Of course, not everyone shared my high opinion of her. Racist gibberish popped up almost immediately on the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Web site when it was announced she was nearing death, forcing a shutdown of the comments section.
Less evil, but perhaps just as emotionally intense, were the comments that stalked her support of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s quest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Stephanie was the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to throw her support to the New York senator. She campaigned across the land, smiling and boasting of friendship with Clinton and touting her in that unmistakable loud voice as the “best qualified person” to be the next president. When other CBC members went quiet as Obama surged, she penned a piece for The Root defending her unwavering support of Clinton.
Of course, this wasn’t a popular move back in the district, where so many (black) folks were pinning their hopes—and votes—on Barack Obama. Politically engaged friends from across the nation called me to ask: “What’s up with your girl, Stephanie? Why is she doing this to Obama?”
So I punched the buttons on my cellie and asked her.
“Sam, I gave my word,” she said. “I know what people are saying about me, but I don’t care, because I gave my word. If giving my word means I don’t have this job, then that’s just fine with me.”
As a journalist—no, as a human being—who can’t admire a principled friend like that? Or resist crying over her passing?
Sam Fulwood III is a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and lecturer at Case Western Reserve University.