What joy and excitement energized the Black community, individuals and organizations alike, anticipating seeing and meeting the first African American president, Barrack Obama, in North Minneapolis when he was in town Monday, February 4 to make a major speech on guns and violence in America.
Although disappointed in what the president’s administration has not done for communities of color, and skipping North Minneapolis as a campaigner, expectations still ran high until they gave way to high disappointment when his visit turned out to be a PR drive-by, as his motorcade sped to and from the well-fortified police academy building at 41st and DuPont in North Minneapolis, leaving many bewildered and upset.
The gun and crime statistics didn’t match ours of columns past nor address the concerns Harry Belafonte expressed at the February 1 NAACP Awards show: that Black Americans are the “most incarcerated, most unemployed, and most hunted in America,” nor the question Belafonte asked earlier regarding why contemporary discussions continue “to ignore decades of urban gun violence.”
The courtesy and respect denied the community in general spilled over to key leaders such as the Assistant Majority Whip of the Minnesota Senate, who received none of the considerations that should be accorded to a man of his political stature (he stands fifth in the line of succession for governor).
One wonders how many were behind Senator Hayden being so disrespected by his own. Senator Hayden is known within the Black community for his significant expertise and experience. He would have brought a seriousness to the roundtable discussions.
But whether old or newly anointed leadership, the group of 15 who met with the president in a pre-speech, closed-door meeting/photo op — including Rev. VJ Smith, the Minneapolis Police Department chaplain and the national leader of Mad Dads — should have included Senator Hayden.
New leadership is emerging within the Black ecumenical community of Minneapolis. The leadership of Shiloh International Ministry under the Rev. Dr. Howell is a new and emerging giant according to high-level gossip during the president’s visit. And the presence on the president’s speech dais of former Republican state senator and now Sheriff Richard Stanek, reflects significant new coalition-building between the Obama administration and a rising new star within Minnesota law enforcement.
It will be of great interest in the coming weeks to see who will receive significant funding in support of the so-called Minneapolis Plan, the 2009 position paper offered by the outgoing administration of Mayor R.T. Rybak that identified African American males as the source of many of the criminal problems in the city of Minneapolis and in Hennepin County. I call your attention to pages 58 and 59 of that 2009 report, “The State of City Leadership for Children and Families,” published by the National League of Cities, Institute for Youth Education and Families.
The comprehensive action plan President Barack Obama made reference to Feb. 4, as well as his reference to the University of Minnesota’s Plan, also raise the question of what will be the role of HROC. These plans will reveal who’s in and who’s out of leadership, who will and who won’t get funded.
Will these plans directly address the war on young Black men and what Harry Belafonte called “The consequences of our racial carnage”? Belafonte further asked: “Where is the raised voice of Black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the church?”
Nellie Stone Johnson’s answer remains: education, jobs, housing, community-family. That is what it is all about, isn’t it? Or will the status quo remain, a select few paid to consult on how to leave out the community?
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. Columns are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.