I took this title from an old 1970’s book, Strategy for a Black Agenda, by the Black former head of the U.S. Community Party the late Henry Winston. A whole bunch of Black folks, including me, ran out and bought the book because of the title. It was nothing but a trite, sectarian, name-calling polemic that never addressed a Black agenda. But the concept is still right on time in the Black community.
There are always a whole lot of “Black Agendas” swirling around, claiming to speak for the entire Black community in Pittsburgh, or at the very least, for a large segment of that community, for example Homewood, or for the Hill District. Let’s look at a few things common to these Black Agendas.
Most of them have the same issues and concerns in common. No surprise. And most, if any, of them have a bank account–resources–to back them up, that is to implement them. The more people a particular agenda claims to represent, the larger its bank account must be. Without resources, it is little more than a wish list written down on paper.
This is not unique to Pittsburgh. I still have a copy of the red, black, and green cover National Black Agenda from the “historic” 1972 Gary Convention. A great document on paper. But it did not have the resources to implement it. There are photographs of the late Amiri Baraka sitting in the bleachers of the 1972 National Democratic Convention where he went totting the agenda from Gary. But as the late economist Robert S. Browne, who helped draft the Gary agenda, later wrote the agenda was taken to the powers-that-be before it was taketo the Black masses for their endorsement and support. This is extensive, long range, very hard but indispensable work.
Often time, Black VIP’s have “unity” among themselves, but not unity among the masses’ the people they claim to represent; the people is where the resources monetary, and otherwise comes from. So, for example, a group of Black VIP’s can meet and “unite” among themselves and call for a public meeting andonly get a moderate turn out at best. And whatever “Big White Folks” (Paul Robeson’s nomenclature) these Black VIP’s are trying to impress can read exactly what is and is not going on.
Also, a Black Agenda must first and foremost be based on tasks for the Black community to do on its own, and secondarily on tasks for the establishment. That’s because the Black community must build up and sustain its own power–Black Power– to be able to influence the powers-that-be.
A strategy for a Black agenda in Pittsburgh must be based on the nuts-and-bolts logistics of winning the active, involved support of the Black community. A leadership agenda is only a step in the process and not always a productive step.