Michael Puente // Gary’s National Black Political Convention, 40 years on

Gary’s National Black Political Convention, 40 years on | WBEZ – The National Black Political Convention attracted approximately 8,000 people from across the United States. Their mission was to establish a unified political agenda that would address poverty, unemployment and blacks’ lack of clout within the Republican and Democratic parties.

Some made impassioned pleas for African-American political and economic freedom following tumultuous events of the ’60s, such as the violence in Selma, Alabama, the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the deaths of major figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. // The convention’s main objective was to establish a black political agenda for the nation, but coming to a consensus wasn’t easy. There were heated, back-and-forth discussions and some delegates even threatened to walk out of the convention when they couldn’t come to terms.

Baraka says attendees pressed on because adopting that agenda was paramount.

“That was the reason that we gave for having a convention in the first place — that we were going to create this black agenda so that every politician would have to take this into consideration if they wanted to run,” Baraka said. “The things the African-American people wanted … nationally.”

Despite the appeals to unity, divisions remained. One of the deepest was between black groups that chose to participate in the convention and those that did not. One prominent no-show was The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which avoided the meeting because whites were not allowed to participate.

That exclusion carried over to white news reporters, whose absence proved to be an opportunity for young black journalists, at a time when few minorities were in the news business.

One journalist who attended was Renee Ferguson, the current press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). Ferguson had a long career as one of Chicago’s top television journalists, but in 1972 she was a 22-year-old reporter with the Indianapolis News newspaper.

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