Black Freedom School fights for Gary’s future

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THE NATIONAL BLACK Political Convention in 1972 in Gary ushered in a new era of Black power in the city.

By Renee Hatcher

Renee Hatcher
Renee Hatcher

On Saturday, July 9, 2016, the public is encouraged to attend the Black Power: 50th Commemoration, an intergenerational Freedom School focused on Black political power in the 21st Century. The all day event will be held at IVY Tech, 1440 E. 35th Avenue in Gary, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 3:00 p.m. The event is free and participants will be offered breakfast and lunch at no cost.

The summer of 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Power Movement. In early June of 1966, James Meredith started the March against Fear, a one-man demonstration march from Memphis, TN to Jackson, MS, to protest the continuing racism and discrimination and encourage voter registration in the South. However, Meredith was shot by a sniper shortly after beginning his lone civil rights march.

A group of civil rights organizations, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Martin Luther King Jr., continued the March after Meredith was hospitalized. On June 16, 1966, Stokely Carmichael, then the Chairman of SNCC, addressed a crowd in Greenwood, Mississippi proclaiming the need for “Black Power.” Carmichael’s call for Black Power quickly reverberated through the entire nation, ushering in a renewed politic for the Black Freedom Movement.

Black Power was more than a slogan. It was a call to a cultural, political, and economic movement to demand and secure the right to self-determination, a universally recognized human right, for Black people in United States that forever changed the political landscape.

At the time, there was a mounting Black Power movement in Gary as well. In the 1960s, Blacks in Gary faced widespread discrimination in housing, public education, and job opportunities. Organizations and individuals such as Pastor L.K. Jackson of Saint Paul Baptist Church, Hilbert Bradley’s Fair Share Organization, Muigwithania, and the Combined Citizens Committee on Open Occupancy (CCCOOO) organized mass boycotts, demonstrations, and voter registration drives to provide Blacks access to housing in then segregated neighborhoods, like Glen Park, and job opportunities in Gary’s factories and businesses.

For Gary, the late 1960s and early 1970s registered a breakthrough time for the city’s Black residents. The culmination was seen not only in the election of Gary’s first Black mayor, Richard Gordon Hatcher, but also in the open occupancy of neighborhoods, the construction of new housing for Gary seniors and working-class citizens, and the many more job opportunities for Blacks with the city’s administration, that followed.

According to one of the organizers, Renee Hatcher, the Freedom School will illuminate the struggle for Black political power in Gary, IN, and in doing so we will reclaim the history of Gary from the warped and distorted picture seen and heard too many times from regional and state forces. “The goal of the freedom school is to empower participants, young and old alike, to change and transform society together. We will hold exciting, community-based conversations around Gary’s history, this current political moment, but most importantly the city’s future.”

Lester Spence, author of Knocking the Hustle: The Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics and Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University, will discuss why political and economic inequality is increasing in Black communities, largely seen in policies to privatize government services and disinvest from public institutions. The recently announced plan to close several of Gary’s libraries or the previous decisions to privatize Gary’s trash collection and management of the Gary/Chicago International Airport are prime examples of these policies. According to Spence, churches, schools and entire cities have been remade and restructured to perform like businesses, leaving the needs of the people behind in favor of profiteering by the wealthy.

Interested parties may register on line at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gary-freedom-school-50th-black-power-movement-comme-moratio-n-tickets-26062257915 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/171192515-2400656/.

The event is sponsored by the Black Freedom School Institute Collective comprised of veteran activists and freedom fighters who seek to advance the cause of Black liberation, unity, organization and political education of the Black community. More one and two-day schools, seminars and political educational packages are planned for Gary in the future. #GaryBlackPower50

For more information, contact Renee Hatcher at (219) 614-7408.

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