African-Americans discuss future society

by Andy Nestingen

When leaders debate the past and the future of their community, it feels revolutionary. The disagreements, the calm statements and the passionate voices create a heady atmosphere.
Leaders of the Twin Cities African-American community gathered for such a discussion Thursday at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
Fifty people met to hear speakers and a panel discussion in a symposium titled “Family Reunion: Crossing the Bridge to our Political and Economic Empowerment.” The symposium was part of a two-week-long celebration called Juneteenth, which commemorates the African-American slaves in Texas who were freed in the middle of June, two years after the Emancapation Proclamation was signed.
In his keynote address Dr. Emmett Carson, CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, emphasized the importance of defining a vision for the African-American community. He described his vision for the community as one of solidarity and citizenship.
“We have begun to drift apart: The successful no longer have a commitment to the community,” Carson said. “The family reunion we must have is a commitment to each other and to one African-American community.”
Carson presented a plan to strengthen the community. It involves honoring African heritage, giving to African-American causes and engaging in education, political action and volunteerism.
The primary resource of the community, its youth, must be strongly supported and urged to participate in this plan, Carson said.
A panel discussion followed Carson’s speech. The panel included Rose Brewer, chairwoman of the University’s Afro-American and African Studies department and Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton.
The panelists focused on just how African-Americans can win economic and political empowerment. They agreed that education and political participation are essential tools for the task.
Samuel L. Myers, of the Humphrey Institute, concluded the symposium. “Racism is still deeply embedded in American society,” Myers said, referring to the 36 charred African-American churches in the South. “One of the biggest weapons in the fight against racism, though, is our own economic empowerment.”