U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH)
U.S Rep. and Congressional Black Caucus Chairperson
Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO)
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
U.S Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan
By Kathy Wray Coleman, Editor
Rainbow Push Coalition leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and members of the Congressional Black Caucus did not disappoint at a town hall forum at Cleveland State University on Monday spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH).
The event drew a discussion on the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Republican Tea Party, and an Ohio voter suppression bill that Jackson and the legislators visiting Cleveland said is designed to silence Ohio's Black vote and harm the Democratic Party during the upcoming 2012 presidential election year.
"We need the attorney generals of the 34 states to convene and protect the right to vote," said Jackson, referencing states efforts, including Ohio's House Bill 194, in passing and seeking to pass laws slashing early voting and demanding identification to vote, Republican pushed legislation that has labor unions and Civil Rights organizations like the Cleveland NAACP upset.
In addition to Fudge and Jackson the panel, moderated by nationally known media personality and MSNBC contributer Jeff Johnson, included U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Democratic Congressional Black Caucus members Sheila Jackson- Lee of Texas, Maxine Waters of California, Caucus Chairperson Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Laura Richardson of California and Andre Carson of Indiana, one of two Muslims serving in Congress.
The Cleveland gathering was the first of several job fairs and town hall forums sponsored by the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus. Others are to be held in the cities of Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and Miami.
Thousands attended the job fair earlier in the day, also at CSU, that drew some 120 employers and a line that extended along the street outside of Clevelanders and others looking for gainful employment with reported unemployment in Cuyahoga County of 9 percent, and reaching an even higher rate of 16.2 percent for Blacks in the region.
"Ladies and gentlemen it's fighting time," said Waters, who took on the conservative Tea Party as did all of the lawmakers in attendance at the town hall forum, which drew nearly a packed auditorium of some 1500 people. "We have a new crew in Washington known as the Tea Party that hijacked the debt ceiling question, and an unconstitutional committee of 12, and there is no safety net for all of the programs that will have an impact on our society and our community. We cannot continue to allow Wall Street and the banks to control America, and Wells Fargo and Citibank, they all need to go to jail because they ripped this country off."
The Tea Party Movement is a political and libertarian movement that swept into power in 2009 under the leadership of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and in 2010 helped staunch Republican candidates like Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin win congressional seats.
And Waters and her peers in attendance let it be known that the nation's congressional Black leaders, under the guidance of the old Black guard, will fight spending cuts harmful to the Black community and contemplated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, also dubbed the debt ceiling deal.
Obama took a lashing too with the group urging him to be more forceful in his dealings with Republican members of Congress and the Tea Party, though they made it clear that they believe that former president George W. Bush is responsible for the unprecedented federal deficit and that the Democrats want to retain control of the country's highest public office under the leadership of the first Black president of the United States of America.
"We have basically a good man but he is too nice and he should not have extended the Bush tax cuts," said Waters, a well known Los Angeles Democrat and probably the best known of the Black congressional lawmakers. "He [President Obama] is inviting them [The Tea Party members] to the White House to watch football and when they threatened me with the debt ceiling I would have made them walk the plate."
Butterfield reminded the predominately Black audience that came to hear the prominent federal legislators that "President Obama did not create the deficit because it was created by George Bush." And Fudge blasted Obama's predecessor as the worst ever in the history of the presidency, and said that Obama is being disrespected by the Republicans in Congress who want him to fail miserably.
"George Bush was probably the worst president in the country but I never wanted to see him fail because he was the president of the United States," said Fudge, whose 11th congressional district includes parts of the majority Black City of Cleveland and its eastern suburbs, and who solidified her political power base with a successful job fair and an exemplary town forum promoted by the media. "But these people want to see him [President Obama] fail."
Donovan, secretary of HUD since 2009, said the Obama administration tried to protect food stamps, medicaid , unemployment and pell grants relative to the debt ceiling deal. But Fudge, Waters, Richardson, Carson and Jackson-Lee said there is no guarantee that such programs will not be impacted by upcoming spending cuts, prompting Donovan to acknowledge that the president does not consider The Budget Control Act of 2011 a feather in the cap of the Democrats.
"He [President Obama] didn't win this round," said Donovan, in highlighting the defeat of Obama and the congressional Democrats around the debt ceiling compromise, one pushed by conservative Senate Republicans such as Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Tea Party favorite.
Cleaver II, the cool headed leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, told the audience that his organization has always fought for the betterment of the Black community.
"We got the $100 million for Black farmers and the resolution on the disparity between crack and powder cocaine," he said. "We are the ones that usually take the lead on issues."
Jackson emphasized that Cleveland's Black leadership has always been in the forefront of the fight for Civil Rights, from the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid 1960's to the election of the late Carl B. Stokes as mayor of Cleveland in 1966, the first Black mayor of a major metropolitan city, and the brother of retired U.S. Rep Louis Stokes of Shaker Hts.
"Cleveland was with us in 1965 with Martin Luther King and in 1966 with Carl Stokes," Jackson said.
The forum and its after venues were the who's who of Cleveland and in addition to the panelists include Retired U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes of Shaker Hts., State Sen. Shirley Smith (D-21), State Rep. John Barnes Jr. (D-12), State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10), Call and Post Associate Vice President and Editor Connie Harper, James Wade, Cleveland Municipal Court Judges Angela Stokes and Michael John Ryan, Cleveland City Council persons Jeffery D. Johnson, Zack Reed and Maimie Mitchell, East Cleveland City Council President Dr. Joy Jordon, Dr. Eugene Jordan, Robert and Marion Saffold, Journalist Mansfield Frazier, John Hairston, Sheila Wright, Marcia McCoy, Bishop Jasmine Guy, Griot-Y-Von, Marvin Jones II, Barbara Walker, Linda Matthews, Ariella Brown, Belinda Prinz, Beverly Charles, and Prester Pickett.
Journalist and Community Activist Kathy Wray Coleman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at (216) 659-0473.