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Focusing black unity

Black Power: The election of one is good for all of us

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Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds recorded a song a few years ago entitled "For the Smooth In You," which became the theme for Urkel's transformation into his alterego Steven on the sitcom Family Matters.

I'm reminded of the song when I think of transforming black Americans' collective effort into a viable political and economic force.

Last June, blacks in North Charleston, who constitute about 49 percent of the city's population, missed an opportunity for substantial political transformation through the election of Hillery Douglas as the city's first African-American mayor.

Douglas was beaten by incumbent Mayor Keith Summey as if he'd stolen something. There's been all kinds of speculation as to the cause of Douglas' loss, ranging from a poorly-planned campaign to political payoffs.

Whatever the reason, North Charleston missed an opportunity of historic proportions. Not only would Douglas have become the first black mayor of the city, but since political leadership translates into economic empowerment, blacks in North Charleston would have had an inside track in the state's largest retail sales market.

Come November, Charleston residents will have that same opportunity when Dudley Gregorie will try to unseat incumbent Mayor Joseph Riley. Twenty years ago blacks also constituted a majority of the City of Charleston's population. Today they represent about one-third.

Some are saying Gregorie's candidacy comes at a time when the numbers just don't point to a successful campaign. For both communities a political transformation is essential. That didn't happen in North Charleston. We'll see if it happens in Charleston.

On a broader scale, that transformation needs to occur if Barack Obama is to become the Democratic Party's first black presidential nominee. Though the majority of blacks are Democrats, their numbers have never translated into leadership of the party.

If black populations in North Charleston and Charleston are microcosmic examples of the national Democratic party, Obama has his work cut out for him.

A friend admonishing me to forget about blacks ever coming together in political unity suggested I move past the idea and just look out for number one. My friend says that's what Douglas did and that's what Gregorie and Obama are doing. Their candidacies have nothing to do with empowering blacks but rather are the means to some individual goals. If that's true, then maybe there's some value in looking out for number one.

But then, how does one explain the collective empowerment of ethnic groups like the Hispanics who represent only about five percent of the local population yet have managed to gain ownership of twice as many businesses as blacks? Obviously their collective effort is transforming their minority status into major players on the economic front.

In fact, every ethnic group that came to America has used its collective effort to forward their economic progress.

What tactics, methods, initiatives did those groups use to motivate their members? The Babyface song worked wonders for Steve Urkel. Maybe black Americans should adopt it as their theme as well.

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