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)
I’ve come to a very basic understanding and position in my life that either Black leaders believe in the liberation of Black people or they don’t. Based on the actions of so many leaders, or the lack of action from so many Black leaders. I must come to the mathematical conclusion that many Black leaders don’t believe in the liberation of Black people and therefore are not accountable to the Black community. This is totally unacceptable because if the Black leaders don’t take this issue seriously and put their lives at stake on this issue, then who will? The masses in the Black community cannot lead themselves out of this mess that we were born in, and can only rely on Black leaders to do so. Unfortunately, the Black leaders are totally unaware or naïve as to their role and responsibility to the masses of Black people.
Given the social and economic “CARNAGE” and the structural realities that will allow that carnage to continue and help to erode permanently the fabric of the Black community, Black family, and Black child in this country for generations to come with absolutely no defense in sight. If you just take a look at what is going on and there is no sense of urgency or movement at no place in this country. Sure, there are some Black leaders who are working on, what I call, “low hanging fruit,” small and non-consequential issues that gives us justification for our purpose but won’t move the needle.
The problem with our Black leaders is that, not only is the right activity and right response to our issues not taking place, but there are few Black leaders that even acknowledged the simple fact that the right response isn’t even happening – it appears that we are just emotional and physically paralyzed.
Because there is no real defense and liberation of the Black community that is being led by Black leaders, I must conclude that Black leaders don’t believe in the liberation of Black people and this is a sad, sad reality for our community – you do the math.
I contend that it’s no longer what “they” are doing to us. Sure, White America has its institutional foot on the necks of Black people, but at least they are not physically whipping us at the same time. We do have a little freedom to organize and figure out a way to get that foot off our neck. Yet, we are doing nothing. So, the issue for Black leaders is not to wait for White people to give us our freedom and our liberation. It’s up to Black leaders to figure this, so it’s about what “we’re not doing,” and it’s about what our Black leaders are not doing. The number one issue that Black leaders must be doing is working to create a critical mass of leaders that can begin to work together to begin to address our issues from a global (Macro) level – this is not about the progress of a selected few Black people, this about the progress of 50 million Black people.
Sure, there are some of our leaders that are working every day to address issues that we are woefully despaired by, (i.e. workforce development, housing development, health care coverage, education disparities, etc.) and the total of them represent as the collective, “foot on our neck.” The issues are important but they are just the symptoms and not the core problems that Black people face in this country. Our leadership can continue to address these issues for the next million years and not fix the issue that continue to plague the Black community – the massive economic disparity coupled with the massive psychological hurt of Black inferiority.
By any measure, utilizing even the most liberal one that one can have, the Black community, as a whole, is at least 200 years behind economically. This gap can’t be made up by wishing or praying that it will go away – it won’t. It is impossible for that gap to go away without the Black leaders working together to close the gap because most, if not all of our issues, are directly related to this mathematical reality of this economic disparity. These economic disparities have a real impact on every aspect of Black life in America. This is not an intellectual argument, this is real and impactful. This is a real disaster for our people because there is no evidence of a plan of action and/or strategy to address this economic disparity. The Black community is challenged in many ways but none more than economically. The Black community doesn’t have enough income nor can it generate enough income to combat poverty (this phenomenon is a direct link to the legacy of the enslavement of Black people). To address poverty and the associated social ills, it will require that the Black community has the capacity and the ability to focus on a few selected areas simultaneously.
We have another problem in that we have all longed for “Black Power;” but what is Black power? In my humble opinion Black Power is Black Economics and Black Wealth. Unfortunately, we can’t have either without having Black consciousness – therein lies the problem. Black Power is impossible to achieve if there is no Black consciousness – the Black community has a double problem. We must fight for economic equality in a race that we have been made to be woefully behind, but we also have another problem in that too many of our Black leaders don’t believe in Black liberation because they have been damaged by effects of living in a White male dominance society coupled with a historical indoctrination of Black inferiority that has been handed down from one generation to the present.
I continue to say that, “It’s not what they are doing to us, it’s what we’re not doing.” And, basically, what Black leaders are not doing is organizing. Organizing to hold ourselves accountable to some type of collective voice (Black free agent independence is criminal) and/or plan of action that many of us can get behind, but more importantly, to hold America accountable to one of the biggest crime ever committed “four hundred year” theft of Black people’s ability to compete in America which has created a massive Economic Structural Deficit in the Black community that wreaks havoc on every aspect of a quality and normal life in America.
What the Black community needs more than anything is UNITY. Not the unity that is some superficial description where all Black people are all doing the same thing at the same time – that’s unrealistic. The unity that I’m referencing is a “functional” unity. A functional unity where representatives (leadership) from all segments of the community are working together around a common and collective agenda – I call this Collective Leadership. A. Phillip Randolph stated: “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And, you can’t take anything without organization.” Restated, “Nobody is going to give us anything – we must take it; we must organize ourselves “and we can’t do this without having Black leaders that believe in the liberation of Black people. It’s Time to Unite!!