Congressman Davis convenes new coalition to resolve issues facing Black men
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – They were desperate, but not hysterical. They were participants in the first meeting of the new national grassroots coalition of Black organizations, faith-based entities, community groups and individuals from all walks of life, resolved to address the issues facing Black men and boys in the United States before it’s too late.
“This conference was called because, in almost every instance, the Black male is either first or last,” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), convener of the first of a year-long series of meetings called: “Family, Spirituality, Education, Community: The State of the African American Male.”
“First to drop out of school, last to get a job or become employed. First to get arrested, last to find a lawyer. First to die, last to see a doctor. First to be homeless, last to get a house,” Rep. Davis continued.
The statistics are grim. The challenge he and other participants in a weekend session Nov. 14-15 pointed out, is monumental. The most shocking: Black males represent only six percent of the national population, yet they are more than 50 percent of the national inmate population.
“We are a nation embroiled in an undeclared and controversial war. The economy is doing the watusi. We have the biggest budget deficit in the history of our nation, unemployment has skyrocketed, more people are incarcerated than ever before in the history of our country, and in many of our communities there is economic chaos and serious social disorganization.”
In the face of the challenge, the resolve demonstrated by participants and organizers, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), clergy, corporate leaders, and citizens alike was unprecedented. Participants arrived early and stayed late. Sessions started on time. Black men and women were courteous and respectful, even with people with whom they disagreed.
“Make up your mind,” CBC Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told the opening session, “to lift up a boy or a Black man. They may never say ‘thank you.’ You may never know who they are,” he warned, but “you will make a difference.”
“We are witnessing a walking disaster as more and more Black men are marginalized or cut entirely out of civil society. Don’t soft-pedal it. Face it and do something about it,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). “I believe this conference will be a failure if it is another discussion group, if it is a revival meeting, if everybody (just) praises God and goes home and does nothing.”
The meeting was not simply a “feel-good” session. All day Saturday Nov. 15, CBC members and other facilitators, including college presidents, professors, social workers, entrepreneurs, even international activists, heard public testimony and shared examples of “best case” models that work, solving problems in one community or another.
Still, the problems and the issues surrounding Black men are so serious and have been neglected so long, that literally every community in the country is now affected, said Del. Norton, whose own commission on Black Men and Boys is just concluding two years of meetings–growing out of the Spirit of the Million Man March–concerning the status of Black men in Washington, D.C. That commission is now drafting an action plan, she reported.
The conferees will begin to meet the challenge to focus on the “seeds of capital” that are growing amongst the superstars of sports and entertainment, said Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.). The goal, he said, is to seize what wealthy Blacks have begun to acquire as “seed money” to be used to build industries to provide food, clothing and shelter and to provide employment for Black men.
Churches, like the family, and human government are fundamental institutions, the Rev. Dr. Leonard Smith reminded conference attendees. Churches must, before all else, be “teaching” institutions, he said, rather than simply “preaching” institutions, aiming to produce more and better informed parishioners, who will be better citizens.
But the traditional and rightful role of the church has been altered in the modern times. In fact, “the church has done much to hurt the African American male,” he contended.
Churches have been “hiding places” for many Black men because, “we have failed to call men to accountability and responsibility. We have been guilty of using the church as a place to hide players that would be preachers; dead-beat dads, that we call deacons; truth-evaders, that we call trustees; sex-offenders, that we call stewards of the gospel; criminals who we call choir members.”
Young men are not in church today, he said, “because of the flim-flam and the riff-raff that we have allowed to occur in our churches.”
Our nation is “at war,” warned Chicago attorney Thomas Todd. “But I hasten to tell you, war has never meant freedom for Blacks in America. We served in every war, but still we are not free. These wars may be for everybody, but not for everybody’s freedom.
“Whether it’s ‘Operation Enduring Freedom,’ or ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ they are not for our freedom. So, we have come here to deal with ‘Operation African American Male Freedom.’ That is our war! That is what this is. We’re at war for the Black male,” said Mr. Todd.
The desperate condition calls for unconventional solutions, argued the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, the keynote speaker for the opening session Nov. 14. Education alone won’t solve the problems, he warned, because the education offered in the schools today, from kindergarten through post-graduate is intended to make students “conform,” to the societal norms, which are based on White supremacy, rather than to “transform” pupils into productive citizens.
“Black men are created by nature to be like God,” the Muslim leader explained, and the solution to their dilemma is to get them to behave like God.
Min. Farrakhan echoed what many of the speakers said, summarizing and tying their remarks together, and he offered an inescapable analysis. “Satan uses the racial system of White supremacy,” to rob Black men of their God-given nature to be producers and their right to produce things to satisfy their needs and the needs of their people, Min. Farrakhan said.
Black men, today, are unable to recognize the “mind of God” because “God’s ways” are not like the conventional and popular ways of the world.
Min. Farrakhan warned also of the disturbing reality that those who Attorney Todd advised are “at war” against the rise of Black people, have long conspired to keep us down. “If you believe that conspiracy is just a theory, then throw away the Bible and the Holy Qur’an.”
Those books and prophecies, he said, are full of expressions of fear from the oppressors and the slavemasters that their slaves will one day rise up and turn against them. In America, “every time we get together, (White supremacists) have something to say against the good of us getting together.” The unjust federal actions against the Hon. Marcus Garvey, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and legendary Harlem Congress member Adam Clayton Powell Jr., (D-N.Y.) were some of the examples he cited.
Today, White executives in the music and entertainment industries have successfully turned young Black males away from the wisdom of their elders. Black leaders must realize that and work for the empowerment of the entire community, not just the few who aspire to be like them, he continued.
“If we want to save Black males, you must not use what you have been able to attain as (the only) measure” of success, Min. Farrakhan advised. “Yes, your accomplishments are wonderful, but you are being used as a mannequin in the window of ‘democracy’ to sell White supremacy to some of your people, and to lull the others to sleep.”
Echoing the theme emphasized by Rep. Owens, Min. Farrakhan argued that successful Blacks must use their resources to lead Blacks to once again be producers. “Black millionaires can become billionaires if you make our people productive.”
The Congressional Black Caucus, Min. Farrakhan continued, must call the national Black community to participate in the task. “Don’t beat them up. Bring them in,” the Muslim leader urged concerning Black youth.
Respected elders must connect with the young to teach them that they can “do all things,” and then they must tell “Pharaoh” to let their people go and be free, and achieve. They must demand to know from White corporate and government officials why it appears that they don’t want Black people to have anything at all of value, otherwise there will “be a clash.”
“We were loved. We were liked,” Min. Anthony Muhammad, Mid-Atlantic Regional Prison Minister for the Nation of Islam told The Final Call concerning the positive response to the presence of Min. Farrakhan and to NOI Prison reform staff members in a workshop on criminal justice issues.
The response from the public is that the Muslim program is “beneficial because of the discipline that it offers the young people in the society that they don’t get from anywhere else.”