Post Power

Convention blended faith and entertainment with one eye to the future, one to the past

by Yusef Najafi
Published on May 1, 2008, 12:00am | Comments

Even though the Power of Us National Convention attracted fewer patrons than organizers of the event had originally hoped for during its three-day run, April 24-26, in Baltimore, the approximately 350 who arrived in Charm City for this premiere conference all left ''inspired,'' offers H. Alexander Robinson.

Robinson, executive director of conference sponsor National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a civil-rights organization dedicated to empowering black ''same-gender-loving'' GLBT people, says he was pleased with the outcome.

''I think people left feeling inspired and we're going to have lots of opportunities that we will be pursuing in the upcoming year.''

Robinson called the diversity of the attendants one of the most exciting things about the conference.

''We had openly-gay, elected African-American officials, many of our lawyers, our health care providers, health advocates, our grassroots organizers, and faith-based community advocates -- [they were] an important cross section of the people who attended.''

Other highlights included a pre-conference event on Wednesday, April 23, which featured the coming together of 35 clergy and ministers, who reviewed a training manual that the NBJC hopes to use in the future in assisting churches interested in becoming ''open and affirming'' congregations, meaning they would work to be inclusive of GLBT parishioners.

''We hope to publish it as a document to be used in seminaries as well,'' Robinson says.

Featured guests and entertainers at the convention included jazz artist Yvonne Johnson, comedian Karen Williams, novelist M.W. Moore and spoken-word artist Dale Guy Madison.

The Third Annual Black Church Summit, on Friday, April 25, at the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Baltimore, was a significant gathering for many, including Robinson.

''That's the church where Frederick Douglass spoke,'' he says, highlighting the significance of Douglass' prominence in American history as a former slave who became one of the nation's foremost abolitionists.

''It was the first African-American church in the area. It's a historic church and it was great to be there. We were welcomed by members of that congregation who attended that service, as well as members who were attending the conference. That was definitely an inspiration to me.''

For more information about the National Black Justice Coalition, visit www.nbjc.org.