“50 years later”
“50 years later”
By Pastor Rasheed Z. Baaith
“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”
I really don’t know if Malcom X said at the time of the March On Washington that 50 years after the march “Negroes” would still be marching. If so it was an astute observation. Because Black folks still are and pretty much for the same reasons for the original march.
But there is something missing from all of the commemorative activities and march that celebrated that unforgettable event in 1963 and that was the excellence of quality Black leadership it had then, it does not now have.
While there was derision about what many called the “Big Six” (Dr.MLK, Jr., Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young, John Lewis and A. Phillip Randolph), and some of the methodology they employed, there was little doubt about their love of our people and their commitment to the struggle.
I do not believe the same can be said about those especially on the national level, many of us call leaders. This is as true about “leaders” in the church as it is about “leaders” in the fight for social justice.
When I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I think about him and those of his time prepared and willing to sacrifice whatever was needed, whenever it was needed. I think about how every time he stood in front of a crowd, it could have been the last time. I think about how he forfeited money and easy living for toil and financial struggle for himself and family.
I think about the missed opportunities of watching his children grow and the constant loneliness of his wife; and, I think about that balcony in Memphis.
Then I cannot help but compare his character with the character of much of Black leadership today. Many of them are more concerned about what they can gain than what they can give; they look for moments of self-aggrandizement and opportunities to exploit circumstance of need instead of changing the system that constructed that circumstance.
Their goal is a radio show or being a television host, appearances on programs that denigrate our people and agree with those who cannot find words destructive enough to describe us. Yet Lincoln may have been correct when he said people get the leadership they deserve.
50 years after the March On Washington, our children are in greater danger than ever before, our voting rights are being threatened by racists in suits instead of white robes and no boat we have been in has been lifted by any economic tide. Our leadership for the most part has been a part of the problem and not a source for any real solutions. Nor have we required them to be.
Dr. King was on those steps leading to the Lincoln Memorial because he recognized that a greater attention had to be brought to bear on the conditions that were oppressing our people and denying their future. He was not there because it was where a spot light was or because it enlarged his personal reputation.
The question we need to ask is this: are any of our “leaders’ such an intimidation to this system that there is a conspiracy to destroy their reputations and threaten their lives? Or is what they are doing no threat at all to bring real and lasting change for the better?
Think about it.