O'CONNELL: The growing irrelevance of the old school Black Leaders

The battle for the black community requires a new crop of leaders whose love for the community is greater than their love for themselves. Photo: AP Photos

LOS ANGELES, July 25, 2013 — July 19 marked the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The commemoration of this powerful and world-changing oratory was co-opted for two reasons. One was President Obama’s impromptu ramblings on race a week after the Zimmerman acquittal. The other reason was the marches across 100 cities to protest that same verdict, and to put pressure on the Department of Justice to lodge civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.

So how effective were the protests? If news coverage is any indication, not very. National papers like the New York Times and the international press, such as the Guardian, U.K. Daily Mail and Al Jazeera, gave some coverage, which listed the number of participants anywhere from hundreds to thousands. Jay Z and Beyonce made a surprise appearance at the New York protest, while Al Sharpton boasted about organizing 100 cities, saying, “this is not just a moment, but a movement.”


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America was anything but moved. Come Monday, they went right back to Royal Baby Watch and Weinergate II. Despite glowing commentary from the media and a few others, President Obama failed to nudge the needle of public opinion in his favor. New polls show his approval rating at an abysmal 41 percent, and PBS commentator Tavis Smiley dubbed the speech as “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid” on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

If the Zimmerman verdict showed us anything, it is that so-called black leaders no longer hold any sway in public policy or debate. They are spitting in the wind and telling us that it is raining.

This brings the relevance of black leadership into sharp relief. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson used to command news cameras, people and dollars. No longer. No one is paying attention, save for the usual complainers, the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus. Like our first black president, these people and organizations are empty symbols, lacking in weight or any real power to affect significant change.


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These so-called leaders get an Epic Fail in confronting the true issues that plague certain sectors of the black community. Black-on-black crime, out-of-wedlock births and poverty that works toward the destruction of inner-city blacks is largely ignored by these so-called leaders because they do not involve big paychecks or television cameras.

The south side of Chicago is one of the most dangerous areas of the city with the majority of victims disproportionately black. The latest incident over the weekend in the Roseland neighborhood involved the shooting of a 52-year-old woman and a 6-year-old girl, who caught in the crossfire of two black teenagers shooting at each other.

The little girl is in critical condition and clinging to life. The woman is in stable condition. But this is just one among many incidents that happen every day in Chicago’s neighborhoods and in similar neighborhoods across the country. So far, there have been no protests or marches organized to see an end to this violence.

No speeches by the so-called black leaders demanding justice for the murdered innocents. But a not-guilty verdict for a hispanic man who shot a black teenager in self-defense makes these so-called leaders stir up a hornet’s nest, demanding the power of the government be brought to bear on the people’s behalf—or so they say.

Therein lies the problem. Government has not been, and never will be, the solution. President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives are partly to blame for the generational destruction we now see in the black community, yet these so-called leaders continue to use government handouts and controls to keep blacks dependent on a failing and unsustainable system, and on them.

That house of cards appears to be falling now. If a new crop of leaders were allowed to rise, the black community will be the better for it. That some in the younger generation are waking up to the agenda peddled by the so-called leadership and are questioning their motives is a ray of hope within a bleak landscape.

Above that, these young leaders are doing something the old school leaders have not done in years. They are positing solutions, rather than crying for government intervention or enacting legislation that will go nowhere. Sonny Johnson of Politichicks.tv did a panel on young black men talking about the subject of black leadership and what the new school of Black leaders should embody.

Marvin D. Rogers, author of Silence Makes the Loudest Sound, Kevin Daniels, president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina, and radio host Pudgy Miller offered solutions that involved promoting education, building and developing new leaders, and refocusing on family — particularly the return of the two parent family. Sonny began and ended the panel by saying, “the battle has changed, and the leadership needs to change along with it.”

Amen to that.


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Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell is the "In My Orbit" columnist for Washington Times Communities, writes on Los Angeles Faith and Community for Examiner.com, teaches Yoga, and coaches on careers and reinvention.

You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website: (http://asthegirlturns.com).

Contact Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

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