“Where do we go from here?” a student recently asked me. “We could rest on our political laurels, you know. We do have a few chocolate faces in the window panes.”

Correct, I thought. We have at least four Black U.S. congresspersons, six state Assembly members, two state senators, a state attorney general, one member of the Board of Equalization, six county supervisors, three county assessor-treasurers, six city mayors, nine vice mayors pro tems, 40 city councilpersons, 40 elected unified school board members, and 15 elected community college board members (although not one in Los Angeles), as of the last count. That’s out of an overall state population of 2.3 million African Americans, the fifth largest in the nation. “On paper, we’re really not doing badly, it seems,” I replied to the student.

But looking at the cup half empty or half full, we are still barely 5.8 percent of the California state population, down from 7.5 percent during the 1980s, and we have had a larger share of political authority in California at other times–we simply had more clout and respect. We also are declining in real population in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and virtually every other major city in California except Sacramento.

More to the point, outside of individual initiative and effort, African Americans have no tangible way of even maintaining the political status we have, let alone expanding it. Other groups are clearly moving forward, according to the latest census and economic figures for California, while African Americans, when not moving backwards, seem to be definitively stuck in the mud and muck.

We have two options: accept and surrender to our status and backward-moving dynamic, or become the political change we need, and do so immediately.

Marginalization and disregard are the inevitable result of the former; the self-reliant architecture of a more positive, beneficial fate will be the product of the latter.

Many of you will remember that in October 2010, OurWeekly and radio station KJLH’s “Front Page” helped to call together a community group that discussed and approved a California Black Agenda. That gathering morphed into a stable, standing political action group–the Council of Black Political Organizations (COBPO).

For those seeking the first steps forward on a necessary political journey, and those seeking to continue along that political path less trod, we invite you to engage the process on April 16 2011, at Los Angeles Southwest College, 1600 W. Imperial Blvd. at Western Avenue, in the College Theater. There, the COBPO, in association with the Political Science Students of Southwest (PSSW), is hosting a statewide political conference on getting things planned and getting things done.

The central theme of the gathering is, “Increasing the Participation of Black Americans in California Politics.” We will have keynoters on some things older that worked, and some things new that we should implement. We will discuss the role of a California Black Political Agenda in our present and in our future.

Former Cong. Mervyn Dymally will be there, as will state Sen. Curren Price and other current and elected officials, to interact with community members on moving forward. There will also be a surprise guest or two. The conference will convene promptly at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning and end at 4:30 p.m. It is free to students and to the public. Go to www.cobpo.org for more details.

Don’t whine and don’t complain later if you don’t participate. You have your invitation.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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