Wednesday, January 22, 2014

National Black Political Convention, Gary 1972

Rethinking the Black Power Movement
Excerpts by Komozi Woodard—Sarah Lawrence College

Speaking for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in June 1966, Stokely Carmichael introduced the new agitation slogan: Black Power. The SNCC challenged a new generation of leadership to realize self-determination, self-respect, and self-defense for black America by calling for broad political and social experimentation with black liberation and political autonomy.

As Harry Haywood wrote in "Black Bolshevik," “The emergence of Black Power as a mass slogan signaled a fundamental turning point in the modern Afro-American liberation struggle, carrying it to the threshold of a new phase. It marked a basic shift in content and direction of the movement, from civil rights to national liberation, with a corresponding realignment of social forces."

In addition, the Black Power movement was a global cultural and political phenomenon; and the names and politics of some of the groups in the United States—such as the Congress of African People or the Republic of New Afrika—suggested its international dimensions. . . .  

Conferences and Conventions

Parallel processes unfolded following the 1967 Detroit Rebellion; in 1968 the Republic of New Afrika and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers emerged. The Republic of New Afrika (RNA), led by Imari Abubakari Obadele, demanded land to establish an African-American nation in the Deep South.

In contrast to the RNA, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers developed into perhaps the most influential black Marxist organization. The league was the culmination of several black revolutionary union insurgencies, particularly in the auto industry, for instance, the Ford Revolutionary Union Movement (FRUM) and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM).

In the 1970s some of the more radical members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers founded a Marxist-Leninist organization, the Black Workers Congress (BWC), declaring that African Americans were an oppressed nation in the Black Belt South and demanding the right of self-determination.

Thus, in the aftermath of the urban uprisings a new generation of Black Power organizations developed a radical leadership, demanding black self-determination and generating four principal political styles: Marxism, revolutionary nationalism, territorial nationalism, and cultural nationalism.

Step by step the Black Power Conferences grew stronger in numbers and in political development. The Black Power Conferences began as a small affair called together by Harlem Representative Adam Clayton Powell, a veteran of the Harlem Job Boycotts of the 1940s. When the youthful Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown called for Black Power, Congressman Powell tried to define it politically; he convened a Black Power Conference in Washington, D.C., alongside his congressional aide Chuck Stone as well as the youthful militant Maulana Karenga of the Los Angeles US Organization.

The second conference was a mass summit meeting held in the aftermath of one of the worst black uprisings in American history, the July 1967 Newark uprising.

A round of 1967 uprisings from Newark to Detroit rocked the country and recast Black Power beyond the electoral realm into a debate about reform or revolution.

Severely beaten in that uprising, the Newark poet Amiri Baraka emerged as a political leader at that Black Power meeting alongside Rap Brown and Maulana Karenga. In the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination in April 1968, thousands of militants and activists poured into the Philadelphia Black Power Conference, where internationalism and anti–Vietnam War positions dominated the movement’s shift to the Left. However, the 1969 Black Power Conference was sabotaged by the Bermuda government’s banning of Black Power leaders such as Stokely Carmichael who were scheduled to speak at the Caribbean summit meeting.

At that point, with Baraka’s political star rising at the head of the Newark Black Power, militants and pan-Africanists from around the United States and Canada rallied in 1970 in Atlanta, Georgia, to constitute a national federation of Black Power and pan-African organizations, the Congress of African People (CAP.) The CAP was produced by the forces that united to break the executive color bar in a major northeastern city by organizing the election of the first black mayor at that level. That led to a phenomenal movement for black political power.

With that organizational apparatus in place and a national platform, CAP worked with a number of political forces to hold, in quick succession, the March 1972 Gary Convention, the May 1972 African Liberation Day, and the September 1972 San Diego Congress of African People summit meeting.

