AN OPEN DIALOGUE: LEADERSHIP IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY

by MullOverThis

Jesse Jackson’s recent ramblings about Barack Obama presents a melange of considerations for the African American community regarding leadership, loyalties, priorities, policies and unwritten codes of conduct.  Here’s some thoughts I posted on another blog reflecting the same:

“To call Jackson a hater is shallow and simplistic. Jackson has a great company of other civil rights and local Black community leaders who did not immediately rally behind Obama because Obama is not a black community leader.   [These loyalists] had political alliances with national leaders who took care of their local agendas. So because Obama now most probably will be a Black man leading this country, everyone else [including the old regime] must fall in line. This does not nullify the need for Black community leaders, because Obama’s history is a good indicator that he will not focus on African American concerns, but concerns for all. So Jesse, who has championed the causes for Black people for decades, can have his opinion and say what he wants.  He just needs to act like a reverend and have some decorum in his conversation.
Obama’s individual responsibility approach is not new, but is [certainly] needed.  Bill Cosby and other conservative leaders have been shaking their fingers at the Black Community for years urging African Americans to clean up our own lives.  But,  DON’T BE FOOLED.  Although this type of leadership is necessary, Bill, Obama, and Armstrong Williams are not coming to your rescue if your son is murdered at the hands of police brutality, or if your black daughter is missing and there is no national news media coverage.  Jesse, Al Sharpton, and endless other leaders are the ones who have stuck in the trenches and still will when the very necessary Obama is taking care of other business.  So the Black Community ought not rush to dethrone [our leaders] because we will be in for rude awakening if we think Obama changes [this] dynamic.”

A good place to begin in this dialogue is to define and identify our leadership.  I’ll start off by saying that a leader in the black community is one who the community recognizes has the ability to inform, mobilize and steer the community when there is a crisis, urgency, or injustice that should be of concern to African Americans; one who has the ability to incite collective action amongst African Americans;  and otherwise, one whose life and work advances the lives of African American people.  When collective action is needed, community leaders get the phone calls.   

This is just be a place to begin.  Mulloverthis and contribute.

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8 Comments to “AN OPEN DIALOGUE: LEADERSHIP IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY”

  1. I strongly disagree with your definition of leadership. If you have an interest, you can find my definition at the link. Why is it that we have to have a special definition of leadership for the African American community? These two are not our leaders, merely one unappointed spokesperson and one elected representative- that does not equal leadership. Because the main stream media tells us that these are our leaders we buy into it. It is time that we stop looking for others to lead us as a group and step up and lead our selves. the reason we accept African American leadership is because we lack the personal leadership that is necessary for us to advance. Neither Jesse Jackson nor Barack Obama can provide that for us. As long as we keep looking to others to lead us we will not make the progress that we need individually and therefore collectively. These people do not lead me. Do they lead you?

  2. Thanks for joining the discussion, and I hope you will continue to contribute. I think we agree more than we disagree. We agree that Obama is not a leader within the African American community. Al Sharpton, who has “grown on me” over the years, is not an unappointed spokesperson. He, along with a number of other local NY leaders who sometimes rise to national prominence, is often solicited to aid the communities in which he lives. Al is not a rarity. He just has a bigger mouth than most, and been around for quite some time now. The fact that the media solicits him to speak on AF-AM issues does not negate the fact that people within his own community call on him to do the same. The mainstream media did not pick Al Sharpton to be our leader–many of us didn’t and still don’t particularly care for him as such. I don’t believe we have a centralized leadership or a cohesive community, at least in comparison to what AF-AM’s may have experienced during the Civil Rights era. When Sean Bell and his friends were shot by NYC police, Sharpton wasn’t the first on the scene. The Bell family had a community activist, capable reverend, so forth and so until until Sean Bell became ANOTHER national figure of a young black man killed b/c of police brutality/inbred stereotypes. So, I will visit your link to discover what personal leadership you speak of, because I don’t know one AF-AM person who does not have personal leadership necessary to advance. Finally, I firmly believe that we can progress with leadership in looking to others. The Civil Rights Era and the legislative advances necessary for individual rights did not flourish just as a result of personal leadership. Collective action and progress as a people is mutually inclusive of communal leadership and personal leadership or individual responsibility. Rosa sat on that bus in the front and we all did not have the right to do so when white people came and the bus was too full until advocates who stuck with the cause saw the law change.

  3. Because of our history in America, much of black individual progress has been rooted in the example of a leader who brought it to the community’s attention that individual progress could be realized. This was a key philosophy during the Emancipation Period, as blacks had to reinvent themselves through dismantling the rhetoric formed to perpetuate myths of black inferiority. This was also key during the Civil Rights Era as individuals, or leaders, risked the label of menace to society in order to bring to the attention of the masses that being treated as equals was a possibility. The merits, and ideas of individuals will not necessarily impact the collective unless it is condensed into a singular voice that has a forum to make this progress known. I do not see having leadership in the black community as “looking to others”, but rather a continuance of the tradition of interdependence and unity the old guard perpetuated in order to give us the freedom to obtain enough education to write on this blog.

  4. NIK, again, why aren’t you running for President?

  5. I defer to Brother Barack!!!

  6. I am not sure of Jesse Jackson’s validity as the face of Black America. The intellegence that exists within the black community cannot be split BTW-Du Bois factions. The actions of Jesse Jackson’s could have cost Barack Obama the election.

    According to former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, Jesse Jackson was among many black American politicians whom recieved payoffs from Nigeria to remain quiet on the atrocities commited against innocent civilians in Central Africa. Abacha added, that Senator Carol Mosley-Braun may the first black politician who showed a vested interest in the future of African democracy.

    Barack Obama’s nomination may be a threat to Jesse’s personal finances.

    Just a thought.

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