African American elected officials were recently listed in a federal
indictment, complete with the transcript of conversations of how they
would help businessman John Doe circumvent the system in exchange for
monetary and material goodies to enrich themselves. The political
careers of Alder Board President Lewis Reed, Alder Jeffrey Boyd and
Alder John Collins-Muhammad are dead. There are some important
lessons in this situation that can benefit us in the pursuit of Black
three political clowns face a number of charges from bribery to fraud
and are looking at stiff sentences and fines. In exchange for helping
a local business circumvent the system to receive city property, tax
abatements and other city resources, the disgraced men received items
like a 2016 VW (not even a 2022 BMW), a new cell phone, about $700
for a car repair and cash (described by one local report as “pocket
is suspected that John Doe is an Arab business person. This is a
significant contradiction because a few years ago, another sweeping
federal investigation led to indictments and convictions of Arab
convenience store and gas station owners across multiple states.
Because Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the country,
cigarettes were being bought here and resold in other states, money
laundered and an assortment of other crimes committed. Specifically,
most of the owners were of Palestinian descent and of Muslim faith.
While some of us are fighting to advance the rights of Palestinian
people in the Middle East, these businesses are engaging in behavior
and selling all kinds of poison that go against the teachings of
wards of the two alders were woefully neglected and now we see why.
They were too busy looking out for themselves and not the community.
Boyd and Collins-Muhammad were arrogant and had become estranged from
Black folks. Except for their immediate families, no Black
organization or civic leader came out publicly in their defense. A
usually forgiving Black community stood down, offering only
condemnation and ridicule.
investigation and indictments shut down all current abatement
requests – not just for these two but for all the alderpersons.
Some of these abatement requests were probably legit but were caught
up in the dragnet. The city and federal search for illegal dealings
will go back at least five years. More indictments are sure to come.
is where too many elected officials get it all wrong: extortion,
embezzlement, bribery, political favoritism, sexual favors and lining
one’s pockets are not supposed to be part of the job. They have
it twisted: these are not automatic perks for public service.
Black politicians to engage in this behavior and then use the excuse
that the white boys have been doing it for years is totally
unacceptable. They know their constituents are often too consumed
with their own survival to notice their greedy exploits or if they do
know, feeling powerless to do anything about it. We get victimized in
so many ways by so many different predators, we have layers of scar
tissue. The betrayal hurts double when the predator looks like you.
we fight for true and equitable representation, our communities must
also fight for transformative leaders. We should be way past the
notion that a person’s skin color is the main determining
factor for getting our support. We need to be looking at character,
past track record and vision.
should know that the fight for Black political power under capitalism
has its limitations so the role of conscious organizers is advocating
for an alternative vision as we engage in the fight for reforms. This
is also a time to re-imagine our communities where people think twice
before they double-cross us - either out of respect or fear.