Thursday, December 14, 2017

Welcome to my blog

A friend – and a brother in the faith and struggle – convinced me that a blog could be used to combat injustice, and then went a step further and created this one.  Since fighting for economic equality has been the focus of my career – and I believe the root problem and ultimate answer to the Ferguson phenomenon – this blog will focus on the struggle of blacks and minorities for economic justice.

Click this link: dcreport.org for the latest scandals at the federal level. "Before any law, rule or policy is altered, DCReport will alert you. And show you how to exercise your Constitutional rights to challenge changes detrimental to your rights and protections as a citizen, consumer, worker, investor and voter." Courtesy of David Cay Johnson & Associates.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Protest Coming to the Table

The protesters’ presenting a list of demands alters the dynamic of the disruption campaign, as it suggests a straightforward avenue – not a solution – for peace.  Now the tension created by the sustained strikes has a path.

The pressure by the protesters for the police to stop killing blacks is this generation’s cry for justice for black people, especially young black people.  This is the problem – their plight.  And while a set of demands will provide a framework for ameliorating their plight, it will be the power shown in getting a response to the demands that will ultimately alleviate it.  Getting demands met reforms the system, having the power to make demands transforms it.


When the black contractors group organized and shut down I-70 in 1999, the protest was about the lack of black contractors on that particular highway project, and the demand that had been made by the group prior to the shutdown was simply for MODOT to increase the number to at least 25%.  The group had not put on the table as a demand, or even thought of for that matter, what became the best tangible outcome of that protest – the establishment of a construction training school that lasted thirteen years and matriculated over a thousand blacks into the construction industry.


Once I-70 was shut down, thus legitimizing the threat made to shut down I-64 ten days thereafter, the demands became almost unbounded because of the unique power the community held during that interim between the actual shutdown and the threatened one.  It was a power that emanated from black people being organized and united and unafraid.

The school, named the Construction Prep Center, became a model for urban blacks reorienting their lives through getting into construction that was studied and emulated nationally, putting St. Louis on the map.  The CPC was born out of the tension of that moment.  In that moment, when the leverage for disruption to achieve concrete gains is heightened, the proverbial coming to the table process intensifies.


 In the case of the I-70 protest, after some failed political maneuverings, the governor dispatched to meet with the black contractors group his chief of staff, the chairman of MODOT, and a well known political operative whose name and role all stipulated would forever remain undisclosed.  While the CPC and a laundry list of other items, including raising the minority goal beyond 25%, were birthed around the table that evening and late into the night meeting, which had its own tension, what was more importantly birthed was the black contractors becoming an institutionalized presence and force in the entire construction industry thereafter.

If a protest is effective, there is a moment in time when the power shifts from the institution holding the power to the hands of the group leading the disturbance.  In that moment the leaders of the group, having the trust of the movement they are spearheading, are faced less with the prospect of selling the people out and more the prospect of either selling them short or leaving them without.

The direct confrontation tactics of the protesters have forced the power structure to see the problem.  The impact of the disturbances will determine whether they pay attention to it.  The determination of the disturbers will decide whether they come to the table to solve it.

Eric E. Vickers, Civil Rights Attorney and Activist.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Burden of Proof – Who Shot Dodi?

“I can’t believe I’m putting myself through this again,” he thought to himself, while seated at the old oak table and looking towards the cozy little space just a few feet away where soon twelve empty wooden swivel chairs would slowly be filled one by one with people from everyday walks of life.  All afternoon, since the close of the trial, a silent stillness had pervaded the spacious courtroom, with its ultra-high ceilings and ornate trimmings from another era.  And then early evening, two sharp buzzes rang out from the bailiff’s desk.  “That means we got a verdict.”   She was a young, just over five feet stout black woman, who had made it known throughout the weeklong trial that she was in complete command of the courtroom, and now she was alerting the judge and all that the end had arrived.

