Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Dreaming and organizing

3rd April 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

Tuesday, April 4, marks the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn. King and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were in Memphis to support a strike by sanitation workers and to advance the agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Nothing captures the profundity of the anniversary more than events across the U.S. designed to raise awareness about the ravages of racism and classism on communities of color and the poor and the desperate need for a livable wage for a growing number of Americans from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is imperative that we do everything in our power to support this 21st-century Poor People’s Campaign because injustice anywhere is still a threat to justice everywhere and there but for the grace of God go all of us.

In some ways, the world has changed dramatically since the assassination of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most eloquent and visionary leaders. In other ways, it hasn’t really changed at all.

We’ve seen, for instance, the election of Black mayors, congressmen — including former King aide John Lewis — state legislators and at least one governor. We’ve also seen the integration of local school boards, city councils, City Halls and judicial districts and the election of the nation’s first Black president, Barack H. Obama.

The flip side is that we have also seen concerted efforts to turn back the clock in America and to undo the progress represented by Brown v. The Board of Education, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. We’ve seen a GOP-controlled Congress refuse to honor the Supreme Court nomination of President Barack Obama. white control of school boards in majority-Black and Brown cities, blatant discrimination against Black, Brown and female contractors in the local bidding process, the rise and expansion of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex and a nationwide surge in unconstitutional policing and the shooting of unarmed and innocent Black. Brown and poor people.

In short, we are reminded every day that Black, Brown, Yellow, Red and poor people have no constitutional or human rights that whites are bound by law to respect.

We don’t need anyone to tell us these things or to admit to them — we know what we know.

The only question that remains to be asked is what are we going to do about it?

The answer is right in front of our faces: Start acting like a people who are resolute about securing full-fledged freedom, justice, economic independence and self-determination.

In order to ensure that we move closer to reaching our full potential as a people, we need to pay close attention to the many roadblocks and challenges our forebears faced in the past and how they handled them. By revisiting our collective history, we can extract the hard-fought wisdom, resilience, courage and tenacity of our Beloved Ancestors and tap into their adherence to the African proverb that says “I am because we are.”

That sense of connection, kinship and solidarity will serve us well during those times when we disagree about which course of action to take or how to best achieve a particular objective. We don’t have to always like one another or always get along, but we must develop a stringent love and respect for one another based on the time-tested truth that all we got is us.

We must also take our time to establish clear, long-term goals and carefully chart out a strategy for reaching those goals one objective at a time,

Once we know what we need to survive, grow and prosper, we must identify, expose and neutralize those who look like us who are actively working against our best interests whether they be self-described, leaders, elected officials or “faith leaders” who abuse the trust and respect of the people to carry out the agenda of the ruling white minority or to secure the federal funds that accompany their non-profit status.

Throughout our history, we have repeatedly learned that every brother is not a brother and all too often those who do the most damage to our efforts to achieve economic power, political power and self-determination are people chosen by those who are invested in preventing us from getting the things we need in order to be all we can be.

We need to look very closely at the votes of our representatives on the school board, city council, state legislature and Capitol Hill and how those votes have impacted communities of color. If we see, as we have, certain elected officials who can never summon the integrity, commitment or courage to represent our interests in their elected offices, we should give them the boot ASAP and find someone we trust and respect to get the job done to replace them.

A big part of at the reason we find ourselves in the current state of affairs is because we have allowed those we elected to represent our interests in government to repeatedly betray, shortchange, undermine and turn their backs on us. That has to change.

Finally, we should always remember that as bad and hopeless as things seem now, we as a people have witnessed and survived darker times. We have survived raids and kidnappings in our villages, languishing in slave fortresses, the horrors of the Middle Passage, the auction block, being bought, sold, bred and traded like cattle, whipped, beaten, castrated, tarred and feathered, lynched, raped and treated like we’re three-fifths human if human at all.

We are strengthened and emboldened by this nation’s dark past and prepared to pick up the mantle and complete the triumphant journey that our Beloved Ancestors embarked upon when they made a conscious decision to refuse to die under the weight of the oppression, adversity and uncertainty they faced in the New World.

Forward ever, backwards never.

This article originally published in the April 3, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.