You know, it’s hard to take constructive criticism from somebody who has never actually constructed anything. Over my time here on Earth, I’ve worked for people in Corporate America, the private sector and in the non-profit arena. In those experiences, there have been times where I’ve had to deal with people who have went out of their way to either criticize my execution of a project, my handling of an assigned task or my leadership related to running the organization.
Being criticized doesn’t always feel good, but when you begin to take it personal, it can potentially stunt your growth and limit your ability to learn from the criticism and become better at what you do.
Constructive criticism is not a bad thing, however, I have always found it difficult to receive constructive criticism from people who have always sought to critique me and my performance, yet offered no solutions to help me, and more importantly, had no real track record of ever having done anything significant or productive that allowed me to receive their criticism as nothing more than unconstructive.
Of course, you know I love watching movies and television, and one of the most popular shows I enjoyed watching once a week as I grew up was Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, which was a movie review television program produced by Disney-ABC Domestic Television in which two film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, would share their opinions about newly released films.
Whether I agreed with them or not (and I often disagreed with one or both of them), it was always interesting to hear both of their arguments and seeing them fight on camera concerning whether a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” should be given to a particular movie.
I would regularly watch their show and then make it a point to go see the movie myself, in order to see if they were right or wrong about their analysis of the movie. Many times, I found them to be wrong.
As I look at the unconstructive criticism that many people have sought to provide concerning the way many African American individuals and organizations in America are responding to the issues that Black people face in this country every day, I can’t help but say that I have come to the same conclusion that I would come to when I would go see a movie reviewed by Siskel & Ebert – I found them to be wrong.
I want us to get out of our feelings and look at how we can offer some constructive criticism that can help Black people improve our current situation and address key issues we are faced with in this country.
As I look at the overall state of Black America, and the numerous issues we are faced with, I can’t help but give props to the many individuals and organizations out here who are actually doing something to make a difference when calamity strikes or when we are faced with attacks – internally and externally.
We just experienced another epic flood here in the Greater Houston area, and if not for the herculean efforts of many grassroots individuals and organizations, many people would have experienced far greater problems than the ones they are facing now.
It was great to see that remnant of Black folks make a difference, but the question I have is why weren’t there thousands of other Black people out there to assist the flood victims on day one or beyond?
I have the same questions when it comes to other issues that have been affecting the African American community, not just during the times of natural disasters and helping flood victims.
Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people at the rally or the various press conferences to get justice for Jordan Baker, an African American young father killed because he was mistakenly identified as a criminal by an HPD officer? Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people at the protest or at the courthouse for Ms. Doris Davis, an 87-year old African American woman forced into the Harris County Guardianship Program? Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people protesting the closure and repurposing of countless schools in the African American community? Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people standing up for Kathy Swilley, a former HPD officer who was falsely terminated based on trumped up charges?
It is time for us to have a community-wide fire drill, like the ones we had in school, so that we can wake the hell up and get engaged. We seem to always support and get engaged with everything else, but not on many of the things that truly matter. We will show up for concerts, sporting events, parties and even church functions, but won’t show up in numbers to display unity on the issues that impact us collectively.
In school or at work, they often conduct fire drills several times a year to make sure everyone in the building knows how to get outside quickly and efficiently. When conducting a fire drill, everybody in the building has to participate and they must be taken seriously. In advance of the fire drill, there is a pre-planned exit strategy that everyone is made aware of and are instructed to follow once the fire drill is conducted. When I worked in the banking world, we would follow what were called “Morning Glory” procedures, which were a group of steps that at least two employees were made aware of and had to follow in the event of an ambush or robbery. Not following those procedures could lead to a harmful or even deadly result. The best way to avoid those outcomes were to follow the pre-planned procedures.
We are in a really situation here in America y’all, where we need to challenge one of our most respected institutions to get back to their original position of social justice and change – the Black church.
There are several Black churches in every major city and there is no reason why, in advance of any major issue that the Black community needs to address, that the Black churches shouldn’t have a collective pre-planned emergency preparedness plan that all of them follow. Hell, I even believe that every Black church should establish a Crisis Response Ministry as a part of their overall ministry.
Some of these Black churches in the Greater Houston area have at least 1,000 or more tithe-paying members as a part of their church; some even have at least ten to 15,000 members. Now, envision this:
If Black pastors had a Crisis Response Ministry as a part of their overall ministry, and at least 1 percent of their tithe-paying church members were challenged and recruited to be a part of that ministry, can you imagine the impact they would have when called upon to show up for a protest, press conference, rally, court appearance, school board meeting, legislative hearing, city council meeting or major crisis?
I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but all I know is that 1 percent of 1,000 tithe-paying church members is 10 people and that 1 percent of 15,000 tithe-paying church members is 150 people. If at least 20 of the hundreds of Greater Houston area churches of each size would do this, you would potentially have anywhere from 200 to 3,000 city-wide volunteers, equipped and ready to go when called upon at a moment’s notice.
When a house is burning down or a child is drowning, we don’t have time for a meeting or prayer; it’s time to move and act. This could be done without having to have a meeting, three conference calls, a democratic vote and prayer. This can be done because it has already been pre-planned.
I hope my constructive criticism is received in the spirit in which it was intended – with nothing but love.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and has a daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney. He is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org