That’s not the shame, of course. The shame is that almost no public attention has been paid to them as they vie for the right to succeed the late Lois DeBerry, who was both distinguished and beloved during her 40 years of service in the General Assembly, where she served for many years as Speaker Pro Tem.
No slackers or fakers or opportunists in this bunch, as was obvious at last week’s candidate forum at Magnolia First Baptist Church on South Cooper, where all seven displayed backgrounds, points of view, and contacts with the community that seemingly qualified them to serve.
First up was Raumesh Akbari, a young lawyer with a bachelor’s degree from Washington University and a J.D degree from St. Louis University. She now serves as legal counsel for the Akbari Corporation, her father’s firm, where she deals with personnel matters and community outreach.
From her school years, when she worked with a group called “Seniors Helping Seniors,” on through her adult service in organizations like “Meals on Wheels,” she has volunteered in charitable activities. She promised she would be a “fighter” for the district.
Next was Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw, a sister of state Rep. John DeBerry (D-District 90) who claims kinship as well with the late Lois DeBerry and can boast a lengthy career as an environmental activist. Somewhat older than the others, she claims 40 years of residence amid the constituency she wants to serve.
She founded a “Concerned Citizens Committee” at the time of the closing of the Defense Depot in Memphis and ranks as one of her “proudest achievements” her work with a youth group, Youth Terminating Pollution, concerned with the effects of toxic exposure on reproductive health.
“I have been surrounded by politicians most of my life. I have been surrounded by grass roots groups most of my life,” she said.
Joshua Forbes is also an activist. Indeed, he claims the same career — that of community developer — that one Barack Obama pursued on his way to the White House. Forbes, Product of a military-family background, he came to Memphis to pursue the ministry, having, as he said, picked the city as a likely domicile from a riverscape photo of the city’s skyline.
After schooling here at Southwest Community College and the University of Memphis, he worked with Youth Villages and other local organizations, and he has done considerable outreach work in the Alcy-Ball community in association with former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.
Kemba Ford, who had worked with organizations ranging from CleanMemphis.org to the Gale Rose Foundation, entered the race with the greatest name identification of any candidate — a fact stemming both from the notice she garnered as an impressive second-place finisher in a 2011 Council race won by Lee Harris and from her membership in Memphis’ best-known political clan.
Ford, who was an actress for a time on the West Coast, is the daughter of former state Senator John Ford, a longtime state Senate eminence and Tennessee Waltz figure who now works at his brother Edmund’s funeral home after his release from prison. She proudly boasts a photograph of her father on her campaign literature and suggests that having grown up in a political environment is a plus for her and her potential constituents.
Terica Lamb, an employee of the Trustee’s Department, has experience with community issues, like the others, and, as “a working mother” who went through several lean years, emphasizes her connections with the rank and file problems of the community she wants to serve.
She also founded her own consulting firm, Total Control Logistics, offering personal advice about elements of day-to-day living.
Clifford Lewis is both a veteran candidate and, as a result of service in the Air Force a generation ago, a military veteran as well. He is a longtime member of the Shelby County Democratic Committee and has been an official in the labor movement as well. Most recently, after being involved in a mass layoff from the Internal Revenue Service, he has been in the rehab business with his son.
Lewis has one skill no other candidate can claim. As a result of his military experience, he learned to speak Japanese, one of the most difficult languages for a Westerner to learn. He admits, however, that he’s a little rusty.
Kermit Moore has extensive experience as a labor organizer and as southern regional director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. He has experience as a community organizer in Mississippi and he has served as president of the Lauderdale Sub Neighborhood Organization.
He has an impressive list of involvements with such organizations as United Way and a variety of voter registration groups. As evidence of his activism and his willingness to stand up to the Republican “supermajority” in the General Assembly, he pointed out that he was a plaintiff in a federal suit challenging the state GOP’s redistricting of legislative seats.
All in all, the voters of the 91st state House District would seem to have good raw material to choose from.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will advance to a special general election on November 21, facing independent/Libertarian Jim Tomasik.