What Would MLK Do?

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

We need leaders who are not in love with money but in love with justice, not in love with publicity but in love with humanity, leaders who can subject their own ego to the pressing issues of the cause of freedom.        – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

January is a time to honor the memory of our slain civil rights leader and icon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and renew our commitment to continue addressing systemic injustice and racism.

Yet, systemic change is still a fantasy nearly 55 years after King’s death. For the Lucas County Democratic Party, however, it is a clash of egos and “another year, another internal ruckus.”

The Party’s screening committee prepared to endorse Shawn Strong and Harold Mosely over John Hobbs and Vanice Williams at its January executive committee meeting. Hobbs and Williams had served on city council since September 2020 as interim appointments, which expired with former councilmen Riley and Harper’s guilty pleas in December 2022.

However, a faction supporting Hobbs and Williams objected, complaining that an endorsement contradicts the Party’s bylaws. As a result, the Party shut down the screening committee’s endorsement because “the bylaws don’t allow it.” The Party took this action despite a tendency to manipulate its bylaws to align with its agenda at any given time. The Dems also should have noticed that the bylaws applied explicitly to elections rather than an appointment.

City Council then voted unanimously the next day to return Williams and Hobbs to their seats along with Carrie Hartman to fill Michelle Grim’s seat. Grim resigned from city council on January 2 to begin her first term in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Michael Ashford, Lucas County Democratic Party chair, left the contentious Party executive session with a punctured tire, which he attributed to the nefarious actions of his intraparty opponents.

The Problem behind the Problem

It is well known that Ashford, the Democratic Party Chair, actively supported Strong and Mosely. On the other hand, a faction led by Commissioner Pete Gerken supported John Hobbs and Vanice Williams. In addition, the Interdenominational Ministerial Association (IMA) also provided a letter of support for Hobbs and Williams. Members of the NAACP and other ministers also advocated the removal of the interim tag from Hobbs and Williams and the return to their council seats.

However, do not be deceived. The brawl is not about Hobbs/Williams vs. Strong/Mosley. City Council never wanted any endorsement from the Democratic Party because it “always intended for Williams and Hobbs to finish their terms.”

Instead, the brouhaha, at the core, is a challenge to Ashford’s leadership.

Ashford’s opponents accuse him of threatening to withhold all future councilmember endorsements unless they accepted the endorsement of Strong and Mosely. The Gerken bloc also chided Ashford for removing Kwinlyn Tyler from the screening committee at the last minute. Despite the Party’s need for youth and diversity, Ashford allegedly said he “just decided to go another way. And the bylaws give him the right to remove anyone at the pleasure of the Chair.”

While several complained of Ashford’s leadership style, that “he’s a tyrant, acts without direction, and imposes his will without consent,” would this be an issue if Ashford was not Black? I doubt it.

It always seems problematic for Black leaders when they don’t ask white overseers’ permission before acting or making decisions.

The Bigger Issue

Nearly 55 years after Martin Luther King, structural racism still reigns in Toledo due to bickering Democrats who stumble, bumble, and fumble the ball on political change. Homicides occur at a record pace. Meanwhile, policing, housing, education, clean air and water, healthcare access, wealth and income disparities, and many other issues remain unaddressed.

What Would King Do?

On what would be King’s 94th birthday, he would admonish the Party to recommit to dismantling systemic issues of injustice and racism, especially in neighborhoods of need.

This indispensable imperative can only occur by “centering the people and their needs, and not the politicians and their egos.”

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at drdlperryman@enterofhopebaptist.org