Sunday, May 01, 2011

1 MAY 11: Deplorable to Defensible

"All smiley faces downstairs," I said to a TV photographer friend the other day inside an elevator at the Government Center. He was upstairs, waiting for a verdict in the Michael Curry trial. I was downstairs, with the Chamber of Commerce President civil rights activists once seemed ready to send to Curry's prison cell.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: One civil rights activist in particular led the chorus of complaints about Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gaymon. Today he explains for the first time what changed in recent months....

Mr. Burkard,

I am sorry I missed you at the NAACP/Chamber press conference. I really wanted to meet you. I thought you would have some interesting questions and I was going to provide you with some interesting answers, since I was asked to emcee the press conference and handle the media.

I want you to be crystal clear about where I stand on the idea and group decision to move forward for the good of our beloved city. You said something in your remarks about me being silent now but very outspoken in my accusations against President Mike Gaymon in the Courier. Allow me to clear things up here just for you. No one can speak for me better than I can, and I do not mind in the least telling anybody exactly what I think. You should know that much about me. I say what I mean and mean what I say. If a person does not understand what I meant, I am just the person to explain it best.

The theme of the April 26, 2011 NAACP press conference was "moving forward." The fact that no one referred to the unfortunate incident was a clear and direct signal this group was dedicated to moving forward solidarity. I am part of the coalition and am in total agreement with the decision to move forward together. Yes, we all agreed to move forward. We are asking that the citizens of Columbus move forward with us and support us in our efforts. To those that are not supportive of our efforts, we ask them to not stand in our way and to please give peace a chance. We focused on Hearing, Helping, Hope, Healing, and bringing about Harmony to accomplish our mission.

Georgia State Conference of the NAACP President Edward O. DuBose is also in agreement with moving forward. He actually led the initial reconciliation effort and outreach to Dr. Carmen Cavezza. President DuBose and I both were a part of the reconciliation effort from the start. Whether I was in the building or not when Columbus NAACP Branch President Nate Sanderson made remarks about Greater Columbus, Georgia Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mike Gaymon President DuBose and I both support whatever it was he said at the press conference.

Some detractors may want to dwell on the past working to keep Columbus divided in their devilish own ways. We cannot control the actions of others nor do we speak for them. What we can definitively state for the record is that we as concerned citizen and community leaders chose to take advantage of a teachable moment and a real opportunity to unite this city by our example. Considering how things normally go in Columbus, I would think that our efforts to reconcile our differences and move forward for the good of the city would be highly praised. I think this is a good thing and a first. However, there will be those unhappy and critical no matter if community activists publicly condemn insensitivity or choose cease the opportunity to dialogue and peacefully resolve an adverse issue to the benefit of the entire community. There are none so blind as those who cannot see. We will not allow the blind to lead us into the future nor the ignorant to destroy our chance for a better tomorrow.

Together we will make a difference.

God bless,

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

Did you notice how serious C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon is about moving forward? This lengthy message never mentions former mayor Jim Wetherington once.

The presence of C.A. Hardmon at the lectern with Mike Gaymon this past week certainly would have been startling. After all, Hardmon accused Gaymon in this blog of "deplorable conduct and racial sensitivity" [16 Jan]. Let the record show Gaymon did NOT give any African-American leaders a group hug at the news conference.

It was also C.A. Hardmon who accused the Chamber of Commerce Board of "no demonstrated leadership" or "intestinal fortitude" in its handling of the "tablecloth incident" with Mike Gaymon [9 Jan]. That clearly changed when Carmen Cavezza became Chamber Chair - and now Cavezza needs to make room for every racial harmony award he doesn't already have.

But the larger surprise may be that Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose changed his view about Mike Gaymon. Critics think DuBose becomes stubbornly stuck in his ways - but let's be fair. I haven't seen him wear a purple suit in months.

All those "smiley faces" looked nice with reporters around. But I have the feeling African-American leaders are keeping an old Russian proverb in mind when it comes to the Columbus Chamber of Chamber: "Trust, but verify." Those leaders probably won't admit it, though - since former President Ronald Reagan made it famous.

Plenty of announcements and agreements can be made in Columbus, only to lead to inaction. I drove past one example Saturday in MidTown. Remember the "memorandum of understanding" to develop greenspace behind the main public library? [27 Jan 10] After 15 months, the land behind the building doesn't look very different to me. The asphalt wasn't even spray-painted green for Earth Day.

I also recall when Uptown Columbus announced plans for Heritage Park on Seventh Street between Broadway and Front Avenue. Then-director Bernie Quick said construction would take "about a year" - but he didn't bother mentioning the work wouldn't start until one year after the announcement. If you're waiting on federal grant money, say so up-front....

While all these local groups made a commitment this past week to "move forward," a couple of Columbus civil rights organizations still have not said so publicly (as far as I know). There's been no comment yet from the Urban League. And Dr. William Howell of Rainbow/PUSH is about due for his once-a-quarter public appearance somewhere.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: Why one figurehead was barred from the grand opening of the Ice Rink.... and the City Manager answers our questions....

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