The Ernest E. Morial Convention Center would have provided a platform for them to spread the news about an important, but underutilized forum in which to raise our collective concerns about the State of Black America. They might have urged more people to see themselves as members of a Diaspora of Afro-descendants seeking to partner with allies interested in achieving racial justice. They would possibly have implored their audience to make U.S. domestic human rights obligations a presidential election issue.
This, however, wasn’t the case and it’s not just because DuBois, Robeson and Malcolm X are irreversibly dead. No one featured at Smiley’s Saturday symposium had been in Geneva earlier that week. They could not relay their personal experiences in Geneva to demonstrate the importance of advancing our domestic struggle internationally. They could not report back to Black America the things our government said about us to explain why the most dispossessed people in the United States are disproportionately black and brown.
Ironically, the only entity with a presence at both events was the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As part of the government that came under fire in Geneva, it’s not surprising that the EEOC did not draw the audience’s attention to what happened earlier that week. This, despite the fact that at least one of the contributors to Smiley’s book “The Covenant,” was present in Geneva and Smiley interviewed U.S. Human Rights Network Executive Director Ajamu Baraka on his PBS television show on Thursday February 28.
This isn’t about pointing fingers and affixing blame. We’ve got much larger battles to fight. This is just about encouraging all of us to make the connections between the domestic and the international. While the two dueling meetings were a missed opportunity, I can only assume that it won’t be our last chance to get on the same page about human rights. There is still time to continue the work begun by DuBois, Robeson and Malcolm X. Let’s hope we’ll do a much better job at making these connections the next time around.
Lisa Crooms is a professor at Howard University School of Law.