State of Emergency in Black America: Time to Heal Our Families and Communities
"Our cities are crime haunted dying grounds. Huge sectors of our youth - and countless others - face permanent unemployment. Those of us who work find our paychecks able to purchase less and less. Neither the courts nor the prisons contribute to anything resembling justice or reformation. The schools are unable - or unwilling - to educate our children for the real world of our struggles. Meanwhile, the officially approved epidemic of drugs threatens to wipe out the minds and strength of our best young warriors. Economic, cultural, and spiritual depression stalk Black America, and the price for our survival often appears more than we are able to pay." This chilling assessment was penned as part of the Preamble to the National Black Political Agenda, adopted forty years ago at the historic National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana - on the eve of a presidential election. As we stand on the threshold of yet another crucial presidential election, the parallels between the plight of Black America then and now are startling. It seems that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."
But, things have changed. As the Institute of the Black World 21st Century notes in its Martin Luther King/Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative, "there would now appear to be two Black Americas, one where the middle and upper classes have escaped to the outer edges of the inner-cities and the surrounding suburbs to live better than anyone might have imagined fifty years ago, and the other Black America where poor and working class Blacks are, as Malcolm might put it, catching more hell than ever before." What is constant is an ever present and debilitating State of Emergency afflicting the masses of Black poor and working people, the struggling middle class and youth/young people locked in America's "dark ghettos" - the urban inner-city areas across this nation. The depth of the crisis is mindboggling: chronic depression levels of unemployment, particularly among Black youth/young people, persistent and unyielding poverty, deteriorating neighborhoods, inadequate access to health care, environmental degradation, inferior schools, rampant crime, drugs, gang violence/fratricide/senseless killing, discriminatory policing, police brutality and misconduct, racially-biased sentencing, and mass incarceration in the prison-jail industrial complex. And, not a day goes by without families and communities somewhere in this nation weeping over the senseless, mindless killing of a child/youth/young person on the dangerous streets of America's dark ghettos.
"We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path thro' the blood of the slaughtered." The voices of our ancestors are crying out, calling on us to heal our families and communities. The disorientation, degradation, deterioration and disintegration of our communities must end. And so, in the spirit of our forebears who gathered in Colored People's Conventions in the 19th century to assess the conditions of the emerging new African community on these hostile American shores, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) calls upon people of African descent from all walks of life in the U.S. and the Pan African World to gather in Washington, D.C. (location TBA) for State of the Black World Conference III. Heeding the voices of our ancestors, it's time to gather to address the State of Emergency in Black America and resolve to heal our families and communities.
We must gather to pose and answer the question of how to bridge the class divide in our communities and restore a sense of collective purpose. What will it take to stop the violence and fratricide inflicting so much harm and pain on our families and communities? How do we end the criminalization and mass incarceration of our young men and women? How do we enable formerly incarcerated persons to reenter the community without their prior status being tantamount to a life sentence, denying access to opportunities to fulfill their aspirations? How do we reverse the menticide resulting from the mis-education dispensed in inferior/low performing schools? How do we develop healthy, wholesome and sustainable communities where our families can survive and thrive? How will immigrants of African descent -- Continental Africans, Africans from the Caribbean and Latin America contribute to the creation of a culturally diverse, dynamic, unified and empowered African community in the U.S.? How will a new generation of organizers, activists, scholars and leaders be engaged in building viable and vital families and communities? Where will we find the material resources to overcome the lingering and lethal legacy of centuries of enslavement, segregation and structural/institutional racism? What impact will the presidential election of 2012 have on ending the State of Emergency in Black America? These are among the crucial questions which must be discussed as we gather to assess the state of the race and devise a basic Declaration of Intent to Heal Black Families and Communities.
In responding to these questions and devising such a Declaration, we must be committed to adopting holistic strategies which incorporate a spiritual and cultural foundation. We can address issues, problems and concerns related to education, health, the environment, economic and political empowerment, but the healing of our families and communities will be slow in coming unless our people collectively rediscover the will to resist, work and struggle for a better future. Our healing must be grounded in a spiritual and cultural foundation that motivates people of African descent to be "of the race and for the race," a spiritual and cultural foundation so deeply imbedded in the fabric of our being that the senseless destruction of another Black person is inconceivable. We must believe in our capacity to control our own destiny and have the confidence that working together there are no obstacles we cannot overcome and no mountains we cannot climb. A healthy love of self and kind is a precondition for engaging with others to heal our communities.
Undergirded with a spiritual and cultural foundation, as we formulate the Declaration of Intent, we must focus on a three-pronged approach to ending the State of Emergency in Black America: What are we prepared to "do for self." How will we utilize what is already in our own hands that can be mobilized to address critical issues/concerns, launch projects/programs/initiatives and build internal capacity/infrastructure to defend and develop our families and communities. Second, what must we demand of private institutions like banks, businesses/corporations that thrive on resources extracted from our communities as well as philanthropic agencies that claim to be interested in ameliorating the damages of racism in American society. Finally, what must we demand of government at all levels in terms of policies and programs to remedy and repair the damages of enslavement, centuries of segregation and decades of blatant and benign neglect. To achieve the intended results, we must be clear about what we are demanding of ourselves, private institutions, philanthropic agencies and government.
With the blessing and support of the participants of SOBWC III, IBW as a progressive, African-centered, action-oriented think tank, pledges to be a resource center and anchor relentlessly promoting "internal integration," cooperation, collaboration and operational unity to facilitate the implementation of the Declaration of Intent to Heal Black Families and Communities.
It's time to heal our families and communities. With that charge people from African descent from across the nation joined by our sisters and brothers from Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Diaspora in Canada, Europe and the entire globe should be in motion, mobilizing/organizing to journey to Washington, D.C. November 16-20, 2012, for State of the Black World Conference III -- infused with an irresistible determination that we will heal our families and communities! In the name of our ancestors and for the sake of this and future generations, let the mobilizing/organizing begin!
Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Ronald Walters
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com . To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.