By Hazel Trice Edney
Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee and Mayor of Gary Indiana,
|(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As the U. S. presidential candidates prepare for national conventions and congressional campaigns remain in full throttle, the National Policy Alliance, a coalition of 16,000 Black elected and appointed officials and more than a million Black policy makers has organized a National Black Political Convention to be held June 9-12 at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, Ind.
The event is a follow up to a historic gathering convened in 1972 by then Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher.
“The Gary Convention was perhaps the single most important political event for Black America held during the last century,” Tuskegee, Alabama Mayor Johnny Ford said in an interview this week. “With that Gary Convention came the inspiration and motivation that led to the election of more Black elected officials than any time since reconstruction.”
Although he is founding co-chair of the National Policy Alliance, Ford says there will be no top leader. Other convention convenors are former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, original convenor in 1972; current Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the son of poet and activist Amiri Baraka, an original convenor in 1972.
According to NPA Executive Director Linda Haithcox, speakers will include Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan; Chicago Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.); Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president/CEO, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; NAACP Senior Vice President Hilary Shelton; Dr. E. Faye Williams, National Chair of the National Congress of Black Women; Flint, Michigan Mayor Karen Weaver; and Spencer Overton, president/CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
“We have no one leader. We don’t have a Martin Luther King. We don’t have a Malcolm. We have diversified if you will, whereby all of us have leadership roles,” Ford said.
Some national leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who had originally planned to attend, had to cancel due to Friday’s memorial services for boxing champion Muhammad Ali, organizers said.
The main purpose of the gathering will be to establish a Black agenda that will result in equality and justice, Ford said.
“The challenges facing the African-American community today are even greater than they were 44 years ago,” Ford said. “This convention is being held now because, If not now, when? If not us, who?”
Ford listed issues including “high unemployment, crime in our communities, the need for better education, quality and affordable and accessible health care, the need to develop our infrastructures in the Black community” as being key to a Black agenda.
These are issues being dealt with every day by state and local officials. “So, that’s why we who are closest to the people are providing the leadership.”
Ford acknowledged that while the issues are similar to 1972, the modes of communication are different. For example, there was no Internet back then. This gathering will take full advantage of the new media, he said.
“While this convention is not as well known or will be as big as the one that took place 44 years ago where more than 10,000 delegates came together and adopted a call for action, the African-American community in this country and even internationally will be able to be a part of this convention by [live] streaming – thanks to the Internet.”
Regardless of who shows up, Ford says the significance of going back to Gary 44 years later is powerful because of the historic impact the convention made then.
“Gary precedes glory,” he said. “Gary is a significant and historic return to a place that is sacred in the sense that it was at Gary that we shaped a national agenda. It will be at Gary that we will return to shape a 2016 national agenda.”
Ford said he does not expect everyone to agree on everything. But where there is agreement will come the Black agenda, he said. “And that will be the agenda that we will present to the national Democratic Party, the national Republican Party and the nation and the world.”
The Black agenda “will be revisited in the fall” during national, state and local elections, Haithcox says. “This agenda will be something that can be utilized in every state, county and city.”