Speech Delivered at OFL Equity Conference – November 11-10, 2012


People movin’ out

People movin’ in

Why, because of the color of their skin

Run, run, run,e but you sho’ can’t hide

An eye for an eye

A tooth for a tooth

Vote for me, and I’ll set you free

Rap on sister, rap on

Well, the only person talkin’

‘Bout love thy brother is the preacher

And it seems,

Nobody is interested in learnin’

But the teacher

Segregation, determination, demonstration,

Integration, aggravation,

Humiliation, obligation to our nation

Ball of Confusion

That’s what the world is today

Name the song! The Group!

Writer(s):        Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong


In 1970…my my how times haven’t changed! Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Ball of confusion…indeed!

However, there is less confusion today than there was on Tuesday…less uncertainty…less  despair. And in my heart of hearts I knew Tuesday would be a good day!

Can I get a Yes He Can???


And if Barack Hussein Obama can, then so can we! And he did, and so did we.

We were all victorious earlier this week, every member of every equity group! Anyone looking at the crowds assembled to cheer President Obama and the crowds assembled to cheer Conservative Republican Mitt Romney would see that America is being divided between those who believe in equity and progress, and those who believe in privilege, too often class  and racist based privilege, as well as the maintaining of the status quo.

Throughout the Obama campain, it was easy to find most if not all the equity groups in every assembled crowd. In the Romney campaign, however, it was easy to find that most equity groups were either absent or very much under-represented.

The reason I bring up the American election is because President Obama has united communities of colour, and especially the African American community like no other person in history. That in this past election, for example, 95% of the African American community voted for Barack Hussein Obama has less to do with affinity of colour than the colour of affinity.

We have been inspired because of his leadership. Even if we were disappointed by some of the issues on which he did not or could not deliver, we were faced with a choice that was really no choice. Our embrace of Obama was more due to our bond with him as we identified so viscerally with his experience of discrimination, the pain, the emotional and intellectual wringer that he as a leader was going through. I could not help feeling for him, for example, as he had to claim that Romney was not truthful, yes, kertowing to the sickening double standard of having to remain personally as truthful as possible, lest he  condescendingly, patronizingly, and prejudicially be accused of being a liar!

To be clear, President Obama did not immediately unite us at first. In early 2008, I remember phoning people in Florida in the African American community to get them to vote for him when he was a candidate in the primaries, with the main reaction being Barack Who? He ain’t even one of us! The brother was faced with a  long row to hoe. Yet as he ran, and demonstrated talent to spare, people began to unite as he earned our admiration and trust.

The African American community, and the other equity groups did indeed unite in 2008 to elect Barack Obama. However, the early road was a rocky one as equity met austerity, not to mention the Tea Party. The repeal of DADT was perhaps not

good enough, and certainly more than halfway through his mandate, President Obama was losing the support of gay and lesbian communities, as well as others. But the Brother did adapt. In the latter part of his mandate, his speech on the right of same sex couples to marry, especially in the face of strong opposition from African-American evangelicals, was a brilliant example of leadership. Stop playing to the middle. Take a position. Damn the torpedoes. Catch me if you can!

Leadership is without a doubt a learning experience. Barack Hussein Obama has learned as we all have. We are all leaders here. Faced with immense challenges resented to us by the corporate conservative establishment. That establishment has been very successful in dividing our society into two solitudes.    

Two solitudes. One where equity wins, the other where equity loses.

Which brings me to the crux of my message.

The question before us is Equity before austerity. Logical analysis leads us to ask, does austerity come before equity? This is the equation that the Corporate conservatives present as a sine qua non condition of economic measures such as those imposed by the IMF.

Measures which are imposed to  redress and correct the bankrupting of society caused by corporate greed.

So in rewarding corporate greed, the corporate conservative establishment cuts public services, which serve the public interest. Public service cuts undercut the progress that society must make to adequately and successfully implement equity.

We cannot continue allowing these corporate conservatives to keep imposing their austerity agenda. Austerity favours the rich, and impoverishes mainstream society. Austerity imposes economic servitude and indebtedness which puts the people at the mercy of trickle-down charity. Austerity reduces the hope of implementing equity.

I remember back in the 60’s when there were debates about wheelchair access. Many real estate developers and landlords in New York City were vociferous in claiming that they could not afford building ramps and modifying structures would bankrupt them. Yet society, through government, in the public interest, held firm. No one went bankrupt! Yes, there were costs, but today we no longer have the debate. Access is a right. But like most rights, if we don’t defend them, we will lose them.

So if the question before us is equity before austerity, I say, that equity has nothing to do with and never should be a condition of economics. Equity cannot be part of an economic equation!  That puts us in a trap set by the corporate conservative establishment.

Our motto, our manifesto, our credo should be Equity…unconditionally!

This past Tuesday evening,  we experienced victory with President Obama. In the crowds assembled to celebrate victory, we saw equity. Equity and progress triumphed this week against a terrible corporate conservative onslaught. And our response to the corporate conservatives in  all matters concerning equity must be…equity…unconditionally.

Unconditionally shall we defend what we have gained. Unconditionally shall we promote what needs to be done. Our foundation is diversity. Through our differences we find our identity.

We are one, united in defending, promoting and fighting for equity … unconditionally. As we are challenged shall we knock down the barriers and the obstacles that will fall asunder as long as we march forward, united! As we are challenged by corporate conservative economic and political distractions, and confusion, shall we remain true to our cause to promote and defend and achieve what Martin Luther King saw on the great march forward. And as we are challenged shall we overcome each and every day, whatever the corporate conservatives will throw our way.

In solidarity, standing together in diversity, in progress and liberty, shall we defend and promote equity, unconditionally, celebrating our unassailable equality…

Thank you sisters and brothers, merci!