The term Black power was coined in 1954 by Richard Write, the African-American author of novels, short stories, poems and non-fiction.
The term was made more popular by Stokely Carmichael (who changed his name to Kwame Ture) at a rally during the Meredith March against Fear in Mississippi in 1966 when Carmichael began chanting “we want Black Power.” Ture was at that time the chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating (SNCC), and later became a leader of the Black Panther Party.
The term Black power is used to mean self-determination for Black people/people of African descent in America and anywhere Black people are being oppressed in the world. It stands for self-empowerment, grass roots activism, rights and political power, equality and the destruction of the white power structure and the false ideology of white supremacy for Black people who have been denied voice, vote and opportunity.
Power is and has always been the ultimate goal for Black people; the descendants of African slaves in America. But what is power? How do we, as Black people define power for ourselves? Have we achieved the political, social, economic and self-sufficient power to determine how we live, move, act, and control our own lives? Are we truly self-determining the way we choose and how we interact with society on our own terms?
Some say yes, while others believe we still have a long way to go.
Black people are not a monolith, but we cannot ignore that we’ve come a long way since slavery. We are no longer enslaved, we can own property (generally without fear of retaliation), virtually live where we choose, marry whom we choose, work and make a living for ourselves, sit anywhere on the bus we choose and to certain extents we have rights that enable us to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” However, there still remain glaring, debilitating systemic racial disparities and inequities in wealth, housing, employment, education, health, criminal justice, access to opportunities, benefits, rights, privileges and punishments between Black and whites.
These important factors prove that while we have come far, we still need to demand Black power. These pernicious disparities are a measure of the power the false ideology of white supremacy has on the world.
If we want “power” we need to have a clear definition of what power is and how we can take it. I define power as the ability to act; move; decides; and have options, the ability to preserve self or self-preserve, develop and regenerate and as Dr. Naim Akbarsays, “The ability to obtain and achieve within the context of your environment those things that maximize your survival and continuation of yourself . . . The ability to influence the environment consistent with your self-interests.”
Power is never given, it is always taken. Someone said “people in power don’t teach powerless people how to get power.”
I see Black power as an acronym meaning Base Leadership Acting Consciously, cooperating to build Knowledge and Possibilities through joint Ownership to realize both short- and long-term Wins and deep Empowerment to sustain us to get Results according to our vision.
It is now 2019 and the fight for Black power continues. Black lives matter is a demand for Black power. Until we achieve our goal of deconstructing the white power structure, which continues to oppress us and deny us of equal opportunity, access, benefits and rights, we will continue to hold our fists up high and demand Black power.