If you knew me before reading this or even know of me you may know that I have been struggling. However, my struggle is just a small slice of the pie. I’ve been thinking of “the struggle”. If you are unaware of what “the struggle” is, then this message isn’t for you.
This weekend past I saw a jazz legend perform by the name of Hugh Masekela. He is one of South Africa’s most influential artists alongside Miriam Makeba (RIP). I first heard the two of them on a Saturday morning in the late 1980s. My parents had us watch Paul Simon’s Graceland concert. It was amazing to me then. I watched it every chance I got. Hugh has been touring the world this year for the 20th anniversary of South African freedom. 20 years since the official end of apartheid. The show was unbelievable. At 75 he’s captivating still. Listen to “Stimela” and “Soweto Blues” which he wrote.
I got to thinking about these questions that have been stirring my soul since I was a child.
- Am I free ?
- Who are my leaders ?
- Are we making progress as Blacks in America ?
- Are we making enough of the right kind of progress ?
- Am I doing my part/enough ?
I wrestled with the thoughts as a child and teen, again in my late 20s, and non stop since then. Even after being elected and making incremental changes the questions still loomed. Honestly, I am cynical about politics. Not real leadership but politics. I am cynical about government, especially after my recent and current interactions with the legislative, judicial and penal departments.
Then as the cynicism starts to rise and my blood starts to boil, my anger is diverted. I am upset with you. Yes you. Me too for those of you that quickly get defensive. There is a quote: “You get the government you deserve”.
It was only 50 years ago that Jim Crow laws ended. 50 years. Right before you were born, we reached a milestone after hundreds of years of racist subjugation. I get angry when I think of all of the suffering that proceeded it. I get angry when I think of what 2 generations before generation X had to go through just to end Jim Crow. I get angry when I think of Cointelpro, the influx of heroin and later crack into already impoverished black neighborhoods. I get angry when I watch Django or Roots or the daily news. I get angry when I hear the gunshots in my neighborhood.
But we deserve this government. We were raised on consumption. Taught by history’s most greedy and selfish generation, the baby boomers. So now most of us fake it. We complain. Post a picture, change an avatar or status and go about our day. Your local elected officials, you don’t know their name, number or their responsibility to you and your community. The bulk of your income is not spent within your community. The organizations and institutions that service our communities go largely unsupported by the very people they serve. All the fake facebook, twitter, and instagram activism don’t move me. Don’t get me wrong they can be useful in “the struggle” but. . .
I’m angry at myself. At times I feel like I can step back and say; “I tried” “I did my part” blah, blah but the truth of the matter is, it’s not enough. I’m angry because I am not yet the man I want to be. I am not uncomfortable enough. I AM NOT UNCOMFORTABLE ENOUGH. I want to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that’s what it takes to create change, to lead, to be great. I’ve read Mandela’s story and 90% of his life was discomfort. Discomfort is putting it lightly. I’ve read Malcolm X’s story and 90% of his life was discomfort. Try to buy them here or somewhere similar.
Truth be told, you aren’t obligated to do anything. You can keep on doing what you been doing and things will keep on going the way they been going. Maybe that 3rd grader won’t drop out in 12 years. Maybe he won’t turn to crime. Maybe he won’t spend his whole life in poverty. Maybe he won’t rob you or hurt a loved one. Maybe.
Nobody owes us anything. 2014 doesn’t mean anything more than the number of times the earth has circled the sun since Jesus’ reported birthday. Black president, black governor, great history but the struggle continues. What are you going to do about it personally ? Wait. Before you hit me with the take care of me and mines, ask yourself, is that enough ?
“Obama care can’t heal all this anguish” – Jay Electronica