As the natural high of the election of Sen. Barack Obama as America’s next president wafts through the international Black community, sober observers are monitoring the people’s response. Now that the speculation, anticipation, and trepidation have had a couple of days to calm down, the real work begins. Trying to manage a consorted effort toward unity, activists Prof. Sam Anderson and Jessica Watson-Crosby, co-chair of the Black Radical Congress-New York are hosting a post-election forum this Saturday to coordinate a New York City Peoples Convention in 2009. “The struggle really continues!” said Anderson. “There is work to do for our communities. We have entered a new era of struggle! What must we do with a new president in the White House? How can we bring change that will benefit our communities?”
Wading through the immense post-election euphoria, serious folk with a serious plan are meeting to organize a People’s Convention for Spring 2009 and to come together and formulate a Black agenda and a strategy to put it into action. “My purpose is to begin the discussion and the work for progressive forces in New York City to deal with the numerous crises in terms of the local, national and international issues,” Prof. Anderson told the AmNews. “This public forum is the first of a series of platforms of the New York City People’s Convention in the summer of 2009.” Out of the public forum, various platforms will be addressed, he said, and hopefully out of it will come “a progressive Democratic governance structure and candidate who will run on a plat- form for mayor or City Council.” Brenda Stokely, a union and Katrina activist, is a speaker at the event, and told the paper, “This is another real step for- ward towards a people’s convention where people can come together and discuss what our agenda should be.We are having so many things thrown at us, there are so many distractions. We have to develop a movement to decide who our leaders are, and what agenda should be developed. “We must organize, organize, organize.” Very real issues like “gentrification and displacement are happening in many different spheres,” she added, “like in the Gulf Coast. There is a plan to Europeanize the urban centers throughout this country, where the wealthy are displacing the poor and immigrants to the outer suburbs, so we need to come together as a people defining their own agenda. We have to find our way towards each other and form our own agenda. Before this presidential election, I have never, ever seen before where people have been running behind us to get fliers.
People want to get involved because they have seen what we have been able to achieve.” The various million-person-events, starting with the Million Man March, have had positive impacts in the arena of engaging people in activism, said Stokely. “There is a self-organizing and networking that goes all the way back to slavery. It comes into play when the people hear something, they feel they need to be a part of.” The problem is, Stokely noted, “Now we have protest, but we don’t have organized resistance.” Throughout history, she said, “Where there is oppression, there is resistance. Every time we have made any gains, ike the Civil Rights or the Voting Rights act, it is because we have organ- ized, protested and made our demand known.” Even though the economy is slipping and the country’s reputation is tainted worldwide, citing Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely said, “It has been worse. We don’t have the right to be pessimistic.” Organizers of Saturday’s event stated that a forum is necessary “after a historical presidential election; the global, capitalist financial crisis, riddled with rip-offs and governmental bailout; state and municipal governmental budget cuts; the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; hundreds of thousands of job layoffs; Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustave and other signs of racist incompetency and global warming; the Jena 6 racist attacks; hundreds of thousands of housing foreclosures; rising police terror within Black and Latino communities; our persistent youth violence; a toxic, profit-driven healthcare system; and a public mis-educational system steering our children into prisons or low end jobs.” Speakers will include Councilmember Charles Barron; Assemblymember Inez Barron; Nellie Bailey, Harlem Tenants Council; Larry Hamm, People’s Organization for Progress; Horace Campbell, professor, Africana Studies, Syracuse University; B.J. Matthews, Taxi Workers Alliance; journalists Gary Younge, Herb Boyd, David Greaves, and this reporter.
Poet Sheri Hammad will pay tribute to the continued struggle. “We must celebrate Obama’s victory. It is essential for us to recognize the achievement of our years of struggle, which produced this Black president of the United States. We must pay homage to our ancestors, and thank heroes like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X,” said Councilman Charles Barron. “The blood sweat and tears of our ancestors who toiled in the fields and streets of our inner city communities must be remembered. But we must not lose sight of the great battle before us. In this city, under attack is our housing, health-care, education rights, and assaulted is our right to walk the streets without being attacked by brutal police. “Yet, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his arrogance and insensitivity, chose the day of Barack Obama’s election to announce that he is closing 40 dental clinics in the Black and Latino neighborhood, and he is cutting 500 jobs in our community. “The tears of jubilation have not yet dried on the faces of our elders, and he goes and inflicts even more pain on us. We must turn the energy of our jubilation into fuel for a movement that works to throw Bloomberg and his sycophants out of office for selling out the people of this city with their scandalous term limits bill. “We must stay focused and vigilant. Barack did his part, now we must organize and make sure that our Black vote and presence is not taken for granted or betrayed.” The NYC People’s Convention will take place on Saturday, November 8 (9 a.m.to 5 p.m.),at the CUNY Murphy Labor Institute (25 W. 43rd Street, 18th Floor). For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (917) 573-5812.