By Jineea Butler
In wake of the tragic plane crash that killed Pastor Myles Munroe his wife, Ruth, and seven other passengers of the Bahamas Faith Ministries en route to a Global Leadership Forum, I came across one of his last interviews on Charismanews.com that resonated deeply with me. He said, “Politically speaking I think we are in a leadership dilemma. We are at the point in history where transition is taking place and no one is deciding that, life is deciding that, most of the older leaders who are part of our historical journey are fading into the sun set, the realities are effective leaders always prepare their replacements… they mentor, they create succession.”
He recounted a dream about the funeral of a celebrated track star.
“It was about people dying with a baton instead of passing it on,” Munroe explained. “I was thinking, the young person who’s supposed to lead next has to go to the casket, pry the baton out of the dead man’s hand just to take it to the next leg.” This may be what we are struggling with here, people would rather die with the position then to pass it on and so we find the young people have to fight to get it. He continued, “Great leaders pass [the baton] on before they die, and they live to see the other person run.”
With the outpouring of love and sadness being expressed around the world, his words are significant to more than just the people of the Bahamas. His words hit home here in America.
In so many ways our community is at a standstill. Jealousy, hate, insecurity and envy are blocking the entire community from moving forward. Do we have a lack of so-called leaders? Of course, not. So I ask in the spirit of Pastor Munroe: Who are you mentoring? Who are you training to take the baton? Will you live to see your replacement run?
We are stuck in low-paying jobs and entry level positions with no growth opportunities because we are not creating opportunities for the next generation. If you don’t strive, the next person can’t flourish. How can the next generation grow if the generation before it stays the same? Am I supposed to grow around you? Grow through you? Oh right, I’m supposed to patiently wait for you to pass on and pry the baton out of your hand in order to win the race of life.
In an 1992 interview with Richard Heffner, host of the Open Mind on PBS, Rev. Wyatt T. Walker sat with James Farmer analyzing “Race Relations in America” 30 years after a similar conversation that included Malcolm X and Allan Morrison. When Walker was asked why he thought the movement was successful, the former aide to Dr. Martin Luther King replied, “I don’t subscribe to it being successful, I remember the morning I stood by the Washington Monument on the great march in ‘63 and I really believed with all my heart that the beloved community was just around the corner seven or eight years away. And now here 30 some years later or more, I know I will not see it in my lifetime even if I live to be 100 years old. There is an illusion that progress has been made but the reality is what progress that is been made is more cosmetic than it has been consequential.”
Now, more than 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington, progress is cosmetic. So when will we pass the baton?
If all members of our elite class were wiped out (God forbid), would the rest of the people be able to carry on successfully? Would they be able to see the ‘beloved community’ that Dr. King talked about or would your replacements be stumbling along the next leg? How long have you been in your current position or role? Who, beyond you, has benefited financially from the work that you do? Who will be able to carry on when you are gone? Is there a glass ceiling above your head? Or, are you the glass ceiling above everyone else’s head? Instead of looking down at the folks that are around us we should be looking up at what’s next for us. We should have the courage to elevate and reproduce our greatness.
Wyatt T. Walker concluded that the achilles heel of his era was that they were so optimistic that they did not train the next generation to take over for them after they passed away.
Let’s correct our mistakes, have some hope and make a plan for the future. This time, let’s make sure that the baton keeps moving.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.