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 was recently asked a very important question that I think we all should ask ourselves: “Are you contributing to the self determination of Black people or the self-destruction of Black people?”
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Too many, if were honest with ourselves, are doing very little if anything at all. For those that answer the question and believe that they are contributing to the self determination of Black people, then I have another question for you: Do you think that your efforts will change the conditions facing many of our people?
For example: Will your efforts reduce the massive incarceration of black men; decrease the senseless violence and deaths of our children; raise the level of Black men gainfully employed; increase the number of successful and thriving Black-owned businesses in our community; remove the blight and decay that overwhelms many of the neighborhoods where Black people reside; reverse the nearly 60% of Black students who are academically failing in public schools; increase the number of Black children living in stable families; eliminate or make even better the wealth gap between Blacks and Whites; and do you REALLY believe that your efforts will increase and/or restore Black pride at a level that could counter the massive media campaign that has defined Black people as inferior and deserving of the socio-economic position we currently hold? If you’re honest, you must answer NO. What, then, do we do?
Our efforts cannot deliver the outcomes we need because all of these issues are interconnected and interrelated.
If we were dealing with normal disparities (statistically normal percentages), maybe organic activity could lead to “moving the needle.”
Unfortunately, our community is experiencing alarming disparities (i.e. 20 – 50 point differentials) when acceptable disparities should be 3-5%. Complicating our condition, the disparities are not just in one area – our families are impacted by multiple risk factors.
Correcting these issues will require a unified and comprehensive approach that if not undertaken, the problems will get worse.
Why? We can’t just look at the dismal outcomes (outputs), but when we evaluate the systems and the inputs of these systems (pipeline), there is no way these conditions can change on their own.
Let me ask you another way. Will the legal system, left alone, interrupt and/or stop the school to prison industry using our young boys as its raw product?
Will the public education system, left alone, all of sudden begin to educate our children?
Will the financial system, left alone, begin to distribute its wealth equitably that will benefit Black people? Will the mass media system, left alone, start to portray Black people in a positive fashion and contribute to Black empowerment?
Will the political system, left alone, produce the correct public policies needed to support the plight of Black people? Have I made my point?
These systems will not correct themselves without us making the change.
This is our challenge. In addition to changing our own behavior, we must “fix” these systems.
Today, we don’t have to worry about being forcibly kidnapped and placed in the hulls of a ship never to return home again.
Today, we don’t have a barbaric, brutal, and cruel slave-owner who would do unspeakable things to us or members of our family – putting the fear of God in us that lives in us today within our collective DNA.
Today, we don’t have to worry about being pulled out of our beds in the middle of the night and hung, tarred, feather, and lit a fire by a terroristic mob called the KKK.
Today, we don’t have to worry about dogs attacking us and water blasting against our bodies through high pressured hoses because we, as Americans, wanted to exercise our right to peacefully protest for the right to vote.
Today, our challenge is to establish functional unity. Today, our challenge is to fight as hard as we can against the disunity, a deep level of hopelessness, fear, and mistrust that has collectively paralyzed our community.
Today, regarding many of our issues, it’s not what they are doing to us, it’s what we’re not doing.
Our glorious ancestors paid a tremendous price for all of us and we dishonor their sacrifice when we don’t live up to our challenge today.
We must honor our ancestors by never giving up the fight. We must fight for today’s issues and the protection of tomorrow’s generation.
We must use the courage, commitment, and sacrifices that our ancestors made for us and do the same for our future Black children who will have it worse than we have it today (this seems impossible but absolutely probable).
We must stand up to our challenge in spite of the obstacles, and there are many, especially those that are self-imposed (what we’re not doing) and we hide behind “that’ll never work”;” been there done that”; “I can’t take another meeting”; “I’m too busy.”
We make excuse after excuse for doing what is not only right, but what is required. No one will do for us what we must do for ourselves.
Everyone can speak to what we must do to get out of this mess, but very few can describe step-by-step as to how.
Three (3) things that I want you to consider if we are to live up to our challenge: 1) It’s going to take a higher level of unity amongst Black people; 2) Our progress will only come when we become more organized; and 3) We will have to earn the success that we envision.
No one will give it to us, we MUST DO THE WORK.
Please join us on Thursday, October 23, 2014 (5:30 p.m.) at the Universal Academy for the College Bound (UACB Renaissance – Webster Campus) located at 6850 N. 53rd Street for a Town Hall meeting to discuss the issues facing Black Milwaukee with the goal of adopting an Agenda and an Action Plan.
Not only do we need you to attend, we need you to help get the word out.
We have the ability to spread news faster than any electronic medium; it’s called “word of mouth.”
Our community is dying (metaphorically and literally) and while I’m not promising some Utopia or some miracle, the Town Hall meeting could be a critical beginning.
Are You Contributing to the Self Determination or Self Destruction of Black People?
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Black Unity – Progress through Organization!!