Tue July 31, 2012
Outspoken Community Activist Challenges Neal for State Senate Seat
Louisville businessman and community activist Norris Shelton is vying for the state Senate against Democratic incumbent Gerald Neal in this year's general election.
The 75-year-old west Louisville business owner is the founder and president of American Slaves Inc., a non-profit group that is most notable for eschewing the use of the term "African-American" to describe black Americans. Running under the Descendants of American Slaves Party, this is Shelton's first bid for public office despite being an outspoken critic of local leaders for a number of years.
Shelton says the decision to run was made by the group and isn't a personal slap against Neal, but he argues the longtime lawmaker hasn't done enough for the district.
"I don’t know of anything he’s done except collect his salary and ignore his people. If there’s something good that he’s done I’d like to know it," he says.
Last year, LEO Weekly profiled Shelton and his activism, which has been as controversial as it is contradictory in some instances. The piece points out that Shelton is a minister who advocates for personal responsibility in West End neighborhoods, but that he is also the owner of Mr. Silk’s Liquors, located in the Russell neighborhood.
Political observers could see fireworks in the race given that Shelton and Neal have clashed before and are somewhat personal rivals.
From LEO Weekly:
"(State Sen.) Gerald Neal, me and him are having a terrible battle,” Shelton says. “It got kind of ugly. He threw me out of his office. Our leaders are Uncle Toms, pure and simple. I wrote the book, ‘Gatekeepers.’ I updated it from Uncle Toms of old to gatekeepers of today.”
Sen. Neal tells LEO Weekly he did in fact ask Shelton to leave his office. Prior to that meeting, Neal had agreed to speak at an ASI meeting, but he claims Shelton wanted him to get more involved. Although Neal declined to join the movement, he says the suggestion that he’s not interested in uplifting the black community is insulting, especially since as a youth he was arrested for taking part in civil rights marches.
Neal says he has an established record on education and civil rights and welcomes the challenge, but that Shelton will have to let voters know where he stands on various statewide issues now that he's running for office.
"I think he ought to put his issues on the table," he says. "It doesn't matter to me if it gets negative. I have been out here awhile and I can take it. The question is whether or not he's done anything that he can demonstrate is meaningful or achievable that is important to constituents."