The Village is Choking The Child

Our people, unlike any other, have faced alarming odds. In a mere 400 years we have come from enslaved labor, the lowest class of servitude to becoming the frontrunner in the race to claim the highest seat of power in the free world.

Now more than ever, our people can see the immense change about to take place for us all. However, as life imitates life, we learn that being in the spotlight holds us all susceptible to the ills of this world. By the African-American, in his entirety, being in the spotlight we are now in a position in which the scars of our people can be clearly seen.

From poverty and homelessness to the race for the White House, the complexity of the African American has become visible to all. Therefore, with the curtain flung back on the body, which is African America, our battle wounds have become revealed and can clearly be seen by all. Here is what I see. The village is choking the child. There is a gap in generational leadership as it relates to African Americans. Those that are considered our black leaders of today (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cornell West, Bob Johnson, etc.) are holding onto their positions by any and every means necessary. The King (MLK) generation of leadership has continued to hold the torch for our people, but instead of continuing the march they seem to be sitting by the fire as the torch goes out.

Leadership of the younger generation patiently waits by the side, until the so-called “leaders” of current become to sick or old to march. Whenever this happens, the next generational leader is blocked by those remaining in the struggle. This is present in many facets of life.

In education, there is a drought of black males in administration. The principals and superintendents that are present, cannot proceed, due to an older principal not yet ready to retire.

Instead of mentoring and transitioning, the young, older principals stay at schools until the very end and make it hard for the next black male to enter.

In the business world, the younger entrants, in sales, accounting, etc. have many new ideas, but they have to jump through hoops in order to gain status in the field.

Older managers and executives, with power and authority, make little mention or pay little attention to the junior VP’s or the new rising black leaders. Often times they follow the crowd and stand aside, as other races ascend company ranks, sometimes leaving the young black businessperson to make it on their own.

Even in the church, the younger minister finds it a difficult challenge in finding a flock. In a culture where faith is the foundation, oftentimes the younger minister starves while the older bishops and pastors live lavishly.

A younger preacher with no wife is viewed as a threat to the sanctity of the Church, when in actuality the biggest factor should be his or her faith. The power struggle is present across genders as our women struggle to gain power and leadership in their culture.

Most recently, the situation involving Beyonce Knowles, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner in which Knowles introduced Turner as the Queen to the displeasure of Franklin who claims the title the Queen of Soul.Somehow, the older generation of black leadership has found it hard to welcome in the new blood.

Take Barack Obama for example. With this election being the most critical not only for our people, but for the world, It would seem like we, as people, would totally support the efforts of one of our own who has gotten so close.

When the Reverend Jesse Jackson ran, we all became entranced in the idea of “Jackson in office.” We did everything from plate sales to banquets, across the country in efforts to contribute to his campaign. Now several years later a second man has stepped up to the challenge only to be shunned by the black leadership of today.

Al Sharpton and others have all gone on record stating that Barack lacks experience to become the President. Even Jesse, who was in Obama’s shoes 20 years ago, fails to encourage or support the efforts of Obama. It seems like the KKK is the only symbol of the past that recognizes Barack as a formidable candidate. This is seen by them allegedly sending $250,000 in support of Obama. (He refused to accept the endorsement or comment on its validity.) Is experience really the problem? NO! Jesse Jackson was not a senator before his bid for President. Martin Luther King Jr., (President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) gave the speech of the century on the steps of the Lincoln Monument in his thirties. Malcolm X was gunned down before he saw his 40th birthday.

The A&T Four, of whom we proudly boast, started the sit-in movement as college freshmen. Even Jesus Christ taught the scribes and priests at the age of 12. So this goes to say that age is no connotation to leadership for our people.

It seems to me that the older generation is reluctant to give up their seats in society for the next array of soldiers. In every aspect of life, it can be seen as a stand off between the young and old. The climate for change will never be perfect and there is still a need for history in the struggle but even old wineskins need to be replaced. At some time, the village must release the child so they can learn to take their place. Even here at A&T, an institution which brags on the ability of its graduates, fails to retain its alumni who take positions at other universities across the nation because they cannot grow in their field here.

In the wild, younger animals battle with older animals in hopes of earning rank in the pack. Even though the older animals battle for position, history has proven that the young will one-day rule to ensure the security of the pack.

In African villages, after a male performs his right of passage ceremony, he is then available for leadership in the village. There is hope for our people as we continue to work together in order to unite our efforts and though this system of reluctance is prevalent, there are those that do what they can to support the efforts of those that will come after them. However, for a vast majority of our people we are having a hard time excepting the growth of the child.

  • Marcus Bass