For immediate release: February 19, 1998
Contact: Roderick Conrad 202/543-4110 or Project21@nationalcenter.org
Former Congressman Floyd Flake (D-NY) was abruptly uninvited to the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Prayer Breakfast earlier this month because some members of the Caucus objected to his support of school vouchers, an issue which was to be mentioned in his speech.
Project 21 member Jackie Cissell, an associate with the Indiana Family Institute in Indianapolis, said, "Considering that 87% of Black America support school vouchers, it is outrageous that the desire to empower parents in the education of their children is not on the agenda of some of Indiana's Black legislators. Because the content his speech could not be dictated, he was thrown off their plantation. The leadership is so out of touch at the detriment of our children."
Censoring Representative Flake is unacceptable, says the Black leadership network Project 21. Members agree with Rev. Flake that progress for the black community is found in education and community empowerment, not government programs. Project 21 also agrees with the ex-lawmaker that many black Democrats are too beholden to special interest groups (particularly labor unions), and that most black leaders are mired in the protest politics of the civil rights era and waste precious energy advocating welfare and affirmative action.
Rev. Flake is the pastor of the 9,000-member Allen A.M.E. Church and founder of the highly successful 480-student Allen Christian School in Jamaica (Queens), New York. He has emerged as one of America's most prominent black proponents of federally-funded vouchers for private schools, angering other African American leaders. Rev. Flake, who often criticized the Republican Party for everything from minimum wage increases to advocating the elimination of the Department of Education, blames the poor performance of many black public school students on what he sees as a complicated set of social realities ranging from low expectations of white teachers for black students to teacher union interference to substandard expectations some blacks set for themselves.
"You can't claim to represent the Black community and work to silence dissenting voices in the community," said Indiana resident and Project 21 member Maurice Broaddus. "Black leadership had better catch on to the fact that we can't continue to ignore the sorry state of education in our community. We have got to learn to prepare for the future if we as black people are to have a future at all. That starts with the best education we can give our children -- not petty black politics."
"I'm not surprised," said Rev. Mike Ramey, an associate minister of the Greater St. Mark Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana and Project 21 member. "Members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and the hit movie 'Titanic' have a lot in common. The builders of the Titanic said it wouldn't sink, and Caucus members are saying the same thing about the issue of public education in that they are more interested in how nice the deck chairs feel rather than paying attention to the sounds and sights of the water coming into the boat."
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African American community since 1992. For more information, contact Roderick Conrad at 202-543-4110 or Project21@nationalcenter.org.