CHICAGO - Dozens came together here last night to celebrate African American history month and renew efforts in the fight for equality, jobs and economic justice.
A delicious soul food dinner was a big hit, which included fried and baked chicken, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, greens, sweet potatoes, corn bread and peach cobbler for desert.
Shelby Richardson, a leader with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 said, "Black, brown and white unity has always been an important component in the struggle for African American equality."
The historic election of Barack Obama as the country's first Black president is a sign of the times, he said. "But we still face tremendous challenges."
As a probation officer Richardson said he sees how people everyday continue to face very tough circumstances. He mentioned a young Black woman, that has struggled with a juvenile past and never graduated high school, recently came to see him. She had finally gotten a job but after a background check she was eventually let go. She was devastated and saw that job as her last hope.
"This is why we have to support union jobs," said Richardson. "This is why we have to fight for equality."
The main event featured a live national broadcast of Jarvis Tyner, executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA, who said it's time to step up the struggle against racism.
"The reality is that too many people today are suffering nothing short of national catastrophe given the millions unemployed," he said.
Mass unemployment destroys society and the ultra-right and Republican Party continues to blame minorities and immigrants for the crisis, he said. They believe people of color overspent which is why they lost their homes and that immigrants are stealing all the jobs, said Tyner.
"And Wall Street wants the Republicans back in the drivers seat."
We can't win this fight alone, he said. "A broad multi-racial united labor-led people's movement for jobs and economic recovery is needed now more than ever." And the fight for socialism is not a conspiracy it's a necessity, he added.
Elwood Flowers, born and raised in Chicago, is a retired transit worker and veteran labor leader with the Amalgamated Transit Union. Flowers said his calling was in the union movement to help working people fight for jobs.
"I am a Black person living in this country in my late 70s and I consider it a miracle especially to know what my forefathers went through," he said.
Josephine Wyatt, founding member of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said it's important to celebrate Black history. She recalled years ago it was a struggle to get the month nationally recognized.
"Without Black history month imagine how many people may never know about the contributions African Americans make to our society and culture," she said. "I'm proud of our history and our African roots and the struggle for liberation against racism and discrimination."
Joyce Lightfoot, a veteran activist with the Communist Party in Chicago helped organize the event. She thought it was wonderful.
She's concerned about the rise of at-risk children that continue to die due to increasing street violence in cities nationwide.
"This is a systemic problem. We should talk about it, come together, build coalitions and lead demonstrations to address it," she said.
Beatrice Lumpkin, a retired steelworker, labor and peace activist said, "In addition to the excellent meal, and food for thought, tonight was an inspiration to go out and fight for equality."
The event was part of national pre-convention discussion series, leading up to the Communist Party's 29th national convention in New York City this spring. For more information go to: http://cpusa.org.
Photo: Pepe Lozano/PW