BOSTON (FinalCall.com) – “We need an agenda that energizes and guides our movement for self-determination, self-reliance and self-respect. We need an agenda that informs and guides our domestic policy interests, and an agenda that articulates and directs our international and foreign policy concerns, and we need an agenda that keeps our leadership accountable to us,” said former Massachusetts State Senator Bill Owens, during the National Black Agenda Convention-2004 (NBAC).
Held at the Roxbury Community College Mar. 17-22, it was organized by Senator Owens and his co-conveners, Mass. state representatives Shirley Owens-Hicks, Benjamin Swan, along with the Honorable Richard G. Hatcher, the former mayor of Gary, Ind. and the co-convener of the 1972 National Black Political Convention held in that city.
The vision for NBAC-2004 is to bring together people of African descent to develop a comprehensive agenda and action plan designed to address 21st century issues and policies of significant importance to Black people in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world.
The convention kicked off with “Youth Day” and continued through to the final day with workshops and plenary sessions to discuss issues concerning the Black community.
At the top of the list–racial discrepancies in health care, economic development, unemployment, reducing poverty and education.
Malik Zulu Shabazz, the national leader of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), told The Final Call that he was glad to see the conveners include youth in their plans. “Black youth are very receptive to a Black agenda, but up to now, none of the politicians have addressed them. It has only been the voices of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the NBPP that have been directed towards the real issues that our youth are facing,” Mr. Shabazz said.
The Nation of Islam was listed as one of the organizations supporting the NBAC-2004 gathering. Other organizations included the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, and the Pan African Council. National leaders backing the meeting included former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; Ron Daniels, co-chairman of the National Black Political Assembly; the Honorable Ken Gibson, the former Newark mayor; activist Mtangulizi Sanyika; Askia Toure; Detroit City Councilwoman Jo Ann Watson; Dr. Leonard Jeffries; Dr. David Hall and attorneys Rose Saunders, James Dilday and Charles Olgetree.
In an exclusive telephone interview with The Final Call, Mayor Hatcher said that coming out of Boston would be “very specific” target areas that must be adhered to. “If we don’t stick to this agenda, 20 years from now we will have to come back and re-visit issues rather than move forward,” he stressed.
He said that Blacks must take nothing and no one for granted. “We must develop a policy framework and demand that both the major political parties respond to those demands.
“I know that there are those who say that the most important issue for Blacks is to help defeat President George W. Bush, but I reject that completely,” Mr. Hatcher argued. He contends that, if Senator John Kerry is the Democratic Party nominee, then Black people must submit to him a comprehensive agenda “of our needs” which he should be asked to “sign.”
“I remember when we met with former president Jimmy Carter before he won the election, and I asked him to sign an agreement with us and he said no. There were those in our group that chided me at the time for asking him to sign. After he became president, we regretted that we had not made him sign it,” he revealed.
“An agenda is something that you desire to accomplish,” Minister Farrakhan said in his address to the NBAC-2004. “You must rise to fulfill your destiny” and that destiny, he added, “is to build a house of your own.”
He expressed his desire for Black people to see that their agenda had a spiritual connection with the coming of Jesus in this “Day of Judgment,” adding that Black people must ask, “Who am I in the plan of God?”
“Jesus said think not that I come to bring peace. Nay! A sword,” Minister Farrakhan stressed. “You must think about separation; let Pharaoh go!” he insisted.
He told the convention that Black people had no political weight. Turning his attention to the Democratic Party, the Muslim leader warned, “All they want to do is get rid of Bush” and stressed that Black people must have an agenda that speaks to their needs. “Your agenda must be to save your life,” he said. “Let us prepare an agenda that we put before both parties,” he suggested, adding that there could be no agenda without including the issue of reparations.
“We need an agenda that clearly helps in repairing the condition of Black people in the United States,” insists Charity Louise D. Hicks, a grassroots leader from Detroit. She said that there was a recurring theme that would not go away during the workshops.
“There are people here from Michigan, California, Atlanta, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and we all agree that the problems facing Black people are the same, no matter the location,” Ms. Hicks said.