Lawrence Guyot: Soldier of the People, Teacher, Mentor
Special to Informer | 11/30/2012, 7:02 p.m.
Guyot won me to his position and masterfully built a coalition with Howard students and local civic leaders to win Councilmember Frank Smith, and ultimately Mayor Barry, to withdrawing Howard's street privatization proposal. Today, I see the LeDroit Park Revitalization initiative, a partnership between Howard University and Fannie Mae, which rehabilitated the university's properties, as a testament to Guyot's advocacy.
Race was always primary in Guyot's advocacy. My political loyalty would be tested summer of 1998 when my political compatriot Nik Eames sought the Ward 1 council seat from the now defunct Umoja Party.
Guyot knew the development that was forthcoming to the Georgia Avenue and U Street corridor. He made a bold prediction to Nik and I and pushed strongly for us to support Frank Smith. "Gentleman, you don't have enough votes to elect yourselves," he said, "but you have enough of a base to ensure another term for this ward's last black city council member."
I could not turn my back on Nik's campaign, nevertheless Guyot was right and we were wrong. Frank Smith lost to Jim Graham by 1,600 votes in the Democratic primary. Nik Eames garnered 1,840 votes in the general election in which Graham took 10,000 plus votes.
Beyond Guyot's local advocacy in DC, I was inspired by the deep respect, love and admiration his generation of fellow fighters bestowed upon him. It reinforced to me the movement sense of struggle and not the "Great Man" lens that many in my generation view the struggle for humanity.
Too many in my generation see the Civil Rights Movement as Dr. King and the March on Washington. This movement element was evident to me on February 17, 1998, when we hosted the late Kwame Ture (Stokley Carmichael) for what became his last fireside chat from the Mecca. It was in Rankin Chapel that Kwame, feeble and obviously dying from prostate cancer, upon seeing Guyot in the audience, literally lifted him off the ground shouting, "Guyot!" That memory will always live with me.
Guyot was a living example of the politically engaged citizen at the highest level. He demonstrated power begins at the level of conception, that one could wage struggle no matter where they found themselves in the society. One did not need a political office or title to organize for the least of these. I can see Guyot now going to the LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting, having the most information to pass out having already internalized the pressing issues facing the community.
My generation and this world are forever grateful for the sacrifice of Guyot during the civil rights struggle and beyond. I once remember a fellow student at Howard asking me to apply to the Patricia Robert Harris program in public policy. She told me I would learn politics there. I told her to come with me down the street to Lawrence Guyot's house. There, we would learn the art and science of politics and we did not need to file an application.
Love you Guyot. Miss you eternally. Thank you for all you gave. Onward Soldier!
Jonathan W. Hutto, Sr. is a first-year doctoral student in Howard University's Political Science program. As an undergraduate student, he served with Lawrence Guyot on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B from January 1997 -January 1999.