Friday, December 14, 2012

Wagstaff's selection is black folk's business

On last night, Jackie Wagstaff was named chair of the Political Committee of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.  She defeated Andre Vann in a vote that wasn’t close.

The selection of Wagstaff triggered an avalanche of responses regarding the merits of Wagstaff holding the powerful position. “With Jackie Wagstaff as the new chair of the DCABP, do we really expect that this PAC is interested in coming to the table and truly working together with the likes of the PA?,” an anonymous reader posted on this blog.

Critics of the DCABP have been quick to point to Wagstaff’s past as a member of the City Council and School Board.  They are slow in forgetting her attack of white school board members for failing to take the needs of black students into account at board meetings.  Wagstaff’s name has become synonymous with in your face.

So, why would the DCABP select her to chair the political committee?

The conclusion is simple.  She was the best among those being considered to serve.  Wagstaff understands politics.  She knows Durham.  She’s present and involved in the process, and, more than most in the room, she has a heart for the underserved in Durham.

I’ll pause to give readers a chance to regroup after reading that statement.  It’s true that I have been a critic of Wagstaff over the years.  I’ve blasted her for building a wedge between the white and black community.  I was disappointed in Wagstaff after working with her to form the North East Central Durham Reinvestment Board.  I had great faith in Wagstaff, and I lost it for a season.

My criticism of Wagstaff never, and I do mean never, diminished my respect for her and the work she continues to do.  We disagreed over strategy, but her heart has always been in the right place.   That’s why I see great promise in her taking on the role of political chair for the DCABP.

That’s a statement that will be met with great pause among those seeking love and harmony between the DCABP and the People’s Alliance.  I, more than most, would love to see the groups form a coalition that solidifies a progressive agenda for Durham.  Sadly, that opportunity has been hindered by a series of actions among members of PA.

What does all of this mean?  The DCABP refuses to be minimized and defined by the PA’s political agenda.  It’s become clear that members of the PA feel a sense of entitlement that frankly pisses black folks off.  The DCABP will not be defined, informed or measured by the political agenda and opinion of white people who are upset because they were incapable of getting their way.

That statement is not intended to alienate those who desire diversity in leadership.  However, it is critical in this conversation that members of the PA refrain from throwing stones in rooms where they can’t walk in due to a long legacy of insensitivity rooted in race.

Wagstaff has been chosen because the black people in the room embrace what she brings to the table.  That’s a conclusion that has more to do with the strengths she brings than the hotheaded reputation that has plagued her over the years.  Put another way, there is much more to Wagstaff than what appears in the newspaper.  She deserves to lead.

It’s interesting how many criticize the DCABP for not allowing them in the room.  A more important question should be why should they be allowed in when they lack the ability to see beyond their assumptions?  How dare they assume they have all the answers while the stupid, uninformed black folks lack the organizational structure necessary to make a credible decision?

The bottom line related to the conversation of Wagstaff being chosen is simple.  The DCABP doesn’t care what others think.  It’s an organization involved in the affairs of black people.  It’s called that for a reason.  Yes, we need to coexist, but that will never happen within a context that demands forfeiting everything to satisfy the desire of that other PAC.

The DCABP remains faithful to the vision of its founders.  Yes, it has been rocky over the years.  Yes, too much energy has been dominated by the ways of the former chair.  Yes, mistakes have been made, but the DCABP is the only organization accountable to those decisions.  Not the PA. Not the newspaper and not even me!

Wagstaff has been chosen to lead the political committee of the DCABP.  She was not chosen by a band of lunatics.  She was chosen by people committed to the mandates of the organization.  Those on the outside may not like it, but that’s none of their business.

I suggest a deeper conversation involving how we got to this place.  That can’t happen if those who talk about unity keep digging ditches and calling it love.


  1. I will go one step further with this. Jackie was nominated from the floor for a reason. While she may have had trouble in the past, she has ALWAYS been a champion for the little person. Whether you like her politics or not she has been fairer to those that don't have than those that do. Her expertise in the political arena is necessary in local politics and I believe that there will be an effort to bring together all of the PACs in Durham as long as the other groups are willing to participate. If not, the DCABP will move forward and WILL push their candidates regardless of race or party. They will support the best candidate. Between Jackie and Keith Bishop working together the political committee will be fine.

