Okay…momentum for the Black Lives Matters movement is picking up. Media coverage is at the ready. Profiles of the movement’s leaders have been featured on NPR and other venues, and most candidates seem a bit unsure of how to respond. This is probably typical of various movements over the centuries.
Recently I read that some candidates’ campaign stops have been interrupted by members of the BLM movement. Hillary apparently granted 15 minutes for a private discussion with movement members, but what will 15 minutes get you? Personally, I’m not convinced interrupting campaign speeches is useful or constructive. Sure, the media is there to cover the point and show the urgency, but how does the rest of adult society view such behavior? What are such interruptions supposed to achieve…in the long run?
Now, the private meeting with Hilary is perhaps a step in the right direction, but let’s face it. It was nothing but a crumb offering. My unsolicited and admittedly white, Midwestern proposal is this: Organize some town hall meetings and invite candidates and the media. Why? Because real communication has to be taking place, not interruptions. It is doable. It is necessary.
Many societal issues are tied into the Black Lives Matter movement, issues that need examination and discussion by citizens and candidates alike. So how do we find out how candidates stand on the issues raised by the BLM movement? Ask them. Publicly. Civilly.
I’ve been playing with such a scenario in my mind for a few days, and here’s a DRAFT proposal of what might be done. It’s just a draft…but it’s a start. Maybe what actually happens can be completely different; meanwhile, I offer these seeds for thought:
1. The leaders of Black Lives Matter work within the organization to come up with 5-7 key questions they want all candidates to address.
2. The organization finds appropriate venues along the routes candidates will be traveling and invites each candidate to a 90-minute town hall meeting.
3. Candidates are given the key questions at the time they receive the invitations.
4. The invitations should be in writing and delivered certified mail. A limited number of print, radio, and TV reporters should also be invited.
5. The venue should be relatively small and personal: a local school, community center, or church.
6. Each town hall meeting should be no longer than 90 minutes. During that time, candidates can take no longer than 60 minutes to speak on the key questions. At least 30 minutes must be saved for additional questions from the audience. Members of the audience called on to ask their questions will approach a special podium with a microphone to ask their questions.
7. The number of audience members should be limited to a couple hundred. Maybe a free lottery ticket system can help decide who gets to attend. The rest of us can watch or listen via media coverage.
So what would town hall meetings with each participating candidate accomplish? Better communication. Better understanding of the main issues of concern to those of us who support the movement. An interesting look at how various politicians spin their responses. A better look at how they present themselves and what they say when asked questions from the audience. A venue by which all the world can observe what was asked, what was said, how it was said, and how it was received.
Recently I heard someone interviewed on the radio. This person said that if candidates don’t address the issues of importance to black voters, then black voters just won’t vote. Oy! Really?? Please don’t go that route. Instead, make it happen. Create a way in which candidates can respond to issues of importance of black voters…because, truly, those issues are important to all Americans. If candidates refuse the invitation, fine. They’ll be the ones losing the respect of the American people and their votes. Move forward with the candidates who do welcome an opportunity to respond to the key questions of concern to millions. And perhaps among the bunch, you’ll find someone worthy of your vote.