On March 12, 2002 Dr. Lenora Fulani, chair and co-founder of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, was on the program with leading Independent journalist  Rob Redding of Redding News Review to discuss how she established herself as a non-political left/center/right force during her presidential run in 1988. She was the first African-American to appear on the ballot in all 50 states.

Dr. Lenora Fulani, welcome to the program! Let me ask you this question: will you run again? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Will I run again? Well, I don’t want to say never…I actually don’t know…in relative to my interest in running for President – is if there is a real shot that I could win. And that would mean that the country would have to change dramatically! What I’m doing now, which I love, is basically building an organization around the country; training people to focus on the political environment, and what we need to do to change it. And bringing in new people, young people, into the political arena, and teaching them about leadership and growth, and I love that work, I think it’s very important. And I support candidates throughout New York, such as Michael Bloomberg, and help the Black community make history, by virtual of going up against the big guys…and asserting their power. They basically used the campaign of this white billionaire, to stand up to the Democratic Party. And they were able to do that, because I had spent the last 20 years building the Independence Party in New York, the third largest party in our state… 

How many members? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: We have over 200,000 members statewide, here in New York City we have about 50,000; and we stood on the street corners and registered them – a lot of them. A large percentage of the Black community, and more and more interest growing, off of the excitement of last year’s mayoral race… 

How many states are you behind in getting ballot access in? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Well, one thing is that the party that I was affiliated with nationally, the Reform Party, self-destructed. And, in some ways, it was part of growing pains of building a new political movement in this country…we went national, quite frankly, before we were ready to go it. When Perot ran, we used his campaign as a way to create a national party, but there wasn’t enough built on the ground. So what I’m encouraging people to do, is forget about a national party at this point, and see what they can do within their state, to create local infrastructure; because that’s what made the difference in the state of New York. In Georgia, while you all are searching for a way to get elected officials, our so-called representatives, to change the laws so that you can build a new party, you need to go out and talk to people – there a lots of independent minded people in Georgia – Atlanta, all over the state. I know it, I’ve been there – and you should win them over, to become part of the fight, to win the right, to have a state party; and make sure there are real numbers, and real people…out there willing to fight the battle of creating a new party. 

Where does the committee have branches, or offices…what cities? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: There are maybe 20 cities, working to create these new clubs, so they can figure out what is best to take on in their state. Is it to take on political reform – like same day voter registration? Is it to get behind an independent political candidate? Is it to build a party? And in your state, there’s going to be another meeting. Call (770) 662-4911; go to the meeting, and check it out! 

Now, out of these 20 cities, how many of these states have ballot access, though? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Ballot access, given that there is no national party, there are lots of states where third parties have ballot access in…we have it here through the Independence Party in New York, there’s an Independence Party in Minnesota, where Jesse Ventura ran on, and won ballot access with…California has it [ballot access]… 

Why are you for unity within the independent parties? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Well, because I think that, in unity lies power. I think that there are millions of Americans looking to come together, looking to create this new force…they just have to come together – city by city, state by state. And people in those areas have to take on the responsibility to do that. And, the reason why I think unity is important, is because the issues their pushing – opening up the process, inclusion in the debate, changing the political culture in our country…not just money and top-down forces speak. But also, just the ordinary people have a voice, is so critical if we are going to maintain a democracy. I think our democracy is on the decline, because of the influence and corruption of the two-party system. 

Lily, is on Line 1; from Stone Mountain, she joins the conversation… 

Lily: Hello, Dr. Fulani! 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Hi! 

Lily: I am very glad to hear you; I would like to ask you a question, about whether or not you’re going to support Reverend Al Sharpton with his run [for Presidency]. Are you at least going to give him a voice, because I remember, in times past, he gave you a voice? 

