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SHEEPISH LORD OF CHAOS
03-26-2006, 04:57 PM
Kevin Powell, MTV Real World alum, activist, etc. responds to accusations of hitting women, etc.

Friday, March 17, 2006

To whom it may concern:

This letter is in response to Erroll Lewis' recent Daily News column about my candidacy for the House of Representatives in Brooklyn's 10th Congressional District. A shorter version of this letter, FYI, was sent to the Daily News, but it has not been published as yet. Perhaps it will be, or not.

Anyone who is aware of my work, in New York City and across the nation, as a writer, a public speaker, and a community activist for the past two decades knows, without question, that I have always been brutally honest about every single aspect of my life, be it being raised by a single mother and growing up fatherless, or living in the sort of horrific poverty I would not wish on anyone. I say that to say I believe leaders MUST be transparent, self-critical, and accountable, and that I myself wrote about the very things Mr. Lewis detailed, in Essence magazine in 1992, in Ms. magazine in 2000, and in my most recent book, Who's Gonna Take The Weight? Manhood, Race, and Power in America, in 2003. Like Malcolm X, one of my heroes, I have nothing to hide. Nothing at all. I am that serious about my own personal development, and that serious about owning my mistakes and helping others, through my work, to avoid the same traps that I fell into over time.

The problem with Mr. Lewis' column is that events and quotes were taken out of context, and it was made to appear that there has never been any remorse, no redemption, no reflection, and no transformation whatsoever on my part. That there has been no counseling, no spiritual journey, no thought given whatsoever to redefining manhood, for myself, and for others, here in America.

It is clear to me that those individuals and entities opposed to my running for Congress are attacking my past history as a way to get me to drop out of the race, as a way to both demonize and criminalize me. This is particularly sad to me because it is, once again, Black people attempting to destroy each other. I have no problem accepting responsibility for anything I have done. What is unacceptable to me is when folks try to hang crimes on me I've never committed, or when folks do not bother to get the full gist of who a human being is. Was Malcolm X merely a thug, a pimp, a gangsta, an angry Black man, or was he a complex human being constantly changing and critiquing and reinventing himself? Well, it depends on who you ask, and on who is writing the story, doesn't it?

For the record, I actually now work, on a regular basis, in anti violence and anti domestic violence communities across the country and am fully opposed to any form of violence. The events of my life, both recent and long ago, have led me to this position because I realize, as a public figure and as a leader, I have an incredible responsibility to myself and to my community. And to God, first and foremost. And if I were the person Mr. Lewis described in the Daily News piece, why have women like bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, asha bandele, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Pearl Cleage, and Susan Taylor worked with or supported me, on many levels, over the past few years? It is because I have made it one of my central missions in life to push males, all males, including myself, to look at manhood with a different set of eyes, away from patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, and the violence that has come to shape so many of us here in America. Indeed, the Daily News' Clem Richardson, just two years ago, profiled my efforts in that regard when my team led a nationwide State of Black Men Tour, with a stop in Brooklyn. And I have seen, firsthand, as I've conducted manhood workshops on college campuses and in prisons, at churches and at community centers, that other males respond to men who are honest and open about their shortcomings. I am certain that my own personal story has prevented these males, younger and older, from duplicating some of my destructive behavior of the past. I am sure I will make mistakes in the future, but I can guarantee you they will not be the same mistakes. Not the mistakes of a couple of years ago, and not the mistakes of 15 years ago.

We live in a world that needs leaders who are truthful, who have the courage to say I have done wrong and I aim to fix it and help others at the same time. That is part of the problem with elected officials, grassroots activists, and most of us who refer to ourselves as organizers and leaders TODAY. Very little honesty, no ownership of mistakes personal or public, and no acknowledgement of past wrongs as a way to both heal and help others to heal as well. I am not upset with Mr. Lewis for his Daily News column. He is entitled to his opinion, although I do think it was terribly unfair and imbalanced to portray me in that manner. And unfair to suggest he was exposing something I have been talking about myself FOR YEARS. In fact, Mr. Lewis would not have known any of what he had written had I not written it myself. Or said it in public myself.

Regardless, I am glad the dialogue about the issues raised by the Daily News article is happening because perhaps it will be an opportunity for us, as a community, to have real discussions about violence, patriarchy, sexism, all of that, in a way that is about ending all those illnesses once and for all. I certainly plan to continue to do my part, as a leader.

Finally, I know I am the best candidate for the 10th Congressional district seat because my myriad of experiences, both personal and political, make me, I feel, the most well rounded, the most accessible, and the most qualified of all the candidates in my district. This is why I am running, and why I will continue to run, in spite of what has transpired this week. For sure, I am more determined than ever, and so are my supporters in Brooklyn, in New York City, and throughout America.

Respectfully,
Kevin Powell