Throughout American history, black people have faced huge and seemingly insurmountable dangers and challenges. Blacks have also been blessed with some of the most courageous, innovative and brilliant leaders, spokespersons and warriors.
Men and women whose beliefs, philosophies and methodologies spanned a wide spectrum; while providing beacons of hope and practicality. And the names and legacies of such stalwarts as Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Ida B Wells, Marcus Garvey, David Walker, and W.E.B. Dubois sparkle like stars in the firmament.
After black people came up from chattel slavery and entered the so-called modern industrialized age, they were blessed with the wisdom and guidance of Noble Drew Ali, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Roy Wilkins, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and the indomitable Malcolm X.
The turbulent sixties and early seventies would bring them the bold and beautiful courage and intelligence of Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, George Jackson, Angela Davis and many others.
Now that we have entered the 21st centuries, we find that our journey out of the matrix of evil and oppression is not over. For we are still faced with huge and devastating ordeals that have rendered us weak, disenfranchised, divided, and disillusioned in so many areas of our individual and collective lives. And we are in need of insightful, dedicated and courageous leadership, perhaps, like no other time in our people's tenure here in North America.
Many of us have pinned our hopes on President-elect Barack Obama, and look to him to use the power of the Presidency to remedy our grievances and improve our plight, yet as Obama has stated, his focus is to be President of all Americans and he does not feel obligated to use his office to focus exclusively on the concerns of African Americans.
If he had done so, it is certain that he would not have been considered as a candidate for President by any major political party.
It was, in fact, his adroitness in avoiding, ignoring and minimizing racial issues that made him popular to white voters. And it is also why he felt compelled to renounce not only Minister Louis Farrakhan (to assuage white fears and trepidations) but also his close friend and mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
For almost a decade, Colin Powell had been projected in the main stream media as an exemplary black leader and as a successful potential candidate for the presidency of the United States. Yet, it is extremely difficult for a black person in America to succeed in the arena of politics or the military without also displeasing his sponsors in the white world or offending the people from which he came in the black world.
It is no easy task to please both worlds and the person who tries must be involved in a sort of high-wire balancing act. He treads easy; knowing that to go too far in any direction will mean his fall from grace in at least one of two spheres.
Powell's first widely reported public denunciation was made by singer/activist Harry Belafonte who likened the highly decorated military leader to a house slave.
"…there were those slaves who lived on the plantation," Belafonte said. 'And there were those slaves that lived in the house. Powell's committed to come into the house of the master."
Jessie Louis Jackson's legacy as a civil rights activist goes back to his days as a companion of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He was also the first black man to run a serious and viable campaign for the Presidency. And he's been an outspoken advocate for the poor, black and disenfranchised. Yet, there are those that say he has outlived his role as a central figure in the struggle for black liberation and self-determination.
Al Sharpton, younger yet cast in the mode of civil rights activists of yester-year, is, (although appreciated by many black Americans) still unable to provide the leadership and the vision blacks so desperately need in the 21st century.
Minister Louis Farrakhan, perhaps one of the most dynamic, independent and therefore effective black spokesmen in the last 50 years, has been challenged with several debilitating bouts with cancer. Even reportedly stepping down from his leadership position so as to decentralize his organization away from his charismatic personality.
Reared in the uncompromising, pro-black mantra of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, Farrakhan has mellowed in his approach and has become more tolerant and moderate, often including Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics, and poor whites in his vision for freedom, justice, and equality.
Few leaders have identified and addressed the causes of black poverty and oppression and produced a blueprint for them as has Dr. Claude Anderson.
Cut in the mode of Marcus Garvey, Rev. Albert Cleague and Elijah Muhammad, he believes the attempts of blacks to merge into an idealistic color-blind or color neutral society is a waste of valuable time and resources. It does nothing to rectify the source of black exploitation and victimization which is based in over three hundred years of use and abuse as an uncompensated labor pool.
According to Anderson, the civil rights movement failed to demand compensation for centuries of legalized slavery and inhumanity which has rendered black folk devastated economically, socially and psychologically.
In order to empower themselves, Anderson encourages blacks to aggregate their wealth and group power, utilize their blackness and cultural nuances to close off their communities from other groups, and create islands of prosperity for their own people in much the same way as whites, Asians, Native Americans, Jews, Cubans and Hispanics have done.
Anderson grieves over the plight of large American cities with majority black populations that have not consolidated their numbers and practiced group economics. And he is particularly disappointed with Detroit which he believes is in an ideal position to be a model of black political and economic power and self-sufficiency, but has allowed itself to deteriorate into a poster city for urban decay and crime.
"When we elect black folks to political offices, are they not supposed to what they can to empower black folks, the ones who elected them?" Anderson reasoned. "In those cities that are majority black, shouldn't there be some evidence to show that the benefits of political control are accruing in black communities? Are black politicians so desperate to be validated by other groups that there are willing to give away assets to whites and others rather than to black folks? Are black politicians so easily swayed by the trappings of corporate greed, and are they so accessible to bribes and money schemes that they end up neglecting their own people-even when they are in charge?"
Anderson is quick to point out that he is not against any other group or ethnicity, and that we should treat everyone like they are treating us; no better and no worse.
Steven Malik Shelton is a writer and human rights advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Accessible online at; www.papillonsartpalace.com/harrBy.htm
 "Detroit Debacle: Will Black People Ever Control Major Cities?" by James Clingman The Harvest Institute Report (Spring 2008)
© Dec 2008 By Steven Malik Shelton || [TOP]
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