#TheBlackout: Has D.C.’s 2011 Scandals Killed Black Leadership?

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The 2010 municipal elections signaled for many African Americans across the city a victory for the dwindling Black majority in the District of Columbia. Black Washingtonians replaced a one-term Mayor who they felt was catering too much to the growing White population with a man they felt was more engaged with and more loyal to the Black population, who were becoming increasingly worried about a “take-over” of city politics and city culture.

However, the new administration that was heralded in on January 2, 2011, that many thought signaled a resurgence of African American leadership in the city, almost immediately came under fire for unethical behavior and breeches of the public trust.

The Mayor, the Chairman of the City Council, multiple members of the City Council and numerous African American civil servants had been accused of unethical behavior that wasted city money, short-changed residents and ruined their public integrity, so much so that by mid-year, talk was swirling around the city of who would be the city’s first White Mayor in the next few cycles.

Both local and national news outlets have splashed the names and falls from grace of Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas Jr., Marion Barry, Lorraine Greene, ‘Andi’ Pringle and Gerri Hall Mason (just to name a few). While the city’s top Black political leadership simmer on the hot seat for their own political misdeeds, the more “melanin-impaired” of city leadership have emerged as the major voices of reform and have been the first to call for much harsher punishment for wrong-doing in government, which reflects the opinion of many District residents.

As the 2012 Election cycle took shape, many African Americans vying for political office have come under fire as well.  Kevin Chavous, who many thought was a bright young star in city politics, is drowning under scandal for solicitation of sexual acts this past weekend, and no one can forget (or expect an end to) the mounting discourse in the race for Ward 8 Council.

While there is still a small league of next-generation African American leadership in the District such as State Board of Education Member from Ward 8, Trayon White, and 2012 candidate for Shadow Representative, Nate Bennett-Fleming, who are at the forefront of leadership presently, the worry is that African Americans are losing strong leadership in the city. With so many Black leaders under fire and African Americans losing their 50-year majority this year, the possibility seems more daunting.

While White leadership is not the end of all days in the District of Columbia, the worry that African Americans won’t be adequately represented in policy-making is a real concern that this new era could bring about. While nothing is certain, the fact that Black leadership in Washington has come under fire so intensely this year, the next few years could be transformative for our already racially charged city.

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