Street Fight…

Cory Booker was a 32 year old, ivy-league educated city councilman from Newark, NJ. In 2002, he decided to challenge the city’s incumbent mayor, Sharpe James, in what became one of the most contentious and highly-publicized mayoral races in American history.

Last night, I watched the documentary by Curry Marshall entitled “Street Fight,” which chronicles the bitterly contested election. The setup is classic: A young, visionary and highly motivated leader challenges the system of corruption, nepotism, fraud, and nest-feathering nurtured and led by an older, established career politician whose dirty tricks and intimidation tactics were reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson or Richard Daley or Boss Tweed.

Sharpe James hurled every accusation imaginable at Cory Booker. He called him a “carpet bagger,” an “Uncle Tom,” and even raised questions about his moral integrity. James used Booker’s lighter skin to question his “blackness,” and threw the city of Newark into a crisis of identity and purpose. Booker ran his campaign out of low income apartment rentals. Sharpe ran his out of city hall. Booker ran his with technology by exposing the failures of James’s administration. James ran his by using the police force to chase off cameras and follow Booker supporters around.

In the end, Sharpe squeaked out a victory against Cory Booker to win a fifth and final term. By 2006, however, Sharpe James was embroiled in the kind of lawsuits and federal investigations from which a politician seldom recovers.

Today, Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark, NJ, having taken his oath of office on July 1, 2006, following the biggest landslide election in Newark’s history. In other words, while Southern Baptists were electing Frank Page to bring change to a system dominated by party bosses, the City of Newark was electing a younger leader to bring change to a corrupt city government.

Sharpe James is facing federal indictments this week. Cory Booker is posting podcasts and Youtube videos to take his message of reform straight to the people.

Southern Baptists have two more street fights before we know if things will change in our convention. The first is in San Antonio next month. The second is in Indianapolis next year. The first will bring the reelection of Frank Page. The second will bring — we hope — the election of David Dockery.

And the Sharpe Jameses of the Southern Baptist Convention will fade away. Below is the trailer for the documentary, “Street Fight.”

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