By Hollis Wormsby, Jr.
One of the ugly realities that came out of the North Birmingham Corruption Trial is that there are organizations that spend a tremendous amount of money pushing for very specific agendas. The trial revealed that Alabama’s largest corporations essentially created a dark agency to funnel money through for the purpose of buying and controlling the political system in Alabama. One of the early casualties of these dark money groups and intentionally one of their earliest targets, was the Alabama Education Association. Dark money groups funded by our corporate elite funneled countless dollars into a campaign to make it illegal for union dues to be collected out of teacher’s paychecks. The bill was more inclusive than just teachers, but teachers and the Alabama Education Association (AEA) were the targets. For years with the support of AEA in particular, the Democrats held a voting majority that made them a singular power in the State Legislature. The AEA was a voice for teachers, but they were also a political voice for all without power and privilege in the state. GOP leaders knew that if they cut off AEA’s primary funding source, they would also cut off a large source of funding for the Democratic Machine they wanted to dethrone. They were successful. The AEA is a fraction of what it once was, and has also had to pledge not to be involved in any political activity. So, the only voice for the poor, black or white in this state was effectively silenced. Not surprisingly the onslaught of the Republican supermajority in the State Legislature began shortly after that.
At the national level you have organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) that raise money from individual donations from citizens that want a certain viewpoint espoused. This organization is a good one for the black community to look at, because its primary source of funding is not a few corporations with deep pockets, its primary funding comes from the millions of people who pay dues to the organization to primarily lobby for their gun rights, but in the process for every element of the conservative agenda. I don’t agree with their agenda, but they are a role model for the kind of organization we need in the black community.
I think that if we are to become more effective at getting our agenda recognized, and efforts initiated to get it implemented, we must first find a way to fund an organization or organizations to support our cause. Right now, churches, sororities and fraternities are about the only organizations we support as a community. We need more. We need nationally an organization like the NRA that is focused on the needs of the black community, and at the state level we need another organization like the AEA. The AEA was successful because all teachers essentially had to pay dues to it. We will have to create an organization that people will voluntarily pay dues to.
One of the challenges we will face if we choose to pursue this vision, is who or what kind of organization would people follow. Unfortunately, we have also become a very fragmented community. We are separated by income, by age and by social status. The older generation cannot fully embrace the extremes of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and many of the younger generation view the apprehensiveness of the older generation as just another sign of the need for a generational change in leadership. Somehow, someone has to emerge who can engage and inspire a wide swarth of our community. And once we find this leader we must find a way to get past our divisions and find common ground that we can all agree to struggle for.
Or at least that’s the way I see it.
Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 29 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can email him at email@example.com.