After a nasty campaign in which the oppostion attempted to skew his record, slander his family, disparage community agencies that he supported and paint him as an ineffective legislator, State Representative Benjamin Swan soundly defeated his two challengers by more than a two to one margin. Swan was challenged by Lorenzo Gains, a constable and former teacher and Chelan Brown, a self proclaimed community activist and leader of an organization that claims to reduce youth violence. Brown’s campaign was particularly negative and stooped to gutter politics in their attempt to unseat the representative. From lying about having her web site tampered with after it was discovered that she plagiarized her issue statements to posting slanderous comments on Masslive.com and telling outright lies in a Valley Advocate article, Chelan displayed a true lack of character for one who covets a position of leadership.
I am thankful that the voters of the 11th Hampden District saw Brown’s shenanigans for what they were and sent her a clear message that they would not trade Swan’s integrity, experience and dedication for her tissue thin resume as she attempted to mimic Senator Barack Obama with her calls for change. Brown should be ashamed of the type of campaign she waged, however, I have no expectation that she will man up and accept responsibility for her actions or for those of her surrogates. She didn’t even have enough class to concede the race and to shake the hand of the winner.
Below is a tribute that I wrote to Representative Swan, which was published in the September 2008 edition fo the African American Point of View Newspaper:
A Tribute to Representative Benjamin Swan
I was blessed to be born into a family with deep spiritual roots that valued education, encouraged creativity, fought for social justice and believed in public service. My parents had high expectations for me and my sibling and supported our endeavors. Their support helped produce six college graduates, including four at the graduate level. My father spent years in human services and education. He was the director of staff training and development at the University of Massachusetts and the President and CEO of the Caring Community Health Center. My mother retired from the Massachusetts Department of Education as a Regional Director and later won an award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the director of the Springfield Public School’s breakfast program. My step-mother has worked at the supervisory level in human services for many years and has mentored scores of youth and guided their success. The examples set by my parents have inspired the careers of an award winning journalist, a pastor and human service executive, a social worker and family service administrator, a social work supervisor, a middle school principal, an executive director of a community center and a human service professional.
Despite their parental dedication and support, raising their children and influencing their success was aided by friends and extended family. Our aunts and uncles heavily influenced our lives and provided needed support. I am a minister today because of the example of my Uncle Talbert, whom I am named for. Aunt Dorothy, our family matriarch, deepened our sense of spirituality and challenged our commitment to church and community. However, perhaps the greatest influence on our need to give back to the community and to serve humanity is embodied in the example of State Representative Benjamin Swan, affectionately known to us as “Uncle Ben.”
Representative Swan has dedicated his life to serving others and to the cause of social justice. From his leadership in the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the civil rights movement both locally and nationally to his current role as an elected official, Representative Swan has selflessly served the citizens of Springfield. Forty three years ago, he was featured in a front-page Springfield Union photo being taken to jail for standing up for the rights of our people. Today, he is the region’s only African American representative in the legislature. The civil rights movement that defined his early career gave blacks access to a political system, which excluded them. He rightfully has taken his place in that system and has well served the citizens of his district.
During this year’s budget process, Representative Swan filed amendments supporting nearly $7 million in earmarks for his constituents. He fought hard in an effort to support the work of agencies such as: The Urban League, Black Men of Greater Springfield, Amer-I-Can, Northern Educational Services, Mason Square Veterans, Open Pantry, Springfield Technical Community College, Black Chamber of Commerce, State Street Community Center, ReStore Home Improvement, Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, Hoop City Jazz Festival, Springfield Carnival Association, Reading Recovery Program, SOURCE, Jewish Family Services, Affiliated Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Partners for a Healthier Community, Springfield Public Health Department, Dunbar Community Center, and Massachusetts Career Development Institute.
Services Representative Swan sought to support included, but were not limited to: parent empowerment, after school and out of school programs to help youth avoid incarceration, recidivism and gang violence, life skills programs for youth, residential recovery programs, veterans support programs, emergency food services, training programs, counseling, education and resource development for entrepreneurs, home restoration programs, employment readiness training, cultural enrichment, G.E.D. preparation, and citizenship training, prevention of foreclosures, assisting first-time home buyers, and job creation programs.
The residents of the 11th Hampden District are fortunate to have the leadership of a veteran representative who is well respected across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The citizens of Springfield should recognize the long and dedicated service of a man who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and led the struggle for human rights in our city. The Swan family is blessed to have our own historian, jazz aficionado and barbecue rib connoisseur who helped us discover the true value of giving back. Thank you Uncle Ben.