A history of disenfranchisement of African Americans. African Americans have had a spotty history of coalescing to address the issues that confront the health safety and economic growth of this community. It’s been a community that for years has been known for being inactive when it comes to addressing wrongs that have been committed against it. That changed a couple of years in 2012 when the current chief of police was called to the mayor’s office and was initially terminated and the next day, actually he agreed to resign, and the next day he thought about it and demanded his job back.
What had happened was the director of communications in the police department during the course of doing her normal job had uncovered a device that had been used on several police lines taped and recorded conversations. She heard what she alleged was racist, unethical and possibly criminal activity on those tapes in conversations between high ranking police officials. She then made five copies and took then to the chief of police, at that time, Derek …Wilkins? Who was African American? He listened to some of the tapes then went to the mayor, told the mayor of the content. The mayor then demanded his resignation and accused him of ……
The community then rallied around Chief Wilkins, initially they rallied around Chief Wilkins, then as it began raining down on what the community that what Mr. Peyton was saying was on air racist, unethical and possibly criminal activity, then myself and Elvis got involved. At the same time my telephone started ringing from law enforcement officers that were both black and white who were concerned that the information on the tapes would be hidden, would not come to light and also the injustice of Chief Wilkins who, he was popular in the sense that has was fair for all the officers, so those things initially rallied people. It was a rare coalescent point in the community and some members of law enforcement and at the same time it was energizing the community and this community has never been energized before. Initially to make a demand for the mayor to play the tapes we formed a citizen’s organization. Initially it was called “Citizens United for Better Government”. We had a partnership with Raynbow Kush. Bishop Travis Grant was dispatched here by Reverend Jackson to assist us in the process of building community awareness that was a march against violence to address, at that time, a situation involving a young man by the name of that died at the police hands under mysterious circumstances. Ultimately, yes, the community woke up and realized that this was the time now to begin exposing the corruption that had oppressed the African American community in South Birmingham so many ways. This is a community that had suffered from not being cut into the pie for years, I mean, we would get the crumbs. Even those who were so called power brokers did not sit at the table they were, you know, they were around the table so that when the crumbs fell off they could probably get the job for themselves or their kids or something like that but really didn’t have, we had no black power allegiance out there because the black power allegiance has been compromised. Any time someone broke us up the use to buy them off or do something that would embarrass or create an illegality or incarceration. So the black people here were intimidated but the situation with the tapes it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So the organization that we formed is for a lot of reasons didn’t progress even though we realized that the issue we were addressing, the play the tapes, everybody wanted that; the leadership of the organization became fractured so what happened was we had formed another organization “The People United for Better Government” which is chaired by Pastor Coke, Pastor Taylor is on the Board of Directors. I am not on the Board of Directors; I am a spokesperson for the organization. But the mission is still the same. To take over where CUG which had ignited the public interest and imagination to show that we can organize and March. We can run a national organization like Randall Kush. We can make a coherent demand that is supported by the community. We didn’t want that to die Pastor Coke didn’t want that to die so he said okay let’s build this thing in a way that leadership is going to be solid. Let’s continue to take this issue with the tapes but let also look at other issues that are impacting this community like violence from every aspect the issue of justice. You know African Americans, people of color even white folks have found out recently that they’re not protected by the constitution.
