Chavis calls on blacks to organize Million Man March follow-up draws 5,000

June 30, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

The best way to translate the spirit of the Million Man March into a stronger black community is to organize neighborhoods to attack the economic and political problems that affect people of color, said the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., national director of last year's march.

Chavis, former executive director of the NAACP, spoke yesterday to an estimated 5,000 people at "Baltimore's Men of the March: A Day of Commitment" at the Baltimore Arena, a follow-up to October's Million Man March in Washington. The daylong summit aimed to galvanize members of Baltimore's black community in addressing issues and devising solutions for problems affecting them.

"We tend to underestimate our potential as a people," Chavis said.

The summit addressed three key issues:

Rearing of African-American males.

Economic empowerment of the black community.

L Community involvement in improving life for black Americans.

About 70 community leaders offered counseling and advice to those wanting to start businesses, help children and make a difference in their community. Donations were accepted to start a development fund for community projects in Baltimore.

"This was very educational. As black men, we need to know that the white man ain't the only enemy. Sometimes we can be our worst enemy," said Herb Baze, 58, of Baltimore.

A prevailing theme of the event focused on the black community taking responsibility for solving its problems.

"We're the only community that does not put our wealthy, our successful businessmen on pedestals," said keynote speaker Dr. Dennis Kimbo, best-selling author of "Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice" and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia.

Kimbo, whose dramatic rhetoric inspired standing ovations and strong words of agreement from the audience, said economic empowerment has to start with each individual willing to invest and take responsibility for the success and the failure. He noted that the black community's buying power is wasted in part by poor judgment and misdirected priorities.

According to Kimbo, about $400 billion is generated annually from the black community.

Another issue raised was the plight of the African-American male. A statistic from a University of Chicago study states that at current rates 70 percent of African-American males will be jobless, in jail, on drugs or dead by the year 2000.

Those concerns were echoed by speaker Haki Madhubuti, author and owner of one of the largest black publishing companies, who spoke about the healthy development of men.

"Too many people are expecting to find some simplistic answer to the very complex problem we face," Madhubuti said. Maintaining families and building banks, schools and other institutions are ways to develop healthier children, he said.

Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a 7th District Democrat, expressed what many felt.

"We gotta turn this ship around," Cummings said after painting a portrait of a community blind to danger and apathetic to change. "If we don't do it, who will?"

Pub Date: 6/30/96

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