October 19, 2012
As First Vice President of the Ward Eight Democrats, I am vested with tremendous responsibilities that contribute to the success, efficiency and effectiveness of our organization. One of the most important tasks that the First Vice President is vested with is making sure that in the absence of our President, the operations of our organization move forward uninterrupted and without fault. While this duty is seldom called for, it is my responsibility to be prepared and willing to serve whenever necessary.
Recently, our President, Joyce Scott contacted the executive committee and expressed her intent to take a leave of absence from the Ward Eight Democrats and, in turn, a leave from her role as President of the organization. Her return to this role is expected in January. Until then, it is my responsibility, along with the able members of our executive committee, to take the reins of leadership and make sure that our organization moves forward. That, more than anything, is my intent as I serve as our Acting President for the next few months.
The next few weeks will be hectic for our organization. We have a tremendously important election on November 6 and numerous other goals to accomplish both before and after.
I am willing and capable to take on the responsibilities that leading our organization will require over the next weeks and months. The tasks won’t be small and the hurdles won’t be easy to climb, but I have faith that nothing is too hard for the capable leadership we have in the Ward Eight Democrats. This shift in leadership was not expected, but my election is hopefully a sign that you have the utmost confidence in me to fulfill the task that I was elected to fulfill. With no time to waste, my work has already begun. However, no one can do this work alone. No matter what innate capability someone has to lead, nothing can be done without the confidence and support of those that they serve.
This open letter is a request: I am asking for your support and your confidence. There is no way that what we need to get accomplished can be without you and that is why I need you to be as involved, as passionate, as empowered, as willing and as critical as ever before. There are committees to be staffed, meetings to be attended, polls to be worked, calls to be made and friends and neighbors to be brought. That’s the only way we can be successful.
I have always thought of this Ward 8 community as an extended family; Folks who are willing to support and guide you when things are good and when times get tough. I have that undeniable faith in you and I know that you will be there for me as much as I am for you as we continue the good work of organization over the next weeks and months.
First Vice President, Ward Eight Democrats
Just minutes after Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry was elected to a third consecutive 4-year term on Tuesday night, he exhibited once again the outdated and downright egregious ideology that is holding Ward 8 back.
Instead of focusing strictly on education, economic development, employment, ethics or mending the relationships with his colleagues that are essential to productive government, the newly-elected “Mayor for Life” decided to go in another direction: “these Asians” and their “dirty shops” that “exploit” the community (“Exploit” is the wrong word, since I have personally received a 1,000 dollar scholarship from the Korean-American Grocers Association, who give back to the community) .
The eyes of the country turned to DC and its rabble rousing political stalwart once again and the eyes of DC turned to Ward 8 and its leaders as the root of our eternal embarrassment. The off-the-cuff and “off-the-hook” comments not only were published in The Washington Post and The Washington Examiner the next day, but made it to the online pages of CNN, Fox News, The Atlantic, Politico, Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun Times and numerous other national news sources.
It’s a tremendously sad thing to see our Ward and its leadership so deeply entrenched in racial prejudices that not only hold this city back, but the entire country. In community meetings and political gatherings around the Ward, the conversation is too often injected with the sentiment of keeping the growing White population at bay, out of their neighborhoods and out of top political leadership in the city. This attitude, therefore, transfers to the folks that elect them and has, and will continue to, foster a generational hatred and fear of diversity and interracial collaboration in the city.
When our Councilmember goes on stage on election night, to community meetings or sits on the dais of the City Council and again and again re-affirms his suspicion and (seemingly) dislike for new residents, White contractors or, more recently, “these Asians”, the relationships that our Ward could benefit from are severed. Ward 8 residents (or at least 3/4 of them) re-elected Marion Barry because he is an experienced, no-nonsense fighter for the people. However, while he “says what he means and means what he says”, he is single-handedly cutting off our Ward from the rest of the city.
Not only do these attitudes of hatred have negative impacts on our Ward 8 community but, nationally, fosters a negative image for the city as a whole. As someone who works for Statehood and full democracy for District residents, I know that the man himself has become the personification of the reason against Statehood.
“Why would we give DC Statehood when you can’t even get rid of Marion Barry?”, I hear people say. “Why should I support DC Statehood? So y’all can have a Senator Barry?”. This is not just because of his bout of ill-advised antics during his tenure as Mayor, but also because of what he says today; Tuesday is no exception.
I understand we must be committed to maintaining the community, making opportunity for the people who live here, preserving its culture and protecting its people. However, we have to simultaneously be open to working with different groups of people to achieve a common goal — prosperity. This is not just a lesson Marion Barry needs to learn, but our other community and elected leaders should as well. We shouldn’t encourage prejudice and hatred by electing leaders her personify and condone it.
