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Activists Ponder their Next Move

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Blacks were instrumental in the re-election of President Barack Obama and now it’s time for him to return the favor, according to panelists at a Town Hall-style meeting organized at Howard University last week by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century.

“Every time we vote for any politician there is something that they owe to us,” said civil rights activist, Mtangulizi Sanyika. “Our problem is that we get confused about what they owe us. The conditions of African Americans have gotten worse not better. There are things we need and we should fight for them.”

Julianne Malveaux, an economist and former president of Bennett College said the issue is larger than politicians.

“The economic crisis of African American people did not start with President Obama and it won’t end with President Obama,” she said “While the government can’t fix the gap it, can do some things to narrow the gap.”

Malveaux urged Blacks to become more creative and do things such as applying for federal discretionary funds to launch a green energy startup.

At times, the moderator, former Essence magazine editor Susan Taylor, pushed panelists for greater detail for a plan of action.

“How do we make this happen?” she asked. “What is the nucleus of this?”

Taylor was unrelenting: “What is the organizing force? How do we move beyond the discussion, so that when we come back four years from now we’re not talking about the same issues. How do we begin to move the needle?”

George Fraser, chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc. a global networking company dedicated to economic development, said, “We have a lot of PhDs. Now we need some ‘Ph dos.’”

Taylor said that Black churches, fraternities, and sororities need to do more.

“Unfortunately, the majority of our church leadership can’t do what you ask to be done,” said Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Wilson said that the prosperity theology is dividing congregations and that many ministers still struggle with pathologies that date back to slavery.

Jeff Johnson said, “I don’t care about the civil rights celebrities. I don’t care about the prosperity pastors. I care about the people that want to do the work.”

Johnson said that there are simple solutions to get kids off the streets while Blacks deal with long-term loftier goals.

“We don’t have to do one or the other, it’s about doing all of them together,” Johnson said. “We have to play chess, not checkers.” He explained Chess means you figure out the role you play and you play it.

“And when a pawn is gangster enough to do their job and can move into position, they can become any other piece on the board. Let’s do simple things in the process of developing these solutions,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that Blacks should utilize our churches as community centers rather than seeking funds to build new ones and rely on retired teachers and volunteers from our neighborhoods to mentor children.

They all agreed that what is not needed is a new civil rights group.

“We’re at this moment where people feel like they don’t need organizations,” said Marc Lamont Hill, a TV host, activist and associate professor at the Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York. Hill urged audience members to join existing organizations.

“We don’t need any more organizations, we don’t need 50 million non-profits. We don’t need 50 million NGOs,” said Hill. “We need people to make a commitment to join an organization to do the work.

Taylor agreed.

“Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray,” said Taylor. “We have to do the work.”

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