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The Rise, Decline and Neutering of John Conyers by William Reed


John James Conyers is the epitome of “Black Power”; and an excellent example of black power gone wrong.. Conyers is the longest-serving current member of the U.S. House of Representatives; Conyers is an undisputed hero of the civil rights movement.  These days, “The Godfather” is an aging icon that has stayed at the ball too long., Conyers represents the waning results of blacks’ investment in elective politics.

A Detroit Free Press editorial called for Conyers’ registration and contended his legacy will be marred forever by accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward female staffers.  In addition, New York Congressman Gregory Meeks has urged Conyers to “step down”.  Conyers’ office downplays the payments he’s made as “severance,” the newspaper likens it as “paying hush money.”

Its time the gentleman from Detroit goes there permanently.  The young lion blacks knew and acclaimed in the 70s has turned into “a paper tiger” right before our eyes.  John Conyers came to the fore in the 60s championing civil rights and black equity.  He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 and established a reputation as an advocate for blacks..  Now it’s time Conyers moved on, if not for the ethics violations he’s facing, but under the Robert Mugabe Rule of “been there too dam long.”

John Conyers, Jr. was born in Detroit in May 1929.  He graduated in 1947 from Northwestern High School.  After high school, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the United Automobile Workers Union (UAW)..  Conyers worked for the Lincoln Car Factory, where he became a director of education for UAW Local 900.

Conyers enlisted in the United States Army in August 1950 and became a second lieutenant.  After having seen combat in the Korean War,  Conyers returned to Wayne State University to receive a Bachelor of Arts in 1957 and Juris Doctor in 1958.  After passing the bar Conyers became a legislative assistant to Fifteenth District Michigan Congressman John Dingell, Jr.    With Dingell’s support Conyers was elected to Congress at 35.

In 1971 Conyers was one of the thirteen founders of the Congressional Black Caucus.  He introduced the legislation in 1983 that created the Dr. Martin Luther King national holiday.  Over the years he’s become a “mainstream member.”

Conyers is well-liked by most blacks.  “John Conyers is America’s congressman, because he’s worked courageously to help pass laws that guarantee civil rights, fairness in labor relations and government accountability,” said Rev. Dr. Jim Holley in 2005 at Little Rock Baptist Church.  Conyers sponsored a bill to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and initiated Black Reparations legislation in 1989..  Conyers ran for Mayor of Detroit in 1989 and 1993 but was defeated in the primaries.

The demise of Conyers and HR 40 is self-fulfilling.  Most people, black and white, say “it’ll never happen.”. Conyers and staff have approached and advocated as it’ll never happen.  Conyers came onto the issue of reparations due to Detroit realtor Raymond Jenkins’ persistence in pursuing ways to address our nation’s epic wrong.  Conyers’ Congressional agenda has been more symbolism than substance,  The reparations issue reveals how inept Conyers and staff are. . “Slavery is a blemish on this nation’s history, and until it is formally addressed, our country’s story will remain marked by this blight “is what Conyers has been telling the nation’s activists, legal experts, scholars, politicos and community leadership for almost 40 years.  But, Conyers’ sponsorship of reparations for slavery has been either a “in your face” farce or tragedy of incompetence.  Most blacks know little of HR 40 legislation.  A closer examination reveals Conyers’ Congressional agenda to be more symbolism than substance.  Conyers routinely submits HR 40 each session of Congress but there’s no evidence of advocacy activities for its passage. With rudimentary legislative management, Conyers’ forty acres and a mule could have yielded descendants of slaves between $6 and $14 trillion.

Meeks is getting his wish for Conyers to step down from the Judiciary Committee.  Blacks should spend little discussion on whether Conyers departs, but “who is” up next?

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via

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