Hidden in a closet in my house is a laminated front page from the day Dennis Archer chose not to run for mayor of Detroit.
Driving with a photo of Archer with his head bowed, the headline in the front page of The Detroit News reads “Starting from the Beginning” and lists potential candidates for mayor: Former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix, state lawmaker Kwame Kilpatrick, GM Bill Brooks, Detroit City Councilman Nicholas Hood III – and Charlie Beckham, a civil servant whose career began during the administration of the late Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.
As a Detroit News City Hall reporter, I covered Beckham’s campaign. I watched Beckham outperform his competitors in many community forums. He showed his deep knowledge of the city government, which he gained by working under Young.
But voters simply could not get over one thing: Beckham was a convicted criminal who had served two years for his role in the Vista bribery scandal in the 1980s. It was a protracted, public trial, its biggest political scandal. seasonal. Beckham won just 1,300 votes in that year’s primary.
Despite his electoral defeat, Beckham’s political career was not over. He became one of the most powerful city officials in modern history, working under six mayors – something no other living person has done.
Now, Beckham wants to take Detroiters on his four-decade journey.
Shortly after retiring in 2018, Beckham premiered a solo play, “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Since then, Beckham has been working to turn the show into a movie – and last month, the movie adaptation premiered in the same space.
Beckham sees the film not as an entertainment project, but as a story of redemption – and a dose of education to show people the good and bad of city government through the peaks and valleys of his career.
The issue of Beckham’s redemption is vital in a city where too many people need to see hope.
“I go through the whole range,” Beckham says. “I pass all six mayors.”
The film deals with how Beckham handled the Vista scandal, which he calls “one of the most intense attacks the federal judiciary has ever unleashed against a government official in Detroit history.” Beckham is apparently referring to Young, Detroit’s first black man and Detroit’s longest-serving mayor.
Due to the level of interest after last month’s premiere, Beckham hopes to expand the scope of the film. He continues to modify the film and seeks its distribution. His goal is to be seen by more Black leaders, especially those who are recently interested in politics.
While Beckham has his share of scandalous stories, there are others in his story.
“The thing is, I’m an ordinary black guy with some amazing things that have happened through my experiences and I want to share it with some of the younger ones,” he says.
Like the title when Archer left office, Beckham’s story is about starting from scratch – it’s not just about failures, something we all experience in our lives and careers. It has to do with what you do when you hit obstacles or traps along the way – you roll over from them or you feel sad about what happened.
Beckham faced off.
Despite his conviction, Beckham has taken on almost every high-profile job at Detroit City Hall.
You can not think of Detroit Public Lighting, Water and Sewerage or General Services departments without remembering Beckham’s leadership. He served as Chief Operating Officer, Group Executive of Operations and most recently before retiring, Group Executive of Neighborhoods under Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
It was shot down, like Mike Tyson, who inspired the one-man show and the movie. Beckham had considered writing a book, but decided to do a show after seeing Tyson compete on YouTube.
Part of the remarkable thing is that Beckham has what most convicts never get – an opportunity for redemption.
In this way, his career can become a reminder to others that even big mistakes do not have to determine a person’s life.
“You keep pushing. “I learned it from my dad and I talk about it in the play,” says Beckham. “All the things that happen in your life do not necessarily have to define you, and so you keep pushing, no matter how hard (and) the obstacles in front of you are.
“I am living proof that having gone through all this, that you can still survive and still be successful.”
We have all made mistakes – big or small – that we fear will become the most important thing to us. Beckham shows us that the will to avoid complacency is a way out.
It’s just that when you reach out to the masses of people in Detroit — especially blacks — the obstacles become much more difficult.
An estimated 215,000 people in this city have criminal records, according to city data. Some 168,000 people are eligible for deletion from their criminal record, a first step towards employment.
City officials are doing everything they can to provide resources to help, but they need people like Beckham who have experienced this process. Take the first step, then the next, until small victories arise.
This is the story that Beckham feels he can tell on his own, either to political leaders or to students.
“There is no one else who has served six mayors and is still alive to talk about it,” he said. I have done everything. “And certainly no one has done it as a convicted criminal.”
Getting up when we get hit or having the courage to start over – this is a story Detroiters can relate to.
Darren A. Nichols is a columnist for Free Press. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @ dnick12.
“Falls down a lot. Unapologetic alcohol guru. Travel specialist. Amateur beer trailblazer. Award-winning tv advocate. Hipster-friendly twitter aficionado”