Featuring C. L. R. James as its keynote speaker, Baraka’s San Diego CAP summit put socialism on the Black Power agenda. With that momentum, Baraka became the chair of the Congress of African People and the general-secretary of the National Black Political Assembly produced by the Gary Convention. Another important layer of that momentum and infrastructure was the maturing Black Arts movement that was in the vanguard of black consciousness and the youth movement, with hundreds of cultural centers.

The Gary Convention marked the zenith of the Black Power movement. Most of the important strands of the Black Power movement were represented by delegates and by their components of the political platform, the National Black Political Agenda. For example, the National Welfare Rights Organization drafted the important $10,000 minimum income demands; the Black Panther Party and other self-defense groups influenced the anti-police brutality stance, and so forth.

By 1972 there was an impressive convergence of radical Black Power movements in many parts of the world, including a number of non-African groups in the Middle East and elsewhere who rallied as oppressed peoples under the rebellious banner of “Black Power.”

The momentum was so strong that SNCC and other groups called for and began to organize a Sixth Pan-African Congress to follow the path of the historic Fifth Pan-African Congress of 1945 in Manchester that inspired the African independence movement. They hoped that summit meeting would coordinate a global fight against racism and imperialism.  

D.C. Forum Commemorates ’72 Gary Convention
By AFRO Staff

The Institute of the Black World 21st Century [IBW] hosted “It’s Nation Time,” a national symposium commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Ind.

The convention saw 10,000 Black people gather to adopt a National Black Political Agenda and establish a process to hold candidates accountable to Black interests at the local, state and national level.

The forum, held March 23 at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., featured a screening of “It’s Nation Time,” the official documentary film about the Indiana convention.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion on the impact of the Gary Convention and its relevance to Black politics today, moderated by Verna Avery Brown of WPFW, Pacifica Network.

Also included was a tribute to the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.). The IBW Legacy Award was given to Richard G. Hatcher, the first black mayor of Gary, Ind.

Special guests included the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., and panelists included Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, George Curry, former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women.

“The 1972 National Black Political Convention was one of the most significant gatherings of African Americans in the history of this country,” Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, said in a statement.

“A new generation of activists, organizers and elected officials need to study the Gary Convention to assess its relevance and meaning for Black politics and the interests and aspirations of Black people today,” he said.

* * * * *

National Black Political Convention Collection, 1972–1973

On 10–12 March 1972, several thousand African Americans gathered in Gary, Indiana, for the National Black Political Convention. The convention pulled together a cross section of people representing a wide range of political philosophies. Held at Westside High School, the event brought together Republicans, Democrats, nationalists,
Socialists, and independents.

The steering committee consisted of Gary mayor, Richard G. Hatcher, U.S. representative Charles C. Diggs, and Imamu Baraka (also known as poet LeRoi Jones). The convention was a culmination of a series of earlier meetings, mostly held in 1971. The purpose of the meetings was to develop a unified political strategy for African Americans from 1972 forward.

Convened by Diggs, the first planning session for the 1972 convention was held in Washington, D.C., 30 January 1972. A convenor was identified for every participating state. Delegates were selected from statewide political caucuses. (All blacks holding elective office in a state automatically qualified as state delegates.)

In addition to the steering committee, participants listed on the program for the three-day conference included Carl Stokes, Louis Stokes, Yvonne Braithwaite, Jesse Jackson, Walter E. Fauntroy, Ronald V. Dellums, Richard Roundtree, Bobby Seale, Louis Farrakhan, Vincent Harding, Patricia Patterson, Kim Weston, Barbara Jordan, and Julian Bond.

An ambitious agenda included numerous issues, most of which did not and have not materialized. Several of these issues have resurfaced and continue to be part of political discussions of other groups. Issues listed on the agenda of the National Black Political Convention included:

Home rule for the District of Columbia;
Establishment of national network of community health centers;
Establishment of system of national health insurance;
Elimination of capital punishment;
Creation of a new urban-based Homestead Act;
Government guarantee of minimum annual income of $5200 for family of four;
Minimum wage guarantee of $2.50;
Establishment of a black United Fund;
Effective enforcement of anti-trust legislation.  

