After enjoying writing this column thirty-three (33) years for the Sentinel, this will be my final submission of over 1,700 columns. Stepping away from this gratifying and engaging weekly task and challenge is not easy. But I know that everything, even good things, eventually run their course and a new course begins. And recent health issues, as well as the long record of daily activism I have achieved, tell me it’s time. Some might wonder why I’m stopping now, but others might wonder how and why I kept on going so long?
This question is easily answered. The answer lies in how I saw and continue to see myself as a deeply committed activist in the interest of Black people and the sense of fulfillment I get from my work as both an activist and columnist, especially my work as chair of the Advocates for Black Strategic Alternatives (ABSA) and co-chair of the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA). In fact, my writing has always been rooted in my activism in the community. It informed my choice of topics, the particular positions I took and the evidence and argument I gave to prove or explain the points I made. Also, my conception of my role as columnist or journalist comes from my work in the community and it calls for a column, not only to explain issues, but also to advocate ideas and actions beneficial to the Black community. Therefore, my aim was always to inform, clarify and encourage, compliment the good and excellent and criticize the bad and the worst, and to call into account those ideas, practices and policies negative to Black interests.
I am fortunate to have had this space and opportunity to write from an unapologetically Black perspective on important issues to our community which still suffers from systemic racism and related discriminatory barriers to our forward progress. I wrote a lot on education because I do much of my work in this area and think it is critical to the development and success of our young people and the community as a whole. And it is in dire need of improvement in virtually every area. Also, I have written on police violence and race relations because it is clearly a matter of life and death on a daily basis. And we must continue to struggle against such deadly forms of oppression.
Moreover, I also focused on the state of Black males, who in spite of being researched and referred to constantly, have not been the beneficiaries of any sustainable programs specifically designed to benefit them. As I wrote, they remain largely a rhetorical priority not a public policy or programmatic one. This is due to many reasons, but as I’ve pointed out, racism is at the root of this, as it is with so many other problems facing the Black community.
As a long-time union activist, I have written also on issues of unions and Black employment and the need for equity and racial justice in this area as well as others. And I also stressed continued struggle against racism and sexism, the need for alliances and the importance of working with and building mutual support of workers in other countries, given the international character of capitalism and labor issues. I have written on reparations and the ties of academia to enslavement. And it is good to see this conversation and struggle for reparations become a major issue, not only in the community, but also on campuses, in the current presidential race, and in international forums.
In my discussions of advancing the Black agenda for racial justice, I have stressed several interrelated themes. The first is the obvious need for a strong community unity. In a column on unity, I had noted that talking about Black unity has fallen out of favor, but the need for unity is as great, if not greater than ever. It is, I argued, an indispensable prerequisite for real and sustainable change. For only in unity can we wage a successful struggle for the deep and broad change needed. In addition, I maintained that we must reembrace stronger values that stress our collective interests and not continue to emulate Whites’ individualistic and materialistic values. In fact, a recurring theme in this column was that many Black people have internalized European values without access to their benefits. And this is a major barrier to our political and economic success and advancement.
Especially important to me also has been the issue of strong Black leadership which, I have maintained, is key to sustainable unity and effective action. For ineffective self-serving leadership perpetuates a status quo that clearly does not serve our best interests or aid in building unity. Therefore, this column has stressed the importance of moral and ethical leadership as opposed to a leadership committed to vulgar individualism and materialism. Moreover, I’ve called for the community to hold leaders accountable for representing and addressing the community’s priorities first. For too often, too many leaders leave thorny and pressing problems unaddressed or inadequately addressed, for example, poverty, police violence, unemployment, poor quality public education for Black children, internal community violence, mass incarceration, and an immigration policy that includes and respects the interests of Black immigrants also.
If there’s one lesson summing up what I’ve learned and would like to share, it is this: we must unapologetically take control of our own destiny, develop and pursue our own agenda, build appropriate coalitions and alliances, and continue to struggle for racial and social justice without compromise. We are a proud and resilient people, rich in internal resources and whatever the meaning and value of this column and my work has had, it’s because I have continuously drawn from those resources and used them to strengthen and guide my efforts.
Finally, I thank you, the community, and you the readership, and of course my wife and family, and my colleagues and friends, for accompanying me on this gratifying journey and for your support and creative challenge. For I do so much appreciate the opportunity for having been able to focus on our awesome history of resourcefulness and resilience while challenging continuing barriers to our success and advancement as a people. So, I say a kind of farewell, for real soldiers never really quit, they just move to other positions on the battlefield for the justice and good life we all deserve and will eventually achieve through unity, strength and determination.