Monday, March 13, 2006

Black Peoples Unity Convention 2006

by Leslie Jones McCloud
Tammi Davis, president of the Gary NAACP chapter, said in a speech
Sunday about Hurricane Katrina victims that the country shouldn't
be fooled by grandstanding. She drew a standing ovation.
Davis made her comments on the last day of the The National Black
Peoples Unity Convention 2006
held all week long at West Side High
School in Gary, IN. It was the site of the first convention in 1972.
"I believe that one of the greatest challenges we face is making
the Katrina relevant to all of us everywhere. The hurricane
, like many of us, are victims of date rape by the same
government that promised liberty and justice for all. Conjugal
visits to New Orleans should not be interpreted as love but rather
for just what it is - a booty call," Davis told the audience.
She said Americans "should not allow ourselves to be prostituted by
the political pimps who seek to exploit and disenfranchise," got a
standing ovation and opened up the door for audience member's
spirited questions.
Davis said the NAACP formed an emergency response team of five
individuals who worked with local agencies to assist 300 evacuees
that were transported to Northwest Indiana.
A progress report about the American Federation of Labor and Congress
of Industrial Organizations
outlined an investment plan to ensure
the hurricane ravaged area is revitalized.
Davis pointed out in her speech that the NAACP formed a call to
action that recommends, among other things, an assurance that
displaced families will have the right to return to the Gulf Coast
region, rebuild and reconnect families and children, establish $100
billion Family Reconstruction fund,
provide mental and physical
health assistance, legal and voting protection, ensure that local
residents get first choice at jobs and contracts in the rebuilding
Her three minute speech wrapped up what some conveners considered
a revision of greatness, however, the National Black Peoples Unity
Convention 2006 was never meant to mimic the 1972 National Black
Political Convention
- and it didn't.
Instead, conveners discussed another way to get ahead in this
country - through economic equity.
West Side High School in Gary, Ind. was met by an array of Black
business, political, civic, labor and economic leaders there to
discuss the plight of African Americans and chart a course to
change the condition of Black communities nationwide.
Among those speaking: Revs. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Al Sharpton,
Minister Louis Farrakhan, NAACP CEO Bruce Gordon, SCLC President
Emeritus Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery
, and others.
During the last 34 years since the last convening of African
American politicians and activists, there has been an increase in
their ranks from 900 in the 1970s to about 16,000 in 2006, the Rev.
Walter Fauntroy
"We should be farther along - all considered," he said.
Fauntroy, a president of the National Black Leadership Roundtable,
was joined Saturday by former Colorado Lt. Gov. George Brown, the
first Black lieutenant governor in the country; former Gary mayor
Richard Hatcher, the country's first Black mayor and former Los
Angeles councilman, David Cunningham
, in the green room behind the
stage inside the school auditorium. He was joined by a few other of
his peers who were either at or influenced by the convention 34
years ago.
The discussions were lively and informative.
"Back then they told the people to go home and run for anything
even if it was for dog catcher," Brown said.
But if there is no economic parity, success is muted.
"If there is no money then where are we now? We are at the point
where economic empowerment is out of the game," Fauntroy said.
He said that between 1965 and 1971 four million new Black voters
were added.
Harking back to the glory days of the Civil Rights
Movement when Blacks were beaten and jailed for the right to vote,
Fauntroy added, "imminent danger fueled the agenda to empower
people to want to vote."
Today, the battlefield is economic. All of the men in the room
agreed blacks need to be as unified in this struggle as he believes
they were in 1972. Brown chimed in, "we need unity without
"We hope to make same kind of progress in our ability to control the billion of dollars that African-Americans spend as consumers every year--to make it more beneficial to African-Americans. One of the things we learned is that it is not enough to win political office and exercise political power. At the base of everything that takes place in this country is money and at this point African-Americans have been systematically excluded from that arena," Hatcher said.
He said the organizers of the convention hope to derive strategies to achieve a fair share of the dollars.
"Blacks have to learn that it's not how much you make but how much you keep," Hatcher said.
As a group, those involved with the beginning of what is known
black power movement, saw the end to apartheid, an increase in
black voters and Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as a national
"Lots of people came out of here with the capacity and authority to
work," Cunningham said.
But blacks need to have more philanthropy, sharing and empowerment
Brown said.
Conveners liked the ideas discussed.
"I thought it was very thought provoking...this was a great
opportunity for us to come together to talk about the impact globally nationally and locally to our people and to put a plan together which---I think is
important. This is just the first step in us coming together... to talk about where we need to be," J. Allen Johnson of Gary, said.
Conveners also said the thought-provoking discussions inspired them to want to take action on the home front.
"I liked the educational part about out youth. They are going to form a coalition to make sure our children are educated and that there is health care for the poor, blacks and brown in this country. I learned that we are the poorest among us and that we are being left behind and that if we don't do something, we are going to be extinct. They were talking about how to do
it," Georgianna S. Gonzer, a psychiatric nurse from New Jersey, said. She said they drove to Gary for the convention because she heard it was a historical event.
"We heard the convention in 1972 was very great," she said.
Unlike the first convention, there will be no final documents like

the "Black National Political Agenda," Brown said, but there will be meetings and committees formed so that the discussion may continue
on how to further advance black economic power.
"When Harold Washington was mayor, we created Black millionaires
all over the country. Political power without economic power is
meaningless. There are people who are smart enough to run a nation
with what they know," Fauntroy said.


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