Press release, April 23, 2012.

    FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND SELF-DETERMINATION?  
                                   IHRAAM CHICAGO CONFERENCE
             AFRICAN AMERICAN STRUGGLE HEADING IN NEW DIRECTION?

    On April 20-21, 2012, key representatives of the African American popular leadership and intelligentsia
    broke new ground in Chicago at the IHRAAM-sponsored conference titled FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO
    HUMAN RIGHTS AND SELF-DETERMINATION? Speakers and attendees flew in from all corners–
    California, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Virginia and Canada.
    The atmosphere in the conference hall at East-West University was electrifying, as speaker after speaker
    added new planks to attendees’ understanding of where the African American struggle had been, where it
    was now, and the direction it had to go to move forward.  There was no disagreement from either speakers
    or floor on the general direction proposed by the title of the conference:  that the African American struggle
    must now move on from civil rights to human rights and self-determination.

    The panelists included former Congresswoman and 2008 Green Party Candidate for President, Cynthia
    McKinney; Law Professors Vernellia Randall and Carla D. Pratt; Political Science Professor and
    President of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, Dr. Tyson King-Meadows;
    representatives of major and historic popular African American organizations, Attorney Ava Muhammad
    (representing Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam), Attorney Chokwe Lumumba (National
    Chairman of the New Afrikan People’s Organization and a duly elected councilman from Jackson, MS),
    John Boyd (Founder of the National Black Farmers Association), Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah-
    Geechee Nation;  Henry English (president of Black United Fund of Illinois); Attorney Standish Willis
    (leading civil rights attorney having argued before the UN Inter-American C omission on Human Rights); and
    international law professors Francis A. Boyle and Daniel Turp (former Canadian member of parliament
    for the Bloc Quebecois). The Moderators for the five panels were (1) Judge Leonard Murray,  (2) Mary A.
    Mitchell (Sun-Times News columnist), (3) Kamm Howard (representing N’COBRA);  (4) Chicago  Attorney
    Gregory Mitchell and (5) Atlanta Attorney Musa Dan Fodio.  

    The Conference opened with an introduction by Dr. Farid I. Muhammad, a member of the  IHRAAM
    Directorate and conference chairman. He welcomed attendees, and most particularly specified how the
    International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) viewed its role, as an international
    NGO in consultative status with the United Nations, in relation to the African American struggle for equality
    and equal status in the United States:  as that of an organization devoted to providing educational and
    consultative services relative to the question of self-determination, as well as facilitating the access of
    domestic organizations to international forums and mechanisms of the UN and other intergovernmental
    bodies.  Dr. Muhammad underlined that as an international NGO, IHRAAM clearly cannot and does not view
    itself as another African American leadership organization, but rather as helping to extend technical service
    to such bodies.

    IHRAAM Acting Chair Diana Kly then delivered a memorial address to IHRAAM Founder and Chair, Dr. Y.
    N. Kly, who passed away on January 6th, 2011.  She outlined his long commitment to the struggle from an
    early age, his contribution as an engaged and award-winning scholar and writer to bringing the African
    American struggle to the UN, and bringing the Attention of African Americans to the usefulness and
    applicability of international law to their struggle.

    On PANEL ONE Civil Rights:  Necessary But Not Sufficient?, Cynthia McKinney, Vernellia Randall and
    Tyson King-Meadows took the measure of the achievements of the civil rights struggle.  All were clear that
    despite the election of President Barack Obama and the powerful psychological impact of his presidency,
    little benefit was flowing to African Americans, whose economic situation overall was disproportionately
    worsening. Cynthia McKinney spoke passionately on the need of the African American people to get a grip
    on their identity as a people, and to reclaim leadership from those individuals who purport to speak for
    African Americans but did not achieve leadership positions due to African American support or remain
    unresponsive to African American needs. Vernellia Randall spoke on Dying While Black and raised the
    issue of recognizing the specific identity of those Black Americans whose African ancestors had been
    enslaved in the United States and went on to produce a new ethnic group here in America which did not
    look to any particular state abroad.  Tyson King-Meadows projected the overall movement of the African
    American situation to date as moving “From Hallowed Ground to Hollowed Victories:  Black Civil Rights and
    the Post-Racialism Imagination”.
    The role of black elected officials was critically assessed, as was the issue of whether that elected
    leadership was or indeed even could be effective in addressing the needs of African Americans, and what
    should be done about that.

    On PANEL TWO: Internal Self-determination for Historically Oppressed Peoples, Daniel Turp
    outlined the centuries-long struggle of the Quebecois people for self-determination, how that effort
    proceeded through repeated referenda until the French-speaking people of Canada were at last
    recognized as a Founding Nation of the multinational Canadian state, and how it was not yet achieved, were
    moving it closer to that goal. Ava Muhammad, recalling the longstanding commitment of the Nation of Islam
    to achieving African American self-determination, stressed the need for self-organization on a land base,
    such as was achieved by the Mormons in Utah and by the Amish, whereby the African American people
    might similarly be able to lay down their own structures and institutions for conducting their affairs.  Carla D.
    Pratt pointed out how the US government’s historical record of racializing group identity rather than
    politically determining it negatively impacted the relationship of Africans to Indians in North America, tying
    identity to physical characteristics and thereby setting the groundwork for both the expulsion of those
    Africans who had self-identified and been accepted as Indians, and for the “one-drop” blood notion of
    determining ethnic identity rather than the international norm of self-identification and community
    acceptance.

