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Tuskegee mayor tells parish to strive for self-sufficiency

Banner Staff

Johnny Ford, mayor of Tuskegee, Ala., recently spoke at Grace Church of All Nations in Dorchester and pushed a message of progressive public policy, personal social uplift and the importance of community and church relations.

“I am glad to be here at Grace Church this morning,” said Ford, the founder of the World Conference of Mayors and co-chairman of the National Policy Alliance, a consortium of 12,000 elected officials that consults with President Barack Obama. “And I note that this church is open to the community. Many churches are walled in. But this church is open to the community.”

Talking for nearly an hour, Ford exhorted the congregation to focus on the importance of public policy in uplifting the state of African American communities across the country. A minister at the Mount Olive Missionary Church founded by former slave and civil rights advocate Booker T. Washington, Ford also urged the audience of over 600 to strive for racial independence and self-sufficiency.

“We can not be satisfied until every American who wants to work will have an opportunity to work — in particular minorities — because black folk are not lazy,” Ford preached. “We helped to build this country. We don’t want to be on welfare …Welfare is nice for those who need it, but give me a job. We want to work and stand up on our own two feet. Take care of our own family. Give me an opportunity to earn my way in life.”

Ford was on a roll. “I want our young people,” he said, “when they walk out of college, to say to America ‘Move out my way. I don’t want you to give me anything. I’ll get it for myself.’ I want our young people to say that ‘I am not going to stand around on the street corners of America, throwing my big black fist up in the air with nothing in my fist, nothing in my head and nothing in my pockets.’ We want our rightful place in this society.”

Ford admonished the congregation to focus on preserving past political victories, including the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Earlier this month, Ford explained, “We marched from Selma to Montgomery commemorating the 48th anniversary … of that march. At the same time that we were marching, the United States Supreme Court was considering the Voting Rights Act in terms of whether or not they should strike [it] down.

“Were it not for … the Voting Rights Act, I could not stand here as mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama. And so we must not be satisfied with being on the mountaintop. We must still cross one more river. We must cross the river and make sure that the Voting Rights Act is extended and maintained.”

A super delegate for President Barack Obama last year, Ford encouraged the congregation to press for progressive public policy and get involved in community building.

“We have elected Barack Obama as president of the United States of America,” Ford said. “And we are proud of that. But we can’t be satisfied with that. Still there is work to be done in this country. And the president can’t do all for us, we must join with him and do it ourselves and move our country forward.”

Ford was speaking as a participant in Grace’s 50th anniversary. Other speakers will include former Ambassador Charles Stith, Morehouse President Emeritus Dr. Robert Franklin and Reverend Jeremiah Wright.