Dear Black America,
It is very interesting to see the changes happening in our community and with "our people". Sloane Stephens graced the US Open this week with her first major championship. Not only did Sloane beat her childhood idol, Venus Williams, but went into the final to defeat her challenger. To beat someone you look up to is a major obstacle in and of itself. Congratulations Sloane, we now have yet another person to root for. She now joins Serena Williams and Venus Williams as a US Open Champion.
As our city, state, and nation has begun the process of removing public monuments to the Confederacy – traitors who waged war against the United States to preserve slavery – we have at last started to focus on the difference between honoring heroes and observing history.
One way countries honor national heroes is by depicting them on money. Around the world, money depicts writers, artists, scientists, activists and others as a means of national tribute. Against the backdrop of the Confederate monument debate, a dedicated tribute to abolitionist and anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman will be a powerful gesture of racial reconciliation.
Now let’s pause – Black America can you see anything and everything done by former President Barack Obama is being challenged and undone by President Donald Trump. Tump’s U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen – former CEO of a major bank, who also stands accused of racial discrimination – has backed away from plans to feature Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Mnuchen is committing a major mistake. Harriet Tubman’s image is a symbol of emancipation. She, unlike Andrew Jackson, who was a slaveholder and brutally removed 15,000 native or indigenous Americans from their homes while killing 4,000 in cold blood during what is called the Trail of Tears, she is a great role model for our nation. The message of retreating from what the former Presidents put into motion is another sign of white supremacy. White supremacy will take the priority over history of slavery and the remarkable stories of those who fought to eliminate it.
We sing “Lift Every Voice”… the official Black National Anthem…because of the courage it took for our people to fight and to hopefully eliminate supremacy of any type at any level.
So the country is going to see a tug of war between who we say is honorable and who they say is honorable. Certainly, I have been working on the issue at North East ISD with respect to challenging the name of Robert E. Lee High. The Board acted to initiate the process of changing the name, but the actual process is still being defined. People have asked the question, “what should the new name be?” My answer is any honorable person who the community believes deserves to be honored. Does the person have to be Black? No. It would be nice if the school was renamed to a Black leader.
Whether the issue is a $20 bill or renaming a school or removing various artifacts that show racial hostility that is the challenge of our people – Black America. The ability of professors, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, janitors, and working people to know they have the same opportunity to voice their concerns and be heard is where we are at. This phase, is not dependent on a Nation of Islam, an NAACP, the Black Church or even a Black Lives Matter movement…NO…this phase is about each individual having the courage to speak up and do what is right. This is also about mobilizing and not waiting to see what others do, but doing it yourself.
On Monday in San Antonio, The Fair Contractor Coalition (FCC) was recognized by the Lighthouse Group for the work it has been doing helping minority businesses. TC Calvert, the co-leader of the FCC (with Deborah Omowale, Christopher Herring, Elisa Chan, Ken Lowe, Floyd Wilson, Gabe Farias, Ramiro Cavazos, and more) asked the minority business owners who received support to give their testimony. The audience received it very well seeing the diverse group talk about the millions of dollars they have been able to receive because a group of volunteers stood up to help them win. While, the point was made, there still was a dissenting voice that said to me privately, “but my organization only supports Black businesses” almost in counter to what he had witnessed. While the FCC had two of the five testimonies that were Black businesses, I wonder what’s really good? In my mind, when we are able to help all through our powerful voices, we are in fact building bridges. The help that Asians, Hispanics, Native American, and Muslim businesses have gained growth because of Black advocacy. Our sincere hope is that we all gain. Our advocacy will open doors for our people to do business together and open up doors to be hired by these diverse companies. The opportunity is based on mutual respect and teamwork.
We must be true to ourselves... we must work together and hold each other accountable.
Christopher C. Herring
Follow Chris on Twitter @BlackAmerica