Black Leaders Examine Developing Contract
With Black America
For his sixth annual State of the Black Union symposium, Tavis Smiley challenged assembled Black leaders to examine developing a contract with Black America.
The resulting discussion had a crowd of about 2,000 on its feet for repeated ovations as the Rev. Al Sharpton, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and others traded sermons on the topic.
Smiley, the PBS late-night talk show host, challenged panelists to discuss the viability and potential content of “a working document” that would be designed in part for political gain.
“The next time you come calling on our vote, you come correct on the contract or you don’t come at all,” Smiley said.
Lowery, the former longtime president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, suggested the document be called a covenant.
“We’ve got to recapture that spirituality; that’s our strength,” Lowery said.
The panel also included former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West and former Detroit mayor Dennis Wayne Archer, among others.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and others continued the discussion in a later panel.
Farrakhan changed the direction of the discussion when he suggested Black America could not trust any political party to hold true to an agreement.
“A contract or a covenant is between parties who intend to make their word their bond,” Farrakhan said, adding, “I think it is proper that we make a covenant with our people … A problem a lot of times is a disconnection between leaders and the people.”
Smiley organized previous symposiums in Los Angeles in 2000, Washington in 2001 and 2004, Philadelphia in 2002, Detroit in 2003 and Miami in 2004.
“Black folk have always been the conscience of this country,” Smiley said. “We are doing our part to help redeem the soul of America … When we make Black America better, we make all of America better.”
Earlier a panel discussed health care and disparities facing Black Americans.
“Nike comes out with a shoe that costs $300 and they’re lined up around the block to get that shoe, and yet they’re not lined up around the block to get better health care,” said Dr. Ian Smith.
Said Smiley: “Maybe if we could put what would heal Black people inside of a Nike shoe, we would be all right.”
— Associated Press
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