State of the Black World: Accepting Our Responsibility

Dr. Ron Daniels

By. Ashahed M. Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call
NEW ORLEANS (NNPA) – Beyond egos, competing agendas and differing ideologies, the Black Nation should unite behind common principles to more effectively serve the needs of Black people, Minister Louis Farrakhan said during his keynote address wrapping up the State of the Black World Conference (SOBWC) II on Nov. 23 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. After a stirring introduction by longtime activist and displaced Katrina survivor Mtangulizi Sanyika who described Farrakhan as a “global evangelist, a theo-centric global humanist” and “a Muslim extraordinaire who loves Jesus profoundly,” the Minister immediately addressed the recent historic presidential election of Barack H. Obama and what it means to Black America. “We have witnessed history being made and the history making event has placed on all of our shoulders a heavier responsibility,” said Farrakhan.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

“I always try to see the hand of God in things that are happening so I can give the thing that is happening the proper respect,” said Farrakhan adding that despite the fact that he cast his vote just before dawn on Nov. 4, he was “in doubt” that America would elect a Black president until late in the evening. The Minister said Obama’s victory is a sign that “God has not forsaken us,” and “is giving America a chance to redeem herself.” “This is why I see Barack Obama as a mercy from God to the United States of America and a troubled world,” said Farrakhan adding that America is in a fall from the pinnacle of power. In a wide-ranging message also dealing with the state of Black leadership, organizations and the slave trade, Farrakhan’s words brought laughter at times. His stern words filled with wisdom and guidance caused deep contemplation and refl ection throughout. The SOBWC II was first major gathering of Black leaders, thinkers, activists and scholars since the historic election of America’s first Black president. Despite a severe economic downturn, and the typical financial challenges faced by many Black organizations, committed grassroots activists and legendary pillars of the Black Nationalist community made the journey to New Orleans, the symbol of Black suffering and poverty which came to the world’s attention after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Conrad Worrill

“The Minister has been a blessing. I appreciate him building on the foundation he got from Malcolm X, I appreciated him going back into the w i l d e r n e s s a n d rebuilding the work of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad,”said Dr. Jeffries in b e t w e e n t e a c h i n g s e s s i o n s , photos and autographs. “I never fail to be inspired.” “The State of the Black World Conference is the continuation of the tradition of Black people convening to find strategies and tactics to fight the challenges of Black people in America and African people worldwide,” said Dr. Conrad Worrill of the National Black United Front. “It goes back to the 19th century—the Negro Convention Movement—and this follows in that tradition and its significance with the recent election of President Elect Barack Obama finds us challenged to rise to the occasion in our organizing efforts to find solutions.” During the five day conference, several working sessions were held calling together the great scholarship and leadership within the Black community.

A Black agenda A town hall meeting on Nov. 20 brought together those interested in crafting a Black agenda to be addressed by the Obama administration. “We’re here today to discuss a new way and come together like we have never come together before,” said Radio talk show host Bev Smith. Political scientist and author Dr. Ron Walters said that for the first time, Blacks voted at a higher level than Whites in an election and remarked that Black people have “turned a corner” and that the success of Barack Obama is one that Black people can look to with a source of pride. Bennett College president Dr. Julianne Malveaux remarked that agendas have been presented to the Obama administration by other ethnic groups, why not a Black agenda? “The celebration is about the symbolism, but what is the substance?” asked Dr. Malveaux. “We need to lay out an agenda and that agenda is jobs, jobs, jobs. The words ‘poverty’ and ‘urban’ were banned from the (presidential) campaign. It’s up to us to raise them again,”she added.

CEO of the National Urban League Marc Morial, who also served as mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002 said he had faith in President Elect Barack H. Obama because he knows the reality of urban life, having spent time as an organizer in Chicago. He also cautioned against unrealistic expectations or complacency now that a Black man is headed to the White House. “We made history (but) we didn’t elect a messiah,” said Morial “We didn’t elect a savior. We expect him to live up to the things that he committed to, but civic engagement does not end on Election Day,” he added. Solutions and strategies In the Pan-African policy forum titled “The Role of the Diaspora in the Development of Africa and the Caribbean” those interested came together to discuss ways to strengthen the relationship between Africa and Blacks in America. Ambassador Dudley Thompson defined the term Diaspora as people of African descent who are not living in Africa and said that all Black people—especially in America—should refocus their thinking on their origins. “Think of yourself as a non-residential African who happens to be living somewhere else, ”said the 92-year-old Pan-African scholar pointing out that Africa’s financial situation keeps it powerless and still victimized by neo-colonialism. “If you are broke, you cannot be free whether you are a man or a country and that even applies to large (African) countries under the control of multi-national corporations,” he added.

