How will Blacks navigate increasingly turbulent political and economic waters? The short answer is, with great difficulty. Black leadership rarely addresses this question and generally acts as though the status quo is in Black people’s best interest. By any measure, it is not. Committed, effective, and ethical leadership is the key to sustainable Black progress, but such leadership has become the painful exception.
Locally, 2011 is already shaping up to be the year of elections. Last week, an embarrassingly low number of residents in Inglewood voted for Mayor and City Council seat. In March, South Los Angeles will decide who will represent it in City Hall and on the School Board. While there is an ongoing debate about whether so many elections discourage residents From voting, the frequency of political campaigns alone raises the critical issue of who has power and who does not in Black communities.
In his groundbreaking work, The Wretched of the Earth, Franz Fanon wrote that one of the most harmful taboos is for the oppressed to seize power from oppressor. The foundation of this taboo is the mindset of the oppressed that is conditioned to accept whatever those who are in power require. If they are told things are great in the midst disaster, the oppressed tend to believe it; if they are told that things are getting better, although every piece of evidence states otherwise, they feel compelled to do nothing, and wait for the blessings to flow.
Although Black people have experienced the brutality of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, there has probably never been a time in our history when we were as politically docile as we are now. While the election of Barack Obama is held up as an example of a spike in Black people’s political strength, one must only hone in on local races to get a real indication of our waning political influence.
Too many Black local elected officials lack a true commitment to fighting for the structural changes necessary to improve the lives of our people. Worst yet, our elected officials, who are often connected to large political machines, habitually lie to us about how they are making things better. All the while, Black people, in particular, are losing ground in almost every imaginable way. For instance, the section of Los Angeles with the highest Black population has the fewest jobs, lowest wages, and per capita, the lowest number of businesses in the city. However, we were told recently that things are getting better because there has been modest – albeit low wage – job growth. Considering that 70 to 80% of Black voters don’t vote, this latest fable, like many others, may become truth – at our own expense-unless collectively, we take concrete action to do something about it.
In order to break the taboo of blind acceptance, especially on the local level, Black people must do what Fanon encouraged and strike a strategic blow. Doing so in this context can mean organizing your neighbors and friends to develop a vision for their community. We can also strike a blow by engaging candidates through public meetings and electing only those who have a genuine commitment to the community’s needs and demands.
On Sunday, January 30th at 1:30 pm, a group of residents will be hosting the first-ever Peoples’ Convention at USC’s Galen Center. The purpose of this gathering is to build a strong grassroots voice around critical issues in our community.
This type of effort is needed to break the political apathy and indifference that is killing us. Whether school teachers, homecare workers, formerly incarcerated or unemployed, Black people must consciously decide to take control of their respective communities. If we do not, Black people, and the communities we occupy and cherish, could, as we know them, become extinct.
More information on the People’s Convention is available at: www.8thdisdrictrising.com
(Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, Founder, Ma’at Club for Community Change, co-authored this week’s column.)
Larry Aubry can be contacted at email:firstname.lastname@example.org