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Black Leaders Meet to Set Their Own Black Agenda

Date: Monday, April 19, 2010

By: Denise Stewart

Leaders of the some of the nation’s top civil rights organizations, educational institutions and businesses came together Saturday at Harlem’s Corinthian Baptist Church to talk about how far black folks have come and emerged with 12-month plan to move farther.

Hosted by national news host Roland Martin and syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, “Measuring the Movement,” culminated the National Action Network’s annual meeting in New York.

“If you are looking at this as a discussion where we’ll meet, talk and disperse, you’re in the wrong place,” Joyner said in his opening remarks. “It’s not just about what the first black president should be doing, but what everyone, including the president should be doing.”

TV One carried the session live and replayed it on Sunday. There was also a live chat online.

Sharpton organized the summit because he said, “we’re in a new century with new circumstances.”

“We need tangible results and not just one-liners and sound bites,” Sharpton said.

Leaders made a variety of pledges aimed at increasing voter participation, preparing blacks for jobs and increasing education and economic opportunities.

Marc Morial of the National Urban League said that organization through its affiliate chapters would assist 10,000 people in finding employment over the next 12 months.

Lezli Baskerville of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education said NAFEO will have 500,000 working with nonpartisan elections.

Ben Jealous of the NAACP said the civil rights organization will commit to increasing the participation of blacks in the census.

The key to Saturday’s meeting will come in the follow up, said Martin said in an interview on CNN following the event.

“We are going to hold people accountable. We will go back to them every three months and ask ‘what have you done,’” Martin said. “Everyone has a role to play.”

A national debate has grown in recent months over the black agenda and whether it has been brushed aside since the nation elected its first black president.

Sharpton and national radio and television talk show host Tavis Smiley debated the issue publicly. Smiley in March held a forum in Chicago on the black agenda that was carried on the internet and on a delayed broadcast by CSPAN.

Charles Ogletree, a Harvard Law School professor who taught both President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, said we must continue to challenge the president, other elected officials and organizations to do more to address the needs of black people.

“Let’s tell the president what we want and what we need, but remember, he is not a legislator.  He is not on the Supreme Court,” Ogletree said.

President Barack Obama was represented at the session by Michael Blake, one of his staff members who read a letter on his behalf.

“We are acutely aware of the unacceptably high unemployment rate – particularly for African Americans – and we understand the critical need to create jobs and develop pathways to opportunity.  That is why we have provided $1 billion in capital for small and minority businesses in underserved communities and authorized innovative programs to develop more than 100,000 jobs for TANF recipients in 21 states,” the president wrote.

But some panelists said more still is needed to help with job creation and training in the black community.

“White unemployment has stabilized and black unemployment has gone up,” said Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse University business professor, one of the panelists.

Watkins called the session one of the most significant gatherings of black leaders of our time.

“This really expanded on the discussion at Tavis’ forum,” Watkins told BlackAmericaWeb.com in an interview. “We have specific commitments now, and the leaders will be held accountable.”

He credited Sharpton and the National Action Network for making it happen.

“He (Sharpton) is the only one who could have pulled it off,” Watkins said.

Participants included: House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC); commentator and Georgetown University professor  Michael Eric Dyson; noted rapper and activist Chuck D; syndicated radio talk show host Warren Ballentine; BET host Jeff Johnson; Judge Greg Mathis, of “The Judge Mathis Show”; Danny Bakewell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association; LaKimba B. DeSadier, executive director, National Black Caucus of State Legislators; Dr. Elsie Scott, president  chief executive officer of the  Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF);


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