Black leadership has never flowed from a few individuals. It has always been a rather fluid combination of a wide range of views and this very nature makes these initiatives a dynamic force. The black community has the potential for introducing and maintaining positive structural change within society. Leaders of the past such as Booker T. Washington promoted themes such as racial accommodation, self-help, racial solidarity, acceptance of disfranchisement, economic accumulation, industrial education, and middle-class values. Today in Black America, the diversity of political thought has created greater problems for a community that has long struggled with a sense of identity.
The coronavirus pandemic has opened wounds resulting primarily from earnings disparities between blacks and whites which have historical antecedents as well as contemporary social consequences. Lack of access to sufficient healthcare insurance, quality public education, and a host of other social factors have likely resulted from a history of racial discrimination. Yet, as the nation held open discussion to remedy these centuries old injustices, the Minneapolis Police Department took it upon themselves to ensure history repeated itself.
The murder of George Floyd revisits a historic tactic routinely employed whenever blacks begin to organize around a common cause.
Lynching was a common form of racial terrorism against Black Americans in the late 19th century. White vigilantes used highly visible violence against the formerly enslaved to try to suppress insurrections. The termination of lynching has no purely academic date. While targeted violence against black people did not end with the lynching era, the element of public spectacle and open, even celebratory participation is still commonplace as a form of racial violence. There have been 19 blacks killed by police while in custody since February 23, 1999. Each have their own uniquely horrifying details. The black community has responded with outrage in each incident, but the effect of the responses has been mixed at best. A new paradigm is needed.
Most successful leaders in today’s civil rights movement operate in the nonprofit sector, primarily in community-based organizations. They know how to reinvent themselves and their strategies by developing cross-cultural alliances and partnerships based on technical competence as much as on common goals. They nurture public and private resources; and navigate the bureaucratic governmental maze for funding. The skills they bring to the job include expertise in planning, finance, technology, and government. They know how to design programs that are appropriate for the complex, multi-layered issues inherent in their work and how to garner the resources to rebuild decaying infrastructures and overhaul human services to make them more efficient. They encourage constituents to practice self-sufficiency and dependence on one another. One such occasion took place on the eastside of San Antonio on May 27, 2020. Westcare Foundation and Neighborhood First Alliance along with a host of other community organizations provided much needed resources to residents. Those resources allowed a return to dignity for proud underserved people.
We must continue to build on these coalitions and focus on the ultimate prize! Equality for ALL Americans!