IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington NAACP was well-represented at the Institute of the Black World’s State of the Black World Conference at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark from Wednesday, Nov. 16, through Sunday, Nov. 20.
“An august crowd of African-American and Latino people attended the conference that was a tribute to the life and work of Amiri Baraka, who had held the Black and Puerto Rican Convention in the city 40 years before,” Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher said Monday, Nov. 21. “Among the notables presenting at the conference were Susan Taylor, Imhotep Gary Byrd, Ron Daniels, Larry Hamm, Mayor Ras Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Haki Madhubuti. The messages throughout the conference rang loud and clear: People of African descent must continue to be on the alert and doing the work for survival of families, addressing economic development and continually addressing issues that affect their communities and the world.”
The other message Witcher and other State of the Black World Conference attendees said resonated at the five-day event was the emphasis on self-improvement and empowering individuals and communities. A former math teacher at Malcolm X. Shabazz High School in Newark and Irvington Board of Education member, Witcher said those messages hit home.
“Each of the presenters in the education and culture workshop that I attended were enthusiastic about the possibilities of making the communities of color stronger by constant and continued advocacy,” said Witcher. “As I looked around the room, I saw many people of varying ages and that must have reflected on the people who had gathered years ago in the city of Newark, when Amiri Baraka, now deceased, had spoken to the survival of the institutions of the world’s people, particularly that of the black and Latino family in America. At that time, the first mayors of African descent were being elected to serve in office, including in Newark, Kenneth Allen Gibson.”
Mayor Baraka, also made his presence heard at the event.
“There was a strong reception when, in the Friday workshop, current Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, a son of Amiri Baraka, was mentioned,” Witcher said. During the opening of the conference, Mayor Baraka reportedly brought a strong message to the people about the potential for greatness and about addressing the common concerns now facing populations across the country. The need for providing quality education, quality nutrition, quality policing and safety and the need to find ways to work for greater employment and job training opportunities, and a clear message about social ills that are causing violence and black on black crime, as well as other social maladies, were emphasized.”
Witcher acknowledged that, for many, the highlight of the State of the Black World Conference was Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam and Dr. Maulena Karenga, the creator of the African-American holiday Kwanzaa, headlining the fifth and final day. But she said, as far as she’s concerned, every day was a highlight.
“There was hardly enough time in the workshop to talk about ways of working as a collective, to ensure that empathy, love and compassion are infused in the work of homelessness, disenfranchisement and discrimination,” Witcher said. “Dr. Patricia Newton, head of the Black Psychiatrists of America, skillfully drew a seven-point plan that starts within the individual to work toward living in a society and culture that promotes the positive, while addressing the negatives and ills of that realm.
“Dr. Mwata Kevin Washington, the president of the (Association of) Black Psychologists, emphasized the need to work within the family and the importance of having families that work together cooperatively. Attention was also brought to the issue of mass incarceration and the prison to pipeline system that invades our communities, costing many collapses in the family structure. As we move into the coming years, there must be attention on the privatization of the prison system.”