Gary's National Black Political Convention, 40 years on
Three-day convention galvanized a generation of black political leaders.
By: Michael Puente
March 9, 2012

* * * * *

The Black Agenda
The Gary Declaration: Black Politics at the Crossroads


The Black Agenda is addressed primarily to Black people in America. It rises naturally out of the bloody decades and centuries of our people's struggle on these shores. It flows from the most recent surgings of our own cultural and political consciousness. It is our attempt to define some of the essential changes which must take place in this land as we and our children move to self-determination and true independence.

The Black Agenda assumes that no truly basic change for our benefit takes place in Black or white America unless we Black people organize to initiate that change. It assumes that we must have some essential agreement on overall goals, even though we may differ on many specific strategies. . . .

What Time Is It?

We come to Gary in an hour of great crisis and tremendous promise for Black America. While the white nation hovers on the brink of chaos, while its politicians offer no hope of real change, we stand on the edge of history and are faced with an amazing and frightening choice: We may choose in 1972 to slip back into the decadent white politics of American life, or we may press forward, moving relentlessly from Gary to the creation of our own Black life. The choice is large, but the time is very short.

Let there be no mistake. We come to Gary in a time of unrelieved crisis for our people. From every rural community in Alabama to the high-rise compounds of Chicago, we bring to this Convention the agonies of the masses of our people. From the sprawling Black cities of Watts and Nairobi in the West to the decay of Harlem and Roxbury in the East, the testimony we bear is the same. We are the witnesses to social disaster.

Our cities are crime-haunted dying grounds. Huge sectors of our youth—and countless others—face permanent unemployment. Those of us who work find our paychecks able to purchase less and less. Neither the courts nor the prisons contribute to anything resembling justice or reformation. The schools are unable—or unwilling—to educate our children for the real world of our struggles. Meanwhile, the officially approved epidemic of drugs threatens to wipe out the minds and strength of our best young warriors.

Economic, cultural, and spiritual depression stalk Black America, and the price for survival often appears to be more than we are able to pay. On every side, in every area of our lives, the American institutions in which we have placed our trust are unable to cope with the crises they have created by their single-minded dedication to profits for some and white supremacy above all. . . .

White Realities, Black Choice

A Black political convention, indeed all truly Black politics must begin from this truth: The American system does not work for the masses of our people, and it cannot be made to work without radical fundamental change. (Indeed this system does not really work in favor of the humanity of anyone in America.)

In light of such realities, we come to Gary and are confronted with a choice. Will we believe the truth that history presses into our face—or will we, too, try to hide? Will the small favors some of us have received blind us to the larger sufferings of our people, or open our eyes to the testimony of our history in America?

For more than a century we have followed the path of political dependence on white men and their systems. From the Liberty Party in the decades before the Civil War to the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, we trusted in white men and white politics as our deliverers. Sixty years ago, W.E.B. DuBois said he would give the Democrats their "last chance" to prove their sincere commitment to equality for Black people—and he was given white riots and official segregation in peace and in war.

Nevertheless, some twenty years later we became Democrats in the name of Franklin Roosevelt, then supported his successor Harry Truman, and even tried a "non-partisan" Republican General of the Army named Eisenhower. We were wooed like many others by the superficial liberalism of John F. Kennedy and the make-believe populism of Lyndon Johnson. Let there be no more of that. . . .

We Are the Vanguard

The challenge is thrown to us here in Gary. It is the challenge to consolidate and organize our own Black role as the vanguard in the struggle for a new society. To accept that challenge is to move independent Black politics. There can be no equivocation on that issue. History leaves us no other choice. White politics has not and cannot bring the changes we need.

We come to Gary and are faced with a challenge. The challenge is to transform ourselves from favor-seeking vassals and loud-talking, "militant" pawns, and to take up the role that the organized masses of our people have attempted to play ever since we came to these shores. That of harbingers of true justice and humanity, leaders in the struggle for liberation.

