The BlackElectorate.com “Business and Building” Community Development ‘Coffee Talk’: “Culture, Family And The Streets.”
On Sunday Morning, October 29th, at 10 am, at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Hotel, we will be hosting a 90-Minute ‘Coffee Talk’ aimed at determining the Community Development Initiative that the BlackElectorate.com Community will mobilize around in the year 2007.
Our theme is, “Culture, Family And The Streets,” and we are determined to address the root of the problems that we are facing us as individuals, families, neighborhoods, communities and nationally in Black America. Below is a list of possible topics of discussion that our facilitator will steer into a process whereby ideas, proposals and plans for action, based upon information and education, can be reviewed by a three or five person Team - an Initiative Review Board - and eventually voted on by the entire Initiative Body of Attendees.
Black Teenage Unemployment. Health Disparities. ‘Broken’ Families. ‘Blended’ Families. The Male To Female Ratio. ‘Gang’ Violence. The Influence Of Hip-Hop Culture. A Failing Education System. The Criminal Justice System. The Critique Of Bill Cosby vs. that of Michael Eric Dyson. The Role of The Black Church, Mosques and Masjids and Grassroots Organizations. How Can We Influence Black Images In Media?
On that last point, How Can We Influence Black Images In Media?, for example, I had the experience yesterday of being at a grocery in Washington, D.C. waiting in the checkout line and noticing the Hip-Hop artist, Game, on the cover of Complex magazine. What caught my attention was that he had curled up in his right hand, a copy of The Wall St. Journal. I think I almost caught the Holy Ghost.
As many of you know, I have publicly spoken and written on how I read The Wall St. Journal daily, and why. I have also expressed how important I think the newspaper is to the Hip-Hop community and generation, whether one agrees with the narrow and hawkish ideology that might dominate the paper’s editorial page. Some of you may also remember me commenting on my conversation with the powerful and brilliant Rosa Clemente of R.E.A.C.Hip Hop, last year, who told me of her enjoyment in reading the Wall St. Journal, following my encouragement. I was overjoyed.
What I saw in Game’s feature and image was the possibility, if we leverage unity, to not only complain and protest against negative images in our community, which are numbing and dumbing the minds of our young people and even not-so-young people, (by aiming our attention at corporate paymasters who bribe our artists and creative opinion leaders to compromise their thinking, speaking, writing and performing) but also to put pressure on artists directly with tough love, while we build alternative Black-owned institutions which have the power to create, define and project images in the marketplace and public. I think we need all three efforts.
I was reminded of this yesterday in a discussion I had with a friend of mine in the movie industry who was critiquing the recent Black Film Awards, which of course, was long overdue, and also, of course, financed and projected by White corporate media. We discussed the obviously negative aspects of this but also touched on the potential power of the unity of Black actors, actresses, filmmakers, and moguls.
Arts are a form of education and cultivation of the human being. Anyone who has seen a young person learn a musical instrument and the effect it has on their self-concept, confidence, emotional development, and intellect can bear witness to this. I recently saw a study that showed how much more developed were the brains and intellectual capacity of young children who received musical training.
Through drama, music, painting, photography, sculpture and travel, we develop in ways that we can’t or don’t through classroom education and instruction. Arts and culture are important to the quality of life we enjoy.
But today, artistic expression and cultivation are not possible without an understanding of the science of business and international commerce. That is why our interview with Black art gallery owner, Mr. Norman Parish of Parish Art Gallery in D.C. is so important. Any artist, entrepreneur, or activist concerned with Black images should read it and hopefully recognize the nexus point of culture, economics and politics.
In addition, we all should consider the call by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan – made over 13 years ago in his book, A Torchlight For America for a cultural revolution.
In a section titled, "Promote a Cultural Revolution Through The Arts," he writes (boldface emphasis is mine):
"The artistic community has historically been in the vanguard of social change. What is now needed is for the artistic community to lead a cultural revolution. On the physical level, man is what he eats. Spiritually, '…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…' (Proverbs 23:7) If the American people are constantly fed filth and garbage through newspapers, magazines, television, movies, plays and music; if the public like the proverbial swine, has become a lover of filth; and if thoughts guide behavior, what do the thoughts of the American people produce? Do the thoughts of the American people produce rape, incest, murder, theft, greed, and the destruction of family and the institutions of society? I would argue that the answer is yes.
Therefore, along with summoning the spiritual leadership to convene with leadership in government, the artistic community needs to be shown its responsibilities to the overall mental and spiritual health and well-being of society and the world. Our gifts, as artists, are a blessing from God. We have the responsibility of the proper use of our gifts. Additionally, movie producers, record producers and publishers all have a responsibility to the spiritual, moral and mental well-being of the American people.
