An Election Analysis

It is not easy to be an editorial opinion writer. Every time we write an article with our name by it, we open ourselves up to criticism from many who would never have the courage to be so exposed. It doesn’t matter who the writer is or what the publication. Some will like us for what we write and others will dislike us. But I can’t speak for “us;” I can only speak for me.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t write to please anybody. I write to please me. By that I mean that when I write, I am never concerned about how readers will receive what I write because I always strive to be fair. My only concern has always been whether what I write is something that needs to be said.
So, when I got a call after the mayoral election from a longtime Black friend of mine congratulating me on an election effort well done (All the older Black guard credit me for my son’s political accomplishments.), I was momentarily pleased…until he said two things that gave me pause and helped me understand why there is such a deep division between the Black masses who showed up for the election and those so-called Black leaders, many of whom were conspicuously absent.
After praising me for an apparent appropriate amount of time, my longtime Black friend revealed to me that he was going to be a participant in an upcoming public event for Domenic Sarno, who had just barely defeated my son in the mayoral election, which I already knew was partly tilted to Sarno by sycophantic Black people. My assessment of my old friend’s call was that he was worried about my next editorial and didn’t want to become caught up in it.
The second thing he said to me was that my next article had to be “the best you (I) ever wrote.” Well, that really ruffled my artistic feathers, since I like to believe that all of my articles are the best I ever wrote. I went to sleep on it and woke up just as perturbed as I was before I went to sleep and was determined to write an article that would be fairly described by him and others, who might experience discomfort at my candor, as the “worst I ever wrote.”
I don’t mind saying that I am both disturbed and pleased by the impact that the mayoral campaign of my son, Justin Hurst, had on the Springfield community. It woke many people up to the fact that we in Springfield have some serious governance problems that must be confronted better now than later. The fact is that Springfield is a majority-minority city that continues to be politically dominated by an Irish/Italian conglomerate (mafia?) that wants to stay in power forever even though its time to leave the stage is more imminent than its political players would like to admit. They will try to hang on forever, trading political power from one to the other as long as we allow; and the only way they can usurp our rightful time is to divide us, a strategy they have excelled at until now.
When my son began his campaign, I was his toughest skeptic. I challenged him in my own way as nobody else would. I’ve been involved in local politics for decades and I know what it takes to win a school committee or city council seat, which all my folks have mastered, including my son; but running for mayor of Springfield against an incumbent was a far bigger challenge (which I have personally tried and failed at twice) which could only be met by a level of organization never before contemplated by someone who wasn’t seriously concerned about winning.
Justin Hurst organized and ran a powerful mayoral campaign with his “Not Me but We” rainbow coalition in which he and so many other diverse-race folks worked hard and raised more money from more folks who never before considered contributing so much to a candidate challenging an incumbent mayor, which is probably why the incumbent mayor panicked near the end of the election and threw dirt into the game, which actually backfired and drew even more support to the Hurst campaign from all over the city with “a few minor exceptions,” which deserve some attention.
And, I’m certain those individuals and groups who I consider the “few minor exceptions,” won’t like the attention because they already know who they are and what roles they played in sabotaging Justin’s mayoral election and they will not be too happy to see their unnecessary sin of abandoning their own publicized in this article.
I’ll start with the easy one. If all the Black folks running for city council were serious about winning, they would have done the same thing that incumbent City Councilor Tracye Whitfield wisely did and openly endorsed Justin Hurst for mayor. You may have heard the saying that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Well, these mostly new Black aspirants for political office, for whatever reasons, ran away from a historic moment and, consequently, missed the boat. They not only doomed their own possibilities for victory by shunning mayoral candidate Justin Hurst, but they also helped deny the community an historic victory! And there is no excuse for it, even if they were following the misguided advice of those who knew not what they were saying or were following their own misguided advice or the advice of those who deliberately misled them for their own gain.
And those who might have misled them for their own personal or political gain are among the many who need to be exposed the most, people like George Bruce, Bud Williams, Jay Griffin and Cee Jackson, and others who have long ago been compromised by money and the mere illusion of personal and political power and their obsessive love of White people, even though their behavior means delaying the time for their own majority-minority community’s ascent to the role of governing itself.
And Bishop Talbert Swan is another one. Who knows what he stands for? He certainly is not for the NAACP which he has rendered impotent during his time in office. And feckless Malo Brown is even worse! And the perennially White-loving Melvin Edwards is no better. All three loved Sarno and still love him. We look like damn fools supporting and electing and re-electing such narcissistic, weak people when we should be planning to run them out of office. We are better than that! Yet, we continue to allow the Mayor Sarno’s of the city to exploit our divisions by declaring these charlatans and others like them, our leaders. We can do better!
But not without difficulty. Money has corrupted a lot of well-meaning people, especially many of those who run nonprofits. And many who run nonprofits who are not corrupted still find themselves in a tough position. Mayor Sarno controls more discretionary money than any Springfield mayor in my lifetime (and I’m older than most who run the nonprofits). And Sarno is a vindictive man.
