YWCA Racial Justice speaker Andrew Young:
“Cincinnati, you are great, but not as great as you could be,’’ was the challenging comment made by visiting keynote speaker Andrew Young at the annual YWCA Heart-to-Heart Racial Justice Breakfast March 20 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Civil rights leader Young, who also is a former twoterm mayor of Atlanta and a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Carter Administration, explained that Atlanta offi cials decided that their city could not progress with 45 percent of its population behind a wall of non-inclusion, a wall that often is present in Cincinnati today.
“We decided we could not make it in Atlanta without Black people being involved, so we formed a coalition to build a transit system and an airport, with every single contract let on the airport requiring at least one minority contractor. We created a fairness formula that included everybody, even poor people. We understood that Black and White, rich and poor, women and men had to do these things together, and we launched our city into an era (of growth) that we still are struggling with,’’ he said.
The signature project that turned Atlanta around was the construction of its $15 billion airport, one of the busiest in the world. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport generates more than $31 billion per year and employees about 60,000 people, he said. “Our ‘fairness formula’ – our inclusion policy for that airport construction - helped everybody, and those benefits continue today,’’ he said.
That concept of inclusion guided Young’s life in all of his causes, he said. “There is not one single action I ever undertook but that it helped both White and Black people,’’ he explained. “I realized you have to use everybody to accomplish things.’’
He added that major causes often begin with small groups of people taking action, and that he and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – with whom he served as his top aide -- believed that recruiting 10 preachers in any city to your cause was more important than the support of any political party.
However, Young admitted that neither he nor King was committed to being leaders of a nonviolent movement that would change the world. Both men were influenced by their wives, both raised in the rural South and graduates of liberal thinking colleges, to take up that banner, he said.
Coretta Scott King attended college at Antioch, Ohio, and Jean Young, who died of cancer in 1994, went to Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind. “My wife understood the country could not continue to be half free and half oppressed,’’ he said.
Young is now undertaking causes in Africa and working to raise funds for those causes. He noted $2 billion was raised in Atlanta to hold a “track meet’’ –the 1996 Summer Olympics – so it should be possible to raise a similar amount of money to help the people of Africa.
He is also a champion for the freedom of women throughout the world. Million of women worldwide are being held as slaves, often subjected to prostitution, rape, mutilations and other abuses, he said. “There is no struggle against these abuses to woman, and I wonder why that issue is not raised much,’’ he said.
He also noted that there are now six billion people in the world, but only 1.2 billion jobs, according to United Nations estimates. “When you have so many people with nothing to do, they are going to upset your world, as leaders the Middle East are discovering. He called for changes in the teaching profession in American that would train new entrepreneurs who will bring forth new ideas that create jobs.
Young said that voter suppression is now being promoted by intelligent people in ways that are different than in the era of the Civil Rights Movement. “But one of the strengths the people in this country have is their ability to mobilize to do good, as we did during World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 resulted from the Civil Rights Movement, and nobody expect that that bill would be signed by the Southern President Lyndon Baines Johnson,’’ he said.
Freedom Riders living in Cincinnati - Frances Wilson Canty, Betty Daniels Rosemond and David Fankhauser - were recognized for their courage in participating in the Freedom Rides in 1961 by YWCA President and CEO Charlene Ventura during the YWCA Racial Justice Breakfast. All three traveled at great peril throughout southern states to protest Jim Crow laws and help integrate bus stations and other facilities closed to African Americans.
When asked who would be the Freedom Riders of today, Young answered that it would be the people who have the courage to stand up for people in prison. “The mandatory drug sentencing laws provides a level of sophistication in crime that can only be attributed to putting bright people in jail. They come out with a master’s degree in crime theory, and it is costing our society more than we can afford to pay,’’ he added.
In comparing the Civil Rights Movement to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Young said he and other members of the 1960’s movement had the benefit of excellent leadership training in their churches, where they were taught the specifics of the issues they were protesting. He said the members of the Occupy Wall Street movements, as well as the Tea Party organizations, do not know what they want to go back to. He suggested the Occupy protestors go back to school to obtain a better understanding of Wall Street.