The anticipation of that moment – when a man’s fate, his client’s life, would literally be decided – weighed heavily on him, and he thought about the anxiety felt at that moment by every lawyer, defendant, and family caught in the throes of the criminal justice system.  Family and friends of both the deceased and the accused started slowly walking in, their solemn and foreboding looks filling the cavernous courtroom with an almost excruciating tension about what was to come. 


A picture of a handsome young black man, twenty-seven years old, with his two adorable young children nestled beside him, had been placed in the hands of the jurors by the prosecutor, who then, in pointing directly to his client, coldly said: “And that’s who murdered this man, this father.” 


His family and friends were there, as were the family and friends of the accused, whose life they knew lay in hands beyond theirs.  His grandmother was there.  Ninety years on the planet had not prepared her for this.  She had raised him.  His mother, her middle child, was too strung out on crack, and his father – who appeared at the trial and almost ashamedly introduced himself as his client’s “biological father”- was nowhere to be found when he was growing up.  As he sat there watching the deputies slow walk her grandson to the table to sit beside him, he recalled how he got into the case – his grandmother’s words over the phone: “He wouldn’t kill nobody, not my baby.”

 As they walked him in, he rose, ready to go through what had become their ritual throughout the trial, noticing the fancy purple tie and belt laid out on the table beside his briefcase.  Besides his briefcase he had placed a yellow notepad and pen for his client to use throughout the trial.  He had shown himself to be unusually intelligent, as he had thoroughly studied all the reports in the file, including the expert lab reports, and reviewed all the audio and video tapes.  They became a team, spending hours and hours at the jail going over records, testimony, and re-enacting the incident, while during the trial whispering in sharing notes and thoughts.

The deputies walked him around the table and had him stand just in front of the chair that was to the left of his chair, then un-handcuffed him and ordered: “Hands in your pockets.” Slowly, he placed his long hands into each of his black pants pockets, and then stood there erect, all six feet three of him, weighing maybe 150 pounds, looking skinny as a rail, like he hadn’t been fed the past twenty-one months he’d been in jail awaiting trial.  With his reading glasses on, he looked like a college student or young tech company executive.  “Now put your belt on,” they said, and he carefully picked it up off the table and gradually encircled his waist, tightening it to it seemed the last notch.

“Sit down,” they then ordered, and once his client had obediently sat, he began the ritual that became part of the trial that he had not, with all his meticulous preparation, prepared for.  He picked up the tie and began to place it up over his client’s neatly shaved head and around his glasses to down past his already upturned collar and onto his neck.  Their physical closeness was such that the deputies and others in the courtroom took notice, and it reminded him of how he had taught his own son how to tie a tie.

“I see we’re in purple today,” he said while adjusting the tie around his client’s neck to perfectly fit and align with his purple shirt.  “Yea,” he said with a sort of half smile, “My peoples came through, and they got me the black slacks to go with it…What you think?, it didn’t take ‘em long, did it?”  Still adjusting the tie, face to face, he avoided answering: “We’ll see.”  “There,” he then said in finishing adjusting the tie and patting him on the shoulders, “you look ready.”  He smiled and nodded in agreement.    

Then began the longest ten minutes of his life.  As if in slow motion, the bailiff called for all to arise for the jury, and as everyone in the courtroom stood, they began coming in slowly, one by one, with him watching the two who looked like him and the ten of another race take their seats.  They were about to do what several on the jury panel, including two blacks, said they could not do – and thus were stricken – make a judgment about a person’s life.  

It was sort of strange, he thought to himself while trying to read the jurors expressions as they marched in - seven women and five men - that what was really on trial was his client’s life’s story, and this case was just an extension or manifestation of that.  While he realized that he had developed a particular bond with this client, he knew that the young black man beside him could be any number, maybe even an infinite number, of young black men like him.

They live in a combustible world.  Where youthful energy, vigor, ambition, aspiration, and even innocence come into contact with the ghetto - its deprivation and despair - into which they are born.  When those elements interact, they combust into social dysfunction, tension and violence, sometimes outwardly, though mostly inwardly.  The bailiff asked him at one point during the trial to warn his client that he was to always look forward and not towards the back of the courtroom, and he was sure that what had sparked her action was seeing the defendant turn backwards to his right to see seated in the first pew the social disarray that had brought him to that moment.  There sat his baby’s mama – the chief witness against him – and her three children (by men other than him), with two testifying against him.  

