Yesterday I shared with everyone about the tiff between Tavis Smiley and the Reverend Al Sharpton that took place over the airwaves. Since I’m long-winded I decided to make my post a two-part discussion so not to overwhelm my readers. I look forward to hearing back from each of you. So far I’ve been told I hit it on the nail. Let’s see what folks have to say today….
What This Means to Me
One of my passions is teaching young Black students about their culture while empowering them to become great leaders at school, home, within and outside of their communities. Let me tell you what I won’t do…. I will not teach them to expect our President to ride in and overnight move mountains; nor will I teach them to ask for (and expect) any hand outs, especially not our 40 acres and a mule reparations cry. Let’s be real shall we?!?
I also won’t discuss the suggestion that our economy be bombed by another multi-million dollar stimulus injection. Can we take a break from looking like a country of idiots for just a second? I’m not going to teach children that just because we have a Black President that now our problems should soon go away, and that he alone can write our future.
Yes, we all have concerns we want addressed. Yes, we have every right to do a double-take at the President and his advisors and ask, “Uh…what’s going on with us getting some jobs in the marketplace and healthcare for those of us struggling with being uninsured or underinsured?” Yes, we need help in our schools as we see our high school drop-out rates skyrocket. Yes, I’d like to ask why we have 20 and 21-year-old students in high school because states like Georgia want to have ridiculously high graduation requirements (although they rank embarrassing low nationwide in testing and graduation rates).
These young adults are at an age when most people are graduating from college…not 12th grade. But I’m not solely looking to our President for the answers to my problems or the problems of the Black community. I need those other leaders who line that ladder to the top to be on board of the plan for change that uplifts my people…not provides handouts…that brings about long-term positive change where there is visible growth, wealth, prosperity, and equality in education and health measures, not simply while he’s in office but until the end of time. That way our President’s plan can be welcomed (even with friction) and not shut down.
What’s the “Black Agenda” Exactly?
How effective is it to have an agenda when at the grassroots level we can’t even reach those that are within an arm-length distance? How do we go to the President with our “Black Agenda” when we obviously haven’t come together on the ground level to collectively determine what the agenda is exactly? It’s obvious that there are some folks that are out of the loop so to speak….maybe because there are too many segmented agendas floating around. Have we determined who will oversee the process once everything has been put into action on our behalf? Who is assuming what role? We need every Black leader to get off their high horse and have a seat in a chair in one room and respectfully hash everything out now!
Our Measure of Time and Action
If you were the President who could you trust when it appears that a great deal of people have their finger on the trigger? Yes, he is very difficult to read…his pulse is not clear. Should it be? I’m not sure. Should he keep a solid poker face as he strategically finds a way to address our needs at the same time he’s addressing our country’s needs? Or should he just come straight out and say, “Black people have been mistreated for hundreds of years, disenfranchised and overlooked, so I’m issuing an order of blah blah blah to take place effective immediately to re-birth a nation that built this one”? Which Black leaders can he trust to be frank with, listen to, and take advice from? Maybe that is an issue…some Black leaders are upset that they aren’t part of his “circle of influence”.
So let me throw something out there….Is President Obama not moving fast enough for us? What should have already been in place by now that directly impacts Black America? I know what I would have liked to have seen implemented. Should he be moving faster because he’s Black? Some folks felt he was not Black “enough”…what must he do to be Black “enough” so that we are satisfied that he is representing us to his fullest capabilities? What must he do to prove that our needs and concerns are important to him, and that all the work he’s done within our communities over the years was not simply the layered motives of a politician wanting to gain ground and leverage? How long are we giving him to prove himself before we turn our backs on him and throw him under the bus?
What time frame did we create for our last 18 Presidents that held office during the 20th and 21st centuries to speak up and produce proof on how they would serve the needs and interests of Black America? How well did they fair? I mean heck the situation that I see in the Black community did not just pop up once Obama was elected.
So I’m trying to figure out what exactly the last 18 Presidents did for us that was so overwhelmingly impressive that proves that Obama is slacking? I’m not saying his slow action or inaction is acceptable, nor am I attacking him. One thing I can say is that with the exception of the long-time jokes about Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton being “Black” presidents- Barack Obama is our first (only God knows if he is to be our last). In this role he is doing something no other Black person has achieved. I understand that he has a limited window of time to get the job done (or as much as possible). I understand that unlike other countries he can’t “reign” for another 50 years. What I also understand is that although we are part of an instant gratification society, we can’t ask or demand of this president what we didn’t ask or demand of the past 18, 19, 20…or 25 presidents. If we did then why don’t we just say, “hey just refer to the last 10-18 requests we’ve submitted to your predecessors and then add this, this, and that…“?
So ask yourself, how can he best serve us while also serving the millions that also voted for him (and those that did not), while trying to secure a second term- so that we can see the fruits of all of our labor? Maybe he won’t get a second term…what are we doing to help prevent this from happening? Can we help? In what ways can we hurt his second term election?
What Are My Leaders Doing?
