Unity ’08: Final Notes

And, no, I didn’t stay to see Barack Obama address the Unity Convention this morning.

Originally it was suppose to be a debate between McCain and Obama on Thursday evening. But because of Obama’s decision to travel abroad, the speech was moved to this morning, and McCain declined to attend today. Of course, I purchased my airline tickets two months ago, and unless Unity or Obama himself were going to pay the fee to change to a later flight, I had to stick to my plan of getting home by Sunday afternoon. When I get a chance to watch his speech, I will give my full analysis here.

While many Unity attendees may think Obama’s speech was the highlight of the week, for me, it was an opportunity to gain professional development through some of the best journalists of color. I left Chicago this morning feeling confident about the contacts for potential writing opportunities I made there. You might see my byline in a few more publications in the near future…Stay tuned.

I am also happy to see that I have gained quite a few more readers in the last two days from Senegal. I hope you all will continue to find this space to be of interest and want to participate in the conversation by leaving comments.

Unlike Senegal, I actually believe in free speech.

Speaking of which, Friday evening I took a cab back to my hotel. My taxi driver just so happened to be a Senegalese immigrant named Adele. Although it was only a five-minute drive, I ended up staying in the cab for 20 minutes, talking to the gentleman about that day’s events regarding his country’s president.

Adele was distressed about the human rights violations occurring under President Wade. However, he was even more disheartened that African Americans were embracing him.

“Nobody in Senegal likes Wade, but these black journalists in America invite him to this conference,” he said. “I don’t get it.”

I’m not sure if I get it either. I was in the workshop where President Wade was presenting. Before Wade spoke NABJ President Barbara Ciara defended the organization’s invitation.

From Unity News:

“Why did we invite President Bush? “ NABJ President Barbara Ciara. “Why did we invite (former Secretary of State) Colin Powell? Why did we invite (former National Security Adviser) Condoleezza Rice? Why do we invite any world leader?

While my knowledge of NABJ’s relationship with the Wade administration is limited, I do know that attendees of this workshop, including myself, didn’t feel good about what occurred. I am hoping that Friday’s kerfuffle will persuade NABJ to re-evaluate it’s relationship with him. Specifically, if Wade’s “supporters” are brazen enough to attack an opponent in public – in the United States – one can only imagine what these same supporters would have done to this journalist in Senegal.

I realize that NABJ wants to build a deeper bond with the African Diaspora, but should it be at the expense of suppressing press freedom.

Black journalism is built on the legacy of advancing social justice. Heros like Marcus Garvey, Ida B Wells, Frederick Douglass and William Worthy led the way for future journalists. Thank goodness Roland Martin put President Wade in the hot seat, but who are the other journalists of color who are so brave today?

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