Finally getting my breath and bearings back after some real interesting chains of event over the past month and a half. But that's another story for another time. With all the madness and confusion, I still managed to attend the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Week End in Washington, DC, which took place September 24-28. This their 44th year. It is also the year of the most pivotal mid-term election ever, which takes place November 4, 2014 - with nearly all incumbents up for re-election across the nation.
One of the biggest events, in addition to the myriad of workshops throughout the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was the Chair's reception, hosted by Congressman Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, PA.
|Chaka Fattah D. Philadelphia|
The massive event was held at the newly minted Marriott Maquis Hotel - which sort of grew up over night and is now hip and thigh with the convention center. A fabulous edifice that puts all the other Marriotts to shame - thus far - it boasts of ball rooms and reception areas four levels deep, and a direct conduit from the hotel to the convention center so that you don't even have to face the outside elements. And it's co-owned by a Black man!
|Grand Lobby and Conversation Hub of the Marriott Marquis, DC|
With nearly a thousand participants in attendance for the reception, live entertainment, an open bar, wine, cheese, pasta, and great conversations flowed throughout the evening. The Chair's reception always draws a big crowd from Pennsylvania and all over the US, most of whom were congenial after having spent the entire day in workshops, round tables and forums tocused on issues and concerns about Black people, their progress, economic status, education issues, quality of life - and most of all the mid-term crisis.
The guest of honor for the evening was none other than Kenny Gamble, of Gamble and Huff /The Sounds of Philly (TSOP) fame, and his wife, Faatimah. However this time they were being honored for their contribution as real estate and community developers, community activists, and educators and their long years of continued, distinguished service to the People of Philadelphia. Most don't realize that they gave up a posh life in the suburbs, returned to South Philadelphia, and have dedicated their lives to the African American communities, transforming them from blight to beauty.
A well deserved and long overdue recognition, for Gamble, who is apparently as equally skilled and adept in the realm of property development and construction as he is in the music and entertainment realm. Though, there have been no end of recognition and awards for his work, both in the music realm as well as for being one of the largest and most prolific African American owned real estate development companies - having already developed or co-developed more than $1.5 billion in real estate, primarily in the Philadelphia area.
However, as Congressman Fattah attempted to present him with the award, the CBC crowd continued conversing as though nothing was happening, making it difficult to hear him over the din of the crowd - a fact that did not go unnoticed by Gamble.
After graciously accepting the award from Congressman Fattah, he turned his attention to the crowd, and in no uncertain terms told them to be quiet - not once, but twice - the second time with such consternation in his voice, everybody immediately shut up.
Since the noise of the crowd also overrode my taping of the event, I will paraphrase his remarks for you:
"African Americans in Philadelphia have a lot to be proud of - you asked for a Black mayor - you've had three; you wanted a Black President - we've had a great one who has served for two terms; you've asked for more opportunities for Blacks in businesses - you've received that as well. You've gotten everything you asked for - but you have done nothing to make it work. The one thing you don't have and don't seem to know how to get is Black unity. That is seriously lacking - and you go around making noise and acting as if what you do doesn't matter as long as you have a good time. Well it does matter, and you should be ashamed of yourselves for coming to something as important as the Congressional Black Caucus and not taking advantage of the opportunity to really forge some important, significant and pivotal programs and policies that will help Black people across the country. Your being here is a waste of time if you go home without any plan or agenda in place as to what you are going to do going forward.
"I appreciate this award from Congressman Chaka Fattah, but I have to tell you that we have no time to waste in just frivolous matters. Less partying and more participation will determine what happens over the next two years. It's your responsibility."
Well, you could have heard a pen drop in the room after that. I think I was the only one applauding his statement. People looked around the room at each other as though saying "he can't be talking to me."
The fact was that he was talking to all of us who, every year, come to DC to style and look cute, be seen on camera, and gather business cards; make all the galas and receptions, but go back to the communities and constituencies from which we came with a hand full of souvenirs, business cards, expense receipts and not much else.
