Editor's note: The columnist's opinion is his own and does not reflect the views of The Philadelphia Tribune management.
Why me? You might ask. Who do I think I am? You might ask. Why should you accept my endorsements? You might ask. Here’s why: To whom much is given, much is required. I have been a trial attorney for more than 25 years, an adjunct college professor of Black History for 15 years, a cultural/political activist since my college days, a radio/TV host for more than 15 years, a newspaper columnist for seven years, and an African descendant throughout my entire lifetime. Furthermore, in the words of the great Congressperson Shirley Chisholm, I am “unbought and unbossed” because I neither request nor accept money, jobs, grants or any personal benefits whatsoever from any candidate or elected official.
Based on all those blessings, I have been put in a position to access and uncover information that can bring about justice, equity and eventually liberation for Black folks. Accordingly, prior to each election, I use that information to compile my endorsement lists. Why? There are two reasons. The first is many Black voters always ask me to do so. The second is, unlike the average voter, I have the time and resources to thoroughly research the candidates. Consequently, I am able to distinguish the good candidates from the bad ones (as well as the not-so-bad candidates from the truly bad ones).
As a result, in the May 16 primary election, I am endorsing the following candidates and voting as indicated on the following ballot questions.
First of all, I endorse Helen Gym for mayor.
Second, to paraphrase Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” In other words, do not reject a candidate simply because he or she is not perfect. No candidate (and no person) is perfect. We all have done something wrong before. We all have said something wrong before. Therefore, the question is not about the biggest mistake a person ever made. Instead, it’s about what we lawyers call “the totality of the circumstances.” Stated differently, it’s about what a person is overall.
To put it simply, just as the best thing you’ve ever done in your life doesn’t define you, neither should the worst.
I mention this because, during the past three months in my newspaper columns, on my radio shows, and on my social media platforms, I condemned Gym for what I described as her “Ron DeSantis/Union League” double-dealing back on Jan. 30 – as I should have. For me, she was guilty of racist hypocrisy.
But she sincerely apologized several times. And during one of those apologies, she said, “As a leader who has consistently stood in solidarity against anti-Blackness and hate, I ask to be given the grace to be judged, both during this election and beyond, on my entire body of work over decades.”
After seriously considering what she said, I began to ask myself if I really thought she was a DeSantis-type racist. And I had to admit she’s not. I then asked myself if I really thought she was an establishment Democrat pretending to be a progressive. And I had to admit she’s not. The truth is, based on her lengthy history of civic involvement, she’s definitely a genuine progressive.
That’s why I’m endorsing her. But before presenting reasons to justify my endorsement, I must explain the term “progressive.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as a person who advocates for “political change and especially social improvement.”
In practical terms, it’s best described as a left-leaning type of liberalism. And by “left-leaning,” I mean the opposite of right-leaning reactionism (i.e., going back to the bad old days of blatant racism and other forms of systemic intolerance) and I also mean the opponent of centrism/conservatism (i.e., enabling/maintaining the stagnant status quo).
The bottom line is that a progressive is a person who engages in or advocates for enlightened (aka “woke”) grassroots activism. That’s precisely why Philadelphia magazine in 2013 described Gym as Philly’s “preeminent public agitator.” Public agitation is what progressives do. During slavery, abolitionists were progressives. During Jim Crow, civil rights marchers were progressives. During the era when women weren’t allowed to vote, suffragettes were progressives. Progressives seek societal progress based on evolving standards of decency.
And, for me, the best progressives are the ones who have sought and continue to seek societal progress for Black people. Gym has done that and continues to do that:
She is endorsed by progressive organizations that fight 24/7/365 for Black voters’ rights, Black prisoners’ rights and Black laborers’ rights. Those organizations include Free The Ballot, Amistad Movement Power, Working Families Party, Reclaim Philadelphia and Our Revolution. Also, she’s endorsed by progressive individuals whose resumes prove their pro-Black advocacy. Those individuals include Black Councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier as well as Black Congressman Jamaal Bowman.
She has a pragmatic policy initiative plan to reduce violent crime in Black neighborhoods and throughout the city by investing in prevention and intervention instead of pursuing the same old tired and failed knee-jerk “lock ‘em all up” approaches of the past that did nothing more than hire more cops.
She has a guaranteed summer jobs plan for youth and for adults under 30 in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence (neighborhoods that, unfortunately, are predominantly Black and poor).
She has an equity-driven housing plan that ensures that Black neighborhoods most impacted by disinvestment and redlining are first in line for affordable housing as well as subsidies and grants for investments, repairs and upgrades.
She has committed to fully funding vital City services that have been denied to Black communities for too long. Those services will include libraries, recreation centers and pools in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence (neighborhoods that, unfortunately, are predominantly Black and poor.)
During her impressive decades-long history as a teacher beginning in 1994, education activist as co-founder of Parents United for Public Education in 2006, and Councilmember from 2016-2022, she has done more than any elected official to promote the interests of students and teachers, many of whom are Black. Moreover, she will guarantee job placement and interim employment for HBCU students who enroll in education degree programs.
• She wrote the nation’s most expansive “Fair Workweek” law to protect the economic interests of service workers, most of whom are Black.
She has been a relentless tenants’ rights activist. Also, she implemented the City’s renowned Eviction Diversion Program, thereby saving many single Black mothers and their Black babies from homelessness.
And finally, not only should a person be judged by what good people say about him or her but should also be judged by what bad people say about him or her. And the FOP, which is the very same organization whose leadership called Black protesters “rabid animals” and whose membership endorsed Donald Trump just as the KKK did, hates her, just as big money racist Republicans hate her, which is why they have engaged in nonstop smear campaigns against her.
Now here’s my complete list of endorsements and ballot answers:
City Council: At-Large (Five)
KATHERINE GILMORE RICHARDSON
(If there were more At-Large positions available, I would definitely endorse Ogbonna Paul Hagins, Amanda McIllmurray, Erika Almiron and Rue Landau.)
City Council: Districts
KENYATTA JOHNSON (2nd District)
JAMIE GAUTHIER (3rd District)
CURTIS JONES JR. (4th District)
JEFFERY JAY YOUNG JR. (5th District)
QUETCY M. LOZADA (7th District)
CINDY BASS (8th District)
ANTHONY PHILLIPS (9th District)
Register of Wills
TRACEY L. GORDON
City Commissioners (Two)
Supreme Court (One)- Extremely Important!
Superior Court (Two)- Extremely Important!
Commonwealth Court (One)- Extremely Important!
Common Pleas Court (Ten)- Extremely Important!
JESSICA R. BROWN
Municipal Court (Two)- Extremely Important!
COLLEEN MCINTYRE OSBORNE
Ballot Questions (Four)
1. Deposit money into “Rainy Day Fund.” (No)
2. Create Department of Workforce Solutions (No)
3. Exempt Police Oversight Commission from civil service requirements (Yes)
4. Create Office of Chief Public Safety Director (Hell No!)
For more info and more nuance, tune in to my “Radio Courtroom” show on WURD96.1FM and at WURDradio.com at 1 p.m. on April 29, May 6 and May 13 and my “TV Courtroom” show at 3:30 p.m. May 5 on Xfinity, Fios and at PhillyCAM.org.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.