What to Do When Black Leaders Won’t Lead

By | January 26, 2014

When our leaders are slain or not given the spotlight or have it taken away, the black community is plunged into chaos and confusion.

Because we have not been reared in the art of power sharing and have been taught to mistrust one another, we are often one charismatic leader away from being forced to restart any and all social progress should leadership change.

The AIDS crisis (which continues to rip through the black community at a startling rate), unemployment and mental health are just a few things that continue to menace us individually and thwart continuous movement for us collectively.

When Dr. King was assassinated, there was no one willing or able to continue with his dream.

When Malcolm X was assassinated, there was no backup plan that included a polished and able young person to ensure that all the momentum gained was not immediately and irreparably lost.

Once the death threats began early and often, there should have been an intense search and prompt training should the threats become reality.

As a culture, we are always hoping and praying as a strategy.

While I believe in prayer’s power, I am also a fervent believer in recognizing when change and catastrophe are circling above.

What is needed is a group of diverse black leaders who love blackness and are committed to the possibilities that lie undiscovered and getting our minds right (mental health). I did not say black folks (leaders) who sentimentalize the “black experience ” and prattle on incessantly about yesteryear and the need for two parent heterosexual households.

There are three things that those of us who crave freedom and self actualization can do to ensure that our leadership is accountable, powerful and vigilant in their own and black humanity’s evolution.

As a group, we have to do the work that is inclusive of all types of leaders no matter where they come from (socioeconomic backgrounds , different sexual and spiritual practices) or what they perceive to be leadership.

Often times, we police our own in ways that are downright pitiful.

We assume that only the poor of us know suffering and the educated should speak once the media appears.

When young people can only hear “hood speak” and become deaf to anything but this vernacular this is a problem.

When the privileged among us decide that we can speak for the masses despite our limited and sheltered backgrounds, this is equally disturbing.

Can we not all speak ? Should we all not be heard ? Why is it that we refuse to combine insight gained from differences in an effort to progress ?

Anybody who has grown up without (money, education, access to basic necessities) has learned a thing or two about surviving on meager resources. Those of us who have grown up without financial worries can also share our knowledge on how to save, manipulate finances and plan for the future.

Combining knowledge only works when individuals have not been completely terrorized by their circumstances and still have access to some clear thinking and have held on to their minds.

Sentimentalists marvel at poor people and want to hear of their struggles.

They won’t question why the struggle exists. Those who have been raised with much needn’t feel guilty (another sentimentality trick). Instead, a concerted effort could be made to combine extremes and create a third approach to community and personal victory.

Part of accepting and fully integrating difference among all those who could most benefit it involves also looking at our LGBTQ comrades.

As a community that is still discriminated by those that look like us, we have much to share regarding strategies for resisting domination. We have some stellar leaders who are deftly schooled in the art of leadership. Does a differing sexuality only provoke fear and dismissal or should insight be welcomed regardless ?

We need to demand more of our leaders by demanding more of ourselves and those we know and love.

When a leader’s vision is faulty or not well thought out, we need to challenge and question.

We require people and leaders who are not afraid to speak truth, think and be unpopular.

If our leadership(whether it is granted or seized) refuses to lead in ways that are inclusive, it should be tossed out.

Debate and dissent in the black community is not encouraged.

Many times I have been in a discussion with an elder and have fought the impulse to be silent as a way of showing respect. This thinking helped no one and in some instances hurt an important relationship.

We prevent confusion and impediments to our collective growth when we determine that changes be made, power be shared and leadership skills be taught to all.

This may not solve all problems but it will definitely invite change and offer fresh solutions.

Leaders exist in all arenas.

We have been taught to look for certain ones in certain arenas and ignore those that do not fit our predetermined criterion.

We must stop this shortsighted and discriminatory practice thereby inviting all of those who think and love well to a place at the table.

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