Saturday, November 29, 2008

State of the Black World Conference Report: Accepting Our Responsibility

State of the Black World: Accepting our responsibility

By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Assistant Editor
Updated Nov 26, 2008, 04:11 pm

NEW ORLEANS ( - Beyond egos, competing agendas and differing ideologies, the Black Nation should unite behind common principles to more effectively serve the needs of Black people, The Honorable Minister Farrakhan said during his keynote address wrapping up the State of the Black World Conference II on Nov. 23 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

After a stirring introduction by long-time activist and displaced Katrina survivor Mtangulizi Sanyika who described Min. 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 Min. 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 Min. 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 Mr. 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 Min. 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, Min. Farrakhan’s words brought laughter at times. His stern words filled with wisdom and guidance caused deep contemplation and reflection 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.

Min. Farrakhan said the world’s recent events bring to mind the Biblical story of Moses who made a special prayer to God asking that He would “touch the wealth” of Pharaoh because the Children of Israel were so enamored with Pharaoh’s wealth, that they did not want to leave him.

Citing the recent collapse of several banking and financial giants, the “begging with a tin cup” by the “Big Three” American automakers—General Motors, Chrysler and Ford—and the fact that America is 10 trillion dollars in debt, it is clear that the wealth of America is in fact, being touched.

Well loved by the people of New Orleans, Min. Farrakhan has been a vocal and consistent advocate for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He conducted a fact-finding mission immediately following the disaster and then shortly thereafter commissioned The Final Call to produce a documentary telling the hidden truth about what happened before, during and after Katrina.

Minister Farrakhan chided the crowd for always being victimized by those who consistently work to “destroy our meager efforts for (financial) independence” with a system of laws to keep Black men and women as share croppers. The enemy kept Blacks picking cotton using education, labor laws, other legal shenanigans and actual lynchings to prevent “true emancipation.”

Unknown to many in the audience, The Minister informed them that New Orleans was at one time the hub of the American economy and considered “ground zero” of the cotton and sugar trade.

“The ugly secret of America is that this is where many of the rich bankers obtained their extraordinary wealth and power,” said Min. Farrakhan adding that during slavery, cotton was to the world economy what oil is now. He also said many Blacks found themselves in a state of perpetual slavery by wicked and deceitful slave masters.

However, even after all of that, many of us are like the Children of Israel who did not want to follow Moses when he said “Let my people go!”

“We don’t want to let him go. He has already let us go, but he is not giving us a good send off,” said the Minister. “No one can dig America out of the abyss of economic collapse” due to the wrong headed policies of the Bush administration.

“You are the only people who seek political strength on the basis of nothing,” said Min. Farrakhan noting that the Italians, the Irish and the Jewish people all established economic power then began to exert political power. He said every time we achieve one milestone, whether it is education, business ownership or voting, Black people collectively still end up in a bad condition primarily because we need to “flush out” envy, stupidity, ignorance, jealousy and envy among our people.

Speaking of his long-time allies in the struggle for Black liberation, such as Dr. Conrad Worrill and Dr. Haki Mahdubuti, the Minister told the crowd that those men helped him the most, when he first set out to rebuild the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sat in the front row and listened intently nodding in agreement many times during Min. Farrakhan’s message of self help and responsibility.

“I think it is tremendous what he said,” Mayor Nagin told The Final Call. “We as Black leaders throughout the country need to come together in unity to inspire our people to be positioned for all of the opportunities the President-elect is going to bring us. Forcing us to think differently and to get off of our duffs and move the state of Black America forward, and I got it. I received it.”

African scholar-warrior Dr. Leonard Jeffries recalled how during his travels, when he was under attack, Min. Farrakhan ensured that members of the Fruit of Islam protected him understanding the importance of “security for outspoken Black people.”

“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 wilderness and rebuilding the work of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad,” said Dr. Jeffries in between teaching sessions, 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 Mr. 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 themselves 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 Mr. 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.”

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”.

Wordsmith NYOIL also weighed in on the current state of hip hop and the bias against rappers interested in social commentary.

“There are institutions out there that only pay big money for artists with a certain celebrity status, but those artists get on the stage and say anything. They won’t invite conscious rappers like myself and others who have something to say. We as younger people need guidance from our elders,” said NYOIL. “We can’t do this without you all and sometimes I feel alone in New York. Will you help us?” he asked.

Hip hop journalist Davy D has solutions for those who feel as though that which currently exists does not represent them or provide sufficient outlets for displaying their skills and talents.

“I believe it is that aloneness that people experience at times that creates institutions. If the goal for us is only to be on BET or CNN, then we are off in our thinking,” Davy D said. “We don’t have to depend on mainstream media to put out our story, when we can do it. There are people off the block and in the hood who can do great things if we start falling back in love with one another. We need to start utilizing the resources that we all have and network to build institutions

Jasiri X, who has done a lot to infuse real world events into his lyrics by creating anthems related to the “Jena Six” case and the case of Sean Bell, had several recommendations.

“If you or anybody you know is connected to institutions, why not invite positive rappers in? I have witnessed how organizations have certain positive initiatives that we offer to represent from a hip hop standpoint and we get shut down. It would make sense to use an artist who can reach young people with their message.”

Workshop moderator Dr. Kimberly Ellis, also called Dr. Goddess brought it all home in a unified manner.

“We are not going anywhere without our elders who paved the way for us,” said Dr. Ellis. “I believe our generation is powerful and if we have the guidance of those before us we will do even more. But there must be communication between the two and a level of respect.”

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 honored was Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright. After graciously thanking many of those joining him on the stage, he delivered special words of thanks and appreciation on behalf of Black people for Minister 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,” Rev. Wright added.

Rev. Wright also said that on the night of the election, when his family was celebrating Mr. 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.”

“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,” said Dr. Daniels “We may never see that in a collective setting like this again, it was just incredible.”

Reflecting on Min. Farrakhan’s Sunday message, Dr. Worrill said Min. 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.

“In 1970 Minister Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Congress of African People meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Ron Daniels, Mtangulizi Sanyika and 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,” Dr. Worril added.

(Jesse Muhammad contributed to this report. Look for more coverage of the State of the Black World Conference II in the next edition of The Final Call.)

1 comment:

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