My question is always, what did you get from the Caucus this year? What did you learn? What's the plan going forward? Who is your congressman or woman? Did you get a chance to speak with them? But no one has ever called them out and made them look at and face their responsibility in this manner. And it definitely needed to be said.
In the 70's the late, great Ossie Davis made the famous speech "It's not the man, it's the plan. If not us, who; if not now, when?" during the first Congressional Black Caucus. It appears, however, that many have either forgotten what their basic mission is, or have gotten caught up in the glamor.
We have now had the Congressional Black Caucus for 44 years - and I've been covering it for 29. Next year is pivotal milestones for us both. There are, of course, some congressional officials who are consistent in delivering great workshops during the caucus, and walking their talk in between - Maxine Waters D. Cal.; Yvette Clarke, D. NY, former Congresswoman Diane Watson (ret'd) D. Cal, Donald Payne (Deceased); all receive high marks from me.
But, the Caucus has not come out with an overarching, comprehensive master plan in quite some time. And while I admit I love attending the caucus, I love covering it, and love the fact that it brings Black businesses, activists, community leaders and congressional officials together - with a dinner culminating in a keynote speech from President Obama; it falls flat when it comes to having developed an overarching national agenda for African Americans. Though they're small in numbers, they have the capacity to affect great policy changes - at least within their own constituencies.
Gamble asked at the end of his speech - "so, what's your plan?"
That question, still hangs in the air. What are we going to do? Which way are we headed? This is a pivotal election year. If the few CBCF members are not re-elected, with additional ones to strengthen their numbers, Blacks will be totally behind the 8-Ball and even more at the mercy of rapacious repuglycons. This is no laughing matter. We all like to feel good, and have good times. But we definitely need to have a more strategic way of making good happen for each other across the board.
Kudos to Kenny Gamble for keeping it real. Kudos to Universal Companies for stepping into the fray and developing homes and communities in the Philadelphia area. And congratulations to him and his lovely wife for the award. Well deserved.
For those of you unfamiliar with Brother Gamble outside the realm of the music industry, let me catch you up on what he's been up to for the past 20 years. This is an overview statement from Universal Companies:
|Kenny & Faatima Gamble co-founders of Universal Companies|
OUR COMPANY: Universal Companies is in the business of helping people. Our mission is to improve communities and change lives, by creating cultural and entrepreneurial opportunities that break the cycle of generational poverty within historically disenfranchised communities. To accomplish this, Universal focuses on the identification and removal of systemic barriers to wealth creation within urban settings. We are committed to a comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization that embraces education as its foundation for economic transformation. Universal works in collaboration with community stakeholders to create an environment where all children are achieving academically, socially, and emotionally at a high level. We have maintained a proven track record of turning around under-achieving schools since 1999.
Not only do they have eight charter schools throughout Philadelphia which educate more than 4500 students, providing them with quality education, but they maintain an employee base of 650 people. And while meanstream whites rail at Gamble for doing too much in the South Philadelphia area, he has definitely made a considerable difference in a community that had all but been left to die in squalor and substandard housing.
The words of Kenny Gamble echo in my mind whenever I meet political figures or community activists - regardless of where they are, who they are or how long they've been in office. Their track record can be reflected in the results in the communities they serve. How are the people faring under their watch. Also, how galvanized are the people under their watch to be part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem. How hands on are they in their respective communities - not just when the cameras are on, but during the down times as well.
Those of you interested in finding out more about Kenny Gamble and Universal Companies, may do so by logging on to www.universalcompanies.com; or Google Kenny Gamble Universal Companies; or stop by 800 S. 15 St., Philadelphia, PA 19146 and take a look for your self.
It's clear we need many more Kenny Gamble examples in all of our cities - he's already laid out the blueprint; we have but to follow and connect the dots.
Brother Kenny Gamble made an extremely important statement, and issued a challenge to us all: What are we doing? Where are we going? WE have the tools, WHERE IS OUR UNITY?
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
Stay Blessed &
www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com/ECLECTICALLY BLACK NEW