“I endorsed Bill Thompson because the city is in a crisis and needs a better manager,” Rev. Al Sharpton told the AmNews. “City Hall needs leadership by someone who understands regular New Yorkers to keep the city’s social fabric from coming apart”
It could not have been a brighter, more copasetic day when City Comptroller Bill Thompson received the endorsement of Sharpton in sunny Brooklyn this past Saturday.
Shirtsleeves rolled up, baby hugging and pressing the flesh of excited block partygoers outside Bed-Stuy’s Bethany Baptist Church, the Bed-Stuy lad and the Brownsville fella met the masses. “I am very pleased to have the support of Rev. Al Sharpton,” Thompson told the Amsterdam News. “I think he is one of the leading civil rights leaders in the nation, and so to have his support and his assistance is major.
“We’re two guys from Brooklyn–one from Brownsville, one from Bed-Stuy,” Thompson said proudly. “When I am campaigning alone, the response is good. When I campaign with Rev. Sharpton, the response is overwhelming. Everybody is excited and wants to take pictures and shake hands. The people are very engaged and every TV station covered the endorsement.”
“It’s not about just getting Blacks into office–it’s about getting the right Blacks into office. Bill Thompson has shown a connectivity and a history and a compassion for New Yorkers, who up ’til now, have had little or no voice on a citywide basis” said Harlem-based filmmaker Eddie Harris. “Bill Thompson should be afforded the opportunity to put this into action as he runs for mayor,” agreed actor and producer Doug. E. Doug.
Next Thursday, the two men will premier the likely-to-be controversial “Slap the Donkey,” a no-holds-barred critique of the relationship of the Democratic Party, Black leadership and the Black community.
“‘Slap the Donkey’ is a term Rev. Sharpton used during his 2003 campaign to express his concern that the Democratic Party was not taking their most loyal constituents seriously,” said Harris. “The movie was shot over a three-year period as Sharpton pursued the Democratic nomination. The film is basically an expose and a critique of the Democratic Party. As we go into this next political season, it is vital that we take stock of where we are as a people. We have to be educated voters. Some members of the Black leadership are going to feel uncomfortable when they see this, but it is a necessary look at the state of the Black body politic. It speaks to the whole issue of Black politics. Again as we’re set to vote for a new mayor and numerous persons for public office. we have to be clear about the whole picture.”
“The material Eddie shot was compelling, and I recognized the potential for the movie to raise critical questions of the role of the community and its relationship to Black leadership, and how they should be addressing the greater issues,” said Doug. “I wanted it to be a complete narrative because there were a lot of things being emphasized.” Doug noted, “It’s not a flattering piece, but it is very fair and clear as to where we are as a community and our leadership. It exposes the lack of power of the Congressional Black Caucus and how Black officials know how to come to our community for our support and give their support to candidates who are running for higher office who have never supported the needs of our community.”
Harris noted that Professor Cornel West, “says that we’ll probably never have a consensus for a legislative agenda from the Congressional Black Caucus because they have no ideological unity.”
“Too many of them have diametrically opposed agendas,” Doug added during an interview at theAmsterdam News’ Harlem office.
“Dick Morris–who by no means would be considered to be a friend of the Black community, said in the film that in 30 years of being a consultant, he has never been asked how to win the Black vote because the Democrats take it for granted and the Republicans assume they won’t win the vote.”
While there are those wrapped up in a post-President Barack Obama kumbaya mode, Harris and Doug said that the reality is that too many names and grassroots movements to mention here have set the groundwork that led to establishing a Black man in the White House–but without so much as a nod.
And without delving into Black America’s courageous past of resistance and protest and civil rights activism, Harris said more recently, “We show that for years before the Obama phenomenon. Rev. Sharpton had already begun to galvanize the movement that Obama perfected, but paradoxically, he perfected it by downplaying the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
“White folks feel that Obama represents a certain level of redemption for them. But, when you look at Black leadership and you look at the path that led to Obama becoming president, you see a line of uncompromising Blacks who set the blueprint. So he acknowledge the blueprint and capitalized on it because he didn’t have the perceived civil rights baggage. “There was no chance of him having a Nat Turner moment,” Harris quipped. “This movie is saying that in order to get political movement, you have to ‘slap the donkey,’ which means we need to criticize our friends and the people who we think are our friends, instead of putting all this energy into our so-called enemies.”
Lakeisha Williams and Herb Boyd also wrote the film, along with Harris and Doug. Offering analysis in the film are politicos such as Cong. Charlie Rangel, Rev.Jesse Jackson (senior and junior), Rev. Sharpton, Joel Lieberman and academics such as Prof. Cornel West and Ron Daniels.
“‘Slap the Donkey’ should be a colloquialism or a rallying cry for us tightening up our representation,” said Harris. Meanwhile, as Comptroller Thompson continues his campaign to be part of that tightened up representation as New York’s CEO, he insisted that his campaign has traction and momentum. The city’s money-man reeled off a list of prominent supporters, including: former Mayor David Dinkins and Congressmen Charlie Rangel and Anthony Wiener.
In the later months leading up to the election, rest assured, Thompson stated, “We will be on TV with ads and the radio. We will be in the street and in the field. Our numbers of volunteers are increasing. The campaign is far from over, and I will be mayor in November 2009.”