By Mary Gordon
Reverend Al Sharpton was the keynote speaker at this year's Celebrate Diversity Breakfast during NLC's Congressional City Conference. The breakfast celebrates cultural diversity in communities. Sharpton spoke to city leaders about the importance of diversity, and bringing all members of a community together.
"Through our cultural history, it brings us the challenge to be a great and diverse culture. It is through you as municipal leaders that you work from the ground up to fight the many fights of social, cultural and political issues," Sharpton said. "We must fight these fights and walk with a superior attitude, not supplicant attitudes. We must have attitudes of real leaders."
NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers presided at the event and said, "Many of our municipalities are continually developing programs that assist us in achieving a better quality of life and a better understanding of our changing populations. This is what diversity in government is all about."
Rev. Sharpton is the Founder of the National Action Network and Host of MSNBC's "PoliticsNation." With over 40 years as a community leader, politician, minister and advocate, he is one of America's most renowned civil rights leaders. His highly visible career began at the tender age of four when he preached his first sermon.
This year's annual breakfast event was cohosted by NLC's five constituency groups -- the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) (event founder), the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials (APAMO), the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Local Officials (GLBTLO), the Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO), and Women in Municipal Government (WIMG). They were represented by their presidents which included Jacquelyn Johnson, Councilwoman, East Orange, New Jersey (NBC-LEO), Stephen Sham, Councilmember, Alhambra, California (APAMO); Bob Gaiser, Councilmember, Broomfield, Colorado (GLBTLO); Karen Avilla, City Treasurer, Carson, California (HELO) and Mary Brown, Councilwoman, Gary, Indiana (WIMG). Comcast, an NLC Corporate Partner, cosponsored the breakfast. In addition, Adam McFadden, Councilmember, Rochester, New York, was in attendance. NBC-LEO Chaplain Samuel Ings, Commissioner, Orlando, Florida, provided the invocation.
NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony remarked, "At NLC, we are making sure that the everyones voices are heard. Let us ensure that Congress and the Administration hear us about our issues and know, most importantly, that our people are important."
Rev. Sharpton emphasized that now more than ever we must build coalitions and not be tribal in nature. It is time to bring people into a new century and into a new reality, and it is a challenge. Many saw that with the 2012 elections, times have changed and people must change with the times. He said, "Most folk could not do what you elected officials do. They could not do your job."
"We must stop fighting among ourselves and not battle about who is the most oppressed or the most brutalized. In our culture, we must fight for everyone, or we cannot fight for anyone in terms of civil rights. You cannot be partial civil rights activists. We must lead, and we must be focused enough to lead as our nation grows. We must be part of the whole. Service is what matters."
For information about NLC's Constituency Groups, visit nlc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org to join any of the groups.