Mayor Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Ind., has issued a call for a national black convention that will feature a face-to-face meeting with the nation's presidential hopefuls, regardless of political party.
The national gathering, called a "think convention" by Mr. Hatcher, will be held Feb. 28-March 2 at the John Marshall Hotel in downtown Richmond, Va. A forum of "all presidential candidates of all parties" is set for Sunday afternoon, March 2.
"We have sent invitations to every announced political candidate for President to participate in this nonpartisan forum," says Mayor Hatcher. "We want to hear firsthand from each hopeful or designated spokesman what he or she has to offer the nation in general and to the hopes and aspirations of black people specifically."
Hearing and seeing presidential hopefuls, however, is not the main goal of the Richmond meeting, Mayor Hatcher confides. He lists these key goals:
* Develop a black agenda of 10 key issues: The 10-point agenda will be reproduced in simplified form on a card that may be carried in a wallet or purse , says Mayor Hatcher. "These cards will be distributed nationally to black people to serve as a voting guide for evaluation of candidates, not only for President, but for any political office, local, state or national," he adds.
* Provide a forum for complete discussion of basic interests of black and other minority people: Topics will be presented to participants in plenary sessions and workshops through presentation of "carefully prepared" background papers researched and written by academic experts, public officials, and civil-rights advocates. Black priorities will be developed after full discussions of these papers.
* Offer an economic program to break the "dependence syndrome" of black people and other Americans beset by poverty and other "frustrating problems," both urban and rural: "We want to focus on economic proposals that will enable us to do for ourselves, to eliminate welfare, to make us producers of jobs and marketable products," reasons Mayor Hatcher.
Five major black organizations are conveners of the meeting -- the Black Leadership Forum of 17 major groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus and four major civil rights organizations (NAACP, National Urban League, SCLC, and Operation PUSH); the National Conference of Black Mayors (Mr. Hatcher is president); the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials; the Black Leadership Round Table, and the National Conference of Black State Legislators.
Mayor Hatcher, who later this year will become president of the US Conference of Mayors, is coordinator of the conference. Carl Holman, president of the National Urban Coalition, is program chairman in charge of developing issues and priorities.
Funds for the meeting will be raised through registration fees -- $25 for delegates and $35 for observers, a March 1 convention fund-raiser featuring outstanding black entertainers, and from special donors, says Mayor Hatcher. More than 200 black organizations are supporting the meeting, too, he adds.
In promoting the Richmond meeting, Mayor Hatcher is continuing his actions of 1972 and 1976, when he was one of three conveners -- the others were Rep. Charles C. Diggs (D) of Michigan, and poet-playwright Imamu Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) -- of the National Black Political Convention.
More than 10,000 black people attended the 1972 convention, in Gary, Ind. A more modest 3,000 participated in the second convention held in Little Rock, Ark. Today, Ronald D. Daniels of Cincinnati heads what is left of the National Black Political Convention, which has set a meeting for New Orleans "sometime in August." Delegates will evaluate the platforms of the two major parties and assess their candidates for President, says Mr. Daniels.