As a board member of the TransAfrica Forum, moderator and award winning actor Danny Glover said Black people in America have a responsibility to do what they can to help the continent by involving himself or herself in “strategic and important dialogue” along with action. He also pointed to the youth as a key component in improving the educational and economic conditions in places like Haiti and on the African continent. “Paul Robeson once said that every generation makes its own history. I think the generation of young people was represented by the election of Barack Obama,” said Glover. “But I think it’s more than just that. There are young people out here doing great and extraordinary work in the fight for justice. We need to invest in young people and young people need to stand up to make their own history.”

Poetess, Sonia Sanchez

The Importance of Black Arts In the intergenerational workshop titled “Reviving the Black Arts and Culture Movement” several members of the Black arts community participated in an intergenerational dialogue on the future of Hip Hop and the Black freedom struggle held on Nov. 22. “I have been blessed to impact a lot of artists that exist today. That’s why I spend my time helping up-and- coming artists deal with having lots of money and their new found fame because many people don’t know how to handle it. I feel obligated to teach,” said Kangol Kid from the legendary rap group UTFO. Poetess Sonia Sanchez added context to the freedom struggle of the sixties which continues to this day. “Back in our day, we had to fight so we challenged the system with our words,” said Ms. Sanchez. “We were told at times that our music and poetry wasn’t real but we kept pressing on. Our two greatest influences were Malcom X and (John) Coltrane. Those two men fed us and inspired us to write in the way that we did”. On the evening of Nov. 22, the Institute of the Black World held the Legacy Awards ceremony honoring those consistently on the front lines of the struggle for Black liberation.

Among those h o n o r e d was Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright. After graciously t h a n k i n g many of those joining him on the stage, he d e l i v e r e d special words of thanks and appreciation on behalf of Black people for Farrakhan and the two men embraced to the cheers of the crowd. “One of many things that the media got angry about back in April is that I would not let them tell me who my friends were, and because the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is a friend of mine,” said Rev. Wright adding that during the controversy, the Fruit of Islam provided security for him and other Nation of Islam members stood in support of him. “While they were using me as the whipping boy, they were waiting on him (Farrakhan) to say anything. Anything. He held his peace in order that Barack may be our president. My brother, we owe a debt of gratitude that we can never repay.” Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World called it an “incredible and powerful moment” that many at SOBWC II will not soon forget. Though not talking much to the media over the past few months, Rev. Wright told The Final Call that it was an evening of “mixed emotions” the night he heard the news that Barack H. Obama had been elected president.

“It was like it was all worth it,” said Rev. Wright. “I told one of the reporters from the Los Angeles Times, that I had been supporting Barack for years long before many of them could even pronounce his name and to see all of that hard work come to fruition was a sign of hope with my biggest hope being that all of those that worked so hard to get him elected will continue to work (because) he can’t do this all by himself,” Wright added. Wright also said that on the night of the election, when his family was celebrating Obama’s victory, it was painful when his name was still being tarnished in the media and that he could not be present in Grant Park for the celebration. “It was great feeling—it was painful in that I couldn’t be there because of his support(ers) hating me—many of them—and my presence being something that would hurt him, that was painful because long before they knew him, I was pushing him and supporting him. It was like seeing one of your children finally make it to the big stage, but you can’t be there with him. It was a mixed emotion kind of night. In fact, as I was celebrating and enjoying the moment CNN mentioned my name in a negative light—that night! They won’t let it go, but it was good seeing that come to pass.” Said Dr. Daniels, “To see these giants coming together and to show these two men that we have their backs to see that they have each other backs…We may never see that in a collective setting like this again, it was just incredible.”

Reflecting on Farrakhan’s Sunday message, Worrill said Farrakhan’s participation in this event as a representation of the continuation of the struggle for Black liberation, and at the same time, preparation for the passing of the torch. Said Worril, ‘’In 1970 Minister Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Congress of African People meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Ron Daniels, Mtangulizi Sanyika and that the theater be owned by the city, who would see to it that the building be restored to a useful state. Myself, Conrad Worrill were there, and these same activists are still on the front lines, trying to make the connection with the next generation to take our place, so it is prophetic and profound that the Honorable Minster Louis Farrakhan would be speaking at a gathering that has such great tradition in our movement.’’ (Jesse Muhammad contributed to this report.)

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