We’re all accountable to the movement (part 3)

August 13, 2014

06_28_14+MWC+++_proof4 3-1Rahim 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)

When we start to examine the economic and social state of the Black community in America, today’s Black people are the first to come up with idea after idea on how to we should be doing this or how we should be doing that. But guess what? Nothing is getting done. Nothing is really happening and nothing of any meaning is even being presented. Nearly 50 years have passed, since we reached our pinnacle in this country with the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement, and we’ve lost significant ground. Many experts say that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the single most important piece of legislation passed by Congress in American history because these laws so dramatically altered American society. We must always put these things in context and reacquaint ourselves with with this legislation.
Brothers and sisters, this was no “gimme” legislation. This was the closest thing we’ve had to a settlement between the American government and the Black community and to achieve it required the highest level of leadership from both the Black and White communities. We must remember that this was done at a time when there were groups of very powerful senators and congressman pledging to “fight to the death” for segregation, launching the longest filibuster in American history in an attempt to defeat it. The bill’s passage has often been credited to the political leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, and/or the moral force of Martin Luther King, Jr.. I contend that the battle for the Civil Rights Act was a story much bigger than those two men. It was a broad, epic struggle, a sweeping tale of unceasing grassroots activism, ringing speeches, backroom deal-making and finally, hand-to-hand legislative combat. The legislation would have never been presented, let alone passed, without pressure from the streets, the marches, the speeches, the leaders, and the tens of thousands of people who kept the pressure on the American government (organized and unorganized resistance) that helped create a mountain of public opinion for a deal to be developed. Today we have not only lost our momentum but we have lost the public opinion.
Lest we forget our history in this country (there are so many of us today, Black and White, who just don’t have a basic understanding of our history) and how we got here. That’s why most of my articles include a piece of history. We must keep it real no matter how much people don’t like it. Freedom has existed in this country for only 150 years, and most of that time we have been fighting for our survival (literally). Since receiving our “so-called” freedom, there has been one rumble after another from the massive migration of our people from the south to the north; the political battles to have equal political and civil rights; the massive lynching and organized terror; the inheritance of some of the worse slums (ghettos) in the country; the struggle with the worst education systems; police brutality, lack of equitable public services in our neighborhoods; and a whole host of structural discrimination. We continued to fight to secure an equal footing with other groups in America. All the while, America continued to grow and prosper becoming the world’s super power producing wealth and a life style for Whites that seem nearly impossible for Blacks to achieve.
I frequently quote A. Phillip Randolph : “There are no reserved seats at the table of life; you get what you can take, and you keep what you can hold; and you can’t take anything nor keep anything without organization.” In part one of this article, I tried to describe the significant amount of organizations and individuals that contributed to the civil rights movement. While many took different paths and it wasn’t as organized as one might think, the fact of the matter is that we had so many Black people committed to the movement for the self-determination of Black people. Today, the movement is virtually dead and unfortunately there haven’t been any real legal challenges or gains in the path of more freedom for the Black community in America in fifty years. How do we justify this? Or maybe we’ve come to believe that we’re equal. The numbers paint a much different picture where the disparities of Blacks compared to Whites are statistically alarming. There has been some national movement against racially charged discrimination. For example: Jena Six, where six black teenagers were convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student and when Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old Black teenager, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old mixed-race Hispanic at a gated community in Sanford, Florida. In the case of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman was released by police because there was no evidence to refute Zimmerman’s claim of having acted in self-defense in accordance with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Absent of having the place that will consolidate our capacity in Milwaukee, we all can get more engaged in the political process. Like the civil rights movement which represented a collective of unorganized activity, we can begin to increase our participation because it’s still through the door of the politics that Black people will achieve self-determination. Unfortunately, our participation in the political process is at an all-time low. This is the pathway that we must restart.