On May 10, 1994 former political prisoner Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was elected the first Black President of South Africa.
I remember seeing a newspaper photograph of three elderly South African women. Two of them struggled as they carried the third woman between them by her arm pits, for the third woman had no legs. The caption below the photo spoke of the many miles these women had trekked tired and worn but determined. Nothing would stop them from the privilege of exercising their newly earned right to vote.
When there are local elections (nothing really important on the ballot), I hesitate to get out of my recliner, turn off the TV, walk out the door, get into my car and drive a few blocks to vote. I think back to that photo and I think back to the people in the US who suffered and died to earn the right for me to vote.
The memory of those elders and the vision of that photograph inspire me to get out and vote. I think of the selfish and complacent society we have become. I think of how we disregard and disrespect the memories of the people on whose shoulders we stand.
Even more distasteful to me are the people who are willing to sell their votes, sell their souls and sellout their people. Reportedly white City Councilwoman Stacey Head attempted to buy votes in a large Black church with a $1,500 check and a kiss on the cheek from a Black City Councilman.
A few days later, Head spoke on a local Black radio show. Several regular callers say they were blocked from calling in to confront and/or to challenge some of Head’s statements and her record during her eight years in office. Today we can hear the lovely voice of actress Vanessa Williams as she provides us with a Black history moment followed by an anonymous voice; “This Black history moment was paid for by Stacy Head.”
While some bloggers and newsletters will report news stories open and honestly there are others who seem to depend on Mayor Mitch Landrieu to feed their families. These writers will send out news reports but will not report negative news about their mayor. They may sometimes even promote their mayor.
We have all heard stories of political organizations with names like BOLD, SOUL, COUP as well as other like organizations. Now we have Democratic politicians being financed by Republican dollars.
In order to complete a sale there must be an agreement between both the buyer and the seller. There must also be a reason and even a desire to buy and to sell. There is no problem understanding the purpose of the buyer. In this case they want to buy themselves a job.
The seller on the other hand is not as easy to understand. Why does a man sell his vote, sell his soul and sellout his people?
I really wish I had saved that photograph of those three women in South Africa eighteen years ago. I wish others could see it now and know the story behind it. Maybe then there would be some degree of conscious thought and foresight before we set a price on our vote and on our people.
Parnell Herbert is a recently returned New Orleanian who was previously displaced to Houston by Hurricane Katrina. He is active on many social justice causes, including the right of return for New Orleanians, and freedom for the Angola Three. His new play, Angola Three, has been performed in New Orleans and other cities.