Interview with Richard Hatcher

All those people coming together. What was the feeling in Gary?


Well, the idea of all these people coming together, this, this wonderful kaleidoscope of colors and, ah, ah, political philosophies, ah, coming together in one place and working with each other, and trying to establish some common goals. That made Gary different. Ah, Gary was different, ah, in another sense, and that was that the nationalists had a better understanding, ah, not only of our history, ah, but also of Africa and what Africa was all about. And, ah, they understood that it was necessary to replicate in this country some of the institutions, some of the African institutions in a way that many of us who are elected officials, ah, simply did not, ah, did not understand and, and really appreciate in some instances. Also, ah, we were coming, ah, out of a period, ah, where the pride, ah, the idea of, of, of Black pride was a very powerful force. And it was also the--a time when we were looking at the whole question of power, and how, ah, ah, who had it, how to get it, what to do with it, ah, when you had it. And again, ah, I must say, ah, without, ah, ah, being critical of, ah, many of my colleagues who were in the electoral politics and so forth, that the nationalists seemed to understand the concepts of power better than, ah, many of us did. And so when all of that came together in Gary, ah, that made Gary a very unusual and, ah, particularly interesting place to be. Ah, in addition to that, we had this debate, ah, going on about, ah, one, whether we should go the third party route, or whether we should remain in the democratic party and try to make the democratic party responsive to the needs of Black people. And there were very eloquent and forceful and powerful, ah, arguments on both sides of that issue. Ah, and, ah, that was a part of the Gary, ah, discussion. And then the other part was the whole question, "Should we run a Black for President of the United States?" After all, 1972 was a presidential election year, ah, it was a year that ultimately would see the nomination of George, ah, McGovern as, ah, the democratic nominee for President. But at that time, our focus was, ah, "Shouldn't an African-American get out and run for President?" Well, ah, as the convention, when we finally arrived at the convention, ah, by that time Shirley Chisholm, ah, the Congresswoman from New York City, had announced that she was a candidate for President of the United States. Frankly, that took a lot of Black males by surprise and shock. And, ah, many of them, ah, were not quite sure how they felt about that. Ah, many of us tried to get Shirley Chisholm to come to Gary, to come to this convention. Ah, we were absolutely convinced that that would be the right thing for her to do. Ah, others who were advising her apparently, ah, persuaded her that she, if she should come to Gary, she would run the risk of, in effect, be- being rejected by that convention, and therefore before the whole country it would appear that her own people had rejected, ah, her being a candidate for President.