The “Furious Five”: A sizzling Atlanta urban Republican dialogue. Where is Black Atlanta in the “All of It”?

By Maynard Eaton & Carrie L. Williams

Monday Night Politics panel

NML’s “Monday Night Politics” political panel participants. Photo: by Faith Swift

I now call them the “Furious Five” – an eclectic crew of friends and political knowers – who were invited to participate in the first of a month long series of “unbridled” conversations about the political issues of the day. And, they put on a dazzling, dynamic show; their debate was robust, riveting and revealing.

It is called Monday Night Politics and is produced by Newsmakers Live/Journal, a decade-old news enterprise co-created by businessman Jim Welcome and this reporter, which specializes in intense interviewing of prominent personalities and political figures.

Jim Welcome, Monday Night Politics

Jim Welcome, NML co-founder and convener of “Monday Night Politics.” Photo: by Faith Swift

“This is probably the most important election cycle in American history since Barack Obama,” says Welcome, setting the tone for the spirited show that followed. “It is a rather bizarre, other worldly presidential race — but it’s still about voting: it’s still about politics.”

You could almost hear the sizzle Monday at the BQE Lounge in the Old Fourth Ward — and we’re not talking steak or stir-fry. It was the topic: the Republican Party presidential chaos and the Donald Trump phenomenon.

It was hot, heavy, heated and happening.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen live Black Republicans in my life!” says Kevin Pride, a digital graphic artist and millennial audience participant.

From left to right on the Monday Night Politics panel was Al Bartell, an Independent public policy leader in the environmental movement who was once a Republican candidate; Bernie Tokarz, a ‘Young Gun’ Republican strategist and GRTA board member; Robert Patillo, a civil rights attorney and talk show host of WAOK’s People, Passion, Politics; Michael Murphy, a seasoned and savvy Republican campaign consultant; and Leo Smith, state director of Minority Engagement for the Republican Party of Georgia and also vice chair of Public Policy for the Georgia Black Republican Council.  I was the discussion master.

Leo Smith at Monday Night Politics

Leo Smith, state director of Minority Engagement for the Republican Party of Georgia and “Monday Night Politics” panelist. Photo: by Faith Swift

“Donald Trump is an apolitical businessman and entrepreneur,” Smith says. “He’s about business, he’s hype and he’s a game-changer. Right now, he’s doing and saying things because he’s trying to win a primary and it’s working.”

“If I was betting in Las Vegas, I’d be betting on Trump,” says Patillo. “He’s the Republican front runner and he has more delegates than Hillary. He could even win as a third party candidate. It’d be a mistake to under-estimate Trump.”

“Trump is winning the moderate votes — the average white guy, gay guy, Hispanic guy,” opines Tokarz, the only white panelist. “They are totally dissatisfied with government and have lost faith in all institutions. What have Democrat politicians done for you?”

“Trump’s not a politician. He’s not interested in being President,” argues Bartell. “He’s interested in the dollar. Running for President is just a marketing scheme. Black people we know game when we see it, we know con when we see it. Trump’s marketing the media, he’s marketing people, and he’s marketing dollars.”

Michael Murphy at Monday Night Politics

Michael Murphy, veteran Republican political consultant [R] and talk show host Robert Patillo. Photo: by Faith Swift

“How come this man has been so under-estimated,” adds Mike Murphy. “He picked up the play book ‘Give the people what they want’. You can always tell by the diversity of a candidate’s inner circle where they stand on diversity. In Trump’s inner circle, he has a black woman as his communications director — Hillary doesn’t. Trump will probably have a special Amtrak to take all the brothers to work on his Wall.”

The furious flow of the evening’s dicey discussion was like greased lightning among five veteran politicos’, whose interchange was an improvisational verbal dance with a willing audience interwoven with some piercing and pointed questioning. Hence, the “Furious Five.” And it was fabulously furious – fiery and in your face at times, lively at all times — but with full-force energy of passionate intensity that unquestionably had that “knock your socks off” quality.

You had to be there.

Bernie Tokarz at Monday Night Politics

Bernie Tokarz, Republican political strategist and “Monday Night Politics” panelist. Photo: by Faith Swift

“Trump is like a classic American cowboy from the other century,” says Keith Gammage, an attorney and candidate for Fulton County Solicitor General. “We need to be opening our eyes, and not taking form over substance — it’s outrageous.”

Max Anderson then offers this remark from the audience: “He’s (Trump) running on an image of a power symbol. The American people feel dis-empowered. They see their power and privilege dissipating. Then they see this alpha male, this rich Superman with ‘white privilege’ taking back power.”

Although the conversations centered on Donald Trump and the detailing of dynamics in the Republican presidential race, what kept emerging — and what finished off an exquisite evening of unparalleled dialogue — was the state of Black America, and where it lies in “the all of it”.

“Let me bring it down to a basic level,” Welcome tells the panel. “Pookie and them are disenfranchised. They see all these people for Donald Trump — the white privileged people responding — and getting to hold onto their privilege.”

“When Pookie and Shanika don’t vote, you ain’t got no voice,” retorts Al Bartell as he stands and points out to the audience to quiet down and listen.

