Georgia Black Caucus hosts annual conference

By Justin Boron

Racial profiling is a problem throughout Georgia but is particularly important in Clayton County, where complaints about the questionable police tactic have assembled into a legislative concern.

The practice of targeting criminal activity through race will be one of the issues discussed at the 22nd Annual Legislative Black Caucus Conference, which kicks off today and provides an educational arena for constituent comment and feedback, said state Sen. Valencia Seay, D-College Park.

"Racial profiling is still something that comes up every year," she said. "We need law enforcement to understand that young black males in blue jeans, with an Afro aren't guilty of anything in particular."

Seay, who sits on the caucus' board of directors, recognized that county law enforcement officials have taken measures to thwart the problem, but said the practice still persists across the state.

Capt. Jeff Turner said Clayton County officers receive diversity training and are taught not to profile.

Although the caucus' 49 legislators will broach problems facing the state's black population, the conference's overall theme will be the grass-roots path to political and economic empowerment.

The black population in Clayton County already has seen a swell in their empowerment through a demographic shift.

Recent Census estimates have put the black population at around 59 percent, giving Clayton County the largest black majority in metro Atlanta.

The result has been increased political representation for Clayton County African-Americans.

The buying power of blacks in Clayton County also has increased dramatically in the last 14 years, according to a report by Jeffrey Humphreys, the director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

From 1990 to 2004, blacks' buying power in Clayton County has jumped 454.7 percent.

During the course of the three-day event, the caucus will present a series of free workshops, which will apply the recent developments to future community and economic development.

Seay said Clayton County will have ample representation at the conference, with a number of politicians, students and community activists in attendance.

Wade Starr, who worked as an assistant to the county chairman and ran for the position in the recent primaries, will be honored for his community service.

Starr helped establish the Clayton County Branch of the National Advancement for Colored People in 1986 and served as the organization's initial vice-president.

"I'm really pleased that the caucus chose to recognize all the work I have done in Clayton County," Starr said. "I'm looking forward to a chance to interact with the big decision makers."

The caucus also will award Thomasina Church of Riverdale with its 2004 Young Scholars award.

Thomasina recently graduated from North Clayton High School and currently attends Bethune-Cookman College in Florida.

The Divine Faith Ministries Ensemble Choir of Jonesboro will perform Saturday at the conference.

"It's humbling whenever you're placed in a position where you know you're going to be heard. You realize that others could have been selected," said Anita Grant, the production director for the choir.