POUGHKEEPSIE – Joash Ward, the unsuccessful Democratic challenger to Mayor Rob Rolison in this year’s election, penned a social media post that has drawn the ire of many city residents. Less than 48 hours after losing to Rolison, the young Ward posted the following on his campaign’s social media page. (The vulgar language has been replaced with symbols):
“For those of you who voted for the first time in your lives, having seen the world, you believed that a 24 year old from Public Housing with a Poughkeepsie
High School Education was the answer: Today, the headlines are about you.
Nearly 1,000 of you came out to bring us closer to victory in Poughkeepsie than FDR when he ran for President.
And my team: the greatest band of political rebels in history: I love you! You did what no one else was willing to do.
We took on the Republicans, the Democrats, the community organisers, the liars, the sell-outs, the White Suprematist (and their Black enablers)—like Atlas, we put this city on our backs!
The credit belongs to you.
You are moms, siblings, friends—none of you did this before. You are the Face of Courage. You are my Heroes.
To my family—the family I started with and the new members, baptised by fire—I love you. We have different last names, but the same heart. We pulled this City, and the world as it watched, closer to Love, closer to Truth. Closer to light.
Now, some of you are angry, so let me say what’s on our minds:
•F#&* the Republicans
•F#&* the Mayor
•F#&* the Police
•F#&* Every Member of the School Board
•F#&* the Gentrifier
•F#&* the Jail
•F#&* the Racist, the White Supremacist,
•F#&* the Bigot
•F#&* the narrow Minded Bonehead
•F#&* the Traitor
•F#&* the Uncle Tom
Sometimes it just has to be said right?
Well that’s exactly what 47% of this city said when we voted for change. Now that we said it, we don’t have to repeat ourselves…
The Dr. Poet Laureate Maya Angelou quoted the words of Terrance when she said, “I am human, nothing human can be alien to me.”
What I mean is the hatred and vitriol we’ve seen them turn against us, lives all the same in our own hearts. Should we deny it’s existence, we will not be able to Oppose them without Hatred.
I never deny that the worst is in me too…but I lean towards courage to say what is difficult and vulnerable instead. Words are as healing and dignifying as they are divisive.
The greatest pain of this election was to learn that on the heels of every single decision made in public office—someone will make Millions or Billions of Dollars. Not my loss, but the loss of my people.
I’m not upset with those of you in my community who sold me out. I’m saddened that your minds are so narrow as to have sold me out for nothing in return. Not the protection of your own families. Not even your own advancement. You sold me and your community down the river for a pat on the back from your oppressor while they make our like a bandit with your children’s future…
But I forgive you. I have forgiven you from the moment you let hatred color your motivation. From when you turned on us for telling the truth: I forgive you. All of you.
My name is Joash Ward, I was your Democratic Candidate for Mayor of the City of Poughkeepsie and it has been the honor of my lifetime to represent half, two thirds or eighty percent of this city (whatever way you want to count it) over the past year.
I am but a Messangers of what’s coming, of the Young, the Colored, the Queer, the Economic Underclass, the Formerly Voiceless, the Lost and Forgotten.
We are the People of the United States and we have formed to create a More Perfect Union. We are ready. We are willing…we are able. And We Vote.
You won’t see my face at the forefront next time—but you will hear my voice in every child in this city who demands a better education—a safer environment, a more equitable city. In the mother who knows fighting her way into the middle class and the Young Black Man who knows his rights.
You will not know the day or the hour, only that a new day has come.
I won’t ever ask my people to Unite with those who would see us murdered in cold blood. I won’t ask my people to endure that injury any longer.
Instead, I will ask you what we are going to do about it. How you are going to break the chains of oppression that bind you.
400 years ago the first slaves arrived on our shores, and 400 years later there are 11 million immigrants living and working among us, without the protection of the law—not seen as people, let alone Citizens. We have come too far to have only come in a circle. But as the son of both slaves and immigrants, I say it’s time we put an end to the madness.
Allow me to Reintroduce myself,
My name is Joash Ward I was elected by popular vote:
Leader of The Opposition.