Their child together was six at the time of the shooting, and they had lived together off and on for the past seven years.  He had worked full time as a union employee at a downtown hotel, and also had a small lawn care business, while she worked as a home health tech.  He was a good father, she said, to all of her children.  Their relationship, on the other hand, was torrid, with some of the charges against him stemming from her calling the police about him choking and striking her two months before the shooting incident.   

She broke down on the witness stand, uncontrollable tears in describing the night of the incident and her seeing a man dead - a man she knew and loved as a cousin – on her living room floor, and being shot herself three times in the leg.  Describing her shock at suddenly seeing her son’s father come into the dining room and start shooting at her and others in the living room while “not targeting anyone” – with the BET Awards on - she said he “didn’t look angry. He looked lost.”

“Brother, that whole generation lost, and ain’t nutin’ you, me, or nobody can do ‘bout it.”  As he watched the jurors now take their seats and the judge emerge from his chambers, he remembered for some reason those words spoken by his seventy-four year old cabbie friend when he told him what the case was about during one of their trips to the courthouse.  “Man, this young generation ain’t got not values, and it ain’t they fault.  They was raised without mommas and daddys, so what you expect?  All they know is this rap shit – cussin’ an’ fuckin’ an’ suckin’ an’ shootin’ up shit an’ each other.”

He had the cabbie’s observation in mind when he cross examined the mother following a break after her emotional breakdown on the stand.  Politely greeting her on the witness stand with “Miss” and “good afternoon,” he proceeded in a gentle tone: “I know going over this is very difficult.” “Yes, very much so,” she quietly replied.  “And I know that the night of this shooting had to be the most horrific night of your life,” he continued. “Yes, absolutely,” she softly responded.  “More horrific, I imagine, than the time you spent in prison,” he then dropped. 

With that line he began putting before the jury her character, her criminal history and personal morality, and yet he knew that she had been as much a product of the ghetto circumstances and lost generation circumstances as his client.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I understand you have reached a verdict,” the judge said in a serious and stately pose from his regal and lofty perch while facing the jury.  “We do,” replied the jury foreman.

The time it took for the judge’s clerk to go pick up the verdict forms from the jury foreman to him taking them to the judge’s side bar, and the judge then reviewing all the verdict forms for the six charges – ranging from 1st degree murder to domestic assault – must have seemed an eternity to his client, he thought.  Except for the soft whir of the A/C system, total silence swept over the court room.  What was the judge thinking in seeing what the jury had decided, he wondered, wondering if his client was thinking the same at that moment in his silence.

The judge had before him the same evidence as the jury, except he had heard and seen it as an attorney – devoid, presumably, of bias and emotion - and so he wondered, how, lawyer to lawyer, the judge viewed the case.  He knew that he had seen evidence of a homicide; that there was evidence of a shootout occurring between the living room and dining room; that there were two different firearms involved in the shooting–one used in the living room and another used in the dining room; that no firearms were ever recovered; that no bullets or bullet traces were found in the deceased victim, and the bullets found in the mother’s leg could not be traced to either of the firearms; that ballistics tests could not show which shooters’ bullets went through the deceased victim, or from which firearm the bullets in the mother’s leg were shot; that the 3 bullets that entered the deceased victim all entered from his left and exited his right, with two having a path upward and one downward; and that the DNA of the blood on kitchen floor and on the outside back handrail confirmed that the defendant was in the kitchen, which connects to the dining room, and which is also where the back door is located. 

The judge, he thought, also had to notice that the prosecution did not produce any ballistics expert to connect bullet projectiles to the victim from where they said his client was shooting from the dining room.  He wondered if the judge thought the prosecution had met the burden of proof standard – i.e. the state proving his client had shot and killed the deceased beyond a reasonable doubt – when no one testified that they saw his client directly shoot the deceased.   

