Civil rights leaders and Black conservatives put their differences aside Monday afternoon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at a luncheon hosted by the Republican National Committee.
Attendees included National Urban League president Marc Morial; Wade Henderson, who heads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Hilary Shelton, head of the NAACP's Washington bureau; former congressman Allen West; Republican rising star and speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives T.W. Shannon and others.
Representing an older generation of Black conservatism, Robert Brown, a former Nixon White House appointee, in remarks urged people of all political persuasions to learn how to compromise. He said that "this nation was built on compromise, and if we don’t get it all together, we’re going to sink this ship, and we can’t afford to do that.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, declared in remarks that "my job is to fix the Voting Rights Act," and promised that by the end of the year, Congress would create and pass the section of the law struck down by Supreme Court in June.
Both speeches received a lukewarm response from its audience.
Bob Woodson, head of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, delivered the most controversial and spirited speech of the day. He denounced Black leaders for prioritizing other groups over poor African-Americans.
"Blacks today, we're talking about the dream, for many the dream, for poor people, is a nightmare. Everybody has come in front of them on the bus – gays, immigrants, women, environmentalists," he said. "You never hear any talk about the conditions confronting poor Blacks and poor people in general."
He took aim at Black politicians whom he accused of being "moral traitors" and abusing their positions of power.
"We must be honest about those Black politicians who are standing on those who sacrificed and are using that position for corrupt purposes," said Woodson "We need to call them out, because they are moral traitors. They are moral traitors. But we're silent about that."
He strongly criticized these politicians for not responding as compassionately and loudly to recent attacks on white victims as they did for Trayvon Martin.
"If Dr. King were alive today, he would not be just talking about justice for Trayvon Martin. He would also give a prayer for this 18-year-old man, this little baby, who was shot in the face by two black kids," he said. "We should pray for the families of these people just as we do the family of Trayvon Martin. We should not wait for a white face before we get outraged. Evil is evil, whether it wears a white face or not."
Woodson, who apologized for being "the skunk at the garden party," received a standing ovation.
"I think if Dr. King were alive today, he would step on some of these sacred issues," he said.
BET National News - Keep up to date with breaking news stories from around the nation, including headlines from the hip hop and entertainment world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: AP Photo/File)