UBC-TV NEWS – April 12, 2014 Reported By: Amelia “Ameliaismore” Moore
50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act by former President Lyndon Johnson our current President Barak Obama came to NYC to speak to the constiuents of the National Action Network at the 16th Annual National Convention.
As press scurried for positioning and seniors marveled at the sight of their “black” president the thoughts of how far we have come and how much work we need to continue resonated in my ear and mind louder than all the commontion of the monumentous occasion.
When you think of Rev Al Sharpton and NAN you think of over 20 years of fighting, rallying and supporting a community whom at times didn’t welcome the support, nor the voice. Yet as the activist and religious man he is, Rev. Al Sharpton continues to keep the faith and take action.
This year was no different. Despite the negative press he received the day before the cermonial ribbon cutting by Mayor Bill de Blasio of NYC; the show went on. People from all over American and the world came to the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue. Due to construction we couldn’t walk through the front door but we didn’t walk through the back door either. Mostly Baby Boomers and activists who remember the battle grounds for equal rights, the crowd was concious and concered. Their dialougue was mostly discussions on what needs to change, who you need to contact to help be part of the change and the need for support to continue the movement for change.
The four day conference addressed a plethora of issue including but not limited to: the upcoming election, gun violence, immigration, broadband opportunities, S.T.E.M. education (Science,Technology, Engineering & Math), the role of media, the role of black intellectuals in contemporary America, healthcare, economic development, the black churches and reframing the church & state debate. The last day of the convention poignantly ended with measuring the movement with a retrospective look at the progress of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty 50 years later.
Outside of the President’s speech some of the highlights were Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., United States Department of Justice speech on what his office and his intentions are toward the disparity of justice here in America. A father of a young black man, he reminded the audience that our youth are preyed by all and the necessity for parents to talk to their kids about Trayvon Martin. He stated a study that was released this past February found that blacks who commit the same crimes as their white counterparts recieved 20% longer sentence terms. He continued stating that American Indians received even more severe sentences than African Americans. He made clear a point that at the possible root of this disparity is respect. He asked that how can we ask people to respect the law of the land when those that uphold the law don’t respect them. His call for action was for us to take more action. To move on the local and state levels reminding us that those efforts pushes the poiticians on the national level to take action. He suggested that we need to push accountability and to seek and suggest our youth to become our new leaders. Allow them to infuse new blood within the ranks of politics to fortify the demands of equal justice. He concluded with a statement (paraphrasing) “The march for justice is not without disappointment but as MLK stated nothing supercedes the conviction of a determined people.”
The civil rights act was not only for African American’s equality but also women rights as well. The panel co-moderated by Krystal Ball (MSNBC, The Cycle) and Janaye Ingram (Acting Ex.Dir. of NAN) was nothing less then plosive. The distinquhed panel was diverse and powerful. Each panelist concurred that to continue the advancement of women’s rights there is a need for collaborative efforts. There is a call for more female soliders in politics not only on the national level but also local municipalities and state. At present an estimate of 3% of political offices in Washington are occupied by women. Although that seems like a small number the effects of that insertion of the female perspective in office has enabled women to introduce women issues and enforce the need for equal pay. One panelist made the audience aware of the impact of their presence by stating that almost 5 years ago “Equal Pay Day” was not mentioned in mainstream press however this year (April 8, 2014) it was the lead story. They emphazied that public policy is not the end but rather the beginning of the process of change. There has to be a people movement of not only women but with men as well. Another panelist showed the importance of women by asking the mixed gender audience to raise their hands if they are a mom. Then she asked everyone to raise their hand if they have a mom. She said everyone in the room rasied their hand because women’s rights effects everyone. The data shows that almost 54% of the workforce is women and 51% of the vote is women as well. Yet working women make an average of 77 cent on every working man dollar. Worse is that single moms make an average of 60 cent to the dollar of her male counterparts. If a civilization is known by the manner in which they treat their women what is America saying to the world? Why is it that America’s foreign policy for women is stronger than it’s national? One panelist said it best; “Women in America are suffering from friendly fire.” Maybe it’s time for American politcians to reverse their actions; don’t say as they do but rather do as they say.
If you want to take a look at the severity of the issue of equal rights for all in America it’s as simple as the answer to this question. The law states that if you are born in America you are an American. Than why is it that the only people that are called; “Americans” are those that are white? Everyone else is; “African American, Asian American, Latin America, etc.” If we are all equal shouldn’t they be called; “European Americans?”
The dream of social justice can only be truly achieved by collaborative action with sincere adjudication on all all levels of government and community starting with you and your neighbor’s actions towards each other first. If we can not put the neighbor back in our “hoods” how can we begin to instruct our politicans to create policy to protect social justice? We must create that process ourselves with each other collaboratively.
Succinctly, when we look at the disparity of the progress of the African American community when compared to other ethnic communities that have progressed due to the efforts of our leaders; it’s time to stop looking at the cultural differences but rather the business model these communities have utilized under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and implement them within our community as well.
If you are African American ask yourself why as the leading demographic in spending (almost 1 Trillion dollars a year) are we behind in the statistical data on almost all charts namely; home ownership, business ownership, education, equity, net value, etc. Maybe it’s time to take an analytic look at what some of the other cultural communities in America are doing differently and enforce those practices within our community. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s time to enforce our culture instead of being revered as a; “group of people.” Where is our Rosewood? Where is our Black Wall Street? More importantly how can we get it back? Maybe its time for our community and our youth to endoctrinate the adage; “Once attained, we can do it again!”
This year at NAN the constant theme or message for progress was accountability. The addendum to that was also honesty. We need to be honest about our perspective not of ourselves but rather of how others percieve us as a culture and community. In addition the severity of that perception is compounded by our need to terminate the devaluation of our contribution to the capitalist insititution we call America. African Americans have been and continue to be the backbone of American economics. Yet somehow our contribution(s) and value of life have been minimalized. In every speech, panel and private discussion among peers at NAN there was a call to action to do that… take action! Now more than any other time in history is it imperative that we ask oursevles what is it that WE need to do? We also need to ask ourselves what are we failing to do? Lastly what is necessary to define and dictate the standard of which we call ourselves and others to uphold to further advance the utopian mission of equality and justice for all?