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Dymally, a political giant who walked this way


During this 21st century, particularly during this Decade of the African Diaspora, and this 2012 election year for the USA president and vice president, there are still those who do, and those who keep saying what they’re going to do; those who bring it and deserve to be praised, and those who just want to be praised yet bring nothing beyond hot air. We know that it takes all kinds, but the real evaluation is whether anything positive actually gets done and how sustainable it is.

We also know that there are so many things that need doing just to get through the day sane, let alone taking a little or a lot of time to help somebody else along. The tasks, and other peoples’ problems thrown in, can be enormous. In fact,  when we think about what help Africa needs or the assistance Central America and Haiti ask for, and what aid many islands in the Caribbean can use, or even just helping the neighbors down the street, we often feel crushed and defeated before trying to do anything.

But we should all know by now that none of us, alone, can do it all; nor should we try. Instead, we should concentrate on the good that we can do, and do that well, do that consistently, and do it sincerely.

That will not only relieve some stress among those of us who actually would like to help somebody, it will calm us down enough to see all of our real possibilities–what can and cannot be done and how to get it done efficiently.

A walking paragon of that philosophy just walked his last among us–former U.S. Congressman and California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally. Mr. Dymally passed a few days ago, after a lifetime of political accomplishments and relationships. There will be plenty of lion-sized epithets to the congressman’s greatness, and he deserves all those and more. He was a true public servant for California in the most profound meaning of that term.

A small list of his legacy will include: he was California’s first (and still its only) Black lieutenant governor, serving with Jerry Brown during the governor’s moonbeam days from 1974-1979.  He was a colleague of Augustus Hawkins; he was one of the state’s first black Assemblymen, elected in 1962, and state senator for eight years, before being elected to Congress, where he was a fixture from 1981-1993.

He was one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the California Legislative Black Caucus, and he mentored many of California’s past and current political leaders.

He was a political talent of integrity and organizational genius, and he left a legacy of how to get things done properly, how to do them right, and how to prepare a political infrastructure for Black political success.

He will be sorely missed.

OurWeekly has covered his political life extensively, and I have written about him in this column frequently, particularly as a model of political character and aplomb.

For example, he was described previously as our local legendary lion, who more than once took on a hornet’s nest in order to better the social-political conditions for his constituents and Americans in general. His legislative footprint is huge in both California and the USA.

More recently, during his post-retirement return to the California State Assembly, he championed AB 318 to save Compton College from the fate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, after he belatedly found out about the perfidy of the then-Compton College Board that threatened imminent closure of the school. Again and again in his career, Congressman Dymally showed outstanding courage, pluck, adroit skill and insight, and we are the better for it.

He had what can be called political character. This means a politician of substance and soul, and not a political character merely enjoying the celebrity that comes with the title. He shared this trait with several other California legislators he has strongly influenced,  including the Honorable Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Diane Watson, Karen Bass, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and state Sen. Curren Price, to name just a few.

The congressman often took the courageous path less trod, leaned in against the gale-force winds, and triumphed against the grain. He can be favorably compared to Adam Clayton Powell, a political giant whose story yearns to be properly told, and Byron Rumford, a pioneering California state legislator whose accomplishments are still part of our everyday lives. These three are all principal role models of the distinguished leadership elite that President Obama now well represents. They not only walked into the teeth of the hurricane, when they had clear alternative choices of softer, calmer and more lucrative projects, they persevered when even their close friends and allies thought it was imprudent to do so.
Well done, Congressman Dymally. May you rest in peace knowing you have a legion of political offspring.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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