National Black Political Convention Heads to Gary, Indiana

Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher marches with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others in 1971 photo in Gary. (Calumet Archives / Post-Tribune)
Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher marches with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others in 1971 photo in Gary. (Calumet Archives / Post-Tribune)

Richard Hatcher, one of the nation’s most prominent black politicians in 1972, recalls the National Black Political Convention he hosted in Gary. 

“The convention was powerful,” Hatcher said last week. “At the time it was the largest black political gathering in the history of the country.”

As he sits in his office inside of his Gary home, with a portrait of himself next to a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is clear that Hatcher embraces the historical significance of the 1972 convention.

At the Genesis Convention Center in downtown Gary, African-American delegates addressed the social and economic issues blacks faced and created an agenda that demanded fundamental changes in the political and economic system in America.

“It was a great convention because it changed the approach of African-Americans in the country from marching in the streets to being elected to public office,” Hatcher said.

The chief priority was getting a proportionate number of black representatives elected to Congress, Hatcher said. Additionally, delegates aimed to get more African-Americans elected to office on the local, state and national level. There are currently 48 black members of Congress. In 1972, there were only 14.

Four decades later, Hatcher is again playing an integral role in the second National Black Political Convention.

Just like in 1972, the convention will take place at the Genesis Center beginning Thursday and continuing through Saturday. Registration is $100 for the meeting, lunch and a Saturday afternoon concert.

Speakers are expected to include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women, and a host of others, according to a city of Gary press release. What started as a conversation between Mayor Ras Baraka, of Newark, N.J., Mayor Johnny Ford, of Tuskegee, Ala., and Hatcher evolved into the reemergence of the NBPC.

“I remember making a suggestion quite frankly we return to Gary in 2016,” Ford said.

Although the political landscape has changed since 1972, there are still a bevy of issues they plan on confronting at this year’s convention, Ford said. There will be sessions addressing a variety of concerns such as economic development, environmental issues, criminal justice, voting rights, veterans and women’s issues.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the goal of the NBPC is to not merely “raise legitimate concerns that need to be addressed” but to also create a document that reflects the concerns and solutions discussed at the convention.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Javonte Anderson