  2. Carl, I personally witnessed Jackie Wagstaff lying to voters at the polls about candidate Wendy Jacobs and attempting to intimidate those (including myself) who were working the polls for candidates not endorsed by the DCABP. Fortunately, Jacobs was present whenever/wherever Jackie was, so that she/Jacobs could defend herself against these false accusations.

    Black, white, yellow, purple...whatever color/race a person is, I would hope that (s)he would want a leader who is careful that his/her words are based on truth rather than emotive provocation.

    I am confused by your blind, seemingly obligatory loyalty to the DCABP at all costs. At the very least, won't you admit that it takes two to pull? That the PA can't be to blame for every controversy in Durham, can it?

    Don't you agree that if an organization is voting to give or take its support from a candidate, it should, at the very least, enable (no WANT) that candidate to speak to its membership directly about his/her beliefs, experience, record and priorities?

    Do you not think it racist to disclude a person from speaking to your membership merely because that person is not the same race as you? Or is racism a one-way street in your world? If the latter is the case, then the cooperation that you and I and so many others desire within/among Durham's wonderful diversity will likely never be achieved.

  3. Melissa,

    Your are as misinformed as you are a blind to your own cause. You are quoted on the list serve in a discussion as why Fred Foster was chosen to be on your PA slate. Your folks did not want it to appear that it was a white only slate. Milo is quoted as not supporting Brenda or Michael in order to "teach them a lesson." What lesson is PA trying to teach? Is it that you and PA only want job creation in areas you agree to? That your "not in my backyard" approach to development should negate economic needs of the community?

    There have been many well meaning folks over the years speaking for the black community who don't even care about the community. They believe that their social agenda should be accepted by the black community. We are tired of PA and others trying to decide what is best for the Black community in Durham. That is why the Durham Commitee for the Affairs of Black People was started and the revelence of why it exists today. We are tired of PA telling us what our agenda should be, to include the members in your organization that are part of our organization.

    What took place last night was the pure exercise of our democratic right to choose those we believe can best represent us on all fronts in the community. Ms. Wagstaff as well as others have served this community much better than any PA individual when it comes to the Black community in Durham. They have out themselves on. The front line for the economic and educational furtherance of the Black community which ends up being better for all the citizens of Durham except those who value nature over people.

    Durham already has the strictess environmental regulations in the state and we struggle against the lies published by PA about Jordan lake being our drinking water, which was also repeatedly stated by Ms. Jacobs. At present, not one drop of drinking water comes to Durham from Jordan lake. So let's talk about the true purveyors of falsehoods in Durham. Let's look at the complaints submitted to BoE and the shear number of false accusations by PA MEMBERS. Before you throw stones check your glass house

    1. I am not misinformed. I speak from personal experience. I worked the polls and I saw and was victim of Ms. Wagstaff`s racist and intimidating tactics, not to mention the untruths she was spouting to voters.

      I worked hard for Fred Foster. Not because he is black but because he has been nothing but straightforward and trustworthy. Did the fact that he is AA come into discussion regarding the larger support of him? This is Durham, where every political issue seems to be about race, whether warranted or not.

      Furthermore, I never asked that the Committee admit white people to its membership ... merely that they enable candidates of all races to speak directly to their membership before determining their support (or lack thereof) for these candidates. If other issues involving white people are discussed by the DCABP, then those persons should also be asked to speak for themselves to the membership directly.

      Otherwise, everything the DCABP does is based on hearsay. Does this sound like a respectable way for any kind of action committee to operate?

      I hope people will read my posts carefully and deliberately before responding, so that words are not put into my mouth...

    2. The DCABP allows all candidates to speak before its membership prior to the groups endorsement. What happened in the case of Wendy Jacobs was an isolated case that had more to do with the antics of Lavonia Allison than a policy of the group. Your comments implies the DCABP has a tradition of not hearing white candidates speak. Yes, what happened to Jacobs was wrong, but it is not part of the polict of the DCABP.

