Race Memo Author Attacks APN’s Norwood Endorsement


(APN) ATLANTA — One of the two authors of the controversial Black Leadership Forum memo has sent an email attacking Atlanta Progressive News’s endorsement of Councilwoman Mary Norwood for Mayor of Atlanta.

In the email, Prof. Keith Jennings writes that APN’s reference to the memo in our endorsement of Norwood “is nothing more than a newer version of the old fashion arrogant custodial approach to ‘what good [sic] for Black people’ that left progressive whites have manifest in the past.”

However, Jennings goes on to apparently attack APN’s endorsement of Norwood in itself. “It is clear to me what type of ‘progressive politics’ you and Representative Long stand for,” Jennings wrote in the email to APN. State Rep. Ralph Long also endorsed Norwood.

Jennings then argues that APN is not able to understand the need for a “Black agenda.”

“Perhaps your interactions with real progressive African Americans in Atlanta could use some improving and maybe then you might be able to understand what we actually wrote and why a Black Agenda is important or even be in a position to discuss progressive whites and the contemporary electoral racism,” Jennings wrote.

As previously reported by APN, Jennings and another Clark Atlanta University Political Science professor prepared a memo on behalf of an informal group called the Black Leadership Forum, which suggested that Black voters should unite behind Lisa Borders to prevent a White person–Mary Norwood–from being elected Mayor.

In the endorsement, APN made the following reference to the BLF memo: “As far as Lisa Borders, we believe that working families of Atlanta are in deep trouble if she is elected. It is particularly ironic that the Black Leadership Forum’s memo would suggest that Black voters unite behind Borders to prevent Atlanta from electing the first White mayor in decades, when Borders seems the most likely to support positions harmful to Black residents.”

Prof. Jennings accused of APN of stating that the memo was an “endorsement” of Borders, when in fact APN said that the memo suggested that Black voters unite behind Borders to prevent a White person from being elected Mayor.

Indeed, the memo did suggest just that.

“A passionate argument has been made for us to develop a unity of purpose and position, and for that to be defined immediately, given the short amount of time remaining between now and November 2009 election day (two and 1/2 months from now),” the memo states.

“There is a chance for the first time in 25 years that African Americans could lose the Mayoral seat in Atlanta, Georgia, especially if there is a run-off,” the memo states.

“Time is of the essence because in order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her without a runoff, and the key is a significant Black turnout in the general election,” the memo states.

“The reasons support should be given to Lisa Borders is: 1) she is the best black candidate in the race who has a chance to win the election because she can attract downtown white support; and 2) based on polling data drawn from a host of sources between May 2009 and July 2009, the numbers suggest Borders is growing stronger as we move closer to the election, while the most recent polling data suggests that the other black candidates are falling further behind over the same period,” the memo states.


APN issued the following response to Prof. Jennings:

“We have not mis-characterized your BLF memo; quite the opposite–you mis-characterized our mayoral endorsement.”

“You wrote that we stated that your memo endorsed Borders. That is not true; so, read our endorsement again. You’ll find that we never stated your memo endorsed Borders. We did say that your memo suggested Black voters support Borders, and it did…”

“Now, you write in your email to me [APN’s News Editor] about how I should be able to understand the need to have a Black agenda–and I do! To be sure, I do not assume the ‘Black community’ in Atlanta to be monolithic, especially to the extent that there is class diversity among Blacks in Atlanta. However, to the extent that we’re talking about the disproportionate amount of Blacks in Atlanta who make up the working class, and who may face disparate treatment because of structural racism–yes, a Black agenda is more than appropriate; it’s imperative.”

“However, nowhere in your memo did you speak to the issues of concern to the Black community, particularly affordable housing, homelessness, public and subsidized housing, Grady, transportation, safety, preventing gentrification around the Beltline, having more grocery stores in SE ATL–anything! You thought it sufficed to assume that a White Mayor could not be good for Blacks, and then proceeded to justify supporting Borders because she was polling better than the other Black candidates. (And because she can attract the support of downtown Whites- how cynical!)”

“As far as whether APN needs to improve our relationship with Black progressives, I doubt it seriously. People on the front lines of activist struggles disproportionately affecting Blacks know that APN is typically the first, often the only, publication to put the least advantaged at the forefront of our editorial concern and coverage. That’s more than any other publication INCLUDING the so-called Black newspapers [aside from maybe the Atlanta Inquirer], which rolled over and played dead as AHA sought to bulldoze public housing in apparently an insidious move to push more Blacks out of Atlanta [the Atlanta Voice is run by a developer and AHA partner btw].”

“If you still believe Borders is the ‘best’ candidate, plz tell us why as it relates to substantive issues that matter, although I would ask you to address the serious concerns we have raised about Borders in our endorsement write-up. If you have concerns about Norwood, other than her skin color, I would love to hear about them- really. But we laid out quite transparently our reasons for supporting Norwood and I would like to hear if you have any refutation of those.”


So far, we have not received a reply to our response from Jennings’s original email.


APN has received several emails from readers, some positive and others critical of our endorsement of Norwood. At least two of these emails have been racially charged.

One email received from another reader stated: “this furthermore lets me know that this is a racist race for Mayor and you guys are apart of the problem… you can believe the black Community will not allow a white Mayor in this city maybe Buckhead but not in this town… you guys tried moving out everyone from the projects to ensure you would win with mary norwood… she has not a clue whats going so this is not riding and my group will pay you guys a personal visit and investigate your background and connections.”

APN also replied to this reader and noted that APN is not participating in a White conspiracy to tear down public housing and elect a White mayor. If anything, APN was the only publication to investigate and criticize the public housing demolitions in 2007 and 2008 with a series of about 60 articles.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

− seven = 1