Sober and Progressive, but Social...Why We Need ‘Business and Building’
In 30 plus years of life, over 17 years of experience in media and membership in various organizations, and six and one half years of publishing BlackElectorate.com, I have learned a few things about Black people (smile) and people in general. Among other things, three things have caught my notice.
First, I have come to realize that although many of us are fine creative and critical thinkers individually, we all seem to struggle with how to make these two vital skills a governing principle of our organizations and interaction.
Secondly, I have noticed that we struggle to maintain the best kind of conversations and dialogue in our organizations. In addition to simply ignoring this principle, too many of our organizations assume that we already know how to engage one another; are aware of how to properly debate serious subjects and test ideas collectively; and that we come to the table already in possession of a grasp of the best ways to reach consensus and agreement (this is one of the underexplored areas, I believe, in why many of our organizations do not develop properly around charismatic personalities or leaders, and a factor in why so many of our communities have 'top-down' communication that is not complimented with that which runs from the 'bottom-up.'). Lawful dialogue and high-level conversation is not a top priority and value on our agendas. As a result, things like gossip, slander, back-biting, superficial thinking and emotional knee-jerk reactions find fertile ground, destroying operational unity and the culture of execution.
Improper and inadequate communication is absolutely killing the the spirit and kind of love within our relationships and organizations that is necessary to progress and to withstand external attacks from our enemies.
In addition to these two dynamics, I have noticed a third. And that is that we wrestle with how to conduct business with one another in a social setting. On this point a very dear friend of mine – who is an expert on networking, team building, and organizational diversity told me of his experience when he attended a major Black convention in the 1990s. He said that he saw then what he always saw – talented, energetic, intelligent, professional and physically attractive Blacks getting together for a noble, progressive, and productive sounding cause, only to see the gathering devolve from that agenda into the most superficial kind of interaction.
My friend told me that even the great networking guru, Mr. George Fraser, admitted, that he himself had been overcome by this spirit, at this particular gathering.
I think most of us have.
That story and reality has stuck with me.
That was over ten years ago, if memory serves me correctly. And before, during and since that time, I have attended and participated in countless conventions, conferences, panel discussions and professional gatherings. I have done so as General Manager of Wu-Tang, A Muslim, an Entrepreneur, A Member of The Media, a Non-Member of the Host Organization, A College Student, and Speaker. I have done so in the fields of Culture, Politics, Business, Economics and Academia.
Although some, of course, are better than others, I see many of the same dynamics at work that seem to overcome the most serious sounding of gatherings. I have also noticed two paradoxical extremes.
On one hand, I have seen very informal gatherings where, once a spirit of familiarity, rapport, and camaraderie develops, the most serious of discussions and business takes place (A friend of mine, a few days ago, gave me a wonderful example of this, explaining how a friend of his - by design - 'sets up' others, by bringing them together in a comfortable, intimate, but almost party-like atmosphere, and then, after folks are relaxed and in a good spirit, suddenly calls them together for the most serious of conversations).
And on the other hand, I have seen very formal gatherings where the most serious topics of discussion are on the agenda, and where no superficiality takes over, but where the agenda and the spirit of the meeting is overwhelmed by a rigid process, excessive formality, and that which encourages and rewards phoniness, intellectual dishonesty, or ‘fronting,’ rather than the candid dialogue, necessary to operational unity.
With the BlackElectorate.com ‘Business and Building’ Weekend and Format, we are attempting to find that balance that will enable honest and high-quality discussion and planning toward the most serious of initiatives (in four areas: International Affairs, Community Development, Political Action, and Business and Investment) while encouraging networking, familiarity and yes, self-promotion.
So far, the reaction has been tremendous from those who have registered, and those whom I have spoken to about coming. There seems to be something that resonates about the tripod of events we have planned: The Mixer on the 28th at the Frederick Douglass Museum; The ‘Coffee Talk’ Dialogue Sessions the morning of the 29th; and The Private Bowling Party, the afternoon of the 29th.
My least ideologically and outwardly politically and business minded friends and associates have the most ‘serious’ reaction to the described Weekend. They sound ‘ready’ to get political and do business, so to speak. And my most ideological, active and outwardly politickers and business-minded associates sound ready to relax a bit, learn from others and yet, still promote and advocate persuasively. I love it.
One potential speaker and special invited guest last week, when I described the event, the viewers who had already registered, and the speakers coming, said to me, "Cedric, these are exactly the people I need to speak to, meet, and reach. (I am so glad that you are making this kind of call.) You need to step up and pound the pavement with this."