As he watched the judge go carefully through the papers presented by the jury, he wondered mostly what the judge thought about the key figure in the trial who had been dubbed the “mystery man.”  “There was some other dude in the house shooting,” his client had told him the first time he visited him at the jail.  “I don’t know who he is or how he got there,” he said.

The judge and jury learned during the trial that there was a man at the home during the time of the shootout whose identity is unknown and who likely was the shooter in the living room.  They learned that when the police arrived upon the scene a hot summer night in June that they found two witnesses to the shooting – the mother and her cousin, a black male in his early thirties – and her three children (including his client’s son), who did not see the shooting because they were in their bedroom, though they witnessed events right before and after.  

Both the mother and her cousin told police on the night of the incident that it was his client who did the shooting, never mentioning that there was another shooter, who the ballistics confirmed was in the living room with them at time of the shooting, firing off a 9mm automatic weapon.  The trial testimony revealed that the mother and the deceased had driven to some location she could not recall, and there she and the deceased – nicknamed Dodi - picked up the mystery man – supposedly a cousin of the deceased – and then brought him back to the house to “protect” them against his client, who she and her cousin testified had threatened to come back to the home to “air it out” following their having an argument about another woman that went from the house to the street outside, ending with him running away and her getting in a car with Dodi and driving to go get the mystery man, described as “dark skinned with dreds,” who was last seen by the mother and cousin hurriedly getting out the house right after the shooting, saying he’d “been hit.”  Neither the mother nor her cousin said they could identify him from the possible suspects presented to them by the police.  They have closed the case.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the verdict forms all appear to be in order and I will now hand them to my clerk to read aloud your verdict,” the judge announced in taking his seat and handing the forms to his clerk.  “However,” he continued, his voice booming more now as he turned to face the entire courtroom, “I want to caution everyone here.  This is a very emotional situation, and I know it’s hard to contain those emotions because there has been a lot of pain suffered here.  I caution you, though, that you must contain your emotions in this courtroom.”

What an ironic admonition by the judge, he thought, given the emotions in evidence in this case.  From the hurt and anger and vengefulness caused by Facebook postings, to wrestling over a telephone because of suspicions of infidelity, to the tug of war over a child between two separated parents, to the mixing of egos and aggression, and finally, to violence rather than words, using guns rather than tongues.

“Why have I put myself through this again?” he pondered in the seconds before the clerk, after adjusting his spectacles, was set to read another of the countless verdicts he had read in that courtroom. 

"
You know why,” he heard a voice say.  He turned to his left.  There he saw a young black man, dressed proudly in a purple shirt and paisley purple tie, feeling glad he was alive, feeling good he had his day in court.  Ready for whatever next.  Grandma’s baby. 

“We the jury find…”

Eric E. Vickers

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reflections on Ramadan & Rulers

With word reaching America today that the new moon has been sighted in Saudi Arabia, for much of the world’s billion plus population of Muslims, today marks the final day of Ramadan, the month long fast that is one of the five pillars of the faith of Islam.  In the nearly forty years since I decided to embrace the faith, each year, within the Muslim world – known as the Uuma – both the end and the beginning of Ramadan have been sources of mild controversy and conflict because its time and length depend on the moon.

What I learned as I first began to explore the religion was that there is a twelve month calendar followed by Muslims and a great many in the world whose months are determined by the rotations of the moon around the earth - the lunar calendar - rather than the earth’s revolving around the sun - the solar calendar, which America and most of the world uses.  I found fascinating the discussions about the planets, their orbits, and the entire cosmic universe contained in the Muslim Holy Book, the Qur’an, with its delving spiritually and scientifically into the wonders and mystery of the cosmos.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, with each year the months evolving according to the moon, rather than being the fixed calendar dates of the solar calendar, with the result that the months of the two twelve month calendars do not coincide.  The ninth month of the lunar calendar this year happens to be the sixth month of the solar calendar, June, meaning that Ramadan this year fell in the longest days of our calendar year 2017.  Meaning that during this month of June, from the time of dawn to dusk – about 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. – Muslims could neither drink anything to quench their thirst nor eat anything to satisfy their hunger.  Over a billion humans become for a month each year nocturnal creatures, as their normal bodily need for fluids and food can only be met during the night, mostly sleepless nights, occupied by prayer and scripture reading.

