By Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma
The Juneteenth weekend 2022 coincided with the 45th annual AFRAM Festival at Baltimore City’s Druid Hill Park. My wife Madeleine and I joined the urban community in enjoying outdoor activities that we have missed for two years due to COVID-19 draconian measures. My wife heard about Wes Moore before via some friends’ familiarity with The New York Times bestselling book, The Other Moore: One Name, Two Fates, a story about the fragile nature of opportunity in the USA. Afram is a well-attended annual event and any Marylander running for public office knows the importance of showing up there in an effort to score some political points. It was at that event that my wife and I met the gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore and his campaign staff for the first time. Our short conversation began with hand shake and ended with photographs with a man who, we thought, could make history by becoming the next and first African American Governor of Maryland This turned out to be the case. Our conversation focused on our immigrant roots and connections. Moore has Jamaican connections through her mother Joy’s parents. His running mate Aruna Miller is an Indian-born American. Madeleine is a Canadian-born American and I am a Congolese-born American. That’s a lot of immigration stories right there. Both Madeleine and I are naturalized citizens who have the propensity to vote for qualified and inspiring political candidates with whom we identify in some ways. That was definitely the case with the ‘YesWeCan’ President Barack Obama. We were interested in and fascinated by Moore’s life achievements and his commitment to education. Only later after our meeting – by reading information available from MOORE–MILLER for Maryland, the campaign website – did I learn more about the impressive candidate, including the fact that his commitment to low-income freshmen college students led him to launch his Baltimore-based BridgeEdu, a business that was later (2018) acquired by Edquity, a Brooklyn-based student financial success platform. I was particularly impressed by his military service and work on poverty alleviation when he served as the CEO of Robin Hood Foundation, one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty organizations. My interest in his anti-poverty work is due to my research in this area, which culminated in my new book titled, OBAMANOMICS AND FRANCISCONOMICS: A Call for Poverty Alleviation, Fairness, and Welfare (Europe Books 2022).
On January 18, 2023, two mothers – Joy, daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and Hema, an Indian immigrant – joined Marylanders in witnessing the history making inauguration of their son and daughter as 63rd Governor of Maryland, first African American Governor of the State, 3rd African American Governor in the USA, and 1st female Indian/Asian American Lt. Governor of the State, respectively. The two mothers’ immigration journeys from Jamaica (Joy’s mother) and India (Aruna’s parents) to the USA, is reminiscent of this country as an ‘AlieNation’, the land of opportunity, the land of the free, the ‘cradle of modern democracy, and still “the leader of the free world” despite the ongoing assault on democracy. Unlike some of our ancestors and “Landing Negroes at Jamestown, Virginia (1619) who unwillingly went through the excruciating pains of the Transatlantic/Middle Passage and Gorée island’s ‘Door of No Return’ in Senegal, Joy’s mother and Hema, and of course, millions of Post-Juneteenth immigrants for that matter, have gone through a different kind of ‘passage.’ I am talking about the freely chosen immigration that is regulated by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.S. complex immigration laws that keep getting complicated due to new circumstances such as the war on terrorism and COVID–19, both of which have resulted to such draconian and controversial measures as the Trump administration-related Travel Ban a.k.a. “the Muslim Ban” and the COVID-related Title 42.
Despite some of these complications, the USA is and remains an immigrants’ nation. In this nation, the State of Maryland, despite its tiny size, has distinguished itself as one of the most immigrant-friendly states. Maryland welcomes, appreciates, and benefits from its immigrants’ invaluable contributions to the State’s economic growth. This is apparent in the fact that Baltimore – a.k.a. “the Charm City” – is (or was) the number 2 most welcoming big city in the USA, according to the New American Economy Report 2018. To some extent, this week’s historic inauguration confirms this fact about the State. It led Aruna Miller to “believe in the promise of America” while having “the courage to be my authentic self in a new space.” The Inauguration is what Dr. MLK’s Dream is also about. The inauguration means that the overwhelming majority of Maryland voters have understood and acted on the self-evident truth of human equality and dignity. They have overcome the color line problem à la Du Bois (1903) and realized that ‘the contents of our character’ should trump the color of our skin, thereby allowing us to share the Dream at ‘the Table of Brotherhood and Sisterhood.’ Sharing the Dream is also about socio-political and economic participation and representation that reflect the nation’s diverse demographics.
Maryland’s ‘Moore’ Perfect Union is deeply rooted in and consistent with the correct understanding of and belief in King’s Dream. Gov. Moore and Lt. Gov. Miller understand that there is no “more perfect union” without equality, unity, “fair share, and fair shot” (Pres. Obama). That is why “Leave No One Behind” is not only their campaign slogan. It is expected to also be their governing philosophy and leitmotif. Their leitmotif, diverse background, and lived experiences will hopefully be powerful and advantageous tools in the service of the new State administration’s willingness and commitment to tackling such critical problems as race and gender justice, crime, health, and education.
