Children, not color, should be concern

Published 1:09 pm Saturday, June 6, 2015

A recent story in the New Journal and Guide, a historically black newspaper in Hampton Roads, should be required reading for anyone who has retained a sliver of interest in Franklin politics.

Not because it is well written, because it is not. Not because the reporter, Leonard E. Colvin, did much research or investigation, because clearly he did not. Although it is, at best, shoddy journalism, “Racial balance of power hinges on appointment; Leonard E. Colvin” unintentionally provides the most honest assessment of politics in Franklin that I have read in quite some time. And for that reason — and that reason alone — it is worth reading.

If you are not inclined to seek this story out, and I certainly cannot blame you if you aren’t, the main focus of Colvin’s story is the desire of Franklin’s black community to maintain control of the black majority on the city’s school board and whether the black majority on city council — and specifically Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn — will vote to reappoint black school board member Edna King, the board’s current chair. Colvin’s piece states that, “African-Americans control 4-3 both the city council and the school board. And despite criticism of the policies of the school board, the Black community wants to retain control of that panel.”

Yes, I realize the previous paragraph included the word “black” several times. But so does Colvin’s article, in which the word is always capitalized.

In fairness, Colvin does provide some racial balance by pointing out that King’s challenger Chuck Lilley is “A member of the white business leadership” that helped Johnson-Ashburn in her successful bid to become mayor, but wonders “Will Mayor Ashburn support Lilley over Edna King, and deliver control of the school board to the white community?”

Although for some reason, Colvin does not capitalize the word “white.”

Colvin goes on to brilliantly state the obvious when he writes; “They could retain King and hope that the current progress of the student performance and Black control of the panel continues.” Such political insight! Well done, Mr. Colvin!

Which begs the question; how does a second-rate “reporter” from Norfolk develop such an insider’s perspective on the workings of Franklin politics, especially when it comes to issues of race? Given the fact that the only person quoted in Colvin’s story is a second-rate “councilman,” one needs not wonder any longer. This is not the first time a Franklin resident has reached out to the New Journal and Guide and its intrepid reporter, Mr. Colvin, with the intent of stirring the racial pot. It has been done in the past by other race-baiters over issues of utility bills and the like. But to do so over the issue of public education and, by default, the future of our community’s children, crosses the line.

Make no mistake, there are absolutely those in this community who want Edna King reinstated only because she is black, and it didn’t take Colvin’s piece of hack journalism to make it known. To be fair, I’m sure there are some who want her removed from the board for the same reason. But anyone who has followed the saga of Franklin’s schools in recent years knows that Edna King needs to be ousted from the school board. Not because she is black, but because she has been awful.

Members of city council will decide on Monday whether Edna King will stay or go, and a ridiculously easy decision has been more difficult for some because the issue of race has been injected into the discussion. One of the few things Colvin accurately reported in his story was the fact that the mayor has received calls from people who are pressuring her to vote to retain King, suggesting that her funeral home business might not fare too well if she doesn’t. Those who have done so should be ashamed. I hope the mayor has the courage to do what is in the best interest of Franklin’s children in spite of racially motivated bully tactics.

I’ve already given Mr. Colvin and the New Journal and Guide far more exposure than either deserves. But Colvin isn’t really to blame for his story, because the only reason his racist garbage was printed is that the attitude he portrayed actually exists in Franklin. If it did not, perhaps the title of his article would have read, “Future of Franklin’s children hinges on appointment.” Instead, it contains a quote like this one from Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore: “I think it will be interesting to see if the three African-American women who sit on that council will stay loyal to an African-American who has been loyal to them who sits on the school board.”

It’s a shame that he, and others, are not more interested in who is or is not remaining loyal to the children of Franklin.

Tony Clark is the publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is