by Lesley R. Chinn
Last Thursday, President Barack Obama invited Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, MA. Police Sgt. James Crowley for a beer at the White House to discuss their differences, but on last Saturday Black leaders at The Today’s Black Woman’s Expo called the meeting a “bru-ha-ha.”
Leaders used the discussion about Gates to tackle racism and to address ways to rebuild and maintain the African-American community— both economically and socially. Gates was arrested recently by Sgt. Crowley at his Cambridge, MA home after returning from an overseas trip. The arrest sparked national attention from President Obama and generated dialogue about race relations in America.
Author/radio personality Rev. Michael Eric Dyson stated the Gates’ situation should be a wake-up call and “a beer in the White House,” is not going to solve the problems on race relations alone. “That’s a bru-ha-ha,” he said. “We must say that what happened to Gates was wrong…but what happens to other poor ‘Negroes’ who are not seen?”
Dyson encouraged individuals to continue the dialogue on race if they ever want to see change unfold and not just leave it up to Obama.
Panelist, Rev. Janette Wilson, said Gates’ and the police are the least of her concerns. She called for changes in the criminal justice system, education, and increased economic development in Black communities. “I’m concerned about Skippy on the street whose struggling to get through college and can’t pay his momma who is working three jobs [while] his daddy is in jail. How will he be racially profiled?”
Wilson added, “Our children cannot speak English correctly, cannot do math or read at grade level, but yet we are pushing them out of school as if they are ready to deal with this world.”
PUSH leader Rev. Willie Barrow and actor/comedian Dick Gregory rounded out the discussion to call on Black people to support each other.
The discussion at the Expo was part of a town hall meeting entitled, “Preserving Our Black Heritage, Legacy and Pride.” The group met to address ways Blacks can work together to rebuild communities, self-esteem and families.