some ex-offenders who were told that they could not vote – while the Democratic elected officials were touting how ex-felons would be allowed to vote this year. One man, Dwayne Benbow, said that he challenged the letter and was ultimately granted his right to vote.
And, there are reports of a robo-call that stated that Sheila Dixon was ‘fine and that people could stay home and not vote.’ The last person charged in local news for a similar robo-call landed in prison for a stint because the judge wanted to send a clear message … that voter suppression would not be tolerated.
But, knowing these things is not enough. Last week, we, the members of Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections (VOICE), held a Town Hall Meeting at the historic Sharon Baptist Church in Sandtown where we collected witness testimony. Attorney Russell Neverdon and Mark Adams assisted J. Wyndal Gordon in pulling together witness statements on their experiences in this election. One witness was a chief election judge (You can’t make this stuff up).
You see, it’s easy to moan and complain. It is easy to whine. But, can we come together and make an intelligent stand? We can get on Facebook, but are we willing to get up off our butts – despite the critics and naysayers – to stand up with the boldness of the ancestors and go out there and do what we know needs to be done?
As my father said to me often over the years, “You’ve got to be able to ask the tough questions.”
Yesterday at 4:30 pm, I had the honor of standing beside these extraordinary gentlemen at the Baltimore City Board of Elections as we addressed the media after learning that the State “de-certified” the results from the Baltimore Primary. We are grateful that the State Board of Elections under the guise of Linda H. Lamone, Esq., the State Administrator of Elections, has heard our query about the sanctity of the vote in the recent Baltimore Primary election.
I am personally proud of the people who dared to have the courage to pose questions of the election process with us last week, like Betsy Gardner, Ertha Harris, and Pam Massey. More than anything, I am especially proud of the teamwork these gladiators demonstrated in the face of adversity and doubt. I am equally excited about the infinite possibilities of what can happen when we put ego to the side and work harmoniously in unison.
Over the past few months, national reporters and editors have dropped a line asking pretty much the same question: What has changed since last year’s riots?
Generally, I told them that you have to look at that question through the lens of the April 26th election and its results. Today, I can say to those writers and news people that there is an unprecedented level of scrutiny – at least in recent times – with the election and deservedly so. I can say that there is still a distrust of local government, pointing to the Election Day riots at Pugh’s Walbrook Junction office. Never before – at least in recent times – has a campaign gotten votes with the lure of employment. At the same time, I can tell them that the same struggle for poor black people is in full-effect today as the masses clearly prefer Sheila Dixon. A lot of white folks, for the record, like Sheila, too.
I can even tell the national media that Sheila Dixon ended up going against the entire Democratic establishment – even though she is a proud Democrat, herself. And I can tell the national media that friends of Martin O’Malley and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would prefer a Catherine Pugh over Sheila Dixon but at the same time, a Dixon administration would best heal the City of Baltimore at the most critical juncture in half a century. Sheila Dixon has a passion for this city and, quite frankly, I’m among those who thinks she was robbed in this election. Honestly, I smell a rat.
What I’d also tell national media is that local media plays a significant role – more than many people realize. Truth is, local media has muffled certain stories and blasted others. As a black media professional trained by a few incredible professors and pros, like Professor Ronn Nichols, I am ever mindful of the superior influential power of the media to get people to believe anything they want. As Malcolm X said, “It can make the innocent look guilty and the guilty look innocent.” Hence, media is supposed to have a certain standard.
Baltimore media has attempted, in my best estimation, to paint an image of Sheila Dixon that many of us supporters despise. I think it is ugly, one-sided, and intentionally disrespectful. I think if a journalist is going to do his or her job and tell the truth, then the story should reflect it. What I see is a local media mindset that supports the establishment candidate who is more popular with whites than Sheila. Truth be told, that is exactly the dichotomy that continues to keep Baltimore stuck on stupid. Racism – institutional or otherwise – doesn’t help anybody. It’s bad for business, bad for moral, and just plain bad. It’s backwards and requires no thought. It also requires massive doses of therapy. There is a racial divide in Baltimore that prevents this city from reaching its best, its true potential.
That is the kind of healing Sheila Dixon would bring. And everybody knows it.
And it is time to stop this hate. Enough already!
Tough question: Isn’t the establishment responsible for how Baltimore is doing – why parts of North Avenue look the same way they did in the late 60s? Like at North and Patterson Park? Answer: Yep! Baltimore is a 9-to-1 Democratic town, however the return on our collective investment is short. We have new stadiums, but ill-equipped schools. We have casinos, but our children can’t get rec centers. The struggle is real and will forever be unless we can find a way to finally work together as a society – black and white, Asian and Latino, African and European, and the Native American. We really do have more in common than we realize.
And so, black people are expected to be good, loyal Democrats time and time again who go with the program without asking any questions. Proudly, I submit to you that in the City of Baltimore, there are those of us who have been asking questions for a while now – just like many of our brothers and sisters in Prince George’s County, like Aisha Braveboy and Sen. C. Anthony Muse.
Rarely, however, do we get answers. This time, it looks like we are going to get some answers, and that just warms my soul. Black issues are too often ignored and swept under the rug. And that is really what is so refreshing about the State Board’s decision: Finally, someone has heard our plea and responded.
Election watchdogs cannot recall the last time such a thing has happened. I commend the State Board for seeing the facts as presented and – if nothing else – ‘asking the tough questions!’