By Lena C. Taylor & LaKeshia Myers
Fifty years ago, in Gary, Indiana, nearly 10,000 Black people gathered to talk politics. They were Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Independents, Pan-Africanists and Feminists. They represented every rung on the socioeconomic ladder, every educational attainment level, and every aspect of Black culture. This was the National Black Political Convention of 1972.
The National Black Political Convention was the largest Black political meeting in U.S. history. Despite their differences, participants were united in frustration with both the big tent parties whose national conventions loomed on the horizon. The delegates wrestled with one major question: Should we build within the system or from without?
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, and Dr. Betty Shabazz were present to address the masses; as were Milwaukeeans Dr. Howard Fuller, Vel Philips, and Elizabeth Hodge.
The overarching goal of the convention was to raise the number of Black politicians elected to office, increasing overall Black representation, and create a Black agenda for fundamental change. According to writer Marc Ramirez, “The three-day event would ultimately form a National Black Political Assembly to implement its 68-page agenda. And while the euphoria of widespread unity would be short-lived, the convention succeeded in other ways – igniting a long-running surge in Black political representation, planting the seeds of future presidential runs and championing once-marginal issues, such as a call for reparations, that have since entered the mainstream.” (Ramirez, 2022).
With all that has occurred politically within the last two years: census counts, redistricting and map drawing that threaten to decrease Black representation, it is imperative that we revisit the National Black Political Convention of 1972. It is time to take stock and refocus on where we are as a people and what we need to continue to build and utilize our political capital.
We invite the community to join us at Harold Vincent Agricultural High School, 7501 N. Granville Rd., Milwaukee, WI, 53224, on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, to view the documentary film “Nationtime!” and enjoy a talkback with delegates who attended the 1972 convention. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; masks mandatory and social distancing will be enforced.