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August 21, 1993|ROSANNE KEYNAN

"The time has come for African-Americans to establish a comprehensive economic plan of our own," said the Rev. Cecil Murray, pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, in anticipation of the first Economic Summit of his denomination's regional conference.

Leaders of the Southern California Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church will convene the summit Friday in South-Central Los Angeles during their annual convention, which begins Tuesday evening and continues through Aug. 29. Prominent government and business leaders are to address the summit.

Murray--whose church established a nonprofit economic-development entity, called FAME (First African Methodist Episcopal) Renaissance, after the 1992 riots--said collective action was necessary "in light of the current economic conditions facing African-Americans: high unemployment, little opportunity for bank loans in the inner city and a lack of overall economic initiatives from local, state or federal government."

The Rev. John Cager, youth minister at First A.M.E. and a project manager for FAME Renaissance, said the summit's goal is to assess the combined financial strength of the 54 member churches and mold them into a cohesive force for local economic empowerment.

Presentations will be made by U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton); state Treasurer Kathleen Brown; state Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing Thomas R. Sayles; Metropolitan Transit Authority Director Franklin E. White; RLA co-chair Bernard Kinsey; Walt Disney Co. Senior Vice President Ken Werner, and Operation Hope Chairman and founder John Bryant.

Interested participants from the churches will have a chance to weigh what they have heard and will reassemble at First A.M.E. on Sept. 13 to set a plan of action, Cager said.

They will consider a five-point strategy. The plan emphasizes increased employability through training and development, stimulated entrepreneurship through training and a loan-development fund, expanded access to capital through a joint real estate investment trust, increased free-market opportunity through support of African-American lending institutions and the petitioning of other institutions to change inequitable lending policies, and, finally, general economic improvement through development of a cooperative lending fund.

"The black church has historically been the entity that has fostered economic and business development for black people," Cager said. "If people are not free economically, they can never be free socially, politically or educationally."

Cager added that with the prolonged downturn in the economy, many churches are finding it difficult to pay their bills, much less support outreach ministries.

The conference begins with a 7 p.m. session Tuesday at First A.M.E. Church, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd., Los Angeles, and continues through Aug. 29, with sessions daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. All evening sessions will be held at First A.M.E., all daytime sessions at Grant A.M.E. Church, 10435 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles. The economic summit, which will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday at Grant A.M.E., is free to the public. For information, phone (213) 735-1251.


* Yagna , a dramatic Hindu fire ceremony, will be performed at a two-day Indian festival at Cerritos College this weekend. In accordance with the ancient rite created to bring divine blessing upon the family unit and the world, more than 1,000 married couples will light torches at 8 a.m. today, offering sacrifices of grain and ghee as Vedic hymns are sung. The torches' flames--also intended to inspire mankind to lofty sentiments and righteous behavior--will burn throughout the festival, held today and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The event is sponsored by the religious movement Gayatri Pariwar. Admission and food are free. 1110 E. Alondra Blvd., Cerritos. (310) 809-1573 or (818) 884-4947.

* The experience of Chinese and Jewish pioneers in Southern California will be explored and celebrated with slides, discussion, a walking tour and a cross-cultural finger-food buffet at a unique, joint meeting of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California at 2 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Merced Theatre, 420 N. Main St., on the south side of the historic El Pueblo de Los Angeles Monument in Downtown Los Angeles. Docents will conduct tours of significant buildings in the area. Admission is $10, $8 for members of either society. Reservations are required: (213) 653-7740.

* Absolute Being Science of Mind Church of Religious Science holds its first Sunday service at 11 a.m. at the West End Playhouse. The Rev. Lee Domez's sermon is titled "Open a New Window." 7446 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys. (818)899-1636.

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