This physiological process that Ramadan puts the human being through rests on a spiritual underpinning.  It was during this month over fourteen millenniums ago that a new religion came into the world, Islam, which translated in Arabic means submission to God.  Although the state of the world today is obviously vastly different than fourteen hundred years ago when the founder of the faith began his mission to teach to the Arabs and all mankind what all the prophets who had preceded him had taught – i.e. monotheism, one God - today in America, Muslims suffer near the same peril of public and authoritarian threat as the founder and his few followers faced then.

He confronted the rulers of his time with the idea that there was an all-powerful unseen creator and ruler over the universe whose power exceeded theirs.  He warned that if they did not end their unjust and oppressive ways, God would take them to task.  Some six centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, this mortal middle aged man, uniquely named Muhammad, began speaking aloud, while alone in a cave during Ramadan, words that came to his tongue as a revelation, and over the next twenty-two years that were the remainder of his life he recited publicly words that were verses and stories - poetic, practical, inspirational and instructional - that came to him.  These words, Muslims believe, were the Word of God that Muhammad was called upon by Allah – the Arabic word for God - to recite and have recorded in writing as an unchangeable and imperishable book, the Qur’an, which translated in Arabic means recitation.

Since my first Ramadan in 1981, and because of the nature of the lunar calendar to unfold in the opposite direction of the solar calendar, I have experienced the fast through all the seasons and their varying hours of daylight and darkness, and through all the rulers from Reagan to Trump, with Ramadan occurring during the spring and then winter of the Bush I presidency, the winter and then fall of the Clinton years, the fall of Bush II’s two terms, and the summer of the Obama era.  

I don’t recall exactly what was occurring with Reagan and his administration in the seventh month of his presidency, a sizzling July summer month that was my first Ramadan, as I was more focused on trying to adhere to the requirements of the fast, studying for the bar exam, and becoming for the first time a father.  I do recall unmistakably, though, this foreboding sense of almost imminent doom by black folks that Reagan would roll back and reverse every single civil rights advance, law, and policy achieved in the 60’s and 70’s that he could.

In the sixth month of his presidency, Trump, a fomenter of Muslim fear and arguably the preeminent ruler on the planet, finds himself in the ninth month of the lunar calendar.  On this apparently final day of this holy month, fourteen hundred and thirty-eight years after Muhammad fled for his life from Mecca to Medina, Muslims in the millions in America in 2017 find themselves having endured fasting during the longest days of daylight and shortest days of darkness of the year.

A reminder to them that power rests with God.
  
Eric E. Vickers,
Attorney-at-Law & Civil Rights Activist.
                        




