National Conference of Black Mayors challenges local leaders in US and the diaspora to become agents of change

w cornel The National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) concluded its 38th Annual Convention on Sunday, June 3, wrapping up four days of dialogue and planning around policy and social issues of relevance to municipalities of color throughout the U.S. and the Diaspora. The convention served as a renewed call to action for participants, as mayors actively seek ways to advance their communities during this time of economic recovery.

Dr. Cornel West, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, television personality Tavis Smiley Among those addressing the audience of black mayors, elected officials and corporate representatives during the Convention were two ambassadors, Hon. Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative and Ambassador Andrew Young, Chairman of Goodworks International; Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, and Congressman Hank Johnson; policy representatives Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis, US Department of State and Gwendolyn Keyes-Fleming Regional Administrator, EPA; civic leaders Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director, Democratic National Committee, Richard Attias, Founder, The New York Forum, John Hope Bryant, CEO/Founder, OperationHOPE, and Karen Duckett, President, Duckett Design Group. NCBM executives announced critical partnerships with government and corporate organizations, and political leaders from all over the nation forged alliances.

The convention brought together mayoral officials from Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Haiti, Jamaica, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda. NCBM President, Robert L. Bowser welcomed presidents of each of their corresponding mayoral organizations. .

Key figures delivered addresses and made appearances throughout the week. A number of celebrities, activists and entertainers made appearances, including Atlanta-based jazz artists Five Men on a Stool and Kathleen Bertrand, comedian Jonathan Slocumb, actress Jasmine Guy, television host Tavis Smiley, political activist Cornel West, gospel powerhouse Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, and author/radio personality Twanda Black, to name a few.

Mayor Kasim Reed and the City of Atlanta welcomed the 38th Annual Convention with a reception at Atlanta City Hall, at which Host City Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell presented NCBM Executive Director Vanessa Williams and NCBM President Bowser with a proclamation from the City of Atlanta.

“We are pleased to have received such an overwhelming response from our members, as well as other international mayoral associations, national and international political and business leaders during this Convention in the City of Atlanta,” said NCBM president Mayor Robert Bowser of East Orange, N.J. “The convention served as a resource hub for empowering our communities. We came to this convention understanding the needs of our communities and looking for solutions to those needs. The dialogue undertaken at this convention brought the hope of promise to all involved. ”

Ultimately, NCBM convened a dynamic conference that brought together black mayors for the purpose of providing solutions for the issues that matter most in communities of color.

Congressional Think Tank
Congressional Leaders gathered for a Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting around the issue of “Jobs For All … The Unemployment Crisis in America’s Cities.” Three congressional leaders addressed the employment issue within communities of color. With unemployment nearly doubled within the African American community, collaboration between local officials and those on Capitol Hill is essential to the survival of the nations’ most vulnerable communities.

Congressman John Lewis, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. and Congressman Hank Johnson addressed a room of black mayors hoping for collaboration on finding solutions within their communities. Ambassador Andrew Young, Helen Butler and John Hope Bryant also addressed the issue, with all agreeing that, as agents of change, mayors need everyone’s assistance to solve this debilitating issue.

Corporate Partnerships
Convention working sessions both gave birth to and reinforced existing NCBM partnerships within the business, civic and national public sector community. NCBM’s partnership with Comcast around our Mayors Organizing Readers for Equality (M.O.R.E.) Initiative focused on literacy in education. Additional sessions addressed HIV/AIDS, infrastructure sustainability, leveraging social media in city hall, the wireless spectrum crisis in underserved communities and federal roundtables with the Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and the Minority Business Development Agency.

A Focus on Communities of Color
A number of workshops and meetings opened dialogue and discussion of solutions to many issues relevant to municipal government within African American communities, including the following:

•  Education: NCBM unveiled a partnership with Comcast on literacy in education within African American communities. Mayors learned about the importance of digital literacy as a gateway to future success.

•  Infrastructure Sustainability: NCBM business council members John Deere and United Water joined forces to focus on the importance of building sustainable communities amidst shifting economies through the use of public and private partnerships. Mayors learned more about resources that are available to them to provide infrastructure sustainability in their communities.

•  Wireless Spectrum Crisis: Mayors learned about the wireless spectrum and its impact on job creation in local communities, as well as broadband adoption, both of which have significant implications for the economic growth of African American communities, particularly when Black unemployment is at 13% and the wealth gap between African Americans and White Americans is 20:1 (18:1 for Latinos).

2012 and Beyond
The conference concluded with the 38th Annual Mayor’s Ball, where NCBM revealed both the location of its Annual World Summit of Mayors Leadership Conference in Cote D’Ivoire this year, and Atlanta as the Annual Convention host city for the next few years.

June 17, 2012
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