We are coming up on a new era in our city where, if we want to succeed, collaboration and co-existence are necessary. The economic gap between races won’t disappear by spewing forth outdated rhetoric. Black-owned businesses won’t be the driving force on Martin Luther King Avenue by strong-arming White and Asian vendors out. There is so much more opportunity left to create in Ward 8. If our Councilmember focused more on creating new opportunity instead of struggling for the little bit that is already here, then we would have a Ward (and a leader) we could be proud of.
By Markus Batchelor (@MarkusBatchelor)
This afternoon, registered Democrats from across Ward 8 will gather in the Old Congress Heights School at noon to endorse a candidate seeking to be the next member of the City Council representing our ward.
The candidates for the Ward 8 Council seat have their own unique personalities, goals, reputations and entertaining quirks that they bring to the race. With the election a little over two weeks away and Democrats all over the ward gathering to endorse a candidate today, I wanted to throw together an analysis of the candidates, their quests, qualifications and quirks.
Jacque D. Patterson (@Jacque4DC)
Qualifications: Jacque Patterson is the ideal candidate for public office. He is a family man, has served in the military, is educated, a 4-term ANC Commissioner, former president of the ward’s top political organization and is a long-time community organizer. He worked in numerous capacities in the Office of the Mayor during the Williams Administration in the Office of Tax and Revenue, Department of Health and as Community Affairs Coordinator. He got his certification as a Certified Public Manager from George Washington University and attended the program for Sr. Executives in State & Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He worked his way through the ranks of party politics, eventually serving as President of the Ward 8 Democrats. He has also been on boards and commissions dealing with education, housing and other issues pertinent to improving the livelihood of residents in Ward 8. Along with his deep involvement in community and service-oriented organizations, Jacque is a well-rounded candidate, with diverse expertise and the experience to be the next Ward 8 Councilman.
Quirks: Rightfully so, Jacque touts his extensive list of achievements, his long history of community involvement and extensive education as reasons that electing him would be best for the Ward. However, it’s hard to convince a lot of residents that Jacque is “of Ward 8″ and not just “in Ward 8″. Jacque has reached across the river for his core campaign staff who have created their own sets of rivalries and caused their own controversy with ward natives. While Jacque has the resume to be Councilman, many have raised issue with pinpointing whether he is sincere or not in his rhetoric and whether he will be able to connect with the vast cross-section of Ward 8 residents that he will have to serve as councilman. Lastly, Jacque has to scramble in the last few weeks to build a solid organization that is going to spread his message and get out the vote. I have seen no signs for Jacque’s campaign two weeks before the election and at political events, his team and support base seems scarce. Connecting with Ward 8 residents is hard; the Jacque Patterson for Ward 8 Campaign has an uphill battle in the days before April 3.
Sandra “S.S.” Seegars (@TeamSeegars)
Qualifications: Sandra Seegars not only has an impressive professional and political resume, but is overwhelmingly passionate about public service and the people of Ward 8. She is a graduate of Ballou High School and graduate of Howard University as a paralegal, also having experience in the financial sector. S.S. is an iron-fisted chairwoman of ANC 8E whose reputation is clear: “what S.S. wants, S.S. gets”. Sandra Seegars is a fighter for the people. It is clear from her platform and from her rhetoric in debate that S.S. is most concerned about constituent services and making sure that people get what they need on the most local level. Her deep passion and concern forces her to be boisterous, straight forward and, at times, controversial. Despite it, people respect her because she is not just an unnecessary member of the group of complainers, but a results-oriented member of the community. The type of passion for people and determination that S.S. has is the same type that Ward 8 needs.
Quirks: The same type of boisterous passion that S.S. has and Ward 8 needs is the same type of boisterous passion that can be detrimental down at the Wilson building. We have a somewhat fiery, loose-lipped councilman already and while the fire may be well-intentioned, it destroys relationships with colleagues, stalls progress and creates a mixed reputation for the ward. There is a certain level of composure and decorum needed in 21st century politics, especially in our already divided city legislature, and our council member needs to lead the charge for civility and cooperation. Sandra Seegars has no problem telling you what’s on her mind and fighting on behalf of what her constituency wants, but sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it that determines whether progress is made.
