Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
Over the past two months, I’ve been writing for the Black newspapers in Milwaukee and I’ve contributed a considerable amount of ink describing the damage that has been done to Black people and how it contributes to our current state of crisis (where you start is critical).
While I’ll never let up in expressing the damage that’s been done, I don’t write about this to create some sort of crutch.
Just the opposite, I write so that we can put things in perspective and to rejoice in just how great a people we are and based on our past, our potential is unlimited (I see this very clearly). There has also been a theme running throughout my writings: “It’s not what they are doing to us, it’s what we’re not doing.” And, basically, what we’re not doing is organizing. We’re all accountable to the Movement.
The movement that I refer to is the SELF DETERMINATION OF BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND EVERYWHERE and that every able-bodied Black man, woman, organization should be working toward.
Doing anything less is absolutely unacceptable. What is a movement but the act of changing the location and/or condition of a people?
Did we achieve the objectives of the movement? Are Black people able to control their destinies?
The obvious answer is: No! The Civil Rights Movement was a real movement that was full of human sacrifices.
We witnessed firsthand the hate that was launched against our elders, brothers, mothers, and our children.
The Civil Rights Movement was the continuation of an even greater movement; the movement that freed Black people from the most inhumane enslavement under what I call the American institution of slavery.
While many of us have been bitten by the dog of life (stuff gets in the way), the clock continues to run and the movement, or should I say, the need for the movement will never stop.
The race continues whether we run in the race or not. Not being conscious of the race, or participating in the race, we look up today and find that we’ve allowed things to slow down and even halt the movement.
Movements are started because they represent the “righting of a wrong” and they start in many shapes, fashions and forms. It is not important how that start.
They can start like a flicker and ultimately, depending on the severity, grow into a blazing inferno that concludes with real and sustained change (i.e. ending slavery).
While many things can contribute to the movement, many times there is no single entity that is solely responsible.
In fact, people get behind the movement in several ways especially when they clearly see a wrong and a positive outcome can be achieved.
We are all accountable to the continuation of the struggle. No excuses.
Beginning in earnest in the 1940s, Blacks in America fundamentally knew (some more than others) that being physically freed wasn’t enough.
There were just too many injustices lodged against our people.
The great and honorable Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote while in his historic “Letter from Birmingham”: “I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure.
History is the long and tragic story of the fact that the privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.”
Our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was so dedicated to the movement that he paid the ultimate sacrifice – his life!
I’m sick and tired of the emotional and patronizing way we have treated Dr. King. The B.S. has to stop and I’ve committed the rest of my life to help restore the legacy that Dr. King and others sacrificed their lives for.
He believed that we would get to the Promised Land (self-determination of our people) but our movement has stalled, if not stopped, and if we’re ever to get to the Promised Land, we all must be accountable to restarting our movement.
In the 1960s, while disjointed, we had several voices that represented different aspects of the movement; all were promoting freedom and equality for Black people.
All of those voices were needed to help create the energy required to achieve the landmark and historic Civil Rights Legislation.
This should’ve been the beginning and not the end. Every Black person in America, especially those adults 50 years and older, owes a portion of their success to those freedom fighters of the 60s. How did it happen?
The public leader was obviously Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but there were so many organized efforts that contributed including, but not limited to the, following:
• National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots- based civil rights organization.
The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois.
The NAACP waged a 30-year campaign against lynching, among the Association’s top priorities and through legislative and judicial solutions helped to drastically decreasing the incidence of lynching.
The NAACP’s became the most successful and productive organization to challenge and win the legal argument against racism and discrimination.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, headed by Thurgood Marshall secured all the key landmark legislation including: Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
• Nation of Islam (NOI) – The NOI, a Black Nationalist group was led by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad who preached Black separation from whites and mandated that Blacks do for themselves.
In addition to establishing Temples in every major city in America, the NOI developed schools, businesses, farms, newspapers, and real estate holdings.
Many viewed this effort as the opposite to the anti-violence and intergradation movement. The organization became extremely popular by great and powerful notables like Muhammad Ali, Minister Louis Farrakhan, W.D. Muhammad (son of Elijah Muhammad) and Malcolm X who was also assassinated in the turbulent and violent 60’s.
• Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) – CORE, founded in Chicago in 1942 had evolved out of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, and sought to apply the principles of nonviolence as a tactic against segregation.
The group’s inspiration was Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence resistance.
In the early and mid- 1960s, chapters were organized on a model similar to that of a democratic trade union.
[Read part 2 of this story next week’s paper]