By Madina Toure
At the second annual Black Lives Matter Summit at LaGuardia Community College that drew nearly 200 people Thursday morning, Rev. Al Sharpton urged African Americans to rally together to fight for justice, stressing that they all have the same goals.
The daylong summit, held in the Mainstage Theater of the college at 31-10 Thomson Ave., touched on inequality faced by minorities in contemporary society. Discussions centered on race, education, police brutality, health and wellness.
Sharpton reminded attendees of the Poor People’s Campaign, a national movement Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. started in 1968 that sought economic justice for poor individuals in the United States.
As King was building the campaign, a labor strike took place in Memphis and he was able to attend and demonstrate the parallel between the Poor People’s Campaign and the labor strike to get support for his campaign, Sharpton said.
But some younger, more radical attendees who attacked him for being a nonviolent advocate started breaking windows and someone ended up getting killed, which prompted some people to accuse MLK of leading a riot, Sharpton continued. MLK went back to Memphis to prove that he could be the nonviolent advocate but he was assassinated there April 4, 1968.
“I start with that story because 48 years later, we’re still dealing with the issue of economic failure, poor people not getting a fair share,” he said. “We’re still arguing about who’s the most militant, who’s the most radical and who’s not and still not focused on (the fact that) we can all have different tactics.”
“It doesn’t matter what route you choose if we’re all headed to the same place,” he continued. “In the middle of all of that arguing about whether King was a sellout…they killed King.”
Sharpton also said that although he believes that all lives matter, not all lives have been treated the same way and that ahead of the April 19 New York state primary, voters should focus on the candidate who is on the side of the black community.
“The only counsel I will give is decide what your goals are and agendas (are) and see who speaks to that agenda,” he said. “They keep asking me who am I going to endorse. I’m more concerned with who’s going to endorse us.”
Darren Ferguson, campus life manager for the Multicultural Exchange in the college’s Division of Student Affairs, and Michael Baston, the college’s vice president of student affairs, also spoke. Tamika Mallory, a civil rights leader and anti-violence activist, gave the keynote address.