The success of the “Leave No One Behind” governing leitmotif is and must be closely tied to the success of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” platform. Regrettably, this well-intentioned platform has been weakened by the Washington’s polarized partisan politics and the assault on democracy in the USA. Inarguably, this assault, if not stopped, will be detrimental to “a more perfect union.” Decision 2020 and the big lie-based, or Trump-incited insurrection has shown us the fragility of democracy not only in the U.S, but also in many other countries, including but not limited to Brazil. In this country, the Trump-like President Jair Bolsonaro’s undemocratic behavior led to a January 6th-style political hooliganism. Ironically, this assault on democracy in Brazil took place while the defeated leader was vacationing in Florida, Trump’s adopted state after becoming a persona non grata in his home State of New York.
It is an understatement to say that Decision 2022 in Maryland and in the country in general, was a response to the assault on democracy. As a ‘blue State,’ liberal democratic candidates running for public offices are usually expected to do better than conservative Republican candidates. Midterm elections 2022 were abnormal. The expected ‘red wave,’ let alone ‘red tsunami’ did not really happen except for the relatively small political gain that allowed Republicans to take control of the House or Representatives. In Maryland, Decision 2022 was politically very good in terms of entrusting liberal Dems with the highest office of the State. There are, of course, many explanations for Wes Moore’s and Aruna Miller’s gubernatorial election victory. First, in our democratic system, people’s voice is God’s voice, or “Vox populi, vox Dei,” in Latin. Moore and Miller were able to convince the electorate about their qualifications for the job in a blue State. Second, they are two Dems who benefited from heavy-weight and enviable endorsements, not only locally but also nationally, from local major newspapers to Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. Third, Maryland had a two-term Republican Governor – Larry Hogan – and it was time for the State to regain its full color, blue. Fourth and fortunately for Dems as well as rational and truly patriotic Republicans and Independents, the GOP gubernatorial nominee was demonstrably the worst candidate for the job for two main reasons. First and foremost, Dan Cox is conservative and MAGA Republican who failed to understand the direction and strength of the political winds that were blowing in Maryland and in most of the country. In the post-Decision 2020 and post January 6th assault on Capitol , most Americans’ quest and request for the conquest of “a more perfect union” through democracy have been undeniably real. This has been the case despite some ‘Reich-Wing MAGA Trumpublicans’ endless assault on democracy and demographics. They have carried out ther assaults through such strategies as the ‘Un-Critical’ Race Theory and the proliferation of voter suppression laws a.k.a. “Jim Crow 2.0.” As a good MAGA Republican, Dan Cox is an ‘election denier’ who was cursed by the lethal endorsement from the twice-impeached and defeated 45th POTUS. It is worth reminding that this character’s key role in ‘the failed coup’ has been proven by the January 6th Committee Report. Undoubtedly, Moore’s and Miller’s landslide victory was Maryland’s clear way of joining many other states in rejecting Trumpism and repelling the MAGA Republicans’ assault on democracy.
Like many fellow Marylanders, I watched the Inauguration ceremony of Gov. Moore and Lt. Gov. Miller with great joy and hope for a much better future for all citizens of the State. This week’s inauguration is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s Inauguration as the 44th POTUS and the first and the only African American to achieve that. The Inauguration was also reminiscent of Kamala Harris, the first Afro-Indian American woman to be the VPOTUS. So I agree 100% with the Ann Arundel County Executive Stewart Pittman who stated on the Inauguration day of Gov. Moore and Lt. Gov. Miller that, “Today has been long time coming.”
The Inauguration party is over. Now is the time to work together because, as the new Governor stated, with full awareness of the ongoing divisions, “If we are divided, we cannot win.”
Maryland – just like the USA and the whole world – is going through critical times, from scandalous inequalities to the anthropogenic “climate hell” (Antonio Guterres), global pandemics, conflicts, and the assault on democracy. These are global problems that call for global solutions. These critical times call for global thinking while acting locally. I hope my fellow Marylanders will not fail to make their contributions. I hope we will do the right thing by joining the history making Gov. Moore and Lt. Gov. Miller in successfully carrying out their “Leave No One Behind” agenda. It is unacceptable that Maryland, one of the richest and most educated States in the country, fails to meet the challenges of safety, race and gender wealth gap, climate change, and world-ready education.
Let us join all men and women of goodwill in a concerted effort to rescue our warming planet by rejecting greed, by embracing ‘the green revolution,’ and by practicing ‘green economy.’ Let’s do it consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Accord.
Let us do it by embracing the spirit of service, positive diversity, togetherness, African ‘Ubuntu,’ and true patriotism. Let us do it by sharing King’s Dream.
CONGRATULATIONS and best wishes to the new Governor Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and their governing team.
Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma is the founder of Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD) & Associate Professor of Philosophy, Morgan State University. He is the author of numerous publications, including but not limited to the award-winning book, OBAMANOMICS AND FRANCISCONOMICS: A Call for Poverty Alleviation, Fairness, and Welfare (Europe Books 2022), https://www.europebookstore.com/products/obamanomics-and-francisconomics-dr-zekeh-s-gbotokuma/ This book is the Second Place Winner of the MILAN INTERNATIONAL LITERARY AWARDS 2022; Democracy and Demographics in the USA (2020: Paperback: https://amzn.to/2KbcOUV eBook: https://amzn.to/35BsCbN); Global Safari (2015); A Pan-African Encyclopedia (2003).
CONTACT: Zekeh.Gbotokuma@morgan.edu 443-622-3033
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