- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Black Americans should abandon the idea that racism keeps them down and start acting like their talented forebears who created colleges, businesses and churches despite racist laws, say the leaders of a new nonpartisan leadership group for blacks.

"We're standing on the shoulders of doers and winners," said John Sibley Butler, a professor of management and sociology at the University of Texas in Austin and one of the organizers of the Independent Black Majority.

Black history in America goes far beyond "slave ships to plantations to ghettoes to welfare," said Robert L. Woodson Sr., president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and another organizer.

"We need to imbue our people with an attitude of victory about what we can accomplish, he said.

But instead of seeing themselves as the fortunate descendants of a hard-working, sacrificial people, many black Americans remain fixated on fighting for their civil rights, 1960s-style.

Black Americans "are like amnesiacs fitted with the memories of others," said Bishop Harold Calvin Ray of the Redemptive Life Fellowship of West Palm Beach, Fla.

It's time to "consummate" the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, said Bishop Ray, who also leads National Center for Faith-Based Initiative.

Racism is a reality, and everyone has sung "We Shall Overcome," said Bishop Michael E. Dantley of the Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship in Cincinnati. Still, he said, "the 'we shall' stuff is over. It's time to do."

The group held the summit on the King holiday to outline their plans to use spiritual revival, entrepreneurship and networking in black communities, rather than political agitation, to solve problems.

"Our issues are much broader than who is in power," said Mr. Woodson, as the largely black audience responded with "Amens."

"I find it's fascinating that black folks get out there and beat each other's brains about which white man is going to go to the White House," said Mr. Woodson. Yet, "if white folks were to go to Canada tomorrow, we still couldn't walk in our communities safely. Our families would not suddenly come back together. AIDS would not stop spreading in our community."

"Victimology, separatism and anti-intellectualism … has infected our people. We are suffering from mass schizophrenia," said New Jersey Secretary of State DeForest B. Soaries Jr. "We know that even if we fix every voting machine in Florida, that will not make black boys raise their own children."

The Independent Black Majority plans to operate a Web site and poll black Americans to keep abreast of their concerns.

A poll of 850 black Americans taken last year by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that education, health care and crime were top concerns. Fighting racism and tax reform were at the bottom of the list.

Speakers at yesterday's summit at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington said the destruction of the black family, a culture steeped in "violence, profanity and promiscuity," ignorance about the proven power of capitalism and lack of spirituality were the primary obstacles to black success.

"The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of the people," said Pat Funderburk Ware, quoting a proverb from Ghana.

Mr. Soaries also challenged black Americans' attitudes about their poverty, based on data on black spending in 1999.

"How can you be oppressed with three color TVs … two-car garages and $35 fingernails?" he said. "When a people spends $4.3 billion on alcohol and tobacco and $1.5 billion on computers and books, they are not oppressed. They are confused."

Among suggestions offered by speakers yesterday were to:

• Develop "real estate trusts" to buy up the poor sections of Chicago, New York, Dallas and other "inner cities." This is "the best land in the Western world," said Mr. Butler, the Texas professor. Black Americans can become urban entrepreneurs, bringing business and safe streets.

• Become mentors to blacks around the world, bringing them the best of American business skills and technology. "We are world leaders and we need to start acting like it," said Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

• Add entrepreneurship courses in schools, both to teach business skills and undo any lingering notions that jobs are handed to people because they are poor.


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