Monday, February 20, 2006

State of the Black Union 2006-Houston

Seems like everything is happening in my hometown since I moved in 2001. The Super Bowl, yesterday's NBA All-Star game, an NCAA Regional basketball final in 2008 and the Final Four in 2011, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the World Series and an NAACP convention. Shoot, even my old high school won the state 4A title in basketball.

On February 25 Tavis Smiley brings his seventh annual State of the Black Union Conference to St. Agnes Church, a megachurch less than two miles from the neighborhood where I grew up. Arrrgh!

It will be broadcast on C-SPAN live and will unveil the Covenant With Black America along with the comments and thoughts of 35 leaders of the African-American community.

A Message from Tavis...

At the close of the 2005 State of the Black Union in Atlanta, we
invited the public to weigh in on the most challenging issues facing
Black America. I'm happy to report that because of the huge response,
we now have a document that outlines how individuals, groups,
communities and the body politic can move forward to make this nation
better. When we make Black America better, we make all of America
better. We all want an America as good as its promise.

The Covenant book is made up of 10 chapters on the issues identified by
the public. They include economic disparity, health, education and
environmental justice. While the completion of the book marks the end
of one journey, it is in many ways the first step for those who want to
move forward toward real progress in improving Black communities.

I took the opportunity to log on to and submit a question for Saturday's forum that reads like this:

I am a college educated African-American who happens to be
transgendered and a Christian. I have been deeply troubled by not only
the increasing willingness of megachurch ministers to align themselves
with political forces hostile to our community, but the homophobic
remarks being uttered from their pulpits.

My question is this: does your definition of African-American community
include people like myself and what steps will be taken to ensure that
we GLBT African-Americans are part of the building process for our

Be interesting to see if my question gets read this Saturday.


Christopher King said...

First of all, I lived in Dallas for a while and found it to be in many ways kinder to Blacks. YMMV.

Second, I have always been a major proponent of ending hate against GLBi community, even as advocates for that community often don't care about blacks:

Lastly, as someone facing a ridiculous extortion charge for helping a victim of police abuse (here is the summary)

Look what I just discovered in my email today: An email from Rory Holland, another NAACP court liason with hotlinks to another case where the New England NAACP sucked up to the police and arrested a court liason for trying to investigate police abuse. KKK stuff gets involved, too!

I'll be in continued touch with Rory Holland and his lawyer.

I'm gonna get those M___F____, and get 'em Good. I can't wait to podcast the criminal and civil trials. They ain't never seen nor heard 'nothin like that, much less from a nigger.

"Good" to know I ain't the only one.

Monica Roberts said...

7th State of the Black Union Gathers but HUD’s Alphonso Jackson Misses It

Date: Monday, February 27, 2006
By: Michael H. Cottman

Nearly 8,000 people attended the seventh annual State of the Black America symposium Saturday, a day-long self-empowerment conference at St. Agnes Church in Houston, where prominent black educators, business leaders and activists gathered to embrace a national plan to help black Americans formulate their own plan for long-term social progress and economic security.

Radio personality Tavis Smiley engaged a range of panelists that included Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Mel Watt, educator Cornel West, entertainer/activist Harry Belafonte, author/economist Julianne Malveaux, National Urban League President Marc Morial, former SCLC president Rev. Joseph Lowery, Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan, National Action Network head Rev. Al Sharpton and financial expert Michelle Singletary.

The group discussed a range of topics that included the importance of saving and investing money, building generational wealth and home ownership. While blacks spend $110 billion on housing, only about 48 percent of black Americans are homeowners, compared to 75 percent of whites.

Throughout the day, panelists echoed the notion that black self-empowerment is the solution to a myriad of social and economic concerns.

For example, panelists said black Americans must start exercising more restraint with personal spending. According to Target News, which tracks black marketing and consumer behavior, blacks spend more per capita than whites for food, entertainment and clothing. The survey said blacks spend about $22 billion of their income on products and services and almost $29 billion on cars.

