by CHRIS DAVIS.
A Thursday press conference at his South 3rd St. headquarters found Mayor Willie Herenton surrounded by supportive members of the city's black clergy. After enduring a handful of heartfelt testimonials, and a few over the top comparisons to Christ, the mayor took center stage and railed against various enemies including, but not limited to, the media, house Negroes, and more nebulous anti-Herenton forces, which were repeatedly identified as simply "they," and "them."
The mayor listed numerous accomplishments: the rebirth of Downtown; the upgrading of various housing projects; the demolition of others. But the bulk of his speech was devoted to unsubtle broadsides aimed at those who have dared to run against him.
"This city was founded in 1826, but people of color didn't achieve the position I hold until 1991," Herenton said, receiving animated vocal support from the assembled clergymen. "And some people have the audacity to say I have been here too long."
Herenton's rhetoric ignored inconvenient verities and turned almost entirely on the notion that, although there were other candidates "of color," he was the only black in the race.
Some African Americans have "joined in on this nonsense," he said, alluding to but never mentioning by name mayoral candidate and former MLGW President Herman Morris.
"But divide and conquer ain't gonna work," the mayor declared before decisively pitting black against black.
"Back in Slavery some [blacks] worked in the field, and some worked in the house," Herenton noted. "And after emancipation was achieved, some didn't want to be free."
The mayor could not have assembled a better Amen corner. Throughout his speech the ministers showed their support with shouts of "Yes," and "That's right."
Later Thursday Herenton turned up at a forum of the Cordova Neighborhood Association at the Homebuilders site, where he omitted most of this rhetoric and emphasized his achieverments in office. He left the stage before his three main opponents Carol Chumney, Morris, and John Willingham made their own remarks.