What comes to mind when you think of the word “leader”?
Do you envision an authoritative person? A guiding or directing force? The head of the table? Perhaps a protective father figure or an example of paternalism? A boss?
These are some of the things that come to mind for me and I believe that for many people, we share the same connotation. However, as of late, I’ve come to believe that for Black people, our definition of leadership has been severely diluted, watered down and thinned out.
I know I don’t speak for all Canadians but, I certainly don’t see Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and the like as representations of “leaders” for the Black community in Canada. I don’t believe that we have official “token leaders” who fit that bill anyway but those people certainly aren’t them, they don’t belong to us. I realize that many American Blacks share the same sentiment.
What is a leader? What are the characteristics of a leader? Why are some leaders successful and others utter failures? What makes us “follow” others?
In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Mostly because I’ve been pretty disturbed with the way the media has handled the people involved in this case. For example, Miss Rachel Jeantel. News personalities repeatedly interviewed this young lady and put her on blast on camera and I feel her image has been totally exploited for the media circus and to me, it’s disturbing.
Trayvon Martin’s parents were on Dr. Phil this past Monday, not even 2 weeks out of the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman and I couldn’t help but wonder how these poor people have had the proper chance to mourn the death of their son let alone deal with the reverberation of injustice and still make time for interviews.
Where were the “leaders” while this was happening? Why didn’t they lead this young woman as far away from the cameras as possible? Lead this family into a supportive forum of community embrace and obscurity away from the national spotlight and media frenzy for awhile? Offer some peace and solitude so that they can slowly begin to pick up the pieces of their forever fragmented lives.
In my mind, a “leader” would have reached out to the Martin’s and the young lady and their families and advised against remaining in the limelight for fear of the obvious; Aggravated Blacksploitation. In the case of Jeantel, having her on camera only helps to further destroy the image of Black women by delivering up the expectation of the stereotypical Black woman and right on prime time television. Reality TV at it’s worst.
Watching Trayvon Martin’s father cry incessantly on camera is not only heart wrenching but adds to further emasculate and weaken the Black man so why are these “leaders” not sheltering him? Is it not up to the head of the family, the “leader”to protect their people from this shyte?
I say to the so-called modern day civil rights “leaders”, you’ve failed and you have been failing in epic proportions for quite some time now. If you weren’t, the status quo wouldn’t be as such. If you worked for Donald Trump, your failing would have had you fired eons ago for your inability to inspire and therefore produce results.
Here’s what happens when the image of the Black family is degraded and dishonored; The Black community as whole is undermined and ultimately destroyed.
In my neck of the world, although we don’t have public familiars who placate the news outlets in the face of tragedy, our community leaders look more like you and me. They are the elders and parents who give a shyte what theirs and my children are up to. Who proactively and committedly strive to engage youth and offer themselves as examples and role models as to how responsible Black citizens behave. Leaders are the men and women who actively participate in the rearing of their children and refuse to stoop to the below grade standard of societal expectations. They educate their peers from dangerous brainwash which can distract and hamper Black people from achieving and limiting their success. They never lower their expectations and in fact work to promote cultural pride and integrity within the Black community in spite of the multitude of challenges. These leaders dialogue and are open to express, engage, communicate and action directives for solutions. They encourage knowledge to correct bad behavior and re-educate against systematically embedded misinformation. Leaders acknowledge that although they may not have all of the answers, their hopes for a better future and their genuine love of Black people is enough to inspire, propel and satisfy them. Real leaders aren’t looking to profit from “Black people problems”. Real leaders are the un-sung heroes who don’t need to shuck and jive for the cameras because their broader audiences are local and homegrown.
Canada is certainly not the haven for Black people, we have our own fair share of hurdles. Certainly, there is no Mecca-Noir here BUT, thanks be to God that we don’t have to share these poor excuses for leadership with our American counterparts.
We can and must demand a higher standard from Black people who garnish the title of “leader” yet, their habit is to linger in the limelight and although they have the ability to use the greater forum to change the status quo; They. Do. Not.
Nat Turner, Phillip Randolph, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandella, Daisy Lee Gatson, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton; Now these are examples of leadership. However imperfect, these are people who personify courage, support and activism.
I’ll leave you with this dear reader, if you have to lower your expectations in order to deal with another person, what does that say about that person? I believe it speaks volumes and in very loud decibels. We should expect more from community “leaders” and invalidate those who refuse to rise to the level of expectation which we deserve. When you advocate on my behalf, be responsible. Be respectable. Truly love Black people.
Light reflected is enlightenment infinite.