She noted the massive drug problem in black communities, the soaring high school dropout rate, the large number of young men in prisons, the lack of educational and employment opportunities.
Blacks are not a "monolithic group--we have class differences . . . so it's unfair to say that these should be the concerns of everybody," she said. "But the extent to which we still have a large number of black people in this country impoverished . . . we must be concerned about those issues over and above whether the labeling is correct."
Those concerns, Edelin agrees, are precisely what she wants to address. But self-perception, group identity are part of the struggle to improve life for African-Americans, she said.
"Only culture moves people forward, and we are not systematically developing our culture at this point," Edelin said. "We are working very hard one by one, but not working together."
There are individual Africans and African-Americans doing everything that needs to be done, "but they are not doing it for us and we are not doing it together."
She added that in the context of developing a political agenda that would "move us forward, reclaim our children, create markets and jobs so that we don't continue with poverty, ignorance, poor health--all the conditions that we face right now--I said one way to get started on developing this cultural context is to consistently refer to ourselves as African-Americans and to understand the tie we have to African people throughout the world."
Du Bois, about whom Edelin did her doctoral dissertation, "was right as a prophet: The 20th Century would be the problem of the color line," she said. "But it is up to us to be sure that's not the problem of the 21st Century."