WASHINGTON – Prominent political, civil rights and religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Kweisi Mfume, will gather here next week to discuss ways to galvanize the black electorate in the wake of the 1994 elections.
In 1994, when Republicans took control of Congress, only 37 percent of blacks of voting age cast ballots, compared to 45 percent for the general population, according to the nonprofit National Coalition on Black Voter Participation Inc.
“We must seize this opportunity to get more people registered,” said S.A. “Shep” Wilbun, president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, one of seven co-sponsors of next week’s Seventh National Policy Institute. “It’s an age- old song and dance and we have got to do it if we want to be effective” this election year, he said.
Wilbun said the three-day conference is the first chance black elected officials have had to “take up the mantle of leadership” since October’s Million Man March in Washington mobilized hundreds of thousands of men.
“This conference is the first occasion we have to take up the challenge,” he said, speaking at a news conference Thursday.
Next week’s event at the Washington Hilton and Towers will include public policy workshops on job creation, health care reform and urban development and how they affect the African- American community.
Other panelists besides Jackson and Mfume, who takes charge of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People next month, include Harvard law professor and PBS-TV commentator Charles Ogletree and Southern Christian Leadership Conference President the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery.
Vice President Gore will speak at the welcome luncheon next Thursday.
The forum for black elected officials has been held in presidential election years since 1976.