As we look at the current climate in the United States, it appears that African Americans are seemingly losing ground in America and have had to develop several social, economic, and political strategies to counteract and effectively deal with the myriad of systematic abuses and discriminatory policies that have ravished and negatively impacted the Black community.
It is as if every month, frustrated groups of African Americans are seen protesting, holding rallies, spearheading marches, hosting community forums, and leaning on elected officials, to bring awareness to and address the continuous challenges that the Black community faces in this country. On the flip side, however, it appears the issues of other cultural groups are being acknowledged and addressed on many levels while Black people take a backseat to them.
These centuries-old issues of systematic injustice, abuse, and discrimination have also seemingly become acceptable and tolerable by those other cultural groups in this country, which is problematic, but beyond the control of African Americans.
So the question is, what are African Americans willing to do to take ownership of the situation to prevent becoming culturally insignificant, as well as not become irrelevant from an economic, social, and political standpoint?
Many historical events of the past are often inspiring, especially those that involve one or more African Americans who played a major role in making a major impact in this country and bringing about tangible change.
Take the Montgomery Bus Boycott for instance.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott is regarded as the first massive demonstration against segregation in the United States by Black people of its kind, where Blacks refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956.
On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin became the first person who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, well before the more popularized incident involving Rosa Parks. Colvin was a 15-year-old teenager who was actively involved with the NAACP Youth Council and who was not afraid to step up and become a leader.
On December 1, 1955, approximately nine months after the Colvin incident, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a White man on a Montgomery bus. Parks was handcuffed, arrested, and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees after being found guilty. Rosa Parks was an African American seamstress who served as secretary for the local chapter of the NAACP and who was not afraid to step up and become a leader.
Upon hearing about what happened to Parks, Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Women’s Political Council, saw an opportunity for the Black community to act.
The Women’s Political Council was a group of Black women who had lobbied the city and state on Black issues and had been pushing for a bus boycott for months to change things.
On Friday, December 2, 1955, Robinson had written a flier calling for a boycott to take place on Monday, December 5, 1955, and ended up printing the flier and distributing it to the entire Black community of Montgomery.
The flier read: “Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped. Negroes have rights, too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negroes, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.”
The day of Parks’ release from jail, she joined in with approximately 16 to 18 people to discuss boycott strategies in the pastor’s study of the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church. They organized and developed the strategy that galvanized an entire group of people and subsequently led to the boycott of public buses by Blacks in Montgomery that lasted 381 days. Researchers estimate that approximately 40,000 Black people took part in the boycott. Many White people, businesses, and elected officials tried their best to sabotage the boycott efforts but were unsuccessful. Their foundation was secure, and this remnant of dedicated Black people remained undeterred.
As a result of this resilient remnant of African Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ordered the city of Montgomery to integrate its bus system.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott is a prime example of how a remnant of African Americans refused to wait or rely on other people to bring about change. They chose to come together to make a difference that impacted an entire generation of African Americans and stepped up to the plate to be the leaders that the movement needed at that time—regardless of age, socioeconomic status, title, gender, or occupation. These were just regular African American people who just stepped up to the plate to lead the way towards change.
Again, it only took a small remnant of African Americans to make a difference.
A new approach and different outlook on dealing with today’s real-world problems is a must if the African American community wishes to control the narrative and its future survival. The African American community must present a realistic solution that must be collectively embraced, and one that can only be implemented by having a solid Black agenda that is viable.
The first step, however, is acknowledging that many of the problems in the Black community that exist are real and must be immediately addressed.
The question that is often uttered by select members of the African American community is: “Where are our leaders?”
That has always been one of the most thought-provoking, yet confusing questions.
When African Americans ask that question—”Where are our leaders?”—what exactly is being asked? Better yet, here are some other questions that need to be answered:
- Who ultimately decides who the leaders are?
- What criteria is used to determine the leaders who are chosen?
- Is there an online class, a certification, or a license that is earned or given to someone which anoints them as the chosen leader with power and decision-making authority?
- Is there a committee of decision-makers who meet regularly to choose who the leader of the day, week, month, or year is?
- Is there an application to fill out?
Instead of looking for someone else to lead, everyone should take a long look in the mirror and start taking the leadership role they have been destined to pursue.
Yes! Everyone is called to be a leader in some capacity and the world is waiting for the leader that dwells within each of us to rise up versus waiting on someone else to lead.
Complaining about countless issues and blaming the wrong people (and maybe the right people sometimes) becomes a never-ending cycle, which can only be dealt with by seeing the problem, taking responsibility, and getting involved. Being reactionary, protesting, and complaining about the issues that plague the African American community aren’t enough to change the situation.
Like the remnant of Montgomery Bus Boycott community leaders, every one of us holds the solution and possesses the power to bring about change. It is time to start directly dealing with the key issues that negatively affect the Black community. It is time to get in the game and challenge others to get off the sidelines and become a difference maker.
The fact of the matter is, 100 percent of participation from Black people will never happen, so there is no need to get upset or bent out of shape when it doesn’t happen. There must be a dedicated remnant of African Americans who are focused on achieving the agreed upon goals that are established. There must also be a commitment by that dedicated remnant to refuse to allow certain factors or groups to deter them from accomplishing those goals.
The current socioeconomic challenges can’t serve as a deterrent. The current political apathy can’t serve as a deterrent. The current issues in the justice system or in law enforcement can’t serve as a deterrent.
The same thing that the small remnant of African Americans did with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, can be repeated today, only if there is a dedicated remnant willing to stay the course.
The bottom line is—Superman, or no other superhero is coming to save the day. It is time to stop looking for someone else to do what we all have the power to do ourselves before it is too late.
If not you, then who?
Only the person reading this can answer that question!