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Adrian Walker

He says vote, but doesn’t

The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers 3d struck such a forceful pose and tone on the cover of the Boston Herald Thursday, in a lament for what he viewed as the black community’s wasted opportunity in last week’s preliminary mayoral election.

In an op-ed column, the cofounder of the Boston TenPoint Coalition castigated black voters for a litany of sins, many of them related to the supposedly unsophisticated failure to coalesce around a single candidate of color.

To Rivers — an energetic advocate for former state representative Charlotte Golar Richie — his community’s failure led to the apparently heartbreaking result that two white Irish men are facing off in the final election for mayor of Boston.


Rivers was especially troubled by the fools who didn’t even bother to vote.

“It is striking that a map of the voter turnout in the city reveals that the participation of communities of color, despite the abundance of candidates of color, was again extremely lackluster, in an election where turnout was generally low.”

There’s just one salient detail missing from that sentence: Rivers did not vote Tuesday.

I repeat: The man himself did not vote.

In fact, for well over a decade he has never voted — even though he enthusiastically endorses candidates and just as eagerly trashes their opponents. Rivers hasn’t cast a ballot since at least 1996. Those endorsements he gave Nick Collins, Hillary Clinton, Golar Richie, among many others? None of them were backed up by an actual vote.

As soon as I read Rivers’s Herald essay — which I almost entirely disagreed with — I wondered whether he had made it to the polls. I posted a question on Twitter asking if he had voted for Richie.

The question was put to him by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan of WGBH radio during his regular appearance on their show. Rivers called me afterward, and admitted that he hadn’t voted. He said he meant to — and went so far as to register — but got busy.


Now, Rivers’s failure at citizenship should be kept in perspective. The good he has done for young people in this city is beyond measure. He has been a consistent and effective prod to people in power. Even when he’s wrong, he’s usually stimulating.

But that doesn’t excuse the hypocrisy of lecturing black voters on their failure to seize power when you don’t vote yourself. On this subject, he has forfeited the right to preach.

Rivers’s voting record — more precisely, his nonvoting record — first came to my attention after he endorsed Nick Collins of South Boston for state Senate over Linda Dorcena Forry last spring. Word then was that Rivers didn’t actually vote, he just endorsed.

Nor surprisingly, Dorcena Forry found the news that Rivers didn’t vote in last week’s preliminary mayoral election galling: “The hypocrisy is disgraceful, particularly when we consider the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into securing the right to vote for all, especially for African-Americans and women.”

Rivers has indicated that he wants to resume voting in November, and I am eager to help him. Your polling place, sir, is located at the Codman Square Technology Center, 450 Washington St., Dorchester. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Don’t mention it.

As for Golar Richie, maybe she should consider herself in good company. When Fox 25 asked Rivers about his voting history, he admitted that he didn’t vote in 1983, the sole mayoral race to produce a black finalist. That’s right: He didn’t vote for Mel King.


Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.