Darrell Danny Gaston (@DarrellGastonDC)
Qualifications: ANC 8B Chair Darrell Gaston is the man with the plan. As the youngest candidate in the race at 25, Gaston is the candidate that you can automatically tell has done his homework. Darrell is the only candidate with comprehensive plans to get Ward 8 residents back to work, improve education and bring business east of the river. Darrell touts his record as chair of ANC 8B, where he tackled the most pressing needs of some of the ward’s most high-risk and needy communities. He says he worked to lower homicides, improve infrastructure and revive community amenities such as recreation centers and local shopping and says that he wants to replicate his work on the ANC across the ward. Darrell’s “born-and-raised” story of his Ward 8 upbringing speaks to the most downtrodden of Ward 8 residents and his life-long residency has allowed him to make connections and create personal relationships with many residents. At such a young age, Darrell is a quick study; he knows his stuff.
Quirks: Darrell has a mixed reputation across the ward as a hardworking young leader, but a figure prone to conflict and controversy. Though Darrell Gaston has the potential to be a leading political figure in the next generation of District leadership, there are flaws in temperament that have to be groomed before Darrell can be a fully effective leader in city government. Unlike some politicos around the city, Gaston has the time and energy to continue to be effective in whatever venture he engages in. In order to be successful electorally, Darrell will also have to continue to expand his base of support.
Natalie Williams (@DCCouncil8)
Qualifications: “New kid on the block”, Natalie Williams, is a visionary woman who is looking to bring a new brand of leadership to Ward 8. Branding is not new to Williams, who is a self-employed CEO of her own PR firm and former press secretary for one of her current opponents, Councilman Marion Barry. A well educated woman, she is a graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts in Ward 2 and Virginia State University, where she graduated Magnum Cum Laude. As an advocate for empowering women, she was a leading member of the “State of Black Women” team along with now-First Lady, Michelle Obama. Her advocacy for women hasn’t stopped during her campaign; as a dedicated single mother of a 10-year-old daughter, she established “Single Mothers for Natalie Williams” to garner the support of like-minded and hard-working women in the ward. Williams wants to reshape the image of Ward 8’s council member, engaging and rebuilding relationships with the community and District agencies in order to attain better services for Ward 8 residents.
Quirks: Despite the all-too-familiar argument that Natalie Williams is too new to effectively serve the ward (she wasn’t registered to vote in Ward 8 until July of last year), she has a long way to go in order to effectively engage the residents of the ward, gain their trust and their respect. Though she has made a valiant effort to become active in the community since moving to the Ward, including a run for President of the Ward 8 Democrats back in September, her knowledge of community issues is surface level and in debate is overshadowed by her opponents much more familiar with the community and the people. While her vision for re-branding leadership in Ward 8 is important and should be done in the next term, she may not be the right person to make it happen.
Marion S. Barry Jr. (@MarionBarryJr)
Qualifications: Incumbent Marion Barry has a record of service that speaks for itself. He came to prominence in the city as civil rights leader, became Mayor, left office in controversy and arrest and, in a show of political resilience, returned successfully to city politics. His 40 years of public service have given him a understanding and expertise in city politics that is unmatched by any of his Council colleagues or opponents and is a benefit to Ward 8 residents who need a leader who can break through the bureaucracy of city government and produce results. His record of public service and of lifting up residents in Ward 8 and around the city is unarguably solid. Marion is what he says he is: a courageous fighter for the people and Ward 8 needs a leader with his passion, knowledge, tenacity and personal connection with residents.
Quirks: Marion Barry rose to prominence in the heat of the civil rights movement and the vastly changing era in District history. Again, Marion Barry is currently presiding over a Ward that is vastly changing demographically, economically and culturally. The question has to be raised whether Barry is the right person to lead the ward into this new era. While his success as a leader is undeniable over the past four decades, at 76, it is time for the Barry era to give way to new, energetic, progressive leadership that will take Ward 8 in a new direction. The condition of Ward 8, while improving marginally year after year, still has a long way to go. Ward 8 must change the mindset of its people and improve its reputation across the city. New leadership who shares Barry’s passion for people, but is more capable of embracing the changes in politics and in the community, is needed if Ward 8 is to move forward.
Last week, City Council Chairman Kwame Brown (@KwameBrownDC) introduced legislation that would make it a requirement that students in District of Columbia Public Schools and DC Public Charter Schools take either the SAT or ACT exams and apply to at least one college/university or trade school before graduation day.
The 3-page College Preparation Plan Act of 2012 (read the legislation) is a very open piece of legislation that requires:
-The Mayor to create a plan that ensures that every student in a public high school applies to at least one post-secondary institution before graduation day
-The creation of a mandatory workshop that will provide critical information to students and parents on how to apply to these institutions, on what institutions may be best for their student and courses that help “streamline transition” to these institutions.
