By James Clingman
“Now there are some ‘practical’ things we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.”
Those words were spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the night before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., as part of his famous “Mountaintop” speech. He stated the problem, did an analysis of the problem, and gave solutions to the problem. He also gave some “practical” solutions that would lead to economic empowerment and justice.
On Friday evening, June 19, at Carl Nelson’s Power Talk Series in Washington, D.C., my speech contained the same basic steps and were captured by three questions: What? So what? and Now what? It was the 150thanniversary of Juneteenth, with which I began my comments on true freedom for Black people. I essentially stated the problem, analyzed it, and offered solutions to the problem by asking, “Now what?”
Thousands of people attended the Power Talk event and they stayed for hours beyond the scheduled time to soak up all the information given out by the august group of speakers, too many to name here. Each speaker discussed problems and opportunities that are before us every day. They cited the common areas of work through which Black people can and should collaborate. I trust that most, if not all who were there, left with a “mind to work,” as the people had when Nehemiah spoke to them about rebuilding the wall.
One of the main points of my speech was work, otherwise known as action, involvement, or initiative. And, in keeping with MLK’s words, I offered a “practical” and appropriate response to our economic and political problems via a movement called, The One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (www.iamoneofthemillion.com).
I admonished the audience not to merely listen to the words of those Black scholars, activists, educators, and advocates, but to leave with a commitment to do something in response to what they heard. Why travel hundreds or thousands of miles, in some cases, or even across town, especially in D.C. traffic, to simply hear messages that make us feel good but fail to make us do good?
Imagine where some of us would be if those who heard Gordon Granger’s words on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, would have simply returned to their normal state of affairs by staying put rather than running for true freedom. Granger told them they were “free,” with conditions of course, but his General Order #3 also recommended that formerly enslaved Africans in Texas stay on their plantations and “work for wages.” Implicit in that statement was their right to leave if they wanted to, which some chose to do.
Just as those brothers and sisters had to make a decision, so must we today. Will we stay on our psychological plantations, waiting for someone to come and save us or make us comfortable in our misery? Or, will we decide to leave our current mental state of complacency and actually do the work necessary for our true freedom? The culmination of freedom for Black people in this nation is economic freedom. In that regard, my recommendation, as opposed to Gordon Granger’s, is that we move away from our comfort zones and build an effort so powerful that it cannot be swayed by corporate largess or manipulated by disingenuous politicians.
That effort is the One Million, a movement that answers most, if not all, of the problems we face. During my speech at Power Talk, I listed 16 things Black folks can do while we wait for a myriad of things to take place in this country, including:
* Holding ourselves accountable for our own freedom;
* Organizing ourselves around practical economic and political solutions that benefit US; and
* Committing some of our time, talent, and treasure to the uplift of our people.
The other 13 things are on the One Million website. It is way past time for us to assume our responsibility of taking care of ourselves. But only when we organize ourselves into a viable force and are willing and able to execute a collective economic and political strategy, through a “practical” vehicle called the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors, we will remain a toothless tiger, ignored by some, taken for granted by others and, shamefully, feared by no one. Are you “One in a Million?” Go to the website and find out.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com. He is the author of Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website;professionalpublishinghouse.com and Amazon Kindle eBooks.