TROY—The election of the first African-American U.S. president is cause for celebration, but it will take unity and perseverance to bring true racial justice to American society.
That was the central theme of Judge Greg Mathis, the star of the nationally syndicated “Judge Mathis” television show, in his remarks Friday evening to open the eighth annual Leadership Conference Celebrating Black History Month, sponsored by Troy University and the City of Troy.
Mathis said the election of Barak Obama is proof that blacks and whites can work together. He said that same spirit of unity is needed to build a society that is “not about black and white, but about what’s right or wrong.”
“Unity is more powerful than any of the other weapons used during the civil rights movement, including the Molotov cocktails thrown by some of the radicals,” Mathis said.
The judge urged conference participants in Sartain Hall on the Troy University Campus to work together to stamp out injustice in the economy, the workplace and the criminal justice system. He lamented the fact that African-American males compose one-half of the U.S. prison population while making up only 6 percent of the total population.
Mathis, who served a jail term in his youth, said too many African-American men take to lives of crime and drugs because they believe they can’t win against an “uneven playing field” brought about by racial prejudice. Mathis said that kind of negativity must be rejected in favor of hard work, sacrifice and persistence.
“If the door of opportunity is closed to you, then kick it in,” he said. “Instead of destroying themselves with drugs and alcohol, they need to fight back. Don’t teach our young men and women to fear society, teach them to face their obstacles.”
Mathis received a standing ovation from the more than 700 participants, the largest crowd to hear a keynote address in the eight-year history of the conference. He was introduced by Circuit Judge Anita L. Kelly of Montgomery.
Judge Greg Mathis, whose syndicated television reality-based court show appears on five television stations in Alabama, is a former Detroit, Mich., district court judge whose on-air decisions are legally binding. He was the youngest judge in Michigan’s history and later served as a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District.
The Leadership Conference Celebrating Black History Month annually brings together civic and community leaders, clergymen and business leaders in a collaborative and educational forum to discuss a central theme – this year’s being “Responsible Citizenship.