NEWARK, NJ — Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam and Maulana Karenga, the creator of the holiday Kwanzaa, headlined the fourth and final day of the Institute of the Black World’s fourth State of the Black World Conference, which ran from Nov. 16 to 20 at the Robert Treat Hotel in downtown Newark.
The themes for this year’s conference were: “It’s nation time again” and “Racial healing and collaboration for black empowerment.” The event was dedicated to the memory of renowned poet and social reform activist Amiri Baraka, the father of Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka.
Farrakhan had a simple message for the nearly 1,000 people in attendance on Sunday, Nov. 20: “Push it; you’ve got to want something in order to get something. We got to take control of where we live. All the organs of power in the black community, we should own them. We should control them. We want to take our own community and make it a decent place to live. We want to make it safe for our women and children. We got to put it to them. We got to push it real good.”
“I’m always in the room when there’s unity and we’re talking about economic unity, cultural unity and social unity within the black community,” Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, who was at the event, said Sunday, Nov. 20. “I’m there because that’s the only thing that’s going to save us and America. It’s pushing our agenda. You heard (Farrakhan) talk about education and our leaders being in their rightful place leading our people from a respectful place. We gotta push the limits wherever we are with our children, with our families, with our communities.”
People’s Organization for Progress Vice Chairwoman Ingrid Hill and local radio host Royston Allman, who both hail from East Orange, made their presence known Sunday, Nov. 20, at the closing session.
“We do events every week, but this was good because we had a cross mix of people — a lot of Pan-Africanists — and it was black-oriented, dealing with black issues that impact black people and also that we have the capacity of coming up with our own solutions and plans of action for ourselves,” said Hill on Sunday, Nov. 20. “It’s vibrant. It’s like good mental health, when you come to this kind of a conference. You leave feeling much better, more clear with more information and more relationships that you form. It’s a lot of sisterhood and brotherhood. It’s phenomenal about being among black people and very revolutionary people, young and old. I look forward to the next conference.”
Allman last ran for public office in East Orange in 2012 on former Mayor Robert Bowser’s slate. Although he lost his bid to represent the 5th Ward on the City Council, he has continued to stay active, most recently collaborating with Sierra House and Masjid As-Habul Yameen to come up with redevelopment strategies for the 4th Avenue area in the Ampere Parkway section of the city.
“It’s been a really great week and it culminated the conference with Maulena Karenga and Minister Louis Farrakhan giving the final address of the day,” said Allman on Sunday, Nov. 20.
“I just came out to hear the final word. We live in a city that’s 90 percent African-American and African descended and, in the wake of the election, we’re looking outside our community for our agenda, and the State of the Black World Conference is about setting an agenda for ourselves, so that any politician can’t just come along and say something that sounds good, but have something that we are thoroughly entrenched in and willing to move on and can hold them accountable to.”
Leonard Jeffries, a professor at the City University of New York who has spoken out about the systematic, institutionalized social and economic oppression that blacks and other minorities have suffered in the United States, was named the “paramount chief” by conference founder Ron Daniels on the final day of the event.
“This was one of the most significant meetings of our people and certainly it’s at the right time with this Trump mess,” Jeffries said Sunday, Nov. 20, in reference to President-elect Donald J. Trump. “Trump is going to force us to be Africans.”
According to professor Akil Khalfani, director of the Africana Institute at Essex County College, Jeffries being named “paramount chief” was a well-deserved honor. He also said the timing of the Institute of the State of the Black World Conference in Newark soon after the presidential election was appropriate.
“Yes indeed, without a doubt, Dr. Jeffries is paramount chief and that means that he’s the chief of the village, the resident elder who we go to seek insight and to continue with his erudite scholarship, so that we can begin to learn how to extend that knowledge to others,” Khalfani said Sunday, Nov. 20. “Even though Dr. Jeffries might have been vilified by the national media, the point is that he was vindicated and he won in court. Therefore, all the things that were said about him by others was proven to be erroneous. He’s continued to be the global traveler that he is, traveling around helping to educate folks and support folks and to make sure that we are represented well in all the spaces that we travel to and in.”
Also on the dais was Bashir Akinyele, the co-host of the All Politics Are Local college radio show broadcast weekly via WRNU, the Rutgers University station. Akinyele served as a moderator at the recent mayoral candidates forum in Orange, and is also a member of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition. Akinyele and the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition became known for hosting weekly anti-violence protest rallies to draw public attention to the epidemic of gun violence and crime in communities such as Newark, Irvington, Orange and East Orange.
“Minister Farrakhan is talking about grassroots organizing to challenge our elected officials so that we can rebuild our communities right here on the local level, starting right here in Newark, so that we can take it all over the country,” Akinyele said Sunday, Nov. 20. “Everything that happens locally will definitely affect things that happen nationally and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand.”