Good question, Lily. 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Well, Reverend Sharpton and I have worked together a number of years…I don’t know if I’m going to support him, Lily. I haven’t heard from him, he hasn’t said two things to me about his race. And his plan to run is inside the Democratic Party. What he does know, because I’ve said it to him publicly and privately, many, many times, is that I think it is providing mis-leadership to Black people, to take us deeper, at all, into the Democratic Party. I don’t agree with him. It’s a bone of contention with us…I’m one of the people who worked really hard to get him to enter politics, because I thought what he was going to do, was to go independent. I don’t support his taking Black people into the Democratic Party…it wouldn’t matter to me if he was running for King of the World! So, on the one hand, he hasn’t said anything to me about his race; because he knows what I feel about where he’s planning to run on…and secondly, I don’t have any interest in supporting him – as a Democrat. That’s not the message we should send out. 

Lily: Oh, I see; well, I know you worked very hard to build the Independence Party – inside the state of New York; and throughout the country, too. And I wish you well, and you really have come a long way from the N.A.P. Party – 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Thank you. 

Lily: In case they don’t know what that means, perhaps you could explain it to them. 

Thanks, Lily. 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Yes – New Alliance Party; it was the first party I was affiliated with. I just wanted to again, repeat the number… 

Before you give the number, Keith has a question as well – go right ahead, Keith. 

Keith: Thank you. And Dr. Fulani, I respect you, and thank you for being a beacon. I just wanted to know if you could give a thumbnail blueprint, for how the party actually helped Bloomberg. If you could just leave us with something to work on; so in this state, we could duplicate that success? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Oh great-great question. The way that it helped him is that it existed. Many years ago, we did all of the work – in New York State, for example, in order to get a new political party, someone has to run for Governor, and they have to get enough votes; over 50,000 votes, to become a party on the ballot. That you can go in, and join – so in many ways, it has the same stature as the Democratic and Republican Parties. So we ran a candidate who did that, and he did so well in his race…he got us to be the third largest party in the state. And he was a rich, white male, because those are the people who generally have the money to run. However, we built from the bottom, because this particular candidate was not interested in either democracy or the Black community. And we created the infrastructure of the party – we ran people for state committee races, which is what runs a party statewide – it’s the people who make the decisions. And we basically had a full-blown fight for local control, inside the party. And so, ordinary people – all over New York – black, white, Latino…just different folks…are the people who literally run the party. And then, we just had meetings, and decisions made at the local level, in New York City; to decide who our candidate was going to be. Michael Bloomberg came to us very early…I went out in the Black community, in June of last year, when everybody was saying that Michael Bloomberg had a 20% chance of winning…he was definitely the underdog… 

Sure. Yeah. 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: And I spoke about the campaign…and at some point, I just want to make a relative to why not the Democrats…there was a primary inside the Democratic Party; Mark Green – a white, liberal candidate – ran against a Latino. And the Democrats, whenever there’s a close race inside their party, they play the race card. And they attacked the candidate Green was running against, a Latino borough president here, for having Reverend Sharpton’s support. And the message from this white, liberal candidate was – “you better be careful, because the blacks and Latinos are about to takeover city hall!” 

You’re kidding… 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: The black community and the Latino community had a tremendous response, and rather than just grumbling, they got up on election day; they went to the polls; and they didn’t have to vote on Bloomberg, who was running on two lines – one as a Republican, and he was also running on my line, as an independent, and that’s where millions of them came out, and supported him…they voted for him on that line, and that’s how he won. 

Well, Dr. Fulani, could you give the number for the Atlanta chapter? 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: Absolutely – (770) 662-4911; and when Rev. Sharpton comes into your area and says he running for President, you should ask him why he’s not running as an independent. Jesse already ran as a Democrat, we’ve been there, done that – we don’t need a symbolic run, we need a run for political power! 

Well – I will definitely ask him…and we will get Mr. Sharpton on this program! Dr. Fulani, thank you for joining us, and we wish you well in your success – and run again! 

Dr. Lenora Fulani: I’ll do my best!