Will it profit the major producers and publishers to become filthy rich by feeding filth to the American public at the cost of the survival and progress of the nation? Who among the artists, producers, agents, publishers, writers and directors would like to be, in part responsible for helping America become as the modern Rome, Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, all of which earned the wrath of God? If the artistic community would take up the challenge, and if the business community would not use its money to back filth and foolishness. If the real hunger and thirst of the people for knowledge and quality entertainment were fed, the country could be turned around almost overnight. A positive direction could be charted for the American people, which they must move toward if they hope to be saved from the country’s present course.
The Bible refers to the people as sheep, who, as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, are easily led in the wrong direction, but hard to lead in the right direction. The people are responding to what the leaders have offered them, which is called “popular culture”. The people’s appetite has been made insatiable for filth. If the leaders turn away from evil and indecency then the people will turn. If the artists turn away from filth and indecency, then the people will follow. This is why it is written in the scriptures that the people need a 'good' shepherd. In every field of endeavor, good leadership has to be asserted to turn corruption, greed, filth and indecency into righteousness."
Self-improvement is the basis for community development. In other words, community development is building people and then properly linking people with people, according to talents, skills, interests, and systems. This is challenging work and it requires the right critical mass of individuals who are not only sincerely concerned about the crises in our community, but who are also dedicated to solving them with the right mixture of character and competence. We have to want to do good, and we have to become good at doing.
That is why we are focusing on culture, family and the streets in this Dialogue Session. The problems are in the culture, family and the streets, but so are the solutions. We have to extract what we can from the existing dominant system while we carefully pursue a vision of a new system and world. In addition, my contention is that we have to do so in a redemptive pattern. Those who are ignorant, wayward, and in the wrong right now, have to be corrected, re-educated and confronted, but we have to do so in a spirit of love, and not with a self-righteous attitude or with a view that is totally clouded by the personal pain we experience at Black hands. I often marvel at how many of us are so studious in the nature of our oppression and yet lack compassion for the victims of that oppression. We are all suffering in one way or another as a result of slavery, discrimination and oppression. We also have all done something to offend another – intentionally or not – and are in need of forgiveness, mercy, tolerance, patience and grace. Of course, not forever though (smile).
That is why the Eight Steps of Atonement given to us at the Million Man March, if practiced inside of the Black community, would do so much to facilitate community development. But we seem to only reserve the non-violent approach for our interaction with White people.
Having said that, we do need an army. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that until we practiced the golden rule by one another we would always need a police force. He also described in more private settings how we would eventually overcome prostitution and drug-dealing in our communities. The process was one of eventual confrontation, but characterized by love and mercy, up until the last minute possible.
This is one of the reasons why I hope that we will eventually re-conceptualize our view of the ‘gangs,’ or the street organizations in our communities. Yes, many of them are the worst offenders in our communities. But if their minds and hearts can be cultivated, their practice of operational unity can be redemptive and eventual position them as the respecters and protectors of our communities. We can’t be afraid of them; they are our own family members. Through economic development, the knowledge of self, love and training, these beautiful Brothers and Sisters can become giants. I will be suggesting at the ‘Coffee Talk’ and announcing through a business venture, a unique approach to entrepreneurial development reaching the street organizations, as well as prisoners and those just released from jail.
In 2001 I wrote one of the most serious pieces of my literary and intellectual life. It was called, "Diallo, Devaluation Of Black Life and Police Privatization" and dealt with how I believed we could save taxpayer dollars, reduce crime, and the loss of life in our cities by ‘privatizing’ the local police budget and giving a quarter of it to the Black Church, Grassroots and Civic organizations, Reformed Gang Members and the Nation Of Islam, for example. These groups would community police and patrol neighborhoods, without weapons (of course some serious boxing, wrestling, self-defense, and mixed martial arts training would be part of their training), and would be responsible for keeping peace in the neighborhoods. I wrote that this would virtually eliminate the need to profile people – because these groups know the people better than the police – and that the only time we would call the police would be to arrest the worst offenders. I suggested this could be done easily in Newark, New Jersey. I really believe this could be done almost anywhere.
Perhaps, this Initiative might interest our Community. We could negotiate this politically, culturally and economically, with the right Team.
I sincerely hope that those of us who are in pain over the condition of our community; have ideas, talents, skills, and experience; or simply want to be part of a good work, will accept my personal invitation to support and join our community and lead us in an effort to develop our communities from the inside out.
We are running out of time as the death march of our people continues…
You can register for the BlackElectorate.com “Business and Building” Weekend and the Community Development “Coffee Talk” today at:
Note: Please Remember There Are Only Advance Ticket Sales For This Event.
Friday, October 20, 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.