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Rev. J.C. Superstar: the Rev. Damon Lynch

By Kathy Y. Wilson · August 27th, 2003 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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Before we revile or revere the Rev. Damon Lynch III, we must first reconcile his proximity to the Rev. Martin Luther King's stature, social consciousness and innuendo.

Lynch is one of 26 city council hopefuls vying for nine (but really one) open slot(s). He's always secretly imagined himself a surviving King protegee fashioned into a modern-day dreadlocked shepherd who counts among his flock a rag-tag group of single mothers, reformed brothers and otherwise wayward black teenagers all caught in a perpetual state of down the way-ness.

And, like King, Lynch has been pelted by whispers questioning his loyalties and fidelities. He's been blamed for and grilled over the sorry state of "the black community" and boycotts. There's even been a battle over the inclusion of gays and lesbians in Lynch's pen.

King encountered similar divisiveness when he separated from and then ultimately joined forces with Bayard Rustin, the openly gay civil rights advocate, pacifist and organizer responsible for putting together the historic 1963 March on Washington, which this week marks its 40th anniversary.

As we all know, King had a dream that starred, assassinated and excluded him in the end. There's a mirror ball in effect here.

It's a tricky spin when a preacher steps full frontal from the pulpit to the bullring, when he stops play-acting political heft and laces on the gloves for real knowing full well he's susceptible to all the (Uncle) tomfoolery of local politics. And here's where the story ends.

Of course Lynch ain't no MLK. King's namesake can't even lay claim to the best or worst of his father. That shadow's too long and is good for nothing other than shade.

King and Lynch intersect and diverge at their advocacy for the working poor wage slaves, the homeless and the otherwise economically disenfranchised. King, of course, never "officially" entered the political arena by running for office. Rather, his actions were politically charged by the race and class politics of the day.

King threatened white America when he started blathering on about class and economics. Likewise, Lynch threatened white Cincinnatians (and polarized many blacks) when his Cincinnati Black United Front morphed from a gaggle of black folks complaining about the colored-only service during the Jazz Festival to a viable force behind the all-out economic boycott.

I'm hopeful Lynch knows the waterlogged power of a city council seat as he campaigns to the legions that despise him and preaches to the throngs who worship him.

He should be better organized and more readily accessable than during past media-fueled gauntlets. I'm sure he's bracing for the character assassination being prepared in his honor at the (un)welcome table.

Take it from me: The mere smell of impending power is intoxicating. But it's a gimmick engineered to sidetrack.

And that is what's behind the preacher's run for council. Power.

If it's so, Lynch is in for a groggy awakening. There's little power in council chambers.

While a win might put him closer to phone numbers and deal-makers, I'm not convinced it's the best next step for his natural abilities. He walks among the people, elevating them beyond their circumstances.

He has this gift for making the ghetto appear as a wonderland of possibilities, not limitations. It's very Good Times of him.

Win or lose, Lynch's try for council begs the larger question: How will we recall him in, say, 40 years? As another failed transition? As another local yokel Negro who fell for the okey-doke, got the pie and forgot to slice some off? Or as a visionary leader taking no shorts?

The last time I tried counseling a local black politico, I nearly got burned. But it's always worth the try.

And maybe that is what's behind Lynch's run for council.



Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
 
 
 
 

 

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