Message to the Community: We must come together – some way, somehow

October 3, 2014

Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)

We all must agree that the state of the Black community is in serious and unprecedented decline both nationally and here in Milwaukee. It is apparent, if we are honest with ourselves, that the African American is in a weak and defenseless position that, if not challenged, will sentence our future generations to becoming a permanent underclass in America. There are two distinct cities in Milwaukee: one city that is predominantly poor, blighted, impoverished, and predominantly Black; side-by-side with another city that is wealthy, prosperous, economically vibrant, and predominantly White. This stark contrast is directly linked to our inability to be competitive as a group.
While a few of us have prospered and secured the so-called “American Dream,” the number of African Americans who are struggling has historically been a large percentage of our population and they are living a nightmare. This population is ballooning and if you combine those that live at/below the poverty level with those living the poverty rate, this represents nearly 2/3 of our population. Why isn’t anything material being done – where is the evidence that a solution is in the works? Nothing is happening because too many of us have become so desensitized and overwhelmed by our challenges that we’ve become paralyzed.
With socio-economic disparities between Whites and Blacks being so extreme and continuing to grow, by any measurement, the Black man in America is in very real trouble. This is troubling when you consider the “structural” challenges we face. Every system along with its corresponding pipeline shows that “the pumps are primed” to maintain the status quo. The current input guarantees that our output (outcomes) will not change if something serious is not done to alter the system. For the first time in nearly 100 years, our children will do worse economically than their parents.
The final blow that will ensure these realities remain or even worsen lies in the growing culture adopted by our young people – a culture that is void of personal responsibility with extreme levels of self-gratification and extremely destructive behavior. We have no voice to combat the stereotypes that are representative of our people. We have no voice to hold anyone accountable to do the right thing by us. We have no voice to fight against neither the mass incarceration of our young men or the sexual exploitation of our women. The challenge is great and there are no easy and quick solutions. The only possible shot that we have lies in our ability to align and aggregate our limited capacities, something we have been unable to do since we’ve been in this country.
As a group we’re unable to combat the problems we faced because of a number of issues, including a severe level of distrust among each other (legacy of slavery). This distrust prevents us working together to develop a comprehensive plan of attack. The thing we need the most (unity), has been the most elusive. For the past 18 months, I and a number of people have been tirelessly trying to organize the African American community in Milwaukee, meeting with a comprehensive and diverse representation of all aspects of our community (i.e. civic, business, educational, religious leaders, etc.) urging them to create a place where we can discuss, plan and strategize on how we improve our community.
We must organize our capacity and channel our individual knowledge, wisdom, and expertise into an organized and purposeful way to adopt a “collective agenda” and begin supporting strategies that will advance the goals of the agenda. It is paramount that we do a much better job coordinating and focusing our very limited resources. We can either continue to celebrate our individual successes (while they are important but few) or we can unite to pursue a shared agenda with the potential to continue those successes and begin to reverse the cancer that is tearing our community apart. We must challenge and expect more of ourselves, as well as elected and appointed officials but we can’t do that divided. WE MUST DO SOMETHING NOW OR FACE A BLEAKER FUTURE FOR OUR PEOPLE!
Now is the time for each and every one of us to be accountable. We must make our participation known. Please join us on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at the Universal Academy for the College Bound (UACB Renaissance – Webster Campus) located at 6850 N. 53rd Street to discuss the issues facing Black Milwaukee with the goal of developing and establishing an agenda. We will implement your individual skills, expertise and creative input into a collective response to assist our community.
You are the fuel that will make this work, but we need you to ACT NOW! There is power in unity. We must come together some way, somehow, for the survival of our people.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. “Universally Speaking” is a weekly column by Rahim Islam and distributed by Urban Media News to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.