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Black Leadership Absent From Black Community?
1/21/2015 4:42:13 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

After participating in several King’s Day Celebrations and watching the movie Selma, I couldn’t help but wonder “where do we go from here”. Where are our front line ministers? During the civil rights movement, Dr. King was surrounded by ministers. The church was the heart of the movement.

In spite of the sinister times that we live in, ministers have faded from the movement. Y’all do know, we still have a movement going on? Today, ministers love to emulate Dr. King on King’s holiday. Some ministers even have the oration down pat but once the holiday is over they run for the hills and you don’t see them until the next King’s Day. They are absent from community meetings. They are absent from boards where key decisions are made. They don’t get involved in the educational process. Black students are suspended and expelled in disproportionate numbers than white students. Black teachers are viewed as not being as proficient as white teachers and are absent from predominately white schools. Black children are still attending failing schools and are graduating at a lower rate than white students. Black children are being forced out of their neighborhood schools so that Whites moving into the neighborhood can take over the school. Why is there no response from ministers when black children as young as six years old are pushing drugs on street corners at night? Where are our ministers when black males between the ages of 17 and 30 are killing off each other senselessly in drug related crimes? Where are our ministers when black males are being harassed, profiled and murdered in record numbers by police officers “just because”? Why is there no response from the ministers when cheap weapons are dumped into the black community to aid in black on black murders? Where are the voices that once reverberated around this nation calling for an end to injustice? Where are our leaders?

Where are our leaders when Charleston County School District spends billions of tax dollars on new schools and only a fraction of those dollars go to black contractors? Where are our leaders when Charleston International Airport is undergoing a major renovation and only a handful of black contractors have contracts and are black vendors being considered for space once the renovation is completed? It makes sense for ministers to get in the fight because where there are no contracts, there is no money. Little contracts net the church little money. Then, Reb wants to rat you out if you don’t tithe. And, some pastors have the audacity to request your tax returns to validate the accuracy of your tithe. Ten percent of $100,000 sure is greater than 10% of $30,000 or 10% of nothing. Ministers can change the way whites do business in Charleston overnight if they would just get involved. You can almost count the ministers on one hand that are helping to raise the bar not only for their members but members of this community. Oh, I know I will get some calls on this, so be it.

It’s one thing to cry when you see Selma but if you do nothing, your tears mean nothing. The marchers that joined the march from Selma to Montgomery took their lives into their hands for the third time knowing that day could be their last when they decided to march across the Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights. According to Wikipedia, on the third attempt the marchers led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and other clergies protected by 2,000 US Army soldiers, 1,000 members of the Alabama National Guard, FBI Agents and Federal Marshalls, arrived at Alabama State Capitol on March 25 twenty five thousand strong.

The march didn’t start out twenty five thousand strong but gained momentum as it passed through towns and folks joined the march. It’s never too late to get onboard. You don’t even have to wait for someone else to take the lead. It’s not just about being in the number. It’s not about jumping in the parade once it has passed. It’s about standing up for what is right and denouncing what is wrong. Don’t worry about whether folks will follow you or not. What would have happened had Dr. King not joined the march? What would have happened had Dr. King not challenged President Johnson on voting rights? The first march organized by James Bevel, Director of SCLC Direct Action, resulted in what is known as Bloody Sunday with hundreds injured. The second march led by Dr. King was aborted by King because he feared for the safety of the marchers; they did not have enough protection. The third march was successful and led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

You don’t have to be famous to get involved. All you have to have is a commitment to make things better. After Dr. King’s Day, there is much work to be done. What are you going to do? It doesn’t matter how much you emulate Dr. King in speech, it’s your action that changes people and changes things.

See y’all at the meetings!


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