Sunday, July 24, 2016

Black Power Commentary St. Louis American

The Black Power Movement provided the energy and talent for black progress for 30 years.  Whether you're talking about affirmative action for higher education, minority participation in economics or the expansion of black political representation, they are products of the sea change in black political and social thinking during the '60s."     
These insightful words were penned by Mike Jones in a recent Commentary in the St. Louis American newspaper.  In comparing the now of the Black Lives Matter movement with the then of the Black Power Movement, Jones, a respected intellect and holder for decades of various positions of power, went on to state:
"But the generation that produced that effort is now old and tired.  Worse, we didn't prepare the next generation of leadership."
     Being of the generation of the Black Power Movement, I was struck by Jones' analysis, and thought even more about his words while viewing a picture in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper of a Black Lives Matter protest.  Holding protest signs and linking hands to stop traffic were seven individuals, four white and three black.  This, I thought, is the difference between now and then that will make a difference.
     The Black Power Movement was an unadulterated black movement.  Whites did not chant "Black Power."  The movement was a rejection of the integration idea that was the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement, a rejection of Martin Luther King's strategy of non-violence, a rejection of the belief and imagery of Jesus being white, and a rejection of the name Negro.  It was a movement wary of white involvement, with one black leader going so far as to say that the only white man he could trust was one who would shoot another white man. 
     The Black Power Movement was almost necessarily a black narcissistic movement.  It was a generation that found pride purely in being black - countering American culture instilling that white represented good and black evil - as opposed to the pride of succeeding in breaking through the color barrier.  King's dream was of blacks and whites living together in harmony, while the mission of the Black Power Movement - which King rejected - was for blacks to grab control of power from whites to determine their own fate.  Its anthem was "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud," not "We Shall Overcome.
The Black Power Movement remains the most in-your-face to whites movement in American history, having even gone to the extreme of advocating armed resistance.  The Black Panther Party openly displayed weapons, and when two policemen were killed by blacks in Baton Rouge in 1972, the mayor warned other cities of a planned takeover of their governments.  The brazenness of the movement left white America with little choice except to crush it.  And by the mid '70s, the loudest voices of the Black Power Movement had either been murdered, incarcerated, or forced to flee overseas.
     As the Black Power generation evolved from its revolutionary aim and fervor, it focused on capturing positions of power, like mayors and police chiefs, by organizing the black population into a voting bloc.  This led to a quantum increase in the number of blacks in elected positions, which led to expanded economic opportunities for blacks.   
     I'm not sure if I agree with Jones that the Black Power generation didn't prepare the next generation of leadership, because I'm not sure how you prepare a generation to handle being discriminated against.  Do you teach them the proverbial "The Talk" - which is to surrender to racism for the sake of security - or teach them that change requires the risk of defiance?   
     Maybe the only thing the Black Power generation can prepare the Black Lives Matter generation for is what Jones notes: "This is lifetime work."
Eric E. Vickers, Attorney and Community Activist.

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