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2015 Is Done, 2016 Offers Hope
12/29/2015 5:57:01 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I guess I’m at the age now when I don’t look at the end of the year as a conclusion, but rather a beginning. For the first time in my long life - and it has been a long life considering many Black men never make it past 25 - I’m not seeing this final week of the year as the year’s end. I’m already in 2016.

That’s unusual for me. I’m a ‘right now’ kind of guy. I don’t count chickens until they hatch. I’ll count the eggs in anticipation, but the chickens? They ain’t here yet. That’s my usual perspective. This year is different. I’m done with 2015.

Don’t get me wrong, 2015’s been good to me. From start to finish, I’ve had a ball. Between the women, the whisky and Wesley (the ladies in my family, less of the snake oil and returning to my childhood church) life in 2015 has been real good. But I’m anxious to see what happens in 2016.

I forgot one of those W’s - the work. 2015 has been a good year for work. I probably have the best gig in the world. My partner Smiley ‘Roy Boy’ Smalls probably would say the same thing. He’s a sax man and he loves playing that horn. Smiley taught music in Charleston County schools over 35 years until recently retiring, but he still plays gigs. It’s still work, but when you love what you do as work, it makes a big difference.

Okay Barney, enough day dreaming. Get back to the work of writing this column. And that means getting to the point about 2016. As we slide into this new year it’s important that we move forward. Right now, that forward movement must include moving beyond the violence that captivates Black communities.

A while back I wrote a piece I called ‘Everybody’s Packing’. It was about the prevalence of guns in our community. News flash ya’ll - guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

We got some handkerchief-head yahoos running around here talking about getting the guns off the streets and yeah, that’s part of the solution. But the real deal is them folks ain’t gonna stop makin’ guns until people stop usin’ ‘em. In fact, our Gov. Nikki Haley just encouraged a major gun manufacturer to locate in South Carolina. Guns and violence is big business, folks. And as with everything else, us Black folks are major consumers. Give ‘em guns, let ‘em kill each other then lock ‘em up. Everybody makes money!

I’m convinced that when people are well educated, prosperous and productive, they don’t get involved in the negative stuff. Because our leadership - religious, secular, economic and political - lacks vision, our schools don’t educate the masses of Black children. Consequently, more and more, each generation of Black kids get sucked into the cycle of poverty and its attendant ills.

Knuckleheads like the thugs who broke into Bryant Heyward’s house in Hollywood resulting in his almost total paralysis never had a chance. Four kids were arrested and charged with the crimes that led to Heyward getting shot by a Charleston County sheriff’s deputy. The oldest is 22. I’ll bet none finished high school. Read Jawanza Kunjufu’s “The Conspiracy To Destroy Black Boys”.

Speaking of education and economics, 2016 represents an opportunity for Black folks to get on the bus. Charleston County School District has a new superintendent. She needs to know that the disparities which exists between Black and white students can’t be allowed to continue.

Never mind the disparities between predominantly Black and predominantly white schools, Black students at predominantly white schools still show the same disparities.

Just ‘cause your kid goes to that white school doesn’t mean he’s getting the same opportunities. Tracking baby, tracking.

And economics! I stopped at that gas station at the corner of King and Mt. Pleasant streets the other day and learned that old man Gilchrist, the tow truck man, now owns the place. It’s the only Black owned gas station on the peninsula. Heck, it may be the only one in the metro Charleston area.

Ain’t that something? All these fine cars Black folks drive that they bought from some white man and none of ‘em can buy gas from another Black man. Black folks have millions of dollars tied up in automobiles in this community and few Black folks get any of those dollars either from the sale of the cars, their maintenance or their operation.

And that’s just automotives. Charleston is an economic blast furnace. Black folks are the fuel, but don’t participate in any of the benefits produced by that furnace. 2016 will offer an opportunity for our community to connect the dots between education, economics, crime, violence and our leadership. I’m hopefully optimistic that will happen in 2016.

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