16 October 2014

How ironic is it that on the ten-year anniversary (Tuesday Feb 4th, 2003) of when Bill Moss banged his shoe at a Columbus School Board meeting to bring attention to the rampant deception and corruption taking place within the district, a Columbus City Schools official responsible for the recent data rigging scandal announces his resignation.

But to those of us who listened intently to what Moss, Bob Fitrakis, Jerry Doyle, Ivy Featherstone, Jim Whitaker and Bernadine Kennedy Kent were telling us, this is nothing new. Unlike the mainstream who sought to villify and castigate them for speaking up and out, we didn't.

Part of the reason Moss banged his shoe was because no one seemed to care about the corruption. And no one seemed to listen when he would explain in depth with documented facts and personal insight what was happening and what was on the horizon (see The FREE PRESS article from 3/'03 "Why Moss Banged His Shoe." by Bob Fitrakis). Recall that this was just a few months after the citizens of Columbus approved a bond/tax levy to improve and/or build new schools despite Moss' warning of what would come of it if we allowed it to pass.

Gene Harris and her cohorts marketed the levy as doing something good for Black kids in the district and by and large, most in the community fell for it. She even said as much at the Issue 3 debate at the King Arts Complex about a week before election day.

Black people in Columbus seemed mesmerized by having Black faces in High places so to speak and holding them accountable at that time was seen largely as a "no no." Not much different than trying to take Obama to task for many of his inactions--and expecting support from the community. It's not going to happen. In fact you'll get a lot of blowback from the community but I digress.

At that time the Black majority on the board had the arms of the Mayor, City Council, the Ohio House, City Attorney, Municipal and Common Pleas judges, the Wolfes, Wexners just about every member of the local Black Greek organizations, the Urban League (Sam Gresham), the Baptist Ministerial Alliance, the Dispatch of course (Barbara Carmen), the local Black press (specifically John B. Williams and Gil Price) along with some so-called community leaders wrapped around them and protecting them from Moss's "wrath" if you will.

They all remained silent about the board's attempt under then president Stephanie Hightower to give away WCBE 90.5 FM when both Moss and Fitrakis exposed it the summer before in the Alive! In fact it wasn't long after that piece that the publication sought to change direction. Later the Dispatch would seize it and the soon to be defunct Other Paper so that this kind of investigative journalism would never be free and available to the public again.

We all recall the local media's coverage of Moss banging his shoe. It was a front-page headline in the local press and discussed for days both on local talk radio and elsewhere. Most railed against him including Jeff Winbush who wrote a scathing commentary in the Alive! less than two weeks later. And it was only 1580 WVKO which served as our refuge from all the lies, myths and propaganda.

But here's the jarring part: none of our elected officials and so-called community leaders stood up. Not one!

Then just a mere decade later we have the mayor now so outraged that he went out and set up a 25-member commission to gague how to make the district more effective (a joke if ever there was one). Even Ray Miller on the Publisher's Page of his Columbus African American publication in bold, all caps asks: WHAT EVER IN THE HELL IS THE COLUMBUS SCHOOL BOARD DOING? HAVE ANY OF THEM EVER READ A BOOK ON THE PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRACY, THE THREE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT OR THE SEPARATION OF POWERS? HOW ABOUT THE BASIC TENETS OF LEADERSHIP OR HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE PUBLIC SERVANT. MAYBE SOME REFLECTIONS ON JUST PLAIN COMMON SENSE, COURTESY AND CORAGE WOULD BE OF HELP TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ELECTED TO REPRESENT THE PUBLIC ON MATTERS AFFECTING THE EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN AND THE CONDUCT OF OUR SCHOOLS.

But then he goes on in a sardonic manner about Moss with this: "Breathe Ray, you're losing your diplomatic skills. Soon you will be dressing up in Army fatigues and pounding the table with your boot. After observing the Columbus School Board 'in action' on Tuesday, December 4th, one could better understand the inclination to pursue such extremes. If this is what the late Bill Moss was dealing with on a daily basis, his strategies of 'Shock and Awe' could today be considered moderate actions needed to remind the members of the board of their role and responsibilities as elected leaders."

That is exactly what the late Bill Moss had to deal with on a daily basis (and you should've known so don't pretend like you didn't know or don't) and unfortunately he never received any support from you (Miller) or any other elected official--except for perhaps behind closed doors. But never anything publicly. And so now we hear Miller and many others pretty much saying, "Bill Moss was right." But where was this "What ever in the hell is the school board doing?" indignation a decade ago? Absent. Complete silence. Our so-called Black leadership stood by and supported their friends on that school board and pretty much said "To hell with the children" and "To hell with Moss, his supporters and the community." Again, outside of 1580 WVKO and The Tom Pope Show, we had no support. Not even from another urban talk show host over on Radio One. The only thing we got from over there was, "We need to stop using a war language" and encouraged to support them unconditionally basically.

Because if we even had at least two public officials willing to assist Moss in uncovering the corrupt practices at the Board at that time, perhaps the system wouldn't be in the dire straits it currently finds itself in. And perhaps if some of those so-called Blacks on the Board truly cared about Black children and Black people in general they would've sought to do something about Phi Delta Kappa's findings a few years before; how "There's a giant monster in the district that's being enabled and ignored and it's race." It furthermore cited how White children were put in college prep and gifted tracts while Black children were purposely being failed and suspended. Those findings had confirmed everything that Moss had been telling us for years. But to this day there still hasn't been any resolution to these findings. None--even with a still majority Black board.

The bottom line here is that the next time you hear one of your so-called community leaders stand up and begin excoriating this school system and board for the mishaps and scandals of late, ask them where in the hell were they a decade ago when Moss was screaming to the high heavens and on one occasion banging his shoe about it? Ask them why didn't they get involved then or better yet what was their excuse for sitting on the sidelines when our children were being intentionally railroaded by this school system? Because unfortunately it's about too late to try and turn back the hands of time and make any substantive or positive changes. Think about it.