Randall Robinson educated, inspired, and challenged his audience to become a much more informed and engaged citizenry during the keynote speech at the Second Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Randall Robinson educated, inspired, and challenged his audience to become a much more informed and engaged citizenry during the keynote speech at the Second Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series on Racial Reconciliation, sponsored by Hennepin Ave. United Methodist Church and Hamline University on April 4 and 5.
“The democratic process has misfired in America,” said Robinson, nationally recognized African American political leader and author. “Democracy is not just about voting and elections. As citizens, we have the far more important responsibility of insuring accountability by being vigilant and involved. We have to stand up and take responsibility when things go wrong.”
Robinson is a national champion for reparations for African Americans and the author of three books, The Reckoning, The Debt, and Defending the Spirit. He is also the founder of TransAfrica, the organization that has spearheaded the movement for influencing U.S. politics toward international Black leadership.
“I had hoped that after 9/11, this tragic incident would take us in one direction and not another,” said Robinson. “People ask why would someone hate us so much that they would sacrifice not only others, but themselves as well. The accepted answer has become that they are jealous of us and our freedoms that is not the answer.”
Robinson expressed his deep disappointment of the war with Iraq and the apathy of the American public on so many human rights issues. He said that America has committed acts against humanity throughout the world and has “almost invariably placed itself on the wrong side of history.”
“We live in the cocoon of our global preeminence,” said Robinson. “Somehow we don’t see them (the Iraqis) as people as mothers who yearn for the success of their children and a stable society. Where is the common stream of humanity? It is our responsibility to make this right.”
Robinson pointed out that President Bush was able to find $75 billion to finance the war effort, but couldn’t find a dime for the refurbishment of our public schools. He also stressed that the racial disparities that exist in America today for African Americans began a long, long time ago with slavery and that our nation and citizenry needs to take responsibility for this holocaust before any true healing and racial reconciliation can occur.
“With slavery, we lost our mothers, fathers, children, religion, and were caused to be ashamed of ourselves,” said Robinson. He said racism makes us all a little crazy. “African Americans lost a memory of a cultural matrix in which we had sustained ourselves for centuries. We all need this discussion and need to know each other’s story. This story explains to us how to open our hearts and begin to rebuild.”
The conference was held to help participants explore barriers and breakthroughs in race relations in our community, the nation, and throughout the world. In addition to Robinson, other featured speakers included: the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, associate professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel College; Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel; and Makram N. El-Amin, Imam of Masjid An-Nur.
Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua, the first member of the Hmong American community to be elected to State office in the United States, represented the government sector. Social Services and social action speakers and panelists included Terri Johnson, executive director of the Human Relations Foundation of Chicago; Dr. Ghafar Lakanwal, a native of Afghanistan, who served as Minister of Agriculture in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1986 and is the founder of the Multicultural Development Center in Bloomington; and Lee Pao Xiong, president of the Urban Coalition. Other speakers included: Lori Sturdevant, a journalist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and book editor; and Robin Magee, associate professo