"What Is The Matter With You That You Help Not One Another?" The ‘Politics’ Of Producing Black Unity by Cedric Muhammad
Why is the theme of this year's BlackElectorate.com "Business and Building" Weekend, "Many Parts, One Body," and explained with language from the Bible, contained in 1 Corinthians 12 regarding the Body of Christ?
The answer is direct, so I will get right to the point.
Simply put, there are not enough of us, with the right spirit, organized according to our talents, skills, and interests, in the proper community relationship with one another.
As a result we are not generating enough energy and mutual support to remain enthused and focused long enough to fully cooperate with, and accomplish the task, of raising ourselves and our people into full economic, political, and cultural power.
Whether in business, in the neighborhood, or in civic or religious organizations, the truth does not change. We do not know ourselves and each other well enough; nor do we believe in ourselves and each other enough, to tackle the mighty job at hand – addressing the problems (with universal permanence) that face the Black community, oppressed and righteous people all over the world.
Without the energy that only a large enough, magnetic enough, and organized enough, group of us can form, we will continue to be largely ineffective in what we aspire to obtain, for ourselves as individuals, and for our community.
We are like islands to ourselves, so to speak, cut off, hopeless, and 'dry,' as described in the scriptures (Ezekiel 37 and Holy Qur'an Surah 38.) Talented, insightful, and sincere, but not the tangible factor of power that we could be or form, as part of a larger unit.
This does not mean that many of us are not already part of larger communities. But the question remains - are they properly organized?
If not, why not?
Over the years, in the neighborhood, as an entrepreneur, in the music industry, through political activism, within religious and spiritual groups, and from communication platforms, I have noticed the same: envy, jealousy, self-doubt, ignorance, fear, external manipulation, all conspire and compliment one another in producing the state of hopelessness, disorganization, violence, strife, and ineffectiveness that permeates ‘the movement.’ When that is combined, with a woeful and willful ignorance of the history of such dynamics and problems, it is not hard to understand why so many problems facing our community appear intractable, insurmountable and permanent.
This is one of the values of us all carefully studying a book like Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of the Black Power Movement In America by Peniel E. Joseph. One of the meanings of the word 'lesson' is 'an instructive example.' This book is full of plenty of them from yesterday, for us to be guided by, today.
I have been dealing with this, considering it, and studying it for years. Yesterday, while reading the book, Closing The Gap it reached a crescendo. A reference made by the one who compiled and conducted the inner views of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan that make up the book - Minister Jabril Muhammad - to a verse in the Holy Qur’an, Surah 37: 25, crystallized it. It is a question posed by the Supreme Being to a broad array of us:
”What is the matter with you that you help not one another?”
Insecurities, distrust, intellectual cowardice, fear, invidious comparisons, disputes, unbridled ambition, lack of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and legitimate disagreement are all factors contributing to why, at this late hour of 2007, many of us have not even taken the most basic steps to unite with a larger group of individuals, who all agree on the fact that the Black world is not where it should be in terms of spiritual development, material progress, and cultural expression.
But with so many in agreement on this obvious reality, why so apparently little success toward changing that reality?
At BlackElectorate.com, we comfortably entertain virtually every ‘school of thought’ that exists in the spiritual, economic and political arena among Black people in America, the Western hemisphere, Africa, and around the world.
In earlier years, I believed that legitimate and illegitimate disagreements between those schools of thought explained why were not able to solve our shared problems. Now, I am convinced, that the explanation is far deeper, far more basic, and far more intimate.
Imagine a meeting in 2007, between the following victims of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), or what it originated and evolved from, in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s: Frances Beal, A. Phillip Randolph, Lorraine Hansberry, H. Rap Brown, Paul Robeson, James Baldwin, Noble Drew Ali, Marcus Garvey, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, Fannie Lou Hamer, Clarence 13 X (Allah), Sonia Sanchez, Robert F. Williams, Geronimo Pratt, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Huey Newton, Maya Angelou, Maulana Karenga, Amiri Baraka, Bob Marley, Brother Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver. At this meeting they are asked to discuss and connect the biggest internal mistakes and errors of ‘the movement,’ and how they were manipulated by external enemies. Some in this room were divided by such strategy and tactics, one from another. There is personal history, and plenty of ill-feeling, along with differences of opinion on philosophy, tactics, and strategy.
