Nostalgia does not bother Maze Jackson. Like most people he knows, he cherishes the memory of Mayor Harold Washington.I was at Morehouse when on the first of two occasions I attended events attended by one Kasim Reed who is now Mayor of Atlanta. His advice to aspiring young politicians is to "start running now". Lay the groundwork for a political career now, especially if it means you may have to work with members of the old guard today.
But what does upset the 40-year-old political consultant and makes him fear for the future of black politics in Chicago is what he witnessed during the mayoral campaign: black leaders “stuck in the past.”
“I call them the ‘remember-when crew.’ ” Mr. Jackson said. “Remember when Harold said this? Remember when Harold did that? We need to honor and respect the accomplishments of our elders. But it’s time for them to step back and allow us to serve.”
Mr. Jackson, and his group, the Next Generation Leadership Council, are among many in the black community who are seeking new ways to find and train the political candidates, pollsters and campaign mangers of tomorrow.
The search for new blood and fresh ideas only became more intense after a contentious coalition of black elected officials, business leaders and ministers repeatedly evoked Mr. Washington’s name as they struggled to find a consensus black candidate for the Feb. 22 mayoral election. And the stark disappointment of Carol Moseley Braun, who failed to win more than 9 percent of the citywide vote, accentuated the need for new thinking.
“There’s been a lot of soul-searching going on since the election,” said Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.
The search for new talent is not confined to blacks. Miguel del Valle, the city clerk, who came in third in the mayoral election, is also trying to recruit and train the next generation of political leaders. He hopes to create a citywide, multiracial coalition to improve life in the neighborhoods beyond the gentrified areas of downtown and the North Side.
“Everybody is talking about this,” Mr. del Valle said. “But if we don’t do it right, we’ll end up with more of the same. It really has to be done at a community level. It’s not retired politicians who are going to make this happen.”
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