Message to the Black Community
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” (Ben Franklin Quote – At the signing of the Declaration of Independence)
If the American founders had not been united in their rebellion, England would have surely executed them one by one. However, because they remained united, it was harder to isolate them individually so as to hang them. The Black community must borrow this mandate from Benjamin Franklin. Our power is in our unity and today we are extremely divided, if not in spirit, most definitely in purpose. If any of our leaders from pre-1970 (i.e. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Elijah Muhammad, etc.) were miraculously to return today, they would not know this Black America nor would they recognize this Black leadership. The problems are worse and the fight is nonexistent. Where will the help come from to help the Black community?
For the millions of Black families and Black children living in poverty,; the tens of thousands of Black men that will be permanently disconnected from their families (i.e. prison or cemetery), the hundreds of thousands of Black children coming out of public schools woefully academically behind, the wealth gap (it’s more like a canyon) and its impact on African Americans with an increase in low income families and a decrease in the Black middle class and the demise of Black families with traditional two-parent heads of household (i.e. mother and father); these and other issues have historical ramifications.
I asked you when the Black community enjoyed the full benefits of being American with the capacity and legal backing to compete with all other groups.
Without going back to pre-1860 (enslavement of Blacks), it was a mere 60 years ago with the passage of landmark legislation (i.e. Civil Rights Act and Voting Right Acts). It was clear our issues were historic. While these legislations were significant, each and every one has been thoroughly undermined and has become ineffective. Unfortunately, the Black community has fallen asleep, especially our leaders. The Black community has not had a collective win since the 1960s. With all that is going on with the Black community, where is there any evidence that the movement for freedom, justice, and equality is being waged? What also gives me tremendous concern, given the level of Black despair, is the apparent lack of urgency (Blacks are more passive now than ever before). Where will the help come from to help the Black community?
The current cohort of Black leaders (i.e. civic, religious, business, academia, intellectual, etc.) has failed the Black community overall, not because they are bad people, but because they have fully integrated and assimilated into White America and many have entered their positions of influence only to follow the policies and protocols of their White predecessors. The impact of this behavior has been the dilution of the Black base, the Black movement. It was the hope of our ancestors, who waged the fight for freedom, justice and equality for Black people, that this group would not just join the ranks of the Caucasian power structure, but accept those positions to be the change for the Black community (the next level). I believe our ancestors are turning over in their graves. The power that they sought and began to achieve and use has now evaporated.
I say that the Black leaders have failed the Black community mainly because they have mismanaged the limited Black power they inherited. The goal was to leverage the power to grow and build it. You must ask yourself what is power and, specifically, what is Black power. Black power is a number of things but it is clear that Black power is Black wealth; Black power is Black institutions; Black Power is Black organizations; Black power is Black businesses; Black power is Black know-how and self-determination; and Black power is Black economics. Black power is the ability “to do” and the ability “to be” and the ability to “prevail”. Black power is the ability to achieve freedom, justice and equality in America. Where will the help come from to help the Black community? Let us start with freedom.
Black Power is Black Economics. Real freedom is economic freedom. While Blacks have made significant progress since emancipation, we still are the most vulnerable economic group in America. The percentage of the nation’s wealth owned by Black people is unchanged since physical emancipation in in 1863. Blacks own less than 0.05 percent of the nation’s nearly $150 trillion of wealth. Nearly 90 percent of all of the nation’s wealth has been passed from one generation to another. This wealth is forever locked up (i.e. cash, stocks, bonds, land, business, trust accounts, endowments, foundations, etc.). While not all white people are rich, there is a massive disparity between the net assets of the average white family versus the average Black family ($100k+ vs $6-8k). This plays out in education opportunities, housing and neighborhood selection, capitalization of entrepreneurial aspirations, and a genuine ability for self-determination for Blacks. Where will the help come from to help the Black community?
Everyone marvels at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream Speech” but few know the real contents of this most powerful speech and some say it represented a turning point in the philosophy of Dr. King. He called the Emancipation Proclamation (the physical freedom) a “symbolic shadow.”
“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So, we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
Today, nearly 45 million Blacks in America struggle socially and economically. Our great hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said it repeatedly but unfortunately, this is not what we talk about when we mention him today. We have allowed the same enemies of Blacks that created and implemented new types of slavery to water down his message and the message of many of our other heroes. Yes, physical freedom was important but where is the economic justice? Where is the deal to repair what was, and is done to Black people and how do children of those who were captive and enslaved benefit from the economic windfall that is afforded to the children who enslaved them?
