DETROIT – While Hollywood prepared for the Academy Awards, the Call ˜Em Out coalition handed out Detroit's first Sambo Awards Feb. 26 during a packed beans-and-cornbread dinner at Mark Twain Hall on the city's west side. Award recipients were not in attendance.
Voters at the dinner gave Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick a hands-down first place as the "Sambo of the Year." The ballot, which listed 27 nominees, cited his stands on the school takeover vote, charter schools, Detroit's casinos, as well as his closure of the Belle Isle Zoo and his failed promise to WHPR's president, R.J. Watkins, to get his TV station aired on Comcast.
A quiz question on the "Sambo" ballot asked, "Which Sambo said to a councilwoman, ˜You worry too much about poor people?'" The answer was Kilpatrick. His trophy was a "Bamboozled" style statuette.
Councilwoman Kay Everett won second place and was awarded a shoe shine kit, while Michigan State Sen. Samuel "Buzz" Thomas carried third, receiving a watermelon. Though no one gave acceptance speeches, an anonymous gentleman accepted Everett's award on her behalf.
Former Mayor Dennis Archer won the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Archer said he wouldn't use his office to further the cause of Black people," Call ˜Em Out's co-chair, Agnes Hitchcock, said, "and he said he didn't want to make a rich Black man richer." The reference was to Archer's denial of a casino bid to Don Barden, a Detroit businessman.
Adolph Mongo, a political analyst and the event's featured speaker, said traitors to the people's causes throughout history have delayed progress.
"If Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser had been successful, slavery might have ended 50 years earlier," he said.
Citing the story of the 18 Black Buffalo soldiers who were hanged by President Theodore Roosevelt for fighting the Ku Klux Klan, he said, "If these Black soldiers had been allowed to defend themselves, Jim Crow laws might not have existed.'
Mongo said care must be taken to call out the true sell-outs, noting that some so-called "house negroes" during slavery times put crushed glass in the master's food, while shoe shiners and housekeepers were the eyes and ears of the Civil Rights movement.
Referring to the recent shooting deaths of two white police officers, Matthew Bowens and Jennifer Fettig, on Detroit's near west side, he remarked, "Every year, thousands in this city fall prey to gun violence. Who cries for the young Black men and women that die every day?"
The event, unlike the gala Hollywood ceremony, drew folks in what Hitchcock described as "struggle" garb.
That included Councilwoman Sharon McPhail, who had come from a round of visiting one-night shelters for the homeless, established in the city's churches under her initiative.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said the city council would introduce an ordinance similar to one passed in Chicago, requiring every city contractor to disclose any ties their company historically had with the slave trade.