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Redemption? What does the future hold for Kwame Kilpatrick?

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick

Redemption? What does the future hold for Kwame Kilpatrick?

By Cheryl Smith

His story was one made for Lifetime Television. There was sex, corruption, drugs, alcohol, and some say, murder. The media followed this story for years and even with recent reports, this story is long from over.

The first time that I met Kwame Malik Kilpatrick was on the campus of our alma mater, Florida A&M University.  It was Homecoming and there were a lot of celebrations with plenty of food and love flowing. This was before the scandal broke in Michigan — the scandal that would send the former Michigan state representative and Democratic mayor of Detroit to prison.

On that beautiful October day, Mayor Kilpatrick was surrounded by his fellow Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers and football players from back in the day.  Alumni from across the country clamored to talk to and take pictures with the mayor. Still we talked about his plans for the future and I found the mayor to be charismatic, intelligent, analytical, meticulous in thought and actions, and a joy to be around. He appeared to be well-grounded and focused on rebuilding Detroit.

Of course I was saddened to hear about his troubles and I wondered who was advising him because his lies on the witness stand were so easy to dissect.

And that is exactly what happened!

People came forward and there were the infamous sexting transcripts, which shed light on his extramarital affair with his aide.

Mr. Kilpatrick shared some of his troubles in his book, Surrendered: The Rise, Fall & Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick. After the release of the book, I interviewed him and he talked candidly about the book, his problems and the future.

Last year when I visited with him in Sunny South Dallas, he was in good spirits.  There was no hint of the arrogant person that I had heard about from some journalists and a few Detroit natives.

It was clear that there were strong feelings on either side, about the Mayor.  Some people I talked to were mad, hurt, embarrassed, sad, disappointed and yes, happy.

The thought that someone with such a bright future would end up in jail, is also disappointing to me. People of all gas believed in the Mayor. The media dubbed him the “Hip Hop Mayor.”  I didn’t have a problem with the moniker.  For me, I saw a man who could break down barriers with a smile, articulate issues and present solutions. He had the respect of the masses, of all ages.


Well, last week he was sentenced to 28 years after being convicted of public corruption.  During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said she hoped to send a message to future politicians.   Some feel that his lack of accountability for his actions probably led to a sentence usually given to murderers and the like. I think some had preferred if he presented himself as beaten, broken, downtrodden and begging for mercy, while others simply wanted to hear sincerity and acceptance of wrongdoing.

The rise and fall of Mr. Kilpatrick should be examined carefully.  Early in his political career, there was even talk of him ascending to the White House. That was before the charges of racketeering, fraud and extortion, and more.

There are so many young men and women who will be stepping up to serve.  It is imperative that they understand the trappings and that they don’t get caught up like so many others, including Mr. Kilpatrick.  Decades ago there was a report on the number of Black elected officials under investigation, in prison or disgraced.  It wasn’t fun to read and sadly that list has grown significantly over the years.

I believe that we haven’t heard the last of Mr. Kilpatrick and that we are going to hear some positive things.  Maybe not in the near future, though.

After all you have a city reeling from corruption, devastation, crime and bankruptcy.  It will take many a while to forgive and some will never forget. He even admitted that he had to forgive himself!

I believe Mr. Kilpatrick’s days of service are not over and that his time served, which could be overturned in appeal, will be of benefit to the masses.  And, once he is released, we will really see and have the best of Kwame Kilpatrick.

Some might say that I am taking this position because he is a Rattler and fellow Greek, or merely because he is a black man living in America. If you’ve met this man, and you don’t believe the hype, you understand where I am coming from.

You also have to have hope to sustain you in this world.




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