When a political tree is planted and starts to bloom in the forest, but few see its flowering, does it really grow?

Indeed, it does. What is seen is not always the reality in politics.

So, COBPO had a political party at Los Angeles Southwest College last weekend. Political science students who are soon-to-be community-oriented leaders were there. The dean of California’s legendary Black Americans in politics, former United States Congressman and the only Black California Lt. Gov., Mervyn Dymally, was there. So was State Sen. Curren Price, as was former L.A. City Councilman Bob Farrell, and Inglewood’s former mayor, Danny K. Tabor.

Erica Teasley of the African American Redistricting Coalition; Linda Saunders, the director of Marcus Garvey School; and Professor Keith Claybrook of Africana Studies at California State University Dominguez Hills; and the venerable Larry Aubrey, a man of many different Black approaches towards self-determination, were also there and all made excellent presentations. The party was on.

COBPO, the Southland’s newly minted Council of Black Political Organizations, held its first annual conference Saturday on “Increasing the Participation of the Black Population in California Politics.” While the affair may not have been magnificent in its grandeur, it was substantive, memorable and well versed in its production, implementation and scope. It missed the beat of a few more warm bodies, but it elucidated and clarified a clear direction. In a word, COBPO called a political party and partied on.

The new edition of the Directory of Black Elected Officials, 2011-12, was debuted, and the slogan “We must change the political paradigm, or else accept the inevitable marginalization of our interests that will undoubtedly occur. We can only do that collectively, strategically and with consistency,” was promulgated, as read to the gathering by Dr. Valerie Little, the COBPO chair of the executive committee. This was actually pretty serious stuff.

The plenary voted to support the Marcus Garvey School as a worthy warrior in the battle to better educate Black youth. The sight of a 3-year-old expert in Kiswahili, the African language that will soon be the continent’s lingua franca, a 5-year-old wiz in biology and a 6-year-old expert in the 53 countries of Africa wowed the audience, and thoroughly convinced everyone there that here was a tangible and successful academic operation that the community needed to support and expand.

The secondary plenary also approved plans to build a network of African descendant organizations in California so real political leverage could be brought to bear on issues of importance to the community. Individual action, while acknowledged as sometimes temporarily successful, was eschewed in favor of Black collective actions. COBPO would prepare and implement a plan to teach organization skills to college students and community residents in diverse areas, so citizens could more positively impact political affairs in their neighborhoods and districts. This training would be nonpartisan.

Presidential politics also got a nod–COBPO vowed to make sure that the Black community’s voices would be heard and felt in 2012 and beyond.

Consensus was reached on a short list of five major projects to focus on at first, then a longer list, then a broader one. Included was a process for assessing and evaluating the performance of current and future elected representatives.

It was acknowledged that epidemic ignorance of the political process in which we live is not a benefit to the Black community in California and elsewhere, and that our strongest suit was organized, credible and consistent effort in relevant situations. In politics, a community gains and maintains clout with money and the strategic use of it; or with overwhelming numbers, well utilized; or through well crafted organizing efforts.

This was a good and effective time had by all in attendance. The clock is still ticking, but now there’s more than one smooth engine revving to its steady beat–that’s COBPO you hear in the pits. We can and will help each other; we can and will uplift ourselves. Let’s get to work. If you’ve got the will, we’ve got the way. Go to www.cobpo.org for more information.

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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