We are approaching the last days of February, a month noted for celebrating love and black history. As we emerge from twenty-eight days of happy talk and feel good moments, the realities of the time once again take center stage.
As a nation collectively, but more concisely within African-American communities (or communities of color; whichever your preference), when you look at the growing disparities and alarming statistics that have become associated with our lack of meaningful progress, the word crisis cannot help but come to mind.
A crisis is commonly defined as a calamity, a disaster, a catastrophic event, an emergency predicament that requires a swift, decisive and strategic response. Crisis is so often thought of as being the result of a tornado, a hurricane, unrelenting wild fires. During these times of uncertainty, communities rally together, only to move quickly back into their respective spaces and normal routines when it appears that much of the clean-up has been completed. Rarely, when this occurs has the root cause been identified or the host of challenges resolved. There is a crisis of underachievement in our community. How do we as a community get beyond the consensus that we are in crisis to a place where actionable strategies can create real change in the lives of families?
All around the globe, humankind is discussing and facing tremendous change: change in politics, change in technology, change in education, change in the employment marketplace; constant change in quality of life conditions in our communities. In the midst of all of this change, some things appear to be remaining very much the same. Racial tension and violence are still apparent. Self-hate and unhealthy competition hamper both unity and community progress. Poverty and food insecurity is on the rise. Disillusionment and despair linger, and shattered dreams and wasted potential is far too commonplace. We all agree about how things have changed; we all speak about the need for a change to come. We are all united by consensus as we discuss the varied reports that speak of crisis. However beyond this superficial consensus, what has truly changed?
In these contemporary times, we see people of color from all walks of life fail to acquire the skills necessary to live prosperous 21st century lives doing meaningful work. We still see a time that the prison system has become a rite of passage for a growing numbers of African American males. We see a time when the unemployment rate of the 1980s compared with that of 2012 is relatively unchanged. It is time for us to change our attitudes, our mentalities, and our expectations. It is time for us to pursue our gateways to the vast opportunities that wait for us as individuals and as community and faith organizations that seek to solve the crisis at hand.
Culmination: Maximizing Opportunity and Potential
The time has come for people of color to do more than shine the spotlight on the contributions of their ancestors for 28 days. The time has come for people of color to acknowledge the struggles and sacrifices made by our ancestors each and every day. It is time for us to take control of our lives and our destinies; the time has come for people of color to create their own jobs, to treat each other with self-respect, to genuinely applaud the success of one another, to replace judgment with joint effort. We as a people cannot depend upon the government, the next social program, proposed educational reform, or the powers that be to rescue us.
Superman is not coming.
If we are to survive, we will have to choose to save ourselves. We will have to learn to recognize and harness opportunity when it presents itself; we will have to begin investing our time, talents and dollars into our communities. We must genuinely unite to create change. We must shift from being game players to game changers. We do not need another committee, another conversation, another composition about the crisis; what we truly need is to implement solutions that wake the sleeping giant that is us, communities of color.
It is time for a change; it is time for us to claim our rightful place in the world. It is time for us to do more than just survive; it is time for us to thrive. Join with the Minneapolis Urban League as we work to awaken the sleeping giant.