10 Things We As African Americans Can Do To Move Our Community Forward

It is time for us to stop addressing the symptoms and begin addressing the root of the problem

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Black Funeral
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I awoke yesterday morning to the news of Philando Castile’s death. Every social media platform I logged onto, people were buzzing about the death of two African-Americans in two days, at the hands of police, for minimal offenses. Tensions are high, and groundswell is beginning to occur within the communities; and therefore, I pose the question, Are YOU finally sick and tired of being sick and tired? 

As I watched the stories play out on television, my heart hurts. To watch the 15-year-old son of Atlon Sterling devastated over the loss of his father caused me think about my own 15-year-old son. What he would feel, had it been his own father? Or worse yet, what if it were him?

While a myriad of emotions consumed my heart and my mind, one emotion I did NOT feel was surprise. For decades, I have read and listened to activists and educators – such as Dr. Claud Anderson, Dr. Umar Johnson, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Dr. Boyce Watkins and a host of others – who have often spoke of, and even predicted, the days and times in which we currently live. Their messages were very clear, but because their words were not spoken over a dope track that made you bob your head, they often fell on deaf ears.

The evolution of technology and the camera phone have brought a reality to the forefront that has existed for decades, if not centuries. The Truth, Black lives aren’t valued; and therefore, black lives really DON’T matter.

Time and time again the same story plays-out; unarmed black man (or black woman) killed at the hands of the police. Yes, there are times when the victim may have been in the process of a minor offense, but in many cases, the punishment did not fit the crime.

As I continued my scan over social media, out of frustration and emotion, questions are often asked, “When does it end? Where does it end?” For us to see true change, these questions must be changed to a statement: This changes right NOW starting with me!

You see, this type of disregard for black lives has continued because, quite frankly, African-Americans have failed to recognize and harness their economic, political and media power! We can protest, sit in, riot and even burn ish down, but at the end of the day, if we have not unified and exercised the true source of our community’s power, we will continue to be victims of a society that is more emotionally moved by the loss of animals than the loss of a human life.

I do not want to place all the blame on us as a community. There are, without a doubt, systemic vices that have been put in place that certainly play a significant role in the issues that plague our community. But I am challenging us to take responsibility in ensuring we bring about change in our communities, and ultimately across the nation.

I am a firm believer in not just stating a problem, but offering up solutions. There are certainly many things we can do to bring about change within our communities, but here are 10 that I believe are sure to get us in the right direction.

 

1.) Wake Up – Too many of us (black folks) are walking around pretending as if inequality and racism doesn’t exist. Yeah, so you have made it to the corner office, or the company you started is grossing seven, eight, or maybe even nine figures in revenue. Surely you have arrived. But then one day, it happens: you are passed over for promotion; you are let go from your job, because you didn’t fit into the culture; you lose a bid to a company less qualified than yours; or you are pulled over by the police in your luxury vehicle simply because you fit a profile. And then all of the sudden, you are reminded that in the eyes of some, you DON’T belong.

Don’t be naive to the fact that inequality and racism exist. If you have knocked down barriers to achieve success, it is your responsibility to reach back and do what you can to bring others to the table. To whom much is given, much is required, and your success should create opportunities for those following behind. Everyone should NOT have to start at the starting gate.

 

2.) Control Your Dollar – I get it. You have made it. You can go to the best restaurants downtown, you can shop at the high-end boutiques, you have worked hard, achieved success and now you want to enjoy the finer things in life, and there is nothing wrong with reaping the benefits of hard work. But NOW is the time to be discerning with your dollar. You have worked hard to earn it, now it is time that you realize; people need to work hard to earn it from you. We are so quick to take it to places where it is under-valued.

Instead of that high-end restaurant, what about finding a black-owned establishment you can support, a black-owned boutique to shop at, a black-owned beauty supply store to buy your products from. I know what you are saying, Jay the service and the experience is not the same. My response; because they don’t have the financial support needed to grow. In some cases, they aren’t able to get the loans from the bank; they aren’t able to get funding from family and friends needed to create the luxury experience that you feel you have earned or they aren’t able to purchase an inventory of products that rivals a department store, but if you look around, what you will typically see it that they are employing other black people and creating jobs. And with your support, they have the resources to grow and build, creating an economic engine within the community.

Take a lesson from Margarita Anderson who spent a year shopping black. Don’t simply go where your dollar is tolerated, go where your dollar is appreciated and will make a difference.

 

3.)Understand the Power and Impact of Media – Within Jessie William’s impactful speech, he made the statement, “They kill a black man and then go home and eat a sandwich.” This statement speaks to a very important point: much of mainstream America is desensitized to the plight of Black America. Black women are often portrayed in mainstream media as overly aggressive, extremely sexualized and promiscuous. Black men are portrayed as thugs, gangsters, and criminals. If you think these stereotypical images don’t have an effect on how African-Americans are viewed by people outside of our communities, then I have some swamp land I would like to sell you.

This imagery not only affects how other races and cultures view African Americans, but it impacts how we are viewed around the world.

Adolf Hitler understood this fact. Prior to the holocaust, Hitler used negative imagery and propaganda to create an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jewish people in Germany.

