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Where Have All the Leaders Gone? Part II
9/4/2013 12:39:40 PM

Dr. Ade Ofunniyin

By Dr. Ade Ofunniyin

I am certain that we have qualified people in our community. A few have come forward and have attempted to get in the game. While they were not successful, I encourage them to stay in the race. Our elders believed that the race is not always given to the swift but to the steadfast.

It is way past time for those who have become career politicians to move on. In fact, they should busy themselves with grooming and training young people to assume their seats. In the past African descended people didn’t do a good job of passing the baton; more often than not they took their skills and knowledge to the grave with them. This is another truth that we won’t discuss. Our unwillingness to share resources and knowledge are reasons that we don’t advance and move away from a marginalized existence. It is not too late! We are not finished as some want to predict.

Our ancestors made it out of times that were by far more difficult than these. But we must shift gears quickly. We must look toward the future and deal with our leadership.

How we prepare the next generation is an area for discussion. We can no longer shake our heads and complain that the world is passing us by, that recent immigrants have come along and displaced us. Could it be that what we are calling displacement is the natural wheels of progress rolling on? Have we prepared ourselves to be beneficiaries of these advancements and progress? Are we at the table when plans are being developed? Are we still waiting to be invited to the party? The time for waiting is gone!

We must become organizers of the party. We are great at putting together a party; it is time that we utilize our many skills and talents for our betterment. We must renegotiate who will lead us and how our communities will be developed. Change is inevitable; what will be our place as progress continues to come to Charleston.

My grandfather Philip Simmons told stories about how he shoed horses and built wheels for wagons, until the automobile came along. He called that development progress. His predecessor Peter Simmons had forewarned him that change would come and that he would have to be steadfast and prepared. Through time and a long life he saw many other changes. His words of encouragement to many were printed on a little picture of someone on their knees praying. The picture hung on a wall in his office. The words were simple, “ If you want your prayers answered, get up off of your knees and hustle.”

I have always took those words to mean that you have to keep up with what is happening around you and where possible, get ahead of what is about to come; to do that you have to be prepared. Preparation requires sacrifice and work.

I have heard that there are natural leaders. I have often been accused of being one. While some might believe that to be the truth, I confess that I have spent a great deal of time preparing myself for leadership. While I no longer aspire to be a leader in the way that I did as a boy. I frequently ask myself, who will lead our children? Who can they emulate? Which one of them wants to be a leader but don’t know where to begin?

I know for certain that it is way past time for us to address these questions and support the young people that have prepared themselves and want to answer the call.

If our leaders are informed about the types of development that are being planned and keep their constituents informed the community would not always feel blindsided by what they see happening before their eyes. Charleston is expanding rapidly. I will admit that the dilapidated and unutilized structures are in need of development, schools are in need of development; neighborhoods are in need of improvement. I will continue to insist that those who are descendants of Africans who have lived in Charleston since its foundation and for several generations must engage themselves in the development.

That will require that they attend city council meetings, community meetings, PTA meetings, and all other meetings that are organized and held to determine the direction of development in our communities.

I hope that when the next busloads of people are traveling to any one of the many events that might be happening in Washington DC, that the riders include new leaders that recognize the importance of their presence and that they realize the significance of young people having someone to emulate. I am certain that there are young people in our communities that are aspiring to be a member of city council person, congressional representative or even President of the United States of America. They will become what they see and they will follow when we lead them.

If you missed Part 1 in last weeks’ edition, it can be read by visiting our website at:


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