The Crusader Newspaper Group

Can we rise above history?

Gary Crusader staff report

As dozens of leaders across the country descend on Gary to revisit the historic 1972 National Black Convention, Blacks are falling way behind as the nation that rapidly advances in the fields of health, technology and education.

These issues were not a problem when the some 8,000 people came to the National Black Convention on March 10, 1972. Back then, Black leaders were fighting to increase the minimum wage to $2.50. They also sought to eliminate the death penalty while many Blacks were placed on death row by a broken justice system. Leaders also pushed for more community health centers in Black neighborhoods, a goal that arguably has been achieved.

Fast-forward to 2015. Forty-four years later, life in America is more complicated with the rise of the technology, crime, and an income gap that is bigger than ever before. While medical insurance is more accessible today, millions of Blacks in America today are afflicted with AIDS/HIV and various cancers. Blacks who traditionally suffered from high blood pressure and heart disease, now battle with Diabetes, Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, life-threatening health problems that kill Blacks more than any other ethnic group.

These problems add to an already heavy agenda for Black leaders who are still trying to address longstanding socioeconomic disparities in the workplace and schools throughout the country.

For two days, Black leaders will hold forums, seminars and speeches on these issues that are fueling racial tensions in cities across America. They include, education, criminal justice and civil rights.

The convention will aim to address the lack of diversity in the technology industry. In California, known as Silicon Valley, Blacks make up just two percent of the overwhelmingly white and Asian male workforces of major technology companies. There are also few Blacks in the ranks of aspiring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who control the spigot of money and access.

Silicon Valley is taking steps to offer more opportunities to underrepresented minorities in the nation’s fastest-growing, highest-paying industry, but much work still needs to be done to close the gap.

Some of the leaders who are expected to speak are Congressman Danny K. Davis and Dr. E. Faye Williams, National President/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women and former Counsel to the U.S. Congress’ District of Columbia Sub-Committee on the Judiciary and Education.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said, “The city of Gary is proud to host this second national convening and we expect to have a discussion that will address some of the most plaguing issues and concerns facing many of our nation’s communities and emerge from the convening with an agenda that can be presented to a variety of entities.”

Convener, Mayor Johnny Ford, Tuskegee, Alabama stated, “The convention will be an organization meeting where we will accomplish the same thing by developing a Black agenda that will be presented to the Democrats, Republicans and the Third Party persons. We will also make a decision during the meeting regarding any further or follow up meetings.”

Day one will include morning and afternoon sessions on Education, Economic Development, Energy and Social Media. Speakers will include Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Hilary Shelton of the Washington, D.C. office of the NAACP; Indiana State NAACP President Barbara Bolling; Eastern Massachusetts Urban League CEO Darnell Williams; Dr. Chevelle Hall, Hampton University Sociology Department Chair; Representative Joe Gibbons, Florida and Dr. Gale Frazier of the National Black Agenda Consortium. Congressman Davis will be the lunch keynote speaker on Friday.

Registration is $100.00 for the meeting, lunch and a concert on Saturday afternoon featuring the soulful music of the Sounds of Blackness. Free tickets will also be available to the public for the Saturday concert. RSVP at (219) 881-1314. Registration is still available online at by clicking on regular delegate or by visiting the Civil Rights Hall of Fame office at 487 Broadway.

The event had been a year in the making and led by former mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher, who brought together many of the nation’s prominent Black leaders in the Steel City some 4 decades ago.

Then Hatcher, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr., Amiri Baraka and dozens of Black leaders mapped out an agenda to advance the rights of Blacks as the nation cooled from the turbulent Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

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