Freedom must be “economic freedom” and Black people want and deserve to have real freedom. Blacks are worse off now than when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made that speech. Then and now, Blacks rank dead last in almost every positive demographics (economic), and dominate in all of the negative demographics. All of the negative demographics have worsened over the past fifty years. All of this can be tied directly to our economic struggles in this country. Given this economic challenge, the Black community has been unable to aggregate and align its limited resources (i.e. human and financial) in any meaningful way to have any real impact.
Black Power is Black Organization. Any solution to address economic freedom for Black people must involve a significant level of organizing that must take place at every level of the Black community. The problems facing the Black community are massive, yet interrelated, and cannot be overcome using existing “individual” and “silo” strategies. They will require collective and multifaceted approaches if we expect sustained improvement and progress. Since no “one” organization can undertake a truly multifaceted strategy singlehandedly (no organization can do everything), organizing the Black community is an absolutely critical and crucial step towards addressing any aspect of the problems we face.
In addition, though society in general is organized, it is not organized enough to address the massive disparities that continue to challenge the very existence of the Black community. Instead, it severely impedes our efforts and will require some reconfiguring in the future. Not only does the Black community need to be more organized for real reform to happen, the different sectors of America’s society must also be somewhat ordered to allow for the implementation of any internal plan. Restated, all levels of government – philanthropic, large non-profits (i.e. health, education, and service delivery), business and corporate, civic, and political sectors – must be organized and aligned if the African American community is to implement successfully any plan of change.
If you agree with me that the Black community needs real power to be able to chart self-determination, then we need Black organizations to fight and defend Black economics. If Blacks are able to achieve economic freedom, which is a requirement for securing justice and equality (this is the Black struggle), we must develop Black organization and leadership. Yes, we have Black leaders but we do not have Black leadership. There is a huge difference.
Leaders by themselves are important and sometimes effective. However, “leadership” is the vehicle that houses numerous “leaders” to be more effective, like a laser. The “ship” is the vehicle (organization) that we must have and this is why I question Black leaders today who aren’t fighting and advocating for organization. They are not moving to the center of Black unity. When we move to the center, we leave our commitment to our own way, our own thing (i.e. selfishness, tribalism, and individualism) and then we can refocus and develop the ability to solve the issues that we face. I call this a “sober” approach and strategy. The Black community must secure power to overcome problems and challenges that are so “cemented” and “mature” that they absolutely handicap and paralyze the Black community. To defeat it will require a “sober” approach. Where will the help come from to help the Black community?
To get there we need Black leadership, which we do not have. We need Black leaders to push for functional unity and the development of Black organizations. We must lead our people to the center where our race is first. Sure, there are many Black leaders doing amazing work and they should not stop, but it is just not enough and never will be (the gap is widening) and if they are truly honest with themselves, they will come to the same conclusion that I have unless we begin to work together WE WILL NOT STAND A CHANCE. We must adopt a “race” first strategy and build an organization that utilizes all of our resources and diversity (i.e. rich or poor, student or teacher, civic or religious, young or old, male and female, etc.) in the defense of our people who are defenseless.
Even though our Black leaders possess many of the resources the Black community needs, they, unfortunately, lack functional unity. THEY ARE MISSING THE MARK AND ARE UNABLE TO HELP OUR COMMUNITY. The Black community also faces the imbalance of who should be our leaders. If you asked ten Black people who are our leaders, nine will say either Black politicians and/or clergy and this is backwards – politicians and clergy cannot be the absolute leaders. The Black community must move this perception of leadership to include the Black business community. In a capitalistic society, it is the business communities that should lead these are the people who run the country, the state, the county, the cities, and our neighborhoods.
