By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Millions of Black American families observed Thanksgiving this week. We have much to be thankful and grateful for. Yet we should also be cognizant of the challenges and struggles that lie ahead in the pathway to future economic empowerment and social sustainability not only in America, but throughout a changing world. In other words, this is a time for reflection, self-assessment, self-improvement, and collective development and progress.
I know that there are some cynics even among us who prefer to see the plight of Black Americans only from a pathological or from a continuously negative critique. It is true that unemployment in our communities, in particular for our youth, remains devastatingly high. Prisons and jails across the nation continue to overflow disproportionately with Black American inmates and defendants. Abject poverty continues to have an alarmingly mortal grip on too many of our families and communities. Improving the systematic quality education of our children remains one of the highest priorities. Constructive criticism does have its place and value. But isolated and even well-intentioned criticism concerning the ongoing struggle to eliminate racism, injustice and inequality without a concomitant plan of action to advance the cause of freedom, justice and equality is just a nonproductive waste of time and energy.
A Black Thanksgiving this year and every year should be focused on taking the time as family, friends, colleagues, and simply as “brothers and sisters” to adequately assess and plan for further advancement of the interests, intelligence, and institutions of the Black American community. This is also a time for the elders of the freedom movement to share wisdom with our young emerging activists and leaders in spirit of acknowledging that every inch of progress that has been accomplished over the past 400 years has come as a consequence of struggle and sacrifice.
This is not, however, the time for carelessly taking anything for granted. We all should be first and foremost appreciative for the very breath of life to be alive in this day and time. We have come a mighty long way, and yes, we still have a long way to go toward the fulfillment of the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the realization of the aspirations and prayers of past generations. A Black Thanksgiving is the time for us to affirm the importance of giving back to help our communities to better develop and prosper. This is the time for sharing what we have with those who are less fortunate. More than 40 million Black Americans now spend more than $1 trillion annually.
“Thanksgetting” presupposes “Thanksgiving.” Let’s assess how we spend that much money every 12 months. How much is for our empowerment as a people? How much do we spend to educate our children? How much do we invest in our own businesses and institutions such as our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)? How much to we give to our churches and charities that serve the interests of our communities?
How much do we give back to Africa? We should at Black Thanksgiving be financially supporting the NAACP, SCLC, National Urban League, NAFEO, Rainbow Push Coalition, National Action Network, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, Diamond Empowerment Fund, Georges Malaika Foundation, the NNPA and other organizations and institutions that continue to make a positive difference in the United States, in Africa and the world community. We should be particularly aware and supportive of the African Union and other Pan African organizations.
A Black Thanksgiving should show utmost respect and solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters who still are struggling for self-determination, freedom and development. It is also important to note here that we should be more proactive in building lasting coalitions with our Latino brothers and sisters because with have mutual interests, anthropological and cultural roots, as well as sharing strategic political goals and objectives as just witnessed on Election Day. The future success of our advancement is dependent upon our unity and solidarity with others who know from history and from the present day realities the importance of standing up, speaking out, taking action, and working tirelessly for the freedom and equality of all people throughout the world.
We are very thankful for the re-election of President Barack H. Obama. This election was triumphantly won by the massive voter turnout against the backdrop of voter suppression. The world is continuing to change for the better and the varied prospects for Black Americans to prosper going forward are significantly enhanced. We just have to stay focused and to avoid the regressive temptations of hopelessness and cynicism.
Lastly, when you have an “undying love,” respect and a sense of giving for the help of your own family and community, you are clear about the necessity to have love, respect and a sense of giving for the help of others. Thus, a Black Thanksgiving in the truest sense is a Thanksgiving for all people.