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November 28, 2014

Response to Ferguson: Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions

Ferguson ASSOCIATED PRESS

Decades of segregation and inequality in Ferguson, as well as most American metropolitan areas, have fostered a racial inequality exacerbated by the criminalization of not just poverty, but the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Too many whites are too willing to believe that a black body poses a threat.

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To date, no black reality television star has scored a win in any political race.

But that hasn't stopped a few from trying to capitalize -- politically -- on what is widely believed to be their 15 minutes of fame.

Since starring on the first season of MTV's 'Real World,' former Vibe magazine writer Kevin Powell has had two unsuccessful runs for New York's 10th Congressional District seat. Powell remains undeterred and has plans to run a third time in 2010.

Meanwhile, 'Apprentice' winner and Rhodes Scholar Dr. Randal Pinkett is rumored to be on incumbent New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's short list for Lieutenant Governor. Pinkett, an MIT and Rutgers University graduate, would be the first African American to run statewide as a major-party candidate in the history of New Jersey.

Now, two very different reality television stars --(l-r) Landon Dais and Kwame Smalls --are vying for New York City Council seats.



Mel B Pictures

    In this photo provided by Kraft Foods, Spice Girl "Mel B" poses for a photo wearing a T-shirt she designed based on the classic pink ribbon used for breast cancer awareness, after a fashion show and launch of "Pose for the Cure" web site to help Kraft Foods raise money for the 'Susan G. Komen for the Cure' fight against breast cancer in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008. The shirt is for sale on the web site and the net proceeds will benefit the foundation. (AP Photo/Kraft Foods, Ray Stubblebine) **NO SALES**

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    In this photo provided by Kraft Foods, Spice Girl "Mel B" poses for a photo wearing a T-shirt she designed based on the classic pink ribbon used for breast cancer awareness, after a fashion show and launch of "Pose for the Cure" web site to help Kraft Foods raise money for the 'Susan G. Komen for the Cure' fight against breast cancer in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008. The shirt is for sale on the web site and the net proceeds will benefit the foundation. (AP Photo/Kraft Foods, Ray Stubblebine) **NO SALES**

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    In this undated image released by Oxfam Tuesday Sept. 23, 2008, British singer Mel B participates in the 'In My Name' global campaign calling for action against poverty and demanding world leaders keep their promises on millennium development goals. (AP Photo/Oxfam, HO) ** NO SALES **

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    In this photo provided by Kraft Foods, Spice Girl Mel B, left, serves as the emcee at a fashion show and launch of "Pose for the Cure" web site to help Kraft Foods raise money for the 'Susan G. Komen for the Cure' fight against breast cancer in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008. Mel B wears a T-shirt she designed based on the classic pink ribbon used for breast cancer awareness. The shirt is for sale on the web site and the net proceeds will benefit the foundation. The woman at right is unidentified. (AP Photo/Kraft Foods, Ray Stubblebine) **NO SALES**

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: TV personality and designer Khloe Kardashian and Olympic-level swimmer and model Amanda Beard (R) pose backstage at the Mel B With Ultimo Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion on September 9, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images )

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Ultimo Scottish designer lingerie brand founder Michelle Mone (L) and pop singer Melanie Brown pose backstage at the Mel B With Ultimo Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion on September 9, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images )

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Pop singer Melanie Brown poses backstage at the Mel B With Ultimo Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion on September 9, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images )

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Pop singer Melanie Brown and Olympic-level swimmer and model Amanda Beard (R) pose backstage at the Mel B With Ultimo Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion on September 9, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images )

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Pop singer Melanie Brown and singer Aubrey O'Day (R) poses backstage at the Mel B With Ultimo Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion on September 9, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images )

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Pop singer Melanie Brown, Olympic-level swimmer and model Amanda Beard, singer Aubrey O'Day and TV personality and designer Khloe Kardashian pose backstage at the Mel B With Ultimo Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion on September 9, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images )

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New York native Landon Dais joined the cast of BET's 'Harlem Heights' to further his political aspirations. The son of a political activist, Dais says would have run for New York City Council District 9 in Harlem regardless of whether he was on TV.

"I was very weary of joining the reality show," Dais confided. "In today's society, television executives believe the only way to get high ratings is through drama and enhancing the negative about people."

The Morehouse College graduate says his desire to be a positive role model and to "influence one kid to go to college" led to his decision to join the cast of 'Harlem Heights.' And though some Harlemites initially questioned his motives for running for office, "once they saw me walking the streets of Harlem at all times of the night, talking to the youth, they realized I was a legitimate candidate who really cared about the people of Harlem," he chuckles.

For Dais, becoming a quasi-celebrity has helped him win recognition in the community. Though he is second in the polls, he still believes going door to door and meeting people in his community has given him a real shot at winning.

"The young people gravitate towards me, and the older people in the community see that I am the only viable candidate who can get the young people to care about the political process. This has caused a lot of older people to support my efforts."

And then, there is Smalls.

This 'I Love New York 2' contestant is running for a New York City Council seat. Given his on-air persona, he's had a tougher time getting the people to take him seriously.

"People may not take me seriously, [but it is] also good because people don't see me as a threat," he told BV Newswire this week. When probed about his educational background, the jovial contender offered: "Let's just say, like Kanye West, I'm a college dropout. I learned that I didn't have to have a political education to run for city council."

In fact, his decision to run for office came after the reunion special for 'I Love Money 2,' another VH1 reality show, in which Smalls (also known as "It") was reunited with his 'I Love New York 2' competition, George 'Tailor Made' Weisgerber.

Weisgerber, who won Miss New York's love on the show, is now Smalls' campaign manager. The two have spent the last several weeks canvassing the district for signatures to get on the ballot.

"Yes, I'm a beautiful speaker. I'm an actor," Smalls explained. "I study the techniques of Malcolm X, following his speeches, and I love it!"

Although Smalls thinks he can win, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth -- a former White House staffer and 'Apprentice' star -- has some disappointing news: "You need a ton of money and a political mastermind [to win an election], and reality television stars don't have access to capital."

Dais agrees, but if these reality stars can prove the naysayers wrong what a story that will make, or perhaps provide fodder for another reality television show on life after winning

Manigault-Stallworth, who has appeared in over 20 reality television shows, continues to work in politics however; the 'Bitch Switch' author works as a fundraiser and believes her television persona has worked to her advantage, helping her become a "much more effective political operative."

Yet, Donald Trump's most famous reality TV protege will admit that running for, and winning, a political office is difficult. "I have not seen it done well, quite frankly," she added. "Being famous does not always translate into being an effective politician."

Her advice? "They need to hire me to be their campaign manager," she recommended. "I'm the missing key to their success."

The Democratic primary election for New York City Council takes place Sept. 15 for both Dais and Smalls.

Interested parties can find out more about Dais' campaign at www.LandonDais.com. Smalls, on the other hand, wishes for his supporters to check out his YouTube video.




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