Community. I often wonder if that word has meaning for folks anymore. The definition of community is:
A common cultural and historical heritage… Now, to me that means that a people who have such a thing in common would feel a soulful connection, a deep rooted sentiment of kinship, of responsibility for one another, a Love and respect for the shared experiences, and the overall understanding that what we as a People have in common far outweighs our differences as individuals.
But the reality is we are estranged from one another. Oh sure, we have pockets of folks who feel that affinity, that bond that comes from sharing a lineage, regardless of the blood ties. Yet here we are, over a 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and Black folks still inhabit a starkly unequal world of disenfranchisement, and various forms of oppression, including race-inspired violence. One would think that this alone should inspire a spirit of togetherness and understanding. A desire to come together and pool our resources and find ways to make our situation as a people better.
There was a time not too long ago, when Black folks had no choice but to create our own infrastructure. We had businesses, banks, grocery stores, etc. We took care of one another. We trusted one another because we knew that in a pinch, even a stranger would have your back. We were all struggling, dealing with the same bs and that fact alone meant that if you were in a position to help, then that’s what you did.
But here we are, in 2015 and at this moment in time, we have too much distrust amongst each other. We’ve been conditioned to look at one another and only see what we can take, not what we can give in an equal exchange. If you can’t trust someone, how do you feel love for them? If you don’t feel love for them, then you feel no connection to them. If you don’t feel a connection to someone, why do you care what happens to them?
We are Conditioned to believe that what we create, is not good enough. We doubt the authenticity and question the quality of products made by Black businesses, so consequently we don’t frequent them often. Too many folks are content to sit back and complain and pass judgments, without looking inward at themselves and acknowledging their own weaknesses and issues. Too many of us have stopped living by the standards that made it possible to value our families and we have chosen to adopt a “Western” philosophy of how to parent our children, and thus we have generations of lost youth.
How did we get here?
We used to have “Jim Crow” laws at the local and state levels that barred Black folks from classrooms, bathrooms, restaurants, theaters, train cars, juries and legislatures. Then in 1954, the “Separate but Equal” doctrine was struck down. This happened because at that time folks believed in the power of the people. We believed that we All mattered that everyone’s life was worth something. And there was a shared sense of responsibility for our own community! Revolution wasn’t just a word it was a way of life! It was a necessity! It was worth dying for.
Folks fought for the “Voting Rights Act of 1965” and the “Civil Rights Act of 1968”. Many of our Black leaders risked—and sometimes lost—their lives in the name of freedom and equality because they believed that it wasn’t just about one person getting ahead, it was about us ALL living a better life. They risked their lives knowing that they wouldn’t reap the benefits of what they fought for, but for the hope that future generations wouldn’t have to suffer and struggle the way they had.
But that sense of community has been lost. That sense of looking out for one another, of having each other’s back has gone by the wayside. How do we get it back? We have to find value in ourselves again. We have to find value in one another again. We have to rediscover the beauty and pride of being Black. We have to believe that our culture is rich and our history is worth remembering. We need to re-connect with our African heritage and start living by the standards that we once did. We have to get back what we have lost as a community.
We also have to stop comparing ourselves to White folks, and using their achievements as benchmarks to strive for. We have got to let that go! Come on now, we are worthy! We are a community filled with smart, intelligent, capable, savvy, creative, artistic, business minded folks, whose contributions to this society can stand on their own merit and thus should not be judged as less than just because it may Not have the “White Stamp of Approval”. Let me say that again. Our contributions can Stand On Their Own…
But we have to acknowledge that it don’t work without one another. You can’t have a community of one! That means we gotta start caring about each other again! Stop wallowing in self ignorance. When you know better you’re supposed to do better. Well, we got too many Ignorant yet Educated folks walking around out here! Too many folks that have “Made it” and now don’t give a damn about how they live their lives and whether it’s affecting the rest of the Black community negatively. It’s not even on their radar. “Give back? What? Why should I give you anything? Go get your own!” This ignorant mindset permeates throughout the Black community and it has to stop.
We have to take some responsibility for setting better examples for our young brothas and sistas. Folks are quick to point out how grown they are, well then damnit act like it! Act like you got some sense! Stop acting a fool when you’re out in public, feel a sense of pride within yourself and know that you have a duty to represent the best You when you walk out your door. Because its not just about You. It’s about US. And the way to begin to strengthen our community starts when we strengthen ourselves.