A major part of the challenge we must accept is that of redefining the functions and operations of all levels of American government, for the existing governing structures—from Washington to the smallest county—are obsolescent. That is part of the reason why nothing works and why corruption rages throughout public life. For white politics seeks not to serve but to dominate and manipulate.

We will have joined the true movement of history if at Gary we grasp the opportunity to press Man forward as the first consideration of politics. Here at Gary we are faithful to the best hopes of our fathers and our people if we move for nothing less than a politics which places community before individualism, love before sexual exploitation, a living environment before profits, peace before war, justice before unjust "order," and morality before expediency.

This is the society we need, but we delude ourselves here at Gary if we think that change can be achieved without organizing the power, the determined national Black power, which is necessary to insist upon such change, to create such change, to seize change.

Towards A Black Agenda

So when we turn to a Black Agenda for the seventies, we move in the truth of history, in the reality of the moment. We move recognizing that no one else is going to represent our interests but ourselves. The society we seek cannot come unless Black people organize to advance its coming. We lift up a Black Agenda recognizing that white America moves towards the abyss created by its own racist arrogance, misplaced priorities, rampant materialism, and ethical bankruptcy. Therefore, we are certain that the Agenda we now press for in Gary is not only for the future of Black humanity, but is probably the only way the rest of America can save itself from the harvest of its criminal past.

So, Brothers and Sisters of our developing Black nation, we now stand at Gary as people whose time has come. From every corner of Black America, from all liberation movements of the Third World, from the graves of our fathers and the coming world of our children, we are faced with a challenge and a call:

Though the moment is perilous we must not despair. We must seize the time, for the time is ours.

We begin here and how in Gary. We begin with an independent Black political movement, an independent Black Political Agenda, and independent Black spirit. Nothing less will do. We must build for our people. We must build for our world. We stand on the edge of history. We cannot turn back.

Photographer: Robert A. Sengstacke

In front of a portrait of Marcus Garvey during the first African Liberation Day march in Washington, D.C., on May 27, 1972, are (from left to right): [unidentified], Congressman Charles Diggs Jr. from Michigan, Congressman Walter Fauntroy (one of the founders, in 1969, of the Congressional Black Caucus) of Washington, D.C., Amiri Baraka, and poet and publisher Haki R. Madhubuti.

* * * * *

National Black Political Convention
By Yaël Ksander
August 24, 2009

The Jackson’s predominantly black hometown of Gary was Indiana’s second largest city when it played host to the inaugural National Black Political Convention. Held at Gary’s Westside High School March 10 through 12, 1972, the convention proposed to establish an independent black political agenda.

Proposed during the 1967 National Black Power Conference in Newark, and organized by Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, U.S. Representative Charles Diggs and poet Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones), the convention attracted politically engaged blacks of all persuasions, from Democrats and Republicans to socialists and revolutionaries.
Blacks holding elective office across the country were invited as delegates to the convention , along with others selected by each state. The widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were in among the eight thousand in attendance, as were Bobby Seale, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and Julian Bond.

Whites were excluded from the convention, a policy decried by Roy Wilkins, then-executive director of the NAACP. At the convention, notions of Pan-Africanism and cultural nationalism tended to prevail over an integrationist philosophy.

The convention aspired to address various issues, from the creation of a national health insurance system to the abolition of the death penalty to the election of a proportionate number of blacks to Congress. Media attention centered around two of the most controversial topics under discussion: the creation of a Palestinian homeland and school integration through busing.

”Brothers and Sisters of our developing Black nation,” the 1972 agenda declared, “we now stand at Gary as people whose time has come.”

“Here at Gary,” the declaration asserted, “we are faithful to the best hopes of our fathers and our people if we move for nothing less than a politics which places community before individualism, love before sexual exploitation, a living environment before profits, peace before war, justice before unjust order, and morality before expediency.”

* * * * *

The Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1972
by Jeannye Thornton

"Does the agenda passed at the recent National Black Convention reflect the views of the majority of Black people?"

