NEW ORLEANS — THE African American Summit '89 cannot be judged by its lower-than-expected attendance, says the chairman of the three-day gathering of black leaders over the weekend. ``The real test will be whether there are some things that come out of here that have a relationship and meaning for the lives of millions of people in this country who right now are in crisis,'' says Richard Hatcher, former mayor of Gary, Ind.
Summit participants issued a call for greater government action on education, housing, black employment, and drugs, among other things. Jesse Jackson's Saturday speech and Louis Farrakhan's fiery Sunday morning address drew the conference's largest and most enthusiastic crowds, estimated at 1,000 at the New Orleans Convention Center. Only a week earlier, organizers predicted at least 2,000 would attend.
``The significant thing is that we came together,'' says Sheldon King, a delegate from Chicago. The summit's invitation to Mr. Farrakhan, a controversial Black Muslim minister, prompted at least one black Republican leader to boycott the conference. The meeting ended Sunday with distribution of the summit's social and political agenda for the next decade. The agenda calls for:
Preservation of black family life.
More government involvement in housing for the poor, including a reduction in red tape to make federally foreclosed housing available for private ownership.
A call for more government spending on education, and ``a halt to the rush to implement testing, certification schemes ... designed to basically eliminate black teachers from the public school systems.''
Support for government and private efforts to increase black employment and business investment opportunities.
Support of sanctions to end South Africa's apartheid.
Reparations to compensate blacks for hundreds of years of slave labor and poor economic conditions. What form such reparations should take was not specified.
A full-scale attack on drugs that ``should not begin and end at the borders of the African American communities.''