The organization that helped vote in Detroit's first Black mayor is fighting to help maintain votes of confidence.
The Black Slate, Inc., a political arm of the Shine of the Black Madonna church, which has its primary membership in Michigan, Georgia and Texas, is defending itself against suggestions that it sells endorsements of candidates. With the high-profile Aug. 4 election of a new Detroit City Council and run-off for the second mayoral primary of 2009, campaign activity is high. Some candidates have suggested that a lack of funding leaves them disadvantaged when seeking support from resources that voters trust.
Black Slate leaders say that a news story in The Michigan Citizen was misleading.
"This is to correct some misperceptions that may have evolved out of the article in last week’s edition of The Michigan Citizen by reporter Diane Bukowski," says Cardinal Baye Keita Okhuyia, a Slate spokesman.
"Let me state emphatically: The Black Slate does not sell its endorsements."
Detroit talk show host Mildred Gaddis was fired and drew criticism for failing to disclose that she took money from candidates in exchange for interviewing them on her talk show. But the Black Slate argues that comparisons to Gaddis are inappropriate, despite the Citizen's having referenced them in the same article.
"From our beginning as Detroit’s first grassroots slate in the 1973 campaign of Detroit’s first African American mayor, the Honorable Coleman Alexander Young, the Black Slate has maintained our 'group process'
approach to electoral campaigns," Okhuyia adds. "That is, after we ave endorsed and printed our slate, we call our endorsed candidates to meet collectively to be made aware of our process of working together for
the common good of each other and the broader Detroit community we all seek to serve.
The "slate" itself is typically presented in the form of a number of candidates who've earned the organization's endorsement with voters.
"For the purpose of offsetting the costs of printing the slate, door-to-door distribution, print, radio and other media advertising, and election day operations, we ask our endorsed candidates to contribute based on a
scale taking into account the office they are seeking," says Okhuyia. "In every election there are candidates who, for whatever reason, are not able to meet our minimum requests. This in no way minimizes our
commitment to work for their election success as hard as we work for those who meet the minimum as well as the few who...exceed the minimum."
Endorsements may be particularly valuable in the Aug. 4 elections since nearly 200 candidates have jumped into the race for nine Council positions. The unprecedented response appears to be largely due to both corruption within the most recent Council and nationally publicized antics among its members, including televised name-calling. Recent publicity surrounding members includes: Monica Conyers' resignation after she pled guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for votes; former Motown singer Martha Reeves' suggestion that public service was her second job, after performing; and Joann Watson's re-payment of property tax debts -- only after she was exposed for having paid thousands of dollars less than her neighbors over several years.