By Tom Travis
In what was billed as a “Rally 4 Action – It’s time we do something different, in order to be the difference!” political candidates running for the August election, activists and community leaders spoke on the lawn of Flint City Hall Saturday.
The event’s masters of ceremony were Black Lives Matter Flint president DeWaun Robinson and First Ward Flint City Councilperson Eric Mays.
Weaver: Be careful when “elected officials hide behind a mask”
One of the first to speak was someone not running for office, former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. Weaver spoke for more than 15 minutes to the crowd in sweltering heat. Most of the crowd gathered under canopies or in the shade of trees on the lawn of City Hall. Weaver wore a black mask with rainbow colored letters that said Black Lives Matter. She removed her mask when she got up to speak.
Weaver delivered a scathing and passionate speech to a crowd of about 100. She began by addressing the candidates running for office.
“Thank you for letting Flint know what’s going on or should I say what’s NOT going on. So be careful when your elected officials hide behind a mask,” Weaver said.” When they don’t show up to talk to you to address the issues that concern you. But they want you to show up and vote for them.”
Weaver continued, “Our vote is our voice and we better use our voice. I want to talk to you about one of our most powerful advocacy tools available to us. It’s by coming together. Cooperating and lifting each other up. It’s not by the power of “me” it’s by the power of “we.”
The podium Weaver and all the speakers addressed the crowd from was draped in the red, green and black African American flag. In a 2017 report by NPR (National Public Radio) it reported that Marcus Garvey created the African American flag in 1920. Dr. Robert Hill a Marcus Garvey scholar explained the significance of the flag, “The fact that the black race did not have a flag was considered by Garvey, a mark of the political impotence of the black race,” Hill explains. “And so acquiring a flag would be proof that the black race had politically come of age.”
“We’ve always had some ‘Willie Lynch’ black folk trying to hold us down, trying to stop progress,” Weaver said. “When Jim Crow separated us from the white population and made us abide by inequitable laws, we pooled our voices and pooled our resources for one common goal and it was equal treatment under that law.
Weaver: “Put our knee on Jim Crow’s neck”
“Well guess what? Jim Crow’s not gone, Jim Crow’s not dead. There’s a new Jim Crow and it’s time for us to put our knee on his neck.” Weaver said.
Seeming to refer to Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s recent declaration of recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday in Flint, Weaver blasted, “One thing they said was, “oh we’re gonna give you Juneteenth.” How are you gonna give us Juneteenth? We already had Juneteenth. That’s like Christopher Columbus discovering America, it was already here. And they give us some paint to paint Black Lives Matter on the street that washes away when it rains. And then they pat us on the head and tell us to go be happy.”
Other speakers at the rally
The line up of candidates and speakers continued with Trachelle Young, running to unseat the 15-year Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. Other candidates who spoke were 34th District Candidates Arthur Woodson and Claudia Milton-Perkins, 67th District Court Judge candidates Torchio Feaster and Tabitha Marsh.
Also included in the line up were former Flint City Councilperson Wantwaz Davis who spoke passionately about the need for improved employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. Davis had served 20 years in prison for murder before coming back to Flint and becoming a city council member.
Little Miss Flint: “Justice for all does not necessarily mean us”
Mari Copeny, “Little Miss Flint.” spoke from behind the podium, her eyes barely peering over the top. She said “I learned early in life that liberty and justice for all does not necessarily mean us.” Copeny focused her thoughts on the disparity between the level of punishment towards both adult and young Blacks compared to “their white counterparts”.
She pointed out the recent news story of a Black 15-year-old Michigan teen who was placed in juvenile detention by Michigan Judge Mary Ellen Brennan for not completing her online homework.
“You know that equality isn’t pie, right?,” Copeny continued. “It doesn’t mean your life matters less. It means Black Lives Matter too. Vote for candidates that support justice and when you go to vote know who you’re voting for.”
County Prosecutor candidate Trachelle Young speaks to ACLU and City Clerk complaint
County Prosecutor candidate Young gave her thoughts on the recent ACLU complaint filed against the City Clerk and absentee ballots. She noted, motioning towards the county jail, that 90 percent of those in the county jail are still eligible to vote. Because they haven’t been convicted of anything they are in there [county jail] under the presumption of innocence, she asserted, adding that there are those who have been in the county jail for the last two election cycles and have never received their absentee ballot.
“So they have been disenfranchised by the system and I don’t want that to happen on the August 4 election.”
Young said that the City Clerk’s office should be open for early voting. “People should be able to walk into that Clerk’s office and cast their vote right now. And they haven’t been able to do that. And so now the Clerk is saying they’re going to open on Monday. Well we’re going to be two weeks away from the election at that point.”
Young added, “I sent my absentee ballot request in on June 6 I got a confirmation email that they had received it and I still haven’t received my ballot. That’s a problem. Because I need every vote I can get in this campaign for change. I want people to vote for me and they’re not going to have that opportunity, it’s crucial. The bottom line is the city needs to make this happen and get the ballots to people that want them.”
The rally was also billed as an opportunity for residents to participate in the 2020 census count, voter registration and the Flint Water Crisis class action lawsuit. Census forms and a website were available for those present to participate. Voter registration forms were handed out, along with information for voters available at www.vote.org.
EVM assistant editor and City Hall reporter Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.