harry_belfonte-and-martin-luther-king

“The group most devastated by America’s obsession with the gun, is African Americans. Although making comparisons can be dangerous, there are times when they must be noted. America has the largest prison population in the world. And of the over 2 million men, women and children who make up the incarcerated, the overwhelming majority is black. We are the most unemployed, the most caught up in the unjust systems of justice, and in the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children. Yet, as the great debate emerges on the question of the gun, white America discusses constitutional issue of ownership, while no one speaks of the consequences of our racial carnage. The question is, where is the raised voice of Black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the church?”

These is part of the acceptance speech give by Harry Belafonte at the N.A.A.C.P. Image awards as he was distinguished as being the 97th Spingarn Medal recipient.  Belafonte is renowned as a singer and songwriter but I will always hold him in high regard as being a key social activist during the Civil Rights era. At 85 years of age, he could have got on stage and talked about himself. He could have given the routine; typical acceptance speech and no one would have said a word. Instead he touched on the sensitive topic of race and gun control, he asked tough, hard-hitting questions that I’m sure made a lot of people around America uncomfortable regardless of race. I for one was inspired by his speech. Its not everyday that you see anyone use their fame and audience to speak on a platform and not try to appease the majority but say what is really on their mind and in their heart.

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“Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali statements.”- Nasir Jones

I talk and think a lot about race. I see in color. I’m not reluctant to admit that. I can celebrate my culture and heritage as a badge of honor. I love who I am. I’m African (Nigerian specifically) who was born and reared in America. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more proud of his or her race. With that said I’m also very critical of Black people in general across the world. As much I love my people I feel that we have become complacent and content in our current place especially in this country. I recently came across an article on the New York Times’ website that asks the question, Do Black intellectuals need to talk about race?

Before I read the article I asked myself “What is a black intellectual?” I’m weary of people who dub themselves an intellectual. In my experience most people who are intelligent or have a higher planes of thought don’t necessarily go around claiming such. Therefore I was skeptical at best before I read the article. My reservations were promptly quieted as the author raised several interesting points.

“Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America. We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits.”

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I agree with the author here in that living the lie that we live in a post-racial America seems to be the “in” thing. Because Barack Obama was elected president it seems as if everything is ok in Black America. It’s not hard to grasp the idea that there are discrepancies and disparities in almost every important statistic concerning Black America.

The current national unemployment rate is 7.8 percent yet its 13.8 percent for African-Americans. Young black males die from gun violence at a rate eight times higher than that of white males. Obesity rates were twice as high among black children, placing those children at increased risk for diabetes and heart problems. Black children are also more likely to be bullied, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol than white youths.

“The idea of the intellectual who reads widely and deeply and who critically engages the complexity of our times has been supplanted by the fast-talking “black Ph.D. pundit” who strives to be on CNN, Fox or MSNBC. This same pundit has found new career opportunities within universities and colleges by thinking about black people in ways that conform to the current liberal consensus about racial matters.”

This is the point that quelled my preconceived doubts about the article. I’m tired of certain black faces in media and in government who talk the good talk but in reality are saying and doing nothing to help our communities. It seems as if the blueprint to getting along is not to rock the boat and make the majority feel at ease. I get that the topic of race is sensitive to a lot of people but its one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so sweeping it under the proverbial carpet doesn’t help the races that generally have it bad in this country.

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I wish that we as black people, not just legislators, ministers and other leaders would do more. We have so much opportunity. Blacks in America are basically teenagers. Freedom for Black people is a relatively new concept compared to the history of this country. We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time. Let’s not backslide and have future generations look at us as the ones who squandered the hard work and dedication a previous generation left us. During Black History Month let’s remember those that paved the road for us to be where we are today.  It’s not taboo to honor those that who were bridge builders. SBM will be participating in the BHM challenge on Facebook. Join in the challenge but don’t just stop there. If you can do something to help uplift our community; whether it be volunteering your time, your talents or your money. We’ve got to do better.