I am dismayed but not deterred following our setback in federal court last Monday. I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with the judge’s decision, and I plan to continue to seek justice through the court system until this matter with the governor is resolved. This is why:
I was born in Thomaston, a small town in Upson County, Georgia. The indignity of segregation and racism was the backdrop of my youth. I swore at that time that I would stand up for my rights no matter the cost. I have not swayed from this self commitment, and virtually all my adult life has been dedicated to service to my fellow man, with a special dedication to education.
I preface this to explain, again, why I am obligated to engage the governor in the court system. It is morally abhorrent to sit idly by and allow the usurping of the one man-one vote rights that have been bought and paid with the blood, sweat and tears of my generation. It is imperative that public servants preserve and protect the constitution and adhere to all laws, including the precept of a citizens’ right to choose their representative government. With the current assault of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and the perpetual gerrymandering to disenfranchise races of people, I am compelled to employ every means available to me to protect citizens’ rights. The governor is using SACS and the state Board of Education as a hammer and chisel to chip away at the progress we have made.
No one on the DeKalb County Board of Education, myself included, has committed a crime or misappropriated, misused or misspent funds entrusted to us. Quite the opposite: We have served with honesty and integrity. In fact, this board, under the severe stress caused by the downturn of the economy, has worked tirelessly to provide a quality education to our children with a minimum amount of adverse impact on the homeowners of this county. It has not been easy, and there has not always been a consensus. There is no crime in that, rather it is an inherent ingredient in the democratic process.
I don’t feel the governor is personally attacking me. This is not about Eugene Walker. When I step aside through my own actions or through the wisdom of the electorate, I believe I will ultimately be judged on my legacy as an educator, coach, administrator, state senator, state commissioner, pardon and parole board member, in addition to my role now as a school board member. I believe the greatest gift I can bequeath to the children of this school system at this time is a contemporary lesson on civics, civil liberties and standing up for what is right.
If this unconstitutional act is to stand, then what is next? It will only be a matter of time before another constitutional right will be taken away by another wayward and self-perpetuating politico under the guise of the greater good. Minorities should not feel secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can go to private agencies and result in their having civil rights stolen away. This cannot and shall not be allowed to stand.
Leadership calls for tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. Such it is with standing up to the power brokers who seek to systematically erode, divide and conquer the voting strength of partisan and racial minorities. If I lose, so be it. But I cannot and will not go down without a fight on the principles at stake here.