I know that we need help desperately. I know that I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I know that it rips me up to see my people on the streets homeless and feeling helpless and hopeless. I’m tired of seeing my people being pimped out with payday loans, rent-to-own furniture, and too-high-to-sleep-at-night interest rates. I’m tired of seeing young Black girls dropping it to the floor, shaking and showing what God and their mama gave them. I’m tired of seeing these Black girls thinking it’s cute to be dumb as a rock in the woods that no one sees.
I’m hurt every time I see a teen mother…when will birth control and adequate sex education be an option at all of our schools?
We say that abortion is causing genocide in our community…birth control and sex education would help prevent this. We have too many young girls between the ages of 10 and 17… pregnant…some on their second and third child…birth control and sex education would help prevent this. I’m tired of hearing and reading stories about a mother leaving her baby in the trash can, park, alley, etc….birth control and sex education would help prevent this.
I’m tired of seeing our young Black men with their pants so big, hanging off their hips (struggling to walk, trot or run) barely able to hold a decent conversation above that of a third grade level because it’s not cool to be intelligent.
I’m tired of seeing kids in my community going to and coming back from school with no books in hand. I’m tired of seeing half-empty public libraries. I’m tired of seeing school libraries being used for in-school suspension…are the kids in there reading, studying, doing class work? Not likely. I’m tired of seeing visits to the museum limited to school trips (if it’s in the budget). I’m tired of seeing Black parents working just to put their kids in designer clothes, shoes, and bags but can’t pay their rent and utilities. I’m tired of hearing my people say, “I don’t read” when I ask them, “so what book are you currently reading?” or “so what kind of books do you like to read?”
I’m tired of seeing kids “slanging” drugs and can break down how much an ounce, pound, or kilo costs but go dead dumb in the classroom. Yes, I said dead dumb. I’m tired of these so-called “reality” TV shows that depict Black people as loud, ignorant, uneducated (even when it’s a show with college students), sex feigns, hoes and players, dead-beats, alcoholics, and drugged out. I don’t need to mention these cable TV shows, besides there are so many I would need to write a separate piece just on that subject…and don’t let me start on those flippin’ grills! I don’t want to see another child or worse, adult with a grill in their mouth…please stop!
I’m tired of seeing my people more concerned about how they’re going to “front” with a fake 5-7 carat stone in their ear or on the hand; or twirling around a huge cross or some other emblem made out of crystals pretending they are diamonds (each stone roughly 1-3 carats in size).
If my people understood the true cost of those items had they been real…maybe (but I doubt it) they would elect to wear something smaller (like 0.25 carats) or something else more appropriate. Oh and by the way the image you just saw…here’s the eye-catching description at the website that sells it for $89.99:
EXCLUSIVE All Ice 36 inches White 8mm Stones Bling Chain
– All iced out 150 karats of ice!
– You’ve seen these worn by all the rappers!
– This chain will attract crazy attention by all the ladies!
Wow 150 carats huh? Oh excuse me…karats…for only $89.99
I understand this madness clearly…they imitate what they see day in and day out. So what are leaders in my community doing about it? Speak up those of you who daily go into the classrooms, walk these streets speaking with your people, interviewing them, recording them, documenting their progress…tell me what you are doing right now to change this…besides saying, “we need the President to do….”
I want education reform, I want true financial literacy being presented and taught in our communities and in our classrooms. I want Black studies, multi-cultural studies, and religious studies being taught in the classroom and not just as an option on college campuses. I want affordable health coverage where I can pick my doctor, dentist, and specialist, and not because I’m getting “aid”. If I lose my job and get independent, private insurance I don’t want to be denied service, face a laundry list of exclusions, or be put on the traditional “one year” clause because of “pre-existing conditions” or other nonsense. I want to see unemployment rates plummet while watching my people get those jobs they have been desperately applying for…and so Black men can resume being the true head of their household, with dignity and self-respect. I want to see more state regulations (especially in southern states like Georgia) in place so employees feel valued and companies can feel the sting when they mistreat their employees.
So what are leaders in my community doing about this? What do we tell our President that we need him to do to resolve these issues? What is our collective message in this Black Agenda? Where do I go to have my say, listen to the masses, and see this outlined proposal for change?
The Standard for All
Accountability should be addressed to every politician and leader who has been put into office by our vote, our say, our power, our support. Not just one or some, but all leaders should be held accountable for what they claimed they would do before they got into office, what they said they would do the first 100 days, and what they have done those first 365 days and every year thereafter. You don’t hold them accountable once the diaper hits the fan…it is to begin from day one. Just like when Jerry McGuire yelled, “show me the money”, you must tell your leaders, “show me what you can do and what you have done”.
You make it difficult for this dialogue to take place when you’re having a monologue!
Copyright © 2010 by Natasha L. Foreman. All rights reserved
Tavis Smiley “Tavis Smiley Talks” Transcript Source: http://www.tavistalks.com/we-count-black-agenda-american-agenda
New York Times Article Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/us/politics/09race.html