The political, social and cultural environment that shaped 1972’s National Black Political Convention was monumental. Attendees were representative of the symbolic national slogan, “Nation Time.” The often contentious philosophies of Black Power, Pan Africanism and Black Nationalist movements were positioned to consider a great but complex political marriage with traditional “Negro” Civil Rights organizations. My father and a cadre of others traveled to Gary, Indiana to participate in the National Black Political Convention. As a historian and university doctoral student, he also acted as an Independent Journalist documenting his interactions inside and outside the convention.
The Convention was an amazing accomplishment which far exceeds any standards reflected in today’s political landscape. The tone surrounding discussion and activities of this political mecca were “Black Centered” with overwhelming cultural African influences. Jet magazine’s monthly “Soul Brothers Top 20” music charts of the day included songs complimenting the vibration of the people, with titles such as: Let’s Stay Together, Flow Joy, Gimmie Some More, Respect Yourself, and Do Your Thing. 1972 was also the year of a benefit concert held to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts uprising in Southern California. That benefit concert would soon become the cultural black iconic musical celebration known as Wattstax! 1972 energy reached a triumphant peak of pushing past the collective pain of the late sixties; it was a year that represented a love for natural hair and the beauty of dark black skin. Black people were “getting it together,” loving themselves beyond “saying it loud.” There was a mature feeling of self discovery that became a way of life for those who appreciated new growth and development.
The National Black Political Convention embodied “the possibilities” of black political power. The convention was designed by a dedicated liberation think tank headed by Imamu Amiri Baraka. As an alternative political convention, it was highly important to be a welcoming outlet for the hard non glamorous self determination struggle of the times. Black people came from across the country and abroad looking for a unified direction to the various political spectrums of thought. Previous years of urban uprisings in American cities produced an intended class of “power to the people” political leadership. Some of the newly visible black elected officials were like second term mayor, Richard G. Hatcher. Hatcher hosted and co convened the national delegation that landed in the heart of his city. The new wave of black political leadership was empowered because of the push for social change from the people. Some even dared to take gambles that could further alienate themselves from favor of mainstream America and their local electoral base. Political positions taken from mayors like Hatcher and the city of Gary, Indiana could only happen with the firm commitment of the masses to develop a new norm of black political engagement.
The movement and flow of 1972 yearned for new black political thought and leadership. “Blackness” or “Nationhood” became an infectious cultural phenomenon. For some it represented a short term fad or the latest fashion accessory of afro chicness. Mass appeal and popularity of various Black centered movements also renewed the Liberal Left and others fascination with the newest form of the “Negro Problem.” Gary, Indiana was where Black people attracted an International media spotlight. Like a new song from Issac Hayes (aka “Black Moses”) there was anxious anticipation of what message or messages would be delivered on this national stage of influence.
The elders of that day left a marker in how they planned to assert their humanity in America’s “white mare” of Black “citizenship.” The greater concern shared by most was not to be bought, manipulated or co opted by forces of the Democratic or Republican Parties. The freedom and equality struggle was about to have a major test in it’s interaction with electoral politics.
The lack of connection in most families and communities is due to our limited understanding of immediate history. Black America has suffered through years of generational attacks. As a result of these ongoing assaults, we are loosing our stories, photographs and more important, we are loosing our Media. 44 years later I walk in my father’s footsteps as an Independent Journalist. I’m excavating his archived audio files as an important tool to enhance critical thought and analysis for the past, present and future. Join me as we honor our elders and their monumental marker in time known as the National Black Political Convention.
Ralph L. Crowder III is an Independent Journalist. He is currently on tour featuring a Multi Media showcase of his produced materials including workshops and community discussions. The Lost Tapes Series will explore a variety of rare archival audio content that shaped the development of America’s Black thought and experience, circa 1970 through early 1980’s. More information on Ralph L. Crowder III and the Liberation & Education 2016 Multi Media Tour can be found at Freedomradioandtv.com