Sunday, July 19, 2009

Unity: a must for Black prosperity and survival

By William P. Muhammad

With President Obama attempting to wind down America’s commitment in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is ramping up as new phases in the fighting require more troops and funding. Coupled with concerns over nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, an alleged nuclear weapons program in Iran and a stated desire to repair relations with the Arab and Muslim world in a time of war, international issues are dominating much of the President’s time and energy.

At home Mr. Obama presides over a national unemployment rate almost in the double digits while nearly 50 million Americans live without health insurance. Additionally, public education is lagging behind much of the industrialized world as America’s prisons continue to incarcerate more and more Black men. As these conditions continue to worsen, disproportionately affecting the lives of Black people, the need for a concerted effort to address them from within our own community is more than self-evident.

While some may place faith in the President’s federal stimulus package to create jobs and opportunities for the masses, waiting for the monies to “trickle down” may prove a major disappointment. With terms such as “less qualified” and “reverse racism” being used as euphemisms, in order to counter the state and county level favoritism that follows many federal contracting dollars, the unity and organization of Black leadership must become a priority.

Black Unity: the untried key

The concept of unity among Black people, though traditionally opposed by the dominant culture, has been one of the few vehicles through which freedom and empowerment has been advanced throughout the decades. Regardless of the efforts to discredit, disrupt or otherwise neutralize the leadership needed to facilitate our rise, from the overt brutality of slavery and its aftermath to the covert yet notorious machinations of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, our struggle continued in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Perhaps for the purpose of protecting the long-term interests of America’s economic elite, solidarity among Black people seems to have been classified as either a phenomenon to be managed or a threat to be prevented. Nevertheless, as America’s people of color continue to grow in numbers, Black American leadership must recognize the international significance of unifying and evolve with the changing times. Requiring us to adapt and adjust by thinking outside of the box, new opportunities offered by globalization, high technology and international economic integration have now shifted the paradigm.

While unity is the solution to the many challenges facing Black America today, solidarity across educational, religious and ideological lines has never been sustained at the national level. Internal disagreements, jealousy, envy and even external manipulation have all hampered our efforts to close ranks around the many problems plaguing our various communities.

If leadership is interested in stabilizing the long-term wellbeing of the Black community, and they see and embrace the greater goals of the greater good, myopic agendas and vain self-interests will take a backseat to new ideas and initiatives. In addition to articulating a vision for prosperity and advancement, leaders must also take it upon themselves to teach the love and self and kind to their constituencies, particularly among the youth, and make doing so the rule rather than the exception.

Putting unity of purpose ahead of outside favors and personal agendas would allow Black Americans, as a whole, to emerge not only with the substance reflecting the industry of our labor, but also with the wealth rivaling that of many sovereign nations. If we as a people were properly unified, we could “build schools, hospitals, factories and enter into international trade and commerce.” Nearly one trillion dollars pass through the hands of Black Americans annually and leveraged properly, one percent would work wonders toward solving Black unemployment, housing issues, disparities in healthcare and the education gap.

Currently, our posture of dependency and consumption requires a fundamental change in the way we view ourselves as a people. We must overcome the psychological roadblocks associated with negative self-images and work in a unified manner to solve the problems of our time. We must find common denominators in our struggle as we seek resolution in areas of difference, and through operational unity empower ourselves to serve the long-term interests of our people. The future belongs to those who are independent and productive, and unity is the key for unlocking our potential.

Brother William P. Muhammad is an author and a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. Post comments at www.wisdomhouseonline.com


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Taking responsibility for self, our community and our world

By William P. Muhammad

With the recent death of pop legend and musical icon Michael Jackson, people from around the world have taken pause to reflect upon his life, his music and his humanitarian message. The final period now placed at the end of his one of a kind life and career, Mr. Jackson’s work now stands as a witness to a world in need. Joining the ranks of those few persons, spoken and unspoken, who have diligently worked for freedom, justice and equality, his legacy will be remembered as a testimony to world peace and universal brotherhood.

Bringing to mind the necessity of human redemption, the condition of today’s common man bears witness that “greed, lust and inordinate self-interest” have together caused tremendous bloodshed and suffering. Not only with the earth’s human population, but also with the environment, the few who rule “this world” have done so through the degradation of the impoverished and defenseless.

The poor, many of whom live on less than two dollars a day, labor under multi-national indifference and corporate deal-making that treats them as assets or liabilities to be exploited. While the well-to-do knowingly or unknowingly live at their expense, the poor have few voices except for those bold teachers from among us who dare to speak truth to power.

Through his recordings, Michael Jackson lives and continues to teach of “the man in the mirror.” As other past and present teachers have taught, the message of individual transformation continues with his legacy. Providing the keys of redemption for both rich and poor alike, humanity, with all of its flaws and defects, is better served when voices of truth emerge as reminders. From the pulpit, to the street corner or within music itself, the speaking of truth banishes falsehood while giving people the opportunity to examine, analyze and correct their ways. A true mercy for humanity, right guidance and correction may take many forms as those who teach virtue struggle to do so in a world of opposition.

Reflective of a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach, the most effective servants and advocates for the poor have usually been from among those encouraging change from within self. While government and philanthropic organizations clearly have a role to play in the correction of society’s ills, it is the collective change of an ethos that ultimately forgives our trespasses and heals our world.

Humanity’s servants are known by their good works and deeds, and by their consistent track records they are remembered for the best of what they have done. While tyranny exists where good people do nothing, and injustice continues where indifference occupies hearts and minds, messengers of truth (as they always have) pay a price for waking the sleeping masses. Whether maligned, mischaracterized or shrouded in controversy, those serving the “rejected and despised” will always rise above the manufactured din of media generated distraction.

With the violence of war, domination and oppression afflicting people of color and the poor all over the earth, there is a universal cry that sets into motion that which truth and time eventually makes manifest: mankind’s corruption and frailty in the face of universal justice. As defects become evident and failures are made known, the wicked of this world will continue to lose their grip as those determined to breathe free overthrow the yokes of falsehood and oppression.

Taking responsibility to rebuild our communities and our world requires more than just paying lip service to its necessity. It requires a transformation among individuals who both see and appreciate the greater good while valuing the preciousness of life. As Mr. Jackson conveyed through music his desire to unite the masses of humanity, those who have taken his message to heart have come one step closer to that goal. The Black man who became the “King of pop,” electrifying the masses through song and dance, heralded an even greater message that redemption would come through the children of Africa and the descendants of the once enslaved.

Teachers, messengers of truth and wise men have always emerged from the longing of our people, and today, as we mourn the loss of one of our great entertainers, we should be cognizant of the legacies that each of us as individuals will inevitably leave behind. The collective testimony of this generation must be one of excellence in all fields of endeavor, and with the transformative effect of truth, we will become witnesses to a new world dedicated to freedom, justice and equality. Michael Jackson proved that a Black man of humble origins can grow to affect the entire world, and like those past and present teachers from among us would agree, now is time to look in the mirror and make that change.