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Robert Traynham

In this moment in time, our country and society as a whole is facing many monumental decisions of our lifetime. The future of health care, entitlement spending, the growing deficit, tending to a crumbling infrastructure, fragile relations with China, Russia and North Korea along with racial and economic tension and we seem to not have national African-Americans leaders on the airwaves to speak for and to people of color.

Think about it, during other major national and international situations there was usually a national “Black voice of conscious” to help put things in context for us, to call on the president of the day to ensure that the “Black voice” was heard when decisions were made. To be clear, I am not talking about a national celebrity that has a platform to talk about issues that they think are important; we as a community of color have always had that, but I am speaking of something more substantive and more of a reflection of all of us, as opposed to just one person. In other words, someone that collectively represents our hopes, fears, concerns and can speak with moral clarity about the issues of the day. Think Mary McLeod Bethune, the educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian and civil rights activist who used her platform as “The First Lady of the Struggle” to advance the causes of African Americans in the early part of the 20th century. Think John Hope Franklin, the author of critically acclaimed work “From Slavery To Freedom” that was first published in 1947 and 70 years later is still being updated after selling more than 3 million copies. Franklin, like McLeod Bethune became a moral voice of authority on issues such as racial equality. Later in his career when it became common knowledge that Franklin was the “go-to” person when it came to the struggle of African Americans being involved in leadership positions, “my challenge,” Franklin said, “was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of Blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly.”

My point is where are these voices today? Who are the current leaders that are bigger than party, bigger than ideology and bigger than politics to speak to the greater good and the need for African Americans to be a part of that narrative? Who is it and what will it take to find this person or people that people stop what they’re doing and listen and act.

Who can and will be that person to bring us together for the public good? I don’t know about you, but for the past 10 or so years, I have been waiting for someone to rise up, to speak truth to power and to transcend politics and to be that voice of moral clarity and purpose.

In the times that we’re living in — and dare I say in the times ahead we, as African Americans in particular and as Americans as a whole need a voice and a platform to make sure that we’re heard. During this holiday season, I am going to be thinking of people who can rise up and be these people and I encourage you to the same.

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