The energy that was apparent during the town hall meeting underscored how the African American is becoming engaged in the politics process.
Much has been said about the town hall meeting format in the current presidential campaign and it was apparent that town hall formats generate lively discussions between all the participants in the process. Last Saturday, at the ‘Taste of Soul’ town hall meeting, exchanges between the panelists, made up of elected officials, Hollywood celebrities, the clergy and the press showed the eagerness of the community not only to want to register and vote but also to be an informed electorate.
There were two town hall meetings and some of the panelists served on both panels. The first panel consisted of Assemblyman Mike Davis (A-48), Councilwoman Jan Perry (D-9) and a representative from the County Registrar Recorder; it was moderated by Sentinel Religion Editor and community liaison for 93.5 F.M., Niele Anderson. The second panel included Congresswoman Laura Richardson (C-39), Councilman Bernard Parks (D-8), Perry, Maurice Jamal, Nikki Micheaux of “Lincoln Heights,” Jasmyne Cannick, Sentinel columnist and social activist; Rev. Charles Blake Jr. of West Angeles COGIC; Pastor Kwesi Kamau of Amos Memorial CME Church; and Darryl Bell, political blogger, formerly of “A Different World.” Danny J. Bakewell Jr., president and executive editor of the Sentinel moderated the second panel.
Perry described her role, responsibilities and boundaries of her district, and an overview of the same for individual offices of many of the California elected officials including the mayor(s), assembly-members, senators, members of congress and county supervisors. Describing the town hall meeting, she said, “It was a great opportunity to put our views out there and have a little back-and-forth with the audience, and I liked the questions. They were challenging and interesting, and people were obviously engaged, and I think that’s a good thing.”
As chairman of the Rail and Transportation Committee, Davis spoke about the Expo line, but he also focused on the frustration that it took 85 days to pass the state budget. “I thought that the panel was an outstanding panel which gave us an opportunity to discuss the critical propositions on the ballot at both the city and the state level,” he added, “this is the kind of activity that we must do more of in our community to make sure we make the right decisions that will benefit us all.”
The representative from the County Registrar-Recorder’s office informed the gathering about the particulars of voting and its eligibility criteria. Anderson told the audience about the “free busing to the polls on Tuesdays,” a service provided in partnership with the Sentinel and 93.5 The Beat FM radio station.
After introducing the second panel, Bakewell threw out a provocative question about the changing dynamics of urban politics saying, “All questions relate to our (the Black) community.” As expected the focus went straight to Senator Barack Obama and the presidential race. However, the consensus of the panel was that even though Obama is riding a national and indeed an international wave, he is only one individual, and his victory will portend “long coattails” and a change of the electoral map, “we should not think if he’s elected it will solve all our problems.” As an example, factoring the growing Latino electorate into the equation, the element of alliance and partnership surfaces when considering that Blacks and Latinos have many common issues.
The issues for the panelists were divided into politics, church and Hollywood. Politics and the church traditionally have always enjoyed community from the community, but the same seems to be lacking when it comes to entertainment. Many from the entertainment community have become politically active even to the detriment of their careers. And the panel exhorted the community to support those who reach out beyond their careers to shake up the status quo for a better quality of life for all.
Someone in the audience asked about Crenshaw Boulevard and Leimert Park and the fact that their namesakes were White individuals who supported restrictive covenants which barred Black people from purchasing homes in certain areas. (For example, Blacks were not always allowed to live in Lafayette Square, Hancock Park and Leimert Park. Mayor Tom Bradley reportedly had to have a White person purchase a house for him to be able to move in to Leimert Park).
Parks chimed in and explained that it was the community that thwarted efforts to rename the Crenshaw strip to Tom Bradley Boulevard, but Cannick added that even though she enjoyed cruising on the “Shaw,” she would enjoy it equally if it was Tom Bradley Boulevard.
“I think the panel is important and I think that it’s important that we keep re-evaluating what our positions are on a variety of issues. We are going to win this battle of being on the preventive side one step at a time, and we have to keep talking about the issues because we have far greater success on the prevention and education angles that we have on rehabilitation.”
Kamau said, “Churches are bastions of culture.” And vice presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin was described as an embarrassment to Christianity.
About Hollywood, Jamal said, “It sets the tone but lacks leadership.” Followed by Micheaux, who commented, “We got to be engaged in the process (politics and the business of Hollywood).”
Then Bell retorted profoundly, “(W.E.B.) DuBois made the way for Rosa Parks to take a stand, for Jesse (Jackson) to run so that Obama could get elected. But we must hold folks (elected officials) accountable.”
Bakewell introduced Richardson as a seasoned campaigner having been elected to the Long Beach city council, California State Assembly and the United States Congress, all in the same year. She described the essence of Obama’s success saying, “He moved into the 21st century with the technology. We (politicians) have to get out of city hall into the streets.”
Richardson also gave plaudits to ‘Taste of Soul’ and added, “I just want to say ‘shouts-out’ to L.A. Sentinel and say for the last three years, you guys have been reaching out to the community and I just feel very thankful to have the Sentinel as a resource helping us to pull people together.”