Two weeks ago, former Maynard Jackson insider Aaron Turpeau distributed a memo written by Clark Atlanta University academics William Boone and Keith Jennings that prompted an immediate eruption in the contest for mayor of Atlanta.
The memo was drawn up on behalf of a group called the Black Leadership Forum.
Although the academics later denied that this was their intention, the memo suggested that Atlanta’s black community unite behind a single mayoral candidate. Lisa Borders, whom the memo identified as the candidate best able to block Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, rejected the thinking.
Kasim Reed, a former state senator in third place, also denounced the piece. Mayor Shirley Franklin called it bigoted.
This afternoon, an open letter from Turpeau, who has been a City Hall insider for decades, began circulating through Atlanta. We included entire memo below, but have bolded the areas of highest interest.
In his postscript, Turpeau speaks of “banishment” from the Borders campaign. His campaign contribution has been returned, and Turpeau said he no longer supports Borders. In a series of bullet points, the former Jackson chief of staff wrote identified access to City Hall and top-ranking jobs as a concern, but also include economic equality and the “criminalization of poverty.”
Read the entire thing for yourself:
An Open Letter from Aaron Turpeau:
There has been much discussion about black racism in Atlanta politics recently. Strangely enough the charges come from black candidates for mayor. Since I was there and have all the facts, I want you to have an accurate understanding of recent events.
The Atlanta Black Leadership Forum is an ad hoc group of black Atlantans that hold leadership positions in civic organizations, who come together to discuss politics and issues that affect the black community.
For the last eight or nine months, we have been discussing the Atlanta mayor’s race and prior to qualifying, we interviewed the five leading candidates. The questions asked centered around city finances, crime, economic equality, criminalization of poverty, and their vision of the future for Atlanta. All interviews were videotaped and posted to the website for viewing.
We haven’t yet found the Web site where these are posted. If anyone spots them, please add the link in the comment area below. To continue:
After thorough discussion and a review of agendas created throughout Atlanta for the next Mayor, we developed an agenda to help the black community to become healthy, wealthy and wise. Because of the diverse opinions amongst our group, we decided not to vote to favor any particular candidate but to ask members to work in all camps and to pursue four specific items outlined in our agenda:
_ Economic equality;
_ Access to government leadership after the election;
_ Fair hiring practices that include men, women and ethnic diversity for high-level jobs; and;
_ And hiring policies that favor qualified Atlantans for top jobs.
Members were advised of this recommendation through conversation and a memo sent under my signature two weeks prior to the release of “The Struggle for Unity” paper. In that same memo, I disclosed that I would be active in Lisa Borders campaign.
To further clarify, in response to an earlier request we received an academic analysis of the mayor’s race and the chances of unity considering our voting habits. “The Struggle for Unity” paper was an internal memo was for discussion purposes only and was distributed by me to former meeting attendees.
It is a sad day in Atlanta politics when black mayoral candidates publicly cry out black racism without seeking information from the accused individuals or group about the facts, intent, or purpose of a discussion paper. The reaction by the two leading black candidates was very disappointing.
Candidate Kasim Reed, who the memo pointed out was far behind in the polls, [led] the charge by crying out charges of black racism and was quickly followed by candidate Lisa Borders calling the memo racist, instead of an opportunity for racial discussion.
Both outcries are seen by many in the black community as pandering for white votes and support. Neither candidate sought any clarity from any Forum member; all candidates had supporters as attendees at our regular meetings (including Norwood).
It is an even sadder day when loyal supporters are not given the respect or courtesy of conversation, but are abruptly banished. I have had no conversation with Lisa Borders since the day of her press conference in response to the memo.
Though I personally informed her and her campaign manager that I did not write the memo and who in fact did, she still made the decision to say publicly that it was my memo and that it was racist. A day later a check was written to my company refunding my $500 donation to her campaign.
Perhaps it was a response to the false indication by Kasim Reed that my company contribution was the motive for the memo. Whatever the reason, I was totally surprised to receive the check on September 3rd. I respect her decision and will not be supporting her candidacy.
But the real question before us is not my banishment or even the mayor’s race, but rather what is expected of black people? Are we not to have the nerve to gather and discuss politics and issues as they affect our community and take these questions to the candidates? Are we not to discuss if a person of color has the qualifications and experience to best serve the community?
Are we not allowed to ask each other which candidate will be more acceptable to the white community, able to work with diverse communities and able to get votes from outside the black community?
Are we not allowed to request academic papers for discussions? Does Obama election mean we no longer should be advocates for our community? If so I am sorry but I did not get the memo that declared that we now live in a “post racial” era.
Where do we go from here? We will continue to meet and try to find solutions for our community and try to impact political contest that affect us. While some may disagree with us, we need to respect our diversity and agree to disagree, and when appropriate learn from out disagreement. After all, we are all greatly concerned and care about the future of our city.
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