Sarno held a fundraiser that one White “friend” described to me (with obvious awe) as full of Black folks. Well, I knew most of those Black folks were people who were looking for money that they felt they would never get unless they appeared to support Sarno. Some, however, genuinely supported him. And those sycophants who genuinely supported him impacted the outcome of the election and they will have to live with the fact of the untold damage they did to their own community. Bernard McClusky, and the above-mentioned and others unmentioned, know who I’m talking about.
Many others didn’t actually support the mayor. More than you might imagine decided, wisely, to take the money and run. They supported and voted for Justin Hurst. They understood that it was not Sarno’s money but their money and he was misusing it for his own political advantage, dangling it and delaying distributing it until as close to election time as was possible. These were the courageous and principled ones who chose not to sell out their own for what, in the proper context of things, amounted to a few pennies. They know who they are and they will sleep well knowing they were among the masses that made Justin Hurst’s campaign a genuine “movement” that is not going away.
Movements are far more potent than a campaign. They take on a life of their own. They don’t die simply because an election was not won and certainly not because a few confused people betrayed their own. One can look all the way back to Jesus who forgave Judas who betrayed him for a few pieces of silver. They crucified Jesus and his movement changed the world forever and Judas became an historical pariah.
Justin Hurst certainly can’t be compared to Jesus but his well-run campaign just as certainly morphed into a powerful local movement that continues to this day. People came out of the woodwork in his support. Many had never been so involved in a political campaign. It was a pleasure to watch and be a part of. I have never seen anything like it in Black Springfield. A genuine leader emerged who moved people to action because they learned to believe in him. And he rose to the occasion.
And, the rainbow of people who make up the movement have not gone away. The feedback has been tremendous. The anticipation is inspiring. The people want more. They are demanding more. It is no longer only Justin’s to decide. Justin’s campaign was merely the beginning. The people have decided. And the Black Judas’s who strive so hard to thwart the future can be assured that they can’t avoid their inevitable fates. The older ones are on short time and will soon face their maker. The younger ones are out of step with their own future. Change will come without them and they will be left behind.
My primary worry throughout the campaign, however, was whether or not Justin would emerge from the election psychologically stronger and ready for battle, which, it seems, he has. And I hope he understands his most recent battle is just one of many in an unending war to elevate Springfield to where its people deserve it to be. And I hope he understands that some of those who he will be forced to fight against in the future include some of his own who have been conditioned to pander to the status quo.
They will never stop serving their “master” because some are simply weak by nature and others think money is God and “master” controls the money, which, in their minds means “master” is God. Neither of these types of folks will ever go away. We generally refer to them as “Uncle Toms.” Fighting them is just one of the many layers of leadership that include the ability to lead a rainbow of honestly dissatisfied people toward necessary change. It’s not a new fight by far, just a long one.
Springfield is producing many worthy young Black leaders, many of whom serve out of the limelight. They understand the value of personal responsibility and obligation. Others toil in public such as City Councilor Trayce Whitfield and School Committee Women, LaTonia Naylor and Denise Hurst. All of these relatively new Black leaders share the leadership with those like Justin Hurst, who dares to toil on the perilous front line of political change. And they are the people who the Domenic Sarno’s of our world least want in leadership positions because Sarno and his ilk prefer sycophants, who will never feel good about a Justin Hurst because they don’t like themselves – those whose minds are still controlled by slavery and to whom we should give just enough of our time to keep them in check and no more, while we continue to do the meaningful work for the future.
I’m told Lavar Click-Bruce is a good person. But a good person who is a confused person is a useless and often dangerous person. He’s certainly not a leader. What leaders would allow themselves to be placed at the point of the mayor’s fake program to end gun violence by inviting youth to join the clubs that they have always been able to join. And any fool knows that the ones who join are not among those who are carrying guns and shooting people. It’s even sillier than the useless so-called gun buyback programs in which only good people turn in guns that they were never going to use. Click-Bruce, like so many others, is allowing himself to be used by Sarno as a servile puppet. He is a perfect example of what our community needs to weed out, unless he rethinks his role.
We’ve got to speak up. A lot of folks don’t understand that ours is and has been, for decades and generations, an ongoing war in which some folks give their all and others give little or nothing and even join the other side whenever the battles start. We all have an obligation to expose those who run away, for whatever reason, for who they really are and to reinforce the good people.
We all know that Bud Williams lives in Ward 7 and hasn’t lived in Ward 4 or 5 for many years and that he could care less about the wellbeing of Black folks and for most other folks of color, except when he wants a photo op. You all talk about him behind his back all the time but nobody wants to speak up. Why!? He’s a joke at home and in Boston. You can get more constituent responses out of Adam Gomez (to his credit) than you can out of Bud Williams and we all know it. Everyone should speak up! Whispering is not enough. And maybe if we all speak up, a more committed candidate will emerge to oppose him in his next election and thereafter.