-OSSE (Office of the State Superintendent of Education) to collect data and report how many students go on to post-secondary education and what type.
-Each student take either the SAT or ACT before graduation.
Since the Chairman announced the idea in a council legislative preview a week ago, mixed reviews have surfaced, with many raising concerns about the fiscal impact on students and parents and the need to force the option of post-secondary education on students who may not want it.
I came out very early in support of the proposed legislation because as a graduate of a high school that emphasized the importance of post-secondary education and where taking the SAT or ACT and applying to at least one college was a graduation requirement, I know that these tactics can and do work for students.
Here are the facts: for every student, college or a post-secondary education is not their dream. However, in our country, a post-secondary education (whether it be collegiate or trade) is necessary for most employment opportunities. Some students are not motivated to pursue a post-secondary education. However, from experience, students who sit in a classroom where the focus is education that leads to college, students are inspired to pursue that track.
Some people ask “what’s the point?” if the system is under-performing and doesn’t prepare our students for a post-secondary education anyway. The truth is the system is under-performing and it needs to do a better job at preparing students for higher education. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare our students for the inevitable.
The “College: Optional” society that we lived in 10, maybe even 5, years ago is no more. Education above the high school level is becoming more and more necessary every day and I think it’s time that we begin making our students aware of this very important fact. Whether it be in law or de facto, application to a post-secondary institution needs to be a requirement in the classroom just as it is in the field of work.
Fiscally, these requirements are possible. For low-income students, there are already resources that cut the cost marginally, if not completely, for both test-taking and applying to college. For example, in 2010, I applied to 12 colleges and universities, where application costs ranged from 40 to 80 dollars each. Out of the 12 institutions, I only paid for one application fee, because waivers were provided by all other institutions. I also took the SAT reasoning test twice, the ACT once and 2 SAT subject tests. With waivers, I paid for none. If there are costs to any of this, however, the city should be willing and able to foot the bill and taxpayers should be willing to make the investment in our city’s future.
The legislative process of debating and voting on this bill is still in its early stages, but it will be interesting to hear the discussion about the future of education in the District of Columbia.
By Markus Batchelor (@MarkusBatchelor)
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 Mason Hall (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.
I am very excited and honored to be featured alongside other young public servants in today’s Washington Informer that bears the headline:
“Young Leaders in Ward 8 Seek Political Power: Goal is to Help Ward Prosper”
Young adults between the ages of 18-35 in the District’s most economically challenged ward are actively pursuing political careers in order to improve the lives of their neighbors.
Ward 8, located exclusively in Southeast Washington, in recent years has produced young political activists and officeholders, all Democrats, who want to change the perception that many in the city have about their community.
Markus Batchelor, 18, a former youth mayor of the District, was elected first vice-president of the Ward 8 Democrats in September. Batchelor, who is a graduate of the highly respected Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School in the ward, said he attended that school because of its emphasis on public policy and politics and it was close to home.
Batchelor is a freshman at George Washington University in Northwest and president of the D.C. Statehood Students Association, of which Bennett-Fleming is the executive director. The organization aims to get more students and young adults in the fight for the District to become the 51st state.
Batchelor said his mentors in politics include Pannell and Bennett-Fleming.
By Markus Batchelor
Many of us active on the internet in the community have bore witness to the constant back-and-forth between community activists and political candidates on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
Tools that were created for the purpose of connecting different types of people and spurring positive and productive conversation have caused more controversy in the community over the past few months than anything else.
Since the rancorous fight over the Presidency of the Ward 8 Democrats in September and furthermore since the starting gun fired on the 2012 City Council Elections, these social media platforms have been the stage for the most embarrassing and cutthroat showdowns between community leaders and citizens alike.
Though this subject really needs no evaluation or any more attention brought to it since it is playing itself out right now as you are reading this, I thought we should bring light to the stupidity of it all and call for a course of action to end it. I never thought I would see the day where middle-aged people are fighting virtual wars with other middle-aged people over platforms that were designed to be used by teenagers.
There is nothing wrong with healthy debate and bringing new issues to the table. However, what we are seeing on these social media sites now is the slow unraveling of the little unity the community has and the unquestionable embarrassment of our ward and all who are trying to do positive in it.
The problem is that so many people in this community are too interested in letting their opinions be heard about even the smallest topics that any means will be taken to get that attention. And unfortunately, the most boisterous, disruptive and attention-chasing members of the community are now discovering these tools that a year ago were just “for the children”.
