Area residents gathered at Warren A.M.E. Church to participate in a Town Hall organized by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, Senator Edna Brown and Rep. Michael Ashford were the hosts of the Toledo event, a similar event was held earlier on May 14 in Cleveland. Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor, one of the “Wisconsin 14″ was the featured speaker, but there were a number of speeches given by local elected officials and union leaders, including U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.
More than 100 residents were present for the two and a half hour long gathering that focused on the efforts to repeal Senate Bill 5.
“The Legislative Black Caucus will be holding town halls all across the state for community discussion to create an action plan not only on Senate Bill 5 but voter education on voter ID,” Brown said.
“We started our fight for rights in church years ago and we are back in church today,” Ashford said. The growing disparities in our community are a concern he said. “Our new governor, Gov. Kasich has an agenda — an attack on the working class,” Ashford said.
The location of the town hall being a church was part of the message delivered by several of the speakers, during the invocation by Rev. Cedric Brock of Mt. Nebo Church and the closing by Rev. Chester Ricks of Phillips Temple C.M.E. Church. Churches as a staging ground for community action was also referenced by several of the members of the Black Caucus.
“Today more than ever we need our pastors,” Ashford said. Schylar Meadows, radio host of JUICE Talk WJUC-FM was the town hall moderator. She had the audience on it’s feet at several points during the town hall, leading them in a responsorial chant to her saying, “Call to action” with the audience response of “revival for our rights.”
George Tucker, executive secretary of the greater northwest Ohio AFL-CIO said when Gov. Kasich relayed a story about a waitress at Bob Evans and how she should not have to pay taxes related to health care, he didn’t say we had to bring her up, he said we have to bring everyone down.
“On Mayor Bell, I’m a longtime friend of his father but he got elected and forgot where he came from,” Tucker said. “He became fire chief because of the unions.”
Tucker said what Dr. Lloyd Jacobs had done at the University of Toledo in eliminating food service worker positions was “terrible” and that their loss of wages, pension and other benefits was, “a total shame.” Tucker received a standing ovation as he closed with “Stand up for the working people.”
“The Ohio Republican Legislators ought to be more focused more on creating jobs than scapegoating some working Ohioans,” said Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers. Lawrence cited a quote from Rev. Al Sharpton when he was in Toledo at Pinewood Tabernacle Church that collective bargaining is a civil rights issue. “We are in this struggle together,” Lawrence said.
When the Ohio House passed House Bill 159, Ashford said it was, “the most discriminatory bill in Ohio history.” He said it was done to try to prevent another large Democratic vote turnout in the next presidential election. The importance of absentee voting was one way to ensure those who are registered are able to vote he said.
Kaptur said she was present to be supportive of area legislators Brown, Ashford and Sen. Teresa Fedor. Kaptur spoke about the power struggle that is happening in our country. “When you look at what has happened, big money is in our face all the time,” she said.
“The power of ordinary people is being tested,” Kaptur said. The solution she felt was for residents to bring back control of money locally whenever possible. The buying power when it comes to food, mortgages, student loans and energy were referenced.
“Ninety-eight percent of what we eat is not from Ohio,” Kaptur said. Toledo GROWs Oneida Street Garden was mentioned by Kaptur as a successful effort she would like to see repeated in other parts of our area. She also said giving the smaller farmer markets the ability to use the SNAP coupon redemption and food stamp cards would help not only the local markets but would give area residents access to locally grown foods.
“Think about who makes the money,” Kaptur said. “Six banks now control two-thirds of the banking industry in our country, find a way to talk to a credit union, a locally owned bank, bring your money home.”
Kaptur said when it comes to energy there could be ways in the future where solar power being generated at places like UT’s Scott Park could benefit the area. She referenced the 180th Fight Wing (FW), Ohio Air National Guard’s solar field and said it generates between 40 to 60 percent of their energy needs.
“What happens in Columbus impacts everyone in Ohio,” said Ohio Senator Charleta Tavares. She talked about some of the impending cuts to services and referenced a quote from the Bible that was later repeated by several of the speakers. “The Bible says to care for the least of these,” Tavares said.
Ohio Republicans are cutting funding to federally qualified medical centers which will impact the access to care for those who do not have insurance, despite President Obama trying to increase access to health care said Tavares.
“We are living in a time of consequence,” Senator Nina Turner said. She referenced a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Repeating the statement, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” Turner listed several areas Republicans were not being truthful. Public sector employees earning too much was said to not be true, that state workers had given more than $250 million in concessions. She said the question should not be why are public sector employees are treated better but why are private sector employees treated worse.
“If you are not wealthy, they are coming for you,” Turner said. “We are going to win this repeal of SB 5,” was said to a standing ovation from the audience.
Rep. Sandra Williams, the leader of the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus introduced Senator Lena Taylor. “This is a scheme to take our workers’ rights away from us — we will go back 60 years — Dr. King would roll over in his grave if he saw what was happening,” Williams said.
“Bzzzzzzz — This is your wake up call,” Taylor said. She described her life as a child and how her father being a union member had enabled her to live on the “other side of the tracks.” When it came to the decision before the Wisconsin Democrats, Taylor said, “I had to decide whether I was going to sit down, there was no way I could sit down and behave. They say well behaved women rarely make history.”
Taylor said Wisconsin’s Act 10 and Senate Bill 5 in Ohio were similar, though in Wisconsin police and firemen were not included, which made SB 5 worse. “People of Wisconsin stood up and made a movement, You Ohio need to stand up,” Taylor said. She referenced six of the Wisconsin senators were facing a recall.
“Change only happens from power to the people,” Taylor said. She then led the audience in a responsorial chant where she said, “Power” and the audience responded, “to the people.”
“This is our moment, our wake up call, we can’t let it pass us by. Someone did not vote and it counted our governors in,” Taylor said. She referenced a quote from Jesse Jackson where he said that in the deep water of the pools of life people don’t drown because the water is deep, they drown because they stop kicking.
She stressed the importance of voting, “I feel like Paul Revere, the Republicans are coming. This is about democracy, about a guy who had the audacity of hope.” She ended her statement, raising her fist in the air, “Solidarity.”
Ricks in making the closing statements and benediction, referenced some churches that don’t want to get involved. “They say we don’t have a dog in this fight. We got a dog, cat, and any other animal you want in this fight,” he said. “The church has got to stand up.”