An activist’s search for inspiration

Last night I took exception when seventies activist Angela Davis said an individual can’t fight city hall during her Q&A. It wasn’t a Joe Wilson moment (fixed)- the floor was open, but in Dayton- it’s almost written in stone that one has to ask permission by commission and it drives me crazy.

Gary Leitzell didn’t ask permission to run for Mayor. He just did it- and surprised a lot of people. The typical process, still unbeknown to most, is to appear before the Montgomery County Democratic Party screening committee and ask for its blessing- or, alternatively, to ask someone in the Montgomery County GOP for permission (although Mike Turner skipped this step as well). There is no written rule about this- but, it’s just the way things have always been done.

A long time ago, Paul Woodie, who was working as the head of planning for Dayton at the time, told me in Dayton “you need a herd to be heard.” And even with the power of the Internet- the “Powers That Be” still place emphasis on who “endorses” you. We saw the media value of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance not endorsing Rhine McLin, and the import that the people who ran her failed smear campaign placed on Gary’s “Republican endorsement.”

I went to hear Ms. Davis speak because I wanted to know what made her tick, what made audiences still come see her 30+ years after her prime time in the spotlight, and what someone who once ran for VP on the Communist Party ticket would say to inspire the next generation to question authority, to stand up and act out to fight inequity. Instead, I heard about the plight of transgendered criminals being assigned to prisons that might not fit their lifestyle based on a panties check. Yes, the penal system in this county is broken and we’ve allowed a prison-industrial complex to rise to prominence.When I asked her how an activist of her stature can be talking about panties checks of minor criminals and the injustices done to them- while criminals like Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis are getting $125 million dollar severance packages while people are losing their homes, jobs and hope- I expected an inspired answer and didn’t get one.

Can one voice make a difference, or do we always have to have a herd? Do we need to ask permission before commission of a new vision? I almost find more inspiration from my friend David E. Bowman who decided to start a group called “The Dayton Marketing Community” and hosted “Big Idea Breakfasts” without having to ask anyone for an OK.

And while Angela Davis talked about her position of an “abolitionist” and her desire to see the end of prisons, I was looking for an inspiration to “fight the power.” She didn’t deliver.

When it comes back to inspiration for activism, or for any great achievement in life- I again turn to David Bowman who shared a Dayton centric quote that sums up so much of my struggle in one of his posts: “Orville Wright did not have a pilots license.”

Gary Leitzell didn’t have a mayor’s license either, before 11pm last Tuesday.

Angela Davis has an activists license, but didn’t use it IMHO last night.

What license are you waiting for?

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