... I feel the Agenda does speak for the majority, but it does not speak for all black people. No one does. There were some problems with the convention, such as the fact that they should have been more organized before it began, but otherwise it was beautiful. It was a Black Nationalists Agenda and all black people are nationalists whether they realize it or not. In that sense the agenda does speak for the majority.—William Burchette, South Shore, Chicago

... Everybody wasn't consulted on that agenda, not even all the people who were there. The representatives from the various states didn't seem to have been totally aware of the agenda and those out here on the outside certainly had no say. I'm concerned that another convention was planned for 1976. We need them every year or at least every two years. They should be better planned and more people should know about them to be able to participate.—Miss Celeste Peyton, South Shore, Chicago

* * * * *

The New York Times, June 22, 1972
Letter to the Editor: Voluntary Segregation and Racism

Your June 5 editorial suggests that an "integrated America" is the only rational goal for black Americans. By citing Roy Wilkins' integrationist position and his rejection of the positions taken by the National Black Political Convention, it is implied that Mr. Wilkins knows what is best for blacks.

Additionally, your commentary seeks to discredit separate black organizations and movements by comparing them to the white racist institutions and attitudes which make their existence necessary.

White Americans must learn that individuals like Mr. Wilkins can no longer assume to speak for the masses of black Americans. The National Black Convention cannot be dismissed as a small gathering of hot headed militants...—Richard E. Presha, New York, June 13, 1972

* * * * *

The National Black Political Convention
Excerpts by Lee Sustar
22 March 2013

DURING THE 1980s, when Jesse Jackson's campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination drew mass support from the Black community, many on the left claimed that this was the realization of a goal set by the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.

But the Black radicals of that era envisioned a national Black political party independent of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Many of those who led the fight for an independent Black party back then later supported Jackson. But this wasn't because the Democratic Party had evolved into a vehicle for social change and Black liberation. Rather, it was a sign of the defeat and demoralization of the movement.

The situation could hardly have been more different in the early 1970s. Although the FBI's COINTELPRO harassment of Black militants had led to the imprisonment or murder of many leaders of the Black Panther Party and other radical nationalist organizations, the spectacular rise of such groups convinced tens of thousands of Blacks that it was possible to break with the Democratic Party and form a new political organization capable of bringing "community control" to Black neighborhoods.

A worried Democratic Party had opened its doors to a new generation of Black politicians in an effort to co-opt the struggle. But in 1972, Black militants were confident that they could exert control over these officials by mobilizing mass action.

The great rebellions of the 1960s were still a recent memory, and the anti-Vietnam War and women's movements were at high tide. Yet the militants underestimated the conservatism of the Black officials who had so recently taken office. Although they were often propelled into office by struggle, these Black officials quickly adapted to the priorities of the state machine and the Democratic Party--even if those priorities included opposing Black activism beyond their direct control.

* * * * *

THE PREAMBLE to the National Black Political Agenda written for the convention was far more radical. It read in part:

“A Black political convention, indeed all truly Black politics, must begin from this truth: The American system does not work for the masses of people, and it cannot be made to work without radical fundamental change...The profound crises of Black people and the disaster of American are not simply caused by men, nor will they be solved by men alone.

"These crises are the crises of basically flawed economics and politics, and of cultural degradation. None of the Democratic candidates and none of the Republican candidates—regardless of their vague promises to us or to their white constituencies—can solve our problems or the problems of this country without radically changing the system by which it operates."

Everyone from cultural nationalists like Amiri Baraka and Democrats like Gary, Ind., Mayor Richard Hatcher declared their support for the convention's stated goal of a break with the twin capitalist parties. But Hatcher argued that the antiwar presidential campaign of George McGovern warranted giving the Democrats a "last chance."

The illusion of Black unity was destroyed at the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Ind., on March 10-12, 1972. Attended by over 8,000 people, the convention marked the first large-scale gathering of the various currents in Black politics: radical nationalists, cultural nationalists, socialists, Maoists and Black Democratic elected officials. The conference was hosted by Hatcher, one of the Black elected officials whose numbers had risen fourfold to 1,860 between 1967 and 1971.