Though we don’t want to shun people from the process or exclude them from having their voices heard, there is an inherent and immediate need to shift the conversation from conflict to resolution of the issues that our community has. We tend to get so sucked in to the conflict that even the most upstanding of us in the community are distracted, pulled into the gossip and taken away from the most important of the issues at hand.
Resolution? Conflict is inherent, but doesn’t need a permanent platform: Keep your conflicts off of social media! No one cares about them but you, and splashing them on Facebook or Twitter won’t make anyone else care any more. For those on the outside of the conflict, let’s stick to the productive conversation that is going to do good for the people of our community and that is going to spark positive change.
Let’s not continue to be #NitTwits
I wanted to announce that I have a new Facebook fan page in order for you to follow the blog, my opinions on the pressing issues of the day and keep up with the ventures I am taking!
for the new Facebook page!
Thank you for following!
As of today, there are 7 declared candidates for the April 3rd Democratic Primary for Ward 8 Member on the DC City Council: Darrell Gaston, Gary Feenster, Jacque Patterson, Angela Narain, Sandra Seegars, Jahaur Abraham, Natalie Williams and incumbent Marion S. Barry.
Six challengers that range from community activists, ANC Commissioners, old residents, new residents and everything in between have decided to wage a campaign against the 2-terms incumbent and former Mayor. They may all have different ideologies on some community issues, slightly different visions for the ward and differences in persona and demeanor, but deep down inside they all have one goal: defeat the un-defeatable Marion Barry.
In the 2008 Democratic Primary, the incumbent Barry garnered 74% of the vote, leaving his 4 other primary challengers to divvy up the remainder. In his first election to the Council in 2004, close to half of a decade after his controversial tenure as Mayor, he garnered 58% of the vote, with his closest competitor (out of 6 candidates) getting 24% (she, by the way, was the incumbent). The self-proclaimed Mayor-for-life feels very confident that he is on his way to a very smooth and resounding electoral victory in April and, if trends hold, his numerous challengers will get the short end of the stick.
It is impossible to fathom how all of the challengers believe they can win electorally against a relatively popular incumbent while fighting in a pigeon coop of five other challengers (while the list is still destined to grow). It is apparent, even in the first weeks of what will shape up to be a very long race, that Barry’s challengers are spending more time fighting each other than focusing on the issues and laying out the assets that the incumbent doesn’t have.
There are three voter bases in Ward 8: those who are with Barry, those against Barry and those in the middle ground. It is hard to tell whether or not this “against Barry” voter base plus this middle ground group is in the majority, but even if they are, the 6 challengers will dice up this group so badly that even if Barry loses the majority in this next election, he will still win the plurality and win a third term the same way he did two times before. Even worse, the infighting between these 6 challengers (which will be unavoidable) will dissuade the “middle ground” group from voting for the challengers or participating at all, a worse outcome for the challengers.
No matter what any challenger says, it is near impossible to win with such a crowded field.
I mentioned this train wreck in one of my previous posts, but I thought it should be expanded on and highlighted. These candidates say they are running because they want what is best for the ward. However, collectively, if they believe that Marion Barry is what is worst for the ward, they are doing the ward a disservice by inherently ensuring Barry another term as council member.
I have already talked to numerous candidates and proposed the idea of holding a Ward 8 Challengers Summit soon after the petitioning period has ended. This summit would be designed to get all the candidates together, talk about their qualifications for the office, their vision for the ward and their general electability and in the end, the challengers would choose to support one, strong primary candidate to challenge the incumbent in the general election.
If we want to bring real change to Ward 8, candidates running for public office have to look beyond themselves, their egos and their ambitions and support one another and work together to bring about this change. All the candidates running have special assets and talents, but they cannot all be council member. They have to garner their collective talents, support the most desirable candidate and strive for positive change in Ward 8.
I will publish more news about the challengers meeting soon.
I encourage everyone to watch the following video and provide any information that you can regarding getting this new Ward 8 resident his property or his dog back.
I met Brian Kendrick-Brown on the day of the Ward 8 Democrats Biennial Convention back in September when I was campaigning for First Vice President along with the Ward 8 Action Slate.
As a new resident, he was very interested in the organization and what each slate would do in order to make residents, especially those fresh to the Ward, become more included and involved with community and political matters. I had a long and detailed conversation with Mr. Brown and after I got his vote, and hopefully his confidence in the leadership our slate was hoping to bring, I hoped that this would be the perfect introduction to his citizenship in the ward.
Yesterday, I got a call from Mr. Brown telling me about a robbery that happened at his house, something that no resident, new or long-term, should have to experience.
That is why I am posting this video to garner awareness of this event, receive any information you might find pertinent and to exhibit something that shouldn’t happen in our ward.