Reality TV, fight-videos shared across social media, African-Americans portrayed in stereotypical roles on television and in movies play into the narrative that the vast majority of our community are criminals. Many law-enforcement officers see our young black men and women as thugs, gangsters, ghetto and criminals. This is why no grief counseling is required after killing a young black man or woman.

This is why black-owned media is so important; we most control the imagery and tell our own stories. It is our responsibility, through our own media outlets, to showcase the many different layers that comprise the greatness of our culture.

 

4.) VOTE – Not just for the President, but even more importantly, for the political races taking place within your local communities. It is in these elections that you are voting for your judges, prosecutors, police chief, school board members, commissioners, etc. These are the ones who impact your community on a daily basis. 

Force them to let you know where they stand on issues concerning your community, make a list of demands, hold them accountable, and then vote them out if they are not looking out for your best interests.

I am not mad if you choose to turn up at the club, but you damn sure better turn up at the polls.

 

5.) Run For Office – So I get it, you are not happy with the candidates you have to choose from, you still have two other options; throw YOUR hat in the ring for the sake of making a difference, or seek out people within your community that are already making an impact and encourage them to run. Contribute to their campaigns, and then support and protect them.

Politics can be a dirty game, because the stakes are so high, but don’t let that be a discouragement. People that have experienced difficulty in their past, are often the ones most committed to making a change within their communities.

 

6.) Establish A Clear Agenda – I love the energy of Black Lives Matter. I love seeing a generation of young minds on fire for seeing change within our communities. My only issue is, What is the objective? What is the plan we want submitted to legislators? What polices do we want to see changed? How do we want poverty, mass incarceration, judicial injustices, joblessness, education to be address?

I am not saying an agenda doesn’t exist, but if one does, it needs to be somewhere plain and clear for all to see, so that there is something tangible to work from. We all want to see change, but we must show people how we get there.

 

7.) Organize – Today’s generation has a very powerful tool that didn’t exist during the civil rights era: connectivity of social media. Social media is fun and playful, and it allows us to share moments of our lives with friends and family. But it is also a resource when it comes to communicating with a massive amount of people.

We must use it to our advantage to communicate and coordinate with one another. If we are going to enact change, then we must communicate in one accord.

 

8.) Get the Church Involved – Prayer and spiritual guidance is definitely needed in this day and time, but pastors must also use their resources to empowering their members with practical tools. If you are a pastor with a church that has a sizable membership, and you are not offering classes in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, homeownership, estate planning, parenting, marriage counseling, etc. to your members, then you are not feeding your flock and you are doing your members and the community a disservice. Period.

The reason young people are straying away from the church is because they feel everything is for the benefit of the pastor, but nothing is for the benefit of its members.

 

9.) Evolution of the Civil Rights Organization  – I am thankful for the work of organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Urban League and other civil-rights groups that have helped us advance forward. But as with any business, the model must evolve with the changing of time.

Yes, there are still injustices that need to be addressed, but as we enter the entrepreneurial boom, another issue has arisen that has an economic impact on our communities; lack of access to capital. As Silicon Vallery churns out millionaire after millionaire who have been able to capitalize on the evolution of technology, African Americans have been left standing on the sidelines simply because they can’t access the capital needed to get their ventures off the ground.

Why do I mention Civil Rights organizations in this section? Because it is time for our Civil Rights organizations to include an economic development investment arm, which will work to fund innovative ideas from our gifted, young African-American minds. So I know what you are thinking, how can we expect these non-profit organizations to be responsible for this financial burden? Here is the solution; Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. generate billions in annual profit. African Americans are 12% of the US population, but represent 30% of the user base on any given social media platform (contributing to billions in profit), yet only account for 2% (at best) of their work force.

We shouldn’t be begging for jobs to increase the 2% figure, we should be holding many of these companies accountable to investing several million apiece into an investment fund (minimum of $25 million), managed by one of the civil rights organizations.

Utilizing the same model of an Accelerator program, the fund should be used to provide incubation and funding to African American entrepreneurs with a proven business model. When properly funded and provided with the proper resources, these are the companies that will create jobs and employ other African Americans. It’s a simple model that is working not only within Silicon Valley, but across the nation. But sometimes simple is just a little too easy. This is how we decrease unemployment and advance people of color forward in this generation. It’s time to stop begging for jobs and time to start creating them.

 

10.) Teach our History – There is a Biblical saying my father used to share with me, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Much of what we are seeing today is reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s, in terms of inequality (minus the segregation). The problem is that we are not teaching OUR history to our children and the generations following. Sure, we tell them about Dr. Martin Luther King. We may even gloss over slavery a bit, but they don’t know their true history.

As Edmund Burke once said, “Those who don’t know their past are doomed to repeat it.” We must make diligent efforts to teach future generations the good, the bad and the ugly of our past. It is not to make them angry at injustices our ancestors experienced; rather, it is for the purpose of making them whole and instilling a sense of pride in them. When a person has a sense of pride in whom they are, they seem to stand a little taller. They have no desire to humiliate themselves, and they refuse to accept anything less than what they know they deserve.

Along with practicing the things on the list above, RYSE is and has always been our effort to move the community forward, as we continue to be a platform showcasing the excellence that exist within communities of color. Now we challenge you to join us on this journey.


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