Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Durham Committee Election:Allison Vs. Whitley


It’s time for the biggest election of the year. On December 10th, there will be a vote to determine the next leader of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. It will pit long time Chairwoman Lavonia Allison against grassroots organizer Melvin Whitley. Make no mistakes about it. This has become personal.

Responses to my previous blogs have made two things clear. To begin, even those within the historically powerful organization weren’t clear regarding who could and couldn’t vote. “Although I can appreciate your opinion as an outsider looking in; I think that if you would like to post the voting procedure that you should get it correct. You have to attend more than 2 meetings per year,” wrote Joy Morgan, a member the Durham Committee’s political committee. “The prerequisite is that you attend 2 meetings per quarter and 1 political committee meeting per quarter.”

It was Morgan’s way of taking a stab at those who haven’t attended meeting. Her contention is that folks need to be a part of the process, and, if you’re not, keep your mouth shut. Excuse me for speaking out of turn. Later it was determined Morgan’s inside information was wrong. According to the groups constitution all that is needed is that a person be black and live in Durham to vote.

The truth was exposed after former city council candidate Darius Little went hunting for the truth. It turns out the Durham Committee had agreed to alter the rules related to eligibility to vote in the 2007 Durham Committee officers election.

It took loads of investigation to uncover the truth, and when I spoke with one of those insiders regarding eligibility requirements, I got a rude awakening. “I knew the truth but didn’t want to tell you because I was scared you would show up and vote for Melvin Whitley.” Now that’s taking things too far. Is it possible that members within the Durham Committee are keeping those rules to themselves in order to dissuade people from voting? That’s deep. I felt like a Negro in the late fifties unable to vote after failing the poll test.

The comments on my blog speak to a deeper issue-the lack of unity within the Durham Committee. “How can change be created, when people who express wanting change, sit on the sidelines screaming at the participants; yet without joining-in and adding fresh perspective,” Darius Little wrote. “I've heard Dr. Allison talk hot trash about Joy (Morgan), but Joy comes and makes her presence felt, no matter what others may think.”

The remarks kept coming. “Darius if you have a shortcoming as a young man, it is always wanting to be nice to everyone,” Idontcare wrote. “People like Joy (Morgan) and Jackie (Wagstaff) aren’t your friends. That is why I voted for Howard over you in the committee.”
From there the writer took stabs at Morgan. “Joy has only come to the committee the past 2 months, after being gone for years and she is more obnoxious now than she was before. Joy can’t vote herself, but is here giving advice. Joy needs to shut the hell up, sit down and not worry about everyone else. Joy should use her energy looking for a damn job, instead of talking about and then asking those same elected officials for help getting a job.”

I marveled at the low blows. I wondered about the sanity of the person attacking Morgan. I was prepared to jump to her defense when she came out swinging. “Thank you for your concern idontcare; it seems as if you do care, but please know that I am fine,” Morgan wrote. “Also, if trying to help make a difference is obnoxious, then I'll be obnoxious all day everyday. You should try it sometimes, maybe it will help you ease your negativity and childlike behavior.” Dang girl.

The torrent of blog post is frail in contrast to the myriad of emails circulating. Lois Murphy, a passionate backer of Joe Bowser and active Durham Committee member, submitted a letter championing the candidacy of Allison. She argued a vote for Whitley is a vote against Bowser and will lead to the dismantling of the Durham Committee.

Then it gets personal. “By the way self proclaimed minister Melvin, is it true you served time for assaulting a women and been arrested for indecent exposure? If so, your manhood and commitment to God is questionable, as well as your mental capacity,” Murphy wrote.

Chuck Watts came to Whitley’s defense. “I feel compelled to say that it has been under Dr. Allison's leadership that the Committee has reached its current level of low regard and low participation,” Watts wrote. “In my lifetime, I cannot recall a time when the Committee has been at such a low level and has become all but irrelevant to matters of significance to black folks in Durham.” Get the point? Things are out of control.

The big election is on next week. Sadly, many are still under the impression they can’t vote due to some rule prohibiting their participation. So, this is the deal. If you are black and live in Durham, show up at the White Rock Baptist Church on December 10th to vote.

In my next blog I will share a conversation with Melvin Whitley. I asked him about his past and reputation for being hot tempered. We talked about the confrontation with Jackie Wagstaff at a recent Durham Committee meeting and why he decided to run for the chair of the Durham Committee. He talked about having Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and how he has grown over the years. We also talked about his plans to lead the Durham Committee.

Fasten your seat belts folks. This could get interesting.

42 comments:

  1. Just curious: How does one prove his or her blackness? Just how black does one have to be in order to vote? What if someone has one black parent and one white parent or one black parent and one Asian parent?

    Will there be a color chart at the door indicating the point at which someone's skin is too light to vote, much like the yard sticks at the carnival to indicate how tall you must be to ride?

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  2. My reading of the bylaws says to me there is no requirement to be black to be a member.

    It says that personal membership is open to those who "affirm their interest in a subscribe to the purposes of this organization."

    While the bylaws tend to "suggest" that the organization focuses on "black affairs," and while that might lead to the logic that only blacks would have an interest in such, I would think that such matters are in the interest of "all" Durham citizens.

    It seems to me that, by this logic, we are "all" members of the Committee.

    I think the bylaws should be published and let the public finally see the truth.

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