KANSAS CITY, Missouri - This year, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations come in the middle of the campaign for Kansas City mayor.
There are seven candidates for mayor, and only one is African-American.
He is Sly James, and he's raised the most money in the race so far. But the other candidates are not conceding the African-American vote.
They're working to get support for a voting bloc that could swing the election.
Also, James didn't get the endorsement of the city's biggest African-American political club.
Freedom, Inc. chose former councilman Jim Rowland instead.
"Freedom chose me because of the things that I've actually done. Proven, demonstrated experience and being able to work with people, all people across the community, to build one Kansas City," said Rowland.
"No, it's not a concern. Obviously, everyone wants endorsements, it makes them feel good. But the fact of the matter is, endorsements don't vote," said James in response.
Political activist Klassie Alcine believes the winner will need the black vote, but that no candidate has locked it up yet.
"What that says is that it's not anymore about race. It's going to come down to principal. It's going to come down to who has the greatest plan.. who can put economic development in these areas, who can get jobs to these areas," said Alcine, when asked to analyze how the black vote will affect the election.
As other candidates fight for black support, Mike Burke's strategy is to open a second campaign office in the historic 18th and Vine district.
Burke says it's to, "highlight my commitment to parts of the city that I think believe they have been thoroughly forgotten."
And on a day devoted to the civil rights struggle, James points out the best way to honor Dr. King is to vote on Feb. 22.
I moderated a morning candidate forum at All Souls Unitarian Universal Church, which was organized by the Missouri Association of Social Welfare.
Gospel music started off the forum before the seven mayoral candidates took on city and social justice issues.
When Rowland criticized the drama at City Hall, Mayor Mark Funkhouser responded strongly by saying that the best way to bring equity to poor people is to agitate.. because without struggle, there is no progress.
Funkhouser quoted both Frederick Douglass and MLK and noted that he has a degree in social welfare.
Deb Hermann said she started politics "at the knee of Mamie Hughes", an early leader in the African-American community who has a bridge named after her.
James said education is important because, "very few Ph.D's are standing on street corners drinking 40s and killing people."
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