by Akindele Akinyemi (March 1, 2010)
It’s time for the civil rights leaders in our community to sit down and enjoy their rest of their lives.
It’s time for Black folks who call themselves conservatives and parrot the ideologies of mainstream conservatives to sit down as well.
We are in a state of crisis, emergency and straight catastrophe. No longer we need the old guard of leadership to try to lead us into the promise land. This has hurt our cause tremendously.
It still bothers me to see how the Congressional Black Caucus, the most ineffective caucus on Capitol Hill, to clown the Obama Administration because he is not doing enough for Black America.
President Obama is the President of the United States not Black America. And if he was the President of Black America I would tell him to put on a bulletproof vest because there is ALWAYS a hater in the midst.
Black America ELECTS the Congressional Black Caucus to REPRESENT us. Instead, it was revealed how they represent corporate interests. No surprise there since these same corporate interests they entertain have not brought back jobs into the urban community.
But most importantly, we have not even heard them COLLECTIVELY fight against failing education in our community. Oh, I forgot they cannot do this because of the teacher unions.
This is why they need to sit down for good. Not just the CBC but these Legislative Black Caucus leaders as well. We will START with my homestate of Michigan where every urban center is destroyed to the core. From Detroit to Benton Harbor to Muskegon to Saginaw there is zero growth in these areas.
And we keep electing more foolishness into office to constantly ignore the needs of the urban communities. Not just Black Democrats but Black Republicans are NOT off the hook either.
We appreciate everything our leaders did in the Civil Rights Movement. Some of these people died for freedom and justice. If it was not for the Civil Rights Movement we would have still been drinking from separate water fountains, riding on the back of the bus and being lynched for looking at a White woman.
However, there comes a time when we need to re-evaluate our position as a community.
Even with Blacks coming into political power in the late 60 and early 70s, or Blacks becoming Republicans or independents our brand of leadership have not changed. Therefore, it has created a vacuum for our future.
These civil rights leaders have not addressed how our young Black men are barely surviving in the 21st century. In fact, today so many of us do not exist in our community. 50% to 80% of prison and jail populations are made up of Black men although we are less than 7% of the total U.S. population.
And while these same Civil Rights leaders who beg for the crumbs that fall from our masters tables more than 70% of our children are born into single, female-headed households. When we discuss colleges and universities the Black male populations on many major college campuses total a mere 1% to 3%.
Now some feel that President Obama should directly address these issues. I do not feel that way. I feel that these same haters who originally jumped on Hillary Clinton’s bandwagon before Obama’s bandwagon should be called out and VOTED out for allowing such genocide to occur in our communities. They have never liked Obama and in my personal opinion are no better than mainstream conservatives criticizing him. Maybe they should have voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin or Ron Paul in the last Presidential election and called it even.
Well, these same old civil rights leaders have paralyzed our community with their inept policies. It hurts me to see people cheering on old Black men or women for re-election to send back to Congress, the State House or Senate when they are STUCK in their ways of thought. This is not elevation but stagnation. The voting on name recognition only has killed progress in our community and we need to open this decade with new leadership that will work on our behalf. For those who oppose term limits on any level need to rethink your position. Ask yourself, when was the last time Congressman John Dingell brought anything new to the table? The man has been in office since 1955. Congressman John Conyers have been in office since 1964.
Today, this new generation of urban leaders often fights battles on two fronts: 1) we fight to remedy and mitigate against the vestiges of racism and inequality that still remain; and 2) we struggle with some older generation leaders who are unable or unwilling to make room, make way, get on board, be led or at the very least – get out of the way.
New generation urban leaders often find themselves in a constant struggle to both recognize, honor and respect those who came before while exercising our own authentic leadership relevant to the 21st century and beyond. We struggle to find the space to lead and to do so in our own way, with our own style, vision and methods; and we long to do so with the respect and support of older leaders whom we typically came into our work admiring, respecting and wanting to emulate.
For example, there are a large number of young Black conservatives who lack knowledge of their own history and culture. This, in return, as affected their dialogue to create solutions because most do not know what happened in the past. Part of this reason is because most of these young people were born in the mid to late 80s so they never experienced the Civil Rights or Black Power movements. And most are too young to remember the conscious hip hop movements of the late 80s to early 90s that helped reflect and reinforced our conscious way of thinking.
Mentors like myself not only must educate those who are serious about change in our community but also give them a worldview of education that can help connect them with their past to present and connect them to the global balance sheet that exists out here. When young Black conservatives begin to discuss policy issues and move away from political rhetoric they will (1) be able to begin solution driven policies that are 21st century based and (2) create a new pool of independent thinkers/scholars that value not only the importance of education as a passport to freedom but understand economics, family and urban infrastructure.
Until that happens, young Black conservatives will continue to rely on Glenn Beck and other mainstream conservatives who are (1) opportunists and (2) divisive. These people do not have the right ingredients to solve what is going on in urban America. Older Black conservatives have an full obligation (whether they like it or not) to mentor and educate our young people who are conservative by teaching them the truth about our plight here in this country and where we are going. To do otherwise is failure.
