In the late 1950s there were a number of us who were registered Republicans, but we placed our concerns about elevating colored persons in political office over political registration. A colored Democrat in the third ward [lower Hill] had challenged a White man twice and both times he was soundly defeated, with a number of votes by colored voters. Eighty percent of the White voters had moved to the South Hills but remained as registered voters in the third ward. It was illegal but most did not care and the rest were afraid to expose this illegal act.
We the colored Republicans realized that we had no chance of winning any office, so we devised a campaign strategy that would increase the potential of a person of color getting elected. The campaign consisted of a commitment of knocking on doors the entire summer, starting in April through October and we had about 1000 small mirrors with the inscription on them that read: at the next election vote for the person who looks like the one in the mirror.
The campaign was a success and it was the beginning of the third ward political offices being occupied by colored persons. Yes pigmentation was our best and only weapon and we exercised it to the maximum. At the outset of the campaign the White politicians began to question the qualifications of our candidate and an overwhelming number of colored voters echoed old Massa. At that time I had been an active politician about nine years, but it was the first time in my young career to hear the word qualification mentioned. That argument was so ridiculous that we refuted it with the simple fact that the opposition candidate could not speak English.
You may ask what is the significance of an election held over fifty years ago? History is repeating itself in the form of the current mayor’s race in Chicago. The Black Community leaders came together and were successful in supporting one Black candidate, the former U.S. Sen. Carolyn Moseley Braun.
The Democratic Party nationally and locally, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, if they expect to be successful starting in 2011, must do a complete reevaluation of the way they disrespect and almost totally dismiss the significance of the Black voters. They no longer deem it relevant that the Black voter has been the most local voter block since 1936. Too many of them have put on blinders and use earplugs when it comes to Blacks being on the inner circle. They would do well to understand that this rejection of The Black voter is the main reason that more and more BLACK VOTERS ARE SAYING “WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE, THE DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS ARE THE LEFT AND RIGHT WING OF THE SAME BIRD.”
I predict that whatever candidate or political party is the first to heed the importance of the Black vote will win. Otherwise what colored voters did many years ago in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County in 1986, when we elected Dunn and Cranmer, the first Republican majority in 65 years—and currently in Chicago—there will be a devastating political price to pay. What party can least afford the loss of the Black vote?
It is 2011 and Kingsley Association needs you more than ever.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)