Progressive and socialist candidates for Baltimore public office united at a Sept. 15 “meet and greet” session sponsored by the Baltimore Campaign for Peoples’ Power (BCPP). Speakers included Sharon Black, socialist candidate for president of the Baltimore City Council, who garnered over 8,000 petition signatures to get on the Nov. 8 ballot. Also speaking were Andre Powell, write-in socialist candidate for mayor, and Ian Schalkman, Green Party candidate for the City Council’s 12th District.
Unable to attend but expressing support for the other candidates were Nnamdi Scott, Ujima Peoples’ Progress Party candidate for the 7th District, and the Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, running for president of the Baltimore NAACP.
The outpouring of support for the candidates during the petition drive indicates how working-class and oppressed people are fed up with racism, police terror, unemployment and unlivable housing conditions. Sharon Black emphasized the importance of defeating Jack Young, current City Council president: “Young voted against the $15 minimum wage and says hard working Baltimoreans are worth only $11.50 an hour,” a raise not in effect until 2022.
Black stressed that Young supports the Port Covington development in the West End, which is “a bad deal for poor and working-class people, increasing segregation and fueling racism.” Black pointed out, “Young has virtually abandoned the Eastside community to the big developers and Johns Hopkins Hospital,” displacing communities of color.
Andre Powell spoke of the need for a socialist agenda and presented information about Workers World Party’s candidate for president, Monica Moorehead, and Lamont Lilly, the party’s candidate for vice president. Both Black and Powell are also members of WWP and have created the hashtag #Socialist4Baltimore to mobilize voter support.
Powell also discussed the Peoples’ Power program for Baltimore, which includes demands for a $15 minimum wage with no “phase in;” jobs, not jails; an end to police terror; housing fit for human beings; relevant education for all; heat, water and light as a right; good health for all people; a Baltimore free of all forms of racism and bigotry; reparations and taxing the rich, not the poor; and peoples’ power through peoples’ assemblies.
Rev. C.D. Witherspoon said that he stood in full solidarity with these demands, and as president of the Baltimore NAACP, he would work with the BCPP to promote and sustain these goals.
Ian Schlakman, adamant about solving Baltimore’s deplorable housing situation, pointed out: “The City Council is working on behalf of big business rather than ordinary renters and homeowners. What is needed is both rent control and making the big developers contribute to a city-administered fund to develop affordable housing.” Schlakman also demanded shelter for the more than 3,000 homeless people on Baltimore’s streets and full services for the disabled, veterans, seniors and families in crisis.
On his campaign webpage, Schlakman calls for funding community centers and building social bonds in neighborhoods; fighting for workers’ rights with a $15-an-hour minimum wage and “fair scheduling” legislation; supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the struggle against racism in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore; and more public support and funding for local LGBTQ community centers.
Nnamdi Scott is an organizer with the Ujima Peoples’ Progress Party, which has worked with both the Peoples’ Power Assembly and Workers World Party in fighting for social and economic justice and against police terror and racism. Maryland’s first Black, worker-led political party, the Ujima Peoples’ Progress Party has a program for African-American workers to free themselves from dependence on the Democratic Party and from the illusion that it represents social or economic justice or political enfranchisement for the masses of Black people.
In a Real News interview with Jared Ball, an African-American journalist, Scott commented on electoral politics and the role of the Ujima People’s Progress Party: “In practice, it is a mass-based, multiracial approach. Black workers got together and said, ‘We are tired of not being represented.’ So Black workers lead a worker-based electoral party. It does not have goals and objectives that deny that other workers will benefit from the kind of things that we move forward.”
Referring to the Democratic Party, Scott said, “We have two major parties in this country that agree on many of the assumptions about white supremacy, about capitalism and what people get the spoils of this economy. There are nuances between how [those two parties] want to achieve those goals.” (tinyurl.com/hl8cur2)