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November 2, 2010
When President Obama was running for president I read most of his speeches. I was particularly curious about how his speeches would differ amongst Blacks, Latinos and Jews. I have always been amazed as to how much influence our Jewish brothers and sisters have on politics. While campaigning, Senator Obama pledged in a speech before Association of Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that would provide $30 billion in assistance to Israel. I had never seen the Jewish community have a Get Out the Vote, Rock the Vote or Vote or Die Campaign. So I begin to ask myself how does a group that only represents 2% of the U.S. population have so much political power; And how does their organizations differ from ours. Is a group’s political power based on how many people turn out to vote or how a group collectively leverages is economic power for political gain?
In Joel Kotkin’s book Tribes, he examines the most successful Tribes and show how “global tribes” have been at the center of the world’s economy for hundreds of years, and how and why he believes that they will dominate commerce in the twenty-first century. Among the “tribes” featured in the book by Kotkin are: The Jews, The British, The Japanese, The Chinese and The Indians As you can see Kotkin has not mention any African Tribe.
I do understand that African ancestral people have had to weather slavery, black codes, Jim Crow, a “criminal” justice system, mis-education, deculturalization, and the divide and rule tactics of white supremacy. However, it is important that we do not give our power away. We can’t say on Sunday “Greater is He who is in me then he who is in the world”, and “No weapon formed shall prosper”, and “if God be for me then who can be against me” and then blame our total condition on White Supremacy. As African ancestral people we must first return to our spiritual and cultural roots and then develop institutions for the empowerment and liberation of our people.
Kotkin goes on to describe the characteristics of the successful tribes. ”Although each of these five tribes possesses a vastly different history, they all share the following three critical characteristics: 1. A strong ethnic identity and sense of mutual dependence that helps the group adjust to changes in the global economic and political order without losing its essential unity. 2. A global network based on mutual trust that allows the tribe to function collectively beyond the confines of national or regional borders. 3. A passion for technical and other knowledge from all possible sources, combined with an essential open-mindedness that fosters rapid cultural and scientific development critical for success in the late-twentieth-century world economy.” (pp. 4-5)
So, because there is a lack of community (common-unity), a failure to Ethno-aggregate our resources (the pooling of an ethnic group’s resources; Dr. Claud Anderson, Powernomics), a lack of trust, and ignorance of our history, spiritual and cultural traditions, we find ourselves at the bottom of the global tribes. Hoping and praying for CHANGE with no institution to demand accountability. Dr. R Drew Smith, director of the Public Influences of African American Churches Project at Morehouse, points out that Black church activism is centered on electoral activity. Dr. Smith in his book entitled “Long March Ahead” defines this relationship to the political process as a passive alliance. “Passive alliances are where voters entrust the governing process to persons they elect while seeking no further direct input into the process until the next election; while active alliances are defined as church facilitation of election-related activities, direct political contacts and interactions with government officials, and lobbying-related collaborations.” Dr. Smith states “at the very least, it is important that each of the historically Black denominations have a person designated to represent their denomination’s public policy concerns on Capitol Hill and preferably, at the state and local levels as well.”
Every election cycle we watch as politicians parade in and out of the Black church looking for our support. They offer up hope and CHANGE, and we never see them again until election time. If we are going to move beyond rhetoric and toward revolutionary change we must build institutions that address the needs of our people. We must build national think tanks, research & public policy institutes, lobbies, and political action committees.
Developing institutions and relevant ministries will move us from being reactionary to proactive. Minister Farrakhan, Rev. Willie Wilson and other leadership from the Millions More Movement have laid out the prototype for such ministries.
Ministries of the Millions More Movement are:
Ministry of Health and Human Service
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Defense
Ministry of Art and Culture
Ministry of Trade and Commerce
Ministry of Education
Ministry of Information
Ministry of Spiritual and Moral Development
Ministry of Science and Technology
Building culturally centered institutions and ministries
If we are going to build institutions and ministries that are relevant I think we must first begin with a group definition of who we are and our stated mission. This is my stab at defining our mission for a local institution/organization in my state of Maryland, let me know your thoughts.
African American Mission Statement
To strengthen the Greater Maryland community, through education and advocacy, we pursue social justice and policies that enhance the quality of life for all; maintain strong support for Africa and its right to self determination; remember the unique atrocities that were the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Berlin Conference , Black Codes and Jim Crow and ensure that it never happens again; continue the struggle for civil rights, civil liberties, and take action against White Supremacy Racism and prejudice of all kinds; and build relationships with ethnic, racial, and faith-based communities.
Do you think this is an acceptable mission for the black community of Maryland?
Now read the next mission statement and tell me your thoughts.
To strengthen the Greater Maryland community, through education and advocacy, we pursue social justice and policies that enhance the quality of life for all; maintain strong support for Israel and its right to exist in peace and security; remember the unique atrocity that was the Holocaust and ensure that it never happens again; continue the struggle for civil rights, civil liberties, and take action against anti-Semitism, bigotry and prejudice of all kinds; and build relationships with ethnic, racial, and faith-based communities.
Do you think this is an acceptable mission for the Jewish community?
The first mission does not exist, however the second mission is from the website of the Baltimore Jewish Council. Again every successful, tribe, ethnic/social-cultural group has a group first philosophy.
Here a few more examples:
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) – the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States – works to improve opportunities forHispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations, NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas – assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health.
National Association of Korean Americans has the following objectives:
To help safeguard the civil rights of Korean Americans and others in the U.S.;
– To promote cooperation and better understanding between the Korean Americancommunity and other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.;
– To develop Korean American culture and help articulate the shared values of Korean Americans as a community; and
– To contribute to the peaceful, independent reunification of Korea.
For an excellent faith-based model for community economic development, check out my sister Hyepin Im’s organization. Im is the founder and president of Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD). KCCD leads the way in advancing the Korean/Asian American community’s recognition and participation as full partners in society by removing cultural, linguistic, and economic barriers through educational and economic development programs, strategic public and private partnerships, and capacity building for Asian American faith communities and community non-profits.
Now take a look at the mission and vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international membership organization fighting for social change. We are dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Our mission is to protect, defend, and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields, and to promote peace and justice around the world.
While I applaud the noble aspirations to represent all persons and individuals, as African Ancestral people we must build unashamedly and unapologetically Black institutions that represent our interest. If not us, then who will look out for the interest of our children? And as you see, no other group runs away from defining their organization’s mission to protect and preserve their culture and serve the needs of their community. All other ethnic groups are clear of their mission and whom they serve.
As the father of two girls I would love to feed and house all the children of the world, but I do not have the financial capacity to do so. So my first ministry must start at home then to my extended family and community. Having a race first philosophy does not make one racist. Building culturally centered institutions doesn’t mean that you do not work in solidarity with other communities when you have shared interest. But you never sacrifice your groups’ interest for another communities gain.
Until we build the proper institutions blacks will always be faced with voting for the lesser of two evils. We must make a commitment to build strong families and strong communities and prepare to lay the foundation for future generations.