No one is in this for a profit. We are interested solely in addressing the concerns of this community. So that’s what people ……..government. It’s a non-relo organization that includes a lot of other organizations… Its broad based. It’s not a civil rights organization. It’s a human rights organization and I think that’s where there is the difference. I think a lot of times folks you know white folks wants us to come in and talk about how they were called in working their jobs or something like that. This is a broader organization than that. We go to the underlying causes of correction in the community. So that’s basically the long and short of what we do and why we are here. It’s for we the people……… endeavoring to develop and create a more perfect …. That’s what this is, representative government of the people, by the people and for the people and not for one small group of people …there folks have been benefiting from this for a long time. Look, Croak University, University in Notre Dame. Seven billion dollars in …a very wealthy, prestigious, internationally known organization. You know they do great work, they do create work in our city. They really do. But you know, the people who they are kissed by, who they influence and send seats of governments don’t represent many times, the interest of the least of these and so that gets our attention because it gets God’s attention. He said when you have done it to the least of my brother you done to me. And when you fail to do it, that good thing which you could have done to the least of these you done it unto me. So that’s our motivation. We love this city. We are not …….. In the bare not city. I was born and raised here sixty-seven years. Love this city. Love it! But I love what it is called to be. I don’t know if I love what it does but I love what it’s called to be. It’s called to be a great city. …………… A city of diversity, we are thirty percent African-American, fifteen to twenty percent …Latino. So that’s a good mixed. We are supposed to show the nation how we all could get along. We can get along. When the pie is sliced up so that everybody gets a bite, everybody gets some of it.
And when righteousness is restored.
Exactly right! So this issue of the tapes and subsequent issues, as you just pointed out if this represents a culture of corruption it’s not just an isolated, single issue of corruption or the event was corrupt but it’s a culture and it operates in the darkness. The enemy of our soul always likes to use the principal power of darkness. He loves to traffic in darkness. So, our job is to bring light, to expose it. Write that down, put that out there, show them, probably do a press conference, talk to the press, reveal that. There is nothing that should not be revealed.
That is the word, that’s our job.
AMPS: I may have a quick question. When you were…first talking pastor you talked about what the name used to be, Citizens United for a Better Goal. What was the reason you all changed that?
That’s a big question. As many times what happens to good organizations, personality is involved unfortunately. And in this situation there was a personality who in his mind became larger than the organization. You know activists are a very religious kind of people. Activists tend to be very intelligent people because they realize something is wrong. You know some people just go around all there life hating and in pain, I have this pain. But activist will be like, what is this pain? Let me look into it. So the very intelligent, the very aware people and very freedom minded, because you know that’s what activist is, just don’t go around with how things are they question authority. You know the highest person in organization who became dictator. That’s really what it was. At first it was kind of lacerable because it was so… You have forty folks who would represent the broader spectrum of the community for an articulate, viral, intelligent, perceptive people and you had somebody telling them I help put them on the board I can take them off board. To persons it’s like a joke because you figure convincing somebody it would either begin or have somebody whisper in his ear. We tried hear the whispering and his calls became louder. To his mind we were trying to thwart his authority. It was clear that organization still exist as an organization that………that is a reality. So that’s what it was and there was no hard feeling. We reached out to that individual to ask him and no competing. We are not competing for position………It’s the cause. The cause is more important than any one of us individually. So that’s why we are back at the table…the cause still exist. People want to get involved they just do not have good history of activist consistently being involved in what goes on in our city. And that why each one of us has to take some responsibility for that. I see people still getting up. I think in our city people are starting to get saved. We want some of that. Great development is going on in our city. There really is a lot of positive stuff. A lot of positive things are going on in our city. The problem is it is not even handed so we look over here in certain areas of the city, certain neighborhoods, certain people, wow! They are flourishing. Then you go over there and it’s not the same way. You come in office and you say isn’t problem with homelessness, isn’t problem impoverish palsy, baking house with no problem with anything. No gang problem. You take a turn and go to …and it’s right there. It’s an … and they have city poverty they thought out and say ok let us reroute the traffic so that it doesn’t even have to go through those neighborhoods.
AMPS: Whenever they read this story how can someone get involved, start a chain or something? What do they need to do?
We would love people to be affiliates like NWAPC …..You know the membership would have to be vetted by this organization but what you can do is contact PUBG either through our P.O. Box or you can have them…. Our P.O. Box is: People United for Better Government, P.O. Box 1334 South Bend, Indiana 46624. They could call either myself 574-298-0110. They could call …..Who is the chairperson, his number is 574-514-1279. So that would be either by direct phone call or written communication. Of course on our Facebook page. Welcome all the chapters it doesn’t matter what state they are in if it’s the state of Indiana or wherever. We think this is the idea that the time has come to make… Many people are facing the same struggle, in a lot of cities.