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A new day, a new way as Benton Harbor mayoral election approaches

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Apr 25, 2014 - 8:38:41 AM

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( - While many appear to have given up on the small town of Benton Harbor, Michigan, mayoral candidate Marcus Muhammad is not one of them.

With the support of the people, he hopes to prove the naysayers wrong in his efforts to turn the blighted town into an example of renewal for all to see.

“We do not need to rebrand or rename the city of Benton Harbor,” said Mr. Muhammad. “Instead, what is needed is reinvestment, rejuvenation, and resuscitation,” he noted.

Mr. Muhammad is well known throughout the community, being elected as a Commissioner-at-Large in 2009 and re-elected in 2013. He also served as Mayor Pro Tem for a period of time. Community activists have counted on him as an advocate for their needs and a courageous voice that would stand up against corporate exploitation. Mr. Muhammad says the people of Benton Harbor want the same things those in other communities across America have, economic security, jobs, quality services, good schools and safe neighborhoods. 

Benton Harbor’s population of a little over 10,000 is at its lowest level in over a century. The city is 89 percent Black with a median income of $17,300.

Residents unhappy with the city’s economic and political direction forced its current mayor, James Hightower, to participate in the May 6 recall election. The winner of the election holds the mayoral seat through the end of the term in 2015. Mr. Muhammad has run a campaign free of insults and negativity always looking towards the future instead of dealing with the political bickering that has gripped Benton Harbor’s city council in the past.

“I am determined to take the high road in my campaign to become the next mayor of the city of Benton Harbor. This city needs a mayor that can bring people of all creeds, classes, colors, religions and all walks of life together. No one person, group, or color can revive Benton Harbor,” said Marcus Muhammad. 

Support for Muhammad grows

Lisa Gulley, Benton Harbor Area school board trustee, said there is no doubt whom she supports in the mayoral race. Having known Mr. Muhammad for 20 years, she said she was proud to see the leader he had become. Upon moving back to Benton Harbor from Atlanta, Georgia, she attended many city council meetings and “in him, I saw a city leader in the making,” she notes.

“Even with all the fights and forces against Marcus Muhammad, he has remained vigilant and for the people,” said Ms. Gulley.

David Shaw, a Benton Harbor Commissioner-at-Large, worked with Mr. Muhammad in the city council and said he will be voting for him. He said Mr. Muhammad now in his second term as Commissioner-at-Large has the experience required and is rooted in the community. Both are very important qualifications the people of the city are looking for after having so much imposed on them externally from corporations and state government.

“What the city needs is a strong mayor at this time,” said Mr. Shaw. “That is what you will have if Marcus Muhammad is elected. Very well spoken, most of all not afraid to speak on and for the people here in the city.”

Imam Rahim Abdullah served as a Commissioner-at-Large in Benton Harbor between the years 2004 and 2008, and as a 50-year resident of the city, he places his support behind Mr. Muhammad as well.

“The city of Benton Harbor needs leadership that will represent the interest of the citizens,” said Imam Abdullah. “We also need a mayor who can interact with the business community and other areas,” he added.

Perhaps one of the most important community leaders to come out in favor of Mr. Muhammad’s mayoral candidacy was Reverend Edward Pinkney. As founder and president of the activist group, the Black Autonomy Community Organization (BANCO), he has been an outspoken defender of the rights of Benton Harbor’s residents, in fact, he was so outspoken that he ended up in jail in what he and many other community residents saw as politically motivated legal harassment, after being  accused of threatening a judge.  Rev. Pinkney appealed and was ultimately released. He continues to battle corporate interlopers.

“Marcus Muhammad will make Benton Harbor a great place to live again,” said Rev. Pinkney. “Marcus Muhammad will redirect the city of Benton Harbor from going down the very same road of bankruptcy, crime, violence, disunity, economic peril, (and) poor services. He will continue to stand and fight for the community. He is honest, trustworthy, and has integrity,” Rev. Pinkney added.

(For more information visit Marcus Muhammad for Mayor on Facebook.)