In a recent article regarding the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri one writer wrote that people that came down that as people came down to join and chronicle the protests a question that continued to come up was who was the leader of these rallies. The journalist stated that the question was often met with ambiguity or indifference.
It appeared that these young had come and assembled without leadership. For the previous generation this may seem like an odd occurrence or an indication of a lack of organization. In the extreme this may even seem like anarchy but the truth is that the world has changed since the struggles of old and so have the people.
It has often been discussed about the state of Black leadership. The civil rights champions have begun to wonder who will take their place and continue the fight. This strange new generation with their social media, texting, and education seem to be ill equipped for the fight ahead of them. But I submit to you that every generation is given what the need to meet the world in which they live. The only reason that anyone cannot see this is if they have spent the majority of their lives in a world that no longer exists.
“And I know that oftentimes older people are very distressed by the fact that young people just don’t know what it meant to struggle to get this far. And in a sense its good they don’t know because it’s good that they can take for granted what we had to fight for. Because that way their vision can be much more far reaching.
– Angela Davis
In the Black communities of the past there has often been one individual who has risen from the masses to lead the movement. For America this has given the perception of the messianic model of Black leadership where one person such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rev. Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton. These singular activists became voices for entire movements despite whatever affiliation they had to a larger group or organization. However, one of the most wholistic movements of the Black community, The Black Power movement, was built on a model of group leadership. Granted their was a hierarchy of leadership and certain individuals and voices stood out from the larger group for instance Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Kathleen Cleaver will always be remembered as voices of The Black Power Movement. But the overall mission of the Black Panthers was to empower communities to lead and struggle for themselves (hence why they were chapters of Black Panthers nationwide).
I for one could not tell you who the national leaders are of Jewish America, or Latino America or Chinese America. And maybe that’s ok. Enough with all the celebrity and pomp and circumstance around finding the nation’s next household-name for the black community. Time for black leaders to realize we need many names to help lead many communities.
Searching for the face and/or voice of Black leadership is dead. The wait is over. The leaders are here and they will appear in the dust of the battle because leaders don’t make movements; movements make leaders.
We have gotten so accustomed to one person as the leader of the struggle tha we are waiting for the rise of this messiah. We have forgotten that a movement is made of many bodies, many voices, many leaders. We cannot wait for that one person to arrive; we must all be that one person.
We, the people of the community must be willing to assemble in ambiguity of leadership and write the programs that will guide our struggle. This model will be the standard for groups across the nation to struggle for justice and equality under the leadership of the principles and ideology that we have crafted instead of under the will of one person.
What we have learned is that there is no one God ordained sinless Moses who is going to lead us through the Red Sea. We will walk together and part that sea collectively when we reach it. Who’s the leader is so much less important of a question than what is the struggle and how do we plan to win it. Out focus has to be about getting our communities what they need and not judging the voices and faces that speak for us. Whoever the leading voices of the struggle are they will be as imperfect and flawed as we are – as they should be – we will never find a messiah in a man.
The question is then: Who can lead the way in this effort? Here comes a new idea for a Talented Tenth: The concept of a group-leadership, not simply educated and self-sacrificing, but with clear vision of present world conditions and dangers, and conducting American Negroes to alliance with culture groups in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, and looking toward a new world culture. We can do it. We have the ability. The only ques tion is, have we the will?
– W.E.B DuBois
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man