N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham, Special to the Observer (Charlotte, N.C.), , Dec. 27, 2006
Just days after 2007 rings in, African Americans and other local residents are invited to an unprecedented gathering. Transcending neighborhoods, generations, sectors and other differences that can divide, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg African American Agenda (CM3A) will bring together community members for a landmark initiative focusing on local issues that adversely affect disproportionate numbers of black residents.
CM3A will launch with a two-day town hall meeting Jan. 5 and 6 at the Charlotte Convention Center. This history- making gathering is free to the public and will offer individuals an opportunity to become a part of the solution to the issues that trouble them most.
Nationally renowned guest speakers will deliver messages to intrigue, inform and inspire town hall participants. Among the speakers are economist Julianne Malveaux, hip-hop generation activist Sister Souljah and author and journalist Juan Williams. Helping make all this possible are the collaborative efforts of the Urban League of the Central Carolinas and The Lee Institute, as well as a generous state grant.
Quality of life threatened
CM3A is designed to set priorities for addressing racial disparities, build an agenda and promote collaboration among people and organizations that are alarmed by the statistics and the implications for area residents. Though inequities trouble a large share of community people, many African Americans feel a particular sense of urgency to find solutions.
As beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, we must lay claim not only to the wealth of opportunities the struggle bequeathed us but also to the debt we owe to future generations. Daily police blotters, morning headlines, nightly newscasts and yearly school reports suggest that those of us thriving from an abundant inheritance have fallen behind on our obligations. In a banking town, I needn’t explain what happens when debts go unpaid.
Commit to a new agenda
Uniting to create and commit to an African American agenda is long past due. CM3A aspires to become a catalytic meeting of the minds, where our collective best thinking helps break through complex issues to find bold and transformational ways to improve this community.
Setting high expectations for what’s possible is essential. As a result of CM3A, I envision leaders who are better positioned to be proactive, collaborative and effective. I see churches and organizations — such as chapters of business, professional and social groups — leveraging their connections and resources to narrow the gaps. I imagine institutions such as Johnson C. Smith University and the Urban League rising higher as centers of intellectual and social capital. And I foresee increasing numbers of CMS parents exercising their influence at home and in schools to ensure their children and all students learn and achieve.
Public participation from every corner of the county is vital. Discussions and decision-making need to reflect the depth and breadth of perspectives in our community. Your presence and your voice are important. Our reasons for coming together and building a shared agenda are far too great to outnumber your excuses for staying away.
To sign up for CM3A, register online at www.CM3A.org or call The Lee Institute at 704-714-4439.
N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, organized the Charlotte-Mecklenburg African American Agenda conference. Write him at 620 Legislative Office Building, Raleigh, NC 27603-5925,