"You cannot take your eyes off the prize," was the recurrent message of a speech given by the Reverend Al Sharpton yesterday to an audience of about 110 students gathered in Emerson Hall.
"In this month, as we commemorate Black history, the challenge is not that we review the past," said Sharpton, "but that we deal with the present and future."
"Too often," he continued, "it is the habit of African-American students to have a romantic view of Black history. To study Black history is notable. To make Black history is even more appropriate."
Sharpton said he found it "disturbing" that the current generation of African-American students "are not following the struggle of the generation before them. In recent years, we've gone from [Martin Luther] King and Malcolm [X.] to Snoop Doggy Dogg."
He asserted that the responsibility to continue the civil rights movement lies with students. "Every movement in this nation has been populated by students. We must ask what this generation will contribute."
The civil rights activist reiterated what he called "the need for students to go out into the real world and get involved."
Sharpton continued, "There are groups right here in Boston that need students for things ranging from tutoring remedial reading and math to voter registration."
"If you can't find projects, start them," he exhorted the students present.
Sharpton, who recently announced that he will challenge Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the New York State Democratic primary, alluded often to his discontent with both national and state politics. "Despite the rhetoric of the new President, there are still 35 million poor people in this country," he said.
"We play smoke games with our social issues, trying to hide them from view," Sharpton said. "But when the smoke clears, the poor are still poor, AIDS hasn't been dealt with, and this country's urban centers are no better."
"The infrastructure of this country is falling apart, but we think it's more important to spend our money exploring Pluto, so we know what the Martians will look like when they land," he said.
Sharpton discussed his plan to develop "a progressive party of our own" in the New York Senate race. "I think it is atrocious that [Moynihan] is sitting in the United States Senate. I intend to win the primary."
Alluding to his unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 1992, he quipped, "I don't plan to do anything different in this election--other than win."
Addressing a question from an audience member about his "non-traditional media image," Sharpton said that he is often misrepresented. "The picture of me in a jogging suit with a medallion was created by the media. I never wore jogging suits, other than to jail--because I didn't want to mess up any of my [formal] suits."
Sharpton attacked "the media's depiction of rapgroups as a cause of urban violence." He assertedthat factors such as mainstream television aremore destructive.
"Angela Lansbury, who looks like everybody'sgrandmother and finds a murder a week, is moredangerous than a Black guy with his hat onbackwards," he said