I first met the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, in person, over dinner when I was 23 years old. I remember so much from that night, as probably anyone would who loved him, and was meeting him for the first time. He said so many things to me, asked me a lot of serious questions, complimented me, cracked a few jokes, taught on many principles, and said something so beautiful to me, regarding something that he had to give to me, that I put my head down and my eyes began to fill with tears (although I don’t think any fell). I then looked up at him. He saw my reaction, and it appeared to me that his eyes began to water as well. I thought then immediately, and believe now, that he knew how much our meeting meant to me. I can only think that perhaps I and my reaction reminded him of something that he experienced earlier in his life.
That day, the Minister, encouraging me in very profound ways, used two adjectives, among others, to describe how he saw me. Those words were ‘sober’ and ‘progressive.’ He indicated that another at that table, sitting right next to me, was 'progressive' as well. I mention this publicly for the first time, not to make any big deal out of it, or myself, but to make a point that I know that what was in me - at that relatively early stage in my development - that Minister Farrakhan recognized, as sober and progressive, is, and has been, in so many of you all that visit, view, critique, enjoy, and support BlackElectorate.com.
I want to meet you, build with you, unite with you, and put the weight and leverage of this website behind your good work and inspiration. I want a critical mass of the sober and progressive out there who have fed on the information represented by over 78,000 articles and editorials (that's right, 78,000 we did the math) at any point over the last six and one half years, and who have enrolled in Black Electorate Economics University (BEEU) for educational purposes, to now stand on that foundation and become a tangible factor of power in our communities, this country and Hemisphere, and the world.
This can’t be done from the safe distance of e-mail. And it can’t be done with us separated and divided in the prisons of a government job, rigid ideology, the institutional political correctness of academia, or a corporate paymaster. It also can’t be done in an environment where critical and creative thinking is denied expression.
Almost exactly five years ago, to the week, I sat at the dining room table of Minister Louis Farrakhan and listened to him explain the evolution of the Nation Of Islam’s relationship to three factors: dissent, freedom of speech, and critical thinking. He also related these three processes to the institution of governments. It was riveting. He made it very clear that we were entering a time period where, in the right spirit, we as a people would have to properly embrace dissent, freedom of speech, and critical thinking, internally, if we were to be properly organized.
For six years, and those closest to me, and many of our viewers can attest, I have done everything I know how, to make this website a forum that is dedicated to awakening and reaching thousands, and encouraging them to reach a state of agreement and unity which serves the best interests of Black people. But I and we have done so on the condition that dissent, freedom of speech, and critical thinking are permitted in the right spirit.
I have privately and publicly endured abuse, murmuring, misunderstanding, and suspicion because of my dedication to this principle. Perhaps nothing has hurt me more, than to see the brilliance, energy, talent and skills of Black people – particularly among the Learned – used against us because we have been deceived into not working with one another because we don’t have the same White benefactor, political party, ideology, or network; or because we aren't free to think outside of our 'boxes' and have been made to dislike those who encourage us to do so.
Many of us, who are so confined and controlled are still mental slaves.
I have bit my tongue until I am practically drinking blood to not reveal the litany of websites, activists, opinion leaders and organizations who have come in the name of ‘Black’ but who are backed overwhelmingly by non-Black interests who are using them to reach the masses who would never accept a direct call from them in the open. Our best and brightest in the 'mainstream', alternative, and indigenous communities have voluntarily sold out or have been manipulated and deceived into accepting external ideologies, equating them with a Black enlightened self-interest, and promoting them to the masses and our communities.
What some Black leaders, thinkers, and activists call 'coalitions' and 'alliances' are nothing more than master-slave relationships with otherwise brilliant Blacks being placed out front to do the bidding of others who are more hidden (but who provide the ideas and money).
I know this from what some have confided in me directly, and from what I have seen with my own eyes. I have seen it among those who call themselves progressive, conservative, libertarian, liberal and socialist. I have seen it among religious leaders. And I have seen it in science, business and the arts.
I often say to folks who criticize Armstrong Williams for accepting money from the Bush administration to promote their educational program that if you only knew the extent to which this goes on – formally and informally - across the ideological and partisan spectrum ( even among those criticizing Mr. Williams) you would be shocked.
I will not name names, but in our community at the end of this month I will go into the principle that explains why this happens. Part of it is because of the intellectual deference and lack of strength and courage of many of our most brilliant. Rather than blaze a trail of innovation and be independent and free, many of our intellectuals would rather constrict analysis and investigation in order to appear ideologically attractive to benefactors outside of the Black community who want servants and ‘Non-Threatening Negroes,’ as I have written in the past. As a result, the intellectual, opinion leader, professor, doctoral student, preacher, talk show host, political scientist, economist, artist, and columnist sells their creative soul and critical mind in exchange for partisan and ideological membership and financial backing.
As a result the Black political leader can’t be culturally relevant. The Black cultural leader is a slave through business. And the Black business leader can’t be politically active.
