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)
As I continue to write and speak out about the fact that the Black community currently dominates in every negative demographic (i.e. poverty, incarceration, health, academic achievement, unemployment and underemployment, etc.) while, being almost invisible in every positive demographic (i.e. job and business creation, wealth, income, business growth, etc.), both represent extreme levels of disparities. For example, disparities generally allow a margin of error of 2-3 percentage points, but the Black community is experiencing disparities between 20-50 percentage point differential when we are compared to the White community – this is extremely alarming and consequential yet Black leaders are basically silent.
I continue to state that all of these disparities are directly related to the oppression and enslavement of our people in this country without one red cent of compensation paid to the Black community. No aspect of the wrong committed has ever been rectified and Black leaders have been lulled into a deep sleep that has literally taken America off the hook for crime it has committed against its own Black group.
Black leaders, we can’t wish these issues away nor can we pray them away. If these issues are to be corrected, it will require that the Black leaders do something that they have failed to do to date and that is create some type of “collective” leadership. The problems facing the Black community are interconnected and interrelated and cannot be dealt with in existing “individual” and “silo” strategies. They will require collective and comprehensive approaches, if we expect sustain improvement and progress.
Since no “one” organization can undertake a truly comprehensive strategy by itself (no organization can do everything), it requires that organizing the Black community is an absolutely critical and crucial step towards addressing any aspect of the problems we face. So, if we don’t do anything, this would be derelict to not only future generations of Black people, but to the tremendous sacrifice made on behalf of our ancestors.
Black leaders must play catch up and: 1) acknowledge that we do have a major “structural” problem that has its historical roots in the Black Holocaust; 2) unless a new and different approach is not adopted, I know it’s hard to believe, these disparities will only worsen over next 15-20 years; and 3) no solution will correct these issues today. This will require a strategy that incorporates a long-term and generational solution which creates a different problem for our community one of sustainability that will result institutionalizing any strategy adopted.
I fundamentally believe that most, if not all of our issues, are directly connected to the economic disparities and the proverbial term of “rising tides lifts all boats” is an absolute fallacy when it comes to the Black community in America. Given the 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. Therefore, any solution must involve a significant level of organizing first, which must take place first – we can’t just wake one day and have the legs to undertake this issue, those muscle must be built over time.
Our community will never achieve true self-determination until it has the capacity and the ability to “do for self,” which means that it must be able to lead the efforts in the areas of greatest need and that offers the greatest results. Though the learning curve may be steep, we have no other option but to unify whatever talent and resources that we have. At the end of the day, the masses of our community is challenged economically just to survive and doesn’t have the capacity to figure this issue out on its own. If any group amongst the Black community has a shot, it must be the Black leaders and if the Black leaders don’t step up to the plate, we are in serious trouble as a community – they have not and we are in serious trouble.
Where is the loud bell, whistle, alarm, drumbeat, or a resonating VOICE calling for unity amongst the Black leadership – unity, or the lack of it, is at the core our inability to really make a difference. Black leaders must be accountable to Black Unity. In fact, Black Leaders can’t be accountable to Black people without being accountable to Black Unity. If the Black community is to, “do better,” it must begin to come together and address the issue of unity, and we can’t expect the masses of Black people to jump up and come together without Black leaders leading them (leadership).
The Black community is at a major disadvantage in America. The strength that we do have lies in our ability to aggregate our skills and talent, our resources and expertise, and to form our collective agenda. We have individual gains and accomplishments, but very few “group” gains and accomplishments because we have been made to compete with each other and not to work together as a group. If we don’t change this paradigm and become comrades and partners working together, we will fail future generations of Black children going forward and will continue to decline as a Black group.
Let’s be clear, we have real issues outside of the structural ones that we face – we have internal issues that we must overcome, and we will never be able to hold the external forces accountable until we begin to change our behavior and hold ourselves accountable. Yes we must fight to make it for ourselves and our families, but we must be accountable to our people, to our group. We must come to grips with some obvious issues and challenges that we must own up to and navigate in our efforts to organize and address because we currently have no organizational infrastructure to defend the Black community on a multitude of fronts.
Black leaders must be accountable to Black people because they are in dire need of leadership. How can Black leaders call themselves leaders, and not lead? How do you become a Black leader and not look at the fight that must be waged in the soberest way? This means that you don’t sugarcoat the issues.
The common Black person is constantly stating what should be done, “we should do this,” or “we should do that,” but unfortunately, we don’t have leadership that can even address these very serious issues, and none bigger or greater than the Economic gap that we suffer from.