By Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.
I had the opportunity to speak for the closing session at the meeting of the World Conference of Mayors that was held at Tuskegee University in Alabama a few days ago. I have attended an untold number of conferences in my life, but this one was like no other. It was the most organized, the most educational and most unified conference I have ever attended!
First, I have to say that Tuskegee University is one of the most beautiful college campuses I’ve ever seen. It was a joy to walk around the campus and see so many buildings named for Black heroes and sheroes. The conference was sponsored by the World Conference of Mayors whose founder is former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford. Of course, no one refers to him as former Mayor. He’s always respectful of the current Mayor Tony Haygood, and Mayor Haygood seems to accept the fact that no matter who happens to have been elected to be Mayor currently, Johnny Ford will always hold a special place in the heart of the people, and indeed he works for the benefit of Tuskegee in whatever he does; but his influence goes far beyond Tuskegee! He helps and influences what happens in so many other towns around the world. Not only did African Americans attend the conference, but African mayors and other leaders came from the African continent to Tuskegee.
Having worked as Chief of Staff for Washington, DC Mayor for Life Marion Barry, I’ve seen this admiration of a mayor before. I just never thought it existed anywhere else! I’m not easily impressed, but Johnny is exceptional. Everybody seems to genuinely love him and rely on him for advice, for direction and help. He never disappoints! He’s always provides just what his followers need. He’s a great influencer. He brings his contacts with the answers and the resources to the people who attend his conferences. I forgot to mention that there is a current President of the WCM who is Grambling’s Mayor Ed Jones and with that same spirit of cooperation as Johnny has with the current Mayor of Tuskegee, it seems to roll over to Mayor Jones.
Honorees were plentiful. They ranged from Grammy award winner and former R&B singer, Joe Simon, who has begun a National Voter Registration Drive that is supported by the WCM and the Black Towns and Settlements Alliance to Mayors of historic towns and settlements, the honorable Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray, African leaders and the dynamic African Union Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao who challenged us to learn our history and to visit and invest in Africa.
The Role of African-American Students at HBCU’s was addressed. Students from Grambling, Spelman, Prairie View, Tuskegee and other schools did impressive presentations. The Tuskegee Dramatic Arts Department presented an informative play called “Booker T’s Towns” that provided us with a lot of the history of Dr. Washington’s work. Atty. Paxton Williams provided attendees with a very informative film called “George Washington Carver.” All students who’ve had doubts about whether they could accomplish something with few resources need to see the film.
There were so many highlights. One of the most touching ones was our trip to the Tuskegee Airmen’s Historic Site.
There were presenters of other events that are “must see” such as the January 30, 2020 Eatonville Festival in Florida, the Selma to Montgomery Annual Jubilee February 27, 2020, the Tuskegee Carver Festival held in Tuskegee and the Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival in Shankleville. There was so much more. Once you’ve attended one, you will never want to miss a conference led by the one and only Mayor Johnny Ford!