The Critical Need for a Realistic Black Agenda: Time for New Players and a New Playbook

The need to establish a realistic agenda that can be managed at the local level is the most important discussion point for African Americans to consider at this time in American history, especially having seen the overall response, both during and after, the Greater Houston area experienced the worst natural disaster in recent memory.

While the southern part of the United States has been dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, another type of storm has been brewing in our nation’s capital…a storm that has somewhat been overshadowed by the devastation caused by these natural disasters.

As thousands of the nation’s top policy experts, legislators, community leaders and citizen activists descend upon Washington D.C. this week for the 47th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), they will come to a city that has been enamored with chaos and discord from Capitol Hill to the White House.

Whether it’s the Russia-meddling investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, or the fight surrounding the Dreamers” (DACA), or the regurgitated attempts by the Republican-controlled legislature to successfully overturn ‘Obamacare’, the storms that have been raging in Washington serve as a reminder that the issues that impact African Americans in their respective local communities across this country must not be overlooked or forgotten.

While the ALC serves as one of the leading policy conferences on issues impacting the national and global African American communities, particularly seeking to address disparities in education, economic opportunity, public health and the environment through research, forums, brain trusts, town halls and policy briefings, it is important that African Americans take a more proactive approach to develop an agenda that can be controlled and managed at the local level.

The critical need for a realistic Black agenda supersedes Hurricane Harvey, especially because many of the issues that have manifested as a result of this unprecedented storm existed well before Hurricane Harvey hit – not just because of it.

Just over a year prior to Hurricane Harvey, the “Tax Day Floods” dropped nearly 17 inches of rain across the Greater Houston area, where many families, mostly African Americans, in the Greenspoint area, found themselves without rescue boats or a means to escape the flood waters without needing assistance, and without adequate resources, and in many cases, without a place to stay. Although humanitarians like Pastor E.A. Deckard and Deric Muhammad stepped up to the plate to help those in need, they found themselves having to deal with the same issues facing various communities again as a result of Hurricane Harvey, especially African Americans.

Now, while the storm did not discriminate against any of the individuals it impacted, the majority of individuals who haven’t had the ability to quickly recover because of their lack of resources have been African Americans, which is why having a collective agenda at the local level is desperately needed to address these issues when they arise – and they will arise.

According to Merriam-Webster, an agenda is a list or outline of things to be considered or done. An agenda lists the meeting activities in the order they’ll be presented from beginning to end.

An agenda should always be developed in order to effectively communicate to each participant that the meeting will be conducted in an orderly fashion and that productivity is the ultimate goal. An agenda can ensure that the meeting stays on track and that special projects and routine operations proceed as intended.

Having an agenda allows every participant to familiarize themselves with the purpose of the meeting and the topics being discussed, while determining what outcomes and deliverables every participant may expect from the meeting.

The difference between having a meeting, with or without an agenda, could spell the difference between success and chaos. Having a meeting with an agenda can lessen arguments, control emotional responses, increase productivity, build unity and respect the time of every participant.

An agenda can help a group of people function as an effective team.

By having all participants accept the agenda in advance of any meeting, a spirit of unity is thrust upon the participants that positively impacts the meeting flow and strategically directs what issues will be discussed. Having a real agenda in place challenges everyone in the meeting to have a greater sense of understanding and control of their emotions, so that everyone is in agreement with the overall goals and objectives being more important than selfish outcomes.

In his best-selling book PowerNomics, The National Plan to Empower Black America, Dr. Claud Anderson states: “In any competitive environment, an individual or group who is non-competitive is sure to become extinct.”

Having a collective agenda that everyone commits to at the local level makes the African American community stronger, better prepared and instantly more competitive.

Having a collective agenda significantly reduces the desperate need for people outside the African American community, or those who serve as government officials, to completely take care of the immediate needs of the community in an efficient and timely manner, especially when circumstances become dire or when we are in our weakest and most vulnerable position.

Having a collective agenda challenges individuals in the community to become leaders, and forces them to be accountable for the things they have agreed to do as part of the overall plan and strategy.

As a community, African Americans can learn a lot from Hurricane Harvey, as well as from another high-profile catastrophic event that impacted the lives of so many African Americans exactly 12 years prior to Hurricane Harvey – that storm was called Hurricane Katrina.

It took local, county, state and federal officials over five days to provide any substantive assistance and significant resources for the tens of thousands of African Americans who had been trapped in the city of New Orleans with seemingly nowhere to go. For over five days, they had NO food, NO water, NO transportation, NO shelter, NO money, NO security and NO ability to do anything about their plight.

That is why having a collective agenda at the local level is so important and necessary, especially if a holistic view of nearly everything that impacts the lives of a community at the local level is taken into consideration.

The African American community must ask itself whether it collectively has control over its own destiny at the local level, or do others outside of the community actually hold the real power?

Let’s look at just a few questions and see where the African American community measures up:

  • Do African Americans have collective control or influence over the education of their children?
  • Do African Americans have collective control or influence over their healthcare?
  • Do African Americans have collective control or influence over the food and water they consume?
  • Do African Americans have collective control or influence over the political, legislative, judicial and law enforcement decisions that are made on their behalf?
  • Do African Americans have collective control or influence over their transportation options?
  • Do African Americans have collective control or influence over how they are treated in the face of a crisis or a natural disaster?

If the answer to all or the majority of these questions is “NO” then some proactive steps must be taken immediately at the local level to gather the right thought-leaders, policy experts, legislators, pastors, organizations, community leaders and citizen activists, to put a local agenda together that can be implemented by the end of the year in each respective community.

This will involve performing a complete overhaul of the usual local suspects who are normally invited. Instead of inviting the usual suspects to the table, it is time to start inviting new people to the table who may be younger, more energetic, who have connections to different resources, and who may have fresher and more unconventional ideas.

In football, you have to incorporate new plays and new players if you want to avoid becoming ineffective and predictable. The same thing rings true when it comes to developing a collective agenda in our local communities. If the community keeps running the same predictable plays and keeps using the same ineffective players to execute those predictable plays, the collective team will be ineffective and end up collectively losing. It is time for some new plays to be drawn up and some new players to get recruited to join the collective team. But now comes the hard part.

We must identify these new players, so that they can help create a new playbook.

Who do you know in your local community that would be a prime candidate to join the team, and who do you know that would have a serious interest in joining a collective team of individuals that are committed to doing the heavy-lifting necessary to get a collective agenda done within one full year?

The Forward Times has identified some individuals who we believe fit the description to join the team to get this done, and we will be recruiting them to be a part of a broader and more detailed discussion surrounding this topic within the next few months. However, if you are interested in being a part of the solution to get a realistic collective agenda done at the local level, don’t wait for someone else to identify you or call you. It’s time for you to be proactive and step up to the plate. Please email the Forward Times at events@forwardtimes.com to share your interest and to let us know what you would bring to the table to make this collective agenda a true reality?

Time is ticking, so don’t delay!