Welcome to one of many events that have been taking place all over the Americas in the realization of what I have been calling the emerging black Enlightenment.
In terms of the very modest contribution of the philosophy Born of Struggle Association to this enterprise we have been trying to develop themes over the past five years around a philosophy of culture that takes as its point of departure the African American Experience . Last year our focus was on the Emerging Black Enlightenment and the future of the Race. This categorization of race has its particular interpretation and construction and also its universal application in terms of a search wherever possible for social solidarity with the peoples of the world.
Part of the inadequacy of the former enlightenment was its naiveté about rationality and its provincialism about philosophical anthropology. Today we  envisioned a more limited project with a greater realization of the tremendous task and treacherous waters involve in our understanding of what its means to be a person conceived in families whether traditional communal, extended, national or international.
I am convinced that our intellectual project will be severely hampered in an age of radical transition unless it is grounded in a reconfiguration of Family systems. Indeed we do not really need a reconfiguration but an appreciation of the Dynamics of family life that have been unfolding around us in what I dare to designate as the twilight of capitalism as we have known it for the past 150 years. How these systems are being played out within and without the academic arena will be addressed by the presenters of this conference and one of the most pressing questing that confronts us today is what Pepper Schwartz stated in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education – and I quote – “How can we stay together when there are so many forces to pull us apart and fewer to link us together.”-
No matter how changing social structure and cultural options affect contemporary families I firmly believe that the family as the source from which we draw the sustenance for our personhood is the absolutely essential entity for human community and flourishing and the intellectual life is frequently the direct result of some kind of family system. The family is the institution in which the historical memories which are critical for our development are sustained and cherished through continuity and change. In understanding the import of this statement one cannot speak about the family and the intellectual life in the American context without the consideration of race class and gender , and a little historical reference might be helpful here .
In April 1844 US secretary of State John Calhoun in a letter to the British Ambassador stated:
“Where Blacks and whites existed in the same society, slavery was the natural result. Wherever the state changed that relationship the blacks degenerated into vice and pauperism accompanied by the bodily and natural affections incident thereto- deafness blindness insanity, and idiocy.”
Calhoun believes that because of the inherent degeneracy of blacks we could not exist out side of supervision as was the case in slave states. Consequently he predicted that free blacks as a group would not last more than a hundred years after emancipation . When challenged on the source of his statistical information Calhoun pointed to the US census of 1840.
The historian Phillip A Bruce in his text of 1889 entitled The Plantation Negro as Freeman claimed that the Black Family as a social unit did not exist and consequently black children were born in state of moral degeneracy.
This Tradition of conceiving black life and family systems as pathological was up dated in December 1964 by our beloved Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan in what has come to be known as the famous or infamous internal memorandum on the black family in which he counseled President Richard Nixon to advocate a policy of “benign neglect” towards African American . Nothing constructive could be done with this segment of the population because of the black family tangle web of pathology led be the black matriarchy – change would have to come from within.
On January 25, 1986 we had one of the most remarkable spectacle of the age old myth of black degeneracy in Bill Moyers two hour CBS Special Report entitled the Vanishing Black Family-Crisis in Black America. once again the chief agency consulted for information in this racist portrayal of Black Life was the department of Census. The stereotypical appropriation of Black Family Life which is latent in the national consciousness found one of its most graphic expressions in recent times in the Willie horton spectacle and also culminated in academic respectability in The Bell Curve by Murray and Hurnstein.
Today many of us have come to accept the philosophy of benign neglect as a fact of public policy and consequently the existence of a permanent underclass . Economic disenfranchisement has led to unprecedented social dislocation among a significant sector of our population as the highest human value, which is dignity is crushed . How can we preserve human dignity in a culture in which poverty is considered a moral deficiency and is treated by the state as if it is a crime ? Many of our children are dying intellectually (by that I also mean spiritually) and literally before our eyes and we seem immobilized to reverse the present trend. To add insult to injury many families having brought to their knees by out of control market forces constantly have their intellectual sensibilities assaulted by a cultural wasteland generated by many television programming and internet viewing. I will not elaborate on Public education and the prison industrial complex. Suffice to say that it is a revealing commentary on the state of a nation when in its second largest city in 1997 more money was spent on prisons than higher education and in many large urban areas more black males are in prison than in college.
Because of the generally negative rendition of black life there are many today who still questioned whether all children can learn and who believe that the cultural deficits of some children are too deeply imbedded to overcome. Today we gather here to refute that claim and the eagerness with which our distinguished guests accepted the invitation to speak on The Family and the intellectual Life is an indication that we are not willing to concede anymore territory but to reclaim lost grounds as we seek to transform human values to reflect a more compassionate society in which a multiplicity of family life will be celebrated and respected to the extent that no group will engage in the pretence of believing it has a monopoly on Family Values. In so doing we may save our children and save our future .
 Philosophy Born of Struggle 1998
 Schwartz, Pepper , The Chronicle of Higher Education , October 2 1998 , p. B 7