At BlackElectorate.com we have tried our best to represent a nexus point of sorts, that will provide a more transparent, diverse, and intellectually honest platform for our people. Some of you will remember our first motto, “Where Culture, Economics, and Politics Meet.” We might just have to bring that back.
This website, although it has a serious political, business and economic focus, has strived to be relevant, active and independent. In addition to enjoying a greater measure of ideological freedom and a form of transparency that others lack, we try to acknowledge art and culture, sports and humor. We don’t believe that politics and business is devoid or somehow separate from the other aspects of the human personality and character. I have found that resonates with many of us who are tired of the ‘fronting’ that is going on with many who hide behind ideology, partisanship, and institutional standing, and yes, the computer, lobbing ideas, criticism, and analysis, from a safe distance.
There is nothing wrong with using the technological medium and platform the Internet provides. But at a certain point, if we are going to see the ideas, analysis, and critique that we distribute through that platform established, we are going to have to form a critical mass off-line, gather and pound the pavement, and then reform like Voltron, so to speak, as an organized body, that uses the Internet not only for informational and educational purposes, but to leverage the power of a community organized in a state of right combination.
That is why we are calling those like-spirited individuals (not necessarily like-minded) together to network, get to know one another and take a leadership role in launching four initiatives at BlackElectorate.com.
So as I wrote previously:
The next step in this process is getting us altogether in person and developing familiarity, camaraderie and agreement through comfortable and enjoyable interaction but serious dialogue, in order to arrive at a right combination of organization and operation. We know you can’t rush the process of unity and team success. It takes time and the right environment. Then the five-step process naturally occurs: Contact then Knowledge then Respect then Unity then Love.
The means by which the community will be formed around initiatives is the foundation of 1) Information 2) Education 3) Dialogue and 4) Personal Familiarity Through Interaction. From there we will move into 5) Agreement, 6) Operational Organization, 7) External Negotiation, 8) Public Information and 9) Mobilization.
The BlackElectorate.com ‘Business and Building’ Weekend is not a superficial, ideological, or partisan affair. It is a sober and progressive event and process. However, it is designed to be a fun social gathering for those who might not be overtly political, as well as those who might adhere tightly to a particular ideology or party interest.
You are all welcome.
The challenge then is not to meet any precondition or litmus test. And the invitation is not one based on a state of preexistent agreement among us. All of the viewpoints available on this website each day are welcome and are being invited to attend.
However, the challenge that I am personally suggesting, and the only premise that I am putting forward is that we come to this gathering ready to discuss, think about, and work on the problems that almost all of us agree exist in the global Black electorate. If we do that while getting to know one another, the solutions will make themselves manifest. They may come from all over the political spectrum. They may come from arts and culture. They may come from science and business. They may come from the streets. But if we gather in the right spirit and state of combination, we will all recognize them when they present themselves. Because real, really does recognize real.
I myself am ready, willing, looking and expecting to bow humbly to the wisdom of a cipher and community that is so badly needed.
My job is just to make the call – which I am pouring out my heart to do – and provide the right atmosphere, which we are working feverishly to.
In that sense, I have confidence in the beautiful principle that is embodied in the Holy Qur’an. Whether one is a Muslim or not, or an atheist, agnostic or Believer in a Supreme Being, we all can take this example of principle-centered leadership embodied by the Muhammad of the Qur'an and recognized and respected by even his worst critics.
As you search your heart (and budget - smile) and prepare to come to this sober, progressive and social gathering, please consider and reflect over part of Surah 16, verse 125 of the Holy Qur’an (Yusef Ali translation) and the footnote that accompanies it.
To me, this is a guiding principle illuminating an important aspect of what ‘Building and Business’ is all about.
“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. For thy Lord knoweth best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.”
Footnote (bold, italic and underline emphasis is mine):
In this wonderful passage are laid down principles of religious teaching, which are good for all time. But where are the Teachers with such qualifications? We must invite all to the Way of Allah, and expound His Universal Will; we must do it with wisdom and discretion, meeting people on their own ground and convincing them with illustrations from their own knowledge and experience, which may be very narrow, or very wide. Our preaching must be, not dogmatic, not self-regarding, not offensive, but gentle, considerate, and such as would attract attention. Our manner and our arguments should not be acrimonious, but modeled on the most courteous and the most gracious example, so that the hearer may say to himself, “This man is not dealing merely with dialectics; he is not trying to get a rise out of me; he is sincerely expounding the faith that is in him, and his motive is the love of man and the love of Allah.”
Please register today for a Weekend like no other, the BlackElectorate.com “Business and Building” Weekend. “Toward a Learned Community…Connected To The Masses”
Monday, October 9, 2006
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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.