Twenty-nine years after the National Black Political Convention, held in Gary, Ind., which spurred a grassroots movement around the nation, organizers of the State of the Black World Conference (SOBWC) convened in Atlanta, seeking once again to spark the fires of social-political activism. SOBWC organizer Ron Daniels notes that the conference was designed to move Blacks away from the traditional reliance on charismatic leadership toward a philosophy of greater collective action.
"That's the thing that people overlook, because we keep looking for the singular leader to lead the way. What we have to do is enhance and empower and build capacity at the base - community by community, organization by organization - and we will ultimately make progress. But that doesn't seem sexy. That doesn't seem particularly glamorous. But that is the real deal until we can build stronger capacity, until we can train more leaders," says Daniels.
The conference, held Nov. 28-Dec. 2, drew an estimated 2,500 participants and brought leaders and activists from the African Diaspora, including Rep. Cynthia Mckinney (D-Ga.), Rep. John Conyers (D-- Ga.), radio host Tom Joyner, Tavis Smiley, actors Danny Glover (the new chair of the TransAfrica Forum board of directors) and Chris Tucker, poets Sonia Sanchez and Haki Madhubuti, and representatives from the Caribbean, Canada, England, and a number of African countries.
In addition, the SOBWC included numerous plenary sessions on topics such as reparations, racial profiling, globalization, African-centered education, religion and spirituality, Black political empowerment, and a special session on Rev. Sharpton's proposed run for the White House in 2004. Sharpton, while making clear his disagreements with the Democratic party on several issues, noted that the most important aspect of the convention was its ability to serve as a forum for African American unity.
"I don't think the conference was just for Blacks who were dissatisfied with either party; there were Blacks there that were in the [Democratic] party. …