  4. Jackie is NOT a transplant....she's a Durhamite, and she knows the needs of the communiy because she interacts with everyone, not just a small click with hidden and selfish agendas........

    She shall represent well:-)

  5. Much of your essay and the replies that follow seem to this observer to merely be a pissing contest between PA and DCABP. I think the rest of the community thinks you're all whistling in the dark. We care about Durham as a whole, not which PAC has greater validity.

    In that larger context, the election of Ms. Wagstaff as the chair of the Political Committee of DCABP indeed sends a message to the larger Durham community. If DCABP wants a polarizing figure representing them in the political arena, so be it. Why not bring back Lavonia Allison while we're at it? It seems that DCABP is going back to being more comfortable speaking in an echo chamber than to the rest of us.

    It goes without saying that DCABP runs its own affairs, including defining who can be a member, who can attend its meetings, and who is allowed to speak at its meetings. The organization can also decide whether it wants to be effective or not. Ms. Allison led the organization down a path of lesser effectiveness and scorn by other members of the community, includng many black progressives, by only speaking in an angry voice that saw only racism. Are we returning to that policy of isolation? Is a louder, more angry voice the only way to influence the remainder of the community?

    Let me comment on Carl's concern that DCABP gets criticized for "not letting others in the room." That's not true, even though Carl himself used to be one of those who was often not welcome at their meetings. The criticism is not that DCABP doesn't allow non-black members, but that they won't even allow a white political candidate to explain their position on any issue. Or actively support a white candidate. Have there never been any white people capable of advocating causes that black people think important?

    In the end, we all know which constituency DCABP represents and advocates. But the more important question is whether they want the rest of the community to listen and agree.

    1. The DCABP does allow white candiates to express their views. Michael Woodard was endoresed by the DCABP after speaking before its body. There are serious failures with the DCABP, but much of what has been asserted is not true.

  6. The issue is, can she persuade a meaningful group of people to follow her lead? The evidence is probably not, but time will tell.

    She, like the owner of this blog, all too often paint with a limited palette: black, or not black. It's a limited art form.

    Be sure of this: those who oppose a race based agenda will celebrate this choice, just as those who are liberal celebrated the Tea Party branch of the GOP diluting that party's agenda. Divide and conquer works really well if the divisions are self inflicted.

    Will that be the case here?

  7. I have known Jackie for a long time as well, and I am a great admirer of her tenancious nature and commitment to the city of Durham, particularly for those who are often underserved. While I, too, do not always agree with her tactics or her opinion of other candidates, I believe she has the right to those opinions and I look forward to seeing what direction she will take the DCABP and what kind of alliances she will look to build.....


  8. Commitment to underserve is not the same as service to the underserve. As a young African-American, I have yet to see the present relevance of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. I attend some minutes which consist of dysfunctional arguments on rule procedures and no meaningful, action oriented, people focused conversation on how and what to do to best serve African-Americans. For all of Ms. Wagstaff's rants and raves, what has she actually improved within the African-American community? Progress requires diverse coalitions willing to work together. Wagstaff and the DCABP has not and does not embrace that principle.

  9. one thing I have grown frustrated with is event driven politics. while events can help to mobilize the masses. to keep people truly engaged, there must be truly effective policies, ideas and agendas put forth. how will we deal with poverty in our city, foreclosures, education disparity, gang issues, redevelopment throughout the city and not just downtown, environmental issues and support of the arts just to name a few things...

  10. One of the commenters gets to the meat of the matterf:

    "For all of Ms. Wagstaff's rants and raves, what has she actually improved within the African-American community? Progress requires diverse coalitions willing to work together. Wagstaff and the DCABP has not and does not embrace that principle."

    There's a difference in race-baiting politics and effective leadership on behalf of the black community. The DCABP is reverting to Lavonia Allison type leadership, and will get the same results as she did. Unfortunate for all of us.