June 1, 1999
TO: PRESIDENTS OF NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX NEWS and CNN
On behalf of The United States Conference of Mayors, representing cities over 30,000 throughout our nation, please accept this letter as an official expression of our disappointment and disgust over the lack of television news coverage you gave to the 5th African-African American Summit held in Accra, Ghana May 15-21, 1999.
As President-elect of the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors, I led our first Conference of Mayors mission to Senegal May 10-14, 1999, and then to Ghana for the Summit the following week. Ten mayors accompanied me through West Africa and an eleventh mayor met us in Ghana. In addition to the 12 mayors in The Conference of Mayors delegation, an additional 10 other U.S. mayors and over 4,000 other people attended the Summit.
The United States Government sent Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, who was accompanied by a large group of outstanding American citizens from our government and our business community.
In addition to the American delegation, there were 18 African heads of state attending the Summit, and I along with Secretary of Labor Herman and The Reverend Jesse Jackson opened the Summit along with the African heads of state.
Throughout these historic sessions of the African-African American Summit open forums were held in which mayors of Ghana and mayors of The United States discussed common challenges, such as economic development for the people in African and American cities, financial management of our cities, and environmental challenges such as the need for water and solar energy technology. The meetings I chaired were open conversations, lively discussions, not boring. Indeed they were meaningful and productive as well as entertaining and enjoyable.
It is unfortunate that your network decided against covering this African-African American Summit, the largest ever held on the African continent. Our government, over the past few years has been encouraging our local governments to reach out to our African counterparts at the local level. African roots run deep in our American cities, counties and rural America. Throughout our history since World War II and leading up to the end of the Cold War , we have witnessed on the five networks, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and CNN, broad coverage of Summits from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. For the mayors attending this Summit and to our constituents back home, we are astonished over your lack of concern of what is happening in Africa and in particular, the events in Accra, Ghana earlier this month.
Our organization, The United States Conference of Mayors, will continue democracy-building, technology exchanges and promoting increased trade between the African nations and the United States. The nations= mayors assembled at their 65th Annual Meeting in 1997 in San Francisco endorsed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. This act was passed by the House in 1998 but was not acted upon in the Senate and thus Congress has failed to enact its passage.
In Ghana at the Summit, I called upon Congress to pass the African Trade Bill. Mayors from every region in the nation have endorsed the legislation and have pledged to join in our efforts in passing the African Trade Bill. We take the position if we, the USA, can reach out to postwar Europe, Poland in the Latin Americas in the 80s, we must also reach out to promote increased trade and investment in Africa.
As I called for the passage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act in Ghana earlier this month, I will again reaffirm our political efforts during a special plenary session on Africa during the 67th Annual Conference of Mayors in New Orleans, June 11-15. I encourage your attention to this event. I, along with my mayoral colleagues, will express to the nation our continuing priorities as they relate to the African continent.
We urge you to change your policy of ignoring what America needs to be doing with Africa. We request a meeting to discuss with you how we can have a more open dialogue on this question so that you will understand the significance of the rich African continent and why it is so important to be actively involved both spiritually and economically as we face the race and economic issues confronting so many Americans in our cities, both large and small, throughout America.
We seek a meeting to discuss this matter. We ask your representative to please contact our Executive Director, Tom Cochran, at The United States Conference of Mayors headquarters in Washington DC (202-293-2354) to facilitate more dialogue on this matter. Again, in light of the neglect of attention you gave to our Summit, we believe the dialogue is needed now more than ever.
Wellington E. Webb