Archive for the ‘Wisdom of The Elders’ Category

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This series celebrates the accomplishments and explores the wisdom of our foreparents.
The Story

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.

Messianic Model

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.

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“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).

The Problem

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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.

-Kevin Powell

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.

The Point

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

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This series celebrates the accomplishments and explores the wisdom of our foreparents.
The Story
In a previous post I addressed some of the fatal flaws of the Black Power movement. In that post I suggested that part of the problem was that the movement began to blend into the Black Liberation movement which believed that the only way Black people could gain political and economic power was to unify themselves into their own nation. I don’t oppose that idea; however, I felt that the Black Power movement by itself held a philosophy that offered Black Americans the chance to begin to define themselves in relation to and within the United States.
Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) speaks about the power to define
The Problem

The problem is that we are living in one of the most un-creative, copy cat, cookie cutter eras in our country’s history. Take for example the huge numbers of movies that have been released in the last decade. So many of them are remakes or revisionings of older creations. Our institutions are nostalgic and have lost their innovation (such as the higher education system). All around us the system seeks only to reproduce itself and in doing so we have lost the imagination and vision that brings greatness and progress.

For the Black community that means stagnation and arrested development. We have ceased to make the gains of previous generations because we are reluctant to question the status quo. We are afraid of getting it wrong. We are un willing to exercise our power to define.

The Power to Define

Ture’s speech embodies the core of the Black Power movement’s philosophy and sums up what is most needed by the Black community: the power to define.

In another post I discussed social consensus. I believe it is social consensus that often defines who we are. We measure ourselves against the accepted public opinion about things like what it means to be successful or what it means to be beautiful and we build our identities from there. However, much like Ture suggests, Black people have to exercise their power to define themselves. We have to begin to confidently assert this ability and even though it may, at times, contradict public opinion, that does not make it bad or wrong (terms I detest using).

The Point

When we begin to define ourselves, the world around us begins to reel because we are refusing to be placed in a position dictated by the whims of those around us. Kwame Ture’s speech teaches us that there is power in our ability to define ourselves and those who seek to control us or who are too afraid to create themselves will find our audacity offensive. But the audacity to live one’s life on their own terms and create one’s identity by one’s own definitions is not offensive or condescending; it’s an imperative. It is an imperative that our generation must heed.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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This series celebrates the accomplishments and explores the wisdom of our foreparents.
The Background

I love Nina Simone. I love her music because of it’s artistry and craftsmanship. Her voice is not what we describe in popular critique as beautiful, but there is something compelling about the way she gives of herself all of herself however beautiful. That is something not all beautiful voices can do. I also love Nina for her mind and intellect. In this clip she discusses what it means to be free. No doubt the question was inspired by her song I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free. Her response, though, is profound.

The Story

In thinking on Nina’s response, I considered for a moment the definition she gave for freedom: “No fear.” Supposing that being free means having no fear, we are prisoners.

I once heard a conversation where a person was asking an off duty police officer that they knew personally about an arrest warrant the person had for missing a court date. The person genuinely wanted to know how to rectify the situation. Instead of solid information on how to go about removing the warrant and resetting the court date, the officer kept telling the person about how they could be picked up anywhere and that the police could even come the person’s house to arrest them. The officer told them the best thing they could do was to turn themselves in at their local precinct. Which is true, but he never offered to tell the person that if they didn’t want to spend at least the night in jail, they should secure a bail bondsman beforehand or that they could pay an attorney to handle both the ticket and the warrant and never have to turn themself in at all.

What stood out to me was that the police officer was more concerned with scaring the person — and appearing to sadistically enjoy doing so — than actually helping. And this was an out of uniform officer speaking someone they knew. I imagine the officer felt he was doing the right thing by encouraging the individual to bring themselves “to justice.” It’s evident that in this country we often confuse fear with submission and obedience. It was this thought that the Civil Rights activists fought against. Something powerful happens we cease from being afraid.

The Problem

We live in a time in America when the governing powers count on our fear. They count on our fear of imprisonment, our fear of the loss of our rights, our fear of the loss of our privileges. But what would happen if the people stopped being afraid? The country would change.

Every great movement that has evolved this country has happened because the people lost their fear. As a colonist settlement we lost our fear of Britain and founded our own country despite the fear of failure. The abolitionists freed the slaves because they lost their fear of dividing the country and risked economic destitution (because salve labor is what funded and sustained this country). The Vietnam War was ended because people lost their fear of criticizing their own country. The Civil Rights movement prevailed because Black people lost their fear of lynchings, disappearings, brutality, and death.

The Point

As our country plummets into another wave of evolution, success will require us to forsake our fear in pursuit of justice, diplomacy, and fairness. I once heard that Malcolm X said “There is no revolution without bloodshed.” Probably a true statement. But the root if that statement is that there is no revolution where there is fear. And better said there is no evolution without the mastery of fear. It’s risky, it’s dangerous, and it’s difficult; but as long as fear prevails, change can’t happen. I have learned that there are some things one must do afraid.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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They say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. We have no intention of going back from where we came. Those who have come before us have given their lives to secure certain gains for the Black community. We would be reminded to ignore such accomplishments and the lessons they learned.

In order to forge into the future, without backtracking a dozen times, we must take to heart those thing we know. And we know them because our parents discovered them. They are the truths that form the foundation of all we hope to do.

This series celebrates the accomplishments and explores the wisdom of our foreparents. In this series we will apply that knowledge to the world that we know. We will bring new meaning to their lessons and amend their errors. Here the past meets the future in the only place it can: the present. Let the wisdom of the elders guide us.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man