Race conferees urged to heighten activism

November 20, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

African-Americans must return to their spiritual roots, fight the death penalty, block the loss of public jobs through privatization and create their own schools and political party, black leaders and activists said at a State of the Race Conference yesterday.

After 17 workshops on topics ranging from gang violence to economic development and health care, more than 100 conference participants gathered in an auditorium at Dunbar Middle School to formulate recommendations for action.

Dr. Charshee McIntyre, of the African-American Studies Association in New York, urged participants to run for local school boards in an effort to decide the curriculum.

She noted that Detroit has 16 Afro-centric schools, schools that focus on the contributions of people of African descent.

"If you are on the board of education, you can select the texts," she said.

Others called for changes in the criminal justice system, including ending the death penalty and altering the law so that the criminal penalties for crack cocaine are similar to those for powdered cocaine.

Longer sentences for crack cocaine are disproportionately affecting the black community, they said.

Ralik Turner, executive director of the New Cassel Community, a drug prevention program in Westbury, N.Y., said blacks must come together to deal with the problems of drugs and violence. He said the problems are more difficult than in the 1960s when African-Americans fought the "visible enemy" of Southern segregationists.

"The problem is not with the South, the problem is not with the white people, the problem is with us," he said, to scattered applause.

Woullard Lett, an administrator with New Hampshire College in Manchester, N. H., said blacks must join the technological revolution, and suggested creating computer centers in major cities that would ease more African-Americans onto the information highway.

"There's a widely held belief that the black community is techno-phobic," he said later.

Meanwhile, Imam A. S. Mahdi Ibn-Khalid Ziyad of the Admiral Family Circle Islamic Community in Camden, N.J., said blacks must embrace religion, "the only viable institution we have."

He also called for the creation of a black national political party.

"There's definitely the need for it, in light of two weeks ago," he said later, referring to the election results which gave Republicans control of Congress.

Recommendations from the workshops will be sent to an advisory committee of the African-American Institute for Research and Empowerment, an outgrowth of the conference which will serve as a resource center.

But one white college student who attended the almost exclusively black conference, Peter Moniodes, 28, was disappointed.

"I was looking for solutions," said Mr. Moniodes, a college junior majoring in education at Slippery Rock University near Pittsburgh who hopes to teach in an urban school. But it was discussion without results, he said.

The four-day conference has drawn hundreds from around the country and students from 40 colleges.

The conference's final day is today, and it begins with a breakfast meeting at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Also scheduled for today is a 10 a.m. "spiritual celebration" at Coppin State College Auditorium with Archbishop George Stallings, founder of the African American Congregation and pastor of the Imani Temple in Washington, D.C.

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