On April 20-21, 2012, the IHRAAM-sponsored Conference FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND SELF-DETERMINATION? sought to catalyze a turning point in the African American struggle.
The Civil Rights movement that Martin Luther King assumed, five decades ago, would be “not long” in bringing “freedom” is now history. Affirmative action has shot its bolt. While its achievements are evident—Black faces appear in mainstream politics, academia, corporations and the media—the African American people at large face ongoing discrimination, mass incarceration and unemployment, prohibitive voting laws, growing destitution and legalized vigilante terrorism.
The IHRAAM Conference provided a major mechanism to engage leading African American political thinkers in examining the potential that international human rights law and norms, and best state practices on internal self-determination might hold for African American collective development within the United States in the future.
Key representatives from the African American popular leadership and intelligentsia flew into Chicago from all corners – California, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Washington, and Virginia—to assess, in this context, where the African American struggle had been, where it was now, and the direction it had to go to move forward.
Speakers focused on the key issues of the recognition, maintenance and protection of African Americans’ collective identity, their need for collective social and economic development, and the significance of a territorial homeland. Most importantly, they agreed on the need for a democratically empowered political body such as a Consultative Assembly to specifically represent and act on behalf of the unique needs of African Americans. As a historically oppressed people, African Americans have the right to self-determination.
IHRAAM is an African-American-founded international NGO in Consultative Status with the United Nations. More information on IHRAAM is available at http://www.ihraam.org.