As I mentioned on here yesterday, this past Saturday author, commentator, tv host and activist Tavis Smiley held his annual State of the Black Union symposium.
Each year, Tavis brings together a group of African-American political and religious leaders, educators, opinion makers, activists, etc., to discuss issues of importance within our community, and how we can continuously make Black America better. Because as Tavis is often fond of saying, when we make Black America better, we make all of America better.
Each February for the past seven years, I have looked forward to these symposiums, and always feel more energized after them.
One of the ideas born from last year's symposium, was the concept of a Covenant With Black America: a single document to address issues such as education, economics, health, etc. And the brilliant part is: the public would help contribute to the document!
The Covenant With Black America, which was developed into a book, was the focus of this year's symposium.
One of the main things to come from this year's symposium, was a pledge from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The Chairmen of both the Democratic and Republican parties (Howard Dean and Ken Mehlman, respectively) sent letters to Tavis Smiley, promising that any candidate seeking their party's Presidential nomination in 2008, would address the issues which are outlined in the Covenant With Black America, and let us know where they stand on those issues.
While that may make for a happy story, will the two parties live up to that pledge?
Specifically, the actions of some prominent African-American Republicans call into question whether the Republican Party is truly interested in a dialogue with Black America.
During the symposium, Tavis mentioned that several Black Republicans (such as HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell) had confirmed their attendance for the symposium, but failed to show up.
Alphonso Jackson was in the same hotel as Tavis, but was a no-show.
How can we expect the Republican Party to ensure their candidates in '08 will address the issues outlined in the Covenant, when they won't even show up for a dialogue right now on how to make Black America better?
Jackson's failure to show, even though he was a confirmed participant, is really no surprise though. He doesn't exactly have a record of addressing or caring about issues of concern within his own community.
During the 2004 campaign, Jackson said he was advising the Bush team to focus their efforts on younger African-Americans, and forget about those who came up during the civil rights movement.
He commented: "You can't rise as a class. You have to rise individually. It's what many of the civil rights-era people don't understand."
I would say to Mr. Jackson that I believe the words of Rev. Martin Luther King instead, when he said:
"I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."
Finally, thank you Mr. Tavis Smiley for your faithfulness and dedication to making Black America better!
To learn more about the Covenant With Black America, visit: http://covenantwithblackamerica.com
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