Suppose this meeting and discussion was actually moderated by the Jesus of the Bible, along with the wisest Doctor currently alive on earth - whomever she or he might be - in terms of their knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Assisting them in research and preparation are physicists, historians, molecular biologists, anthropologists, military scholars and generals, political scientists, business leaders, legendary coaches of sports teams, and economists.
Might spiritual wisdom and knowledge of how the parts and systems of the human body connect and form a whole, offer tremendous insights?
Also present at the meeting would be only one expert witness. That would be J. Edgar Hoover, mastermind and the chief executive officer, responsible for dividing, neutralizing, and disrupting Black organizations. For this one gathering Mr. Hoover would be forced to answer any question posed by the attendees, truthfully.
How much of this dialogue (absent Hoover) would center around their different ‘schools of thought?’ as opposed to such topics like personal character, skills, talents, operational unity and relationship dynamics? If they could agree on anything to advance the 'movement' would it more likely be political ideology or the value of learning the lessons of COINTELPRO, and finding a better and more lasting path to unity?
How would we answer the same questions, on their behalf, if were were to undertake the most informed and intense study of their lives and histories? How could or would it inform a gathering like "Business and Building II?
In short, the deepest answers to these questions revolve around our individual and collective self concept; our value systems; and our practice of principles that bring about familiarity, respect, rapport, harmonious action and the deepest kind of love.
The problem is not intellectual agreement in the spiritual, cultural, or political realm; nor is the solution intellectual agreement in the same areas (I have actually seen more vicious arguments among this group.)
What is lacking is the heart-felt commitment made by an individual, to prepare themselves to contribute and endure whatever is necessary to work with others toward one common goal; and the determination of the organization and community to be accountable to its least member and the broader community, which it seeks to engage, or from which it extracts its sustenance and obtains support.
Maintaining the exercise of ideological disagreement and abstract intellectual debate over tactics and strategy in the face of Black America and Africa's problems, for example, amounts to little more than excuse and procrastination, when one considers the time and what must be done. We have entered a critical period of time where only lawful dialogue and finding the path to operational unity will qualify one as being effectively in 'the movement.' This applies to preachers, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, politicians, scholars, professionals, and even students.
In a recent article written for the Final Call, I stated how inappropriate it is for many of us to complain about the pace of economic development in Black America and among our organizations when we, as individuals, don't practice the principles of economic unity and charitable support among our own friends, and families. No economist on earth can plan development for us, if we aren't willing to do for self.
While the talk, analysis, and rhetoric I have heard about our often miserable condition is informed and passionate, the actual action steps and follow through that I have seen toward working with others to solve the problem, more times than not passes for little more than casual.
It can be disheartening, disappointing and almost unbelievable that the most intelligent and concerned Black Democrats, Marxists, Republicans, Conservatives, Hip-Hoppers, Muslims, Progressives, Atheists, Agnostics and Professionals can be so cooperative and disciplined in the confines of non-Black led institutions and organizations, and yet so casual, apathetic, and even, hopeless when asked to come together to unite over the subject that all agree on: the condition of Black people, and the self-evident aspects of how to improve it.
I even had one brilliant, intelligent, passionate, dedicated, and strong friend of mine who produces cooperation across class and cultural lines professionally, tell me that broad Black political unity was not possible. I was not shocked, but struck by this comment, in light of how effective this individual is in generating unity in their professional sphere of influence.
But then, I reflected and realized that probably most Black people share this belief subconsciously. This person was only voicing what many of us suspect, believe or accept every day in our interactions.
