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A call to action:National Action Network is fired up and ready to roll

The traffic snaked through the neighborhood adjacent to Beattie Street towards Bethany Baptist Church as the parking lot filled to capacity. Ladies in church hats, students, men in suits, were all making what appears to be a pilgrimage towards the structure. Was it a funeral of a noted community leader? No, it was the scheduled appearance of Rev. Al Sharpton chair of the National Action Network

At the driveway dozens of Obama supporters were jockeying for the best position to gain the attention of hundreds as they made their way to a 3 p.m. meeting of the Syracuse Chapter of NAN, National Action Network.
National Action Network is an activist organization based in New York City with 35 chapters in the United States. Saturday’s meeting was an induction event in addition to reaching out to attract members to the organization. NAN’s annual membership is $25 with lifetime membership cost at $500.

The building was packed as people politely made their way down the ushered aisle to the comfortable mauve padded pews. Behind the concrete multidimensional Cross were church windows with the caramel-toned faces of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – the backdrop for what was billed as an induction ceremony.

Soon after everyone was seated came an announcement, due to an incident that involved a shooting in New York City. Rev. Al Sharpton would not be able to appear, however, in his place, he sent his daughter Dominique Sharpton.
The audience didn’t moan in disappointment; after a few sighs the program continued. It was clear that Al Sharpton or no Al Sharpton in the building, this event was moving forward with local facilitators of the National Action Network along with representatives of the local black church community. People were serious and attentive as presenters gave assessments of the areas in which they were to report.

This wasn’t a downcast gripe session; absent were attacks on any one individual. Local National Action Network Members with optimism, vigor and unprecedented candor gave assessments of key urban community issues and what they were going to do to address them. The Network’s concerns were broken into subsections, which gave participants some goals to which this meeting was the culmination.
As the meeting continued it became increasingly clear that this gathering had more to do with local people addressing issues that affect them, than Rev. Sharpton showing up for an appearance.

Crisis Intervention
– Is a committee that is poised to act on a variety of issues most notably fair housing and emergency resources. Lorraine Mayes, Crisis Intervention coordinator, discussed some of the issues involving crisis, which included finding herself in need of help.

“They (NAN members) pitched in and helped me when I found myself in crisis. They were moving boxes and helping me when I was trying to help others.”

The committee meets every Tuesday at 1 p.m. at 2013 E. Genesee St., American Friends Service Committee.

Criminal Justice
In their Criminal Justice Initiative Willis Knighton gave an analysis, which included a count of “the large number of our young people caught up in the way RICO laws are enforced in Onondaga County.”

Decency Initiative
Perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the event was a presentation from Brenda Stephens, the First Lady Fountain of Life C.O.G.I.C, who in describing the “influence of media in music, media and entertainment” gave riveting testimony as to how people need to treat each other “whether you like men, women or what ever” consistent with their Decency Initiative that “respects all people regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation.”
They meet on Tuesday’s at 6 p.m., 700 South Ave. Fountain of Life C.O.G.I.C.

Education
Gregory Egbuna presented for the Education Committee information that placed emphases on responsibility of parents and schools to educate children. This initiative has already begun addressing some of the obstacles to quality education in Syracuse. “Equity and equality” as this group promotes academic achievement and post secondary education among under-served populations.
The Education Committee meets Saturday’s at noon at 2610 S. Salina Street.

There were other committee’s that due to time constraints weren’t able to make their presentations. However, each presenter echoed the call of the last, “no justice no peace.”

This meeting was a call to action as dozens of participants met over a year to articulate these issues and engage in activities designed to motivate people into taking action.

NAN’s Saturday meeting at Bethany Baptist Church was the beginning of a new chapter of Syracuse urban residents and churches coming together.

If the Syracuse Chapter of National Action Network’s meeting at Bethany Baptist Church is any indication of electoral interest in Syracuse then the upcoming Democratic Primary could have a record turnout. The last time Syracuse’s black community was this fired up was 1988 when Rev. Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, Democratic Presidential Primary Campaign won Onondaga County.

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