    On the evening of April 20th, at the Banquet held at the Ramada Inn Lake Shore, international law
    professor Francis A. Boyle gave the after-dinner address, titled “African Americans’ Right to Self-
    Determination”. Dr. Boyle reviewed the findings of a Special Tribunal held in San Francisco in 1998,
    entitled “USA On Trial:  The International Tribunal on Indigenous Peoples and Oppressed Nations in the
    United States”.  At that time, Professor Boyle served as prosecutor before the Tribunal, presenting the
    African Americans’ case for self-determination as resting on their historical victimization through genocide,
    war crimes and crimes against humanity as substantiated by the terms of the Genocide Convention and the
    Nuremberg Principles, and the ongoing suffering and inequalities suffered by the descendant communities
    of enslaved Africans as part of the lingering after-trauma effects of their historical experience.  The seven
    impartial outside jurists brought in to adjudicate the event found this a winning argument.

    On April 21, 2012, the Conference then addressed the issues to be dealt with by PANEL THREE:  
    Collective Empowerment, Institutions, Jurisdictions, Dr. Farid I. Muhammad set the stage by
    presenting empirical data capturing African American attitudes toward the notion of self-determination, and
    the creation of a political body representing their collective interests: the findings of his IHRAAM-sponsored
    national telephone survey (which sampled households in 24 major, geographically diverse and
    predominantly  African Americans cities) found that 67% of all African Americans were in favor of
    establishing a National Assembly  while 81% were in favor of exercising more direct control over institutions
    in their local communities. Chokwe Lumumba, from his vantage point of decades of leadership of the
    Republic of New Afrika and now as councilman in Jackson, Mississippi, stressed the importance of land and
    economic development to the achievement of self-determination, spoke to the establishment of the
    developing Kush Region in Mississippi, and invited African Americans to return to their historical homelands
    in the South.  John Boyd, as leader of the 100,000 strong movement of Black farmers, also addressed the
    importance of land, not just as politically-governed territory, but for the anchoring of traditions and self
    worth for the family and the soul, and how it is the ultimate resource for sustenance in times of need.  Henry
    English emphasized the need for self-reliance, and indicated how the Black United Fund of Illinois had been
    able to support a variety of community projects through their membership-driven fund, which might provide
    a micro-model for fundraising by the African American community at large.

    On PANEL FOUR:  USING THE UN TO ADVANCE AFRICAN AMERICAN INTERESTS, Attorney Standish
    Willis advised how he had successfully accessed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
    concerning the torture of African American prisoners, and brought direct pressure to bear on the American
    government through the state reporting requirements of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of
    Discrimination (CERD).  Queen Quet of the Gullah-Geechee Nation took to the dais singing, with the flag of
    the Gullah-Geechee Nation attached to the speaker’s podium.  She advised how through IHRAAM’s
    facilitation, she had been the first to officially address the United Nations in Gullah, as a representative of
    her people, had been engaged with UNESCO and the UN Forum on Minority Rights, how the US
    government had recognized the existence of the Gullah-Geechees through the establishment of the Gullah-
    Geechee Heritage Corridor, and had been granted (as international law professor Francis Boyle affirmed
    from the floor) de facto recognition by the US government.  She indicated that the Gullah-Geechee nation
    had a constitution, and a legislative body, with other instruments of governance being projected. Atty. Dan
    Fodio called from the floor that the Gullah-Geechee Nation represented a microcosm that might well inform
    African Americans as they pursue their own struggle.

    The much-anticipated PANEL FIVE:  WHAT NEXT? could not be fully addressed due to time constraints.  
    However, the essence of what needed to be done had clearly emerged through the discussions that took
    place in the question and answer sessions that followed each panel, and the quality ongoing exchanges
    among speakers themselves.  The problematic issues concerned how to recapture African American
    leadership from those who had been placed into leadership positions by others, as well as how to address
    the varied psycho-historical  issues and challenges of identity uniquely experienced by formerly-enslaved
    peoples of African Descent in the United States. Finally, the need for a political body speaking directly and
    specifically to the needs of African Americans (a Constituent Assembly) was raised and was received so
    positively that it seemed as if it were a foregone conclusion.  All speakers agreed that while international law
    and custom might provide guidance and legitimacy for the African American struggle and a forum in which
    to pursue it, there was no substitute for self-organization, self-reliance and true self-determination. It was
    recognized by all that this protracted struggle would have to be waged family by family, block by block, city
    by city and ultimately state by state. It was recognized that true self-determination for African-Americans
    wouldn’t be won overnight, but was a process of continued engagement that could be the mission of future
    generations.

    More information on the Chicago 2012 Conference will be available shortly on the IHRAAM website at http:
    //www.ihraam.org/Conferences-Chicago2012.  A video of the conference is being prepared and will be
    available for circulation and showing by African American organizations, as well as made available on
    YouTube.  To request a copy or additional information, please contact IHRAAM legal fellow, Aneesa
    Mitchell. The Conference Proceedings will be published by Clarity Press, Inc.

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    WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF THIS
    CONFERENCE?

    IHRAAM sought to introduce African Americans to the full
    range of their human rights protection under international law.
    It intends to open these politico-legal options up for discussion
    with a view to weighing their possible utility in addressing the
    historical and ongoing needs and grievances of  African
    Americans in the United States.

    CONFERENCE PROGRAM

    CONFERENCE SPEAKERS
    Authoritative African American and international legal scholars
    of stature as well as primary actors from the African American
    community who are actively engaged with African American
    organizations and institutions.

    CONFERENCE PHOTOS

    CONFERENCE BOOK

    CONFERENCE VIDEOS