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Est. April 5, 2002
Mar 11, 2021 - Issue 856
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Black folks have been meeting about their liberation since first setting foot on these North American shores. The outcomes or impacts of these gatherings vary but I believe there’s value anytime we can convene in the spirit of unity. The National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana the weekend of March 8-10 was a major development in the struggle for Black political power.

There were many meetings during our enslavement to plan escapes or deal with eliminating the yoke of chattel slavery. It was during the Negro Convention Movement from 1831 to 1864 that form and substance began to solidify. Documents from the first convention provided a written blueprint that could be shared and debated broadly. Such bold steps were already in motion before the so-called Emancipation Proclamation.

The thrust of the convention movement took us to the ballot box in the late 1800s. Under Reconstruction, about 2000 descendants of slaves ascended to public office, including the U.S. Senate. It would be nearly a century after Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce took office as senators that the nation would see Edward Brooke, a Black man, become a senator from Massachusetts by popular vote.

In the post-slavery period, Black folks had waited proudly and patiently to prove themselves worthy of citizenship. Our reality was jaded by a false sense of hope that was shattered by the savagery of white supremacy that wiped out all the gains under Reconstruction. Perceived as less than human, Black folks get constant reminders that we have no place in this society. Still, we have persisted to address our dual predicament: fighting for our liberation and pushing for participation in the democracy as full citizens.

The U.S. finds itself at an historic crossroads. The struggle is always between democracy and barbarism, between progress and stagnation, between the haves and the have nots. There’s a part for all democracy defenders to play.

Because we are in America, most Black folk have tried to be responsible participants in this democracy. As an enslaved people, that road has been a rough one - one of many hills and valleys, of many advances and take-backs.

The anger and discontent coming from the Ferguson Uprising in 2014 were channeled into transformative electoral organizing. Candidates and ballot issues that are closest to addressing the real needs of people have been the focus of a strategic, organized movement. A wave of radical voices has been elected, looking for ways to accelerate the victories into long-lasting change.

In 1972, nearly 10,000 Black folks converged on Gary, Indiana for the National Black Political Convention. The historic event was the powerful convergence of the Black Power and Civil Rights movements. The delegates produced the National Black Political Agenda and organized local and state assemblies to elect candidates who supported the agenda. In the period following the convention, the number of elected officials in the country nearly tripled.

The struggle for Black political power is not only about whom we elect. It has also been about creating the conditions that guide people to stand up to social, economic, and political alienation and domination. It takes a movement to confront racism and white supremacy in all its manifestations. The ballot box then becomes a compelling place of both resistance and affirmation.

In preparation for the 50th anniversary of the National Black Political Convention next year, former members of the Congress of African People are hosting a virtual webinar, Mar 13, 2021, 2:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada), to heighten the discussion for which way forward in building Black political power. CAP members were the organizing force before, during, and after the historic convention.

Revisiting Gary 1972: Re-energizing the Movement for Black Political Power in 2021” will bring an array of voices together. In the spirit of Sankofa, going back to lessons from the past is sharpening the vision of the world we are building for the future. It’s time for an update and broader unity around an agenda that goes wider and deeper, stomping out any vestige of trumpism. (Free registration for the webinar) Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog Contact Ms. Rogers and BC.

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is published Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers