I want to express my appreciation to all of you, all of us who have participated in this conference at a variety of levels. It has been clearly a very rich and powerful experience and those who sat up here and those who sat there have all contributed to its power. I want also to thank especially Frank Smith, who just introduced me, and the NOAH (New Opportunities at Hofstra) program which he directs. If one takes any part of the human experience seriously and grabs hold of it and goes deep down with it, one comes up with an understanding of what it means to be human and one can start with our art, with our dance, with our religion, with our folklore, or with our great struggle of freedom. This conference is another lesson in how much power and depth and tremendous wisdom there is in the study of the black experience in America, and I want to thank Frank and the NOAH young people for their part in the organizing and facilitating of it. I also want to dedicate this talk to them, partly because of the profound experience I had a few summers ago as a result of the discussions with them of my book, There Is a River, in which these young people raised some of the most important questions about the meaning and purpose of the book I have ever faced with anybody, and partly because of the wonderful compassion which they showed when I was hospitalized very unexpectedly.
Now what I would like to do is take the responsibility for helping to close it off. And maybe what I would like to call this is really a set of reflections on what we have been doing and thinking and feeling and wanting and hoping and trying to figure out. What I would like to suggest is that this is a good time at the end of the two days to perhaps quiet ourselves a bit more and focus ourselves, and ponder a bit about what it is we have been about other than another academic conference. One cannot talk about the human struggle for freedom and justice anywhere and simply make it academic. It has never been simply academic, and it never will be simply academic, but those who are academic are very wise to study it.
I would like us to spend some time prodding each other and being prodded and looking at our situations as closely as we can, looking at our personal situations, looking at our collective situation just as we have already begun to do. It seems to me that at the end of a gathering like this, of such great import, it is absolutely necessary to know that this is simply one step toward others, and that the next obvious step for us in this kind of arena and in this time in the life of ourselves and of our nation and of our world, is to face the familiar question; the question that Martin King made most famous in the title of his book twenty-one years ago, "Where do we go from here?" It is a marvelous question simply because it recognizes that it is a question, and because