I am among the African American leaders who have broken with everyone else and are supporting Sheriff Al Cannon for reelection and Darryl Griffin for County Council District 6.
We support them because we believe in “community over party.” If that sounds familiar, it’s a play off the words used by U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham’s campaign as it communicates the idea that the Democratic Party doesn’t come before issues impacting the Lowcountry. We too believe that there are times when we as African Americans must choose policy over party.
The issues facing our community need real solutions, not political posturing and pandering. This local support doesn’t prevent me from supporting other Democrats locally or nationally, including Jaime Harrison for Senate and Joe Biden for president. I want to add my voice to the millions who reject the dangerous tone driving the divisiveness in American politics.
We support Sheriff Cannon and Mr. Griffin because of where they stand on the issues and what they have done in the past.
Al Cannon has shown the ability to listen to community issues and respond accordingly. Does he always say what we want to hear? No. Does he always agree with us on issues? No. What he does do is listen. It is because of this dialogue that he has made significant improvements in the Sheriff’s Office. The reforms resulting from this exchanging of ideas have been some of the most progressive criminal justice reforms in South Carolina, second only to the city of Columbia under the leadership of Mayor Steve Benjamin.
These policy reforms cover areas involving mental illness, reducing the burden of cash bail, and marijuana stops and arrests. I spent last year as the state director for Bernie Sanders, and in black and poor communities across the state, we heard the need for reform on those three issues.
In reforming the department policy on calls involving mental illness, the priority is to assist them in getting medical help, not jail time. In a partnership with MUSC, people receive the help they need. On cash bail, the sheriff has found ways to reduce jail time for offenders locked up for minor nonviolent offenses. His ticket-and-release policy on marijuana arrests also has reduced the inmate population.
The best way to tell what a politician will do is by what he has done, and that’s the case with political newcomer Darryl Griffin. Lester Young, president of Path 2 Redemption, said of Mr. Griffin that “many can talk about what they are going to do, but not many have a social example of the policy in action.” Mr. Griffin doesn’t only talk about giving ex- offenders a second chance, he has implemented it in his own company, Neal Brothers, through a program he started 15 years ago.
Some of his top managers have criminal backgrounds, and minority-owned and women-owned businesses are vendors to Neal Brothers. He wants to see the county’s black businesses develop and grow.
Mr. Griffin’s policy proposals address social and economic injustices. He believes criminal justice reform is sorely needed. He also supports “Banning The Box” on job applications, and supports the activities of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. As a businessman, Mr. Griffin understands the power of commerce in improving the quality of life for communities and families.
In referencing the $2.4 billion economic impact from African American tourism, Mr. Griffin states, “We have to recognize this potential at the local level, and as councilman I will lead the charge in raising equity locally. $100 million is just the start. We will use this fund to finance homeownership and business development for folks that have been shut out.”
I am backing these two because action speaks louder than words, and through their actions we see candidates that will listen and implement policies that speak to the needs and desires of their constituents. Both men have been the victim of baseless attacks calling them racists, and supporters of racist policies. However, the facts just don’t support these attacks.
I want to see a new day in national and local politics where we uplift one another, where we share and exchange ideas in respectful dialogue, and where we all share in Charleston’s opportunity. I want a new day where Democrats and Republicans can talk about what’s good for Charleston without tearing each other down. This is why I support these gentlemen, and why I think you should as well.
Kwadjo Campbell is a local businessman and former Charleston City Council member.
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