“Be the Change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi.
“We are bearing witness that words have enormous power and that good is on the side of those who without question are willing to stand with courage and confidence for people in need of a voice.” Barbara Perkins
What do Barack Obama and Karen Bass have in common? These two incredible human beings were shaped by activism and are shapers of activism. They both believe in leadership from the bottom up.
They both believe in the power of community. They believe in the credibility of the community organizers. They believe that leadership is not a trend but a responsibility.
The fact that people from all backgrounds have pledged their support for Barack Obama, has simply amazed America. The attention given to his supporters of other races almost outweighs the attention given to his worthiness as a viable candidate. A similar point was made last week when Karen Bass was elected to be the next Speaker of the California State Assembly. “Crossover appeal,” is how these exemplary leaders often get characterized. There is something intrinsically wrong with this characterization that warrants further examination and public discussion. My sense of both Barack Obama and Karen Bass, is that they have worked hard in preparation for the positions they both hold currently and positions to come. The authenticity that comes through from each of them could not be reduced to strategic tactics implemented skillfully. This is just one of many perceptions of “crossover appeal.”
African Americans have an impressive list of firsts to be proud of. Our history is built upon the shoulders of brave men and women who stood to be first on countless efforts and causes. Barack Obama and Karen Bass victories affirm the fundamental cycle of life by adding to this distinguished list of firsts. Black Americans in the Nation and Black Americans here at home needed an infusion of hope in the face of hard times and wide spread hopelessness.
Barack’s candidacy has infused people, young and old with hope and optimism. This I see as a victory irrespective of what happens with the presidential election. Karen Bass’s election to Speaker of the State Assembly signals hope and optimism to women, in the nation’s largest state, again the affirmation of the fundamental life cycle. The devastating circumstances that we see in our communities today reflect the devastation in communities around the nation and the world. These two courageous human beings have raised the consciousness of people by their actions. They are living the words of Mahatma Ghandi. They are the change they wanted to see.
To have a woman like Karen Bass ascend to this level of leadership, not power, translates to the possibility and likelihood of less turmoil and confusion in our State Capital. Historical dominance of men in the highest seats of governmental leadership has presented war-like environments. Women Warriors are different. Karen Bass is different. She has already shown us another model of leadership and options for solving tough problems. We have seen her seamless activism produce public policies that uplift not only the 47th Assembly District which she represents, but the State of California.
Since 2004, Karen has convened town hall meetings, community forums and discussions on issues concerning the decline in high school graduation, the increasing number of homicides among our youth, the concerns and needs within the foster care system, the concerns and needs around foreclosures in our communities and the concerns and issues around the Iraq war.
Much like Fannie Lou Hammer, a Mississippi sharecropper and civil rights activist, Karen Bass keeps women leadership models relevant. Dialogue includes talking and most importantly, listening. What Karen Bass is showing us, and what Barack Obama is saying is that we can and should create new realities through dialogue and civic engagement. The notion that all opinions matter is revived through their leadership.
The question could be asked, how is it that two relatively new comers could have ascended so quickly? There might even be those who thought it was their turn or someone else’s turn to be in initiated. I am reminded of a quote from the Bible that my grand aunt would say to me in defense of being different, “many are called but few are chosen...”
To both, The Honorable Barack Obama and The Honorable Karen Bass, we say thank you!