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Black Folks Must Look Down The Road
10/8/2014 5:14:25 PM

By Barney Blakeney

My bad. I wrote my last weekly column about having vision, but it wasn’t the column I really had in mind. You see, sometimes I’ll be thinking one thing, but when I start writing my fingers which have a mind of their own, just go on without me. They’re doing the work so I often end up writing something totally different from what I initially had in mind.

I had my mind set on a column about vision, but I was thinking about how Black folks seem to lack it. We elect and accept leadership that don’t seem able to see beyond their noses. That’s at every level - political, economic, educational, religious, you name it.

We elect, select and accept self proclaimed leadership from people who either haven’t a clue where they’re going or want to take us someplace where they get all the benefits. And we allow them to perpetuate that leadership forever! As Reb said this morning, I ain’t trying to step on no toes, but if I hurt you holla. You know who you are.

I got the inspiration for this column after reading an email from James Campbell, who himself has been an inspiration to me. I have a hard time keeping up with the old guy. His use of the language is at another level and so is his level of perception. He pushes me to reach higher. I think that’s what we each should do - push someone to reach higher.

Anyway, Mr. Campbell sends me these articles and writings. One of the most recent was an article about the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune who are divesting their family’s investments from fossil fuels because of the issues concerning climate change. John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil which spawned Exxon, Amoco and Chevron. As the O’Jays said, “Money, money, money, money!”

When I read the article I said to myself, them white folks ain’t all that interested in saving the planet, they realize that oil won’t last forever. They’re looking down the road at alternative energy and income sources.

Despite all the gas-burning cars that will be bumpin’ into each other when Charleston transitions Spring and Cannon streets to two-way traffic and the city’s failure to move to mass transportation, the Rockefellers see that things will change.

Then I started thinking about the lack of vision Charleston city leaders seem to demonstrate with that obviously difficult transition. Black folks ain’t the only folks who lack vision. But beyond those blind examples, I thought of how not too long ago one Black elected official sought to change Spring Street’s name to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I thought that idea lacked vision.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Martin Luther King Jr., I just don’t see how giving the street his name holds any significance when our lack of vision has allowed Spring, Cannon and Morris streets which formerly constituted Charleston’s Black business hub, to fall victim to gentrification where now few Black businesses or residents exist. To add insult to injury, the city’s leadership gave us a concession by naming that area the Martin Luther King Jr. District.

Okay, so I shouldn’t cry over spilled milk. That horse has left the barn. Folks like Anthony Moore and Keith Waring are saying Black folks should suck it up about the Black business hub and develop ways to partake in the opportunities the district now offers. That is how true leadership and vision might be employed. William Gregory, Teddie Pryor, Wendell Gilliard, Marlon Kimpson- where you at?

Also in the Martin L. King Jr. District, historically Black Burke High School is sitting smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest developments planned for the Charleston peninsula over the next 20 years, the Horizon Project. Burke needs the vision of all those who say they are concerned about the school’s future survival. Where you at?
I’ll bet there are 50 Black churches in and around the Horizon Project development area. All the Black churches on the peninsula have congregates who are served by the school. Preachers, where you at?

That’s just downtown. Don’t let me get started on North Charleston.

Mr. Campbell sent me some other stuff. He applauded the daily newspaper’s Oct. 1 coverage of the Grimke sisters’ efforts to promote the abolition of slavery in the Charleston community of the early 19th century. A half century later our city and state led the fight to insure the institution of slavery would continue to fuel the economy.

In his most articulate style, Mr. Campbell related that The Civil War never ended. He pointed to an article which stated, “The South is a place, but the Confederacy is a world view. The evidence of that premise lies in the political, economic and social activities of those who fervently and continuously work to disenfranchise African Americans, he said.
As we fall forward into a new world where things aren’t always as it seems, it’s going to take visionary leadership to see where we’re headed. Everybody else is looking down the road. We should also.

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