I think I know what my friend Star meant when he said, 'White Guilt is still more powerful than Black Unity,' in commenting on how Blacks mobilized, cleaned up, and united because of the actions of two White men - Michael Richards and Don Imus - as opposed to the call made by Black activists for years.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that only Allah (God) could unite the Black man and woman, with permanence. He also said that only Islam could unite the Black man.
Can a non-Muslim, Agnostic, or Atheist accept this as true.
First by understanding what the word ‘Islam’ signifies and means; next, by understanding what governs the principle of unity in the physical universe and all other forms of life; and by understanding the history of the last 500 years, and in particular, the most brutal and scientific methods by which Black people were stripped of the basis of self love and self respect: the knowledge of self.
In summary, and free of ‘religious dogma,’ the Honorable Elijah Muhammad stated that if we were to study the physical universe and the nature of the earth’s animal, insect, and plant life, we would have the key to the understanding of the best way of life intended for us all.
We have to learn that particular unifying language and behavioral conduct that moves us beyond our current state of disunity, into a warm embrace of one another and united action.
So, when will the previously described barriers keeping us from one another and preventing our operational unity toward a common goal be overcome? When the knowledge of self and the knowledge of the time and what our circumstances demand be done, is accepted by enough of us (a critical mass) that we embrace a determined idea and vision and form a society toward its fulfillment.
This deepest concept of unity, although many may not see it right away, can be approached by everyone reading these words. Our humble effort can represent the fulfillment of one of the deepest pictures of unity, ever described. In preparation for last year’s “Business and Building,” event I wrote:
So those of us who can’t endure the disconnection between the vanguard and the collective; who can no longer allow the bureaucratic structures of academia, government and corporate institutions to keep us from the struggle of our people; and who aren’t willing to soften the message or omit its harshest truths, for the sake of ‘getting along’ or not offending some of our loved ones caught up in ‘this world,’; it is we who have got to step up and find ways to become more relevant and powerful on behalf of the whole and what is right. That will require us to not only become smarter and more vocal and articulate, but it also will require that we work more than ever with others, properly organized, outside of the intellectual, spiritual, and structural confines of an academic institution, government office, political party or corporation.
We can no longer serve two masters and be at peace with ourselves. And by master I do not necessarily mean a non-Black one. I am referring primarily to our paymasters - those, even Black, who through money, lifestyle, and station have seduced us or redirected our will power away from doing for self. Now is the time to break free and encourage some of them, ‘caught up,’ to come with us. We have to bet on a new idea or one that is forgotten or so old that it is buried in dust on our shelves, or even underneath a landfill of superficial approaches that treat symptoms and not causes.
We have to look again at who we are really communing with the most or in a community with, in terms of time, energy and emotional commitment.
Again, in the Holy Qur’an in Surah 2 verse 60 it reads (in the Maulana Muhammad Ali translation): “And when Moses prayed for water for his people, We said: March on to the rock with thy staff…” In his footnote on this verse Maulana Muhammad Ali states, “…’Asa ordinarily means staff or rod, but its primary significance is a state of combination and the word is metaphorically used to speak of community…Hence the words may mean strike the rock with thy staff, or march on to the mountain with thy staff or thy community.
Look deeper at that concept “a state of combination,” embodied by this Arabic word ’Asa. That is what we are looking for in our community, people who are in a right state of combination – their talents, skills, and interests in alignment with the mission of raising our people – morally, politically, economically and culturally – all over the world.
While only one among many other possible and future communities already and yet to form (and merge), I believe with all of my heart that there are enough of us, at BlackElectorate.com, touched by the over 100,000 articles describing our condition, published at this site for over 7 years, who now have 1) enough awareness and confidence in self and 2) knowledge of the time and what must be done; that we will come together to form the right combination to actually do something together about solving the problems we face in four areas: Community Development; Political Action; Business and Investment; and International Affairs.
Let’s be part of that organized, and magnetic, critical mass.
Register for a Weekend dedicated to developing rapport, trust, agreement, and unity for one common cause.
Please visit: http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1977
Time is running out for us to do this voluntarily, before painful circumstances force us to do.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
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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.