The outrage to the post was immediate and drew harsh criticism from many.
Despite that, Ward stood fast with what he had posed. “I meant what I said!”
City of Poughkeepsie Democratic Chairwoman, Jane Barber-Smith was asked if she read the post in its entirety, she answered yes but refused to denounce Ward, and responded with “no comment.”
Michael Dupree, the vice-chairman of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee called the post “disturbing” and “depressing”. Dupree went on to say “I struggled to reconcile words that I have never heard from a young man who has been insistent and at times pointed but always gentle. As in a truly gentle man.
“The vulgarity aside, Ward seems to be trying to allow his supporters’ frustrations – and those are plenty, not just with this election’s results – to become a new platform. That is fine, but there are far better and much less inflammatory ways to engage them to create positive change from the polarization that continues to simmer below the City’s surface.
“I cannot support what he wrote. Especially the ‘F#@k the mayor’ and ‘F#@k the police.’ That does not start a dialogue to improve the way the City’s police operate – his plans as a candidate could have, but now, we will never know. If his many supporters feel as though they were cheated of a victory, then using this kind of language is not the way to provide calm and rational leadership. Instead, it seeks to continue the divide. And will not resolve their frustrations.
Joash is an intellectual powerhouse with so many good ideas. Today, he has effectively ended a future in electoral politics that could have provided a path for him to bring them to fruition.
I understand that for younger people, it is not enough to say ‘we will resolve to keep up the fight and win the mayoral seat four years from now.’ I was once a young gay man and have fought for the rights of all marginalized people including women and people of color. We are all in this together. We made many gains in my lifetime. But the reality is that change does not happen overnight and you must keep your eye on the long game.”
Ward’s personal attack on the members of the Poughkeepsie School Board was addressed in a statement by Board President Dr. Felicia Watson. “I will not dignify a retaliatory comment based upon the belligerent rant of a defeated candidate. The PCSD board of education are committed public servants who are giving of themselves for the edification of all students & families. Divisiveness and self-aggrandizement have no place in this education transformative revolution. What has been espoused in a Facebook post against the board is demonstrative of a lack of character and nothing more than misguided emotions. Instead of trying to lambaste those who are positively impacting students’ lives, we can all work together to be a part of the solution. Repulsive comments are counterproductive. Staff in this district are and continue to be, champions for children.”
Mayor Rob Rolison was also cursed at in the post responded in kind, saying “It’s one thing if you want to be upset with me as the opponent in the race. I accept that. But to make comments like that is both disturbing and very troublesome.” Rolison addressed the undertones of racism in the post as well. “These types of comments – they divide communities and I am certain that the residents are not going to let these absolutely hateful comments slow down the progress we are making together.”
Police Chief Tom Pape, whose department was also mentioned, said “I can understand any candidate’s frustration in losing an election but I am disappointed in Mr. Ward’s reaction and feelings towards our community.”
Poughkeepsie Councilmember Chris Petsas, also a Democrat, weighed in, noting that he had distanced himself from Ward early on. “I separated from his campaign months ago after seeing this type of behavior. I’m disappointed, but at the end of the day, I think we have all expressed feelings at one time or another on social media that we later regret. I know I have. The main thing is to learn from those mistakes and be better communicators of our feelings.”
Elysa Sumner, chairwoman of the county’s Democratic committee did not return requests for comment, and the county Republicans are calling Sumner out. In a statement issued by County GOP Chairman Michael McCormack, he said “Today I am calling on Chairwoman Sumner to condemn Joash Ward’s offensive rant and apologize to the people of Poughkeepsie for fielding an unhinged candidate for mayor in the first place.” The chairman continued with “If losing an election prompted such a crazed and inappropriate response from Mr. Ward, imagine what he would have done if he was actually elected mayor.” City Republican Chairwoman Kara Bucher also weighed in saying “Based on Mr. Ward’s inappropriate rant on social media, it’s quite obvious that the City of Poughkeepsie voters chose correctly in their vote for mayor. That level of divisiveness has no place in our city and frankly, those views make him ineligible to hold any office now or in the future.”