Meanwhile, in the past 50 years we need to ask in urban America what has transformed into making our cities great, our educational system better and our families intact? The only thing our Democratic civil rights leadership gives you today is a headache when you try to figure out what they’re standing for and what they’re doing to remedy the social and economic disparities this community is facing today. It’s embarrassing.
On the other hand, Black conservatives use the easy way out by pointing to the War on Poverty programs of the late 60s. But refuse to take the hard way in when it comes to solutions and practices that will help engage action. It’s easy for both sides to play the blame game but when its time to talk about infant mortality, unemployment, and education we need to learn that (1) whatever worked in the 1950s is most likely NOT applicable in 2010 and (2) we are living in an information age NOT an industrial age. You can keep conservative values BUT the strategy in the transformation and policy process must be different to keep up in a global competivie society.
Today, this new generation of Black leadership is struggling to find the space to co-exist, thrive and lead with an older generation not always willing to pass the baton and graciously make room. That is fine because we have a history of innovation on our side. Leadership in this community must be policy oriented and spiritual based. When I say spiritual I am not just talking about Christianity. I find more spiritual people who take care of themselves OUTSIDE the church with holistic diets, exercise, and expanding their way of thinking. Everyone who is participating in the transformation of our community will not be Baptist, AME or COGIC. Some may practice Judaism or some might be Muslim. Should we ostracize them because they have a different faith? Again, are you thinking for yourself or is someone thinking for you?
The socio-political infighting amongst each other is not only dangerous and damaging for the negative impact it can have on our communities’ need for real, united leadership but is is also self-destructive in nature. One side is talking about the free market while the other side is talking about Keynesian economics. How about both sides coming together to create a new economic model that we can compete globally and gain our fair share of wealth that we can tap into? This will take a high level of scholarship to develop which means you will have to think outside the box.
I understand that we have some of our elders in the community embracing this new generation of urban leaders who have proven themselves fully capable of taking the mantle to further advance civil rights and social change. The challenge is will older leaders, the trailblazers whose shoulders many of us stand on, get on board to work with and support the new generation of leaders so that we can experience the manifestation of the very dreams they fought hard for?
This is why its time to make the transformation from civil rights to silver rights. Its time to move into the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Education is a global silver right and I cannot understand why so many of us will not take to the streets to change our outdated academic system. If we can take the same energy to elect President Obama then what is our excuse of not taking the same energy to save both our families and education system? How come we have to be a reactionary group of people when we should be proactive?
It’s time for this generation to fully engage in public-private partnerships, helping convert small business dreamers into small business owners and helping people help themselves to create more stakeholders in our community.
What our Democratic civil rights leadership must understand is that the 20th century was marked, both here and abroad, by issues related to race and the color line. Today, in the 21st century, its marked by issues of class and poverty.
Let’s face it the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and it is harder for the average person, simply to remain “middle class.” 30 short years ago, middle class meant one parent working, and one parent raising our children at home, as a sort of domestic engineer. Today middle class most often means two parents working, and the television set and popular culture is raising our children, in our place.
And with so many people living from paycheck to paycheck (if they are even working to begin with) is a struggle. In this community we are one paycheck away from poverty. This must change.
An estimated 65 million Americans have no traditional banking relationship. Another 33 million are dirt poor in this country.
Now when you look at Black America and keep in mind our leadership comes from our community we see how one million Black children in the United States are living in extreme poverty. 58% of Black boys do not graduate from high school in the United States. Many of the 42% who do will be given diplomas that graduate them to low-wage jobs or no jobs at all, street-corner hustling, incarceration and violent death. In fact, for most of these students, their high school diplomas will not lead to a decent job, acceptance to a good college or even qualify them for military service.
Today, I can careless what you refer yourself to my concern is can we get the job done?
Our community must immediately disengage from the diversions of mind-deadening entertainment, useless sports, hyper-sexuality, excessive social celebrations, pointless conversations and debates about Democrats and Republicans..conservatives vs. liberals, meaningless media and the civil rights issues approaches to managing our problems. We must begin to think independently not rely 100% on Fox News, Tea Parties, NAACP Dinners and Fighting the Power. Our market is now global not just domestic. Our destiny has nothing to do with 1776 but 2010.
We must focus on the most important issue in our communities — making EDUCATION the highest priority. Please, do not come to me about how to make a million dollars when (1) you are broke yourself and (2) possess a hustling mentality. If quality education is not the foundation of your solution then you are wasting time. Black have to get out of this hustling mentality that has created a rat race in our community. The same people who are telling you NOT to get involved in certain policies are INVOLVED themselves if not making money on the side. Think for yourself to create a new level of leadership.
We must create a counterculture of literacy and learning that replaces intellectual apathy and resistance to educational progress. Somehow, we must re-inspire our children to want to learn and to love to learn. But having educated children is not enough. We must have educated families and educated communities. Every Black man, woman and child must become part of this new community of learners.
Now more than ever in our history, leadership in the Black community needs to be cross-generational, united and mutually respectful. Anything less is a recipe for failure.