Interview with Ben Chavis
QUESTION 14
JUDY RICHARDSON:

OK. Talk about what you see as Diggs tries to gavel down ending the, you know, trying to close the nominations for presiding.

BEN CHAVIS:

Well, after thousands of people got into the gymnasium there, at the, ah, local high school--it was held at the local high school in Gary, Indiana, it was big, I'd never been in a, a high school gymnasium that big, you know, almost ten thousand people were in there--and it was at the beginning of the convention. And the first order of business was to determine who was going to preside. And here's Congressman Diggs. Well-respected. But Diggs made a mistake. He, ah, ah, he tried to cut off the nominations, ah, on a few from the floor. And of course, people had come there, again, out of a sense of self-determination, a sense of self-affirmation. And people were not looking for some Roberts' Rule of Order to rule the day. Because this was an African-American Con, ah, Convention. This was a Black convention. And therefore we're supposed to have other values that control how we're going to be about politics of that day, of that convention. And so Diggs, ah, called for the vote. And it was clear, ah, from the voice vote, that the people wanted the nominations to stay open. The people wanted to debate this and make some other nominations. And unfortunately, Diggs misread the crowd. Because when he said, "The chair rules that the nominations are closed," hey, pandemonium broke out. Not against him personally, but people were insulted because they, ah, they didn't want the convention to start off on a point which they had just left in all the repression. We wanted an open convention, not a repressed convention. And so, ah, Diggs, you know, got himself in some hot water. And it took Amiri Baraka, Imamu Baraka, to come with his version of African consensus. I remember Baraka's statement. He said, "Now, sisters and brothers, we must use some scientific process to bring this gathering together so that we can achieve our objectives." But it was the way that Baraka said it. He didn't say it arrogantly. He said it caringly.** And for all of the delegates in that room, he was showing respect. Because Baraka showed respect to them. Diggs made a mistake by not showing respect to this convention, particularly at the beginning.

JUDY RICHARDSON:

Cut.