Thursday, April 20, 2017

Father to daughter: we thought protesting would be history





Dear Erica (Puddin),
When I sent to some friends the picture you texted me yesterday of my granddaughters – Pumpkin and Peanut - standing before a picture of me in the “#1 in Civil Rights” exhibition at the Missouri History Museum, one texted back that I should tell them the story of how that picture came to be. Maybe, I thought, I should also tell you, their mother, since you were about their age when it was taken.
The picture is from a protest that the organization I represented (and had incorporated), the St. Louis Minority Contractors Association, had staged in front of the office of St. Louis County government, demanding the County to enact a law requiring that blacks participate in all the contracts awarded by the government. We had held a press conference as part of the protest, which I recall was attended by much of the media and certainly by the newspaper that was a staunch proponent of economic inclusion, The St. Louis American. We fought this movement for construction contracts and jobs for blacks and women for two decades, with this being a photo of just one of many protests.
The picture shows me in the dual role I performed: attorney and activist. Suited up, I announced a lawsuit I had filed in federal court on behalf of the association against the County, and with the protest sign I marched and chanted with the group, reflecting our trademark strategy: “Agitation, litigation, negotiation.” I think my grandkids should know that I was a product of and shaped by the Black Power Movement of the 1970s, so I became a lawyer was for this purpose: to empower my people. 
Also reflected in a strange way by the picture, though unseen, is my Muslim identity. The man in the hat whose face can also be seen is Wali Farqan, a Muslim businessman, whom I had come to know from the mosque, and who was a supporter of our protest efforts. Not in the picture were other Muslim leaders, who were not only the heart and mind of the protest actions undertaken by the association during that period, like shutting down Interstate 70, they acted with boldness and a sacrificial sense of fighting a righteous cause.  
Obviously, I thought in looking at the picture, my granddaughters – being just 6 and 4 – could not see this spirit at work in the photo. Still, I agree with my friend that I should tell them the story that their grandfather would not have been there had he not decided, while in law school in Virginia, to choose Islam as his faith – to live up to what he was taught was the first duty of a Muslim attorney: to seek justice for the oppressed, not fearing the powerful.     
Although at the time the picture was taken, being a grandfather was hardly on my mind, I think in the back of the minds of all of us protesting and involved in the movement then was that our grandchildren – and our children, for that matter – would not have to follow in our footsteps.  Somewhere in the back of our minds I think was always the thought and hope that having to take it to the streets, file lawsuits, and in other ways fight for blacks to have equal economic opportunities would be history.
On the other hand, I thought as I looked at the picture, I hope my legacy can see that standing and fighting for a cause can be done with a smile.
Eric E. Vickers is a veteran attorney and activist and former chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed. Visit also The St. Louis American.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mayor’s Race & Black Turnout


     The black community in St. Louis is in a funk about the potential for a black mayor being lost by, in relative terms, a handful of votes in this past Tuesday's election, and also seething in thinking that had there not been so many black candidates in the race an African-American woman would be the city's next mayor.   All around the community the drums are sounding the question: "Why couldn't they have been smart enough to just have one black running?"
     However, before we jump to this plausible eyeball analysis that the number of black candidates was the cause of our being denied what a black woman would bring to that office let us first look at the data to see whether this factor bears out as the cause of our loss.
     There was a factor that weighed more heavily perhaps as the decisive factor in the election than the number of blacks in the race - black turnout.  The turnout in the eleven (11) wards headed by black aldermen had a turnout rate of 24%.  If you exclude the three (3) wards  - 6, 17, 20 - headed by white aldermen which have heavy, if not predominant, black residents, and focus on the turnout of the vote in the other fourteen (14) wards headed by white aldermen, then the average voter turnout in these wards was 31%.  To put it another way, whites came out more to vote for a white mayor than blacks came out to vote for a black one.
     In the election, the eleven (11) black wards turned out 17,010 voters out of a total of 70,846 registered voters in these ward.   If the turnout had, for example, averaged 30% in these eleven wards, rather than the 24%, that would have produced a total of 21,254 voters.  Consequently, the difference between what the turnout in these eleven wards would have been had there been a 30% turnout and the actual election turnout is 4,244 voters.   
Of the votes cast in these eleven black wards, Tishaura Jones received 33% of the votes.  If she had received this same percentage with a 30% turnout in these wards, then she would have received 1400 additional votes.  Lyda Krewson received 10% of the vote in these eleven wards.  Consequently, if there had been a 30% turnout in these wards, she would have received 424 additional votes.   If these 424 votes are added to the 17,110 votes Krewson received in the election, then her total votes – under this scenario of a 30% black turnout – would have been 17,534.  If, on the other hand, 1400 votes were added to the 16,222 Jones received in the election, then her vote total would have been 17,622. 
     What this illustrates is that if the black turnout had increased six percentage points – from 24% to 30% - Tishaura Jones would be the next mayor, notwithstanding several African American candidates in the race.
     What this suggests is that more effort and energy should perhaps be devoted to getting blacks to exercise their right to vote than trying to talk capable black elected officials out of seeking higher office in order to have a sole black candidate.
    Click this link to for the article titled Higherturnout among black voters could have changed mayoral election by Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Eric E. Vickers