ME closeup with micrphone at NML 2016

Maynard Eaton, NML’s co-founder and “Monday Night Politics” discussion master. Photo: by Faith Swift

The unique series, according to convener Jim Welcome, intends to produce a video “white paper” on what the four evenings of dialogue uncover about where Black Atlanta is with regard to the current political landscape. A daunting, and never before accomplished journalism feat perhaps, but if the first Monday conversation is any indicator, the findings of the video “white paper” will wake up its viewers and readers by its “unbridled, take the brakes off” candidness.

It certainly did Monday night.

Maynard Eaton is an award-winning journalist and media communications professional with a career spanning more than three decades in Atlanta. Eaton, a Columbia University School of Journalism grad, has parlayed his experience as a pioneering 8-time EMMY Award winning television news reporter into positions of National Communications Director for the SCLC, Managing Editor of the SCLC National Magazine, Editor & Host of NEWSMAKERS Live and President of the Eaton Media Group.

7 replies
  1. ruby williams says:

    This is such a difficult and trying election. When the country turns a presidential election into a race war, the core values of the entire process are lost. Where is the man, or woman, who still dreams of a better, efficient, and free America? Where is the one who recalls the pride and grace our Lady Liberty stands for? With all of my heart, I firmly believe that Trump is running simply to make a power play in his career and is in it more for the thrill than for the privilege and heavy responsibility of running an entire country. I remember as a child, reciting the pledge of allegiance and feeling a surge of pride and honor and I wonder if, by the end of this election, I will still be proud to be called an American. I am not well-versed in politics, but even at my young age of twenty, I understand the urgent need for all ages and generations to take action and stand up for our American history and our future.Report

    Reply
  2. CarrieLouWilliams says:

    Just a few things to add, ME.  The quality of the dialogue last Monday night — compared to the major network political dialogue — was distinctly head and shoulders above the status quo.  Powerful is the word.  I acknowledge each of the participating panelists for their stellar contribution — to each other, to the listening live audience, but also to future audiences via video. 

    ME, we sheltered our readers from some of the very raw moments that hit home hard in the room that night.  It resonated and rang true — the work that’s left to do. I urge those so moved to attend this series, to get “the good stuff” that happens in the moment.  ME, people love watching you do what you do.  Nobody can duplicate it. Keep doing it! 

    Lastly, I want to acknowledge my daughter Ruby Williams, for being courageous and commenting for the first time on something her mother has helped write. In the struggle, I don’t often get the chance to really witness “the progress” along my way.  She has made me proud — all the years of struggle, of being unconventional (to say the least) — and she is standing where she is, encouraging all of us to stay true to the original ideals of America, in the face of seemingly impossible odds, in the current “reality”.

    Thank you Ruby.  Thank you Maynard.

    Let the work continue…..now more than ever……Report

    Reply
  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Black Atlanta will remain in the taken-for-granted Democratic column as long as the Democrats continue to offer free stuff that will be paid for by someone rlse.Report

    Reply
  4. Al Bartell says:

    Al Bartell: Independent Public Policy Leader

    Variety is the spice of life or in this case “furiously sizzling” spice of politics.  The discussion highlighted an all important question….do black lives really matter in America…according to Donald Trump..they don’t.  News Makers Live and Saporta Report continue to be on the cutting edge of “keeping it real”.  I don’t think it’s an accident that Maynard Eaton is a critical contribution to both.  Keep up the good work…my man..we’re all depending on you..to keep it real…!!!!!!!!!!Report

    Reply
  5. Jerry Dickerson says:

    Maynard, by far this is one of your best narratives, ever!
    Also, Carrie Williams and Jim welcome, kudos to you, respectively, for your contributions to this great journalistic product.
    Salutes, to all of the participants, especially for their courage to show up.
    Keep it up, push the envelope!Report

    Reply
  6. michael murphy says:

    As the fabulous Dells would sing, “oh what a night”. First, let say that being a black republican is not easy. Having been a signee on the Contract with America in ’94, I know all to well what it is like to take the road least traveled. The late Jack Kemp, while shaking my hand at a fundraiser he came to on my behalf, told me that ” “anybody can be a republican, it takes somebody to be a black republican.” I have shared my trials and tribulations with ME. He knows that I would walk through a lion’s cage with a pork chop suit on to be a part of his forums. He is the greatest living black journalists that I know left on this earth. I will always remember him for the tough questions that he dared to ask former Mayor Shirley Franklin. He has no fear and the “furious five” event was an evening to remember for me. 

    It’s so amazing to hear the naysayers cry worry so soon. I love my folk but we are so politically programmed. With the amount of heartfelt worship and fervent prayer 
    that rises upward every Sunday morning about 11, and Wednesday night about 8, we should realize God has our back. We have to do the rest. Hold our representatives responsible for doing more than just moving their lips.

    Take solace, I have not heard Trump suggest that Dennis Rodman would be his choice for Secretary of State or that Charles Barkley would be the Secretary of 
    Defense. The man knows talent and will not tolerate incompetence or lip service. Our country is in real trouble. Our young people need hope and our elders need comfort and safety. 

    Better days ahead. Kudos to Newsmakers and my friend, ME.Report

    Reply

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