The Black Caucus in West Virginia holds forum to meet the white men who want to be the next chairman of the State Democratic Party.
The WV Democratic Executive Committee vote is Saturday at Bridgeport Conference Center.
The lesser of two evils is a tried and true metric for political decisions in West Virginia progressive politics. I won’t characterize West Virginia Democratic Party chair candidates Mike Pushkin or Rick Stanton as evil — but what they represent is the reality that they are the best the Democratic Party has to offer.
WV Dems coulda had a Chris Reagan (in my 1978 V-8 commercial voice).
The new West Virginia Black Caucus hosted a forum to meet the two candidates Sunday, June 12 via Zoom. It opened with Stanton stating that his grandson is Black and Pushkin accusing the head of the Black Caucus of publicly supporting his opponent, implying the event was unfair to him.
You can watch it for yourself.
For me, the forum revealed the great need for a Black press corps in West Virginia. Just look around. It doesn’t exist. BBG is trying, but we are limited in our capacity as a startup news organization.
I found one article on Sunday night’s candidate forum in the Wheeling Intelligencer headlined “Black Caucus Quizzes West Virginia Democratic Party Chair Hopefuls Staton and Pushkin.”
The Intelligencer article emphasized the who, what, when, where, and why, but the article disappointingly avoids any depth of Black political reporting.
If you want an example of Black political reporting, follow Scalawag.
The article also neglects the historic moment created by Mary Ann Claytor, Chair of the WV Black Caucus. We need more political activities and gatherings like Claytor is organizing.
Claytor organized the forum, a first in West Virginia’s Democratic history. Mind you, its history started in 1863 as a coalition of conservative Pro-Union Democrats and Pro-Confederates (which, inexplicably, still exist in 2022). The forum gave the Black community a front-row seat to meet the Party chair candidates. She is to be commended, as well as the moderators Jim Griffith and Kathy Ferguson.
It took a lifetime for WV Black politics to reach this moment and 40 years for a vehicle like the WV Black Caucus to exist. Unfortunately, it will probably be another 40 years before we see the Dem leadership regaining its former power, even with a Black Caucus.
Read: Hollis Lewis, the former WVBC Co-Chair, said: A Seat At The Table Can Lead To Being On The Menu.
Whoever the WV Democrats elect that person will have an opportunity to organize around West Virginia’s growing Black and Latin populations beyond superficial voter registration initiatives, which Dr. Shanequa Smith of Black Voter Impact Initiative says, “Needs to be transformational, not a to-do list.”
Dr. Smith with the Black Voter Impact Initiative recently interviewed 80 politically-engaged West Virginians to understand the difference between white-led political power and organizing and Black-led political power building, as well as ways to identify actionable steps to address disparities.
She found that white-led organizations need to learn about the grassroots efforts in Black communities and honor the community members’ experiential knowledge.
“For African American communities to build civic engagement in their communities, they must be granted the autonomy and intentional investments toward infrastructure building, leadership capacity and career pathways on social change,” Dr. Smith said.
Pushkin and Stanton both emphasize voter engagement and training to engage the West Virginia Black community, while Dr. Smith’s research speaks to this as often being little more than a posturing action.
Dr. Smith’s research — like Claytor’s bold steps into building information spaces for the Black community — is peeling back the layers of how to build Black equity in West Virginia’s white political spaces. But, we need more research like Dr. Smith’s. The data matters, and it’s not just research like Dr. Smith’s inquiry into equity power building or BBG’s political polls but as simple as knowing exactly how many Black voters and candidates are in West Virginia.
“The data that the WVBC currently has for Black voters is not always accurate,” Claytor said. “We have found that Black voters are not always correctly categorized.”
Unfortunately, neither candidate at Sunday’s forum spoke to any data concerning Black issues.
I had hoped the candidates would clearly define racism in West Virginia politics and the Democratic Party. They both had a chance to do this, yet both professed outdated color-blind leadership philosophies.I had a brief moment this week of reconsidering my party affiliation. I’m a registered Independent (even though I vote Democrat). So I thought about switching affiliations back to Democrat — assuming that I could make a difference as the party restructures itself from the inside out by voting for executive committee leadership.
But, both candidates convinced me to stay an Independent.
I try to attend a Tuesday Morning Group community meeting (I don’t need to tell you when it meets). It’s a mixed group of Black and white, Democrats and Independent voters. We discuss community events and state and local policies that impact the Black community.
This morning what stood out was that even the Tuesday Morning Group members who attended the WVBC forum did not know: