CLINGMAN: Authentic Black Leaders

James Clingman | 1/22/2014, 3 p.m.
We need more authentic leaders among our people.
James Clingman

Brother A. Peter Bailey wrote a very enlightening article, titled, “Black Leaders, Past and Present, Speak on the Need for Focusing on Economics.” I called him after reading it, and we discussed something I continue to lament about Black people: Our failure to learn and follow through on the economic lessons of the past, especially those left by our elders.

Additionally, I was a guest on Brother Elliott Booker’s Internet radio show, “Time for an Awakening,” out of Philadelphia, during which he opened his show with a quote from the Bible. It was Hosea 4:6, the one many of us like to use when we are describing why we are languishing. The passage goes on to say that we are destroyed not only because of lack of knowledge but also because we have rejected knowledge.

Bailey and Booker pointed out important issues related to knowledge, and they both discussed our dilemma of having access to knowledge but rejecting it, having experiences and admonishments from those past and present but ignoring them, and essentially always “crying hungry with a loaf of bread under our arm.”

They also illuminated the fact that Black folks are so ensconced in politics and political rhetoric that in many cases we are totally oblivious to the real deal in this country —economics. All we do is discuss political officeholders or listen to the usual suspects on radio and television, ad nauseam, with no real power to change anything that we rail against, because we are not operating from a position of economic strength.

Frantz Fanon wrote, “A deserving people, a people conscious of its dignity, is a people that understands and insists that the government and the political parties are to serve the interest of the people. He went on to say, “…ultimately a government or a party gets the people it deserves, and sooner or later, people get the government / leadership they deserve.”

In my first book, Economic Empowerment or Economic Enslavement, We have a choice, a section is titled, “We deserve what we accept.” It pointed out the futility in expecting politicians to solve our problems while we have absolutely no economic hammer with which to make them do so. We put very little money into their campaigns, we refuse to leverage our votes as an independent bloc to gain reciprocity, and we continue to be content merely to have a Black person in a particular office. That’s straight-up stupidity.

We need more authentic leaders among our people, and I will use the balance of this article to point out a few. In every corner of this country, there are Black folks who demonstrate through their actions—not words, that they are authentic leaders, interested in and dedicated to our economic uplift, like those mentioned in Brother Bailey’s article.

Obviously that is not an exhaustive list; there are many more, including some politicians as well. But this makes my point about authentic leadership, that is, if you know any of these brothers and sisters. And the good thing is that they are still alive. They stand ready, willing, and able to lead us in the right direction, without exploiting us, without selling us out, and without compromising the core principle of collective economic empowerment. Let’s not wait until they are gone to start reflecting on their legacies.

Reach out to these and other authentic leaders; invite them to speak at your meetings instead of the same three or four Black folks who come with a drive-by speech and leave town with a fat check. Stop rejecting knowledge; start embracing it and acting upon it.

James Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com.