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Wanted – Fearless Leadership
11/30/2016 12:57:36 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

Here I go again. Leaders in the black community have got to show some gumption! 

I was in downtown Charleston the other day when I ran into a friend who works for a vital nonprofit community service agency. From across the street he yelled that he no longer was working for the agency and implied the situation might be of interest to the public via the newspaper.

I get that a lot. Somebody in a position serving our community finds themselves a victim of some cutback, change in policy or a boss who finally gets tired of carrying dead weight and figures the newspaper is an option to address their particular situation. Sometimes they’re right. The court of public opinion is the most viable way to address a wrong. I try to be objective about my decision whether or not to pursue the issue. Some things don’t lend themselves to personal choices. If it’s newsworthy or serves a greater purpose, I try to accommodate.

Still, it always gets me how so many folks don’t see a need to go public until something affects them adversely, especially when it comes to their jobs. I’ve seen cats sit back and draw fat paychecks for years knowing that what’s going on within their situation robs the public of vital resources. But they accept the deal as long as they get paid. It ain’t about what’s right or wrong, it’s always about whether they get paid.

So I took my friend’s information with a grain of salt. It really didn’t seem like a big deal and he wasn’t that upset. This guy is one of those people who make things work for him no matter what the deal. He’s always landed on his feet and kept it moving to the next cushy spot. I didn’t think much about the situation until a subsequent conversation with another friend who said the situation going down at the agency had farther reaching implications.

Then it got my attention. The agency in question affects a lot of people who need the service. I could care less about those knuckleheads or their fat checks, but a lot of people on the bottom are affected by what they do, so I called another friend who works for the agency. That person told me a lot of shenanigans are afoot – money’s changin’ hands and people are strategically being placed to accommodate the shift. My friend says, “Barney, you ain’t getting’ this from me, but the deal’s going down to take the resource away from the people who made it happen and those who need it most.”

That brings me to the point about leadership having some gumption. In a recent conversation with a black elected official the sister said she works with some spineless, gutless individuals who won’t stand or fight for anything. They hold public office for decades and accomplish nothing. I get beat up when I say stuff like that, but here’s a sister, new to the game, who I see as a game-changer saying the same thing!

We have social and political elite which has been in place for generations. They feather their own nests at our expense and as long as things go their way they say nothing about the stuff that goes on which disenfranchises us. They go along and get along and never utter a peep until or unless they’re knocked from their precarious pedestals.

But you know what? That’s mostly our fault. Most of us are too lazy or too uninvolved to do the simple things it takes to change the situation. People suffered, sacrificed and died so we could vote and I’m at the polls two weeks ago watching middle-aged individuals voting for the first time in their lives. Yeah it sounds good to say at least they voted, but where the heck have they been while our community went to hell in a hand basket over the last 40 years? Shirking that responsibility, that’s where!

Well now we’ve got this ultra-conservative fool going to the White House and most people who can count to 10 realize our country is about to undergo some serious change. How much good, how much bad? We’re about to see. Reminds me of how we all voted for another guy who promised change for Charleston. Now we have a city where most of our children can’t afford to live.

Anyway, bad things happen when good people do nothing. Black lives never will matter if all you do is protest. Nobody wants to step up to the plate so we get all kinds of fools who run for public office and run our lives. In a town – North Charleston – where 45 percent of the population is black few black folks want to be police officers, yet they complain they are treated unfairly by the police. We talk about the inequities in public education, but nobody steers our children into teaching.

They say great leaders aren’t made, they’re born. I don’t know, maybe that’s true. But until the next generation of great leaders like Rev. A.R. Blake, Father Thomas Duffy, J. Arthur Brown, ‘Big’ John Chisolm, Gussie Humes, Walter Jenkins and Roscoe Mitchell come of age we need leaders unselfish and unafraid who are willing to take the reins of power and guide us to a better place. We’re at a turning point. Good leaders must step up to the plate if we’re to make the right turn.

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