The HELP that we need cannot come from the clergy or the politician exclusively. Why? Black politicians are still a minority within the political circles and they have yet to build a strong Black caucus needed to advance the issues exclusively for Blacks and all politicians serve at the mercy of those that help them get elected (money and votes) especially those that provide the financing. While Black clergy are responsible for delivering a spiritual message, they never talk about the “business” of religion, which is equally critical to their success. In addition, by its very nature, the religious community is competing against each other and this competition prevents the coming to the center (unity) that Black community needs. They can be part of the leadership but are unable to take the lead. Make no mistake about it, religion is big business and the business of religion must be managed first and well before the delivery of religion has a shot. There is a significant difference between the mega-church pastor and the man with a bullhorn standing downtown preaching. I am not saying that some religious leaders have not been able to accomplish both, but what I am saying is that one has to happen before the other. In addition, there are too many Black clergy members who focus only on the “word of God” and that word sometimes prevents them from dealing with the worldly issues that we must address.
While I am not a religious person, I am an extremely spiritual person and I will never argue against the concept of putting my faith in God. However, I will not fail to maximize my human capabilities (intellect, imagination, creativity, energy) and apply it to our issues. At the end of the day, we are all communicating to the same one God (no matter what name you choose) and that goes for the oppressed and the oppressor. I argue that we are both already equipped with the tools needed to win. Yet, the Black race seems to be outmaneuvered, undermanned, overwhelmed, and the clear loser. Maybe if we did more of what our oppressors are doing, we might have a chance to prevail. Many of the Black clergy can help by organizing those that attend their places of worship but they have limitations in leading the efforts.
Let us face the facts and conclude that the Black community in America is in need of real and serious help. HELP in the form of better neighborhoods – too many of our neighborhoods lack any real investment and have become blighted and dangerous enclaves that produce a disproportionate level of violence and crime; HELP in the form of an equitable and much improved education system – our schools systems have so failed the Black community that many have been labeled “school to prison pipeline;” HELP in the form of real jobs and more jobs that pay a livable wage with benefits and a trajectory for growth and promise. Being that too many Black adults are unprepared for the 21st century workplace, they require much needed job preparation and job training.
HELP in the form of strategies and efforts that will halt the demise of the Black family (the parentage of Blacks that will not marry is at its highest level since they begin to record) and the insane growth of poverty for Black families and Black children (not only is this generation the first to see their children do worse than their parents, Black families are experiencing the highest exodus out of the middle class); HELP in the form a judicial system that treats Black men unfairly and systematically incarcerates them at a rate that is just unsustainable. The disparities are so monumental that some compare it to slavery; and HELP in the form of a government that did not forget how it worked for nearly 400 years in conjunction with openly White racists whose sole mission was to enslave and destroy the Black community and instead of stooping to deep, deep levels of denial will adopt reconciliation and reparations.
THIS REPRESENTS THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. WHY? The outcomes we are seeing today can only get worse over the next 20-30 years when you factor the impact of the existing continuum(s) – the pump is primed and is fueled and supported by existing public opinion, laws and legislation, public policies, and rules and regulations (structure and institutional racism). It is almost impossible to factor the erosion of the Black culture and the push for excellence and ownership where abnormal social behavior has morphed into normality. The oppression is growing every decade and will ultimately choke the life out of the Black community and render us defenseless. If this happens, Blacks will become permanent second-class citizens, which is a 21st Century slave. I am not trying to be an alarmist, nor am I trying to romanticize and focus on the negative issues we face. I am very much aware of our individual successes, but they pale in comparison to our group challenges.
In addition to coming to the center (unity), we must make extra efforts to organize the Black business community, which competes against each other versus against other groups. In this process, Blacks have lost significant economic ground. By organizing, we have the ability of holding government and the private sector accountable to equitable participation. This represents the potential of billions of dollars that can be reinvested back to our community. This economic infusion will reinvigorate all of the negative economic demographics that we unfortunately have come to know and recite like the pledge of allegiance but with absolutely no game plan to fix (i.e. investment, job creation, recycle dollars, wealth creation, etc.).
At the end of the day, our issues are not about racial equality, what people think about us, what they believe about us, or how much they like us. Our struggle in America is, and always will be, about ECONOMICS ONLY! If we organize around an economic agenda, most, if not all, of our issues can and will dissolve. The Black community must create wealth and I personally do not know of any other way to obtain wealth for the Black community if we do not organize our business community. We have few if any options left. Inheritance won’t do it. Handouts or entitlements won’t do it. Education, if taught properly (self-determination and do-for-self), is such a long-term proposition that it won’t do it. It is clear that our current state of disunity will not do it. WE MUST ORGANIZE THE BLACK BUSINESS COMMUNITY. Where will the help come from to help the Black community? It will come from Black Power (Black unity).