SOUTHFIELD – What was supposed to be a routine afternoon fundraiser for a local politician instead became an animated discussion on slurs and the vandalism of Kenson Siver’s campaign signs with anti-gay graffiti. Siver, who is openly gay and white, is running for mayor of Southfield. An ugly stealth campaign to paint him as racist has attracted negative media attention both locally and nationally.
Siver said he and his campaign have been distracted and disrupted by people writing “fag,” “rapist,” “sodomite,” and “racist” on his campaign signs, and by middle-of-the-night leafleting of fliers that accuse him of secretly wanting to run African-Americans out of Southfield.
Upset and saddened by these accusations, Siver said he is determined to take the high road and not stoop to the level of this smear campaign.
“There are always a few jerks around, but the overall sense of this community has been one of tolerance,” said Siver. “We have a large Jewish population, a large Chaldean population, African-Americans and white folks — a whole mix of people here and we all get along.”
He choked up when talking about the smear campaign, saying tearfully, “It’s not my experience here. We’ve lived here very well and have had wonderful neighbors.”
State Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, introduced Siver to the group of about 30 donors. The event took place at the home of Alan Semonian Oct. 18 and was hosted by attorneys John Allen and Mark LaChey. Moss served on the Southfield city council with Siver before getting elected to the State House of Representatives last year. He is now one of two openly gay members of the House, along with Jon Hoadley from Kalamazoo.
“It says something that this type of activity is done anonymously, in the middle of the night, scribbled on Ken’s signs because we live in an era where this is not acceptable in a public forum,” said Moss. “Anyone who wants to run a whisper campaign about Ken being gay — it is not going to work. Not in 2015. I have had so many straight allies from our communities from all races, all creeds and all ages say to me, ‘This is 2015. This isn’t going to work. Let’s talk about the issues.'”
Moss declared Siver’s opponent, Rev. Sylvia Jordan, to be no friend of the LGBT community. “There is a clear contrast between the two candidates. This is not just an LGBT candidate running for mayor that we should embrace and support — which we should. This is an LGBT candidate running for mayor against someone who has held back our rights time and time again.”
This sign along 10 Mile road in Southfield was defaced with “fag,” “racist,” “sodomite” and “rapist” on it.
Moss then detailed how Jordan as council president thwarted every effort to include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class in the city of Southfield. She voted twice against the ordinance and then tabled the amendment even after the legislative committee and the council as a whole voted to draft the ordinance.
The Washington Post quoted Jordan in 2014 as saying, “I don’t think I knew a gay person until late, late in life. Now it’s being slapped in your face every day,” the Rev. Sylvia Jordan told her African-American congregation at the Family Victory Fellowship Church in Southfield. “Anything that’s against God’s law, we as his representatives must stand up and say, ‘This is against God’s law.'”
Jordan also picketed against marriage equality with a group of pastors in fall 2013 during the DeBoer v. Snyder trial.
Jordan told The Detroit News that her campaign and her supporters had nothing to do with the vandalism or the leafleting. She dismissed the whole incident as the cost of running for office.
Siver, 69, has lived in Southfield for 48 years and is the retired deputy superintendent of the Southfield schools. He’s served on the Southfield City Council for 15 years, and for two years as its president. He is president of the Southfield Non-Profit Housing Board, working to secure safe, affordable housing for lower-income seniors in Southfield.
His campaign for mayor is endorsed by the entire Southfield school board and by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who served as mayor of Southfield for 14 years before getting elected to the U.S. Congress in 2014. Siver’s campaign is also supported by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that supports openly LGBT candidates for public office.
Moss said he is excited about Siver becoming Southfield’s mayor, and warned that Jordan would take the city backwards. “This is an incredible opportunity to have someone from our community as mayor, but on his own credentials Ken is probably one of the most qualified people in the city of Southfield to be our next mayor,” said Moss.
According to 2010 census data, there were 71,739 people in Southfield. The racial makeup of the city was 70.3 percent African-American; 24.9 percent White; 1.3 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race; .2 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native; 1.7 percent Asian; and 2.4 percent identified as being two or more races.
To learn more about Kenson Siver’s race for mayor of Southfield, go to http://kensiver4mayor.com/