Last week, I was privileged to have a life-changing experience on the great continent of Africa in the capitol city of Accra, Ghana.

Rev. Charles Jenkins, pastor of Fellowship M.B. Church of Chicago, and myself, as the president of the newly formed Greater Westside RainbowPUSH Coalition, were invited guests to travel with Rev. Jesse Jackson.

We were blessed to be part of a magnificent event: The African Union Summit.

The summit’s purpose was to discuss the formation of a United States of Africa. Fifty two African heads of state attended the summit. I shall forever cherish the conversations, contacts and connections sparked on this expedition. I must also humbly submit that my access to the presidents and prime ministers of these African countries was solely because of the documented decades of freedom fighting, and the irrepressible persona of, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

I am still processing my experience of proximity and engagement with these heads of state, who discussed their mutual issues and critical concerns on a host of maladies – AIDS, debt relief, hunger, poverty, foreign trade, exploitation and corruption – and how they could be dealt with through powerful efficacy using the concept, principle and practical process of unity (Unity manifesting itself as a unified interdependent continent).

In other words, the continent of Africa, heretofore a sleeping giant (truly Africa is gigantic – the countries of China, Europe, India and the U.S. can all fit within the continent of Africa with room to spare), would rise from its slumber and stand in its new identity as the true Atlas of the globe.

This new identity, however, requires a non-negotiable cooperation. Cooperation requires interdependence. Interdependence requires integration. Integration is required for any kind of unity.

The different parts of an engine must be configured to work together. Each part of the engine is respected for its specific function, but the part itself can never be the engine. It is only when the many parts are fitted together -integrated- that we can experience the benefits and power of a working engine.

Though these countries occupy the common land of Africa, and are thereby in many ways connected by a natural infrastructure, the practical and functional truth is this: without the harmonization by the representative leadership of progressive thinking and policies, there won’t be true integration.

Listening to the various heads of state discuss the concerns and issues of their individual countries, the discussions registered as a familiar echo in my consciousness.

All the talk on health care, HIV/AIDS, employment, debt relief, and foreign policy instantly transported my mind back home here on the West Side.

With 52 African countries uniting, it made me realize how powerful it would be if 52 West Side organizations did the same.

We must remember something essential and use it as a stepping-stone, as opposed to a tombstone. New failures and old failures are a necessary part of the process. Because if we stop trying, it then becomes about the salvation of egos rather than the salvation and alleviation of the ills of the innocents. Our focus must always be on the people. We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves, even our success for the good of the people.

I’d like to know how many of us would be interested in creating a ‘United West Side.’ Not a new organization. Not a competing entity. Just all the different parts of the West Side coming together, like the 52 nations of Africa. I’d like to see gang leaders, the folks in the hood who run alternative economies, the preachers, believers, and folks who don’t believe. White, black, brown and yellow – all united.

Even Moammar Khadafi, head of state of Libya, drove through the desert to be at the summit. I know we can certainly get folks to cross Austin and Madison in order to create better schools. We can offer assistance to parents. We can listen to young brothers and sisters who need to tell their side of the story…ya feel me?

Can we come together for a United West Side Summit? All it takes is an invitation, asking for the decision makers from every group to show up at a particular place, day and time. It doesn’t matter if we’ve tried to come together before and it didn’t work, or even if it didn’t work long enough. What matters is that our sisters and brothers are being cheated of becoming the incredible persons God created them to be.

If you want to have a summit, call me at 312/276-4038.