By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps Retired
AMWS May 21, 2016, Atlanta -- 10,000 Black Men Named George is a TV movie about union activist A. Philip Randolph and his coworkers Milton Webster and Ashley Totten. The film follows Randolph’s efforts to organize the black porters of the Pullman Rail Company in 1920s America, known as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The title refers to the custom of the time when Pullman porters, all of whom were black, were addressed as "George".
In this chapter of American history, a movement emerged from organized social action, producing evidence of change in the United States Armed Forces. Between 1941 and 1946, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin organized The March on Washington Movement (MOWM) to pressure the U.S. government into desegregating the armed forces and providing fair working opportunities for African Americans. The evidence came in the form of Executive Order 8802. Signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the order prohibited discrimination in the defense industry under contract to federal agencies. Roosevelt’s executive action opened the door for some 20,000 “Georges” to become United States Marines.
In 2011, President Barack Obama, a beneficiary of Randolph’s social activism, approved the Congressional Gold Medal to the 20,000 “Georges” distinguished as Original Montford Point Marines. Between 1798 and 1942, the U.S. Marine Corps followed a racially discriminatory policy of denying African Americans the opportunity to serve as Marines. The name, “Montford Point,” today known as Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, was the site of a segregated boot camp where these “Georges” earned the title, United States Marine. Coincidentally, the first Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to a “George.” The Continental Congress approved the medal on March 25, 1776. Its recipient, George Washington, served as the first U.S. President from 1789 to 1797.
Protocol having been established, Ambassador Theodore Roosevelt Britton, Jr., 90, Atlanta, GA is one of 20,000 Original Montford Point Marine. Just one beneficiary of Randolph’s social action, Britton joined conveners of The National Black Political Convention (@TheNBPC) in 1972 to address policy issues impacting African American lives. Britton returns to The NBPC June 9-12, 2016 as a 21st Century advocate for veterans’ issues.
According to news sources, two of the last three remaining presidential candidates – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders – have also agreed to participate in a forum in Gary, IN and submit to questions of particular importance to African Americans. An invitation to Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has been extended. The presidential forum is part of the National Black Political Convention, which will return to Gary more than 40 years after the historic 1972 gathering.
This year’s convention is being co-convened by former Gary, IN Mayor Richard G. Hatcher, one of the original conveners of the 1972 convention; Tuskegee, AL Mayor Johnny Ford, who was founding chair of the World Conference of Mayors and founding co-chair of the National Policy Alliance; Gary, IN Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Newark Mayor Ras Baraka; Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks, Tarrant County, TX; Webster Guillory, founding co-chair of the National Policy Alliance; and Thelma Moore, former chair of the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO).
The presidential forum, scheduled for Saturday, June 11, 2016 will be moderated by George E. Curry, editor-in-chief of EmergeNewsOnline.com. He will be joined in the questioning of candidates by Chinta Strausberg, a reporter for the Chicago and Gary Crusader Newspapers and Webster Guillory.
“The 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary was the kickoff to what became the powerful Black political revolution, which led to the election of more Black political leaders than had been elected in the United States since Reconstruction,” the organizers said in a statement. “Now is the time for Black America to return to Gary, convene a second National Black Political Convention; recharge our batteries; develop a Black agenda, and announce it to the world, and leave Gary prepared to implement that agenda.”
That agenda will be developed at next month’s convention, which will be held at the Genesis Convention Center. Positions are expected be taken on such issues as education, justice, energy, voting rights, gun control, health, environment, economic opportunity and the treatment of Black veterans.
In addition to Saturday’s presidential candidates’ forum, on Friday there will be an intergenerational Town Hall discussion.
The first convention had as its theme, “Black Politics at the Crossroads.” The agenda included:
Home rule for Washington, D.C.
Establish a national network of community health centers
Establish a system of national health insurance
Elimination of capital punishment
Create a new urban-based homestead act
Government guarantee of $5,200 income for a family of four
Minimum wage guarantee of $2.50
Establish a Black United Fund
Effective enforcement of anti-trust legislation
To register for convention and obtain more information on the 2016 convention, go to theNBPC.com.
Conveners of this year’s convention said, “We must set our agenda as Black Americans, and be able to say to both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention…we in Black America have set our agenda and if you want our vote and support, then you must consider the Black agenda.”