Prince George's Democratic state Sen. Tommie Broadwater, indicted earlier this month on a charge of food stamp fraud, walked to the podium and more than 500 of his friends and neighbors got to their feet and whistled, clapped and stamped their support.
"Folks, all they've done to me is make me stronger," said Broadwater.
"Amen," cried 66-year-old Sadie Davis.
"We have no fear for June 13, or whenever the trial is, because we're ready!" Broadwater called. "We're ready!"
"All right," answered Sadie Davis.
It was an old-fashioned revival for an old-fashioned politician Friday night at a rally organized by Broadwater supporters to raise money for his legal defense. Organizer Henry Grant estimated that the rally raised about $25,000 from about 1,000 contributors who gave from $5 to $2,000.
Broadwater, Prince George's only black state senator and one of the most powerful black officials in the state, was indicted earlier this month on a charge of conspiring to traffic illegally in food stamps along with his 21-year-old daughter Jacqueline and three others.
The rally, held at the Glenarden Town Hall, in the heart of Broadwater's 24th legislative district, drew people from every black political faction, yet many small donations came from ladies like Sadie Davis, long time friends and neighbors.
Conspicuously absent from the three-hour event were the white members of the Prince George's General Assembly delegation, and the many lobbyists and powerbrokers who had crowded into Broadwater's last fundraiser before his landslide relection last fall. Their absence was underscored by the appearance of U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who received a loud ovation.
"We're here because we love him, baby," said Davis. "I've known him for years. He was always a smart young fellow--he wasn't nasty smart; he never had a nasty word for you. Back when he was selling insurance, I was one of the first to buy."
Sitting next to Davis was Ertha Brunson, who came along with her two daughters to contribute $10 each. When one of Brunson's daughters had trouble finding a job, Brunson said, Broadwater employed her in one of his offices until she could find something else.
Speakers recalled largesse bestowed by the 41-year-old Broadwater--scholarships he'd found for their children, food baskets he'd given their churches at Christmas--and they urged the crowd to give in kind.
"We are here simply to say, everyone deserves what is fair," Greta Henry, a school principal and an organizer, told the group. "And in America, what is fair costs money."