(NNPA)—In a recent perspective on “The Black Agenda” in Jet Magazine, Michael Eric Dyson wrote that he was “the only participant in both Travis Smiley’s ‘We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda’ and Rev. Al Sharpton’s ‘Measuring the Movement Black Leadership Forum.’”
As could be expected at any gathering involving these three, there was probably a plethora of resounding rhetorical flourishes about the state of Black folks in this country. Dyson noted that participants at both events “agreed that we must find ways to force the powerful to pay attention to the vulnerable….” Completely missing in Dyson’s article is an indication of any discussion of concrete actions to be taken to change things.
That is exactly why, several years ago, I ceased attending such gatherings. Much too often they had become occasions where participants regaled each other with the horror stories and horror statistics that we have all heard them provide numerous times before. It’s almost like they were competing to see who could tell the most vivid horror story or provide the most depressing statistics.
I will not attend a forum on “The Problems of the Black Family” but will attend one on “How to Build Stronger Black Families”; I won’t participate in a forum on “The State of Black America” but will participate in one focusing of “Ways to Improve the State of Black America.” I won’t be a part of a symposium on “The Resurgence of White Supremacy” but will contribute what I can to one on “Ways to Combat the Resurgence of White Supremacy.”
It is time for Black folks to demand that so-called leaders and intellectuals host events that are solutions-oriented. We should remember that two of our greatest leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were men of solutions-oriented action. Great orators though they were, they also, as clearly stated by Brother Malcolm in the autobiography and in the goals and objectives of the Organization of Afro-American Unity and by Dr. King in his last, too often ignored, book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?,” men who strongly believed in self-help and self-determination.
I wonder if their concrete guidelines on actions Black people must take in the struggle against White supremacy were even mentioned at the Smiley-Sharpton gatherings in which Dyson was a participant. If they were, Dyson was not impressed enough to mention even one of them in his Jet article which included several platitudes such as pressing “political leaders to help Black citizens who are hurt by the policies that favor the rich and the powerful…”
Is it asking too much to request that Dyson, Smiley, Sharpton and other such pontificators offer suggestions for concrete actions that Black people—not the government, not the politicians, not White liberals or White conservatives, not the academicians—but what actions we as Black folks must take to empower ourselves.
(Journalist/Lecturer A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, is currently editor of Vital Issues: The Journal of African American Speeches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)