First, thank you to Our Weekly and to Stevie Wonder’s KJLH FrontPage. Together, they supported and promoted last weekend’s community gathering to ‘Craft A Black Political Agenda for California,’ held at the Vision Theater in Leimert Park and hosted by the California Black Think Tank.

As political get-togethers go, this one was one of the best I’ve attended and participated in during the last 25 years of activism. With an eye on Sankofa to guide us, and a healthy discussion of where we’ve been, this gathering focused on getting to higher ground and on finding the way to a road map to save ourselves from political oblivion.

Relatively speaking, the participants were polite and mutually respectful. They kept the ‘this is what’s wrong with Black people’ comments to a minimum, and we agreed on some substantial steps needed to move ahead.

Clearly, these were baby steps on the journey forward, but the emphasis was on the journey ahead, moving forward, and not on simply wallowing in the competition to outdo the other in articulating our problems and complaining about our lack of something or another.

Although it came as a surprise, we even raised a little money to open an activist bank account at a Black financial institution. The extemporaneous fundraising was inadvertent, since we did not seek it or ask for it, yet led by Brother Tut Hayes, who initiated it, some of the participants felt compelled enough by the moment to show how very serious they really were.

We also set up a new listserv to keep a broad swath of L.A. political activists informed about current events, projects, writings and opportunities. Political L.A. well represented itself this day.

The second session of this gathering will be held on Nov. 6, from noon to 5 p.m. at the same place–the Vision Theater. You are invited, if you have something serious and thoughtful to add toward moving ahead and on formulating an effective Black political agenda.

The summary of the first session, and a copy of the reference document the group used to get started is on www.californiablackthinktank.com.

Second, let me repeat from last week’s column: It is very important for the Black community to stay politically informed and involved. One tangible approach to help us do that is to have a reliable process for choosing what and who to vote for. The politics of personality–I like him/her as a person, therefore I’ll cast a vote for them–is not a good enough basis for our participation in elections. What can and will they do for us is a far better perspective. So please make sure you get and keep the process laid out in last week’s Our Weekly column for determining how to vote on propositions. You may or may not agree that the process gets you to vote yes on 19, 21, 25 and maybe 27, and absolutely no on all the rest, as I strongly recommended, but you will notice that the process listed to help you make that determination is far better than mere guessing or being persuaded on the cosmetics and fluff of the initiatives. Additionally, the process is not just for this election but for those elections to come.

As political denizens, Black folk are very smart; we just need to remember that we are and to conduct ourselves that way.

Regarding the other seemingly innocuous part of the ballot, there are names, names and more names essentially all sounding confusingly the same often staring at us from the voting pages.

Who are these people and why should we care? Some are candidates for judgeships, some for assessor, some for the water district board or for some other obscurity. This particular Nov. 2 ballot has a plethora of names for us to wade through, since virtually all of the California state constitutional officers, from governor to state board of equalization (four districts) are on the ballot, along with retention votes on three California State Supreme Court jurists, not to mention the U.S. Senate seat.

In all, there are more than 56 names to choose from on top of the nine propositions. Just the ticket for a long, winding Tuesday morning or afternoon.

Most of us tend to an eeny-meeny-minny-mo system since we just want to finish up, get our little voting sticker and leave, or else we try to ignore them all only to be embarrassed by the precinct worker who hands our ballot back as incomplete. A few of us try the name thing–Brown sounds Black, Schwartz doesn’t, and Martinez and Oh are obvious, and so is Johnson. But, by now common sense should have gotten those who try that tact to read the memo that that approach has winning-the-lottery-type odds of success. We may be what we eat, but we are certainly not all Shanequas and Willie Joneses.

Who gets to be a judge of the municipal or superior court does count, since many of us will have more than a few days in front of such authorities, and no one doubts the importance of the state Supreme Court.

Remember Three-Strikes? So, how do we decide? Is there a sure-fire process? No, there isn’t, but there are ways that do demonstrate one’s political IQ better than others. For example, for the independent voters among us, simply review the Official Voters’ Information Guide and take notes. The candidates’ statements and qualifications are listed–all 57??? of them.

Credible newspapers will always print an assessment list of candidates and retention nominees for the public, complete with reasons to recommend one or the other. The Internet will also have valuable evaluations of every candidate. Make sure you look for and find such a trusted source at least one or two weeks before November 2nd.

The League of Women Voters always provides a similar list, as will your county political party, and most of your current congressional leaders in your district.

So, if you want to wait on the recommendations rather than to do the work yourself, the information will be there. The point is, do not go into the voting booth empty-handed. Take a prepared list of names you intend to vote for with you, otherwise you will end up guessing at the last minute, possibly voting for someone who will later sentence you to jail or prison, when probation was an option.

Remember, now is the time for us all to vote, and to vote intelligently and informed. Our political sustenance depends on it. So pay attention to the details.

Professor David L. Horne, is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of Our Weekly.