First off, an important correction to last week’s post: THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY MARCH ON WASHINGTON WILL TAKE PLACE ON AUGUST 24TH, not on the 28th. There will be activities on the 28th, but the grand March will take place on the Saturday before. I misunderstood the information on the various websites.
This was made clear to me when I attended a forum at my home church, Shiloh Baptist of Washington, DC earlier this week entitled Toward a More Perfect Union: Race & Democracy in America. Panelists were Eddie Glaude, Jr., Chair of the Center for African-American Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University (a protege of Professor Cornel West), Angela Rye, Founder and Director of IMPACT (a most impressive young leader, formerly the Executive Director/General Counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus), Ronald Sullivan, Jr., Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School, and Clinton Yates, local columnist, The Washington Post (I remember this young man as a boy growing up in Shiloh.) What an impressive group of young black professionals! Young adult leaders who are gifted, concerned and involved like them give us hope for a better future for our nation.
The discussion was moderated by Elaine Jones, Esq., a stellar civil rights lawyer formerly with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, serving as it’s President and Director-Counsel for many years. The discussion included the Trayvon Martin case and other issues facing American Blacks today. The energy in the room of approximately 200 folks was dynamic, evidenced by the number of people who asked questions. Many of those questions and comments focused on how we can become involved and what should be done next.
Here are some ways the panelists suggest that the average person can be involved in helping to change the landscape for Blacks in America:
1. We must become actively involved in the law-making processes of our communities. We should know the laws that are being voted on in local and state arenas and have a say on them. Did you know that the “stand your ground laws” were developed by one organization, the American Legislation Exchange Council? This is an extremely well-funded coalition of big business and conservative politicians that generates thousands of conservative and corporate friendly (such as anti-labor, anti-environment and anti-civil lawsuits) legislation for many states, including both the “stand your ground” and voter identification laws. Our friends the Koch brothers, mentioned in an earlier post, are among the high powered funders. [I will have more to say about this organization next week.]
2. We must find appropriate ways to exert pressure for laws that we favor. Whether through boycotting, aka Stevie Wonder (I know people have different opinions on this…), through marching (Community Renewal Society, the subject of one of my early blogs, is very good at this), visiting your representatives, holding community forums and candidate debates, etc. The point is we need to be heard by people who want us to vote for them—MAKE SOME NOISE!
3. We must stop stereotyping ourselves. It’s bad enough when we see media stereotypes of black women as sexual toys or angry, and black men as thugs or silly, but must we accept them and pass them on? An excellent point was made that we need to stop complaining so much about our boys wearing their pants down around their butts and try to get to know them better, to be involved with them.
4. We need to keep informed. We need to read, pay attention to, and participate in promoting policies that encourage the betterment of all people. How many times have I said it’s too easy to become distracted by the every-day stuff that we fill our days with such that we don’t accomplish anything relevant in this world? Another good suggestion was for each church that wants to make a difference to pick one issue, make that their issue, then become informed, get involved and MAKE NOISE ABOUT IT.
I think that last point is good advice for individuals as well. Decide what issue is important enough for you to give up some tv shows and shopping time, and become relevant–not only on the individual level of providing personal support for someone who needs it, like becoming a mentor or helping in a food pantry, but on a community level, working with others so that you can help to change the tenor of our society, to help our nation become more just and righteous, like the God we serve desires for us.
My husband Bill and I both decided to become involved with the follow up sessions at Shiloh. And I’m sure the energy of that gathering will not be lost on others, either. I applaud the Young Adult Ministries, the Social Justice Team of Shiloh Baptist Church for their efforts and of course, Pastor Wallace Charles Smith, who helped to make that happen.
The session ended with a call to action by Janaye Ingram, DC Bureau Chief of the National Action Network. This is the young lady who cleared up my confusion on the date of the March, and another dynamic young leader. She works with Rev. Al Sharpton. She reiterated the importance of marching together in solidarity, for such a time as this. Working together, we can indeed help to make reality of Dr. King’s Dream, so that one day, all children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I really hope to see you in DC on August 24. You can MAKE SOME NOISE simply by showing up!
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