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mayor 2017 – The Choice, Eric E. Vickers

    While there is in the black community of St. Louis a feeling of consternation, and even frustration, over the fact that in the race for mayor there are four notable black candidates vying against only one notable white candidate, it should not be assumed that the black vote will be split.  For it does not necessarily follow that because of this the white candidate will be the next mayor.

     If there is one thing the history of elections in St. Louis has proven, it is the untruth of that saying that whenever there are two or more blacks in a race the “black vote will be split.”  When the first black mayor, Freeman Bosley, Jr., was elected in 1993, there was the thought then that because another formidable black candidate, Steven Roberts, was also in the race that neither could possibly win.  Despite attempts to get Roberts to pull out, he remained in the contest as a strong candidate.  Nevertheless, Bosley received the overwhelming vote of the black electorate, which was the base that propelled his victory.

     In the 2012 senate race for Missouri’s  5th Senatorial District, the incumbent black Senator, Robin Wright-Jones, was challenged by black State Representative Jamilah Nasheed.  With these two black candidates competing against each other, a white State Representative, Jeanette Mott-Oxford, then threw her hat in the ring, reasoning that a split black vote would enable her to win by having the bloc vote support of whites.  Nevertheless, Nasheed was victorious. 
     These elections exemplify that the black electorate will, despite several black candidates being on the ballot, gravitate in mass towards one black candidate.  Blacks have shown themselves as capable of choosing one black from among several in a political contest as they are in choosing one cereal from among the many brands lining a grocery aisle.   And they are as capable of sorting out and choosing one to back through the voting process as, alternatively, one being chosen for them by a political kingpin.  

In viewing the 2017 election, of all the capable black candidates running for mayor, only one provides the black community the opportunity to make history – Tishaura Jones.  If she is able to couple the strength of the black vote – measured by turnout and being united around one – with her white progressive following, she will become the first African-American woman to serve as the City’s mayor, and will be one of the rare few black women ever elected to that office in this country.
     If the black community wants a black mayor, it thus has to choose between City Treasurer Jones and the black President of the Board of Alderman, Lewis Reed, who unsuccessfully ran four years ago for mayor in an election where the overall voter turnout was 22%, with white voters comprising about 55% of those who turned out to vote.  Although blacks outnumbered whites among the voting age population, they apparently were not inspired to turn out to vote for the black mayoral candidate. 

     The black community will also have to choose between Jones and two black aldermen, Antonio French and Jeffrey Boyd, and although both have noteworthy accomplishments, neither has ever won an election for a city-wide office, nor shown electability outside their respective aldermanic wards.

     I support Tishaura Jones.  Both because she is a stellar candidate, and because she is cut from the same cloth as of one of this city’s legendary fighters for African-American people, her father, former City Comptroller Virvus Jones.  His struggle strengthened her and us.  Our struggle is to choose to elect her mayor.

Eric E. Vickers

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 Mayor’s Race-Eric E. Vickers

The black community of St. Louis – i.e. the predominant and the predominantly poor populace of this city – should suffer no illusion that whites see racial harmony as a priority in this politically polarized town.  They seek first and foremost to be in power.  
     To be more specific, come this spring, the very last thing those in power – who we must acknowledge are almost exclusively white – want to see is a black person leading this city as its mayor.   For them, the stakes are too high to trust power in the hands of someone who might think that serving the city’s underserved blacks has a higher calling than bending to and bankrolling the re-gentrification agenda of white developers.

