I ran across this video of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a former pastor, politician and civil rights activist, on Facebook, and it made me wonder: why can’t we say publically, “I’m Black and I’m Proud?” In the video, he’s referring to an interaction he had with Black Panther members in the 1960s. Now, I’m not saying black folks need to run out and gather guns, but what I am saying is, why is it that black leaders no longer illustrate strong political rhetoric like we see here Powell’s speech?
We have two African-Americans in the U.S. presidential arena, yet it seems no one is able or willing to declare or advocate a need for black power, or sovereignty. If fact, no leader has done this in a very long time. They’re too busy blending us with everyone else, and I find that in the blend, we lose our flavor, and subsequently, our
Different but Equal
In this video, Powell says, “We don’t want any more than you (white America) have, and we’re not going to accept anything less than you have.” The Jim Crow policy promoted a heinous “separate but equal” statue which was used for years to advocate institutional and systemic discrimination against blacks.
Now with our education and accomplishments, we have the ability to create our own interior race policy, which could act as a model amongst ourselves. Such a policy could be used to promote a “different but equal” policy, and such a strategy would mean that it’s more advantageous for us to hold on to our differences while continuing to strive for equality. This is not a new thought. Others with bigger shoes than mine have advocated similar theories:
“Booker T. Washington argued for African Americans to first improve themselves through education, industrial training, and business ownership. Equal rights would naturally come later, he believed. W. E. B. Du Bois agreed that self-improvement was a good idea, but that it should not happen at the expense of giving up immediate full citizenship rights. Another visionary, Marcus Garvey, believed black Americans would never be accepted as equals in the United States. He pushed for them to develop their own separate communities or even migrate back to Africa,” according to the Institutional Rights Foundation.
In hindsight, we can now evaluate how assimilating into mainstream society has both served and hindered us. Currently, we can’t even say the word, “black” let alone pair it with the word, “power,” without fear of being singled out as racists. Just as Powell said, just because we love our people, doesn’t mean we hate white folks. One has nothing to do with the other. Every group under the sun endorses its own while still functioning in the greater society. Black people should be no different.
Unfortunately, many of us only claim our blackness when we’re in a room with similarly colored individuals. It’s as though we’re afraid to be singled-out, or bring attention to our skin color when in proximity to our Caucasian counter-parts. It’s like saying black, or claiming our blackness is some kind of dirty little secret that we only whisper amongst ourselves.
When did this happen? Are we still trying to shield the world from our blackness? Are we still trying to be politically correct and not offend? Can’t we be organically black and contribute to society too? Does one negate the other? We need to ask ourselves, why is it in 2019; we must still “blend” to be included? Don’t we wish to bring our “whole-selves “ to society? That’s what makes us who we are. I don’t want to take my blackness on and off like a suit in effort to make others feel comfortable. Yet, many of us do it every day. The reality is that we still do it because as a group we lack economic and political power.
When we let go of our culture and our history, we let go of ourselves. Dr. Claud Anderson of Powernomics said, black people are “exceptional” human beings because of what we’ve endured and how we’ve survived. We need to be aware of this exceptionality, and we need to be comfortable bringing our culture with us, no matter where we go. We have to be aware of this exceptionality that he speaks of.
Hip-hop; Unapologetically Black
Hip-hop is an example of this. In the 80’s, hip-hop artists were unapologetic in their self-expression. And what happened, their art defined and rewrote American culture and influenced the world. All over the globe, we can still see the impact of hip-hop. The world has taken advantage of this exceptionality. We have lessons to learn from the hip-hop movement; one, the art form was extraordinary and still is, and, two, we must maintain ownership and leverage of our cultural and business commodities. But in many ways, the black community is losing its uniqueness (like hip-hop) in an effort to assimilate and function like its white counterpart.
We may not want to be considered different, but it’s our differences that make us unique. There’s value in who we are. We need to be confortable with the difference as well as value it, and more black leaders need to use their mics to remind and affirm black exceptionality. Little black boys, and little black girls need to hear how unique they are, – hell, even some black adults, too.
It needs to be okay to once again say, “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and use this positive affirmed identity as a foundation in which to build more businesses and elect political leaders who are comfortable with speaking about and fighting for the rights of the African-Americans community. But we can’t just wait for political leaders; we have to build our businesses and our wealth. Then we won’t have to ask our leaders to speak for us, we will be in a position to demand that they do so.