Black Leadership... Looking Backwards? (2780 hits)
Why does it seem that when we think about Black intellectuals and leaders, we always focus on the past and not the present?
Where is our 2009 W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, or Langston Hughes? It should not take another 75 years to recognize the leaders of today.
Granted, I'm glad that we're proud of our achievements. It seems, however, that we've put our achievers on a pedestal that we ourselves feel incapable of reaching. Could this potentially be a barrier to creating new leadership?
If I were to ask any of our BIA members whether he/she felt like they should be equal in stature to Mary McLeod Bethune or George Washington Carver, most of us would humbly say no, forgetting that these were ordinary people the same as you and I. They had the same struggles and issues... the only difference is that the small daily battles were forgotten and the lifelong battles were remembered. Bethune worked two jobs as a hairdresser and a sales clerk while saving to eventually create Bethune Cookman University. Carver began life as a slave and used his knowledge of the field to change his life.
Our greatest heroes had the same concerns as we do... paying the rent, taking care of their children, keeping their personal lives in order, getting 16 hours of work done in a 12 hour day. However, throughout the course of those things they still managed to accomplish extraordinary things.
Heroes did not begin their lives as heroes... they simply ended that way.
We must not be intimidated by the trappings of preeminence - history books, statues, and famous quotes only disguise the fact that if we ever had the opportunity to meet one of these people, the experience probably wouldn't be that different from meeting someone in your own neighborhood.
It's time for us to define the next generation of superstars. Will you be among them?
I think there is more of an anti-intellectual bias within our community in the present than there was in the past. Today, few would want to carry our standard, as it were, because our community seems to try to tear anyone down who sticks his/her head above the fray. We seem to want apparent perfection from our leaders though no one is perfect. Our heroes from the past weren't perfect either but we could tolerate their imperfections because of the perceived good that could come from their leadership. It seems to me that the 'crabs in a barrel' syndrome is far too prevalent today.
Monday, December 15th 2008 at 12:17PM
Dr. S. Maxwell Hines
Both you, Jonathan and Dr. S. Maxwell Hines have made great points. I believe the leaders in times past were intelligent on various levels (from no education at all to highly educated as anyone can be) but what seems to separate the leaders from the past, from the potential leaders and the individuals that are not considered to be anyone that can be a leader, is the lack of unity within this world (african americans and other races as well). Leaders in the past seemed to have grasped the essence of what america is suppose to be about, "we the people", "in God we trust", etc. there seemed to have been more humanitarian efforts that were not specifically meant to be humanitarian efforts, but due to the unselfish agenda toward trying to help others in many ways as far as equal rights and neighbor helping neighbor and businesses seemed to be more concerned with customers/clients, well just the simple values that were widely spread throughout this country brought about great leaders and many individuals seemed to work together toward letting others be recognized for their individual contributions that eventually led to their recognition of being a recognized leader. But these days and times there are many individuals with an inner struggle regarding selfishness. Maybe it is because of their struggle for survival (through their childhood and/or young adult years). None of us know where the soles of one's feet have traveled to get where they are now. The sad part about it these days, is many potential leaders are overlooked because many indivdiuals feel like they are above everyone and not on the same level as others. I am not referring to the same level of intelligence. I am referring to the level of being a human being. There are many people these days that seem to display that they are too good or better then others, therefore, they can hardly view leadership in a respectful way and they do not have respect for their fellow man. If there are a bunch of "Me"(s), how can anyone see "You"? If there are many "Selves" how can anyone see "Others". When the stew is overflowing, then the pot that is holding it and trying to hold it together and trying to keep it from going into the fire... the pot gets covered because it is there, but can not do what is out of it's control. But if individuals would try to not be above others and do not mind others being seen on their route... and leave their selfishness out of the way, then more leaders will be seen now. When the drowning stops and the saving starts... when the stomping down stops and the reaching out starts... when the backhanded and underhanded stops and the helping hand starts... that is when there will be more leaders in these times.
Wednesday, December 17th 2008 at 3:19AM
Wednesday, December 17th 2008 at 3:48AM
We, Slave Americans, have never had any leadership and we do not have any today.
Baraka Hussein Obama is the new Leader of the United States of America.
He has no ancestry in America of Slavery. He does not profess a name given to African kidnapped people by Racist/Genocidal European Americans.
He has been excluded and made to deny Slave American Religious Christian Churches by European Americans.
He does not claim White or Black false labels.
To be included in the America of the 21st Century, Slave Americans need to follow Baraka Hussein Obama; his approach has WORKED.
He is the MAN...........................He is THE LEADER.
As a young leader in my community, I'm finding that when we reference the word leader our point of reference is limited to what seems to be people with national acclaim. I have found that leadership and heroism starts one person at a time; one child at a time etc... Those in the educational industry ascribe to this more often and we should all be ascribed to do so. Our children tend to look towards history; and it's not to be forgotten. However, there are not enough local heros with definative actions (and lives) of impact in their neighborhood stepping up to redefine today/present time heroism and leadership.
Sunday, February 15th 2009 at 11:18PM
I am inclined to concur with Dr. Hines, as the anti-intellectual movement seems to permeate the mainstream, but also the anti-class (good manners), anti-kindness, anti-compassion et al.
Wednesday, March 4th 2009 at 1:47PM
But I concur with Rev. Al Sharpton, that it was this "uneducated " class that made it possible for the educated to walk through they doors they opened.
Wednesday, March 4th 2009 at 1:49PM
Anti-intellectualism is a problem, as is selfishness. But I believe the biggest barrier to the emergence of more leaders is a lack of imagination of the possibilities of what can be achieved, on the part of potential leaders, and the rank and file (us) that make up the black community, every day folk. The leaders Mr. Carter mentioned in this blog were every day folk as well, going about their lives, but were people who were able to imagine and grasp the possibilities, then worked selflessly towards them. They were able to engage the world as it was on an intellectual basis, imagine the possibilities for our people, and devise a way to make a difference.
We do have leaders today who, I believe, have done just that. They too will be as recognized 75 years from now, just as leaders from that long ago are recognized today. It’s just that, unfortunately, they are not appreciated today for what they have done and are doing now.
When I read this the first person that came to mind was Marva Collins. Ms. Collins started Westside Preparatory School here in Chicago. She did what was considered revolutionary at the time when she started the school 30 years ago, and that was she applied classical education in classes with black students who had been labeled “learning-disabled,” as many black and poor students typically are, to track them for educational failure. 75 years from now, historians will be recognizing Ms. Collins in quoting her thusly: “I have discovered few learning disabled students in my three decades of teaching. I have, however, discovered many, many victims of teaching inabilities.” But in the spirit of why we think we don’t have any comparable leaders today, Collins’ school closed in 2008, after 30 years, due to lack of sufficient enrollment and funding. Ms. Collins IS a leader, but like so many today, she isn’t appreciated.
Too often we equate success with fame, and when people are out there, serving in silence, the fact that these are leaders never crosses our minds. We need to recognize them now, rather than wait on history; we need to support them today and tell our kids about them, and make sure they can grasp the importance of their work and accomplishments, so that they can be the role models for the generation coming up now, to create more leaders.