     They are unyielding in their aim to preserve a lock on the mayor’s office.  This grip can be traced back to when the white community coalesced in 1997 to oust the city’s first black mayor.  Adding then to their discomfort in being for the first time under the rule of a black mayor was their disdain for the city’s finances being under the control of an outspoken black comptroller, who neither genuflected to them nor continued the practice of awarding city contracts solely to whites.
     The peculiarity of St. Louis’ racism is that it operates under a veil, disguising itself with token blacks in visible positions, gestures of altruism to black organizations, whispers of maintaining white power, and denial that race is ever a factor.  To illustrate, when two decades ago the city’s white power structure decided the black incumbent mayor had to go, it was careful to not make it appear a racial issue.  Cleverly, they recruited, funded, and created a white following for a black who had never held elective office.  He decisively toppled the black mayor by getting virtually all the white vote and a tiny fraction of the black vote.

Yes, he could rightfully then claim to be the city’s second black mayor, though in reality he was, to put it in the black vernacular, “the white folks’ mayor.”  And whites showed him such four years later when they turned completely against him to support a white candidate – the current mayor.  The manner in which they turned against him left no doubt that he was just a tool they used to remove the first black mayor, as his re-election effort has to be in the Guinness Book of Records for the lowest percentage of votes ever received by an incumbent American mayor – 5%.

     Fast forward to the 2017 mayoral election and we see the same elements to perpetuate white power at play.  First, the prominent whites who had announced their intent to seek the open seat mysteriously dropped out, leaving now only one white candidate with political stature in the race.  Second, as the white candidates dropped out, strangely, more blacks hopped in. 
     The effect of this veiled political orchestration is that it has created cynicism among blacks about the chances of electing a black mayor because seemingly the black vote will be split and the white vote a monolith.  This scenario, I would suggest, is deliberately designed to thwart the main weapon that blacks possess to elect a black mayor: Numbers.

     The little discussed numerical fact is that in the city there are more blacks registered to vote who are Democrats than whites.  And with the primary election being the decisive election for mayor, if blacks turn out to vote in the March primary in high numbers – like, for instance, the 58% black turnout this past November – then a black person can once again occupy Room 200 at City Hall.   

     What will convert this “if” from the hypothetical to the material is the black community uniting behind one black candidate.  And what will cause that unity is a subject for future discussion.

Eric E. Vickers. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Response to Mr. Edward Bryant @ 7967441d-926d-4872-8f18-71448817961e@reply.linkedin.com

   Thanks for reading the article.  You raise a good and important question, namely, how can the black community get behind one black candidate. Actually, I don't think this as difficult an obstacle as it appears, because I think the political sophistication of the black community is underestimated.


    I think the black electorate will take a look at all the black candidates, not just on where they stand now and are saying now in running for mayor, the community will look at their history.  And even, I would suggest, their lineage, taking into account, for example, the fact that Tishaura's father is a respected black leader.

     Living in a racist society has created in black people the instinct to be able to tell who is really in their corner, who is trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and who are the politicians who will say one thing and do another.  They know who will fight for them, who will give lip service, and who will cow tie.  In other words, black people know those leaders who aren't afraid of white people, and know those who will and have carried the white man's water.

    Black people are also sophisticated enough not to bet on candidates they don't think can win, and they know that a black candidate needs some white support to become mayor in this city.
    So Ed - if I may call you that - I think the black community will, when all is said and done, settle on one candidate as the consensus candidate, as I think the idea of the split black vote has shown itself to largely be a myth.  (When Bosley became mayor, for example, there was a lot of talk that the black vote would be split because Steve Roberts was also in the race).

What concerns me more about having a number of black candidates is that it creates in the mindset of blacks the thought that a black cannot win because of this, and this cynicism then causes many to not vote.   And that's a bigger obstacle - low black voter turnout - to a black becoming mayor than several blacks in the race. 

     So I don't waste a lot of energy getting upset that we can't seem to come together and dictate that only one black person enter the race - as seemingly the other side of town is able to do.  My thinking is that if we focus on ramping up the black turnout, then the black community will gravitate towards the one black candidate it thinks can best serve the black community and also win the race.  Time will tell.

   Thanks for contacting me.


Eric E. Vickers.