In what he hopes will spur a new way of doing business in the new year, Community Empowerment Association President and CEO Rashad Byrdsong released an open letter calling on Black leaders to get on the same page and address the plight of urban communities.

“For years, we’ve had two empowerment formulations, getting Blacks into political office and protest politics—guys like me. Those two alone have not eased the problems,” he said. “We need a new formulation.”

As such, Byrdsong is calling on Black leaders “of every stripe” to come together and develop strategies that will effectively deal with family and educational breakdowns and street violence.

“We can’t afford to be held back by ideological and political boundaries,” he said. “We need to look at Black academicians, businessmen, organizations like the Urban League and the African American Chamber, and the faith community. No one sector can do this. We have to rebuild the cultural institutions that have been destroyed.”

In addition to rebuilding leadership institutions, Byrdsong said they must collaborate and develop a unified strategy, structure and agenda for action.

“That’s why non-traditional leaders, grass roots leaders, have to be part of this,” he said. “We have to develop this, have committees in place to take it to the politicians because there is a major disconnect there.”

Putting it more bluntly, Byrdsong said the current leadership doesn’t.

“Our current carcass of Black elected officials follows the familiar model of hierarchical top-down organizational approach, having hardly any direct linkage or interaction with grassroots or the Black mass-base in our communities,” he said. “Rather, their linkage is to fellow elites—Blacks and Whites—within the establishment. This model…nets very little, to no, beneficial results for our communities.”

As he has stated previously, Byrdsong said the Black faith community has to join the conversation.

“I would like to see these ministers get past the differences they have and prioritize moving their flocks to address these issues,” he said. “We have kids flunking out, getting killed—and their mothers and grandmothers are in those pews. The church, like these other institutions, needs to make itself relevant to the community—especially the youth. That’s the conversation we need to have in this new year.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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