Carefully consider all the candidates running for president

John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM | 2/29/2016, 12:14 p.m.
As we close out another Black History Month, many communities throughout the world held events to commemorate one of the ...
John E. Harmon, Sr

Slogans like “Black Lives Matter or Black Jobs Matter” are great, but the energy behind these efforts must lead to measureable outcomes that will elevate the standing of the African American community.

I am reminded of the movie about a candidate named “Jeff Johnson”, played by Eddie Murphy, who was elected to congress based on name recognition alone. Once, he was sworn in and seated in Washington, he was clueless as it related to issues that needed to be addressed on behalf of those whom elected him. We all know that some of our best movies were based on actual events and unfortunately, the African American community has far too many challenges to not have competent political representation. The old way of going along to get along or voting for someone because of a suggestion or this is the party that a family member supports is not sufficient, given the host of challenges which plague the African American community.

The African American vote is a precious commodity in New Jersey and throughout the country and we can no longer be taken for granted without having definitive support for a clearly defined agenda. As you look throughout the 21 counties of New Jersey, there are major urban cities in each; such as, Camden, Newark, Trenton, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Paterson, Elizabeth, etc…..It is very difficult for anyone to be elected to County Office without strong African American support from these cities. However, when you look at the numbers, from an economic perspective, the African American residents and businesses in these cities are struggling. How can the African American community work with their elected officials to ensure a better outcome for itself given its investment of taxes, sacrifice and enduring some very unfavorable times?

Which leads me back to the national race for the person that will succeed President Obama. I cringe when I hear terms like “Firewall” and “You know Jesse Jackson won South Carolina”……these are statements of disrespect and arrogance. Moreover, this type of disregard should immediately cause a prospective voter to take another look at the candidate to make sure that they have a platform which addresses relevant issues and have your assurance that they will work hard to deliver on their proposed agenda.

Why, because nationally African Americans have similar issues with unemployment, poverty, sole proprietorships (1.9 million businesses 91% have no employees)……In this year’s Democratic primary, you have two seasoned politicians competing for the African American vote, one with a familiar name and the other, not so recognized but if you listen closely and check the record ….you will find consistency.

I remember campaigning in my hometown Trenton, for a guy name Barack Obama in 2008 against a well-recognized candidate. Many laughed at me, and questioned his experienced, track record and electability. They said that he was ambitious in his quest to get affordable healthcare coverage or bringing the troops home and naïve in speaking with our enemies, like Iran. Well, that’s what they said. There is too much at stake for African Americans to settle on a candidate without having the assurance that the person they support will have their back.

By the way, for those who did not embrace “Yes We Can” President Obama is in the closing months of his second term. Nelson Mandela said it seems difficult until it’s done.

John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM President and CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey Chairman, National Black Chamber of Commerce.