March 11-14, was a very special weekend for those who attended the National Conference on the Black Family in America in Louisville, Ken. For 35 years now, 30 of them under the direction of Dr. Joseph McMillan, this conference has brought Black people together from across the country establishing a proud legacy of Black consciousness, self-love, education, and collective empowerment.
This conference had several powerful speakers. Charlie Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Johnson Xpress Trucking Company, is a former professional football player whose example of being blessed and being a blessing to others should be taught among all of today's athletes. He understands what life is all about, which includes an obligation to "give something back."
Dr. Boyce Watkins, "The People's Scholar," Professor at Syracuse University, and regular guest on nightly news shows, is a refreshing young brother, unafraid and unwavering in his "callouts" to awaken our people. He gets in the faces of those "conservative" talk show hosts; he doesn't allow them to talk-over his response, take him of track, or twist his words. Check out his website at boycewatkins.com.
Dr. Claud Anderson, President of the Harvest Institute and author of Powernomics, is a man who really needs no introduction to those who read my books and this column. A fighter, a staunch advocate for Black people, a doer, an educator, a businessman, Claud has been on the economic empowerment frontline for decades, trying as best he can to teach and to bring economic initiatives to our people. You may remember him in Detroit where he tried to develop a Black business enclave but was rebuffed by the mayor and the city council. Kwame Kilpatrick could sure use Dr. Anderson's project now. Looks like he's gonna need a new gig.
Haki Madhubuti, who owns Third World Press in Chicago, just celebrated his 40th year in the publishing business. A pioneer in Black pride, economic empowerment, and Black consciousness, Haki gave a stirring remembrance of his friend and colleague, Dr. Asa Hilliard. It was an emotional moment and a special moment because Dr. Hilliard's wife, Patsy Jo, was in attendance. Haki's words, written for that special occasion, were absolutely beautiful.
Nowhere else can you get a line-up like that, along with educational workshops, entertainment by four of the best soloists and spoken word artists I have ever heard, and great food and fellowship.
Finally, but certainly not in the least was the pleasure and honor of meeting Dr. Joseph McMillan and his family. At 80 years of age, yes, slowed down a little by illness and other issues in his life, was there every morning bright and early, ready to "start on time."
He is a man among men and a glowing example of staying in the race, determined to finish his course.
Those of you reading this article should make plans now to attend next year; you will not be disappointed. No big "I's" and little "U's" at this one, y'all. Just plain folk, dedicated to working together for the benefit of us all. Hope to see you there in March of 2009.
James Clingman is founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce.