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Policymakers headed for Black political convention to set ‘the people’s agenda’

By Hazel Trice Edney
On June 2, 2016

Alabama Mayor Johnny Ford.
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( – As the U. S. presidential and congressional campaigns remain in full throttle, the National Policy Alliance, a coalition of 16,000 Black elected and appointed officials and more than a million Black policy makers has organized a National Black Political Convention to be held June 9-12 in Gary, Indiana.

The event is a follow up to a historic gathering convened in 1972 by then Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher.

“The Gary Convention was perhaps the single most important political event for Black America held during the last century,” said Tuskegee, Alabama Mayor Johnny Ford. “With that Gary Convention came the inspiration and motivation that led to the election of more Black elected officials than any time since reconstruction.”

As the first Black mayor of Tuskegee, Ford said, “I am a product of 1972.”

Although he is founding co-chair of the National Policy Alliance, Ford said there will be no top leader.

“We have no one leader. We don’t have a Martin Luther King. We don’t have a Malcolm. We have diversified if you will, whereby all of us have leadership roles,” he said.

Ford confirmed that both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have been invited to attend and to speak at the event, set for June 9-12. He said President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama have also been invited as well as national civil rights leaders; including youth leaders such as Black Lives Matter. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is also involved with the organizing.

The main purpose of the gathering will be to establish a Black agenda that will result in equality and justice, said Ford.

“The challenges facing the African-American community today are even greater than they were 44 years ago,” said Ford. “This convention is being held now because, If not now, when? If not us, who?”

Ford listed issues including “high unemployment, crime in our communities, the need for better education, quality and affordable and accessible health care, the need to develop our infrastructures in the Black community” as being key to a Black agenda.

These are issues being dealt with every day by state and local officials. “So, that’s why we who are closest to the people are providing the leadership.”

Ford acknowledged that while the issues are similar to 1972, the modes of communication are different. For example, there was no internet back then. This gathering will take full advantage of the new media, he said.

“While this convention is not as well known or will be as big as the one that took place 44 years ago where more than 10,000 delegates came together and adopted a call for action, the African-American community in this country and even internationally will be able to be a part of this convention by [live] streaming – thanks to the Internet.”

Regardless of who shows up, Ford said the significance of going back to Gary 44 years later is powerful because of the historic impact the convention made then.

“Gary precedes glory,” he said. “Gary is a significant and historic return to a place that is sacred in the sense that it was at Gary that we shaped a national agenda. It will be at Gary that we will return to shape a 2016 national agenda.”

Ford said he does not expect everyone to agree on everything. But where there is agreement will come the Black agenda, he said.

“And that will be the agenda that we will present to the national Democratic Party, the national Republican Party and the nation and the world.”

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