The topic of African American leadership is sure to stir-up controversy and lively debate among African Americans wherever they are gathered.
Last week at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, surviving legends of the civil rights movement met with hundreds of current and emerging 21st century Los Angeles-based leaders, speakers, panelists, and steering committee members convened at the first-ever, African American Knowledge Transfer Summit (KTS).
While the names of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and Al Sharpton are usually always included in discussions about leadership in our community, many Blacks assert that we have no cohesive leadership locally or domestically, that those who present themselves as leaders, “do not speak for me,” and frequently, that the lack of Black leadership is the cause for our social, economic and political dilemma.
Eleven community-based organizations that focus on African American populations formed a coalition to present the historic gathering, a one-day event that featured some of the most insightful and provocative, thought-leaders, opinion makers, scholars, and historians in the United States. New generations of leaders came to the forefront, taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of the elders.
The ultimate goal of the event was to leverage the rich history of our past and present leadership in order to crystallize our collective power and develop a protocol and process for how we may optimally collaborate in the 21st century.
“KTS is open to anyone who wants to make a difference in our community,” said Rev. Eric P. Lee, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles. “It is our aim to transfer the knowledge and experience of 20th century leaders to 21st century leaders to be able to come up with a leadership institute to deal with a variety of issues and embraces all of the different levels of leadership from community-based organizations and block clubs.”
The slate of confirmed speakers was a veritable “who is who” among the Black Los Angeles Leadership and included; Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., executive editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel and president of The Bakewell Company; Assembly-members Karen Bass and Mervyn Dymally, Willis Edwards, former NAACP executive; Dr. Maulana Karenga, executive director of the African American Cultural Center; Rev. Lee, Brother Tony Muhammad, Western Regional NOI director; Rev. Dr. Clyde Oden, senior pastor, Bryant Temple AME Church; Councilmember Jan Perry; Congresswoman Laura Richardson; Blair H. Taylor, president and CEO of the L.A. Urban League; Assemblymember Mark Ridley-Thomas; and Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ.
Similarly, participating organizations worked together for most of this year to plan the KTS and talked sensibly and directly about how we unite to foster a massive paradigm shift for our community in the 21st century.
They included some of the most recognizable in our community including the Brotherhood Crusade, Community Coalition, Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP, African American Cultural Center, SCLC of Greater Los Angeles, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Urban League, California Teachers Association, United Negro College Fund, and the SEIU-United Long Term Care Worker’s Union.
Despite the stereotypes of our disunity, leaders from these organizations and others have committed to working together with mutual respect. Collectively, they recognize that to more effectively serve our communities they must work together and that our future lies in our joint efforts and initiatives, not in singular accomplishments.
Hamilton-Taylor expressed his gratitude for the important showing of unity among the leadership of the planning organizations, he also noted that, “we also readily acknowledge that there are far more organizations doing good work in Black communities than those represented on the KTS’s Steering Committee.”
The grand ballroom of the Biltmore was filled with African American leaders and aspiring leaders who responded to the appeal of the steering committee to participate and be a part of: “The Values and Vocation of Leadership: A Dialogue of Generations.”