Blacks Taking Responsibility

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For years now in barber shops, rallies and meetings I’ve had discussions with many of my colleagues about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and whose philosophy was better and many times I found myself on the Malcolm side when discussing this with people.

His approach always seemed so much more virile and manly, and we didn’t hear enough of Black men willing to dish out the same thing that our oppressors did. We didn’t hear enough in the public eye about men standing firm and defending their freedom "by any means necessary." As I matured however, I grew to see the wisdom and strategy in Martin’s tactics as well. I learned that there was and still is a place in our struggle for both of those approaches. It is true that many of our mass movements suffered from interference from government agencies like COINTELPRO, and terrorist activities, but one of the things that we have to pay close attention to is that in the end, Black people killed Malcolm. It doesn’t matter at this point who ordered the hit. It was our people who succumbed to the pressure to commit the final act with their own hands. So ultimately, we are accountable for our own successes and failures.

Since the deaths of these great Black heroes, we’ve attempted to follow in their footsteps. In today’s world there is a much greater need for action than there ever was. Dreaming is always necessary; we must always visualize where we want to be, we must always keep the image of freedom clear and fresh in our heads and hearts, but we have to take physical steps to get there.

Another thing that we have to do as a people is honor those among us who are fighters and who are still alive. When we don’t, the sentiment that begins to develop on a subconscious level says that if you try to be a hero or an inspiration to your people you will end up dead. In addition to this, we don’t support our heroes who are still alive and with us. Perhaps it is because we feel a sense of comfort knowing that Malcolm and Martin are not here to hold us accountable for our inaction. It is very hard to feel pressured to follow in the footsteps of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King when they are dead and cannot speak to you and judge your actions.

We seem to have all but forgotten about Muhammad Ali, who is still alive and who is a shining example not only of Black manhood, but also of the socially aware athlete who carries his political integrity with him, even into the ring, and who uses his power and influence for the good of the people. The politically active Black athlete is all but extinct today. All they seem to care about is getting paid and buying all the stuff they couldn’t have when they lived in the projects. A lot of them do public service announcements where they talk about the importance of role models, but not one of them practices what they preach.

Muhammad, who was born on the day that we’ve designated to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, stood up against the draft and put not only his career at risk, but also his life. He took his stand during a time when it was a crime punishable by death to be a strong Black man. There hasn’t been an athlete since who could walk in his shoes. They’d rather be interviewed on MTV cribs.

I do this often because it’s necessary; we need to pay homage to the artists who use their gifts to better the world. In addition to the new generation like Nana Soul, Wise Intelligent, Chuck D, Hassan Salaam, Badu, Hill and others, we need to remember the Curtis Mayfields. But we also need to continually thank Steve Wonder. I think the most commendable thing about freedom fighters is that they always could and probably would rather be doing something else.

I know that people are actively looking for freedom and justice in our movement but we need to emphasize action. Action can take form in many ways, like supporting other Black businesses. We’ve got to stop relinquishing the little economic power we do have. In honor of Malcolm, Martin and Muhammad, it seems that we need to take what I call the cocktail approach: do a little of everything. March, do direct action, write songs about freedom, take stands in your every day life. Embody the spirits of these great men.  The more we do a thing; the more it becomes a part of us.
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