And Talbert Swan is no better. Folks talk about him in whispers behind his back and nobody speaks openly. Why!? By folks not speaking out, White folks treat him as though he is our leader even though he has reduced the NAACP to a relic. And he runs a mostly phantom church with mostly phantom programs, as though they are real and that the city, nevertheless, funds while Sarno gets to muffle Swan and use him against his own. Swan is not our leader. Never has been and never will be. And I challenge the White media to research who the real leaders are and to stop reducing the image of our community to the level of charlatans.
There are some very good ministers in this town who are doing some real productive work who the mainstream media ignore because the White-controlled media move like water through the Black community. When they want a response on issues affecting Black folks, they seek out the most vocal and easily available minister and ignore the most meaningful ministers who are genuinely contributing to the community, and they elevate the loudest minister to a level of unearned significance. So, they go to a Talbert Swan who relishes attention that he hasn’t earned.
But I place more blame on the more productive ministers than I do Talbert Swan. They are too silent. They are all members of the Pastors’ Council. But the Pastors’ Council is more restrictive than the mainstream media apparently because no minister wants to appear to contradict another. Consequently, members reduce the Council to the level of its lowest common denominator in order not to offend one another, which is the only way I can imagine why the tepid “Souls to the Polls” operation, which should have had much more of an impact on the election in favor of Justin Hurst who had the support of most of their congregations, did not come even close to producing the enthusiasm generated by church communities in most places in the country.
Which explains why I have so much respect for the un-ordained minister, Charles Stokes, who speaks up so courageously on important issues affecting our community. He is more respected among the grassroots folks than Swan could ever be because Stokes is genuine. But he is not the only genuine Black minister in Springfield. There are many with big and small churches who would do the community a favor by speaking up publicly on the critical issues of our times and making themselves more available to the media. We need them down front.
There is a message in the fact that Justin Hurst got so many congratulations and ovations at the largest Hispanic church in Springfield where he often attended before and during his campaign for mayor. The minister always praised him by mentioning his name to the congregation (His own minister personally encouraged him but never mentioned his name in church.) while being careful not to jeopardize his church’s nonprofit status.
I mention this to point out that Justin included many Hispanics in important roles in his campaign, which was a natural thing for him to do because he understood the close relationship between African Americans and Hispanics at many levels. But, more significantly, he has many Hispanic relatives including his wife whose mother is Hispanic as are all of her relatives. And their two kids are, of course, mixed Black and Hispanic and they are my grandkids. And we have several cousins who have Hispanic spouses with extended Hispanic families. And we are all one big family who celebrate together with our combined extended Black and Hispanic families. And we are all proudly descended from the African Diaspora although our ancestors started out in different places in the Americas.
I mention all of this to emphasize that not only is Springfield’s population majority-minority but the two major “minorities” are Black and Hispanic who one would expect would work together to elect one of our own to the mayor’s seat. After all, it is our time. But it’s more complicated than that. Not only has the Irish/Italian coalition worked to divide the Black community against itself but it has also worked to divide the Hispanic community against the Black community with a high degree of success, which allows them to dilute the majority minority voting strength and keep themselves in power, which is also part of the reason why Justin Hurst did not win the mayor’s race.
But these White folks are not entirely to blame. Altogether too many Black folks don’t like Hispanics and altogether too many Hispanics (who are themselves divided) don’t like Black folks. And too many of those who are in politics scheme against each other for power, which makes it even easier for the Irish/Italian coalition to divide the two groups and retain political power. We are tricked into blaming each other for each other’s resulting relative impotence while the Sarno’s and Fenton’s (Rumor has it that Fenton is being groomed to replace Sarno.) of Springfield thrive off of our divisions.
My only point is that we need to start over. Justin Hurst will probably run for mayor again. And many of those from the Black and Brown communities and other communities of color will be aspiring to office or to higher office. We need to come together and strategize on how we can work better together to take our rightful place in the power matrix instead of allowing people, who want to deny us what is ours, to keep us out of power by pitting us against each other.
I don’t mean to imply that we didn’t work together to elect Justin Hurst for mayor. Many Black and Hispanics and key White folks and others worked hard together. Senator Adam Gomez and State Representative Orlando Ramos endorsed Justin. But the relationships should have been broader and much tighter.
And, as for my old childhood friend who inspired me to write the “Worst Article I Have Ever Written,” I don’t know what he was thinking by his comments and I mean him no malice. But my son, Justin, asked me a question after the election that he might be able to answer better than I can. He asked, “Dad, why did all these Black folks let Sarno use them?”
I told him what he probably already instinctively knew. “They just don’t know any better, son.” But I also told him, “They don’t really count for the future that you and others are fighting for. Ignore them and keep moving forward. Your two young sons and others of their generation are counting on you and the movement you started.” ■