State of the Black World Conference will gather in New Orleans
by Katy Reckdahl, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday November 19, 2008, 8:00 AM
The State of the Black World Conference will bring a who's who of African-American scholars, orators, church leaders and organizers to New Orleans for the five-day event at the Astor Crowne Plaza and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The conference -- featuring notables including Urban League president and former New Orleans mayor Marc Morial, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Danny Glover -- is generally limited to paid registrants.
Three events, however, are open to the public: a free National Town Hall Meeting on Thursday night; a ticketed musical and spoken-word concert and awards ceremony Saturday evening; and a ticketed address by Minister Louis Farrakhan for the conference's concluding session Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
Tickets for the concert and Farrakhan speech will be sold at the Convention Center.
Convened by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a progressive "African-centered, action-oriented" think tank in New York led by scholar-activist Ron Daniels, the conference will assemble a federal agenda of issues critical to black and urban communities, in the wake of President-elect Barack Obama's historic victory.
"We deliberately came to New Orleans because it's a city in need of recovery and one that was neglected by the prior administration, " Daniels said, but it's a metaphor for what's been happening in other urban areas, like Bronx County, N.Y., the birthplace of hip hop, he said, where nearly half of black and Hispanic young men are out of work.
The conference will consider specific and practical solutions to problems facing education, the economy and criminal justice, he said, and will also zero in on what he called "internal" solutions: "what we can do in the African-American community that doesn't need legislation."
Other speakers and round-table participants include the Rev. Al Sharpton; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and dean of the Congressional Black Caucus; Susan Taylor, former editorial director of Essence magazine; Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa; economist Julianne Malveaux; hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Mele Mel and Kool Moe Dee; and poets Sonia Sanchez and Haki Madhubuti.
Speakers from New Orleans include the Orleans Parish School Board president, the Rev. Torin Sanders; the Rev. Tom Watson; hip hop artist Joe Blakk; political consultant Vincent Sylvain; Beverly Wright, director of the Deep South Center on Environmental Justice at Dillard University; Mtumishi St. Julien, director of the Finance Authority of New Orleans; and Dr. Dwayne Thomas, former head of Charity and University hospitals.
The Town Hall Meeting will discuss the policy agenda and will be held Thursday from 7-10 p.m. at the Convention Center, Hall B 2-2. Moderated by radio and television host Bev Smith, its 10 panelists include Morial, Sharpton, Jackson, Malveaux, E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women, and Ron Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute and Scholar Practitioner Program at the University of Maryland.
Cyril Neville & Tribe 13 along with poets Sanchez and Madhubuti headline Saturday night's awards ceremony at 9:30 p.m. at the Convention Center.
Awards will be conferred upon some of the conference's most prominent participants as well as the Neville Brothers; Vincent Harding, one of the original founders of the Institute of the Black World in 1969; and Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Daniels called "an extraordinarily accomplished person who got caught in the crossfire of American politics."
Daniels is well aware that Wright and Farrakhan have been controversial figures, as has his longtime friend, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Certainly, Institute members don't agree with every word uttered by award recipients, Daniels said.
"But we see them as having made enormous contributions toward the advancement of black people in this country."