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)
Who speaks for the Black community? Who represents the Black community? For the most part, when you asked that question to both White and Black people, they will answer by identifying Black elected officials and/or Black clergy. However; for most other groups, these two sectors don’t speak for their group. For the most part, it is the business leaders that represent these groups and we’re hard pressed to know who are they’re religious and political leaders. Both of these sectors have real conflicts (i.e. religious leaders’ allegiance lies with their theology and political leaders’ allegiance lies with the political process) that prevent them from being the “lead” and “sole” leader of the Black community. This is one of the reasons why we aren’t making the progress we need to make – things are upside down in the Black community.
With no disrespect to Black elected officials and Black clergy, the Black community must expand the concept of Black “Leader” from Black elected officials and clergy to include Black business and civic leaders; Blacks professionals (i.e. judges, doctors, police, managers, lawyers, executives, etc.); Black experts; Blacks in positions of influence (i.e. media, entertainment, athletes, etc.); Black content specialist; Black’s that are wealthy (i.e. Black elite); Black thought leaders; Black religious leaders; and Black elected officials. Imagine if we had a healthy representation of the full group working together, we might have a fighting shot. Until we are able to organize our leadership, we will continue to lose ground because the issues we face are much more difficult than what we have been led to believe.
Here is the dilemma– not only is there no “table” where this group of Black leaders can come together and focus solely on the Black agenda (check your ego at the door) instead, most of our Black leaders are actually working against each other. Because we’re moving in so many different directions under the guise of not being a monolithic group – we have been brainwashed to believe in individualism versus solidarity. Individualism only works when you are on top of the economic ladder and not at the economic bottom. I contend that the Black community is a body without a head, and it is without leadership. Let me be clear, we don’t need 100 percent uniformity but we do need a critical mass of Black leaders working together in some way. If our community is able to align the human capacity, resources, and expertise, we might be able to develop and orchestrate a plan of action to change the trajectory of our community.
Even though our Black leaders possess a myriad of resources and talent, too many lack vision, will, heart, and a commitment to Black people. Too many of our Black leaders are totally consumed by their own so-called success and many have no connection to the suffering of our people which is real, real sad. Certainly, some Black leaders do care but do nothing about it, and haven’t connected their success with the obligation to our people – they really don’t have an option, it should be mandatory. If you’re a successful Black person in America, you have an obligation to support the struggle of our people. We’re all accountable to the struggle of Black people.
LET’S BE VERY CLEAR, EVERY SUCCESSFUL BLACK PERSON IN AMERICA OWES A TON OF THEIR SUCCESS TO OUR ANCESTORS, BUT FOR THEM WE WOULD STILL BE IN CHAINS. We have too many successful Black leaders that are absolutely clueless about their history, and therefore their obligation to our people. Many are in positions of influence, yet fail to exercise the power that they do have to support our liberation – I call these people the modern day Uncle Tom’s and we have way too many of them. How in the world do you expect White people to do the right thing, when Black people who are in positions to do the right thing, won’t? Unfortunately, many Black leaders have inherited the majority approach and model in the implementation of their leadership that doesn’t help our liberation (supporters of the status quo). Were it not for our ancestors, many individuals in Black leadership would not even be in the position they are in. Certainly, their position of leadership was fought and won by our ancestors, and it was hoped that the current leaders would continue the struggle.
An old saying goes “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” I would go as far to say that – you are the problem. There is no way that you can be neutral. When your house is on fire and your children are dying and you defense is not, at least equal to the challenge, then you are clearly, at a minimum, guilty of conspiracy. Given the social and economic “CARNAGE” the Black community suffers from, you would think the message “Unity” would be everywhere we turn, but just the opposite. I’m not sure what it will take that will bring our leaders together given how far apart we are. Given the conditions we face daily, there is no sense of urgency, and this is extremely troubling. I’ve come to the conclusion that many Black leaders don’t believe in the liberation of Black people, and therefore don’t feel that they have any debt to the Black community. Brothers and sisters, we are losing the fight. We will continue to do so if we don’t organize our talent and challenge the paralysis of disunity that is absolutely crippling our community. Not only do we need our leaders to work closer together, we will also have to shed the false beliefs that we have been brainwashed as to the degree of difficulty related to our community. Many think the issues we face are simple and easily fixed. Too many of us, when trying to diagnosis why our community isn’t moving forward, take the approach that our enemy has designed for us to take – these approaches keeps us further and further away from getting answers and ultimately stagnate our real growth with a series of FALSE DIAGNOSIS.
We have been trained and educated to believe that the Black community is inferior and the culprit and victim are the same. Our leaders have spent considerable amounts of time and energy looking and evaluating the symptoms (i.e. unemployment, incarceration, self-hate, etc.) and hardly looking back at the start – none of these issues just magically appeared, they have grown over time and the results of years in the making. Our community is out of position because our families are out of position; our families are out of position because the Black man is out of position; and this condition is near permanent with the state of poor education, mass incarceration, extreme levels of unemployment and underemployment coupled with a self-induced cultural suicide which is reflected in a significant number of children being born that are so far removed from the original cause who are socialized with abnormal behavior that is being sold as being normal.
The misdiagnosis of the Black in America has woefully failed the Black community because we have not truly value the total and absolute damage (physical and psychological) that has been done to Black people under the rule of White Supremacy for almost 500 years. All of this took place against Black people while America and White Americans were free to build and amass wealth. The economic disparities caused by White Supremacy will never be defeated until we come to this basic understanding. 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.