The hot topic in Detroit these days is Kwame Kilpatrick found guilty of several counts of racketeering and bribery. Many will see March 12th as a turning point in Detroit history. I don’t see it that way. Some see it as a sad day for the City of Detroit. I don’t see it that way either.
I watched the trial with some interest. I couldn’t help it. The news wouldn’t talk about anything else. Where ever Kwame went, there were cameras capturing his every step. Those steps will turn out to be some of his last as a free man. Kwame knew this day was coming. The Federal Government had been watching him since 2002. The evidence was overwhelming. All he could do was lower his head and place his hand on his forehead. Kwame once claimed “It will be impossible for me to get a fair trial in Detroit. I would come out better if they hung me from that giant fist downtown”. The reality of the situation dealt him a crushing blow. The king of Detroit has fallen.
I lowered my head and put my hand on my forehead as well. Why? Because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing afterwards. I understood those who sympathized with Kwame. Outside of his mischief, Kwame was a very charismatic and hands on mayor(No pun intended). He made himself accessible to the public and helped bring the Super Bowl to Detroit. Dave Bing Recently turned down an opportunity for Detroit to host the Olympics. Detroit was blissfully happy while Kwame was in office. The recession proved that Detroit’s Bliss overshadowed its ever-increasing debt.
What I didn’t understand was the media blaming Detroit’s problems all on Kwame. I watched as news broadcast after news broadcast covered the verdict as if Detroit had finally won a war against its worst enemy. Some stations went as far to proclaim this day as a victory for Detroit. How? I don’t see any winners. Detroit is still broke and Kwame lost his freedom. Channel 7 news said that including Kwame, 35 people have been indicted under his administration. As they scrolled the names of the people and their charge or charges across the screen, I made a observation. They included City Council members and a few of their appointees as well. City Council members are elected by the people, not Kwame. At least 20 of the 35 mentioned had nothing to do with Kwame’s corruption case. Yet the news says it’s all under Kwame. This reporting has some people convinced that Detroit is where it is today because of Kwame.
I have a hard time believing that one man caused Detroit to be in the condition that it is in today. Kwame Kilpatrick stepped down in September of 2008. So in 4 1/2 years nobody did anything to improve the city of Detroit. Blaming Kwame should have ended a long time ago. Now the Verdict for Detroit: Guilty and sentenced to an Emergency Financial Manager for 18 months. Holla if you hear me!
I have to admit when Kwame opened the question and answer session by saying “Let’s get it on!”, I expected a Q & A of epic proportions. Kwame was offering himself for every journalist in the room to feast on. I could see the look in the eyes of my fellow journalists. They were hungry and their pens were at the ready. What did we get? Slim pickings. Kwame did not waver. He answered each question comfortably and completely. His answers did not bear anymore information that wasn’t already known. The only time he seemed slightly rattled is when he was asked questions concerning his mom, former State Representative Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick. This was understandable. He explained it to all in the room. ” The two worst days of my life.” as the former mayor recalls, “The first was explaining the affair to my kids and the second was laying in a prison cell knowing that my mom lost the election because of me”.
The remorse on his face was apparent. He said it was at that point when he realized what his actions cost the city. His mother had done so much for the city of Detroit and now that champion for the city is out of office. He said at that time, “I cried like a baby”. It finally got to him. The disappointment the citizens of Detroit felt in his actions, he now felt in himself. It was that moment that opened his eyes. He began to realize what he had and how much damage his decisions had done.
Kwame spends his time speaking around the country. Even speaking at T.D. Jake’s “ManPower” conference. Kwame maintain that he wants to help young men avoid the path he took. He feels that he didn’t deal with his inner demons before he got into office and they got the better of him. Kwame maintains that this cost him more than anything, Not youth or inexperience. To this day, Kwame maintains that he cannot be forgiven here in Detroit. It doesn’t matter how much he claims that he has changed. Kwame said “I don’t believe I can get a fair trial here in Detroit.” when asked about his up coming Federal trial . “I would be better off if they hung me from the giant fist downtown” Kwame jokes.
I think he might be right in a way, This was made evident but the number of journalist that turned out. People still place the blame at his feet. As leader of this city, he failed. In the court of Public Opinion, he has been found guilty. His word is no longer above reproach and his name vilified in Detroit history, That’s where we should leave him. If there was one thing that I can take from him, that would be that we have to let him go mentally as a city. Kwame was absolutely right about that, Until we do that, we will never move forward and identify the real problems of our city, Holla if you hear me!
I remember my first conversation with Kwame Kilpatrick. I was at the union hall of my former place of employment. My former co-workers and I were on strike and Kwame, Mayor of Detroit at that time came out to show his support. Since then, both of us have lost our jobs. I lost mine to the economy. His own debauchery cost him his. Tonight, five years later, our paths have crossed once again. At a hotel ballroom in Detroit, The Detroit Chapter of National Association of Black Journalist (DC-NABJ) had him front and center. Thank God I am a member!
He didn’t have to do this. He faced the press on many occasion before he moved to Dallas. There is no doubt that he will face the press again during his upcoming federal trial. However, this time it will be quite different. Kwame promised this session will be no holds barred, any question answered! So I wasn’t surprised to see all the well-known white journalists who filled out membership applications, and paid the fee to be a black journalist for one night. Kwame was his usual charismatic self, but his message was very much unusual.
Everyone in the room expected him to elaborate on cheating on his wife, Tamara Greene (Which he says that he never met her), and his restitution payments. Instead, his mind was on the future…Detroit’s future and his own. He stressed how sorry he was for his actions while in office, yet he is adamant that he is not responsible for Detroit’s current state. He also says that he wants to help Detroit move forward. Kwame believes that unless that people lets go of blaming him for Detroit’s current condition, they will never identify Detroit’s problems. He said “I want to reintroduce myself the best way I know how; for those who are still angry with me.”
I will tell you how he did Next Week in Part 2 of “Kwame Kilpatrick: Front and Center” Holla if you hear me!
– K. Greene