July 11, 2010

If You Have to Call Al Sharpton for Help With Your Own Mayor, You Have No Power

Al Sharpton is in my town of Indianapolis.  He's here at the urgent behest of local ministers, some of whom pastor the largest black churches in Indianapolis, to help them pressure Mayor Ballard to meet with them regarding the police beat down of a teen during an arrest.

Sharpton is scheduled to make several appearances around town and give a speech this evening at 7:00 at Eastern Star Church.  I'm not sure I can conceive of a more visible display of political impotence and irrelevance  on the part of  these ministers.  If you have to call in an out of town race hustler like Al Sharpton in order to get the attention of the mayor of your own city, you are irrelevant. 

I don't understand the logic of the the Baptist Ministers Alliance, composed of some 50 odd pastors.  If Mayor Ballard is not interested in talking to you, ministers and voting citizens of his own city who also influence other members of the voting public, what makes you think some minister from out of town is going to make him behave any different? Its non strategic, nonsensical thinking.  When it does not work, then what are you going to do?

This is not the first time the Baptist Ministers Alliance has stepped forward publicly to pressure an administration.  They did it a couple of years ago during the Peterson administration, pushing for money for anti-crime initiatives.  What was lacking in that effort and is sorely lacking in this one is a continuing lack of strategic leadership on an issue.  This is all reaction that will not result in significant change and stands as an example of how faith leadership in Indianapolis fails to expand and develop the strategic value of their connection to thousands of people. Clearly Indy's faith leadership has influence and political clout and working together to leverage that clout is a viable stratagem. But where faith leadership consistently fails is in recognizing that their political leverage arises from the people they in theory represent. To truly wield this clout, they must be able to ORGANIZE  and move the people of their congregations to consistent, unified, strategic action. It is not a sufficient condition of change for faith leadership to make demands which cannot be backed up by significant consequences, political or otherwise.

When you call Al Sharpton in from out of town just to have a conversation with your own Mayor, you are missing the boat.