The Institute of the Black World 21st Century has just completed Town Hall Meetings in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Baltimore to increase public awareness about the devastating impact of the "War on Drugs" on the Black community as a racially biased strategy/policy. IBW joined the struggle to end the War on Drugs because it is a major part of the crises afflicting Black people, particularly in America's "dark ghettos." Our drug policy reform initiative is part of what must become a multifaceted movement to overcome the State of Emergency decimating urban inner-city Black communities across the country – joblessness, economic/business underdevelopment, poor performing schools, illicit drug trafficking, crime, violence, fratricide, police occupation, mass incarceration, disorientation, disorganization …
We focus on urban inner-city areas, the "dark ghettos," because this is where the crises are most acute. As a result of the Civil Rights/Human Rights and Black Power Movements, large numbers of Africans in America were enabled to scale the social and economic ladder into the middle class (some have even managed to ascend to the lower rungs of the upper class). But, in the face of a ferocious White backlash, America retreated from the idea of social and economic justice as part of the "Promissory Note" to the "emancipated" sons and daughters of formerly enslaved Africans. The unfinished/incomplete civil rights/human rights agenda left large numbers of Black people behind in deteriorating communities, mired in poverty, joblessness and devoid of sufficient avenues for upward mobility – conditions which were greatly exacerbated by massive disinvestment in social and economic programs by the government and deindustrialization as a result of capital flight and globalization. As we note in IBW's Martin Luther King/Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative, as a consequence of these factors, today we have "two Black Americas," one relatively well off and the other, those in America's dark ghettos, who are not so well off, struggling to survive in what have become dangerous neighborhoods – ground zero for the State of Emergency in Black America.
The pain and suffering in inner-cities was very much in evidence as IBW organized Town Hall Meetings in the three cities mentioned above. Our brothers and sisters are struggling, hurting and dying in America's dark ghettos. The question is, can we bridge the divide between the two Black Americas and muster the will/resolve to build the internal capacity/power to finish the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda in the interest of creating wholesome, sustainable families and communities? This is the question we must strive to answer as we mobilize/organize for State of the Black World Conference III, November 14-18, at Howard University in Washington, D.C. – a great national/international gathering of the Black Nation centered on the Theme – State of Emergency in Black America: Time to Heal Black Families and Communities; a great gathering dedicated to the memory of our preeminent political scientist Dr. Ronald Walters and featuring the launch of the Damu Smith Leadership Development and Organizing Training Institute in memory of one of the premier social/political activists and organizers of our time.
We choose to call State of the Black World Conferences "great gatherings" because they are intended to be overarching meetings pulling from the entirety of national and local civil rights/human rights, political, faith, labor, civic, business/professional and community-based organizations, institutions, agencies and concerned individuals engaged in various ways in the ongoing struggle for Black progress in the U.S. and the Pan African world. Accordingly, while most national organizations have annual conventions to assess progress and set their agendas, State of the Black World Conferences are only convened every four years, generally after the presidential elections. As such they provide an extraordinary opportunity for networking, information-sharing, cross fertilization of ideas/projects/initiatives and exploration of possibilities for strategic joint work with IBW functioning as the vital link, resource center and facilitator. State of the Black World Conferences are also "great gatherings" because they include leaders and organizations from around the Pan African world and sessions which discuss building stronger cultural, political and economic connections/relations between people of African descent in the U.S. and the Pan African world.
Utilizing the Theme as a framework, speakers, panelists and resource people at SOBWC III will present assessments of the "state of the race," including the impact of the 2012 presidential election, and offer suggestions/recommendations about how to move forward. Our goal is always to provide participants with analyses of the problems/issues we face as Black people but most importantly, useful information, strategies and models to address our condition and inspiration to continue the struggle for Black progress. Resource people, panelists and participants will be asked to discuss the State of the Emergency in Black America and have the discipline to outline solutions/strategies for action to heal Black families and communities in terms of what we as African people must do for ourselves, what we should demand of private sector institutions and what we should demand of government in critical areas — the Black family, education, economic/business development, health/environment, Black youth/young people. The composite recommendations from the Working Sessions in these areas will comprise a Declaration of Intent to Heal Black Families and Communities, an action-agenda to be implemented collectively by organizations, institutions and agencies participating in this great gathering with IBW as the Resource Center – a vehicle dedicated to relentlessly promoting principled cooperation/collaboration, specialization/division of labor and operational unity to strengthen our collective capacity/power to advance the interests and aspirations of African people.
The magnitude of the crises we confront as Africans in America and the world are of such enormous proportions, particularly among Black poor and working people and the dispossessed, that a great gathering of the Black Nation is not only desirable, it is essential. A State of Emergency dictates that those who are affected act with a sense of urgency. It is with this sense of urgency that IBW calls upon our many friends, supporters and allies to join the mobilization to make this great gathering possible. IBW will not have large foundation grants or substantial corporation sponsorships to finance this effort. Achieving success will require the combined energy and effort of those who believe that there is a State of Emergency in Black America and are passionately committed to healing Black families and communities – a determined mobilization by like-minded people joining hands to ensure that "we shall overcome!" It is in that spirit and with that assurance, that we move forward, confident that State of the Black World Conference III will be one of the greatest gatherings of the 21st Century.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW websitewww.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com . To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at [email protected].