Smiley introduced a new book called "The Covenant with Black America," a 254-page document made up of 10 chapters on the issues identified by the public after the 2005 State of the Black Union in Atlanta. They include economic disparity, health, education and environmental justice. The book, Smiley said, complete with public policy recommendations, is intended to help black Americans improve the quality of their lives.

"It’s a powerful undertaking," Watt said, "when you know where you’re going."

Smiley garnered thunderous applause from the St. Agnes audience when he announced that the chairmen of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee -- Ken Mehlman and Howard Dean, respectively -- have committed that their party's presidential candidates will participate in a town hall meeting to address topics raised in the "The Covenant."

In addition, 100 of the nation's most influential blacks, he said, will converge on Washington D.C. Tuesday to officially endorse "The Covenant" to show their intention to help enact its recommendations.

Blacks who attended the forum told the Houston Chronicle the experience was rewarding.

"I was honored to be in a room full of such intelligent black people," Wanda Carr, of Beaumont, told the Chronicle. "I'm glad I came."

Also in attendance was Houston police Chief Harold Hurtt, who told the newspaper the discussion was "very informative, very timely, and we waited much, much too long to have it."

But Alphonso Jackson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a high-profile black member of President George W. Bush’s administration, who'd confirmed his participation at the conference, did not attend the event, according to organizers.

It was not clear why Jackson didn’t show up. During the forum, organizers said they had no explanation from Jackson and a call to HUD was not returned.

Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, told
Saturday that he believes Jackson failed to appear at the forum because the Bush administration has not made good on its promise to address racial disparities in housing.

"He didn’t want to come on stage and defend why they are not closing the gap [between blacks and whites] in home ownership," Walters said.

Black conservatives have recently complained that black leadership mega-meetings have not included Republicans, but Jackson was invited to the forum and was listed as a confirmed panelist.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington, D.C. bureau, told that Jackson’s decision not to participate Saturday was a "missed opportunity" for the Bush administration because Jackson is one of the most prominent members of Bush’s cabinet and talks often about increasing home ownership for blacks.

"He missed an opportunity to reach a large group of serious-minded African-Americans who are focused on solutions to problems facing African Americans in communities every day," Shelton said from Washington.

A new report by the U.S. Federal Reserve shows that the average family income dropped by 2.3 percent between 2001 and 2004, causing American families to feel less financially secure, according Democrats.

Under Bush's economic leadership, Democrats said, minority income remains less than 60 percent that of whites. Specifically, black Americans have seen household incomes fall by more than $2,000 under Bush, and nearly 25 percent of black Americans remain in poverty, according to U.S. Census data.

"While President Bush would like for Americans to look at the economy through rose-colored glasses, recent news reports tell the real truth," Amaya Smith, a spokesperson for the DNC, said in a statement.

Although overall home ownership rates have increased across the board, Smith said, liabilities rose faster than assets. The numbers, she said, indicate that all Americans, including black families, are taking on increasing amounts of debt to make ends meet.

Bush, however, has told black civil rights organizations like the National Urban League that his economic policies will benefit all Americans, including blacks.

Last month, Bush addressed the Economic Club of Chicago and discussed his economic initiatives for 2006. The economy, the president said, added 108,000 new jobs in December and has added more than 400,000 jobs in the last two months. More than 4.6 million new jobs have been created since May 2003, Bush said.

But Malia Lazu, president of The Institute for Policy Studies and a panelist at the forum, said blacks have the power to control their own destiny and need dynamic young leadership.

"Our generation is responsible for itself," Lazu said. "Don’t just register to vote, run for office."

Belafonte told the audience that black Americans should move forward with a sense of "rebellion" and "revolutionary action."

Meanwhile, Walters told that Saturday’s forum was successful because black Americans who attended the conference or watched the event on C-SPAN were able to get "hope and encouragement" from successful black professionals who offered practical advice.

And, Walters added, "They helped tear down stereotypes of blacks."