The promises of continued support for the Democrats were not enough to stop a walkout by the convention's Michigan delegation. These delegates, many of whom were NAACP leaders and trade union officials, were worried that any association with the National Black Political Agenda would damage their relationship to the Michigan Democratic Party.

Jackson and Baraka made a last-ditch appeal to the Michigan contingent, telling them that the Agenda was only a draft—although the document had already been adopted by the convention. Later, convention organizers announced that a final version of the Agenda would be written by the heads of each state delegation.

This bureaucratic maneuvering, along with minimal speaking rights accorded to delegates, made it difficult for convention attendees to argue for any specific program of Black activism, let alone a break with the Democrats. Any delegate who raised such issues was accused of undermining Black "unity."

Fewer than three weeks after the convention, Hatcher and the Congressional Black Caucus chucked "unity" aside. They publicly renounced the Black Agenda's support for Palestinian liberation and its opposition to the Zionist state of Israel. The Black Agenda was eventually dumped in favor of the Congressional Black Caucus' watered-down Black "Bill of Rights." Although the convention formed a National Black Political Assembly, the perspectives of this group were left largely undefined.

* * * * *

Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.

Amiri Baraka's Black Arts movement led to the development of hundreds of black cultural centers and theaters. Furthermore, many artists of African descent were inspired to valorize Africa and the African Diaspora through different mediums. This photo includes some of the writers, poets, artists, and intellectuals who reflect the diversity of talents nurtured during the Black Arts movement.
Left to right, top to bottom: [Unidentified], Ishmael Reed, Jayne Cortez, Léon-Gontran Damas, Romare Bearden, Larry Neal, Nikki Giovanni and Evelyn Neal.

* * * * *

ONLY 1,700 attended the second National Black Political Convention in Little Rock, Ark., in March 1974. Although there were once again several statements of support for an independent Black party sometime in the future, the convention reflected the politics of the few Black Democratic Party officials in attendance.

The Watergate scandal in the Nixon White House had raised the possibility of a big Democratic victory in the 1974 Congressional election, and Black officials, looking to boost their own standing inside the party, urged Black activists to work for Democratic candidates. Maynard Jackson, the mayor of Atlanta, demanded that the Georgia delegation withdraw its statement in support for an independent Black party. An attempt to discuss implementation of the 1972 Black Agenda was ruled out of order.

A day after the convention, Michigan Rep. Charles Diggs, who had long associated with Detroit-based Black nationalists, announced his resignation as co-chair of the National Black Political Assembly. A year later, Ron Daniels replaced Baraka as general secretary of the organization, and pro-Democratic elements followed Baraka out of the group.

The Black Democrats ignored the National Black Political Assembly during Georgia Gov. Jimmy Cater's 1976 presidential campaign. Realizing that he could no longer rely on a white vote in a "solid South," Carter abandoned that traditional Dixiecrat strategy in favor of an alliance with the nascent Black political machine in Atlanta and other big cities. To middle-class Black Democratic officials, the prospect of a close relationship with the president of the United States was far more important than an independent Black party.

This reconciliation with the Democratic Party put the new generation of Black politicians on the same ground as those many had previously struggled against--the NAACP, the Urban League and the rest of the middle class "old guard" of the civil rights movement.

The National Black Political Conventions provides an object lesson--that even activists most devoted to building a politically independent movement can be sidetracked into a party of racism and imperialism if they aren't clear about the character of the Democratic Party.

Photographer: Robert A. Sengstacke

Maulana Karenga is widely known as the creator of Kwanzaa—a seven-day African-American and Pan-African cultural holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. The first Kwanzaa holiday was celebrated from December 26, 1966, thru January 1, 1967.

Karenga and his wife, Tiamoyo Karenga, are standing behind a table adorned with the colors, candles, mats, and crops that symbolize a variety of aspects of Kwanzaa.

No comments:

Post a Comment