By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.
– African Proverb
Harvey Savage, Jr. possesses a prominent name in a jam-packed race to fill just six at-large city council seats.
The executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Kitchen for the Poor, is the son of the late Rev. Harvey V. Savage, Sr., the Kitchen’s esteemed founder and namesake of Toledo’s historic Savage Park.
The MLK Kitchen was founded in 1969 after the elder Savage spotted a gentleman eating out of the garbage can at the rear of the Savage residence. The man was invited in and fed, beginning a ministry of community service that has continued for over a half-century.
Savage brings a philosophy of collective social responsibility to the September primary election after previously just falling short in a November 2017 bid for city council.
I had an opportunity to speak with Savage about his campaign and political worldview. Here is our conversation:
Perryman: You continue a great legacy of service and humanitarianism that began with your father, the late H.V. Savage, Sr. Through his founding of the MLK Kitchen for the Poor, he showed that he believed that a whole community of people is needed for its citizens to have a healthy life experience.
Savage: We were taught, as a family, to love your brother and pass it on and help people, not let people in the neighborhood go hungry. We had a village back then and always looked out for each other. My friends could eat at my house anytime. One of my brother’s friends recently approached me and said, ‘Man, when I was a kid, I walked 10 blocks to you guys’ house each morning before school to eat breakfast because my family did not have a lot.’ He said, ‘There were 12 in our family.’ So, that inspired me because this whole village concept has been going on for a long time, and we need to get back to it.
Perryman: How would you describe what the MLK Kitchen does?
Savage: We provide meals, distribute clothing and other things. We support the community. We provide food to Pinewood Tabernacle for their Tuesday giveaway. We provide food for the Believe Center’s children’s program. We also contribute meals four days per week at the Friendly Center. So, we’re pretty involved in what’s going on within the community. We also work with Grace Community Center, Frederick Douglass Community Association and spend some time with the Junction coalition. So, we are busy.
Perryman: Why are you interested in this city council position, and why should residents vote for you?
Savage: I can make a difference. I have a wealth of knowledge of our community. I possess management skills that would enhance city council’s role in our community. I’ve worked a couple of decades in the nonprofit world and have been successful. I am involved with the Department of Neighborhoods and their programming, and I understand the management of federal funds.
I’m able to look at an issue and peel it down to the root cause. We have many things in our community that we need to be working on the root causes and not just the symptoms. I did 13 years as a Human Research manager, and worked with people that had felonies. I also worked with halfway houses, so I understand what is going on right now in the community.
Perryman: You also have management experience in the private sector?
Savage: Yes. I have 20 years with DuPont.
Perryman: What did you do for them?
Savage: I did a lot of employee development. I maintained wage and salary administration and coordinated collective bargaining activities with the local unions. I administered employee benefit programs, supervised secretaries and security for one of the plants. I also served in communications and public affairs. In addition, I monitored the affirmative action plan and EEO compliance. I was also a corporate facilitator for the Drug Abuse Program and our sexual harassment program.
So, that was some of the stuff I did over my career with DuPont. I’ve been involved with the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and understand that area well. I did a lot of continuous flow manufacturing work, including training of employees. So that was a lot of what I did at DuPont.
Perryman: All of that experience is relevant to this city council position, wouldn’t you say?
Savage: That’s what I’m saying. Those skills are currently needed on council. But, again, I’m not here to criticize, but they haven’t been able to look at current issues and ask the right questions of the administration. Knowing how to ask the right questions gets you started in the right direction.
Perryman: One of the top issues in the City of Toledo is violent crime. What is your position on this issue?
Savage: My position on crime is we need to get a handle on it. I don’t think that you’re going to get a handle on it without more robust policing. Just like we just had the shooting at Savage Park, where we had 400 or 500 young people playing ball and kids are in the park. We should have a police presence right then and there as a preventative measure versus waiting until after there’s a shooting to show up.
I was at a separate downtown event and saw police officers just walking around; that makes a big difference. You think a little differently if you’re going to start some trouble, but you see police officers there. So, we need to have a more significant police presence where we know there are high crime areas.
The other thing, these young people are not our enemy. We need to understand that these are our kids that are out there. They come from families that I know or grew up with. I know the grandparents. We have not done our job in raising our kids, so we need to get busy getting our community back. We need to put the village concept back together. You still need to raise a child. We need to invest in them. I’m a believer that we can break this culture of violence. We have to just step up to the plate and do what we need to do.
Perryman: How about affordable housing?
Savage: Affordable housing is something that has to happen. We are a country that has really been down on people that don’t have resources. We have misused and abused them and don’t see them as equals. We need to come to grips with that.
Toledo doesn’t have adequate housing for the people that are here. Our people have to live in slum housing a lot of times. So, they don’t have anywhere else to go, and we need to work on that. I think that every assistance that we can offer, we should make available. And, talking about affordable housing, jobs are a part of that. We need to have jobs that pay people not just a living wage but also a wage to purchase homes.
Perryman: As someone with corporate management experience, what is your position on the need to audit the City’s procurement practices with minority-owned businesses?
Savage: My position on that is, Yes! We have minority companies that are available to do the work. So, we need to do that. The other piece of that, though, is that the minority needs to be ready. We need to be in a position that we can perform. I think the other thing that the cities need to understand is that being a minority, you will have some structural disadvantages. So, Toledo must prepare to pay a little bit more because, as minorities, we’re not in a competitive position as others.
Perryman: How do you think the City should spend the $181 million American Recovery Plan Act funds?
Savage: We need to invest in programming for the individuals and families in the neighborhoods. I’m even looking at a program where we go house to house and spend time with the families that allow us to determine where we can support and help them. Right now, a lot of single parents are struggling with childcare. I’ve seen within my family where a single female with a couple of kids, working long hours in these plants, and the children are, essentially, raising themselves. So, we need to be able to offer some assistance.
Perryman: How do we address the fact that a mere 28 percent of African Americans in Lucas County are vaccinated for COVID-19?
Savage: We have to talk to people and not talk down to them to really see where we can assist them, listen, and get an understanding of where their minds are. It can’t be strangers. It would be best to talk with a family member, your doctor, or places like the Neighborhood Health Association. Please take the opportunity to spend some time with them and explain why they need to be vaccinated.
Perryman: Finally, what message do you want to get across to the public about your campaign?
Savage: My campaign message is that we have to come together. We are the United States of America. We’re the City of Toledo. We can sit down, get together, develop plans that take our city to the next level. We have not done that; we are a divided city; but my goal is for us to come together.
I plan to represent all the people. I don’t care what your political persuasion is; I don’t care what your skin color is; Everyone has opinions about what’s going on in this city. So anytime someone wants to have a conversation about an issue, I’ll make an effort to listen and talk to them because we as a city need to come together and stop any division.
I plan to bring the strife down and put everything back together, and manage our money a lot better.
Then, we will invest in people and make this thing work.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD at firstname.lastname@example.org