ATLANTA – The State of the Black World Conference was held here Nov. 28-Dec. 2 with 700 African Americans, Africans and African descendents from England, the Americas and many Caribbean Islands, including Cuba. It was convened to discuss issues and problems Black people face in the U.S. and the world community, from racism and oppression to poverty and suffering.
Convened by Ron Daniels, chairman of Haiti Support Project, the conference was sponsored by African American Institute for Research and Empowerment and The Black World Today online newspaper. The delegates represented progressive community, union and political activists.
The discussion focused on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent war. Speakers expressed their compassion and concern for all the victims. There was particular concern for the many victims of color who seem to be invisible in the commercial mass media.
Along with sympathy for the Sept. 11 victims, there was strong opposition to the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Delegates made connections between the Bush administration’s war policies and its policies towards African Americans.
Almost all of the panelists decried proposals from President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft to defend America by giving massive amounts of federal funds to corporations at the expense of working people. Many noted that while the pocketbooks of workers are being emptied their civil liberties are being suspended with draconian legislation.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) addressed this and added, “Everything on the agenda before Sept. 11 should still be on the agenda post-Sept. 11.”
Actor Danny Glover warned of the increased infringements on individual rights. He said that he personally has been profiled by the airlines.
Waters, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and activist Rev. Al Sharpton underscored the importance of African Americans in the political arena.
Sharpton stressed the need for independent political campaigns. He is conducting a feasibility study to determine whether or not to run for president in 2004.
The history of kidnapping Africans and enslaving them became the other main theme of the conference. There is a growing international campaign for reparations to address the historical and current exploitation of Africa.
Yet for this issue to be successful there is a need for “litigation and legislation” and a united front, said speaker Dr. Jemadari Kamara. The disdainful attitude the Bush administration took towards last year’s World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, and its refusal to discuss slavery or reparations, was raised frequently by the presenters in speeches, poems and song.
The cultural traditions of African Americans offered hope and inspiration and were part of almost every session through music, poetry and dance.
Author Sonya Sanchez recited poetry along with young hip-hop poets who spoke on the war and conditions faced by African Americans.