Much has been made of the seemingly small number of African-American delegates to the GOP convention. However, speaking for the Maryland delegation, of the 24 delegates elected by congressional district, five were African- American. Republican delegates are elected; accordingly, they must be active in party activities and known in their communities to become delegates to the national convention. At least in Maryland, party bosses do not select Republican delegates, as is done in the other party.
While at the convention, I was asked by several reporters why I was a Republican (code for "You're black, you're supposed to be a Democrat"). My decision to join the Republican Party is many-faceted. But one of the reasons I left the Democratic Party my profound disagreement over how to improve the lives and living conditions of African-Americans.
During my college years, I was intrigued with the nation-building philosophies of the black nationalist movement of the 1960s. From this, I developed the belief that the people of urban America must address the challenges of urban America - and that business creation is one of the best means of doing that.
The Republican Party understands that job creation, increasing the tax base and creating wealth for owners and investors is best achieved through encouraging entrepreneurial efforts. The solution proposed by mainstream Democrats to the challenges that exist in many urban communities is to provide more government programs, which simply perpetuate dependency on governmental handouts.
The GOP philosophy is not any different from that espoused by Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey and the black nationalists of the 1960s. If the entrepreneurial spirit can be re-energized in these communities, those entrepreneurs who succeed will create jobs for the people of the community and contribute to the tax base of the city, which funds the public schools and other vital city services.
Government has a role in this process by making sure that these entrepreneurs have access to capital and eliminating unnecessary barriers to their progress. However, the initiative and spirit to succeed must start in the communities themselves.
I, along with many of my fellow delegates, witnessed first-hand how many of the philosophies that attracted me to the Republican Party are being successfully played out in Philadelphia.
The Maryland delegation had the opportunity to tour the Universal Community Homes program, which is a partnership between the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Universal, which was founded by Kenny Gamble (who brought the "Sounds of Philadelphia" to my generation).
What was most impressive was what Universal did to revitalize a 12-block area that was plagued by many of the problems that have troubled many U.S. communities. They have developed a community of townhouses, refurbished rowhouses, started a highly successful charter school, a job-training center and a small-business incubator, and have broken ground on a badly needed commercial strip. Most of all, they have developed a renewed sense of community in a once-troubled neighborhood.
While Mr. Gamble and the Universal Companies are apolitical, they espoused many of the principles that are consistent with the basic philosophies of the Republican Party.
They believe that they did not need government to identify the problems within their community nor to tell them how to address them. They embraced the philosophy of personal responsibility and that we in the community must control our destiny.
Accordingly, they are encouraging small-business development, bringing new jobs to the community, providing job training for people in the community, educating the next generation of leaders, and partnering with the city to provide quality low-income housing. Mr. Gamble and his organization have identified the problems in their community and are successfully addressing them.
Community-based groups, such as the Universal Companies, are best able to identify and develop solutions to their community's needs. It is this type of bottom-up approach to addressing issues that the Republican Party supports and wants to encourage, rather than the government (particularly at the federal level) telling communities how to address local problems with "one-size-fits-all" solutions.
The citizens of Philadelphia should be proud that their city leaders are willing to collaborate with community-based organizations to address some of the challenges these communities are facing. This is unique; too often, the government takes the position that only they can address community challenges.
I am certain that all the delegates who were able to witness the efforts of Philadelphia's community and faith-based organizations came away with a renewed appreciation of the goodness of people and were encouraged to make an impact on our communities.
To the wonderful people of Philadelphia, thank you for your gracious hospitality. Philadelphia is a wonderful city.
Boyd K. Rutherford is marketing director for Kelly Law Registry in Washington. He is also a member of the Maryland Republican State Central Committee and the education committee of the Howard County, Md., NAACP.