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LEON: As We Commemorate MLK, Remember, It's Up To Us!

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | 1/22/2014, 2 p.m.
Wilmer Leon

As we commemorate the birth of Dr. King and honor the passing of Mr. Nelson Mandela in the shadow of mass incarceration, Stop and Frisk, driving while Black, or in the context of Trayvon Martin, walking while Black, disproportionately high rates of high school dropouts, record home foreclosures, and so many other maladies in our community, we have to come to the realization that it’s up to us.

When you walk outside of your house, or drive your kids to school, or yourself to work, and you see the human decay and suffering around you, the question has got to be what are we going to do? It’s up to us.

Are you ready to move down into the inner resources of your own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted personhood your own emancipation proclamation and proclaim, not on my watch, not in my house, not in my child’s school, not in my neighborhood? It’s up to you!

Please don’t think that I’m some ultra-conservative, some libertarian saying that there’s no place in this process for the government. We need the government both state and national to pass the legislation and provide the resources to assist our communities in solving these problems. The reality is that their not coming. The cavalry is not coming; we are going to have to circle the wagons and save ourselves.

Look at what’s happening in Congress right now, 8 percent unemployment and 16 percent in the African American community – worst national depression since the Great Depression and Congress has allowed the unemployment benefits of the long-term unemployed to lapse. They have gone into recess failing to reinstate expired jobless benefits for more than 1.3 unemployed Americans. Too many Conservatives just don’t care.

As they debate the Farm Bill the Republican led Congress is looking to cut Food Stamps or what is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,or SNAP by $40B over the next decade. According to Mother Jones, these efforts by Conservatives would “...boot 2.8 million people off the program next year. That includes 170,000 veterans, who would be removed through a provision in the bill that would eliminate food stamps eligibility for non-elderly jobless adults who can’t find work or an opening in a job training program.”

Doctors warn that cuts in food stamps could have tremendous longer term heath implications. Over time poorer Americans will experience spikes in the rates of diabetes and developmental problems in poorer children. Conservatives rather transfer public dollars into private hands; save banks and corporations with poor taxpayer’s dollars.

The African American community has been in this struggle, this war for equality for a long time. I think too many of us have forgotten what for us has been at the crux of the issue. Many believe it’s economic, others believe it’s civil rights or legal. Both of these are important and play a role in improving our circumstance but what we’ve been struggling for all of this time is our humanity! Since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from that Dutch Man O’ War off the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 (395 years ago) we’ve been struggling to be considered human.