By Rev. Annie Chambers, Dr. Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, Glenn L. Ross, and Sylvia Harris
The AFRO recently ran an op-ed by an author who called out the Democratic Party for allegedly supporting immigrants’ rights over African Americans’ rights. While we wholeheartedly condemn the xenophobic nature of this line of reasoning– exemplary of the divide and conquer patronage-style politics of the Democratic Party– we agree that the Democratic Party has not done well by us in recent decades.
After years of being taken for granted and taken advantage of, our community has been left black and blue. Bruised up but far from beaten, many elder African American civil rights leaders in Baltimore, including the four of us, are participating in an exodus from the Democratic Party to become members of the Baltimore City Green Party (BGP). Here are three reasons why we think this is the strategic move for our community, our city, and our country.
First, we must acknowledge the harm done by the Democratic Party to Black people in Baltimore. The Democratic Party emerged in the 1830s as a populist movement for White working class men under the leadership of President Andrew Jackson. No wonder Jackson’s portrait hangs in President Trump’s Oval Office.
For its first hundred years, the Democrats were the party of slavery, secession, and Jim Crow. In the middle of the 20th century, Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson signed some fine legislation, but we had to push them for every pen stroke, and while they were signing our rights into law, the latter two were also needlessly sending disproportionate numbers of African Americans to die fighting brown people in Vietnam. Black folks can do better.
One of the reasons we haven’t (with one notable exception) is that since the 1960s, when most African Americans left Lincoln’s Republican Party to join Kennedy’s Democratic Party, Democrats have taken our bodies, voices and votes for granted.
Second, we must open our eyes and admit that nowhere is this abusive dynamic more obvious than in Baltimore City. Since LBJ’s Great Society fifty years ago, our neighborhoods have fallen victim to a vicious cycle of economic disinvestment, discriminatory over-policing and mass incarceration, and political disempowerment at the hands of Democrats like former-Governor O’Malley, Senate President Miller, and House Speaker Busch. Our schools have crumbled and our students shiver in the winter, as happened at Easterwood’s Matthew A. Henson Elementary School.
Public housing, like Perkins and Douglass Homes, is on the chopping block, because of current Republican HUD Secretary Ben Carson and his Democratic predecessor Julian Castro. And our communities are poisoned by the environmental racism of big polluters whose violence is tolerated by politicians in exchange for campaign contributions. We must and we shall do better.
We have to ask ourselves what doing better looks like. Combined, the four of us have more than 250 years of experience in the struggle. We have taken our share of licks, and have decided to leave the Democratic Party and become members of the Baltimore Green Party (BGP). The BGP puts social justice, especially racial justice, at the core of what they stand for. BGP’s four core pillars are social justice, ecological wisdom, nonviolence, and grassroots democracy. What does the Democratic Party stand for, except the most expedient way to your vote? We encourage you to ask them.
With the Green Party, we know we are coming to the table with the leverage of our extensive legacies. We have come to trust Green leaders, after seeing them show up for us, whether in Douglass Homes to help us win the fight for a fair Resident Advisory Board Delegate election, or in Matthew A. Henson Elementary to bring hot drinks to our teachers and warm clothes to our shivering babies.
Some of us, like Rev. Chambers who is running for Lieutenant Governor and is a former BGP Steering Committee co-chair, have taken on leadership positions within the BGP. Most importantly, we know where Greens stand on issues such as justice for Maryland’s HBCUs: Coppin, Morgan, and Bowie State Universities, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
We know where they stand on police brutality, the Fight for $15, clean air for our asthmatic children and seniors, economic development that puts people before profit, ending food deserts, and creating real public safety for all. These are the issues that matter to Baltimore, and since the Democrats will not move forward on these issues, it is time for us to move on.
For these reasons and more, we are proud to tell you we have gone Green. Please check out the exciting class of Green leaders running for office this year and vote for the candidates who will serve you, and not the bosses and corporations, in Annapolis next year. There has never been a better time to go Green and get free. Together, we will.
Dr. Marvin L. ‘Doc’ Cheatham, Sr. is the president and C.E.O. of Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association. Glenn Ross is a Green candidate for Delegate in East Baltimore’s 45th District. Sylvia Harris is the mother of slain Baltimore City Councilman Kenneth Harris and an adviser to the Joshua Harris (no relation) for Delegate (G-40) campaign. Rev. Annie Chambers is the RAB Delegate of Douglass Homes and a Green Party Candidate for Lieutenant Governor.