To Reclaim and Rebuild our Communities

By William P. Muhammad

With the economic mess the United States has inherited from the last eight years of the outgoing Bush administration, Black Americans are being challenged to consider both the time and the actions necessary to maintain, if not to improve, our qualify of life. In a period of economic uncertainty, we must come to adjust our ways of thinking, return to a strong sense of self and take to heart the fact that a new president cannot solve the problems our communities face on a daily basis.

Through the failures of the real estate market, the auto industry and Wall Street, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been affected one way or another from home foreclosures, job losses and an undisciplined financial market. Through predatory lending and sub-prime and variable rate loans, people of color, the working poor and the middle class are all being squeezed and stretched within an economy in recession.

For African-Americans weathering difficult days is nothing new and while the November elections have brought a Black man to the White House, Blacks must leverage that victory into a solid strategy benefiting the growth and development of our communities. Making our neighborhoods “safe and decent places to live,” through educating our people to the knowledge of self, is the starting point from which self-examination, self-analysis and self-correction may be carried out.

According to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s study guides: “Self-Improvement, the Basis for Community Development,” the collective change of a community or nation must first begin with a change within the individual. That “transformed” or changed individual effects the environment around himself or herself, which in turn changes a community or a nation for the better or the worse. Bearing witness to the Biblical scripture: “As a man thinks, so is he,” a negative self-image creates a self-destructive people, blighted communities and broken families.

A vision for the future

History proves that Black self-hatred in America was taught to us through centuries of servitude and repetitive indoctrination, and undoing that damage is today the key to improving our people and our neighborhoods. Churches, mosques and other institutions meaningful to Black people must take the forefront in addressing the Black self-image - if real change is to occur. More than paying lip-service to Blackness or by only repeating “I am somebody,” we need a collective and systematic effort that breaks the mindset of Black inferiority.

Instilling a culture of self-determination, excellence and pride will lead the Black community to a bright future where Black-on-Black love will overcome and replace Black-on-Black crime and violence. Rather than making dependency upon a system or a job that others can take away with the stroke of a pen or a kick out the door, we as a people must learn to depend upon each other once again and to realize that true freedom and independence starts with an honest assessment of self.

There is a great future awaiting the wide-awake Black man and woman of America once the love of self becomes the rule rather than the exception, and nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. A transformed family will aid in the transformation of an entire community and by accepting the responsibility to build up ourselves, simultaneously, we will in fact be found building up our nation.

It goes without saying that the immediate future has many challenges within it and that difficult days are ahead, but we will have much to lose if we refuse to adequately prepare ourselves for the changes that are certainly coming. Considering the hour, we know what must be done in order to maintain or improve our standards of living and a thorough knowledge of self is the basis from which we must start.

We cannot expect politicians to do for us what we are capable of getting up and doing for ourselves and looking to the new president to solve the crises in our various communities is equally unrealistic. The Black community is a resilient community that has endured both centuries of enslavement and decades of segregated oppression, but today “we must get our own foot out of our own way.”

By returning to ourselves, or our original state of being, we will return to a heart purified through the vicissitudes of life. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that undeserved suffering was redemptive and today as so many of our people struggle for justice and fair dealing, we are being prepared to be leaders in a time of hardship. Scripture reads “…they will rebuild the wasted cities that have been devastated for generations…,” but in order to do so, we must first be found doing something to improve ourselves, our families and our people.

Brother William P. Muhammad is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso and an author.